Category Archives: webstuff

Anything internet related

Because the night…

…Does not just belong to lovers. Oh aye, it’s been a while but having just stepped outside to drop the rubbish round to the communal bins I was struck with how much more ALIVE I feel at night. It reminded me of all the times I would go for long walks in the dark by myself and how much I loved the feel of the night time air on my skin and the quality of that air in my lungs.

Yup – much as I adore sunshine these days I have to admit that I still prefer the night and were I the single lass I once was with no ties or obligations I’d doubtless still be taking those midnight-3am rambles through the dark. I know, it’s not considered safe – and yes, were elf ever to do such a thing I’d likely kick off into the stratosphere because motherhood makes you irrational like that but still, being outside under the stars feels like freedom.

It’s quieter, less crowded and that little hint of possible danger just heightens your awareness of everything around you making the limitless possibilities of life more apparent. Everybody needs a touch of that in their life I reckon. Except elf – she will remain in her tower until she finds a prince to carry her off away from her dragon of a mother.

I’m sorry twitter but I love pinterest now, can we still be friends..?

Since breaking my phone and having to suffer the reduced data offerings of an intermittent 3g signal on the ‘new’ one, I’ve had less and less inclination to do anything online unless my laptop is fired up. So is it any shock that I’m spending less time on Twitter?

Some of you may say YES! others will merely ‘meh’. But it’s true, part of the reason I found twitter so compelling was its usefulness for discovering new information and finding links to things within my areas of interest – pinterest beats it hands down for everything but the e-learning stuff on my interest list (sadly not many images on those types of articles so can’t pin ’em) and to be honest, my interest in anything ‘work’ related is being slowly eroded the longer it’s taking me to find a job; I need to be challenged to find something of interest and having no work goal has slowly turned my interests in other directions as I try to keep from losing hope on the employment front.

Instead I now prefer to use twitter for chatting and find it more useful as a real time communication tool than as a place for learning: sorry Twitter, it isn’t you; it’s me. I’ve changed and I think we should maybe take a break and not see so much of each other… I admit it, I’ve found someone new – someone younger, prettier and more interesting than you, well, interestingly different anyway…

Pinterest is now my favourite way to spend time online of late; it cheers me up and sort of helps to straighten out any kinks in my thinking and gives me the enthusiasm and inspiration to try new things.

If having an active mind truly slows down the aging process then Pinterest will keep me young forever!

Through pinterest I have whittled down to the things that truly bring joy into my life, the things that I deem important enough to make time for – even if some of that time is just spent pinning ideas for when I also have the space and funds to allow that time to be used more productively. You want to know what they are? there’s no real shock to those of you who know me:

  1. making things (jewellery, crafty bits and web ‘stuff’)
  2. cuddling with Stef and Bella
  3. spending time with Claire
  4. reading
  5. singing

I’ve found that reading the ‘funnies’ and the ‘words of wisdom’ type boards make me feel more affectionate and forgiving and thankful for my family and the things we have, more content in myself and generally more ‘rooted’ in MY idea of me.
I like that feeling, especially if suffering a bad cfs day or when ‘pms’ fuelled dissatisfaction is kicking in; it brings me back around to a more reasonable, positive and receptive frame of mind.

The educational and ‘kids’ boards help me to come up with ideas to keep bella interested, happy and safe. The jewellery and craft boards feed my ideas and love of making pretty/ useful things (and the storage porn on there is just too awesome to behold) I’ve even discovered a small germ of  enthusiasm for cooking through the wild and wonderful collection of recipes that people have pinned – and even *gasp* cleaning and decluttering.

There is no denying that it can be an absolute time sink and could even be compared to the Red Dwarf ‘better than life’ idea, but if you lack focus in your life it is invaluable in staving off despair and offering solutions; I’m currently working on a back-up plan to the employment issue thanks to several ‘kick up the arse’ type pinners and will gladly spend time on that site over tv – if nothing else I get exercise through jumping up every few pins to check on ingredients/ craft items/ space which never happens when i’m link chasing elsewhere and Stef has the dubious pleasure of seeing the effects of my ‘tidying’ (which depending on energy levels involves moving furniture around and utilising strange items unconventionally to make better use of our minimal living space)

It keeps me happy – what does it do for you? have you tried it or are you scared of being sucked in…? It’s been around long enough now not to be classed a fad so are you a pinner convert or not?

I’m going to miss you

It seems life is dragging me away from the web on all fronts of late. First there’s the continuous illnesses our household has had to contend with; since September (or even before) we’ve had maybe 2 consecutive weeks where nobody has had a cold/ flu/ norovirus/ ear infection ..and that’s not even accounting for my personal ongoing ME/CFS and Menieres hell.

Then there’s the little things like dodgy net connection, exceeding our bandwidth allowance (thanks netflix!) general motherhood and oh yes, the latest effort real life is making to claw me back from the virtual; my smartphone broke *sob*

I am now back to discovering how much I enjoyed using my MDA Vario (HTC Wizard) the battery lasts THREE DAYS! it has built in calendar and task lists, my old ring tone ( the ‘oohhwa-ah-ah-ah’ bit from the start of Down with the sickness by Disturbed) which annoys my other half no end *grin* It’s a damned good phone.

