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James Rutherford

Web, design, Newcastle, games and fun!

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Category: web

As a counterpoint for the rant about startups and politics yesterday, here is a selection of fine new web tech businesses that are gathering their wings in Newcastle:

Happiest

Happiest helps positive attitude flow, encouraging happy habits for self improvement and facilitating a happy peer support network.

The project is fuelled by a very respectable and eclectic team of local talent, is currently in private beta, but should be going for full public launch very soon.

Take a look at Happiest.

ScribeSub

ScribeSub has a different take to traditional article publishing models, allowing individual authors to release their content on a pay-as-you-go $1/read basis. It permits a more direct, rewarding bond between reader and author.

It’s in early public launch phase and hopes to gather a decent critical mass of users/content in order to get traction.

Take a look at ScribeSub.

65 Hours

Time banking turns time into currency. 65 Hours works as the centralised bank for individuals wishing to share their skills with each other, but not wishing to involve the complication of cash.

65 Hours is launched to the public and ready to try.

Take a look at 65 Hours.

Love Your Larder

Love Your Larder is an online marketplace for artisan foods. Local-scale producers can benefit from the site’s ready-to-go structure and social reach, selling with little time investment and for a minimal percentage cost.

The site launched before Christmas and is continually adding new producers. Any intermediate-expert PHP developers interested in helping to build the project further should get in touch with them.

Take a look at Love Your Larder.

Wedding Tales

My own business… writer’s privilege. ;)

Our first release from MemoryMerge is an online service to make it as easy as possible to collect in photos from guests’ cameras at a wedding, keeping them privately shared just for those who were at the event to enjoy.

We’ve currently launched to private beta (i.e. it’s working live, but we’re limiting the release). Please get in touch if you’re interested in the service for your event.

Take a look at Wedding Tales.

Other hot tips include…

Poster-child of the first Difference Engine, ScreenReach, currently rolling through funding rounds and picking up critical acclaim.

The enterprising folk behind 1DayLater, the King Brothers. Currently keeping other projects warm, but always full of ideas.

The Usable HQ team. Their first project is still under wraps, but expect some noise from them in the latter half of this year.

CustomerSure – a SAAS solution for customer service, shortly to launch.

Say ‘Hello’

It’s been exciting to feel some of the buzz from these projects. Interested parties should check out SuperMondays and the Geekest Drink meetings to rub shoulders with these folk!

Late last night here (4PM PST) Twitter held a press conference to make some announcements about their service.

They unveiled the new version of the user home page, which will be split into two panes – one for the timeline (which will now scroll automatically) and one to give extra contextual information on any selected tweet. A message about a video, for example, will be presented alongside the video itself.

While this isn’t game changing, it demonstrates that they’re keen to feed people a richer aspect on the information (going from ‘tell’ to ‘tell and show’), and to retain people on their site – most probably as a step towards monetisation by contextual advertising.

They claimed that currently, 70% of users access the service via their website – which surprised me given the prevalence and quality of handheld clients and power of their API. I’d expect Twitter to update their official client apps soon to mirror the functionality.

Staged roll-out of the new version of the service (#newtwitter) is happening already and will continue over the next couple of weeks. A preview in the promo video below:

They were also keen to emphasise that users did not have to post their own content to take part in Twitter- perhaps as a strike at convincing advertisers that engaged users are far more numerous than active posters, or perhaps they’re looking to directly increase their appeal to content creators and distributors.

Not mentioned in press conference, but likely relevant: They’ll be rolling out their own link shortening service over the coming months. This will give them a deeper hold on the peripheral information and the way people are using it (click-throughs, propagation, etc).

References:

Twitter’s overview page.

Another take on Twitter’s strategy from Usrlab.

A pretty low-grade, but functional associative array sorter in JavaScript:

// execution
var assocArray = new Array();
assocArray[ 'b' ] = 'item3';
assocArray[ 'c' ] = 'item1';
assocArray[ 'a' ] = 'item2';

array_dump_html( 'Pre-sort', assocArray );

assocArray = array_sort( assocArray );

array_dump_html( 'Post-sort', assocArray );

// ---
// Sort functions...
function array_sort( arrayIn ) {

	var arrayCouplets = new Array();
	for( key in arrayIn ) {

		arrayCouplets.push({

			key: key,
			value: arrayIn[ key ]
		});
	}

	arrayCouplets.sort( sort_couplets );

	var arrayOut = new Array();
	for( i in arrayCouplets) {

		arrayOut[ arrayCouplets[ i ][ 'key' ] ] = arrayCouplets[ i ][ 'value' ];
	}

	return arrayOut;
}

function sort_couplets( coupletA, coupletB ) {

	return coupletA[ 'value' ] > coupletB[ 'value' ];
}

// ---
// Fluff functions...
function array_dump_html( title, arrayIn ) {

	var output = '';
	for( key in arrayIn ) {

		output += 'key(' + key + ') value(' + arrayIn[ key ] + ')<br />';
	}

	document.write( '<div><h1>' + title + ':</h1>' + output + '</div>' );
}

Outputs:

Pre-sort:
key(b) value(item3)
key(c) value(item1)
key(a) value(item2)

Post-sort:
key(c) value(item1)
key(a) value(item2)
key(b) value(item3)

Copy and paste into an online editor to try it.

Can you improve it? Please comment!

I’ve just updated this site from WordPress 2.9.2 to the brand new stable release of WordPress 3.0.

The upgrade process was very simple, and everything appears to have gone smoothly… brilliant!

