New blog

All new content on my restarted blog is here

Saturday, September 26

Why they are screaming 'socialism'

A commentator to Andrew Sullivan's blog gives some background on the right-wing American 'tea baggers' which is essential information for anyone wanting to understand WTF is going on.

It's worth quoting in full:
Of course they are screaming 'socialism'. They've been doing that since the 50s at least. They're not talking about economic redistribution of wealth - they never have been. They've been talking about redistribution of privilege this whole time. They called MLK a communist because he wanted blacks to have the same rights as whites, and to them that was a redistribution of the privilege that whites had 'earned'.

In their view, white, Christian, heterosexuals have earned something that gays, non-Christians, and non-heteros have failed to work hard enough at. It's been a class war from the outset, just not one based around income or net worth - mostly because the whites in the south were economically pretty bad off and blacks in the north were catching up to them.

This picture shows they were pushing the same buttons half a century ago that they are today. Anti-christ, communism - it's all the same as it is today and is well known code. It's why the protesters will decry socialism today but wouldn't have under Bush - it's all tied to race and other social objectives and has nothing really to do with taxation, deficits, and big government. You probably missed it when you came to the US, but this is pretty old game - particularly to guys like Carter that grew up around it.

Past posts: 


Friday, September 25

Seduced by huge c*ck..

So.....what if you were restricted in the real world to only 140 Characters?

New Firefox add-ons

Mozilla FirefoxImage via Wikipedia
It's a while since I've done one of these and my add-ons have actually changed quite a bit.

With the last Firefox major upgrade a number of them failed to update and others took ages to update. This now seems to have settled down but I have had to find replacements for a few that remain incompatible and for some I haven't found an easy replacement.

Gone are

TinyUrl Creator · ScrapBook · ReminderFox · Menu Editor · Advanced Dork · Text/Plain and one which I would like the functionality of but I haven't found a simple compatible replacement LinkChecker.

New are preview
With the Preview Plugin for Firefox, whenever you hover over a URL on any web page, we display a tooltip showing the Page Title, Long URL, and any Click Data we have about the page the URL links to.
Extended Copy Menu
Provides the option to copy selection as plain text or html.
Fasterfox Lite
Performance and network tweaks for Firefox, without the Enhanced Prefetching.
A full-featured blog editor that integrates with your browser and lets you easily post to your blog. I may drop this and I hardly ever use it.
Shareaholic is the ultimate tool for sharing stuff with 60+ destination services including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Delicious, MySpace, Wordpress, and more!
Shorten URL
Shorten long URL from context menu or toolbar button with your selected URL shortener and display the result in location bar.
View Dependencies
Adds a tab listing dependencies and their sizes in the Page Info window.
Contextually relevant suggestions of links, pictures, related content and tags will make your blogging fun again.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, September 24

Bad user testing beats no user testing

Jakob Nielsen has noted that it's now twenty years since he started what he calls the 'discount usability movement'.

This might be egging it a wee bit, I'm not sure there is such a 'movement' apart from that which Nielsen promotes.

It's true that major companies use discount usability tactics - I noted before how used it when their site went through major changes. But 'movement'?

Moving on ...

Nielsen presented a paper entitled "Usability Engineering at a Discount" at the 3rd International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction in 1989.

It was born out necessity, he says, as he simply didn't have the budget of the IBM User Interface Institute where he'd previously worked.

The paper advocated three main components of discount usability:

  • Simplified user testing, which includes a handful of participants, a focus on qualitative studies, and use of the thinking-aloud method. Although thinking aloud had been around for years before I turned it into a discount method, the idea that testing 5 users was "good enough" went against human factors orthodoxy at the time.
  • Narrowed-down prototypes — usually paper prototypes — that support a single path through the user interface. It's much faster to design paper prototypes than something that embodies the full user experience. You can thus test very early and iterate through many rounds of design.
  • Heuristic evaluation in which you evaluate user interface designs by inspecting them relative to established usability guidelines.
Nielsen says he was stoned in the market square as a heretic and I can well believe it.

I had a similar experience when, discussing issues with LocalDirectgov's usability offering, I proposed that council web teams should use discount testing methods. This provoked nigh on outrage and a swipe at Nielsen by the usability company Nomensa. I like to think I moved them on from their initial horror to grudging agreement but you can make your own mind up in the debate, as it spilled over several posts and onto a Nomensa worker's blog.
Nielsen even has the nerve, to some people's delicate sensibilities, to say:
Discount usability often gives better results than deluxe usability because its methods drive an emphasis on early and rapid iteration with frequent usability input.
As well as, the horror:
Discount usability methods are robust enough to offer decent results even when you don't use perfect research methodology.

