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28 March 2007

Deborama's WWW temporarily down

Sorry, readers. I am having connection settings problems on my computer, and just borrowed DH's to say I will have to skip this week's WWW. Back next week, I hope.

27 March 2007

Whole Foods - a supermarket, but not as we know it

Ahh, Whole Foods, I know ye of old. I have a love-hate relationship with them; they are the Walmart of the bohemian lifestyle. (Founder John Mackey says that unions are "like having herpes". Charming.)

Whole Foods is coming to Britain; well, at least to London, so we'll see if they make it here. As the article says, some people didn't think Starbucks would make it here - too un-British, too expensive. But then, ten years ago this country did not have skinny lattes, blues soundtracks and comfy armchairs in their cafes and now you can hardly hope to survive as a new coffee shop without them. (Yes, I know a cafe and coffee shop are not the same thing, but that's not the point is it? Ten years ago, if you wanted a coffee you went to a caff, or something worse.) So, will Whole Foods be a force for good - pressuring mega-retailers like Tesco to up their game and give the people what they never knew they wanted? Will grocery shopping cease to be the nightmare it still is in the UK? Or will WF be a force for evil - breaking the backs of grocery workers unions, driving up prices, co-opting local suppliers and simultaneously undercutting them with flown-in organic wares? Or will the brutal behemoth that is the British retail sector break WF and send it back to the US with its tail between its legs? Should be interesting.

21 March 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 17 - Carey Carter dot com

In the interest of familial/filial fairness, and because it's the right thing to do, given the excellence of the site, the next Wednesday Website of the Week is another of my offspring hawking his art - at careycarter.com. Same thing as with Aimee's site, pretty much the whole thing is on my virtual wishlist. (Or buy it for yourself - he can always make more.)

Blair's Gotterdammerung

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian comment section has an article that brilliantly explains the weird sense of political doldrums that has had this country in its grip since Blair's announcement of an unspecified date for his departure from Number 10.

So this bizarre, unprecedented period is working fine for our current prime minister - but it is draining away the chances of the man, and the Labour government, who would succeed him. It would be nice to think that troubled Tony Blair. But I suspect he spoke the truth last Friday: he ain't bovvered.

14 March 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 16- CafePress Aimee Danger store

I am being a little bit lazy this week with the WWW, in that I am showing a website that I am already very familiar with, as it is "owned" by my daughter. The featured website is one of the thousands of CafePress.com online stores selling T-shirts, posters, caps, tiles and other paraphernalia with graphics supplied by the seller and items manufactured by a mysterious "stuff" factory somewhere. CafePress is a great boon to any artist, graphic designer or fund-raiser but it can also be used for family reunions, community events or just plain vanity (get T-shirts that say "The world revolves around your name here", for instance.) The specific one is the Aimee Danger store, featuring the unique and haunting photographic imagery of Aimee Danger. If CafePress had a wish list, most of these items would be on mine.

12 March 2007

Blogkeeping - a new blog is born

DH's eloquent challenge to the continued existence of the Trident missile system
Today, DH wrote a long and passionate e-mail to our MP about the forthcoming vote on renewing (or not) the Trident missile programme. He sent me a copy of it, and reader, I was blowed away. I had no idea he could write, or argue, like this. He said (also something of a surprise) that he would not object to my posting it on the blog. But I decided it was too good for the ephemeral glimmer of being a Deborama post. I decided he needed his own blog, even if that was the only post he ever did, and I had to set it up AND post it for him. So that is what I have done. I hereby introduce you to The Ramage Letters, a new blog, and here is a quote from "the letter":

I would deplore Conservative support for renewal of Trident in this coming week for the main reason that the decision does not have to be taken this week, this year or this parliament. At the very least, the decision should wait for the current and discredited Prime Minister to leave office, and ideally it would form part of a manifesto commitment in the next general election, thereby giving the British people the opportunity to have say in matters in which, as I say, parliament has a dreadfully meek and compliant record. A referendum would be the ideal solution, since I imagine the average MP to be at least as clueless about the real substantive issues as the average citizen.

Although my main objection to the vote is that it is needless at this time, before you – and other MPs – take a position I hope you have answered the following questions and are prepared to publish your answers after the vote:

At whom are we likely to launch these weapons? What state/quasi-state or geographic area? a) I assume that Europe (including Russia), the Americas, Japan, China and the antipodes are not and are never likely to be viable targets, either because they are always likely to remain allies or are simply too powerful for us to drop a nuclear weapon inside their borders. So that leaves territory in the wider Middle East, Africa or parts of Asia as viable targets for our nuclear weapons because they are too weak to hit back. Surely the world is sick and tired of having the American Bully strutting the globe: do we want really want to have a weapon we can only deploy against the weak and defenceless (when the Americans let us)? Shame on us if we do.

