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Thursday, July 12

Robot keeps marching with multi-level control

Iran killing more gay men

The International Herald Tribune, amongst others, is quoting an Iranian Official proudly announcing "20 more men would be executed [which means paraded through the streets like we're back in the C17th at Tyburn] in the coming days on morality violations ... [such things as] rape, insulting religious sanctities and laws, and homosexuality."

Neither The Guardian or the BBC are mentioning gay people - Guardian: Iran to defy west by executing sex offenders. Rageh Omar's recent, otherwise excellent, documentary Rageh Inside Iran, again, ignored the executions.

Here's one story of A Gay Couple Who Have Been Tortured for Being Gay
  • It's happening in Iraq as well, turning into a deathzone for gay men.
  • Other countries on this list include Pakistan, Nigeria, Belarus, Russia, Jamaica, and Honduras.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone at last Saturday's London Gay Pride rally - he appeared on-stage with his two small children:
“This has become a good city for people of a different sexual orientation to live in.--we follow places like San Francisco and Copenhagen and Amsterdam -- but let's never forget these are just a few secure, isolated areas, in a world still awash with bigotry and hatred.”

"We used to see a situation a hundred years ago where gays and lesbians would be beaten to death and the police would turn a blind eye. That is still the situation for tens and millions of our comrades and sisters and brothers around the face of the planet,”
Livingstone met Iraqi gays in exile They have documented 350 death squad executions of lesbians, gays and transgender people and need money to maintain safe houses.

Tuesday, July 10

Bytes · CO2 hell - Pigs don't score - Hillary gets laffs

New government C02 calculator has received a positive reception (even though it initially went down), especially from greenies. Hurrah for the concept, just to note (without trying it out) that:
  • the directgov referral page opens in a new window and doesn't say 'this is flash'
  • the initial interface does say 'loading' but then it's white-on-white tiny text, One practically invisible link, at the bottom, leads to an accessible version (with much larger text). I did notice on just returning that a link to 'HTML version' is at top left of the loading screen.
  • user reports are of bad user experience
all of which restricts its audience for silly, avoidable reasons. Just swap the versions! — have the link then 'here's the Flash version'!

I'm sure it impressed Mr Miliband when it was demonstrated ...


Stuart Jeffries: The sheer hell of bossy Britain
Last month, the public address system at Earl's Court tube station in London was served with a noise abatement order. Passengers, it seems, had had enough of being told the blindingly obvious. "They come over with these bizarre messages that you would know already unless you were simple," says Peter Wakeham, director of the Noise Abatement Society. "'Stand back or the train will run you over.' 'Don't lean on the doors.' 'Stand back from the opening doors.' 'Mind the gap.' 'Do this.' 'Don't do that.' We don't need to be told so many obvious things in these deafening ways. It's not rocket science."

Here's the very tame condom ad which US Networks won't show even at 2am because:
"Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy."

In the ad, one of the pigs goes to the men's room, where, after buying a condom from a vending machine, he is transformed into a good-looker in his 20s.

When he returns to the bar, a fetching blonde who had been indifferent smiles at him.


TechPresident: I Am Not a Web Guy:
In a 21st century campaign, the Campaign Manager is the Internet Director. He or she isn't managing the day-to-day, but they need to get the Internet in the same way that they currently have to get communications, finance, strategy, and political. The job of the Communications Director is the communicate using the Web. The job of the Political Director is to organize using the Web. The job of the Finance Director is to raise money using the Web and Salesforce-like tools. The pollster will (eventually) poll over the Web. And the media team will be just a bunch of folks who make cool videos, 80% of which will be released over the Web.

The Bill and Hillary Sopranos spoof is, thus far, the sole campaign-produced video to go 'overground'. Something to do with the humour (made me laugh), which is continued here - Hillary on Dick Cheney and Diplomacy.

This is an amusing and failed attempt by Mitt Romney, showing how hard it actually is to do. The candidate who's milking the Web for all it's worth though is Republican R*n P**l — if I even have his name his very enthusiastic followers will be immediately on to even lil' ol' me ...

URL importance

Proportion of total fixation duration for each
component of search results, broken down by task type and
snippet length. As snippet length increases, the relative
proportion of gaze devoted to the URL decreases.

Jacob Nielsen reveals in the latest emailed Alertbox that SE users spend nearly a quarter (24%) of the time staring at web addresses (URLs).