In other words: Bad user testing beats no user testing, every time.

He cites a team that ran a usability study of MacPaint 1.7 (an early drawing program) in 1989 who each tested three users.
Better usability methodology does lead to better results, at least on average. But the very best performance was recorded for a team that only scored 56% on compliance with best-practice usability methodology. And even teams with a 20–30% methodology (i.e., people who ran lousy studies) still found 1/4 of the product's serious usability problems.
Nielsen claims that "my 20 years of campaigning for discount usability have certainly not been in vain, [but] I can't yet declare a win" — and nowhere is this more evident than in government, where cheap-but-effective methods of finding website errors would, you would think, have most resonance.

Both the US ( and UK ( official government usability advice contain no reference to discount methods.


Here's a presentation I gave on discount user testing called Cheap'n'easy usability first in 2006.

View more presentations from Paul Canning.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, September 23

PayPal still thinks Africa is the 'dark continent'

PayPal Inc.Image via Wikipedia

I just got an email from a friend in Austria. Inspired by a post on LGBT Asylum News he wanted to make a donation to the Sex Workers Outreach Program (SWOP) in Nairobi.
The people there are wonderful, and intelligent, and courageous and open-minded people indeed, and they deserve our help and solidarity. Tears are forming in my eyes when thinking of the women and men with HIV infection and AIDS living in poverty there.

But my friend found out that whilst sending money via PayPal is possible for people in Kenya receiving money is not.

When he contacted PayPal customer services by email they claimed that receiving money is not allowed by the legislation of Kenya. Yet he was able to send the money to Kenya via Western Union — for the transmission of Euro 100 he had to pay a fee of Euro 17,50 which is far higher than PayPal's charges.

Jonathan Gosier, a software developer, writer and social entrepreneur, explains on appafrica how:
PayPal, intentional or not, are sending a very strong message to the rest of the world about Africa.
Prior to moving to Uganda, Gosier had used PayPal for four years and estimates that he's transferred over $100,000 during that time

Bu this counted for nothing once he'd moved to 'the dark continent'.
Apparently PayPal’s way of ‘policing’ their service is to simply flag various IP addresses as being ’suspect’ . hrmm. I have a few Iranian and Indian friends who could tell you a bit about what it’s like to get profiled based on where you appear to be from. (And if they won’t suffice as anecdotal evidence, I’ve got a few million mexican and black american friends who’d double down on the sentiment.)

So Africa remains a high-risk zone as the sheer number of comments like these from paypal users indicates:

I am in the process of trying to sell a laptop. i have posted ads on comtrader and ebay. So far the item has been bought off ebay by a mother who wants its for a present for her daughter in AFRICA. Two people have expressed interest through comtrader, one wishes to buy it for a business associate in AFRICA, and the other wants it for himself, and guess where he lives….. AFRICA. Sorry for all the capitals, but am i missing something here. I’ve replied to the ebay purchaser who is going to pay through Paypal, which i know is covered by ebay so i feel safest. Just wondering if this obsession with me posting it to AFRICA is anything i should be sketchy about.

Or this person’s thoughtful reply:

Anything from africa is a scam so stay well clear. Re-list the item if you have too.

Wow. Anything from Africa is a scam. I better take back this computer I just bought from GAME!

The unintentional effect here is that by blanketing the whole region as suspect, it reduces the number of viable alternatives for legitimate businesses and professionals who want to use services like PayPal for trade. I use PayPal for some of my payroll now (for people who don’t live near me). However, whenever I do, PayPal flags my account and shuts it down temporarily ‘because I accessed it from a suspicious location’. To unlock it I have to call them, from Uganda and do a bunch of other stuff that’s inconvenient. I suppose this is the price of admission for using the service in country it wasn’t intended to be used in. So no complaint here either.