Sadly it’s not an Android phone. I had to manually update all my contacts and my calendar, I’ve lost all my CFS crash data for the last 2 months (thankfully had backed up in December otherwise it would be 2 years data lost) I can’t access twitter easily any more as I only have wifi and on the MDA it is dodgy at best plus the browser is an old version of IE which doesn’t help matters much. The camera is useless and I can’t put any apps on it *sniff* that’s the worst thing about this phone; I’ve been spoiled, was so used to having everything at my fingers that now I’ve downgraded I’m really missing my apps – especially the bar code scanner for the calorie counting, and my period tracker (so reliant on it that I don’t know my dates now!) I also didn’t realise how often I accessed the TV guide app until I couldn’t do so anymore.

..And please don’t mention twitter – it’s like I’ve lost a limb.

Maybe it’ll bring me back to ‘real’ blogging though, and maybe something will come up that will allow me to pay for this site to continue – like getting off my backside and selling some jewellery or something. Either way, things are changing in my life, boundaries are shifting and I’m once again re-assessing where I want to go and what I want to do.

Ideally someone will employ me soon – even if it’s just for enough hours a week to pay me the £97.50 I’m allowed to earn on top of my benefits; that’d pay for my website and beads and a little left over for bellas trust fund each month. To be honest it’s all I really need in life to keep me going; everyone needs a hobby or two and having money abouve your outgoings.. well! It’s the dream isn’t it?! (Now if someone would pay me full time wages for a part time job I’d be able to get a nice 3-bed house with garden and that would make me incandescent with joy, room to craft properly; my very own dream come true!)

Decisions made like a responsible adult

I have decided that if neither adult in this household is employed when my current hosting runs out then this blog will be transferred to a local installation with all my other ‘web stuff’.

It’s a decision made because currently this is a self-indulgent hobby site that serves no real purpose. Initially I bought the domain and hosting because I wanted to further my knowledge of web design and this was to be my playground. Well it served its purpose admirably in that regard but now I know enough about the web that I’d be best served playing on the development environment I have set up offline; having a blog on my own domain is nice but unnecessary, I am NOT a ‘brand’ or business and so until that becomes the case I’m better off reverting to an interface that requires no financial outlay. ..and on the plus side it also means I can have a truly private journal again.

Why is a private journal such a plus..? Well, I used to write as a means of blowing off steam, it was cathartic and helped me to cope with stress and worry as well as to sort out in my own mind the things that were truly bothering me – as soon as I put all of those thoughts on the web and allowed people access to it I had to censor what I write, the more I learned about the web the more I censored – I even deleted several posts in an effort to ‘spin’ my ‘image’ (stupid as I think the wayback machine has everything cached but heyho, you can have a looksee if you really want to..)

Yes, I know I could create a private journal and keep the public one but that’s hassle, why not just have one journal and use category tags to separate the content?  That way if I do upload my blatherings in the future I can just remove the private stuff and have all my education, social media, web and jewellery musings available for those of you inclined to read it.

So.. rosevibe.me.uk has served me well but it’s time to let it go, I shall be backing everything up and getting things shipshape as i’m 90% decided to do this even if one or both of us do gain employment before the June deadline: If I do create a website for myself in future it will be under a different domain using my own name and not the username I’ve had for so many years (probably).

There was a slight twinge at the thought of giving up the google juice I’ve garnered through this blog but a search on 3 different search engines shows that “vicky stringer” will likely still have me in the top three if not the coveted top spot in the UK listings (and in one case global listings) with my linkedin and twitter profiles – although that may also change once the links to this blog are removed; but even that’s not a bad thing.

As I said before I’m not a brand or a business, I’m just an individual with nothing to sell; let the coveted top spot go to someone who really wants and needs it and let me fade into some of the less checked results until such time as I choose to do something more productive with my ‘skills’.

Saving money and using resources responsibly is the name of the game for 2012 as far as I’m concerned; this is my first step. I’m getting my virtual house in order and downsizing; what are you doing..?

Technology for marketing & advertising – the event.

As a student, attending one of these events may seem a little daft, but with the promise of sessions discussing topics such as content strategy,  SEO, website design and usability, and the use of analytics and social media metrics how could I afford to miss it?

These topics all have a bearing on my degree subjects and any future career choices based upon that degree, the fact they were coming from the marketing perspective as opposed to a technical one shouldn’t really matter..

Should it?

..But first a word about the event itself, the chosen venue was easy to find as Earls court is directly opposite an underground station – definitely a bonus over a few other events I’ve been to in London, but the wifi was sadly flaky at best and as mentioned by another a blogger in the blur group the event app (should you have been able to locate and download it) was made pretty useless by this fact.

Seating areas were few and far between and the chairs used in the sessions were not designed with short folk like me in mind – It gets very tiring very quickly trying to balance a notepad or laptop on your lap when your feet are swinging 2 inches off the floor! Not exactly a fantastic scenario for someone who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome when combined with all the travelling and walking attending such an event necessitates.

Session 1

The first session in my ‘not to be missed’ schedule was given by Neil Burton representing Web Spiders the company responsible for creating the seemingly elusive web app for the event.  I have to say he presented his material incredibly well – that may sound patronising but having tried my hand at presenting I know it’s no piece of cake.

