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Saturday, May 19

Bytes · Eye-trackin' - PDF 'illegal' - Car Tipping

  • Seth Godin picks up on an eye-tracking video posted by Etre on YouTube.

    He makes an interesting point about web design:
    I think websurfing is a hunting activity. The eye is looking for anamolies, for things that don't belong ...One of the takeaways is that bad web design might actually be a good thing! Slightly bad design isn't familiar. It's off. It demands attention. (Very bad design demands the 'back' button, of course). One of the reasons that experienced power tool users--like table saws--can still lose a finger is that they don't pay attention... it's too easy to turn the thing on and just use it.

  • Only supplying information in PDF format is illegal, according to the editor of IT law Web site

    Struan Robertson, said.

    "The legal duty is to provide the information in a way that is accessible and usable. Many PDFs are not accessible and the solution is to provide accessible HTML in addition to PDFs, if you wish to use PDFs."

    Robertson added that, although an organisation that has generally "addressed web accessibility" would be unlikely to be sued over its PDFs, a failure to provide an accessible alternative "might trigger a complaint".

    "Many of us will dutifully warn the user that a PDF is going to be opened ... but we stop short of offering an accessible document," he said, indicating that this meant that "many disabled users take 'PDF will open in a new window' to mean 'don't click here'."

    Hugh Huddy of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) said they'd tried to produce an accessible PDF of its annual report, but hit "glitches" with tables and slipping column headers -- factors he said could render such an important document legally invalid.

    "Most PDFs would not stand up to a basic accessibility check," said Huddy, who suggested that PDFs made from a "well-structured Word document" using Acrobat Pro might pass muster. He added that, in most cases, it would be "prudent to publish an alternative format, whether that is in HTML, [rich text format] or plain text, alongside [the PDF version of a document]."

    He told eAccess '07, organised by Headstar earlier this month that he was very concerned, given that so many important documents now come in PDF format. Documents rendered from Quark or other DTP software is a particular problem.

    Huddy recommended RTF or Word.

  • From Google Sightseeing

    Car Tipping

    The urban equivalent of Cow Tipping, the inner-city phenomenon of Car Tipping has begun to spread like wildfire across Germany now that its been spotted on Google Earth

    Also see our post on Extreme Parking for more.

    Via Gearth Blog.

Thursday, May 17

Happy Birthday Alan

I'm a day older than Alan Johnston, the kidnapped BBC journalist, whose 45th birthday it is today.

You can add your name to the petition and read more about it on the BBC website.

New Google SERP look: 'Universal search'

Coming soon.

// \\

Very soon, Danny Sullivan reports, in a long article describing Google's new Universal Search.

He talks a lot about Vertical Search.

Tuesday, May 15

'Jeremy Paxman, author of On Royalty, talks bullocks to amuse Jon.'

Web 2.0 classic experience, posting this ... TV 2u in 15 minutes ...

Paxman is pretty much floored by Jon Stewart. A little 'at sea' shall we say ... most amusing for a Brit to watch.

Drive-by Download? 0.16% say 'yes please'

If this isn't a screaming advert for the need for user testing I don't know what is ... from Wired

Hundreds Click on Google Ad Promising to Infect Their PCs

Drivebydownload1 Best white hat scam of the month: security researcher Didier Stevens bought a Google ad six months ago that said, "Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!" 409 people clicked on the ad -- people who would have been owned up or infested with malware had Stevens been a true scammer instead of a security geek with a weird sense of humor. Stevens writes:

During this [six month] period, my ad was displayed 259,723 times and clicked on 409 times. That’s a click-through-rate of 0.16%. My Google Adwords campaign cost me only €17 ($23). That’s €0.04 ($0.06) per click or per potentially compromised machine. 98% of the machines ran Windows (according to the User Agent string).

It's hard to say whether people clicked on the ad because they assumed it was a joke, or because they simply misread it as an anti-virus ad. Still, the numbers are pretty scary. The other shocker here is that Google, which does quite a bit of policing on ad content, didn't notice the scammy ad. Stevens says, "I designed my ad to make it suspect, but even then it was accepted by Google without problem and I got no complaints to date." Apparently, he's still running the ad, with slightly different experimental parameters. Can't wait to see what he finds out next . . .

Get It Infected Here Experiment [via Didier Stevens]

Google itself has exploded the malware via websites issue - basically leveraging their power to get website security dealt with by websites.

But, of course, this sort of thing with AdWords undermines their revenue base directly — because it ran for six months un-noticed.