But what it does mean, is that from every angle legitimate African businesses are smacked in the face by measures put in place to police the one’s that are indeed abusing the system. But this affects even expatriates and NGOs that might want to use the service. If it’s accessed from a certain IP there’s a red flag, especially if that IP is not where you registered to use the service.
Once again, the message perpetuated here is to be cautious when dealing with Africans, Africa or anything you suspect of being related to the aformentioned. This is nothing new. Most people here have been dealing with such mentality their whole lives, why would it stop now that the medium has changed? To be fair, there’s truth to this stereotype. There is indeed a huge problem of scams here. There is some truth to most stereotypes, the word itself simply implies that those truths are applied where they don’t necessarily belong.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people here who are just like consumers everywhere else in the world. They want to buy things, they want the conveniences of online shopping, they want to do business…and they want their neighbors to stop scamming you so they can have those things.
I realize that the problem can’t be solved entirely by Paypal alone but I would appreciate at least an option to flag my account in advance for what might be mistaken for ’suspicious activity’. I’d be happy to leave this to PayPal’s discretion but my problem is they aren’t using any. African transaction? Banned! Banks will allow customers to indicate that they will be abroad for a certain period so that they don’t shutdown accounts by mistake. Why doesn’t PayPal? You’d be surprised at how damaging these blanket policies can be to an organization like mine that simply just wants to pay employees and be paid by clients.

I suppose the complaint is that PayPal doesn’t give me an option to avoid my account getting bricked. It costs me money everytime they do it. they give me no alternative to prevent it from happening and when I talk to them, somehow it’s my fault for existing ‘in that country where The Last King of Scotland took place‘.
My Austrian friend says:
To me this is a kind of discrimination, and neo-colonialism, and racism towards African people, and it reminds me of the inhuman politics of the pharmaceutical industries not to reduce their prices for medicaments for HIV and AIDS in poor countries, but to accept the death of lots of people who could not afford these high prices. If you are living in a rich country of the European Union you survive, if you are a poor woman and a poor man in Africa you die. We must not accept it!
I thought of his experience and Gosier's whilst reading about the coming of broadband to East Africa (which includes Uganda) via the BBC's excellent series of reports.

This did warn of and catalogue the whole raft of other challenges to Africans other than the lack of broadband, which puts its arrival in context, but they missed this one.

Theresa Carpenter Sondjo notes that there are alternatives for African entrepeneurs to PayPal, however they are all more "more expensive and less flexible". That seems to be a running theme for Africa - lots of stuff to build a business is way more expensive, Africans have a stack of hurdles to jump over.

Maybe Oxfam, Mr Bono and Mr Geldof should get onto this one and start shaming PayPal?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

When Twitter is *dangerous*

17% of Twitter users vs. 12% of non-Twitter social media users had accessed social media from a washroom or toilet
New Crowd Science survey

And how many are male and missing their aim?

11% of Twitter users admitted to accessing social media while driving in the preceding 30 days, compared to only 5% of other social media users (my emphasis)

To be reminded of the consequences of this very bad behaviour see my past post Texting + driving = death.
Twice as many Twitter users as non-Twitter social media users (8% to 4%) had accessed any social media from a theater during a movie or live performance (during the preceding 30 days).

Nearly three times as many Twitter users as other social media users have accessed social media from restaurants (31% vs. 12%)

Can I say 'potential violent reaction'?
41% of Twitter users prefer to contact friends via social media rather than telephone, compared with 25% of non-Twitter social media users, and 11% (vs. only 6% of those not using Twitter) actually prefer social media over face-to-face contacts.

Dying a lonely death?
14% of Twitter users said they have revealed things about themselves in social media that they wouldn't under any other circumstances. Then again, 8% admitted to "frequently stretching" the truth about themselves online.

Nearly twice as many Twitter users than non-Twitter social media users say they update Twitter during work hours.

Putting your job/career/marriage in jeopardy?

What are we doing to ourselves people!?! 

HT: WebPro News

Tuesday, September 22

Flashmob as political satire

Chancellor Angela Merkel may well have a new enemy to worry about when she is making her campaign speeches: irony.
Der Spiegel

On 18 September as Merkel gave a campaign stump speech in Hamburg she must have at least blinked as every so often the air was punctuated by loud 'YEAH's!'

Der Spiegel reports that a Flickr user posted a picture of the placard announcing Merkel’s rally online on September 11 and sent the link to friends on Twitter. Placard said, “The Chancellor is coming,” and underneath, the user wrote: “Yeah.” Ironically.

Soon after, the invitation went viral on Twitter and sites like Nerdcore and Spreeblick and the flashmob was on.