He knew his audience and distilled usability principles into bite size demonstrable chunks without naming folk like Schneiderman and Nielsen to get the point across. The one page shopping cart he demonstrated was truly a thing of beauty and had me itching to find out if it was built in flash or used jquery (as you’ll see if you click the link; it’s flash.)

I will admit much of what he covered was old news to me but I admired his delivery. However he also covered something I should have been more aware of but coming from a tech rather than marketing or design background had not really looked into in this way before: multivariable testing along with a useful statistic and source for my soon to be written final report:

22% of companies spending at least £50000pa on seo (source; econsultancy search engine marketing benchmark report 2010)

(So that alone made the trip into London worth it for me)

session 2

The second session I attended was “SEO the latest keys to success; John Heffernan, MediaCo (UK) Ltd.” as I tweeted at the time; some of the information he gave had me arguing with him in my notes so that I wouldn’t vocalise my dissent and disrupt the session.

I’m not an SEO expert – or even practitioner (yet) but having attended more than a few mediaCamps and social media gatherings I know a little more than the average joe – and I like to think that the information I cull from my twitter stream along with the books I read help to add to that knowledge daily.

The claims made about this session were that the audience would:

  1. Gain a clear understanding of what Social Media is in practical business terms.
  2. Gain a clear understanding of Social Media fundamentals and how to get them right

It is these points on which I’d quite strongly disagree.
He had slides with a lot of different social media sites on them, he didn’t mention the need to see which ones fit best with your customer profile but you’d hopefully expect the audience to figure that out for themselves, he did however make the very valid point that in a marketing sense:

Social media is about syndicating content back to you – direct quote.

What he didn’t say ONCE to all these impressionable eager to learn people is that social media as a marketing tool is NOT a broadcast medium. It is about building relationships and hopefully fostering a sense of ownership amongst your audience in order to derive feelings of loyalty and positivity towards your brand.

Yes, he mentioned making link backs natural (and JC Penny was spoken about) and he eventually mentioned that a successful use of social media needed time devoted to monitoring the channels (with HSBC and a prominent house builder given as an example of #fail)

..but the most basic and fundamental thing about social media is that it is SOCIAL, and not once did that observation raise it’s hand.

Despite learning several things of interest during the session that one lack left a taste of disappointment as it felt like I’d seen an intelligent guy almost get it right.

Arrogant of me? Perhaps, but learning is subjective and that was my take away from Johns session.

If you’ve managed to get this far; congratulations! You’ll be pleased to learn I have only one more session to discuss:

Session 3

This was one I’d actually been incredibly excited about after reading the session page on the TFM&A website; Catherine Toole; Kingmakers: why 2011 is the year of the content strategist.

..Perhaps I’d been too excited because the 30minutes of waffle and example upon example boiled down to 2 points:

  1. Reduce effort – make everything as quick and seamless as possible for the user
  2. Use text and images effectively – have professionally written copy so great ideas from the top don’t fall at the bottom rung.

Now to be fair, the lass started on the back foot due to several technical issues (microphone not working, new mic battery died, laptop power started going 5 minutes into the presentation..) so maybe she is normally more of a Neil Burton type of presenter, but my attention began drifting after the 4th slide of examples and her offer to carry on into the lunch break for questions held no appeal for me whatsoever.

That being said, again I received a source that made the trip into London worthwhile; upon her recommendation I’ve read a couple of articles from the Harvard Business Review and can see how this one at least will be a useful citation in my forthcoming report.

Conclusion

After these three sessions I couldn’t summon any enthusiasm for the others I’d jotted into my schedule; my back was killing me from trying to balance on the slightly too high chairs and my disappointment at not learning as much as I’d hoped in those sessions was tempered slightly by the knowledge I know more on those subjects than I previously thought.
I wish I’d taken the time to track down the web spiders stand but as I had company it was hard to fit in the things we both wished to do – I’m especially gutted I gave into tiredness when I did as it meant I missed out on meeting up with @farhan who was also in attendance and tweeted the fact while my train was heading homewards, but all told it was a good day.

..and having a small child exclaiming in delight over the red ball and flower pen I obtained for her from the confex side just made it all that more worthwhile *grin*

The future of TV, news and you

While reminiscing about my 14yr old self and the paper round I endured, it suddenly occurred to me that my 2 year old daughter will likely never experience such a thing – not just because of the safety issues involved these days (seriously.. Just WHY is it so much more dangerous NOW for a 14 year old girl to walk the streets alone at 6am than it was 20 years ago?) but because the likelihood of hard copy deliveries still being around in a decades time is looking a bit slim.

The ‘always on, always connected’ mentality of folks growing up in this internet enabled world, combined with the growing interest in being green and the always indisputable need for a business to save costs seems to point at a death knell for the tabloids and broadsheets.

I can’t see ebooks killing off the paperback any time soon, but with the uptake in smartphones, netbooks, tablets and internet TV, it could well be bye bye newspapers and sunday supplements as people opt to find out what’s happening in the world their own way on their preferred medium.

Even in Africa – one of the most poverty stricken continents on the planet has a mobile penetration of up to 52% and though I would guess few of the mobile phones in use over there are web enabled right now; think what a decades worth of technological innovation could bring.

We already have scientists working on batteries made from cloth, cameras that can shoot around corners, and a possible breakthrough in memory devices. with all that happening NOW, who is to say what will happen in 10 years time?