User testing? The comments within geekdom confirm this — can't believe user behaviour and hence wouldn't take account of it ("That's 409 morons who need to be removed from the gene pool."), especially the sort of 'strange' behaviour exhibited by a minority which nevertheless screws up systems.

But Eddy Williams, an expert in this aspect of user behaviour, confirms its normality.

Web gives kids surprising new gatekeeper role

What was that postcode again mom?

Where once it was just daughter showing father how to program the Video Recorder, now it's son showing mum how to fill in that form to the government.

According to "Surfin' on Mom's Turf: Cyber Chillin' With 8-14 Year-Olds," a report released by an American marketing company called Stars for Kidz and reported on ClickZ, 14 percent of kids have helped parents prepare their income tax return online.

"In this 8 to 14 age group, these kids are the first strong generation where they have had all these sophisticated levels of technology from childhood, and they function intuitively," said Adele Schwartz, research director at Stars for Kidz.

Additional chores given to kids include

  • sharing pictures and e-mails with relatives (38 percent);
  • looking up movie listings (38 percent);
  • responding to invitations, party and vacation planning (36 percent each);
  • and travel (36 percent);
  • getting driving directions (35 percent).

"What we see is the kids who are computer competent are becoming pivotal sources of information and planning for the family," said Schwartz.

"Kids think moms [parents] are clueless, while that may or may not be true, kids are quicker and they find [information online] easier."

Interesting stuff.

Certainly my experience is that it's the intuition element which doesn't cross generations easily. What are the implications when the kids control the information flow (apart from mum + dad learning how to search)?

Monday, May 14

Bytes · YouTube sorted - Online thermal surveys - You're Ian Huntley

  • Very neat. Great, clear interface too.
    What is Middio?
    Launched in mid-2007, Middio makes an effort of properly tagging the most popular music videos uploaded by members to Although the music videos are hosted by, they can be searched for and watched on Middio without ads.

  • Google posts about new policy about why [we] remember information about [you]

  • New US Army YouTube Channel.

  • Futureboy reports that:
    A British company called Hotmapping has been doing thermal surveys of local districts using spy planes. The results are being posted on the web by district councils, with the upshot being that you can now see which houses are leaking heat. Blue houses are cool; red houses are taking their energy dollars (or pounds, in this case), and spewing them into the atmosphere ...

    And if they are not aboard the lower emissions bandwagon? Then they will be shamed in front of the whole neighborhood as energy hogs. Green action groups will know which doors to knock on. Insulation companies will know where to send their direct mail.

    Naturally, there are the inevitable privacy concerns. And it's disturbing to learn that for Haringey Council alone, it took 17 flights on the spy plane to get all this information. That's a lot of carbon emissions right there.

  • Interesting point in this video-article about the size of the online porn industry:
    Usually the porn industry innovates first and key features make their way to more mainstream sites. But over the last couple of years, many of the new ideas around web applications, like user generated content, video sharing, etc., went mainstream first and are now hitting the porn sites.

  • William Heath reports to Ideal Government his bad experience with DirectGov (link added for o/s readers..):

    Do you know what’s a complete drag - far from ideal in fact? I KNEW before i did the search that the results would be absurd. I even started this article confident that DirectGov would throw up nonsense against this important search term. Privacy-enhancing technologies are the key to trust in e-government. NGOs have been saying it for a decade. The PM’s policy unit under Geoff Mulgan twigged, but it was all soon forgotten. Now we just build systems that assume everyone is a terrorist of paedophile. (You think I’m joking? A key government CIO responded to my concerns about data sharing by jabbing a pointy finger at my ribs and saying “You’re Ian Huntley, right? You’re Ian Huntley.” No Mr CIO. I’m NOT Ian Huntley. Nooo Noooo No. None of us are, except Ian Huntley, and he’s dead.)

    Anyway, the final depressing thought is that the only announcement I recall our e-government Minister making is that every web site other than DirectGov is to close down. It’s not that I’ll miss the others, it’s just I find DirectGov so dispiriting, with its pointey logo and smug editorialising. I just never go there, except to do the sort of comedy search I did tonight.

Daily Show on Queen's Visit


Never heard of 'Richard Quest' ... trying to think of any 'caricature yanks' we have commenting on US affairs on UK News shows ....

that's us put in our place ....

as I said, hystericoil..

Postscript: idiot me posted the YouTube clip - Daily Show is Viacom product, so of course it's been taken down :{ Plus there's no clip 2 post in Comedy Central's 'Motherlode' :{{

Sunday, May 13

BBC 'Video ambushed'

This is the Church of Scientology's way of dealing with the BBC's self-proclaimed flagship current affairs show, Panorama — turn the cameras on them.

