Friday, December 24, 2004

Review of 2004

The year is drawing in and all through the land(s) bloggers are typing misty-eyed reviews of 2004. Despite the temptation to Google everyone else's thoughts and get stuck into the mince pies early, I will add my take on the significant developments of the year when many former winks in the milkman's eye really hit the public consciousness:

- Google's flotation: the big headline behind the story that new media is back from the dot com crash. It also saw Google the verb (see usage above) being used in the mainstream, along with its many other variations: 'Googling', 'Googlewhack' and 'just popping down the pub for a Google, dear'.

- Me, me, me media: when you saw your Luddite friends getting to grips with 3G, Sky Plus, IPod, Tivo, Blackberry's, Desktop Search, RSS, and the rest. What you want, when you want it and on what device you want it.

- Mass media broadband: when broadband in the UK finally became affordable.

- Email wars: Gmail hit the headlines with its 1G storage, sparking an almighty dust up for customers among the big players, with Lycos, Hotmail, AOL all indulged in a free-for-all.

- Blog, blog, blog: when colleagues started writing them, clients starting asking about them and people actually started reading them

- Blood boiling: yes, the year that my boiler decided to pack in on Christmas Eve. Do you know how difficult it is to get a plumber out at this time of year?

Given that it is the season both of giving and receiving, in true 2004 style I invite you to Google your predictions for 2005.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Return to haunt sender

This week saw an old email emerge as the final straw that broke the proverbial camel's back for UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett, revealing his curious phrase "No favours, but slightly quicker" in the nanny-visa-gate affair.

For all the talk of the anonymity of the Internet, the reality is that with the ability to record each website visited, file downloaded, comment published, email sent and to search 8 billion webpages on Google (and the rest), the potential for your Internet history to return to haunt you is all too real.

This blog featured the sorry tale of former air hostess Queen of the Sky who was reportedly brought back to earth for featuring inappropriate pictures of herself in her employers' uniform on her blog.

Blogging and email have empowered people to transmit their thoughts in seconds, but this carries with it all the dangers in terms of lack of reflection and hot-headedness. Add to that the potential for cultural misunderstandings inherent in a global audience and you'll wish you'd taken daddy's advice and signed up to law school after all.

No wonder then that so many companies' email signatures feature the obligatory 'don't blame us' legal warning - a particularly well written one I received this week featured the immortal line: "These are the views of the sender unless you like them a lot - then they are the Company's!"

Perhaps I should add a postscript: This blog contains the views of my virtual alter ego, unless you like them a lot - then they are mine!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Sorry, you were saying?

Apologies to those communicative souls that placed comments on the site up until today (apart from that weirdo forum that kept spamming the site. Yes, you). It seems you can't make an omelette without breaking any eggs and all of those wonderful posts have been consigned to cyber-history.

The culprit is progress. Blogger doesn't yet have 'Trackback' as a function, but it is possible to enable this functionality through Haloscan. Unfortunately, when you enable their handy auto-installer, it deletes all of the previous Blogger-powered comments.

Hopefully, the change will be worthwhile as, true to the blogging principle that 'no blog should be an island', Trackback is a great way of viewing debates in the blogosphere.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

"Your designers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

Whether or not you appreciate the Jurassic Park reference, the web is awash with sites that "didn't stop to think if they should." I'm not talking here about the sites that suffer through lack of design or programming skills. Ignorance or incompetence are an excuse in this rant.

No, instead I'm talking about site designers that do have these skills in abundance. It's just that through a desire to showcase their skills (usually in prime offender, Flash) they commit creative hari-kari and render their sites totally unusable. The web is still a relatively new medium, yet there are still basic conventions that you should follow that don't have to compromise your creativity.

I'm talking about sites that try to reinvent the navigation wheel with floating menus, one-off scrolling bars, unintentionally-hidden links and, of course, those overly complicated intro movies.

The worst offenders are often web design agencies themselves who may or may not do great work for clients, but can't resist one creative flourish too many when it comes to their own sites. Take for example, these guys - I defy you to navigate their website without throwing something at the screen.

Any candidates you'd like to see savaged by a virtual T-Rex? Let's hear about them in the comments section.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Please tell me this is a spoof

I'm hoping this website design awards site is trying to be ironic...
Google toolbar PageRank bar, where are you?

The Google toolbar features a handy PageRank bar which lets you know the PageRank of any page that you are viewing. There has been some debate recently about just how accurate the figures are with claims that the total shown is often months out-of-date or just plain wrong.

My own experience of using the calculator is that the figures it shows are reasonably accurate and are logical. Thus, Google-owned Blogger.com's homepage has a PageRank of 10, new pages show 0 and those in-between generally conform to my understanding of how influential a site is. I find it a helpful tool when reviewing longer term (note: longer) progress on sites that I have been working on.

However, today the PageRank bar vanished from my Google toolbar without explanation. This may be a temporary blip while it gets it's annual springclean. A quick search of the SEO forums show that some have it, some don't, and some see a universal grey or 0 Page Rank for every site they visit, so it looks more like a blip than the end for one of my favourite pieces of internet trivia.

Let me know if you've experienced this in the comment section.

Updated: It was just a springclean (if you're in the southern hemisphere of course) with regards to my PC. After a well deserved break, the toolbar decided to reset itself to US Google and switch off its PageRank bar option.