I envisage a home where a wireless box connects the tv and various handheld devices to the internet and all news and entertainment is routed through those – something that already happens in several households that I know of now..

..In a decade a paperback book may be the only sign of times gone by – but even that may not be in evidence if drm issues can be resolved and rfid tech may be one of the ways in which that happens; but i’ll leave the whys and wherefores of that to your imagination, this post is long enough and I haven’t even gotten to my tv vision yet!

In 10 years I see a large flat screen led tv with internet/ wifi/ hd/ 3d that is fully immersible smell-o-vision ready (you may need to buy replaceable ‘smell cannisters’ for the scent infusions – Glade will have a tv channel that sends a signal to the tv at certain points of the day to release a different mixture into the room, the heat of the tv is what activates it and cookery shows will have a device to ‘scan’ the dish and transmit the same aroma to you – press the red button NOW to sample it..)

..all tvs will have an ipad-like controller that also acts as a channel previewer, it will likely be programmable so it can also be used as a games controller and video phone with a thumb print lock to stop the kids accessing services and channels you don’t want them to.

..I’ll leave it there for now while you imagine what cookery shows with smell-o-vision will be like and just how popular farming shows will really be when you can tell what working with livestock will do to your personal aroma..

The truth about online social media

Having a blog or a twitter account or even an openly searchable facebook account leaves you at a social disadvantage offline.

Before the internet and this new ‘open social’ approach to sharing the minutiae of your life, you could meet and talk to a new acquaintance without many preconceived notions about them – and vice versa.

Now, the colleague you have barely exchanged 3 words with will suddenly reference a personal event in passing conversation leaving you with a slight gut punched ‘how did they know about THAT’ sensation.

It lasts a brief second before common sense kicks in and you first mentally revise every conversation you’ve had within their hearing and then the inevitable realisation that they must have read about it.

Early on in my online life (pre-blog) I was stopped in the street by a total stranger calling me Rosevibe instead of my name (hi Mark) who informed me that he lived a few doors away in my block of flats, he knew my taste in books and films, my occupation and various other items I’d posted to my profile.

It completely freaked me out at the time.

Yet now I have given complete strangers far more than a profile to go on. This and my other blogs give insight into my thoughts and feelings, my twitter stream and facebook detail my activities and my wishlists show purchases I plan to make – I’ve created the textual equivelent of a reality tv show without the excuse of a pay cheque and in doing so have given the psychological upper hand in any social meeting in the real world to the person who reads any of this.

It’s insane yet I continue to post; why? Well to be honest the ‘damage’ is already done; Almost everything I’ve written over the last 6 years has been cached somewhere and while a few of my views may have changed, those posts won’t.

To stand any chance of not being embarrassed by stupid things I’ve said or done I need to KEEP putting myself out there so that in this day and age of search and virtual reputation, prospective employers don’t judge me on events long past.

Like 99.999% of the human race I have issues – quite a few of ’em, but I’m far too British to ask a headshrinker to sort me out, I’ve always gone down the ‘bottle it up til you can write it down route.

I cringe to think of my naivity during the ‘early years’ of my virtual life. I started a blogger blog at the prompting of a friend and got so into it I also decided to transfer my diary online where it was ‘safer’

My thought process was; paranoia that family member/ other half would find my paper diary. Same applied to a file on my pc so far better idea to start a seperate blog, mark it private and keep everything online where those it may feature could never find it.

..Was a great idea until it started getting comments and my stat counter revealed the extent of the unexpected traffic.

I felt violated despite knowing that the only reason those private thoughts had been observed was because i’d put them on display.
The blog was deleted in its entirety.

That was my initiation into the reality of the web; the realisation that NOTHING online is private – no matter the passwords and settings you apply there is always the chance of someone finding it, either by innocent accident or malicious intent.

I can’t take back anything I committed to the electronic aether but I can temper the past with revelations of the present. It’s too late for me to completely audit my online presence because I’ve already put too much information out there, to you, the person reading this – learn from my mistakes; think twice before sharing anything online because the person you are becoming may not appreciate it being put before you out of context 2, 5 or 10 years down the line.

Against all odds..

Principles and applications of web Services (technology): A3
Digital Entertainment Systems: A1
Web Application development (design): A3
Professional Issues in computing: A3

You see those grades? they’re mine they are *grin* ok, ok so what if it took me an entire academic year to do it!
..Considering I’ve had 75 days of it (that’s right, just over 2 months) bedridden by fatigue (and that’s not counting any crashes prior to the diary count starting mid January else it’d probably be at least 3 or 4 months lost because I had to defer the above modules due to an uncounted relapse in November that lasted right through December)

..and god knows how many other days of productivity I’ve lost to the joys of brain fog (I’m never mentally aware enough on those days to think of keeping count!)

To be honest I’d say I did really bloody well.

Lets put it this way – I’m on track for a first class honours in my specialist degree subject so it’s worth the blood sweat and tears of studying with ME/CFS (and a toddler)

As Chris said on my Facebook page: Vicky rocks!

