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19 February 2006  

Geek Quotient

9:21 AM

There's a thing going round called a 'blogger code'. Basically it's about how original you are, whether or not you put nudey pictures of yourself on your site (no, sorry for any disappointment), how often you blog, what you use to blog and so on and so forth. Yes, it's sad. Yes, it's geeky. Here it is anyway.

B2 d t k s u- f i- o+ x-- e l+ c--

What does it mean, then?

1 comments on permanent link


17 February 2006  

Fairtrade in Gateshead

2:14 PM

As a Gateshead resident, and someone who has been very much born and brought up in Gateshead, I was delighted to hear on BBC Radio Newcastle yesterday morning that Gateshead were going for fairtrade status.

Keen to find out exactly what was involved, I quickly found a news item on Gateshead Council's site entitled Gateshead Aims for Fairtrade status which pretty much explains it. Gateshead needs to achieve various goals, including making sure there are Fairtrade products readily available, the scheme is backed by the local council — which it obviously is — and that the council must attract popular support for the campaign.

Well, they've certainly got my support for it. I think it's a fantastic idea. I'm thoroughly behind the idea of Fairtrade, which basically says that what it's about is:

buying direct from farmers at better prices, helping to strengthen their organisations and marketing their produce directly through their own one world shops and catalogues, the charities offered consumers the opportunity to buy products which were bought on the basis of a fair trade.

The Mayor of Gateshead, Councillor Joe Mitchinson will be launching the scheme by presenting a certificate to Café Eight (just across from Gateshead Civic Centre) on a date to be later announced. Gateshead Council also plan to list local businesses who take part in the scheme in a Gateshead Fairtrade Directory, which will show where Fairtrade products can be bought.

I think this is all an absolutely fantastic idea, and for someone like myself with a passion for web accessibility, this ties in with what is basically the key concept — fairness. I would urge local residents and businesses to join publicly promote the scheme. Come on, let's make ourselves a Fairtrade Town.

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16 February 2006  

Molly and Malarkey

4:49 PM

I was at the North East Usability and Accessibility (NEUA) meeting last night. I'd actually never heard of it before, until Gareth posted on Accessify Forum that Molly was going to be in Newcastle at this meeting thing. Molly, in case you're wondering is Molly E. Holzschlag, co-author of the Zen of CSS Design, as well as about fourteen billion other books. She's the webs answer to Catherine Cookson, I guess. Wow, I thought, keep me a place at that. So I duly kept checking the information and then discovered that Malarkey was also going to be attending, the event upgraded itself from a 'must see' to a 'must must see'. Malarkey is the alter-ego of Andy Clarke, a designer who is somewhat passionate about standards and accessibility. More of that later.

Anyway, both Gareth and Tom who had mentioned the conference had said that it would be between 5 and 7pm, and they also thoughtfully gave the location. So I finished work in plenty of time to get across, arriving at the venue at about ten to five, to be told that the event wasn't actually going to start until 5:30, and indeed Gareth was still at work. Cheers lads. Anyway, at least I arrived in time to watch Malarkey and Molly fighting with the projector and trying to get the wi-fi to work. They got the projector running, which gave them a 50% success rate. Obviously no one was able to provide much help — we're not hardware people, are we — it's not like we're the IT Crowd, is it?

Eventually, after we'd all turned up, settled down, Molly started off the talk. Unfortunately, we were left in the dark. This was because someone decided at this precise moment to fiddle with the room lighting to try and highlight the speakers, but instead switched off the front lights. Still, Molly's silhouette continued to give the talk until normal service was resumed.

Molly talked us through the history of the web — from the first text based browsers, through Mosaic, foundation of the W3C, the Browser Wars between Netscape and Internet Explorer, WaSP and gradually brought us up to the present day. She also explained what she actually does, which so far as I can tell is amble around the world giving talks on things, attending numerous events and no doubt writing a few more excellent books.

Okay, that's a very brief summary of what she talked about, and this doesn't get across what it's actually like to see her talking with such passion and conviction — and wit — about her subject. The same goes for Malarkey's talk. It's obvious to me that they're both pretty much naturals at the game, seeming very comfortable standing up in front of a group of people and giving a talk. I would recommend that you take the time to see them in action, if they're appearing anywhere near you!

And on to Malarkey...

Andy talked more about the specifics of accessibility, showing us example sites and coding that had been used, and comparing the accessibility and usability of websites to the difference between driving hundreds of miles up the A1 and trying to navigate similarly between from Heaton to Nortumbria University (about 2 miles apart).