Reporter John Sweeney looses it in the "Museum of Death" in Hollywood.

Here's Sweeney's response.

According to the Guardian:

Exhibit at Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, a Scientology-run museum in Los Angeles, portraying psychiatry as being responsible for Hitler and the Holocaust

Exhibit at Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, a Scientology-run museum in Los Angeles, portraying psychiatry as being responsible for Hitler and the Holocaust
Sweeney lost his temper while visiting the Church of Scientology's exhibition, 'Psychiatry: Industry of Death', which uses graphic images to attack psychiatry. Sweeney said that, having dogged him for six days, Davis accused him of giving an easy ride to one of his interviewees, a critic of Scientology, even though he had not heard the full interview. It was then that Sweeney, his face contorted with anger and his finger jabbing, began yelling at the top of his voice: 'You were not there at the beginning of the interview! You were not there! You did not hear or record all the interview!'

Sweeney, a former Observer journalist, admits he went too far. 'I am hugely embarrassed,' he said. 'I look like an exploding tomato and shout like a jet engine and every time I see it it makes me cringe. The moment it happened I said sorry. I let the side down and the BBC down and I am ashamed. But I felt I was being brainwashed and if people see the full clip I think they will have more sympathy with me'.

The journalist has been disciplined after an internal investigation. 'I've been arse-kicked but I haven't been fired,' he added. 'I feel mortified. There is no one on this planet more irritated then me. Fool, Sweeney, fool. It was like an animal reaction to a series of images and pressures. I felt they were trying to control my mind. I can't wait to get back to Zimbabwe: hiding in the backs of cars from Robert Mugabe's goons is a damn sight easier.'

Here's the BBC's official response (embedding withheld by request), where Sweeney ends up literally pursuing a raging Scientology spokesperson, after saying 'some people think you're a sinister cult'.

They're letting me embed a preview for tomorrow night's show though - why different?

John Sweeney investigates the Church of Scientology, endorsed by some major Hollywood celebrities, but which continues to face the criticism that it is less of a religion and more of a cult. Some former members claim the Church uses a mind control technique to put opponents at a psychological disadvantage. During the course of his investigation, Sweeney is shouted at, spied on, visited in his hotel at midnight and chased around the streets of LA by strangers in hire cars.
Airdate: Monday 14 May, 8:30pm BST, on BBC1 UK. It will also be available online for all at

This clip from the 1987 BBC Panorama "The Road to Total Freedom" shows how Scientology uses cameras to record outsiders of the church and part of an interview with the international president of Scientology, Heber Jenztch

The end of the plastic bag?

Saw an amazing documentary Message In The Waves recently about Hawaii.

It documented the impact of what's called the 'vortex of trash' floating in the North Pacific on the islands and also explained the Indigenous methods for living in that environment — methods which are being returned to.

Beaches in Hawaii accumulate mountains of trash.

They went to Midway, the Second World War base which is now deserted, and found an albatross population dying through eating the trash floating on the oceans.

Their natural behaviour is to pick food from the ocean's surface. In the documentary we saw printer cartridges, golf balls - everything plastic - retrieved in enormous amounts from dead Albatross chicks.

Greenpeace has a great animation showing the vortex.

North of Hawaii, in the Pacific Ocean, there's a mass of tangled plastic trash twice size of Texas that's accumulated in a slow, swirling vortex of water and air created by the high pressure zone ("gyre"). This thirty-foot deep mass of tires, lawn furniture, tampon wrappers, milk jugs, plastic bags, bath toys, traffic cones, etc. Then all this traps marine life, which dies and rots, adding even more toxins to this island of death!

> Greenpeace: defending our oceans

Most of the waste comes from land, either blown off landfill or from storm drains.

I was thinking of this reading about the impact of a plastic bag ban in the small market town of Modbury in Devon.

They've completely banned plastic bags and - overnight - created a town-culture where being seen with a plastic bag gets you shunned. Funny thing is, everyone agrees, even the visitors.

Sandra Beard didn't stand a chance. Net curtains twitched. Shoppers tutted. The holidaymaker had advanced a mere 50 yards down Modbury high street before Helen Pickles burst out of her shop looking askance.

"Madam," the joint proprietor of R&H Pickles hardware trilled at Mrs Beard, "is that a plastic bag you're carrying?"

Two weeks after becoming the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags from its shops, an extraordinary transformation has taken place in the south Devon community. Carrying a plastic bag has become antisocial behaviour.

