Dear Jan Etherington, an open letter

Today the cycling community are rightly up in arms for one of the worst researched, offensive and completely untrue articles I have read in a long time. It was by you, Jan Etherington. For reference, this is what I am writing about: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9562836/Wed-just-grown-to-love-cyclists-and-then-Andrew-Mitchell-had-to-come-along.html

So, as you appear (from the article) to be lazy and need some help with facts, I thought I would clear some things up.

The “stoic girls” included Olympic Silver medallist Lizzie Armistead. Easily found on Google.

We don’t all run red lights. Try this for some decent journalism on the topic: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2012/may/14/cycling-red-light-jumping-iam-survey. Yes, some cyclists do, but one thing that does make me angry as a cyclist is those on two wheels that DO run red lights.

You say I believe I am from a superior race? How have you possibly come to this confusion? I think it’s much more likely that you are sneering at cyclists from your stationary bus, car or taxi on the way to your job, which it seems you don’t spend too much effort on anyway. I’m sure somewhere I read journalists have some responsibility. Maybe this might help you http://assembly.coe.int/documents/adoptedtext/ta93/eres1003.htm, although I am not sure how official that document is.

You say cyclists believe YOU (who says that you hope you cause us to fall off, hence risking death) are a lesser mortal. On the evidence of the article, you are.

I also live on the Olympic cyclists route.  Did you bother to ask if any of the cafes would be happier with less business? I’m sure the Box Hill cafe appreciate the roaring trade helping fun the National Trust. I’m pretty sure they are happy. Even if you are not.

Here is an absolute fact – if I had no spatial awareness I would have been seriously injured a number of times. Most recently a month or so ago when a car over took me and swerved in front (a right hook, FYI), hitting me. Luckily I anticipated the incident and stopped before I was seriously hurt. Who had no spatial awareness in that incident I ask?

You say we never stop to enjoy the scenery. Well I regularly stop to enjoy scenery while riding and often take a photo too.

As for your method of crossing the road, I would seriously recommend you look back to your childhood (stop, look and listen) rather than “try to amble across the road”. I’m sure electric cars will stop you from ambling across the road. Or would that be the vehicle driver’s fault too?

You say this in your article:

I make it a rule always to say “Good morning” to these belting bikers. With any luck, it will take them by surprise so much that they’ll slow down, or better still, fall off.

Do I misread this as you actually admitting to attempted assault, or worse, actual bodily harm? I would happily let the police decide on this if you are unsure. It sounds quite threatening at least. By the way, I am extremely offended by it.

Regarding my lycra I never actually planned to wear any until I found how mor comforatble and how much it helps against the wind, quite logical reasons for my outfit I think. Same as I wear football boots for football, I wear nice padded shorts for cycling.

This has turned into a much longer letter than I imagined, so I am going to down my keyboard and relax for a bit.

Yours,

Matt

Exeter Trial 2012 – whoops

Mixed weekend at the Exeter Trial 2012.  After the first hill catching us out when we just didn’t have enough revs/power to keep going, we had a half decent run until Tillerton Steep when the bloody rough terrain resulted in jumping out of gear, and slight backwards slide before getting going again.

Simms was OK,got some distance up, but then this happened (52 seconds in for the hill and roll!):

Bump on my head but were both OK, and so was the car – managed to get another hill done before all hills were closed. It turns out a Marlin rolled too, but with more injuries and an air ambulance required. Both in that car were OK, couple broken bones but nothing too major!  Just goes to show what could have happened!

EDIT: Turns out it was a Parsons Special that rolled after us – Mark Chapman (in the comments) found these photos. A shorter, edited version of our accident is now on YouTube:

Today I Should…

…start a company.

That’s what I though a few months ago and I have.  I am now full blown freelancing and contracting and generally working 15 hours a day until I get settled into a regular schedule.  Today I Should Ltd should see me good for a while. Unless other things come along (not that a pretty damn good company/start up site has been in touch to see if I am interested, well, one has which boosted my ego quite a bit last night) I see this suiting me quite well once I get evenings back to myself.

So far its going very well, aside from working far too hard and not seeing enough of anyone that I should be spending time with – but its all going to work out in the long run!

Anyway – as soon as I get the branding and such started, I’ll get a web development blog started on todayishould.com where I can keep professional head on and open this blog up to blatant whinging and bitching!

When a friend is taken hostage, it puts things into perspective

Today the “Road to Hope” convoy bound to deliver aid to Gaza, Palestine has been taken hostage by a Greek ship owner, who was due to transport them from the Lybia/Egypt border following the Egyptian government denying access by land. Among the group being held hostage are 3 Libyans, 6 UK nationals, 2 Irish, 1 Morrocan and 1 Algerian. Interestingly 2 of the Lybians are Port Officials. Among the UK nationals is my friend Kieran, someone I have respected and admired for many many years.