So, what now you ask? Well, on top of actually being a mum again instead of a snappy, stressed out work beast;

  • I’m re-designing and updating several websites (mine and other peoples)
  • updating and improving my knowledge of wordpress for this very reason (so a fair bit of reading)
  • researching and organising ideas for my final year project (which funnily enough involves the need to understand wordpress VERY well)
  • creating several ‘how to’ videos for the ESCAPE project at uni using Camtasia.
  • making time to re-read my notes and try to keep what I learned to get those A grades fresh in my mind (important to do when you have CFS memory to contend with)

I know, you’d think I’d kick back and relax wouldn’t you – but I really don’t dare to. One thing I learned this year is that I can pace, but I can’t stop; If I stop I lose any headway I’ve made.

So, gotta keep the momentum going (without over doing it) because I REALLY, really want to be able to get a job at the end of all this.

Oh.. and for those of you interested, here’s the video part of the DES assignment that netted me the top mark:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdCVfmqsbTE[/youtube]

Who needs a sidebar?

I know that folks check out sites in an ‘F’ fashion, I know about SEO basics and understand some advertising strategy, I know my site is a little less than accessible (one of the main reasons it’s due an overhaul) but this is my PERSONAL site and most folks use the RSS feed to access it anyhow.

I don’t want to have several sidebars overrun with advertisements and reciprocal links, I don’t want every other word in my content underlined to trick the unwary into looking at something unrelated to my thoughts and even though some extra cash would be nice; I like having this space as a place free from marketing.

I get emails on a weekly basis from people wanting to pay me to advertise for them (part of the territory when you hit the Google top spot for your real name AND your pseudonym) But I won’t do it. This is where I play and I’ll keep it as a playground for as long as I can.

I think sometimes folk forget that there’s more to life than wringing every penny they can from it. If all you ever think about is monetisation then I feel for you m’love, I really do.

This is why I have just thrown up another theme that was literally created in 5 minutes over at cool template and I think I may keep it for a while until I’ve learned how to scribble the code needed to throw one together myself from scratch (I have more than enough books and tutorials now so if it isn’t done by this time next year I’ll quit talking about it) creating is fun and I should really take the time to get back to loving my own site as much as I do other peoples.

Revision for professional issues in computing

This is for my last exam which is tomorrow – the blogging my revision trick seemed to work quite well for PAWS so lets see how I get on with PIC. A lot of this is cut and paste so most links will be to where ever the information has been taken – if anyone has issue with it being here just drop me a line and I’ll remove the post.. heh.. Now that’s professional.. *grin*

Professional issues in computing

Long questions:

1. You have been asked by your manager to develop a website, but the specification you receive makes no provision for accessibility. Write a memorandum to your manager explaining what needs to be added to the specification, and why this should be done.

Re: website specification.
The lack of accessibility provision has been noted and this employee feels it would benefit you to add this important aspect for the following reasons:

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) recognizes Web accessibility as a basic human right.

The UK Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public and specifically with regards to websites:

  • 5.23 (p71): “For people with visual impairments, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include … accessible websites.”
  • 5.26 (p68): “For people with hearing disabilities, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include … accessible websites.”

(http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/web-accessibility/uk-website-legal-requirements.shtml)

While accessibility focuses on people with disabilities, it also benefits older users, mobile phone users, and other individuals. Older users with age-related accessibility needs are an increasingly important customer base for most organizations, as the percentage of older users is increasing significantly.

Those aged 55+, are set to overtake 35-44 year olds as the demographic age group representing the largest share of UK Internet visits. Those aged 55+ represented 22.0% of UK visits to all categories of websites in the four weeks to 12th May 2007, up 54% since 2005 and 40% since 2006. This compares to 23.5% of Internet visits from 35-44 year olds.

(http://weblogs.hitwise.com/heather-hopkins/2007/05/54_increase_put_silver_surfers.html)

Legalities aside, common sense dictates that making the website accessible (and therefore easier to navigate/ access material) to the largest online demographic alongside mobile phone users and people with disabilities will make it more accessible for people without those problems.

Organizations with accessible websites also benefit from search engine optimization (SEO), reduced legal risk, demonstration of corporate social responsibility (CSR), and increased customer loyalty.

(Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization, S.L. Henry and A.M.J. Arch, eds. World Wide Web Consortium (MIT, ERCIM, Keio), June 2009. http://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/)

Adherence to the w3c web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0 http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/) is strongly recommended as an addition to the current specification.

2. You have been asked to manage the sending out a questionnaire relating to the requirements of a web site your employer is developing. You will also be responsible for producing a series of reports from the response. What professional and ethical issues should you take into account when doing this?

Adherence to the 8 core principles of the data protection act (1998) is paramount:

  1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully
  2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or other purposes
  3. Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the
    purpose or purposes for which they are processed
  4. Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary kept up to date (with every
    reasonable step being taken to ensure that data that are inaccurate or incomplete,
    having regard to the purpose(s) for which they were collected or for which they are being further processed, are erased or rectified)
  5. Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes
  6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act
  7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against
    unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data
  8. Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the
    European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data.
  • Transparency – ensuring individuals have a very clear and unambiguous understanding of the purpose(s) for collecting the data and how it will be used;
  • Consent – at the time that the data is collected, individuals must give their consent to their data being collected, and also at this time, have the opportunity to opt out of any subsequent uses of the data.

(http://www.mrs.org.uk/standards/dp.htm)

Take on board the conduct codes and recommendations of marketing research bodies such as MRS and ESOMAR and consider where your sample base will be taken from (online panel, customer database etc) and the implications of using such contact information under the relevant acts of law.

