Idea for a read-it-later browser extension

Read it later services are nothing new, with Instapaper and Pocket being the two leaders of this particular niche. Apple’s Safari browser even has a built-in ‘Reading List’ feature.

My personal read-it-later strategy is to (1) drag pages I want to read later into a special folder on my bookmarks bar and (2) proceed to forget about them entirely1. The idea outlined in this blog post develops stage 1 in the hopes of turning stage 2 into actually reading articles when I have time for them.

The idea →

Google has a terrible 404 page

Google's 404 robot On the face of it Google has a perfectly decent 404 page. There’s a cute little robot illustration and an amusing page title (‘Error 404 (Not Found)!!1′). Also on the positive side, the page is very light, using only 11 lines of code and two small images.

However, there is absolutely no functionality beyond the Google logo being a link back to the home page. What I think Google should do instead →

Why people online don’t read to the end

Farhad Manjoo has written a condescending article for Slate about how we have short attention spans online:

You Won't Finish This Article

I’m going to keep this brief, because you’re not going to stick around for long. I’ve already lost a bunch of you. For every 161 people who landed on this page, about 61 of you—38 percent—are already gone. You “bounced” in Web traffic jargon, meaning you spent no time “engaging” with this page at all.

I better get on with it. So here’s the story: Only a small number of you are reading all the way through articles on the Web. I’ve long suspected this, because so many smart-alecks jump in to the comments to make points that get mentioned later in the piece. But now I’ve got proof.

You Won’t Finish This Article – slate.com

The article fails to mention sites – like Slate – that arbitrarily split articles into multiple pages. I have to imagine that a huge percentage drop off after page one, which would have had a massive impact on the findings (whether secondary pages were included or ignored in the stats!) so it’s odd not to mention it.

(The big spike at 100% on the ‘percent of article content viewed’ chart is for photo stories – most visitors will scroll through an entire photo essay.)

It’s also worth pointing out that Slate’s multi-page article design actively encourages readers to leave a comment before reading the whole article by effectively placing them in the middle of the article.

Sites are partly to blame for making their own content the least interesting thing on the page

The blame for the flighty behaviour of readers can also be at least partly attributed to design choices made by Slate and similar blogs. In addition to the main navigation, the top of the page is overloaded with calls to action to other stories, Facebook, videos to watch, distracting ads etc. Later in the article Manjoo complains that people share an article before reading it, but the sharing icons are right there at the start of the article.

Meanwhile, the Slate article itself is visually unappealing. The photograph at the top is both unnecessary and entirely uninteresting while the article is small text, thankfully broken up by colourful charts.

Of course, people are fickle and easily distracted, including myself. I follow many links only to decide when I arrive that I’m not that interested. Perhaps as readers we should be more disciplined – some of these uninteresting stories we click on are important – but these sites are partly to blame too for making their own precious content the least interesting thing on the page.

As one Posterous closes, another Posthaven opens

posterous In news that must have surprised no-one, Posterous has announced that it will be turning off the lights in a few months.

On April 30th, we will turn off posterous.com and our mobile apps in order to focus 100% of our efforts on Twitter. This means that as of April 30, Posterous Spaces will no longer be available either to view or to edit.

Now two of the original co-founders of Posterous — Garry Tan and Brett Gibson — are soon going to launch a new blogging platform called Posthaven that pledges never to be acquired and to be a home for your blog that will last forever.

Continue reading

Why is this BBC website not available in the UK?

Updated: See end of post.

A Digg linked article I find a lot of my reading material via Digg, who occasionally link to a BBC Future story that looks like the kind of thing I’d be interested in.

However these articles (which appear on a bbc.com domain, not bbc.co.uk) are blocked from within the UK. Instead, I am presented with a ‘help’ page that tells me the following:

BBC Future (international version)

We’re sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes. You can find out more about BBC Worldwide and its digital activities at www.bbcworldwide.com.

‘Dear Points of View…’ →

Halfblog: 2012 in review

WordPress fireworks WordPress.com has produced some cool-looking reports for users, summing up blog activity for 2012. It’s really just a pretty stats page, but it’s very well done with CSS animated fireworks, parallax effects and colourful graphics. You can see the complete report for halfblog.net here.

Here’s the summary it provided:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 130,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

In 2012, there were 133 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 657 posts. There were 306 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 91 MB. That’s about 6 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 24th with 754 views. The most popular post that day was Minimalistic iPhone 5 wallpapers.

Continue reading

How not to treat your customers online: Google bring sucky web experiences to life

I really appreciate these hilarious videos made by Google Analytics. They’re a perfect illustration of how frustrating shopping online can be.

Online Checkout

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, it’s important to ensure your website and digital marketing is running on all cylinders. Your potential customers should be able to find what they need on the digital shelf as easily as in real life. Sadly, many sites leave visitors frustrated – losing potential customers. However, the advantage of your online storefront is that you can understand where you’re losing customers and work to improve your shopping experience.

Google Analytics in Real Life: What would your customer experience look like? – analytics.blogspot.ca

Watch the other two videos from this Google campaign →

Wales Blog Awards 2010 and 2011: A call for information

Note: See bottom of this post for updates.

Wales Blog Awards logo Last year I wrote about the blogs that were shortlisted for – and won – the Wales Blog Awards. I had an idea for a follow-up post this year that would give a more detailed analysis of the Welsh blogging scene. I would measure things like post frequency, average comments attracted per post, image use, age of blog, social media followers etc.

In addition, I wanted to go back and look at the blogs shortlisted for 2010 and 2011. This is when I noticed that much of the history of the Wales Blog Awards has already been deleted.

