Sunday, 19 February 2017

Law Actually is 10 years old today

Law Actually 10 years old

Yes - really.

I’ve posted quite a few birthday blog posts over the last – well – decade and, looking back, I always seem to start them by saying that I can’t believe Law Actually has been going so long.  (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

Well, now this blog has reached double figures, I really can believe it. It feels like ten years.

I started Law Actually as a bit of lark; a creative outlet from the travails of studying law. It was probably my contrarian and rebellious streak coming out, plus a procrastination device to distract myself from preparing for seminars.

Ten years later, it feels like I’ve seen it all come and go in the blogosphere. (And I’m getting an increasing number of grey hairs to prove it.) The web and the world have moved on considerably since blogging was considered de rigueur. Now it feels like it’s something more to be ashamed of than celebrated and the sense of community in the ‘sphere has long since disappeared. I think I’ve grieved long enough over that loss. Life and things move on. I get it.

One thing I’ve found over the years is that I enjoy blogging more when I take it less seriously. People blog for all reasons, but mine is a sort of creative catharsis. I used to get as much (if not more) pleasure from playing in Photoshop creating a graphic to accompany the text as I did from the writing itself. I think my skills on both fronts have improved appreciably from those early days.

I’m conscious that I’ve subjected my readers and this blog to a lot of crap during the last decade. A few years back, it was little more than a bawdy-house for SEO where you couldn’t turn around for all the sponsored links and posts. Apologies for that. Sometimes blogging felt more like a chore than a pleasure in those days.

I’m going to make no predictions as to what the future will hold for me or this blog. But if I hang about in the blogosphere I want it to be on a no-strings, casual basis. If I post, I post. And if I don’t – well, it’s not the end of the world.

There are a lot of memories tied up in the thousand or so posts I’ve published. I’ve often found a lot of pleasure looking back through my archived posts; they stir up at least as many memories as a diary could have captured. And that’s pretty special.

So, thanks, Law Actually. In a bizarre sort of way, you’ve been a good, comforting friend over the years. And I’m really glad you’re here.

Have a great birthday. You deserve it.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Nissan Micra driver reconceptualises traffic laws

(By which I mean, the driver decided to drive on the left but on the wrong side of a dual carriageway.)  It’s easily done. 


From Cornwall Live 14/02/17:

Shocking footage has captured the moment a Nissan Micra driver was caught on camera driving the wrong way down the busy A30 at rush hour.

[Bus Driver Jimmers] Thomas told Cornwall Live: "This little car bumbled past obliviously. I was very lucky to meet it by a layby where the road was wider, it's unbelievable that nobody was hurt."

He added that the car had a chance to pull in, but didn't seem interest in stopping.

[Wannabe highway cameraman] Jason Griffiths also posted this scary video with some strong language from this morning to Facebook [.]

But my favourite response was from Tweeter Adrian Edwards who commented:

"OMG just had a near death expeireance we were driving up the A30 and suddenly there was a purple micra coming down the wrong way in the fast lane we only just missed it as there was a van in front of us had ivy in the car too shit me up big time I'm shaking !!!!!"

And just to prove it, here’s a screenshot of the tweet.

shit me up

Mr Edwards was left so ‘shit up’ (or should that be shat?), that his attention to punctuation deserted him. But that’s pretty much the norm for virtually all exchanges on social media these days. I think we were better off in the days of ‘textspeak’.

And what became the driver of the offending Micra, you ask.

Police said a 58-year-old woman from the St Merryn area, near Padstow, was taken into custody.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

We noticed you’re using an ad-blocker. Oh really?

block those ads
Like any self-respecting web user, I’ve used ad-blocking extensions for years now - since at least 2006. There are some sites so peppered with ads that browsing them without an ad-blocker just isn’t viable (I’m thinking in particular of some F1 sites I like to check frequently). Some sites are so bad that if it came to a choice between visiting them without an ad-blocker, or not visiting at all, I’d pick the latter, frankly.