For surveys completed online, respondents must be told about the length of time the questionnaire is likely to take to complete under normal circumstances (e.g. assuming connection is maintained).
The use of some form of metering device so that respondents can track their progress through the questionnaire is recommended.
Respondents should be informed if they have the option of completing the questionnaire at a time convenient to them within the schedule dictated by the time frame of the study. Beyond this, suitable technical measures should be implemented, where appropriate, allowing respondents not to answer particular questions (but to proceed with the rest of the interview) and to interrupt and subsequently return to the interview at any time.

It must be remembered that a respondent’s e-mail address is personal data where it refers to a data subject and therefore needs to be protected in the same way as other identifiers.

ESOMAR does not prescribe a mandatory minimum set of background variables that should be recorded about each active panel member. However, the following variables all have valuable roles in strategies to avoid duplication or clarify individual identity, stratification of samples for research projects, and weighting strategies to counter heavy user bias:

  • Sex
  • Level of education
  • Household size
  • Region
  • Location (postal code + house number)
  • Age (date of birth)
  • Presence of children in household
  • Working status
  • Weight of internet usage (hours per week)
  • Type of internet access

http://www.esomar.org/uploads/pdf/ESOMAR_Codes&Guideline-Conducting_research_using_Internet.pdf

Short questions

Codes of conduct: http://www.sqa.org.uk/e-learning/ProfIssues03CD/page_01.htm

ACM http://www.acm.org/about/code-of-ethics

BCS http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=nav.6030

ARrrrgh! you see why my head hurts? roll on Friday and it will all be over – until next year.

Revision for Principles and Applications of Web Services

I’ve neglected to blog for a while and figure that since repetition is the best way to learn I should kill two birds with one stone and share a little of what I’ve been going through today.. So read on if you’re trying to sleep – it’ll help cure insomnia – trust me.

Web services:

The main difference between a web site and a web service is:

  • A web service is designed to work with any type of client or device using XML messaging
  • A web site is designed to work using a web browser client using html, xhtml and css

A web service consumer is a program which uses information provided by other applications in a network environment.

A web service provider is a software agent that will undertake work on behalf of a client application.

A service request is a message sent from one application to another for data to meet the applications needs.

A function oriented service is where an application performs a function and returns a result based on the inputs supplied.

The main reason security is such a difficult issue for web services is that unknown people and applications should be able to access the service – this means they need to be very open which leaves them vulnerable.

The role of WSDL in web service architecture is to describe the interface to the server; it describes what the web service can do, where it can be found and how it can be invoked.

XML

The two main benefits that come from using xml to create documents are that it:

  • Separates the content from it’s structure
  • Allows the use of more meaningful tag names

The main advantages of using an xml schema instead of a DTD are that an xml schema allows you to define both data types and namespaces which a DTD doesn’t.

An xml document can be well formed without an associated DTD (Document Type Definition) or Schema – so long as it adheres to the syntax rules laid out in the xml 1.0 recommendation:

  • There can be only one root element.
  • Every start tag must have a matching closing tag.
  • Empty elements can omit the closing tag, but, if they do so, must have a forward slash before the closing angle bracket (/>).
  • Elements must be properly nested.
  • Attribute values must be in quotes.
  • In the content of an element or attribute value, < and &; must be replaced by &lt; and &amp; respectively.

In order to be validated an xml document must have an associated schema or DTD to be validated against.

So to reiterate; The difference between an xml document being valid or well formed is:

  • Well-formed: The XML code must be syntactically correct.
  • Valid: If the XML file has an associated XML Schema/ DTD, the elements must appear in the defined structure and the content of the individual elements must conform to the declared data types specified in the schema.

The root node of an xml document tree is the first element at the top of the document.

Namespaces

The namespace is defined by the xmlns attribute in the start tag of an element.

The namespace declaration has the following syntax: xmlns:prefix=”URI”.

Schema

Two benefits that come from using XML Schema Definitions (XSDs) in specifying document formats, that do not apply to DTDs are:

  • An XSD enables you to specify the format of character data within an element
  • An XSD enables you to give an allowed maximum for an attribute value

To show that an element is optional at a particular point in an XML schema you should include minOccurs=”0″ in the elements definition.

DTD

There are three types of DTD:

  • Strict; free of all deprecated tags and framesets
  • Transitional; includes deprecated tags
  • Frameset; framesets (with or without deprecated tags)

To show that an element is optional in a DTD you should follow the elements name with a question mark.

Parsing

A parser is a program that performs parsing; parsing is a method of stripping away xml markup tags leaving only the data which can then be processed further.

Before parsing a DTD or Schema must be referenced to identify the validated markup tags and their structure definition.

You do not need a parser to read an xml document.

XSLT

Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (XSLT) is most accurately described as a means to transform XML markup into another markup format for use by other applications.

..and there I must leave you – t’other half is kicking me off the pc to get some kip so I’m fresh in the morning to carry on revising this stuff – you envy me don’t you – go on.. admit it, you so wish you were me right now..