Having been paid $70,000 to carry out the transport the owner and captain apparently then held out for more. With no more funds being given over and the initial funds recovered, the hostage situation came about. Leaving the harbour by force and half closing the drive on ramp with a vehicle still on it I’m sure there might be more to the story than anyone but those aboard know about.

Bit worrying for Kieran, but I know he is well versed in the politics of wherever he goes and has 12 years experience in the aid convoy business, so hoping that everything works out.

Following quite a bit of pressure through social networks from Kieran’s friends on twitter and facebook, it seems we’ve got some action by the press and government agents with the BBC hopefully picking up the story (thank you @KirbyVictoria), earlier featured on CNN. I’ll await news from the media all evening and I expect for a short while yet.

Where’s Jack Bauer when you need him. Or the Expendables, remembering the first scene from that film.

More links on the story:

BBC News

The Independant
Waltham Forest Guardian
Salem News

BoagWorld

Hoorah! I took a bit of time over Christmas to read and review the book Website Owners Manual by Paul Boag, of BoagWorld podcast and Headscape design agency fame.

My review which I recorded in January made it onto the podcast number 198, and as it was the author presenting the review, it became a lot funnier than I had ever planned!

Transcript:

The website owners manual by Paul Boag, published by Manning Publications

The website owners manual by Paul Boag is targeted to help those who own, run or manage web sites make them more successful. A quiet and humble man Paul has attempted to deliver all the lessons learned through more than 10 years of experience, at all stages of a site lifecycle, into a single resource. The result is a book that will help those responsible for websites be as successful as they can.

Covering topics ranging from selecting the right web agency all the way through to planning for the future, not all content might be appropriate for all website owners, but if the desired audience pick up this book, I don’t think there a single reader that will not learn something and become more successful in their role because of this book.

The book contains succinct well considered advice, which will not overwhelm any reader. I thought there might not be quite enough in depth information, or further resources, provided some sections to really make a difference, like reviewing site analytics. The book could have also better proofed, but this is a matter for the publishers. Not to mention one of the images depicting a developer in a tie.

The website owners manual is divided into standalone chapters that each covers a different stage or process involved in running a website. The 12 chapters cover:

  1. The secret to a successful website
  2. Stress free planning
  3. The perfect team
  4. Differences over design
  5. Creating killer content
  6. User centric design
  7. Ensuring access for all
  8. Taking control
  9. Decoding technobable
  10. Engaging visitors
  11. And finally, Planning for the future

Although not all chapters will be relevant to all website owners, and any experienced website owner will probably have a lot of the advice and recommendations in place, there is still an awful lot to either learn, or be reminded of while running your website.

The topics covered in the book do a good job of providing a feel for the requirements of each stage in the web site process. Some really useful content includes stress free planning, the perfect team, decoding technobabble and becoming number 1 on google.

firstly, Stress free planning, where in the “picture your users” section, Paul explains how you can research properly, prioritize your users and use fictional personas to better understand and relate to your target audience.

The Perfect team does an excellent job of explaining why a brief is so vital, even for small changes. Including an annotated example brief for fictional client “The Joke Factory” to explain why each part of a brief is so important.

Selecting the right people to work on your website might be the most important (and expensive) decision you make in the whole life of your website so it was good to see the steps Assessing proposals, interviewing the short list and evaluating agencies (especially with advice on talking to references).

Decoding technobabble is a problem for all us developers, so despite Paul claiming web developers are going to hate this chapter, I know my clients won’t hate me reading it. Not using simple terms to explain how a website works and introducing concepts like hosting is something I know I frustrate people with, but not for much longer.

Whilst reading the becoming number 1 on google section in the chapter driving traffic I was very pleased to read Paul explains about Black hat search marketing methods and why site owners should steer well clear of these underhand techniques.

In Planning for the future, I can take a lot from concepts such as Microformats, APIs and alternative devices concisely explained direct to my clients.

I really think this book is a must for any person responsible for a website, due to the wide range of topics covered. Although as I said, not all chapters will be relevant to all website owners, there will be more than enough for the book to be a real valuable resource. I like to think of it as a fully fledged consultant sitting on my bookshelf.

There were real moments of enlightenment about how I can help clients really grasp the requirements behind an effective site. I hope this will dramatically improve my client communication using Paul’s thorough but clear explanations of the concepts required for a successful website.

So that’s what I thought about the website owners manual, but its only the tip of the iceberg, and each person that reads the book will take learn something different, so I urge you to buy it and see what it can do for you.