Intrusive web adverts are annoying. There’s no getting around that. Equally, though, I’m not so away-with-the-fairies that I don’t recognise that a lot of this nice stuff we’re used to accessing freely on the net has to be paid for by someone, somewhere. Ads are the obvious way of doing that, but the dynamics of this model have changed hugely over the years and are becoming, by degrees, harder to sustain. (So I hear anyway.)

The use of paywalls is becoming worryingly commonplace – both across web content in general and streaming media in particular – and this approach flies directly in the face of some of the key founding principles of the web. And in this increasingly confused and scary world we live in, I think the need for the web to respect the principle of giving information freedom is more important than ever.

In the last couple of years, an increasing number of websites feature code to check whether visitors have ad-blockers installed. Where an ad-blocker is detected, the visitor sees a message of thinly veiled emotional blackmail or, increasingly, out-and-out pleading, asking the visitor to disable their ad-blocking functionality or to whitelist the relevant website. Some sites even prevent you from reading the article until you do one of these two things.

Most news agencies have used this tactic for some time, but other types of sites are now following suit. Even the ten-a-penny technology sites which regurgitate already regurgitated non-news, FUD and trite observations are doing it. I know. You wouldn’t think they’d have the nerve to try to guilt-trip visitors into viewing ads.

Almost invariably, I ignore all pleas of whitelisting. The one exception I made was for the Guardian’s website. Hey, I have to get my do-gooding, left-wing libertarian kicks somehow.

The bottom line is that web ads need to be more palatable and less intrusive. If there weren’t so many of them and if they weren’t so damned distracting and annoying, visitors would be less inclined to block ads in the first place. It’s a bit like the situation a decade ago when copyright holders were rightly lampooned for over-charging for their content, not doing enough to make it easily-accessible to customers in innovative ways, while struggling to understand why many users were choosing to download content unlawfully using peer-to-peer file sharing software. Thankfully, we’ve seen a lot of progress on that front (think: Spotify, Netflix and Amazon Prime, for example).

Back to web ads. The ones which get most on my thrupnies adopt the shock ‘n’ awe approach in which banner ads abseil down from the top of the screen, bumping the page content asunder in unnerving jolts, with the lower page content then being flanked by further ads. As these then load, the page content re-renders again so your eyes are bouncing around the page trying to catch up and you’re quickly reduced to a quivering nervous wreck. It’s a bit like expecting web users to browse the web high on crystal meth. It’s unacceptable and it’s disrespectful to the site’s visitors. And it’s no wonder use of ad-blockers has skyrocketed in recent years.

So, please, ad-makers and sites which feature them: try and be a bit more subtle and less annoying. Else the chances are your ads being unblocked are pretty much nil. And if that happens, we’ll all end up losing in the longer term.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Safer internet day

Yep - it’s here again.

I see I was cautiously positive when I mentioned SID in post back in 2008, but I think there was a distinct undertone of scepticism if I’m frank.

But, nine years on, far from slipping into oblivion, it seems safer internet day is well and truly ‘a thing’.

I guess that’s good news. It’s not going to work miracles, but it’s a start. It’s an opportunity to get people to stop and think about what they’re doing when they use the internet – which can only be a good thing. But let’s not kid ourselves: there’s a huge amount of work needed to help people help themselves when making decisions about their online conduct. And that’s by no means confined to children.

I had a butchers at the safer internet day quiz earlier.  Hopefully, the majority of kids will regard the ‘correct’ answers as blindingly obvious. Or is that being recklessly optimistic?

safer internet day quiz 1The theme with many of the answers seems to be: if in doubt, run and tell an adult. That’s not bad advice, but it’s crucial that young people are made to feel involved in the decisions behind safe online actions so they can understand the reasoning behind it and start putting that to use in the future.

There comes a point when telling kids to ask an adult isn’t going to cut it.

safer internet day - quiz 2

Getting kids to flip their perspective on a situation and appreciate that online conduct can have just as direct and serious ‘real world’ consequences as offline actions is central to successfully tackling the problem.  Sadly, on this latter point, people seem to be just as ill-informed now as there were when I dubbed it the fallacy of the virtual veil nearly ten years ago.  And that’s pretty depressing.