March 2012 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

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  2. February
  3. March
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  5. May
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  8. August
  9. September
  10. October
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  12. December

Primrose Hill, then Wagamama (26th March 2012)

Hadn’t been to this steep little hill with a nice view before. We with Fiona after work and went to Wagamama afterwards. The Chicken Itame at Wagamama is always a favourite choice for me.

Finished a bit early from work, in fact. By the time I rode back to the flat (just before rush-hour) I realised it was a gloriously sunny afternoon. Fiona was getting ready to leave her workplace so we arranged to meet in Primrose Hill.

Cycling there was a pretty simple route. There’s a natural left-right chicane, then another left-right combination to ride around the North-East corner of Regent’s Park. It leads to a conspicuous gap in the hedge of the South-East corner of Primrose Hill Park, where various paths converge. That’s where I waited for Fiona.

After reaching the top we spotted some empty fields to the West, so went there and kicked the ball around for a while. Started getting really chilly as the Sun set behind the tower blocks. We had a smartphone race to find the nearest Wagamama; Fiona with her Apple iPhone 3GS completely trounced me with my Nokia N900.

We rode to the restaurant and locked the bicycles to a lamppost outside. Were seated quickly and ordered some green tea, as well as a glass of Plum Wine each!

Started with Edamame beans and Duck Gyoza, followed by my choice of Salmon Teriyaki Soba for Fiona and the aforementioned Chicken Itame for myself.


Very filling. Took our time leaving and then rode home with our lights on.

Review of SOCITM Better Connected 2012 Web Page (25th February 2012)

I send the below feedback to SOCITM with regards to the Better Connected 2012 web page.

I was referred there by James Coltham, a Scottish public sector IT worker when he blogged about the report.

The specific feedback I have on the Better Connected page primarily affects main content of the page. This should be editable within your CMS.

<title> text is vague

It simply says “Socitm – Overview”.

I suggest:
“Better Connected 2012 – Socitm”.

Illogical Heading Structure from the Start

As created by HTML elements <h1> to <h6>, this divides the document in an illogical manner. The content has a main heading which says “Better connected 2012” but that is followed by a subheading “Overview”. This labels the entire document as being an overview of itself.

I suggest:
Move the word “Overview” into the main heading, or remove it entirely, or use further subheadings for subsequent sections of the content.

Many Subheadings are not using a Heading Element.

This is an accessibility failure, as the text will not appear in any “List of Headings” or “Skip to Heading” features in Assistive Technologies (ATs).

I suggest:
Using <h2> or <h3> instead of <p><strong>.
I suggest:
Update the stylesheet if body-sized bold text is the preferred house style for these subheadings.

Heading Levels are Absent When Required

The absence of certain section numbers and mixed with the use of section letters does confuse me. So the intended structure might well be different to what I have proposed here.

From what I can deduce from the context, here is how HTML heading levels should be used:

  1. 1: Better connected 2012 [Overview]
    1. [REMOVE] 2: Overview
    2. 2: Introduction
      1. 3: Important
    3. 2: This year’s report
      1. 3: Part A The Present – this year’s results
        1. [MISSING] 4: Section 1
        2. 4: Section 2 This year’s results – useful content
        3. 4: Section 3 This year’s results – usability
        4. 4: Section 4 This year’s results – usage
        5. 4: Section 5 The use of social media
      2. 3: Part B The future - issues to face
        1. [MISSING] 4: Section 6
        2. 4: Section 7 Management challenge for websites
        3. [EMPTY] 4: Section 8 Conclusions
    4. 2: Executive briefing
      1. 3: How did your council do?
    5. 2: Open data
I suggest:
Flattening the heading structure.
I suggest:
Removing the heading I have marked [REMOVE].
I suggest:
Filling in the area I have marked [MISSING].
I suggest:
Filling in the area I have marked [EMPTY].

Headings are Absent from Logical Sections

For example, the trio of download links are given a preceding paragraph of explanation but this highly relevant and logically separate unit of content is not labelled with a heading.

I suggest:
Adding a heading before the paragraph starting “The files below […]” to label the section.
I suggest:
Using the words “Free summaries available to download” for the new heading.

Improper Spelling

Specifically, the absence of uppercase letters.

I suggest:
“Better Connected 2012”
I suggest:
I suggest:
Title case for titles. The modern trend to use sentence case for headings simply reduces their distinctiveness. Distinctiveness is fundamental to the role of headings.

Odd Use of Bold Text

The word “report” is bold within one paragraph. This occurs after the heading “This year’s report.” The word acts neither as a link nor does it have any other special purpose in this paragraph. Other instances of the word are not bolded.

I suggest:
Remove the bold formatting from the word “report” in this paragraph.

Archaic Lettering and Numbering

These created complex, nested relationships which seem unhelpful to understanding the gist of the document. As it is a summary of the report and its results, there may simply be too many words divided up in too many different ways.

