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Friday, 30 March 2007

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Bad vs good customer service

Was looking at Alexa's new ranking by country feature:

According to it we (my council) have about 8% more overseas traffic than our actual stats show. Hmmm.

It also claims that we have lots of people visiting from Peru, Slovakia , Czech Republic, Brazil. Hmm again. Actually we do have 3% US and numbers from Poland and China (but actually a huge diversity). Lots of people in those countries must have the Alexa tooolbar....

Why it is worth looking @ Alexa is comparisons, as other sites suffer much the same - tool-based - distortion.

Anyway, I was drawn whilst comparing 'rank' - oww, a tad 'how big is yours'? I feel another JackP comment a lá 'we really are sad geeks who ought to get out more, aren't we?' coming on - to the offer of a T-shirt displaying said rank!

Off I go to .. zazzle

I'm dumped into a Flash state and - it appears - a design-your-own-t-shirt thing, which looks like fun - and there's my rank - so ...

one thinks >> 'share' and maybe 'change it to something else?'

So I hit Save and am dumped back into .. where?

I can see I'm in a community based around selling designs, it's a design community.


All very interesting but I just want A teeshirt.. maybe .. maybe not now.. must be easier ways — is what I'm immediately thinking.

I must have gone through twelve screens before I find my 'in progress' design.

Their website design has things like a disguised promo link in your account nav - I forgot to mention it made me sign up - next to your 'cart'. That made me hate them.

You have to learn stuff to get back to that teeshirt you were previously thinking 'cool'.

Eventually I find the design, but the only size image on offer (bar screen grabs in the design process - I was thinking 'forward to a friend' remember?) is this >>

Bah. Humbug.

Ages later and there's still no email in my inbox

Lost maaaaaaa buizness zaazzhellee

Whereas ..
  • I order flowers from a UK supplier easily found through a Google common keyphrase search.
  • They drop me straight into an excellent, responsive online process. and that undercuts interflora nearly by half. Plus they're Fairtrade. Plus they take the payment method I want.
  • Get asked if I want to input precious detail like 'do we need to ring a bell?'.
  • Immediate email which neatly explains the process, another confirmation of dispatch, another delivery as promised, and efficiently described throughout.
  • and what to do if it goes wrong.
  • and '5% off your next purchase from us!'
  • and - and it's the tone of their plain text email response which is done so well - a friendly
'p.p.s. to ensure that you receive all of our emails please add to your address book or trusted sender list.'
Very nicely done.

Simple, done well, which is harder than it looks.

My life in serious organised crime

BBC Radio Four
Mark Thomas: my life in serious organised crime

Absolute hysteria.

One of my favorite comedians, Mark Thomas [World Record Holder, slogan: 'If you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention'] taking the right old piss-a-roonie out of the kafka-esque law that requires you to get permission from the police to demonstrate in Parliament Square (or anywhere within a Km).

Wearing the wrong badge and standing for more than a minute outside Parliament is an offence!

The police seem to get the joke - 'specially the bit where he's asking for permission for a demonstration calling for the dismissal of the boss of the policeman he's dealing with - at one point they cheer him and another he's escorted by police to protect him from arrest!

Policeman: "why, profanity is subjective!"

He applys to wear a red Nose on red Nose day (in Parliament Square) and much more. I liked the explanation of the terrible threat to surrealism.

Here's the show on BBC Radio 4:

Part One:

Part two:

Part three:

Bytes · Dipping tipping point - Women love the web - Internet improves lives

  • Google is moving further into translation - first stop Arabic and Mandarin (that's what the US Army wants).