Dom encouraged a simple approach to SEO. His points included:

  • Pick your niche: Look at what people are searching for in your market
  • Basic structure: Get decent URLs, title and heading tags
  • Content: Produce something worthwhile
  • Be realistic: High search placements are slow to gain and easy to lose
  • Remove as much duplicated content as possible
  • Judge your sources: Don’t read any SEO blogs!
  • If you’re outsourcing updates (as with any other outsourcing), check everything
  • Don’t do everything at once: Test the impact and improve incrementally
  • Be savvy: Fact check any lines you may be being fed by an SEO agency

Areas relevant to Google for you to look at now or in the near future:

  • Google product search
  • Google local
  • Universal Search (blogs, tweets, video, etc)
  • Microformats

Dom presented a few Twitter anecdotes in his unique style, which illustrated:

  • The importance of context – information which you may not be communicating
  • That without context, meaning may warp or amplify
  • Anyone may be listening (e.g. potential future employers)
  • Strangers may go to great lengths to pull a prank (well, Dom and Tim may, at least)
  • People will interact and respond in unpredictable ways

References: Dominic Hodgson@thehodge

Related: BBC News – Be careful what you tweet

Andrew introduced a free SEO analytics tool released by Microsoft.

The tool is distributed via the Microsoft Web Platform and runs on Vista and Windows 7. [The SEO Toolkit is independent of other components- no IIS server install is required].

The tool parses as a search engine would, so can be used to examine sites built with any underlying platform (e.g. PHP, JSP, ASP, flat HTML, etc..) and will highlight a range of potential problems. It will analyse both locally hosted and publicly-released sites, so is useful for both development and audit.

It has three main features – site analysis, robots editor and sitemap editor.

It includes a powerful query engine and is extensible (in VB.NET or C#).

A very useful talk for me- this is a tool I’ve not encountered, but I could see it fitting very appropriately into my web development workflow.

Slides and talk are now up on the SuperMondays blog.

References: Andrew Westgarth@apwestgarthCarlosAg blog

Tim isolated Google as the only worthwhile ‘optimisation’ target, and introduced some common fallacies. His notable points were:

  • Google does not crawl meta data
  • Keyword density isn’t important. Mentioning a term once on a page should be adequate
  • Content is not rated by semantic relevancy
  • Buying links is officially frowned-upon, though realistically, links are very commonly ‘bought’ in one way or another- even from Google themselves
  • Markup structures are important, but not as important as most SEOs say
  • Google does analyse page structure to discount footers, advertising blocks, etc. (see ‘page segmentation analysis’).
  • SEO advice is predominantly [erm...] cobblers.

Both Tim and Dominic (speaking later) recommend SEO Dojo as a (rare) worthwhile source for SEO information.

Tim accepted a few questions, outlining how you might become relisted if Google have penalised you [with a 'reconsideration request']; how problematic penalisation can be [usually 'not very']; some potential hostile SEO tactics and how you might try to recover from them [perhaps employing a 'Reputation Management Consultant', though Tim's general feeling on those in this role is less than glowing...]

References: Tim Nash@tnash

A few forthcoming events were announced at SuperSEO (SuperMondays)…

10th June – Thursday Fizz

Business speaker and former ‘Dragon’ Rachel Elnaugh gives a morning talk, then an afternoon workshop.

The Hub’s 1st Birthday Bash runs throughout the evening at the Baltic.

References: Thursday Fizz

24th June – GDS Bitesize Workshops

Business workshops for the North-East Digital sector.

References: Gateshead Digital Summer

24th June – Summer Net-Together

Codeworks Connect / Think and a Drink annual barbecue and social event.

References: Summer Net-Together 2010

15-16th July – Webdurance

David King introduced the Webdurance ‘charity hack’ event, bringing together 36 web developers to build/expand websites for 6 charities over the course of 24 hours.

It should be a lot of fun and very wholesome. Volunteers are still encouraged to apply.

References: Webdurance websiteWebdurance Twitter

Last night’s SuperMondays SEO event (which – breaking format – really ought to have been entitled ‘SEOperMondays’) convened at the Beehive, Newcastle University and was, yet again, well attended.

The format mirrored previous events; registration/refreshments, followed by general announcements for us North-East geeks, a number of talks and then away to the pub… which we packed out (that’s what you call a good conversion rate!)

To keep my notes digestable and focussed, I’ll be splitting them over five (!) posts- I’m cleaving off some ‘Diary Dates’ and a further three for the talks themselves.

The general notices included:

NorthernNet – Northern Knowledge

High-speed communications network connecting the North, launching a business directory (Northern Knowledge).

References: NorthernNet

Inkspot Science

Collaborative data sharing and analysis/workshop tools provided as a cloud service. An earlier SuperMondays talk by Paul Watson outlined some of the technology.

References: Inkspot Science

…and Way Back When

Long-time SuperMondays attendees may remember Craig Rothwell’s talk on the OpenPandora handheld back in January 2009. It’s taken a long time, but the good news is that the first consumer units have just started shipping- and it looks like an excellent little machine, particularly for the games player on the move! Better still, it’s a user focussed project, and units are being assembled here in Newcastle.

References: OpenPandora

One thing I missed out on while using Google’s hosted version of JQueryUI was that some widgets and functionality require your page to link in a theme.

I was scratching my head as to why some UI functionality seemed to be working (e.g. draggable), but other functionality was not (e.g. resizable, tabs); and linking in a theme was the answer.

It doesn’t seem to be well documented, but Google also host a number of default themes, which may be included thus:

<link rel=“stylesheet” href=“http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jqueryui/{version}/themes/{theme_id}/jquery-ui.css” type=“text/css” />

So, the Cupertino theme can be linked in to version 1.8.1 thus:

<link rel=“stylesheet” href=“http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jqueryui/1.8.1/themes/cupertino/jquery-ui.css” type=“text/css” />

More information here (NB. links use an old version of JQueryUI).

http://www.stemkoski.com/jquery-ui-1-7-2-themes-list-at-google-code/