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Archive for August, 2007

Deskchair traveller

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Is it just because I’m thinking about holidays, about travel, about visiting new places, that there seems to be a theme to web site updates I’ve made recently?

According to the information about a new anthology of poetry from Siberia I recently added to the Smokestack books site,

… Siberia is also a place of winter magic, a land of extreme natural beauty crossing seven time zones, of ice-princesses and talking bears, frozen mammoths and the shamans who walk among the dead.

One to read about rather than to visit, perhaps.

In Alan Mann’s latest dispatch from Tenerife, he ventures cautiously onto the naturist beach. There’s a fascinating rocky landscape, and the perfect picnic:

Our picnic goes down well. The scotch eggs beautifully made, the salad crisp and dressed within thin sliced brown bread, the wine in thermos flasks to keep it cold.

Sounds good – but that was then, before mass tourism came to the Canaries.

Wine, though, there’s an idea: and Helen Savage has been sending me notes of some mouth-watering tastings in the south west of France. I never knew that when grapes ripen, the pips ripen too, but it seems so:

Part of the secret, Emmanuel insists, is to pick the grapes at exactly the right moment. "As soon as the pips taste ripe you have just six to twelve hours to complete the harvest, otherwise the wine will be heavy and jammy."

Time to get out the Michelin road atlas, I think…

Logos by design

Monday, August 13th, 2007

There are plenty of logos out there that don’t work, which don’t seem to connect with the organisation they represent, which consist only of the company name in a standard – or an illegible – font face, which look as if someone has jotted an idea on the back of an envelope and never found time to produce a finished version, or which are completely unintelligible.

Then there are the good ones: I don’t think you have to be a comics fan to appreciate the work of Rian Hughes.

If today’s Thursday…

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

…then the themed supplement in today’s Guardian is on Technology, which often has something to interest me tucked in among the features on computer games, mobile phones and music downloads. (Not that there’s anything wrong with these topics, it just makes for an oddly various eight pages). Anyway, here are two items from today’s paper:

In the Tecnobile column, Gina Davies would like it to be known that she is "NOT A POLE DANCER". It seems that when people Google her name, they find a character from a best selling novel. Sound familiar? I have a similar problem: as I’ve complained elsewhere on this site, I am not the actor best known for playing Dale Arden in the Flash Gordon movies (and those nude photos are not of me).

There is also an interview with Jakob Nielsen, headlined "The web design guru that web designers love to hate". That line encapsulates the ambiguity of the expression "web design" Jakob Nielson is the expert on usability, on web sites that do the job, that allow visitors to find the information, buy the item, contact the person… He isn’t popular with designers whose priority is creative expression, graphic beauty or novelty, because he says that those things come second to ease of use. Which means that he is popular with Cornwell Internet! Quotation of the day: "Thus, websites should have almost no features: focus on the words."

Jakob Nielsen’s own site does just that; it has never been at the cutting edge of design, and now looks very old fashioned – but it’s easy to use and full of information. And, says Nielsen, that old-fashioned look has now become very distinctive!

A writer’s work is never done

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

I’ve just posted two articles to Anne Fine’s web site, in which she talks about the new revised editions of a batch of her books: there’s an article based on one which appeared in The Times, addressed to adults – parents, teachers and other interested parties – and an article written specifically for the children who read her books and visit her web site.

The changes seem to be of two kinds. Some reflect the way the world has changed since the books were written: the changing value of money, the increased use of cars (the midwife, for example, no longer rides a bike). These can be changed with no sense that they should have been done differently in the first place. Others reflect the writer’s developing style: repeated phrases are removed, the text is tightened up. And then there are those which fall on the overlap of these two cases: where it is not the facts of the world but our sensitivity to it which has changed. I won’t give away the examples, because both articles make fascinating reading in their own right.

What intrigues me, as someone whose public writing is done online, is that I associate this sort of revision as one of the benefits – and one of the temptations – of the internet. It was Paul Valéry (so Google informs me) who said that a poem is never finished, only abandoned; that’s even more true of a web site, there are always additions and improvements to be made. But how many authors have the chance to revisit their books the way I revisit web sites? And how many want to?

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