  • Forty three per cent of people say they surf the web and 42 per cent work at a computer whilst watching TV / women were found to be particularly heavy users of laptops whilst watching TV. Thinkbox.
  • According to Mark Read, director of strategy for WPP, speaking to the AOP, "The digital tipping point is here – 2006/2007 – and the UK is by some measures the most advanced market"
    • Google, Yahoo and a few other new media brands are putting significant power behind ambitious and disruptive strategies
    • Media consumption change is profound, particularly for youth
    • Digitisation is changing the nature of all media and this revolution is far broader than the internet
    • Traditional media companies, including WPP, are very challenged by many of these changes

  • Shaun Woodward, Minister for Culture, Media and Sport has warned that the threat of content regulation for online publications with audiovisual content, proposed by the European Commission, has not yet been averted.

  • Women are spending more time online than ever before and 70 per cent even go so far as to say they could not live without it, according to research by (my old stomping ground) IPC Southbank.
    This line is slightly frightening (with my emphasis): ' The majority of premium women (86%) have shopped on the internet, and last year they spent on average £840.'

  • New Oxford Internet Institute report shows that key science websites are failing to register in the top 30 Google search results.
    For example the HIV/AIDS researchers reported using national journals, charity organisations, statistics and public sector organisations but none of these appear in the top 30 search results for generic domain keywords.
    NB: The Oxford Internet Institute website has no search!

  • North East Lincolnshire has bought censorware SurfControl "to protect 26,000 pupils"
    They do seem to have thought about misblocking - “The solution’s built-in categories, keywords and customised settings make it easy for us to deliver comprehensive filtering without unnecessarily blocking legitimate sites" - but what about self-censorship? SurfControl blocks blogs, MySpace and default blocks dating sites - what could be wrong with looking at those of a lunchtime?

  • BT Digital Living Report 2007:
    internet have improved people’s lives by
  • making it easier to gather information (76 per cent),
  • saving time with chores with services like online banking (65 per cent), and
  • improving communication (40 per cent).
  • More than half of parents that were interviewed (57 per cent) also believed that the internet has helped their children’s school grades.
  • 45 per cent of UK parents now use email as the primary means of communication with family members
  • Transport for London, one of the biggest government sites, has been overhauled. Was pleased to see they've finally answered where non-London UK citizens can get an Oyster card - possession of which saves you a fortune. They previously said zip about that. Unfortunately it's that they still haven't worked out how to sell them online or by any other method.

    Public Library Geeks Take Web 2.0 to the Stacks

    Beverly Hanly

    03.29.07 | 2:00 AM

    When the IT director at North Carolina's Charlotte & Mecklenburg County public library began training staff in the latest web technologies, she lured reluctant participants with bribes -- a free MP3 player and the chance to win a laptop.

    Six months later, the program they developed is the real prize. Learning 2.0, developed by public services technology director Helene Blowers, has become a surprise grassroots hit, available for free on the web and adopted by dozens of other libraries around the globe.

    "The last thing we want is for people to come into our libraries and ask about Flickr or Second Life and be met with a blank look," said Christine MacKensie, director of the Yarra Plenty Regional Library in Melbourne, Australia, which just finished a four-month version of Learning 2.0. "And they certainly won't now."


    "E's" --

    • exposing staff to new tools,
    • encouraging play,
    • empowering individuals,
    • expanding the knowledge toolbox,
    • eliminating fear

    > ARTICLE <

    Wednesday, 28 March 2007

    Microsoft eyes Doubleclick

    Ha Ha ...
    Wall Street Journal

    DoubleClick Explores a Sale

    Potential Suitors
    Include Microsoft;
    Listing Is an Option
    March 28, 2007; Page B3

    Online advertising firm DoubleClick Inc. is exploring a sale, and is already in active talks with Microsoft Corp., among other potential suitors, according to people familiar with the matter.

    > ARTICLE <

    Online advertising share overtakes newspapers

    IAB/PwC UK online adspend figures 2006

    Wednesday, 28 March 2007

    Internet advertising expenditure in the UK broke the £2 billion barrier in 2006 thanks to a 41.2% surge in growth as marketers moved their budgets online.

    In 2006 £2.016 billion was spent online by advertisers targeting the 31 million (GfK NOP) people connected to the internet. The growth has increased the internet's share of all advertising revenues to 11.4% (now 12.4%), up from 7.8% in 2005.

