Putting Code Together Since 1987

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why So Much is Happening

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2008 at 11:15 am

I was recently sitting quietly thinking about why so many great things appear to be happening right now.  Open Source projects, Wikis… an incredible amount is going on.  I see amazingly talented yet amateur photographers every day now, thanks to the internet.  Once upon a time I’d maybe see an amazing photo once a week… and I had to pay for the privilege of seeing something picked out by an editor who hopefully had similar tastes to mine.

And this article at herecomeseverybody.org gives one suggestion as to why this may be happening.  The numbers are startling.  Have we really been on a media driven bender for the past fifty years that we’re finally escaping from?  Fascinating reading.

Museum of Computing Needs a New Home

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2008 at 11:32 am

Bit of an unusual post this one, but when we uncover kit that my girlfriend says “haven’t you chucked out that museum piece yet?” I tend to call up the Museum of Computing in Swindon.  Consequently they’ve got a few random oddities from my IT past including an old Sinclair QL and the very rare QL Monitor that came with it, as well as the tiny and unpopular Rex card sized organiser.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to raise awareness of their need for a new home by the end of July.  If you, or anyone you know, has the capability to offer some real and useful help then they’d love to hear from you.  IT industry firms are probably the best candidates.

Visit the Museum of Computing’s website…

The Danger of Unpaid Consulting, And One Answer…

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2008 at 12:46 pm

One thing that happens a lot in the web development and design sphere is the problem of unpaid consulting.

Actually, I’ll rephrase it a little… it happens all the time!

It’s rather tricky. Clients are interested in us because we offer them something that gives them better efficiency, sales and returns. But what we do is complex and sophisticated.

As it’s me that does all the sales work I find myself often giving over two hours of my time to a prospect in order to explain how the dynamic websites work. I’m educating them. For two hours.

How much would it actually cost to get an expert in any field to educate someone for that period of time on a one-to-one basis? £120? £240? Certainly it wouldn’t be cheap.

Yet there I am, explaining various elements of design, hosting and development… all for free.

Not only that, but many clients expect proposals, complete with mockups. For free too, of course. After all, we’re only selling.

And it’s a trap I think that all IT types need to be wary of. We’re natural born ‘pleasers’. We want to write cool stuff, but more importantly, we want people to acknowledge that coolness. It’s interesting that the concept of Open Source is so strong in IT. There aren’t nearly so many top photographers offering any of their materials with a right to free duplication as there are developers.

But here’s the thing… free doesn’t put food in the table. Each prospect may be the result of two hours of work before we even get to visit. On top of that is the two hours of free consultancy they end up receiving when we go and see them. Then there’s the proposal – that can be four hours for something simple, but easily a 16hr job. So we have up to 20hrs per prospect, before a sale is even agreed.

If we then assume a one-in-three conversion (because they’ll probably talk to three potential clients) that means up to 60hrs of work for each client won. I’ve actually estimated that by and large we manage on about 40hrs per client win.

Now here’s the funny thing – many of the websites we produce take less than 40hrs to build. Let’s say each is 30hrs of work to build – what with all the toing and froing of ideas, images and copy.

That makes 70hrs per website. If you’re going to make a modest, middle class income, and cover costs, then chargeable rates have to be around the £30 an hour mark. That’s about what most backstreet mechanics are charged at. So the very base price for a website built according to expectations above, has to be £2,100.

Read that figure.

£2,100!

For a basic, simple, custom website.

We’re working on developing techniques to get web developers away from this problem. Expectations are far higher than can be fulfilled economically. Check back to the blog regularly to see our up and coming announcements…

Sex, the iPhone, and Winning Traffic

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2008 at 5:53 pm

I was going to start this little piece about how there seem to be two hot topics that generate traffic to a website.

The I realised, there’s actually three hot topics.

But first, the original two.  This blog had been quietly pottering along and not really generating much interest until two features.

One was called “Selling Sex” and concerned a possible escort agency client.  The other was about the new iPhone update.  Thing is, although they generated spikes, the ongoing benefit in traffic has been significant.

Winning Traffic

I also added an RSS feed to the blog from our Interconnect IT site.

Then we published a WordPress User guide.

Traffic’s been much more significant since then.

But what are the three things that generate the most traffic?

  1. Anything about the latest hot gadget.
  2. Sex.  We’re really simple creatures. People are interested in sex.
  3. Articles about how to draw more traffic to your blog.

Anything else will just plod along, picking up scraps from obscure Google searches – especially on a rather techie biased blog such as this one.

Anybody else care to comment with other surefire traffic winners?

The Google Generation Myth

In Uncategorized on February 1, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Many people believe that the Google Generation, teenagers now, are an especially adept group, making skillful use of search engines and outperforming their older peers as a result.

It’s not true.

And not only that, if you look at the heaviest users of the web, it’s not kids in their late teens – it’s the elderly.  A fascinating report has been written, commissioned by JISC and the British Library which blows apart many myths about how different generations search for information using search engines.

Read their pdf – it’s terrific stuff…

Producing Instructional ScreenCasts

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Sometimes there’s a need to produce training videos which show how you carry out a certain piece of work.  Simply explaining a technique isn’t always possible in words.  You need to show people how it’s done.

Alternatively you may wish to demo your lovely piece of software.

And for that, there’s a rather wonderful piece of software called CamStudio.  Even better than being great, it’s also Free Open Source.  Go get it…

Cosmetic Surgery Web2.0 site. A Website Looking For Trouble?

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2008 at 6:00 pm

I’m not really one to moralise.

But I’ll say that I feel a slight tingle of concern over Face By Fix – a new website where folk can upload their photos and visitors can say what cosmetic surgery they should consider!