Memories and musings

“She greets us as we enter the world; she is with us when we leave it. She is never more than a second away from us, as close as our own heartbeat; but when she does not stand directly before us, we cannot recall her face.
When she calls, loud and clear, we drop whatever we are doing and attend to her needs alone. At the touch of her hand we forget work, friends and lovers. She is the mistress of the universe. She is pain”

I first read Trader’s World by Charles Sheffield when I was about 14 or 15 and for some reason I memorised this passage so well that nearly 20 years later I still recall it.
..I guess a psychiatrist would have a field day with that revelation.

But isn’t it strange the way our memories work? How a smell, sound or an image can trigger them. The thing I find most strange is why are the unpleasant memories so much easier to trigger than the happy/ fun ones?

This is something that’s been playing on my mind a lot recently because whenever I have an ME/CFS flare up/ relapse or whatever you want to call it, those unpleasant memories boil to the surface at the slightest provocation. If this were me writing as I would 4 or 5 years ago I’d probably describe some of those memories to you in quite some detail; but I’ve learned a lot in those 4 or 5 years about the internet and over sharing so those memories can stay in my head for now.

But it’s not only personal memories that we seem to have little control over, I have tried for years to learn musical theory – I own (and have read) at least 5 books on the subject, had several friends try and explain it to me and through the patience of one of those friends (who drilled me endlessly) learned it well enough to pass the entrance test to a music degree course. ..But within days of doing that test I was back to not understanding a note on the page.

Some things you don’t learn or remember without constant drilling on the subject; other things you soak up like a thirsty sponge, but either way it seems to be some kind of luck as to whether it sticks or not.

I memorised hundreds of things when I was at school, and later on at college – but of all those things; soliloquies, poems, songs, technical information, it never seems to be the useful stuff that I recall. Which is a real shame because if I could recall everything I’d ever read or made a concious effort to learn then would. I. ever. be a force to be reckoned with!

Song lyrics I have no trouble with (well, songs I learned pre-CFS that is) At one point I knew so many songs that my peers nicknamed me ‘jukebox’ and would test me by throwing song titles at me and have me sing a verse/ chorus for them – if someone was trying to think of a song they’d tell me a line and I’d sing it back to them so they could remember; that was my ‘special talent’ I guess.

My interest is the web but my passion is creating things; jewellery, lyrics, website designs and content – I generate ideas for things on a daily basis that I have to put aside through lack of time/ energy or materials until some unforeseen future date..

..my worst fear is that I’ll never have the time, energy or materials for that future date to arrive.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with this year, I had to defer all of semester A which has in turn forced me to defer Semester B until next year – my year tutor made the observation that I would have been better suited to part time study but it just seemed like the wrong path to take at the time.

I’m struggling with exams especially; having next to no short term memory is bad enough but then having to deal with the demands of motherhood and family life, seemingly never ending episodes of fatigue and illness on top while attempting to cram technical information into a mind that seems hell bent on it going in one ear to travel straight back out through the other..

I keep reading, making notes, re-reading and it’s like every time is the first time I take in the information. It’s not so bad doing coursework because I know where I need to look to find my answers, but a test of memory – especially a 3 hour long test of memory (or 4 hours  in my case as I get extra time due to the illness thing) trying to find the little hooks, the triggers that will allow me to pull those answers from thin air – that’s the trick really.

I have to remember the quality of light coming through the window during a lecture to hear Guys voice in my head explaining the property in question, I need to hear the clatter of the canteen to picture the page I was reading about the description of such and such an effect. I have to be able to picture step by step the process used in a program to explain my reasoning – sometimes you can’t do that without the program in front of you; which is why I hate closed book exams with a passion.

In the real world I have all of these props to hand to help me trigger the flash of inspiration/ the required memory, in a closed book exam I have only my mind; the seemingly inaccessible hard drive with the faulty connectors that get even more faulty as the stress levels rise.

..and trust me, they are constantly rising.

Like Social networking? Want to meet Kylie Minogue?

In best meercat voice:

SIMPLES! All you need to do is become a student and sign up to social networking site Studyvox.co.uk.

As the lovely lady is the site patron you too could wind up having a cheque or a music award passed into your sweaty grasp – it happened to me; it could happen to you.

Kylie minogue presenting me with my cheque

This time around there were 3 things each of the winners of the inaugural bursary awards had in common:

  1. we were all students
  2. we were all female
  3. we all thought this was some kind of a hoax or scam.

I kid you not, I mean; C’mon! Kylie Minogue handing out cash for nothing more than signing up to a social networking site?

It sounded insane! So much so that Stef and I even organised a house sitter ‘just in case’ while we travelled down to the event..  *blushes* paranoid much?

It’s taken me a while to recover from the exertion of travelling and being sociable which is why the date of the cheque is 25th of February but this blog post is happening in March – the joys of living with ME/CFS I’m afraid ( but this was an event that was definitely worth the health fall-out!)

Both Stef and I have been converted to the view of the studyvoxfoundation crew, we really want them to make of the studyvox.co.uk site everything they dream of. The people behind the charity are wonderful, caring passionate people not lacking in intelligence and their ideas are ambitious; they want to take on every big social networking site out there and as Kev the CEO put it “we want to take everything they’ve got horribly wrong and do it RIGHT!”

They want to create an online home for students, a place where;

  • their profiles will not be held up out of context during a job interview as evidence of lying and debauchery
  • they have representation and help with social needs (things supposedly catered for by the NUS)
  • where they can talk freely about their courses and the towns in which they live
  • a marketplace for them to sell anything from textbooks to clothes and furniture
  • a one-stop shop for all their financial needs and concerns
  • somewhere safe to upload their music, imagery and video footage

In short they are taking on Facebook, myspace, MP3unsigned, Youtube, directgov and any other site you can think of that can hold some kind of benefit to students.