    Internet advertising expenditure breakdown:

    £453.7m - display / £1,200 m - search / £379m - classified

    Online spend boosted the entire advertising industry, which grew by 1.1% in 2006.

    With almost all expenditure on traditional media in decline, the upward momentum of the internet reflects a new era in marketing communication and consumer behaviour, which is driven by high-speed broadband take-up and user-generated content.

    • 26% of internet users' media day is spent online
    • Video is a catalyst for staying online for longer

    The figures are from the biannual online advertising spend study by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), carried out in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC).

    Press release

    Firefox Euro market share grows

    27-03-2007 11:31 AM

    Almost one third of online users in Germany favour Firefox, while across Europe the overall average market share for the open-source browser has now reached almost 15 per cent, according to new research.

    The survey, conducted by ad serving company ADTECH, determined the distribution of browsers in individual countries as part of a major recent study into web browser market share.


    Browser-distribution by country for February 2007 (in %):spacer28h



    Europe- wide








    IE 6.x









    IE 7.x









    Firefox 1.x









    Firefox 2.x



























    Opera 8









    IE 5.x








    Tuesday, 27 March 2007

    .gov kids

    Had a look at some other government portals in the light of DirectGovKids. Shocking, some of them.

    Very few have information linked from the homepage, directed at kids.

    This is the US Government


    But, this is the French ... Superb :{)

    More on DirectGovKids

    Public Sector Forums have been having Fun with DirectGovKids - the new Flash-driven animated route for children to information and *stuff* about government.

    Needless to say these grown-up (very grown-up) journos focus on the cow-pooing game.

    Well, for all I know this may be teaching a six year-old something vital about the environment! Plus fun and games is a very good way to get a message over

    ... however they also focus on the accessibility issue and, having looked a bit harder, there are two issues besides the obvious one they point to, and they're to do with the choice of Flash. *NB: With the content, I haven't been through it with a fine tooth comb, I may have missed something. Please don't make me...
    1. Availability.
      This is often a problem with networks (think big companies) - Flash isn't available everywhere or can be blocked.
      If, for example, this is a kids route to information not just on how to dress firemen but also to report abuse, then any barrier is indefensible.
      Industry usually banks on a five year time lag before everyone catches up technologically. i.e. yes, some people still have dial-up and creaky connections + equipment. Do you just ignore them, especially when making accessibility claims? There isn't an alternative version.
    2. Usability.
      Just start from remembering that this sort of application is actually very new. Then think that ATMs have existed for forty years — could there still not be some improvement with ATMs?
      Basically, Flash obviously has some usability issues particular to it and with how it's generally used - the Flash design trope. Studies have found, for example, drop-off rates of a third between Web (HTML etc) pages and Flash pages. Also, do not assume that all kids are universally highly web-proficient - this isn't the case. Flash is great. We love Flash. It has great uses. But it has issues.
    • Content.
      From what I could see, there doesn't appear to be content aimed at disabled kids. There has been an effort from what I could see with learning disability but otherwise it appears that they've abrogated this in the main content - e.g. think dyslexia.
    • Kids-specific.
      This site could also be used to train kids (hopefully, helping out teachers and carers) how to properly and with knowledge use the Internet — after all, they're already there, on the Web.
      There have been some worrying studies which show that kids are far more likely to accept ad claims and be seduced by ads online - this is why people like fast food advertisers spend so much on it.
      The pervasiveness of the reach of advertising at kids is now extending very lucratively into gaming.
      The site could definitely be used to help counteract those very powerful counterweights to other messages - like healthy eating.
    Heeeere's Jakob ...