He also explained why he saw 'accessibility' as a dirty word, despite his homepage saying he's "passionate about web standards and accessibility" and also that he "regularly educates web designers in web standards and accessibility". But it wasn't as odd as I'm making out, he was merely trying to make the point that to call it 'accessibility' adds an unneccessary mystique, when all you're trying to do is make your site usable by everyone.

At the end of the talk, after taking questions, we all tucked into the bottles of wine provided by Northumbria University. I had rosé. Well actually I had two glasses of red and one of white, which is much the same thing. There was also a draw for copies of two of Molly's books, but this was unfortunately a sad and dispiriting affair, as I won neither of them. I did get to draw one of the tickets out, but I thought it would be bad form to go looking round the box for my own...

Molly, Andy and the organisers then went off to get some food, promising to meet us back at The Bridge Hotel at half past nine (although it's possibly fortunate they didn't visit its website first). A few of us more hardy souls decided to fill the intervening time by wetting our throats at O'Neills, and after somehow squeezing myself and Ben into the back of McSkiver's car — which claims to be a four seater, but this is probably assuming that the people in the back are either under five or don't have any limbs — McSkiver kindly dropped us off there before going back to drop his car off so he could come out for a proper drink.

Of course, at nine thirty, there was no sign of anyone other than me, Ben, McSkiver and a bloke from the DWP. 'Oh no, we're on Gareth time again', I thought. But shortly after we'd sat down and seemingly frightened a much larger group away, the others turned up again and we took over the recently vacated space to enjoy another drink or four.

autographed beermat

Conversation by this time was becoming less coherent, and more sweary (or at least mine was) and after Molly autographed a book for someone, I thought it would be nice to get an autograph on something for me. I didn't have a book, but I felt a beermat would be pretty much appropriate for me, and Molly and Malarkey (bless their little cotton socks) were good humoured enough to sign it for me. Drinking continued and I seem to recall having an enjoyable conversation with pretty much everyone - I just hope they all recall it the same way...

I must say though, it was very nice to meet both Molly and Malarkey in person, and I hope to see them again at @media later in the year, and if either or both of them pass through the North East again and feel thirsty, I'd be happy to show them when they can quench their thirst.

2 comments on permanent link


11 February 2006  


11:03 AM

So what is Banksy?

Banksy isn't a what, he's a who. Banksy is a graffiti artist who produces very spectacular art. For those of you who visit this site looking for web accessibility, please bear in mind his site is designed specifically as a visual medium. You have been warned.

But isn't Graffiti vandalism?

Hmm. Well, I know where you're coming from, but it is good, so er... Banksy! Banksy! Is graffiti art or vandalism?

That word has a lot of negative connotations and it alienates people, so no, I don't like to use the word 'art' at all.

There you go. That's cleared up

Banksy, Banksy. Haven't I heard of him somewhere before?

Probably. This is the man who has exhibited at the Tate without of course the Tate being aware of it. He's provided a list of cuttings of his exploits for you to enjoy. And a wide selection of his art is also available on his website. Enjoy.

3 comments on permanent link


10 February 2006  

Toon - the candidates

7:44 PM

Who is the right man?

Who can take Newcastle, an overspent, overgrown and sadly neglected former giant back to glory? Who would want the Newcastle job ahead of the England job?

Who cares? What's important is who gets the Newcastle job. The England job can't rule out all of the candidates.

Assuming that I'm not allowed to bring in Roman Abramovich — not so much as a manager, more just as a cheque book, then I'll run through who I consider the candidates are as follows:

  1. Martin O'Neill has the gift of the gab, and has the charisma and passion we need. If you read the papers — and we all do — he seems a likely candidate for the England job. I remember him as Wycombe Wanderers manager and he's come a long way since then. I was also impressed with him for putting his family first. Plus I've always enjoyed his post-match interviews. One I'd be extremely happy with.
  2. Sam Allardyce is big, strong, and despite an unfortunate resemblance to Mike Bassett has actually done a very good job with Bolton. Little money spent, got the best out of big egos, and has a team who will play pretty football against inferior opposition and attempt to out-muscle and out-fight everyone else. Again, if you read the press, a likely candidate for the England job. If you listen to his Chairman, he's not interested in coming to Newcastle. But then his Chairman would say that, wouldn't he? One I'd be happy with.
  3. Chris Coleman. Look, I happen to like the guy, okay? I remember him as a player for Palace, I think he's got passion, and he's certainly done pretty effectively on a shoestring budget. He may not be as lauded by the media as that Paul Jewell or that Stuart Pearce chap, but he's been around for a couple of years now. One I'd be happy with.
  4. That Paul Jewell chap or that Stuart Pearce chap. I'd worry about the relative inexperience, particularly of Pearce. Other than that, they seem to be doing a fine job. Maybe not this time, though, lads?
  5. Gus Hiddink. Well, apart from the fact that the Ronnigan say he's already ruled himself out, and he's the favourite for the England job (yes, as is O'Neill, Allardyce etc), he's got a proven pedigree, he speaks English and he's got a very good reputation. On the minus side, our last Dutch manager wasn't a runaway success. For me, a non-runner as I think he's going to the FA.
  6. Ottmar Hitzfeld. Seemingly a very popular character, given the banner appearing in the Leazes and the Hitzfeld For The Toon website. Having won World Manager of the year twice, the Champions League twice and more than a dozen other trophies as manager, he's got quite an impressive track record. He speaks English, although whether he could understand Geordie or not is maybe another matter. I'm quite happy to give my backing to this campaign. Available. Another one I'd be extremely happy with.
  7. Glenn Hoddle. No, no, you're taking the piss. The Wolves messageboard also seems to think it's because Associated Press got "Roeder" and "Hoddle" mixed up when they announced who was taking over first-team affairs. I really hope that's true. What a fantastic story. Although I quite like the deliberate hoax story too. As for him coming to the Toon, like the Kaiser Chiefs, I would indeed predict a riot. Not the man for us, sorry. We're more brewery than Drewery.
  8. Big Phil Scolari. Well, if winning the World Cup and handling the egos of the Brazilian national team — as well as the Portugese — doesn't qualify you as big enough for us, then I don't really know what would. His lack of English and/or links to the England job count against him though. If he was learning English and doing well enough at it, then I'd be happy with this man.
  9. Kevin Keegan. He has been talked about, and seriously, by some. I think it's a mistake to go back. Look at Howard Kendall at Everton. A huge success first time round, a teensy bit not so good after that. Keegan did a great job before, but the time was right to step down. Having said that, if we were in dire need of someone with the requisite coaching badges to tide us over until the end of the season, then I'd happily have him back on a temporary basis. Just not permanently.
  10. Alan Shearer. No experience, no coaching badges, no chance. Sorry Al, you've been a great servant to the club but despite everyone who doesn't know the first thing about football wanting you to be the next man, it just ain't going to happen. I would ask you one favour though. Let the new guy make his own space. If he wants you on the coaching staff, fine. If he doesn't, because he's worried about your influence (and lets face it, like it or not, you are influential), then back off and let the man do his job.

In short, it's OOO for my first choice. Ottmar Or O'Neill.

0 comments on permanent link



Titan Internet II

7:43 AM

Another shout out to the guys at Titan Internet. I always think the signs of good service, particularly in IT are how someone reacts when things go wrong. In this case, their ODBC connections weren't working.

By the time I pointed it out to them, they had noticed themselves and it was fixed within about ten minutes. Really can't complain at that.

And no, they don't pay me. I pay them. Of course, I'd be happy to consider any sponsorship...

But more seriously though, a specific hello to Keith at Titan. I sent him the details of my problem initially, including my site address. It got fixed. I sent him a thank you and told him I'd have to give them credit on the blog again. He then asked for the website address... cue slaps around the head and much shouting of D'oh! So, like I say, many thanks to Titan for fixing the whole thing, and Keith for providing much amusement.

0 comments on permanent link


02 February 2006  

Be My Anti Valentine

1:16 AM

...as opposed to my Uncle Mick.

Anti Valentine? So what's this about then?

Well it's basically a concept that allows you to choose and generate an anti-Valentine card to send to a loved one, or indeed anyone that you know the email address of. It allows you to cut through the commercialised crap and produce a more truthful take on the annual "My God How Much Does A Rose Cost These Florists Must Be Coining It In Day".

Simply fantastic. I urge you all to send one.

My personal favourite is this one:

I have feelings for you but thought I'd let this card do all the work because I haven't got the imagination or energy to let you know in my own words

And if you're wondering where on earth I came across this, it's perfectly simple. I was having a look on my site stats at the start of the month and found someone had found me searching for 'Pickard'. Reasonably enough. Out of sheer pointlessness, I decided to see where I appeared in the google ranking for Pickard.

At the time, I think I was about 18th. Next to me was another site called Little Red Boat which sounded interesting, so I went and had a look at it. It was. I would recommend you go and have a look at it now. Go on, I'll wait.

Anyway, after reading about why she didn't have a mouse in her house, I sent her a little note saying how entertained I was by the story. She politely replied and pointed out we know someone in common - Pixeldiva. Small world, eh?

So, anyway, there I was looking at the Little Red Boat site tonight and I spot a post titled Yay! VD! which sounded a bit odd, so I had to read it. And that led me to her sister's site, where you can find the Anti-Valentine stuff.

No, it doesn't sound horrendously convoluted to me, either.

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