It’s audacious, it’s ambitious, it’s totally nuts – but they are so passionate about their vision that you cannot help but be swept along by it.

The bursary awards are to be a regular thing, any student who signs up to StudyVox is in with a chance of winning – it’s definitely on the up and up, it’s legit and I have the pictures to prove it. If you don’t believe me then just look at some of the news coverage of the event on the BBC and in the Telegraph and obviously the foundations own news site the StudyVox echo (I have several times just to remind myself that I didn’t dream the whole thing)

They want to ‘put their money where their mouths are’ and show in a real way that they are there to help support the student community.

At present I will admit to a lot of teething problems with the social networking website – but that is less down to the vision of the group and more to do with the company paid to do the coding and design; I think, given time and a lot of tweaking this site could well be a force to contend with, the NUS would be well advised to take note and learn a few things.

Is the Real Time Web stunting creativity?

Perhaps this post should really have been entitled GTD vs the Real Time Web..

Most folks are aware of the GTD method created by David Allen and coming up fast behind in the awareness stakes is the Pomodoro technique created by Francesco Cirillo.

Both try to offer guidance in the most effective way of completing tasks and making the best use of your time, however the problem with a ‘one-size fits all’ philosophy is that the one-size never fits quite right for anybody.

The main problem with these methods and techniques is that you spend time trying to find the right combination of hints and tips that work for you when if you just carried on working instead of worrying about HOW you’re working, the jobs would get done anyway.

Where information is concerned the real winner between effective time use philosophies and the real time web will always be the web.

I’ve tried list making – but human rationalisation kicks in when I’m ‘not in the mood’ to complete the next task, procrastination kicks in during research when during the course of the task I follow a set of links to something interesting yet unrelated  to the subject being researched.. Habits are called habits for a reason.

With the wealth of information available on-line it is next to impossible to focus unless you have a very narrow band of interests and few people can claim this; even within one subject area there are multiple sub-topics to keep up to date with.

The real time web is not GTD friendly; it slaps you in the face with the fear of being left behind if you don’t read every interesting and relevant link sent your way. Twitter is definitely the worst culprit as, if you don’t click on a link as soon as you see it, the stream will carry it away and you have missed out on an opportunity to maybe learn something useful. Then there are the numerous unread feeds in your reader that throw silent accusations at you every time you log in, you add the things you don’t have time to read to bookmarking sites, subscribe to RSS in the hope you can catch up..

It will never happen; the real time web holds too much and it goes by too swiftly for a human to digest. It turns you into a receiver instead of a creator as you struggle to stay afloat in the tidal wave of information headed your way.

To counteract this, aspects of the pomodoro technique may be a little more helpful for folks like me who struggle to stay ‘on task’ and feel the need to play catch up all the time.

The focus booster timer is an effective way of making sure you take regular breaks and if you are a freelancer will also help you to account for the increments of time spent working on a project. That 5 minute break as you walk away from the computer means you can digest what you’ve been reading and look back over the task you are supposed to be doing; it helps you to re-focus and possibly even have a eureka moment as you mentally reorder the last few hours.

This is the most creative I’ve been on here for a while, and yet still I’m talking about old news; the words ‘practice what you preach’ have never been more apt..

Just think back over your last few weeks, have you created anything you can truly call your own? Or have you amalgamated, digested and regurgitated a number of interesting things from the web? Regurgitation is not necessarily bad; people like things to be presented in different ways after all – but how creative is it?

Victoria Stringer; getting professional?

I’ve been culling posts left right and centre from this blog so that I can ‘streamline’ the content when I merge my other blogs to it during the (hopefully soon) site redesign and update I’ve been working on. Doing so I’ve discovered many things; not least the changes in my writing style and the tone and content of the posts themselves.

I don’t wish to lose the essence of ‘me’ within the blog; the personal side of things has netted me several ‘blog friends’ over the years (yes Master K, April, Crash and Brandie – I mean you) and I value that aspect of my virtual life,  but I do want to highlight the content more in keeping with the career I’m looking to pursue (upon completion of my BSc degree) as this is the first place any prospective employer will look should they embark upon an internet search for me.

At present I am top of the search returns on google.com for ‘Vicky Stringer’ and have a further 4 listings lower down the front page and on google.co.uk I hold the top 2 positions on the first page – no mean feat for a non professional ‘nonentity’.

Unfortunately I’m certain that once I change my site and lose all the lovely ‘link juice’ I’ve accrued over the years this status will change. I am equally certain that before long I’ll be back on top but this is fair warning to anybody that has linked to me in the past – the link will be broken as soon as my new site is up and running.

In other news, I have also been looking carefully at my options for module choices next year and have managed to 98% decide on the combination that will best enhance my current knowledge and experience.

  1. Professional issues in computing (compulsory module semester A only)
  2. Databases (semester A only)
  3. Web application design (semester A and B)
  4. Principles and Applications of Web Services (semester A and B)
  5. IT Project (Compulsory module semester B only)

So.. Back to ‘creating’ the new look site, hope you like it when I’m done.