    The most notable finding in our study was that children click website advertisements. Unfortunately, they often do so by mistake, thinking ads are just one more site element. In nine years of testing adults, we can count on the fingers of two hands the total number of times they've clicked website advertising. But kids click banners. They cannot yet distinguish between content and advertising. On the contrary, to kids, ads are just one more content source. If a banner contains a popular character or something that looks like a cool game, they'll click it. Pokémon, here we come. (Kids clicked on Pokémon characters even though they were simply featured in banner ads for other products, rather than as links to a Pokémon site.) We strongly recommend that parents, educators, and other caretakers spend time acquainting children with the realities of Internet advertising and teach them how to recognize ads.
    >> More - Kids' Corner: Website Usability for Children
    Previous post

    Finally, a use for Second Life

    DHS ponders foray into Second Life

    By Trudy Walsh, GCN Staff

    The Homeland Security Department is considering setting up an outpost in Second Life, the virtual Sims-like world that has attracted 3 million registered users since 2003.

    DHS is just at the point of having informal discussions with one company about setting up a virtual island for its Safecom program, said Tony Frater, DHS’ deputy director of the Office for Interoperability and Compatibility. “But we haven’t taken the plunge,” he said.


    Most public-safety agencies don’t have the resources to conduct “tabletop exercises,” which typically are simulations of first-responder events such as a pandemic or a biochemical attack, Frater said. One of these exercises usually requires public-safety workers to spend an entire weekend working at the event. And a tabletop exercise can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    In Second Life, however, “we could build training exercises around chemical spills, hurricanes or tornadoes,” Frater said. “It’s fairly realistic. We could mock up things that happen in real life.” Public safety agencies could upload their standard operating procedures and get 30 or so avatars to conduct a simulation exercise.


    “Just like the Internet, Second Life has both appropriate and inappropriate sections,” Frater said. “DHS will take appropriate steps to protect its information. We also talked about setting up meeting spaces that can be conducted in private,” which require invitations. “I think a lot of seminars would be in a closed setting,” he said.

    This makes way more sense than anyone trying to make money or attract customers through Second Life. Because the numbers of actual users is a mirage.

    Monday, 26 March 2007

    Counting down ...

    Apparently, there are just Six hundred and sixty-six days more — 666 — until George W. Bush leaves the Oval Office.

    Whilst you're waiting, you can while away the hours playing with this game <<

    Google themes

    This is my new Google homepage theme ('Sweet dreams') at Sunset :}

    It has the Sun rolling across the top throughout the day. It *also seems to have something seasonal about it too. Fabulous.

    Text text, boring text

    The Poynter Institute has an interesting interview by Guillermo E. Franco, who edits the leading Spanish language magazine El Tiempo online.

    He spoke with Chris Nodder from the Nielsen Norman Group about how text usability guidance is evolving (or not) in this era of Web 2.0 and mass broadband. Guidance has always emphasised the centrality of plain text to the user experience — is this changing?

    Video and audio are tempting media because often designers feel that they can get their message across better with moving pictures or narration. However, it is still very difficult to search either content type, which means that text is still the primary medium if you care about content retrieval.

    In our studies, even teens -- typically seen as early adopters -- were often confused by the steps required to get content to play on their PCs, let alone transferring that content to other devices.

    Making text easier to read on a display is just part of the problem. The larger and more complex issue is deciding what to write in the first place.

    Reading for pleasure or entertainment is obviously a different activity [to scanning news headlines]. However, I would ask journalists whether they feel that their Web sites are currently used for this purpose. Our research suggests otherwise.

    Content creators must avoid the vain notion that Web site visitors care about eloquent prose. Visitors are goal oriented, so they care much more about the ease with which they can extract information from the page.

    Intrusive ads cause 11% drop in traffic

    Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for March 26


    People who used a site stripped of ads reported that they were 11% more likely to return or recommend the site to others than people who were exposed to the same site with ads.

    The drop in expected future use was even greater in the test condition where the site used pop-ups or pop-unders.

    These findings come from a study by Scott McCoy (College of William and Mary) and colleagues, published in the March issue of the Communications of the ACM. Full paper at:
    Here's the conclusions for that study >

    Our findings suggest that advertisements do have significant effects on retention of the site. Also, advertising content that is non-congruent with the site's content seems to lead to greater effort in reconciling the differing content, and ultimately greater memory of both the Web site and the advertisement.