The people who went did it apparently as a joke and Merkel soon cottoned on.
In Mainz the flash mobbers held up yellow and black signs with "Hurrah" written on them (yellow and black are the colors that symbolize a coalition between the CDU and the FDP) and they too called out "yeah" after Merkel finished every sentence. However, at Monday night's meeting the chancellor did address the hecklers. "It can't hurt to yell something else other than yeah after every sentence," she said. The group then repeated Merkel's words, saying nonsensical things like "growth", "back door" and "five" after the Chancellor did.

The phenomenon could have unintended consquences. A German Twitter user said after the Hamburg flashmob, "Wouldn't it be funny if the international audience got the wrong impression?" Maybe, she worried, they would think it was some sort of "alarming German political euphoria."

There has been some German un-ironic talk of 'banning' and although I can imagine how delicious something like this might be during the 2010 UK election campaign I can also imagine the reaction of the British bobbies vs the German polizei — which is kindof ironic ...

Monday, September 21

Council homepages: what's wrong with 'interesting development'?

There's been a great flurry of interest in local government webbie circles because a few councils have gone down the Google route of deliberately reducing homepage content and pushing search as the way to find what you're looking for, what you want to do, what your task is.

Lancashire's Kevin Rainsbury told the lively thread on the Communities of Practice (CoP) website that:

We're at a relatively early stage in development but felt it was worthwhile launching in its current state as it was able to provide customers with something better than what they had previously. We did a fair bit of customer research which led us down this path. We're also aware that the new site might "ruffle a few feathers" given it's such an unorthodox approach for a local authority. The Socitm Better Connected review will be of particular interest this year!
(I asked, via Socitm, for more information on any research or prior-to-launch testing within development by Lancashire and Westminster but as of the time of writing this hasn't appeared.)

Webbies divided

On the rest of the thread and in blog post comments council webbies were divided on the sites. Some cheered the innovative approach - 'It is good to know Lancashire is one of the councils thinking out of the box' - whilst others found fault (eg failed search results) or questioned the usability. .

Feeding back from experience, one webbie said:
When I’ve carried out user testing I’ve often found that participants are fairly evenly split between ‘expert’ users who like to search for information using a search engine and ‘novice’ users, who are less confident and like to browse and click on links. Some people just happen to feel more comfortable when they have some hints about what to click on. Even better if the links they can click on are relevant to their goals. In comparison to Lancashire’s site, the Westminster site does place popular tasks under the search box.
This experience reflects not just use of council websites but longstanding experience of websites in general: it's also common sense that users would be split between novices and experts (and a mass in between). However one comment made clear that this understanding hasn't got through to all council webbies:
Search is something that has to be pushed at people more. I get tired of reading complaints from the public saying “I tried to find X on your site, but I HAD to use the search” – like the search on a website is some sort of last resort form of torture.

Forcing rather than following users

Another reviewer noted that Westminster's design included navigation options 'below-the-fold' (meaning that users have to scoll down). This, and other comments, stood out for me as part of an unfortunately common mentality in the public sector, that a design is fine simply because the 'option' is provided - somewhere on the page or via a link. But a lot of users simply won't scroll, or see something 'obvious' to you.

For example, Jakob Nielsen’s study on how much users scroll (in Prioritizing Web Usability) revealed that only 23% of visitors scroll on their first visit to a website. This means that 77% of visitors won’t scroll.

So Westminster and Lancashire are actually doing what the commentator above wants them to do - effectively 'pushing search at people more'.

Hearing from an expert

I spoke with web design authority Gerry McGovern about Lancashire and Westminster.

There are 'rules' which come and have evolved from best practice which comes from experts over many years now observing how users actually behave. There are 'heuristics' which are established principles for user interface design (web pages).

I said:
My understanding of feedback from user studies is that 'search is the user's lifeline when navigation fails', and also from what you have written and said that navigation should be improved. Therefore it is a mistake to hide it on a homepage.

[You] need to look at who the homepage specific audience is and that most users actually arrive elsewhere so a homepage focus can be a distraction from addressing user's main needs, such as being able to complete tasks from wherever they arrive and ensuring that search and referral traffic is sending them to their goals. As well, that reliance on search means a lot of working on tweaking and refining results and results presentation.
Gerry replied:
I think it’s an interesting experiment, particularly what Lancashire is doing, but I basically agree with your points. Search and navigation should go together. Often what happens is people search to get roughly in the right direction and then navigate the rest of the way. But many will, as you point out, navigate once they’re presented with good logical links.

I think Westminster has got more of a balance; they have brought the top tasks onto the homepage as well as the big search area.