Do you have any record of this information? Please read on… →

A new hyperlocal blog for Gabalfa, Cardiff

Gabalfa blog This week I created a new Cardiff hyperlocal blog for the Maendy, ‘Lower Heath’, western-edge-of-Cathays area known to the council as the ward of Gabalfa.

It’s a funny area to cover. Wikipedia says Gabalfa “is characterised by an enormous fly over road at the Gabalfa Interchange, where the A48 road meets the A470 road (North Road) which leads from Cardiff to northern Wales, and the A469 road (Caerphilly Road)”, which about sums the area up.

Continue reading

The Data Journalism Handbook

The Data Journalism Handbook is intended to be a useful resource for anyone interested in becoming a data journalist, or dabbling in data journalism.

Data Journalism Handbook cover It was born at a 48 hour workshop at MozFest 2011 in London. It subsequently spilled over into an international, collaborative effort involving dozens of data journalism’s leading advocates and best practitioners – including from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, the Chicago Tribune, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian, the Financial Times, Helsingin Sanomat, La Nacion, the New York Times, ProPublica, the Washington Post, the Texas Tribune, Verdens Gang, Wales Online, Zeit Online and many others.

Continue reading

Link

I was lucky enough to get one of the Port80 early bird tickets, so I’ll be there. Tickets are still available for £49, plus VAT.

Port80 website The talks will be on useful subjects like content strategy, site speed, project management, progressive enhancement, dealing with clients, native apps vs. responsive, personality on the web and more on responsive design. On the subject of responsive design, the newly launched Port80 website is a great example of exactly that.

You can follow @port80events for updates. The hashtag du jour is #p80N. You should also follow @Joel_Hughes who made this happen.

Kickoff is at 8:30 am on Friday 25th May 2012 at the University of Wales, Newport.

The Curator’s Code

The Curator's Code — symbolThe Curator’s Code is a standard for attribution — a way of providing credit to the creators of content being shared online, and those who helped you discover it.

Curation is something I do a lot, and something I have thought about in detail. The fact that so many users of sites like Tumblr and Pinterest share content without providing a simple link back to the originator (and sometimes even going to some effort to remove a credit or copyright notice from an image) is maddening. An initiative to combat this problem is very welcome. Continue reading

Link

Another fascinating Kickstarter documentary project.

Wikipedia is a corrupt political environment, and it should be disrupted.

“The Encyclopedia Game” is a documentary film about Wikipedia vandalism. The film focuses on the stories of a handful of Wikipedians who have managed to be banned from the site for one reason or another. All have been accused of some sort of vandalism or disruption. Are they guilty? Are they innocent? Or is the truth more complicated than that? This is a quirky character documentary with fascinating stories that shed light on the inner workings of Wikipedia, the world’s largest and most comprehensive encyclopedia.

Filled with enthralling stories of Wikipedia vandalism, quirky and eccentric characters, and offering a look behind the scenes of the world’s most used and trusted source of information, “The Encycopedia Game” is at once amusing, intriguing, and endearing.

The Encyclopedia Game

More of the interview with ‘Cognition’ below. Continue reading

Link

Playfic is a community for writing, sharing, and playing interactive fiction games (aka “text adventures”).

Playfic

Behind the scenes, Playfic simply takes the game source you enter and passes it to the commandline Inform 7 compiler, and views it in the browser using the open-source Parchment interpreter that plays the games. Playfic’s just the social glue tying them together.

This seems like a great way to get started with IF!

Continue reading

Debatewise: A good system for constructive debate

Debatewise.org is a site I think about every time I see an argument on Twitter or in a comment thread on some blog or other. The reality of the site falls very far short of the promise on offer:

[…] a place where the best possible arguments for one side are listed next to the best possible arguments against. These arguments aren’t created by one person, but by like-minded individuals collaborating to form the strongest case. This allows people both to easily compare the pros and cons and also to come to a decision safe in the knowledge they have the best information to hand.

Continue reading

Link

This post by Robert Scoble describes the main reason why I despise Facebook. It’s not their lack of respect for user’s privacy, it’s not their amoral founder or their virtual monopoly in social media. It’s that they have provided something that satisfies the needs of most regular users so well that they’ve critically — and perhaps fatally — injured the common web.

It’s too late to save the common web. It’s why, for the past year, I’ve given up and have put most of my blogging into Google+. I should have been spending that effort on the web commons and on RSS but it’s too late.

Normal users don’t care about the argument anymore and they are addicted to Facebook and Google+ and Twitter and apps on iPhones and Android. Heck, if you are at the Super Bowl tomorrow the official app is on iOS and Android and not other platforms.

The common web isn’t just under attack, it’s been under attack for more than four years.

Why did it take so long for people to wake up?

It’s too late for Dave Winer and John Battelle to save the common web – scobleizer.com

A bookmarklet for making web citations

I share a lot of suff from the web, on this blog and elsewhere. Typically I like to use a passage of text from the site I’m linking to (wrapped in a <blockquote>), followed by a link to the source (using <cite>). Then I’ll add some of my own text above or below the excerpt to add any necessary context.

I’m very particular about how I format all of this information. Only fairly recently I’ve started using the excellent TextExpander to speed up the process.

When I need to excerpt a passage that is more than just plain text (containing, for example, lots of links, lists or a table) I’ve been making use of the handy Posterous bookmarklet, which takes any selected text and formats it very much in the way described above. I’ll then modify the code it produces to suit my own needs.

The Posterous bookmarklet is fine, but it has two drawbacks:

  1. It uses Posterous-specific markup (a class on the blockquote and div instead of cite).
  2. I don’t use Posterous any more, and the bookmarklet requires that I be logged in.

So starting with this need, I’ve produced a mockup of a bookmarklet that would be of great utility to me, and presumably to many others:

Continue reading