    Intrusiveness is also important for both Web site designers and advertisers. Pop-ups and pop-unders seem to be more intrusive than in-line ads, implying that users should not be interrupted from their online tasks to close the extraneous windows.

    This article is a first step toward a deeper understanding of Web advertising, providing a controlled study to isolate a variety of factors and outcomes. Such understanding would enable researchers to design future studies using different ad types and different locations on the page. Designers should realize the magnitude of ill effects caused by advertising. Although some of the differences were not large in magnitude, reducing the likelihood of a person's return by 11% might be a cost that is too great for a site host to bear. Discovering that pop-up and in-line ads differ greatly in measures of intrusiveness, a host might play it safe and make use of in-line ads. As theory and practice begin to converge in this area, perhaps what has been described so often as a wild new frontier might finally take a few steps toward being tamed.

    This is self-reported data, so it's not necessarily true that the loss of usage from intrusive ads is exactly 11%. However, there is no doubt that such design elements are annoying and that annoyances *will* cause users to turn to other sites.

    For data on *how* annoying different kinds of ads are, see:

    UK companies failing in web-based customer self-service

    eGain Uk
    UK companies failing in web-based customer self-service

    57 percent of UK's leading companies offer little or no web self-service

    Slough, United Kingdom, March 21, 2007:
    According to research released by eGain (OTC BB: EGAN.OB) today, 57 percent of UK companies offer little or no web self-service, resulting in lost revenues and declining customer satisfaction. Only 17 percent of UK companies are offering their customers "visionary" or "above average" customer self-service via the web*.

    eGain analysts assessed the web self-service capabilities of 125 major companies in the UK across retail, financial services, telecommunications and local government sectors. The research revealed that businesses in the UK are still falling short in this critically important aspect of customer service.

    The websites of the companies included in the study were assessed on seven key capabilities: FAQs, dynamic FAQs, search / browse, natural language indicators, guided help, ease of escalation to customer service agents, and speed and quality of response to escalated enquiries. The results were used to categorise the web self-service capabilities of the companies into four groups: visionary, above average, below average and basic, based on the scores they received*.

    The results showed that a third of UK companies (29 percent) offer very basic web self-service facilities. These sites provide just static FAQs, which lead customers to either abandon the website or resort to calling the company. Only three percent of all companies researched offered visionary web self-service. Six percent of companies offered no facility for email escalation from self-service, a critical requirement to prevent customer abandonment of the website. Only 18 percent of companies acknowledged the receipt of a customer e-mail, sent as a result of an escalation, a simple best practice to set customer expectations and enhance the service experience. The option to escalate seamlessly from self-service to agent-assisted service and providing rapid, high-quality resolution to the escalated queries help create a safety net for customers that can actually increase self-service adoption.
    ".. the local government sector performed the worst, with 70 percent rated below average... "

    The telecommunications sector performed the best with 15 percent of the companies providing visionary self-service., while the local government sector performed the worst, with 70 percent rated below average.

    "The study revealed that a significant number of UK companies are still failing to realise their full potential for customer retention and revenue growth by falling short in customer self-service via the web," commented Andrew Mennie, General Manager and Vice President EMEA for eGain.

    The findings of the study, along with self-service pitfalls and opportunities for innovation, will be presented at a seminar series in the UK titled "Web Self-Service in the UK - State of the Industry, Pitfalls, and Opportunities". To register, click on the following url:

    KMWorld's list of "100 Companies that Matter" is selected by knowledge management practitioners, theorists, analysts, vendors, and customers and represents the list of vendors that make the most impact in knowledge management.