Edward Cutrell and Zhiwei Guan from Microsoft Research ... used Microsoft's own search engine (fair enough), but their results match what we found in our eyetracking which included the current market leader as well as the #2 search engine in addition to Microsoft.

Users have evolved a firm model of search behavior which they apply across search engines, which is why it's probably a lost cause to make a non-standard search user interface.

Searchers are particularly interested in the URL when they are assessing the credibility of a destination.

This finding confirms the importance of human-readable URLs, which I discussed 8 years ago.

Another interesting finding from the MSR paper is that longer summaries (or snippets, as they call them) are useful for informational queries, whereas short summaries are best for navigational queries where users are looking for a pre-determined site or page.

Full academic paper (warning: PDF).

Monday, July 9

Bytes · Chinese searcher? Pause for tea - End of SEO? - Groening: You are The Man has Chinese Eye Tracking Study: Baidu Vs Google by Gord Hotchkiss

On Google, users found what they were looking for in literally half the time (30 seconds vs 55) and with half the real estate ... The Baidu results page is a pretty murky prospect. There’s virtually no transparency on what’s sponsored and what’s not. There are “preferred listings” that are paid listings, pushing true organic listings down the page. And the preferred listings are cluttered with affiliates and spam. By North American standards, Baidu would be a horrible search experience. But the fact remains, they’re still the preferred choice for the vast majority of Chinese users.


Because Chinese is presented as symbols, where concepts take their final meaning from a group of combined symbols, it’s much more difficult to scan this information quickly. To try to put in a Western conceptual framework, imagine how difficult it would be to scan meaning from this paragraph if our alphabet was extended to 2000 characters, presented in block letters and all the spaces between words were removed. I can’t do anything about extending the alphabet, but I can change it to block letters and remove the spaces:


So why use Baidu, apart from the obvious?
  • Baidu is the primary vehicle to locate and download free MP3 files. This generates a huge amount of traffic, as this is one of China’s most popular online activities.
  • Slower connections make Chinese users more patient


Rebecca Lieb blogs about the Search Engine Strategies (SES) Toronto conference on ClickZ. Message? Times are tough because of Google's new search incorporating news/video etc.

According to Seth Godin, echoing Mike Grehan - "It means we've finally reached the point where better marketing counts -- and not H1 tags":

We've now entered into an era he calls the end of SEO. "For the first time in the last six months, the search engines are really winning. They find what they're supposed to find more and more, getting tricked less and less. There might be a different way to go about solving the problem than getting on the front page of Google.

  • Eric Meyer has all about very 'hairy' form styling issues with CSS

  • Naomi Klein: Laboratory for a Fortressed World

  • Gee, automatic speech recognition has come a long way.

    In 'Speak on the Dotted Line' — which is a line you hear in some systems — Rory Bremner for Radio 4 examined two types of speech technology [MPEG]: speaker recognition and voice verification.

    'Can his skill as an impressionist fool the computer systems?' Er, look away now [no]. Very good.

  • Times: Michaek Parsons Facebook, Parsons' Law, and teleportation:
    Highly technical people: engineers, scientists, programmers, got bored of something like Facebook many years ago, and now we're all just catching up.
  • New York Times: Online Sales Lose Steam as Buyers Grow Web-Weary

    · Analysts say it is a turning point and growth will continue to slow through the decade.
    · Retailers have livened up their stores to be more alluring
    · “It’s not like you go onto Amazon and think: ‘I’m a little depressed. I’ll go onto this site and get transported,’ ”
    · A so-called clicks-and-bricks hybrid model is emerging

  • Reuters: Blocked China Web users rage against Great Firewall
    Millions of young urban-dwelling professionals are increasingly aware of and fed up with state intrusions into their private life. Privacy, once regarded with suspicion in pre-reform China, has become a sought-after commodity ... "The thirst for information in China is so strong, it is very difficult for the (Communist) Party to stay ahead of the curve."

Funny anecdote from Matt Groening promoing the Simpsons Movie to Radio 4.

Asked about DRM 'as a former alternative cartoonist', he said:
'I've been bootlegged, ripped off, whatever you want to call it. Even my handwriting was converted into a font and downloaded a million times. I went into an shop to buy alcohol and the notice about kids buying booze was in my own handwriting! Oh, man. Now I am 'the man'...'