I suggest:
Radically flattening the use of headings to create simpler and more natural sections within the content.
I suggest:
Removing the word “Part” and “Section” from the start of headings. The formatting and lack of terminal punctuation strong conveys the fact each heading introduces a “part” or “section” in the content.
I suggest:
A complete re-write of the document, tailoring it to actual user needs and taking an ‘Occam’s Razor’ approach to remove the current repetition, conflict and general disarray.

Repetitive text

Primarily this is being used to indicate complex, nested relationships between headings. For example, the words “This year’s results” are repeated at the start of many headings to group them. This is rather clumsy, editorially. It also reduces usability by filling the F-Shaped Reading Pattern with repetitive information.

I suggest:
Simply remove “This year’s results”. The entire content is specifically about this year’s report, as introduced by the content’s main heading. So these words are entirely redundant in the first place!

Wrong Information Within the Content

The section entitled “Important” says “[…] files for download appear at the bottom of this page.” However, there are no files at the bottom of the page. The files it refers to are immediately above this paragraph!

(There are several other examples of misdirection about the downloads, who has permission, how this is sought, along with distinctions between individuals and organisations.)

I suggest:
Correcting the words to match the actual location of the downloadable files.
I suggest:
Move this paragraph to be immediately above the list of downloadable files.

Misleading Heading Text

Towards the end, a heading says “How did your council do?” but it at no point does it describe how any specific Council ‘did’. Instead it provides detailed information about the available downloads.

Some of which is wrong, as the word “Here” is used at a point where no such downloads are available – they are at the other end of the document, in fact!

I suggest:
Changing the heading text to say “Access to the full report and your council’s results”.

Incorrect Publication Date

Two paragraphs up from the final heading, “Open data”, a paragraph says “Better connected 2011”. However, the content article is actually about the 2012 report.

I suggest:
Changing the text so it says “Better Connected 2012”.

URLs used as Link Text

Web addresses (aka URLs) are unintuitive and unpronounceable computer codes. They should not be presented to users. They are also being provided with and without the protocol part, either http:// or https:// which lacks consistency.

I suggest:
Replace each URL with the title of the page it links to. (A good example where this has been done is the link which says “list of up-to-date Socitm Insight subscribers”, although “Insight” should be italic for consistency with the rest of the content.)

Further Feedback

There are other minor points and an overall editorial style which could be improved for web-friendly reading, as well as the technical accessibility.

Hopefully this review provides a useful reference point to aid that on-going process.

Ben Millard

Cars 2 Was Ace! (21st March 2012)

Fiona got it from Love Film and I watched it while she was at an art show. It was ace! The quality of the graphics is just staggering; even the end credits were amazingly refined. Was just a normal DVD, not even a HD source.

The story, voices, action, choice of vehicles, emotion, locations, everything. (Except for the soundtrack as that’s for a different demographic.)

A petrol-head’s delight, so long as you can relax about the technicalities of the subject.

17th Blood Donation (19th March 2012)

Had to provide a 2nd blood iron sample as the one from my finger didn’t sink the first time. Their readout said 139 after the test. Since the threshold is 135, it was OK to donate.

Took the Tube from Finsbury Park to Oxford Circus as it was a chilly morning. Acoids the stressful exertion and crowded roads coming back, too.

Sharp GX15 to Nokia N900 (17th March 2012)

Now that I’m using my dad’s old Nokia N900, I carried out the final backup and clear-out of my old GX15 onto the old PC. This means, finally, I have entered the smartphone era.

Moving contacts across was quite fiddly. Eventually found I could send them as individual .vcf files via BlueTooth between the two devices. Then used an Import Contacts Folder command on the N900, which processed all the files into the central Contacts database.

Aside from that, I just added a £5 web pack to my existing package and moved the pay-as-you-go Vodafone SIM across. Tried a few web browsers on the N900 but the Gecko-based MicroB is really unbeatable on it.

Google Maps Without An App

I use the full Google Maps website on Nokia N90, for lack of an app. It’s slow and fiddly, since you have to use a gesture to activate the Hover Mode to drag the map around. So I tend to plan routes on my Laptop, save them to My Places and then open them on my phone. Both devices are signed into my Gmail account to share stuff in this way.

Spam Assassin Score Reduced (15th March 2012)

I’ve now reduced the threshold to 3 on both my POP3 accounts. We’ll see how it goes.

Genuine messages are usually scored less than 0 – the highest I saw was only 1.5! Windows Live Mail was my tool of choice to see this information. (Definitely my new favourite e-mail system. You can still View Source with it, too.)

Using it to check the Properties of some Asian-language spam with suspicious attachments showed me the Bayes filter alone was always scoring 3.5, which is 99% chance of being spam. Further checks were often scoring them up to 4.3.

By default, Spam Assassin would only delete messages before they reached me if their spam score was 5 or above. That’s actually quite hard to reach.

Initially the auto-deletion feature wasn’t turned on but it’s been running a couple of years.