    *Mapping of ratings to scores:
    Visionary: 3.0 to 4.0; Above average: 2.0 to 3.0; Below average: 1.0 to 2.0; Basic: 0.0 to 1.0

    > eGain UK

    Inside Mugabe's Zimbabwe

    Steve has posted more on It's Almost Supernatural about his time in Zimbabwe. Including pictures.

    This is Saturday afternoon in the main shopping street in Bulawayo.

    Sunday, 25 March 2007

    Why I 'called' Mattthew Taylor's ignorance

    A mate responded privately to my post Matthew Taylor is an ignoramus.

    In that I took exception to various statements on Taylor's Blog, especially the one:
    Why is it that the web which has been so transformative in so many parts of our lives has done so little to strengthen democracy and civic society?
    My major exception being that "civic society" has been "strengthening democracy" through the web for over a decade! I know this from my own experience: Taylor (amongst others it seems) just hasn't noticed.

    My mate pointed out that for Taylor and others they, representing the government, primarily think of technology as a means of control and hence has no interest in actually engaging with the web (except in ways it can control)

    He also thought that people like Taylor shouldn't be criticised as at least they're 'onside', in particular that they're encouraging new forms of engagement.

    But this is the point, they're not. Everything is about constructing spaces within a walled garden and conducting the dialogue within there. It's not about truly freeing up government and the dialogue with the citizen through actual participation in the dialogue as it already is.

    I can hear from Taylor's overall argument, as well at that of others, that people like him are only just waking up to the scale and pace of change.
    • I heard a story at a recent conference from a delegate about one council which had been forced to revamp it's website because a local ran a consistent and focussed campaign against them about that website.
    • My local paper has a story virtually every week about a new addition to YouTube, highlighting one local problem or another.
    • As I blogged earlier, many sites already exist that make a profit of one sort or another from being 'intermediaries' to government services.
    • One look at the relation between government - down to the local level - and the blogosphere in the United States shows you the future of pressure group politics here - down to the local level.

    The point is that they - the commentariat + politicians - need to focus on the practical barriers which feed all the way down the pipe, which block government engagement with the web. That's what they need to be doing and they're not.

    Instead they wander round in academic waffle which doesn't engage and produces endless 'new' 'innovative!' 'engagement' projects / 'products' which replicate the web in a lot of cases.

    The thing is that web 2.0 — alongside mass availability of internet access and broadband — does offer opportunities to reach larger audiences in new or more effective ways. (Note: even this is not new, there has always been a presence by some councillors and MPs in places like, and as 'old' as, UseNet).

    There are a whole host of things which could be done - why not have a MySpace/BeBo etc. presence and encourage that for one - very obvious - idea? Or, here's something truly radical, a 'comment' field on every government website. But the best example is simply ALLOWING government people to answer the web back.

    Think of poor staff trying to manage complex situations in Parking, say, or Social Care. The web not only allows them to better and more quickly explain actions - and hence help with practical things like complaint rates - it also allows them to source and deal with their online reputation when people run campaigns online.

    What stops them is the leadership. Who is telling them this is a good idea?

    So, how about a statement from a politician that blogging by Parking Authorities is to be encouraged? For example?

    In terms of being gentler and washing whiter when reading mistaken statements by prominent people. Apart from the mistakes/misunderstandings being part of the agenda setting (a small matter), the problem is the consistent level of basic mistakes across seemingly all those leading eGov.

    I refer to my previous post about the 'disconnect'.

    And, as I told my friend 'I don't know everything and I like to be challenged - what's wrong with thinking like that?'


    OnOneMap now shows Mobile Masts alongside
    • (?)
    • (©)
    • (? - that's the majors)

    More apologies needed

    Watching some of the excellent programs marking the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

    Moira Stewart and Miss Dynamite both did excellent shows and the show tracing the history of racism broke new ground (on TV at least).

    Many Black people have rightfully called for an apology for the slave trade: given all the previous ones, it's amusing to hear the twisted explanations about why this one isn't needed as well.

    Amongst the ones previously made was one to the Maoris.