The ban came from one woman's campaign — funnily enough the same woman who'd filmed those Albatross on Midway.

This makes complete sense. Who wants plastic bags and the enormous amount of packaging inflicted on us?

Well geeks for one.

On gizmo you can buy a 'bananaguard', which was invented by Swedes.

Bananas are among the more delicate fruits, in need of protection inside a lunchbox or backpack. If you're a banana aficionado like we are, you'll need the Banana Guard, a hard plastic case for those phallic fruits that will keep those icky brown bruises away. Hey, BananaGuard also makes a great Halloween costume for that banana, but it's probably too late for that.

There are lots of references to this which concern the 'safety' of 'unprotected' bananas!

Are they insane?

So it is Geeks who are killing the world with this level of ridiculous consumerism. And don't give a stuff. And cannot now claim not to be aware.

All this 'stuff' just ends up in the stomachs of Albatross. Plastic takes eons to decay.

Here's a great page about Lunchbox waste.

Richard, who is 8, volunteered that he weighed 29kg. So in only 3 days this school creates Richard's weight in packed lunch rubbish. In the school year, they make about 57 Richards of waste just from their packed lunches!

This is how you get to '57 Richards of waste':

Unfortunately, yes, the Supermarkets are to blame because you often have to search out ways of buying the least packaged items. Crisps, for example, are now default offered in snack packs. But you can always find bananas as they come.

All our individual choices add up - just think of those Albatross next time you're faced with one.

Bytes · MobileTV - Who's greener? Print vs web - Labour goes purple

  • Mobile TV may not take off for years in the UK (because of a lack of digital spectrum until 2012) but elsewhere it is.

    In Japan and South Korea there are now 5.8m people watching TV on their mobile phones, and even more watching TV on other hand-held devices and via in-car systems.

    In Italy there are 500,000 subscribers to newly-launched mobile TV services with up to 17 channels.

  • Here's a simple, good idea. Alertacall is a people monitoring service using existing technology better.

    If a special button is not pressed on a standard phone by an agreed time, the user is rung. If they fail to respond, three nominated people will be alerted. Seen at Naidex 2007.

  • Interesting discussion on MediaShift about the environmental benefits of print vs web, sparked by a study from the Finnish Forest Research Institute.

    Because the print industry is using more and more recycled paper, the obvious environmental gap (think scales and difficulties with waste products + resources used) is getting smaller.

    69% of newspapers in the U.S. were recovered and recycled in 2005 — something which the article notes is not the case with the UK's boom in 'freesheets', which litter city streets, or with magazines which don't recycle and have much more energy-intensive processes.

    However, the web also uses lots of energy and un-renewable resources:

    · server farms for the world's searching alone consume as much as Las Vegas
    · the average avatar on SecondLife uses up 1,752 kilowatt hours per year, about the same amount used by the average Brazilian.

    Perhaps surprisingly, the Finns come down in favour of e-readers, suggesting they could eventually become a real substitute for printed material, including for environmental reasons.

    But the answer - which is better environmentally? - no-one appears to have given.

  • The US Government's new citizen portal,, has added instant messaging and webchat. "We wanted to add the features that young people like. They want to be able to get through to a human being right away to get their questions answered” said Director Beth Godwin.

    Godwin also notes that they
    held focus groups and did three rounds of usability testing in relaunching the "task-orientated" website.

    The agency which manages the website also has a whole program for eGov frontline managers runs out of their
    Web Manager University. last year they trained 1,300 Web managers through the university.

  • When Blair announced his retirement, the Labour Party's website turned a hideous purple - true. Also gone is the 'newLabour, newBritain' strapline.

    Unfortunate choice, here's a colour expert:

    One color is particularly unsafe in a global environment—purple. Purple, according to [Jill Morton, professor at the University of Hawaii], is a "polarizing color... it is potentially hazardous on a global level." In Catholic Europe, purple is a symbol of death and crucifixion. I have heard anecdotally that in some Middle Eastern cultures purple signifies prostitution, much as red is used in some Western countries, as in a "Red Light District." Purple is also symbolic of mysticism and spiritual beliefs that go against Christian, Jewish, and Muslim paradigms: Wicca, New Age spirituality, and paganism.

    A case in point is the launch of Euro Disney. The first design for signs used large amounts of purple, which visitors found "morbid." This response was completely contradictory to the happy message that Disney wanted to convey. As a result, Disney had to rework its European advertising campaign, which doubtlessly wound up costing significant money and time.