The fact that the search will have to be tweaked is a good thing. Really managing search is very important so to have a big focus on quality search is great.

You’re also right about the decline in homepage importance. Because a great many are starting at Google it means that they will often end up on a deeper page.

Why does this keep happening?

The apparent absence of user-testing within an iterative design process - what I would describe as standard industry best practice - happens in the case of council website design as a result of, as Carl Haggerty:explained in his blog post about the Lancashire and Westminster developments, "a wide range of influencing factors that will impact on the local webteam to make particular choices."

He identified those factors as:
  • political pressure
  • resources
  • role of communications in website
  • role of ICT in website
  • role of customer services in website
  • location of webteam in organisation
  • external influences such as Socitm Better Connected, Gerry McGovernp plus many, many others
  • which conferences members of the webteam have attended (web, social media etc)
  • and yes last but not least our customers needs – all the above shouldn’t matter but they do.
I don't think it's chance that Carl happens to put customers as the last bullet point but I think council webbies are scoring an own goal in their desire for website improvement if they don't prioritise customer feedback, especially through user testing.

For example, and this is one I have cited before. When I conducted guerilla testing for a new design it became immediately obvious that the main link through to online services was simply not being seen by users. All of them were missing it, it might as well not have been there. This was because of a common, known usability issue but one on which I'd found myself over-ruled as I wasn't 'the decider'.

Because I had gone and done some cheap'n'easy testing and got a unanimous result I was able to get that design redone - because what would the counter-argument be? 'I know better than the users'?

The customers are the biggest weapon in a council webbies armory against those factors that Carl cites but how often are they used?

Is design consistency a bad thing?

Carl asks:
Why are we all taking a separate view, if we all have the same goals in mind, why haven’t we all developed identical looking sites with just a logo or some colour change as the main difference?

Shouldn’t we all agree to a consistent approach, purpose and some principles for local government websites (including the homepage) that we can at sign up to?
I wonder about this too.

Many governments, such as in Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore, have adopted common look'n'feel policies, which dictate design boundaries. Others, such as the American government and various Australian states, have provided for some years now both policy and guidance as aides for government webbies.

The UK doesn't have any of this.

The new COI usability guidance isn't meant for local government sites - and doesn't mention guerrilla testing. Socitm's Better Connected has radically improved from being a lengthy tick-box list to honing its message but still has some way to go.

Exercises such as my friend Dave Briggs' 'crowd-sourced' What makes for a decent Council website? have serious problems in my opinion with introducing bias, their usability and not necessarily being customer-led. I also remain unconvinced by Idea's developing 'Knowledge Hub', for similar reasons.

To answer Carl's question - "why are we all taking a separate view, if we all have the same goals in mind?" - I would look at:
  • how webbies are being and have been led (hello DCLG)
  • what resources they have (why they are so disparate or non-existent, why so many 'best practice' experiments keep getting funded and keep failing) and 
  • why, a decade into very well-funded national egov/transformation policy, council webbies still remain all over the place on the basics of designing successful, customer-driven websites
You have to ask these sort of hard questions (and others, such as I'm not at all sure if "we all have the same goals in mind") to truly answer Carl's.

Simply put: I would question, with I think good cause, a rush for 'innovation' whilst some extremely basic yet to me obviously un/der-recognised problems still exist.


Addendum: Following a Twitter exchange with local gov web manager Julian Scarlett, a point occured to me with both common look'n'feel and better information provision and general support for local government web development.

'Interesting development' requires resources and - with a few exceptional exceptions - this is not found in smaller population districts. This is another reason why there is such a huge disparity with the quality of local government websites.

Sunday, September 20

Postscript two: Lessons from the great 2009 Birmingham City Council website disaster

Following the almost universally badly received launch of the new Birmingham City Council website local developer Mark Steadman posted a challenge on his blog:

Why don’t those who are busy complaining and building independent fixes to problems that only concern people who know or care what hashtags are*, get together and build an alternative Council website? Something that’s a real resource for its users, and doesn’t suffer from the dearth of features the official site does.
In particular he singled out another local developer who had joined the negativity, Stef Lewandowski who describes himself as 'Creative entrepreneur and maker of social network toolbox for dads - Webby winner, Clore Fellow, ideas guy, jack of all trades but master of none!', for criticism and his challenge.

Well Lewandowski has risen to it and in a matter of days has built what's been labeled #bccdiy (screengrab above).

