Wrath of the readership

The Guardian are discovering that there’s nothing like a major website redesign to bring howls of anguish and rage from the readership. Some of the comments are hilarious and for me at least, difficult to comprehend. “I thought my browser was broken”, “I’m never coming here again” and that sort of thing. I liked the guy who pointed out that as he uses the RSS feed, he doesn’t really care.

FWIW, I think their new site is an improvement on the whole, though perhaps a little wide and busy on the right hand side for some people. Change is inevitable in the online world – deal with it.

Unexpected shaking

0_50.gif You don’t see this everyday – an earthquake in the UK, large enough to cause damage. The thumbnail will take you to the USGS Earthquake Hazard website, a great source of near-real-time data for your mashups.

I was at the epicentre of a magnitude 5 earthquake in the UK on Boxing Day in 1979. It was strong enough to shake the baubles from the Christmas tree and move furniture but to my lasting regret, I slept through the entire event.

Animals – they’re not little furry people

Do you recall that moment from The Life Aquatic when Bill Murray at his downtrodden, lugubrious best sighs and says “Son of a bitch. I’m sick of these dolphins.”

I think of it every time I see a news story about that top-rated YouTube video. You know the one. I’m not even linking to it.

Whilst we’re on the topic of web hype, you might enjoy Brilliantly boring from The Guardian. The first paragraph describing the Cheddarvision cheese cam made me laugh out loud.

H5N1 resurfaces

If you thought that avian influenza had gone away, you were wrong. The H5N1 strain has reappeared at a turkey farm in the UK.

Wise words in a letter to the Guardian from several high-profile campaigners, Noam Chomsky among them, who call for:

the elimination of large-scale intensive livestock farming, which is accelerating the development of new pandemic viruses

I’m sure they’re correct – though I’d like to see some data. Still, I suspect that wild migrating birds are not the problem here.

The WWW stole my brain

Some elements in the media would have you believe that we’ve become passive receptacles for information, to the extent that information providers are responsible for our actions.

Various news outlets are running a ridiculous story, suggesting that online mapping services contributed to the death of a journalist in Oregon. The driver:

“…may never have made that fateful wrong turn if he hadn’t used the internet to look up directions for his journey, US media reports suggest.”

There’s so much wrong with this simplistic analysis, it’s hard to know where to begin. Another quote sums it up:

“…the cyber-savvy family may have plucked the route…from an online mapping service, unaware of the elements”

No map – online or otherwise – provides contextual information. A road on a map is just a line – it tells you nothing about the state of the road now. As for unaware of the elements – it’s winter in the Oregon wilderness. How unaware can a person be? You don’t use Google Maps to tell you whether it’s winter; you use a weather service. Or look out the window.

I think what we have here is an unfortunate case of someone who assumed that they would not break down or become lost and so failed to take a few sensible precautions, such as checking the conditions, carrying sufficient food, supplies and appropriate clothing. It’s a tragic accident – let’s not inflate it into another “the internet is the root of all evil” story.

Unknown authenticity

Culture travels slowly to our shores, so only after watching Unknown White Male last night did I discover that the rest of the world has been discussing it for over a year. For those not in the know, it’s a documentary about a man who suffers an extreme case of retrograde amnesia. Effectively, his entire life prior to the memory loss is erased, forcing him to rediscover everything that he once knew.

I enjoyed it – but as the film progressed, I sensed more and more that something wasn’t quite right. Apparently I’m not alone in my suspicions. So on the basis that one day, truth will out, I’m going with the “it’s fake” crowd. How about you?