November 2010 Archives

Gingerbread Houses

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This is the season for creating gingerbread houses and contests for the best creations out of gingerbread. I enjoyed the contest entries from website "This Old House", which features several houses and castles. Photos and an article about this contest can be found here:,,20243026,00.html.

The "Mental_Floss" blog also contains an article with photos of creative gingerbread houses from various competitions. The article can be found here:

To avoid the crowds, which seem to get worse every year, I decided to visit Bath's Christmas market on a Friday this year. This year, there seemed to be more vendors, and the Christmas market is running extra days for the build-up to Christmas. Crafts, cheeses, jewellery, glassware, foods, drink, clothing, and trinkets were being sold from the many stalls in the abbey square. I had cream tea at one of the tea rooms in the centre of Bath, and the rest of the day was spent walking around the market and visiting a few shops. The Christmas lights and light snow made the trip even more Christmasy. Bath's Christmas Market website:


My comment today is related to the use of photographs on websites. A good photograph can greatly improve the aesthetics of a website. As the old saying goes, 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. I have seen thousands of websites with poor photographs; this includes grainy photos, amateur or outdated-looking photos, and just simply bad photographs. (Heck, in one company I worked at, two popular client-facing websites were littered with group photos of employees stood against a white wall, and judging by the hair and clothing styles, it looked as though they were photographed in the 1980s!) As a side-note, I have also seen websites use popular stock photography, but this is forgivable albeit often a cliche. 

The reason I have brought up this topic is due to an article I read in the Metro newspaper about Dover's Town Council website using an image of a white cliff taken in East Sussex (1). According to the article, they believed it would be too costly to commission a photograph of the famous white cliffs of Dover. (At least they have now called for members of the public to submit their photographs of the white cliffs to use on their websites.) 

I find the reasoning to mislead (even unintentionally) silly by not using a proper photograph; photography need not cost a fortune, and a good photograph can make or break a website. Perhaps a lot of companies or individuals do not understand this, but I believe that website design, in general, is much better aesthetically now than it was a few years ago. And, a note to all companies; if you cannot afford to commission a photograph or you do not have those skills in-house, set up a public competition.

Attewill, Fred. The Metro, 'Welcome to the white cliffs East Sussex'. [November 23, 2010].

Drawing the Internet - One Pixel At A Time?

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'Internet Week Europe' is a festival celebrating the Internet industry with a series of events. (Web site: Somehow, I missed out on this event; I've been quite busy with a lot on my mind, so I'll attribute it down to that. However, I have noted as part of the event, the 'Can you draw the Internet' competition. The competition encourages industry professionals and 10-year-olds to draw their perceptions of the Internet. A website with the drawings and the ability to vote on the drawings is here: Which is your favourite?
A while ago, I realised that in the past year or two, I've neglected to wear my watches in favour of carrying my mobile phone around. My mobile phone displays the time on it, so I found wearing watches to be redundant. I have about a dozen different watches as 'fashion accessories' or objects with sentimental meaning with an engraving. I like my watches, but I just do not get around to wearing them or find them necessary.

After speaking to someone about this, I realised that they felt the same way. They use their mobile phone to see the time. In fact, I look at the wrists of many people to discover that they are watch-free.

After a quick browse online, I discover that others have also noted a downward trend on watch-wearing. Irvine, Martha quotes studies in her article that only about 1 out of 10 teens wear a watch every day, and the amount of money spent on watches in 2006 has decreased by 17% in five years (1). However, Hunter states that watches will not go out of style because they are a fashion/status symbol and because of their simplicity (It is easier to look at one's wrist instead of pulling the phone out of a pocket or handbag and pressing a button to see the time.) (2).

In my quick browsing around the internet, I also discover several websites for 'wrist watch mobile phone' hybrids. Perhaps this is the future?

(1) Irvine, Martha. Watched lose ground to cell phones. [February 16, 2007].

(2) Hunter, Arthur. Are watches obsolete in the digital era? [October 18, 2010].

Christmas Comes to London

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With six weeks to go until Christmas, London's shopping areas (Oxford Street and Regent Street) are now aglow with Christmas lights. The shops are full of the usual gift items seen in the run-up to Christmas. It gives me a warm feeling inside.

Tiny Wooly Hats

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The smoothie-maker company, 'Innocent', have launched a campaign ('The Big Knit') to help keep older people warmer for winter. In selected stores, each bottle of 'Innocent' smoothie comes with its own little wooly hat, which fits over the lid of the drink. (There's quite a successful marketing campaign that has brought together a community of people who can knit for this good cause.) The designs are artistic, and the little hats are cute. 'Innocent' has published a blog of some of the designs. This can be viewed here:
Facebook have recently updated the formatting of the news feed on their website. One of the changes is the reduction in the size of the font. In my opinion, this is too small for me to comfortably read. I cannot imagine how those with reduced vision are able to read the text without straining their eyes. From a usability standpoint, I don't think that this was a wise move. I am assuming that the reason for the change was to fit more elements onto the page, but this could be done without changing the font size or without reducing it as much as they have.

There is an article about the change, and Facebook explains that the change is an experiment (1). Hopefully, the feedback received from users about this change will make Facebook reconsider.

(1) Gaudin, Sharon. Facebook users squint at font size change. [4 November 2010].

My New Toy: A MacBook Pro

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I have been using a MacBook for the past several months in my job, and although there is a slight 'learning-curve' from using a Windows-based computer for the past several years, I have gotten used to the MacBook and its speed. The MacBook boots up and is very quick. There are still a few features that I prefer on the Windows-based computer, but the speed of the MacBook had prompted me to use this laptop as my primary one.

I still have a Windows-based computer at home, and one of the major differences is the placement of the buttons used for shortcuts, such as copying and pasting. Sometimes I need to think for a split second before completing the action. It's not as annoying now, but this took a little while to get used to. Also, the structure of the Mac can be a little bit daunting until you understand their UI for the folder/directory structure. You can change the views for the display, but areas can be a little confusing when directories on different areas are named the same thing (such as 'Library'). I also prefer the Windows way to view photographs in directories, and the Mac way does take a little getting used to, but it is not as strong in my opinion. Despite these differences, I like the Mac.

As I am due to be changing jobs and realising that leaving the MacBook behind would put a hole in my life, I made a choice to purchase the MacBook Pro. I will be playing with this new toy and setting up my development environment onto it in the next few weeks.


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