He describes it as:
An unofficial website, aimed at providing a useful service to people in Birmingham based on the contents of the Birmingham City Council website, combined with other tools and services.
It comes from the input of people to the bccdiy wiki I mentioned in my last postcript (the wiki was set up by @jonbounds)

Thus far, I'm not aware of any reaction to this rather incredible and groundbreaking development (which you can follow on Twitter) by anyone from the council but if they don't do anything but welcome it - and it has already been suggested that they may not - then it really is time for local people to start haranguing councillors.

They could start with the Deputy Leader, Tory Paul Tilsley, who virtually came out swinging at a local event full of Birmingham's 'digerati' (or 'twitterati').

Open mouth, insert foot

#recasting was chaired by Charlie Beckett, who introduced Tilsley by praising the council's "magnificent online presence". This drew a response from Tilsley asking Beckett, "could you repeat that for the benefit of Marc Reeves" (the editor of the Birmingham Post, who have printed several articles critical of the website). Tilsley then laughed - but no-one joined in.

(Alison Smith commented on her blog post about the event "we were all too polite to heckle and I wish I had.")

Tilsey said that the council - and bear in mind the venue for his comments - was engaged in 'innovative activity' and said that the website was part of their business transformation (actually, all council's are doing this as Whitehall has instructed them to) "embracing the whole of the digital agenda over a ten year program. If you take a snaphot you have will negative comments but you need to see the whole picture."

“We’ve come in for a degree of criticism because we did spend a bit of money on it,” he said, my emphasis. “It was completely revamped and you can’t create 87,000 pages without cost.

“That was the size of the agenda that we were tackling to get a product that was responsive.


The number that's been quoted by Glyn Evans, Birmingham City Council's Corporate Director of Business Change, thus far has been 17,000, which a lot of people have questioned (it's suggested this includes every council minute or other documents).

But it gets worse. Lewandowski says:
@stef of the 87,000 pages that were quoted I've got a functional site out of the 685 uniques I can actually find to index. #bccwebsite
Tilsley also seems to be either unaware, or actively misled, as council staff transferred the content rather than the contractor - thus adding to the £2.8m they've been forced (via FOI) to state as the website's cost.

The Deputy Leader has invited anyone with questions about the website to email him at Perhaps a first question could be where he got the 87,000 figure from?

Another local councilor Robert Wright, a LibDem so part of the coalition which runs the council, has addressed - in a manner of speaking - the controversy on his blog. So there's another avenue for giving feedback to local politicians.

What may help speed things up is the arrival (albeit very late) of the Taxpayer's Alliance, who are infamous at getting themselves quoted in the media and provoking politicians into reactions.
Hang on, a £2.8m website that has taken literally years to construct isn’t world class? How much does a world class one cost then? Billions?! And if we’re to believe all the boastful publicity we’ve paid to have papered around this city, and the protestations of Cllr Mike Whitby, isn’t Birmingham a world class city? "A Global City with a Local Heart"?

Well if it is, according to this feedback, it’s a global city with a pretty crummy website…
In other feedback ...

Paul Robert Lloyd, Visual Designer at Clearleft, has pointed out that the council next door, Walsall, is doing a far, far better job (others have cited nearby Lichfield).

Ross Riley, technical director of Birmingham digital agency One Black Bear, comments on "another catastrophic disaster in a long line of public sector web projects".
The running theme throughout the site is the complete lack of even a hint of quality. There's the amateur feel of the graphics in the header, the massively bloated size of the pages, the search facility being left open to Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacks, the painfully slow load times and the lack of any design input or consistency throughout the entire site.

There's only two possible reasons as to why this project has ended up as such an expensive disaster. Either the team running it had no expertise in online projects and failed to see that they were being overcharged for sub-standard work or someone on the project team is plotting an escape to Panama with a couple of million in notes.
On Reddit programmers find a whole stack of issues with the website.

Someone has noticed that Birmingham's Respect councillor is the only one who does not have a webpage.

Past posts:

Why peeing in your pants may not be such a good idea

David Sedaris is just about my favourite author, I'm enjoying his new book of short stories 'When You Are Engulfed in Flames' at the moment.

His autobiographical stories are fantastically observant and gently hysterical. They make you smile and very often laugh out loud.

Here he reads one of them on Letterman. If you are drinking whilst watching prepare to splutter.

If you liked that you'll like this, David reading from his new book.