    If you want to apologise to anyone, Tony, apologise to Australian Aboriginal people. I can understand why this may not have come to your attention — these people are not even memorialised in Australia.

    Here we're talking

    'Stolen generation' kids, as seen in Rabbit-Proof Fence: this still continues.

    Photo shows The Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls’ Training Home.
    This was one of the government institutions in New South Wales where Aboriginal children were forcibly taken to from their families from 1912 to 1969 by the Aboriginal Protection Board, later renamed the Aboriginal Welfare Board.

    Aboriginal people were not recognised as human beings by the Australian state until 1967. Previously their lives were run under the Protector and the Flora and Fauna Act.

    All initiated and subsequently looked over by the British state.

    Not just Australia of course, but the Blair government has continued working against Indigenous people. In fact it has been an international prime mover against the efforts of indigenous people to better themselves.

    This is the position of the Labour Government
    "The use of the term 'indigenous peoples'... cannot be construed as having any implications to rights under international law".

    ‘The UK's human rights policies concerning indigenous peoples are abhorrent and shameful.'
    Dalee Sambo Dorough, Inuit spokeswoman.

    Azelene, Kaingang Indian woman, Brazil .... Audio: Espanol

    'I remember my first meeting at the UN.
    We were defending our collective rights. A UK diplomat surprised me with the coldness with which he referred to indigenous peoples.
    He looked at me and said, ‘I can’t recognise the collective rights of you people. I don’t see any difference in you – we are all the same.’
    So I spoke to him in Kaingang, the language of my people.
    There was no translation, and I asked him if he’d understood what I’d said and he replied, ‘No’.
    Then I looked at him again and said, ‘That’s why I’m different; because only my people speak this language.’

    The global issues website has more detail about the situation, which is about recognising 'collective rights'. Survival International neatly sums up why this is so important:

    Full collective rights over land and resources are essential for the survival of tribal peoples. The Yanomami of Amazonia, for example, live in large communal houses called yanos. The concept of ‘individual ownership’ of such a building is nonsensical. A tribe’s right to decide, for example, whether a mining company should be allowed to operate on its land, also only makes sense as a collective right. The UK claims, however, that these vital collective rights should be individual rights ‘exercised collectively.’ In the USA, the infamous Dawes Act of 1887 demonstrated the danger of this approach. The Act turned communally-held Indian lands into individual plots; 90 million acres of Indian land were removed at a stroke, and the reservations were broken up.

    UK Government blocks historic UN Declaration, Survival International, February 1, 2005

    >> They Work For You <<

    This country that we now call Australia always was and always will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land.

    I remember that this country, home to many diverse Indigenous Nations since the beginning of time, was colonized in 1788 and I remember all those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples who have lost their lives since.

    I remember all those that have gone before, defending Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands, waterways and cultures.

    I remember all those who were taken away from their families and from their ancestral homelands.

    I remember, with sorrow, the lost languages, the lost tribal laws and the desecrated sacred sites.

    Senator Aden Ridgewayaboriginal senator aden ridgeway at westminster

    Launching and signing the Poverty Pole


    This appears to be having a very quiet launch.

    It's Flash driven though there is an 'accessibility area' (which is Flash). It doesn't appear to have accessible kids content and you have to go via the 'accessibility area' to reload the website 'accessibly'. Hmmmm.

    The Minister, Beverley Hughes, couldn't help themselves at the launch as well:
    "DirectgovKids is not only a fantastic learning tool for children, it's great fun too. This [March 2007] is the first time children in the UK have been communicated with directly by Government through an online site. Young citizens will be able to find out more about the world around them, and how Government shapes their day-to-day lives. The site will also give more of a voice to children, allowing them to express their views on current and future policy."
    Does she really believe that (the Number Ten site has a kids section) and if so is that anything she should feel proud saying?

    DirectgovKids aims to get children from five to 11 engaged with some of the areas of Government that have an impact on their lives, and to help them learn about and understand the society they are growing up in.