11 March 2007

Update to WWW nbr 14 - Radio Wrap-up, NPR vs. BBC

Since I posted Deborama's WWW Number 14 - Radio Wrap-up, NPR vs. BBC I have had a bit of e-mail correspondence with a representative of the BBC, Nick Reynolds, who left a few comments on the post. In one of these comments, he alerted me to the fact that the BBC Radio homepage portal had been greatly re-designed. I am sure it's just a coincidence that it was due for a new release just after I posted that link to the old one, but I have had a look and it is greatly improved, in my opinion. For one thing, it is far less busy and "promotional" in its appearance, and more service-oriented, so if you happen to want to find something and the BBC radio site is your logical starting point, you now have a good chance of finding it, if it's there. So full marks to the BBC web design team for getting it right.
I also want to highlight a web page of the BBC's that I use a lot, which is the food page. I have a couple of issues with this page, even though I want to state at the outset that it is a great page and a valuable resource to me overall. The first issue I have is consistency. I have been a fan of British food/cookery programming since before I emigrated here, and I have used this website for years. Every so often, it gets a redesign. It has a feature, common to many food websites, called the Binder, where you can store your favourite recipes for quick reference. But when they redesign the website, you lose your binder and have to start again. Also, they don't archive all the old recipes consistently so sometimes if you save a link (to get around the disappearing binder problem), the link also may disappear. And another issue is that it is not very consistent about the availability online of a given recipe you have seen on a show, or even if a current link to a currently running show will be available or not. And my final issue is (and this is probably not the BBC's fault at all and beyond their control) that there are two other websites easily confused with this one - the BBC Good Food magazine site and the UK TV Food website. They are all quite good, all have recipe binders and all look alarmingly similar. So of course I now have to search the binders of all three, and then search the recipe databases of all three, to find a particular recipe that I know exists but can't quite remember where I saw it. Modern life is so complicated, eh? I used to only need to remember which cookbook I saw it in, and 99% of the time it was Joy of Cooking.

07 March 2007

Deborama's WWW Number 15 - Creating Passionate Users

I can't say I like the title of this blog, but the content really is exciting. Pretty much every article has something to think about, or an idea to use, or at least something you can agree with - erm - passionately. So with a name like "Creating Passionate Users", what is this slickly designed, mostly well-written blog about anyway? To me, it seems to be about the psychology of technical design and documentation, especially documentation. The focus is on things like manuals, tools and presentations, and two articles I have chosen to showcase give you an idea of the scope and quality of the writing. The one that first caused me to whack this blog onto my bloglines feed was "Don't expect employees to be passionate about the company" by Kathy Sierra. This happened to pop up in answer to an unrelated search at the very time that I needed to read it to clarify some silent. gnawing fury with the management of my own workplace. The one I just read yesterday, by the same author, is titled "Too many companies are like bad marriages" and concerns the massive gap between the high bucks and emphasis on sales (the courtship phase) and the measly budgets and kludgy values of customer service (the post-honeymoon shock). And of course this article is written from the point of view of American companies - they should get a load of the typical British company, where crap customer service is not only a finely honed skill set but also a hallowed national institution. Other excellent articles include "Are our tools making us dumber?" and "Marketing should be education, education should be marketing". This blog is worth setting aside some reading time for.

01 March 2007

Tragedy of the commons

Wikipedia: The tragedy of the commons is a class of social trap that involves a conflict over resources between individual interests and the common good. The term derives originally from a parable published by William Forster Lloyd in his 1833 book on population. It was then popularized and extended by Garrett Hardin in his 1968 Science essay "The Tragedy of the Commons". However, the theory itself is as old as Aristotle who said: "That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it".
I have been accused by DH, who is very literate, fairly widely-read, and by no means ill-educated (although he is a university dropout, and he tends to zone out whenever a conversation takes a philosophical turn) of elitist language in using the phrase "tragedy of the commons" in my WWW article below. I would appreciate feedback on this, as I thought it was a fairly well-known concept but maybe I really do live in my own little ivory tower as my dear Mum always said. I have edited the article to place the possibly offending phrase in quotes.

Urgent active campaign - participate

On 23 February 2007, US and Iraqi forces raided the head offices of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), the country's national trade union center. They arrested one of the union's security staff (later released unharmed), destroyed furniture, and confiscated a computer and fax machine. And then they did it again two days later, causing further damage to the union headquarters. The union is condemning the attacks as unprovoked. It is calling on the occupation forces to issue a written apology, to return all the seized property, and to pay compensation for damages caused. Please show your support clicking here and sending a message to support the union's demand for an apology.

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