In a way a shocking idea.  In another way quite cool.  If we were all well balanced individuals then we’d be able to take the discovery that our ears look funny in good humour.  But allowing the public to choose what you need improving – especially when the public doesn’t necessarily have your best interests at heart… well really.

So what do you think?  Good or bad?

iPhone 1.1.3 Update – What does it give?

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2008 at 3:18 pm

Hmmm – there’s strangely little information about this new update so far, and I know this isn’t really a blog about the world’s most hyped pocket MP3 playing web browser (with built in and ok-ish phone) but it’s hot news, so what the heck?

What do we get?

Here’s the official list according to Apple when the download started.

iPhone Software
Version 1.1.3

This version of the software includes additional new features, bug fixes and supersedes all previous versions.

New features include:

• New Maps application
– Find location
– Improved UI
• Send SMS text messages to multiple recipients
• Customize Home Screen
– Rearrange icons
– Add Safari bookmarks to the Home Screen
– Create up to 9 Home Screen pages
• IMAP support for Gmail
• Support for iTunes Store movie rentals
• Enhanced Video Player
– Chapters
– Subtitles
– Alternate language tracks
• Lyrics support in iPod

The SMS fix was badly needed, but the most interesting, to me, is the Map Find Location gee-gaw. How this works, I’m fascinated to learn. I’m going to play and add more to this post once it’s installed (as long as my phone isn’t bricked… eep!).

So – here we go, I’ve got images showing the new bits…

iPhone - first thing…

So here we go – the install’s in, and that’s the first thing we see – an instruction about home screens.  Neat – multiple home screens, allowing you to get nicely organised.  Or disorganised, depending on your nature.

iPhone - not much changed

Not much changed, but the iTunes link has moved from the right to the left.  Presumably because of the facility to do your own icons and move them around.

iPhone jiggling away

They’re blurry because they’re jiggling around.  As you can see, I’ve moved the Calendar icon down to the bottom left, just for illustration.

iPhone Maps locator

The Map application locator uses triangulation to work out where you are.  At one point it thought I was at the green pin.  That was when I tried to use the directions option and said “from current location” to our office in Liverpool.  But the big blue ring is massive – that’s about two miles wide, at a guess, or about three kilometers or so.  Next time I tried it, it got closer, but was still out by half a mile.  The green pin is approximately one kilometre from where I actually live.

iPhone map extras

Click on the eye and you get various options.  Show Traffic showed nothing.  I’ll be interested to see if this works in Europe.  You can drop pins, and you can easily see the different types of map.

iPhone Map Routes

The routing isn’t great at finding where you’re starting, but it works nicely.

iPhone Safari 1.1.3

Now to Safari – nothing much to see here except I’m sure that the search icon wasn’t there before.  But I’m not 100% certain – anyone care to double check and comment?

iPhone Safari 1.1.3 Bookmarks

Now here’s an interesting thing.  Mailing links is handy, I guess, but being able to add something to your home screen is very handy indeed – especially if you’re into the various mobile (and in particular iPhone) oriented web apps that people are developing.

iPhone Safari 1.1.3 Bookmarks on the Home Screen

And as you can see – there’s a link to our company website – Interconnect IT.

iPhone 1.1.3 Update Timer Sleep Feature

You can sleep your iPhone on the timer now.  Not sure how useful it is, and a part of me is thinking “was that there before?”

iPhone 1.1.3 Update SMS Multiple Recipients

And last, but one of the most important for us text mad Europeans… the ability to text more than one person at a time!  Finally!  Thank God Apple actually listen.  As you can see, the process is easy, and you can tap that plus sign as often as you like for more entries.

And that concludes my epic day – I’ve blogged three times on this site today, a personal record.  And not only that, but achieved most of my work related to-do list in spite of phone calls aplenty.  Something’s wrong.  Did I o/d on vitamin pills or something?

A Little Thing Makes All The Difference

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Expensive mistakes can be avoided by just being a little bit careful. Imagine you’d spent many thousands on this marketing campaign, only to get it plastered around the web… for the wrong reasons.

I bet this chap’s getting the mick taken out of him something rotten.

Back of a bus

If you can’t see it, try looking for the exhaust.

Children’s Bullying Book Scam

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2007 at 3:03 pm

I’m often prone to absent-mindedness.  I’ll admit that.  It’s a weakness, and even comprehensive note taking doesn’t spare me from it.

But I always remember promising money to people.  So I was a little surprised by the following telephone conversation:

Me: “Hello, Dave Coveney.”

Her: “Hello, I’m calling to confirm that the anti-bullying books you’ve sponsored are now ready to be sent out.  Which school  in your postcode would you like to receive them?”

Me: “Er, pardon?!  Which postcode?”

Her: “WA8 8AA”

Me: “OK, er, when did we discuss this?”

Her: “In May.”

Now at this point I was getting suspicious – I don’t make a habit of sponsoring anything without there being some firm action on my part – ie, research and reading.

Me: “And what did I agree to?”

Her: “To sponsor these books, which have your business name on the back.”

Me: “But I’ve never sponsored anything!”

Her: “Oh just f*ck off.”  Brrrrrrrr….

Can’t be a fun job for the girl, but why would you even work in such a place?  It’s clearly a scam.  The idea is to make you think you’ve forgotten something (easily done in a busy firm) that happened six months ago.  They send the invoice, it gets paid, they run away with the cash.  Nobody gets helped.

And what has this to do with web design?  Not a lot, but does having something to do with putting in place the correct systems to avoid these kind of rip-offs.  For example, no invoice to be paid without a matching Purchase Order, for starters, and a paper trail identifying every stage of a purchase.

We can help with that too, of course.