    The site is designed to look like a revolving globe, with interactive buildings that children can investigate including: a Town Hall, a Police Station and a School. There are online activities and exciting games, as well as animations and slideshows. New areas are being added all the time and include a Health Centre, a school council voting activity and a special area, where children can have a 'virtual vote' on issues that affect them.

    The content does look good, though there's no links for kids to anywhere else that I could see. I particularly enjoyed dressing a variety of policemen + firemen 'to get ready for work'... apparently there's also a crapping cows game and a generate poo game as well: "spin the world until you find the supermarket, then go into the Office".

    Audio workaround for 'Captcha' security

    Code Captcha

    Tedd Sperling from Australia has created an audio 'Captcha' tool, an accessible version of the security tools used on many websites that ask people to type in a displayed code (this is to prevent access by 'robot' spammer software). If you can't see the code though, you're stuffed.

    The accessible system speaks the code out loud.

    Sperling invites readers to test it at .

    EU funds free Braille conversion

    E-Access Bulletin: March 2007
    Users Flock to Free Document Conversion Service.
    A free service allowing people to convert documents automatically to and from Braille and synthetic speech, accessed by email, is receiving some 15,000 to 20,000 new requests per month, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

    The 'RoboBraille' Service, funded with 560,000 pounds from the European Commission, is run by an international consortium led by the Danish national body for young people and children with impaired vision, 'Organisation Synscenter Refsnaes'.

    Users, who do not need to register, send in documents as email attachments in Word, rich text, html or plain text formats. A specialist piece of software translates the documents into contracted Braille or mp3 files in up to five languages. Documents are returned electronically and must then be rendered on a Braille embosser or displayed on a Braille display, where a Braille format is requested.

    "We do not register users but expect to have a core user group of more than 1,000 people at present," RoboBraille co-ordinator Lars Ballieu Christensen told E-Access Bulletin. Languages currently handled are Danish; English; Greek; Italian; and Portuguese. The team also plans to add French, Lithuanian and Norwegian.

    "RoboBraille was the logical next step after having developed Braille translation software for decades that users found very difficult to use," said Christensen. "With RoboBraille we are capable of automating processes that are otherwise rather complicated and at the same time maintain a system that is always up-to-date with the latest fixes."

    The development consortium comprises The Royal National College for the Blind in the UK, the Associazone Nazionale Subvedenti in Italy, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland in Ireland, the National Association of Housing for the Visually Impaired in Ireland, Pagkypria Organozi Tyflon in Cyprus and the Centro de Inovacao para Deficientes (CIDEF) in Portugal.

    The team plans to expand the service, enabling users to convert documents to DAISY books, Braille maths and Braille music; and introduce a service for banks and tax offices to send electronic documents to print-impaired customers.

    Telegraph goes gay

    Sigh ...
    Daily Telegraph
    Spy March 22nd
    Celia Walden

    Mili fan club

    "The only contender my eye lingers on is David Miliband," wrote Julian Clary in the New Statesman last year. "Quite attractive, especially when he undoes his top button at fringe meetings. Puts me in mind of a bit of rough from Liverpool."

    And Clary, it seems, is not alone: the boyish Environment Secretary is striking a chord with the gay community. His voting record on gay rights has regularly been used by Pink News to contrast against Gordon Brown's and he is, in the words of one, swiftly becoming "a gay icon". When Spy informed his office of the good news, the initial response was bafflement. "Are you seriously asking me to respond to this?" asked a spokesman. "Well, I don't think that...I just think... Really, I mean...I... Well... It just doesn't sound like the sort of thing David would want to respond to."

    Fifteen minutes later, Miliband's office rang back. "I have a quote for you," says a sheepish voice " 'I'm sure David will be very flattered to learn this'."
    This drew an amused response from Pink News:
    Being a serious news organisation, PinkNews would never consider phoning the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and asking trivial questions about ministers being gay icons.

    So luckily the Torygraph did it for us.
    Give 'em a gold star for trying ...