Monday, May 31, 2004

Eye Opener ?

Re _larger text_ and page accessibility/usability :::: Chichester District Museum gives you a handy tip if you click that blue link; see their "green box" practical feature? . . that ARA pages could also use?

Asking around? . . very few members seem familiar with "browser view" adjustment?

Despite the best efforts of web designers it is rarely possible to please all of the people all of the time. There are so many different browsers, plus 3 "versions" of each, different screen dimensions, screen technologies, screen resolutions, and eye conditions . . . However 80 per cent of web users "throughout the Empire" presently have Internet Explorer? So experiment with this: (trying various pages, viewing with IE) . . click - > VIEW on your screen top left on toolbar (usually grey stripe?) . . . (menu appears) - > TEXT SIZE and click - > 5 alternative sizes ! . . try each in turn. Have no fear about these settings being indellible. Switch as often as you like to suit the variables of page vs machine vs eyes.

Down-Under . . I found the 101 site interesting and especially the single-letter key board switches [function works on IE 6.0].

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Topical Typography

On certain ARA pages I've taken more time to format: for legibility? of the characters; and readability? of whole paragraphs. "Compare and Contrast" Tom's obiit page with Grahame and Martin's report on Thruxton. Then see my quotation from Daniel Will-Harris below which is one hundred per cent correct.

I have specified Verdana font in some places. (Verdana, interestingly enough, was developed via London Transport experiments, from the classic work of Gill/Johnstone in the 1930's. As you can imagine there is much similarity between one's perception of a passing bus and the transitions of a computer screen ! - book-reading is a totally different affair.). Verdana has proved to cause less eye-strain and less reading-error. A lengthy job for next winter might be to standardise a font thoughout the website and unify our ARA brand ? . . might switch to Georgia font?

"Optimal readability depends on lines of text that aren't too long. Yet as . . screens are getting "wider" many sites are setting lines of text that run from one side of the screen to the other; dramatically decreasing readability. eFuse.com sets type at an optimal width of approximately 60 characters (at the default 12 point size, this translates to around 450 pixels wide). This leaves a lot of blank space on the screen, but it's not a waste because blank space makes text easier to read." - Daniel Will-Harris, in efuse, 2001.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Doctor Doctorow

re blogging-learning curve and "infovore" cravings: founder blogger Cory Doctorow has one of his early insightful archive essays here at -> "My Outboard Brain" 2002 page.

Circus Ring

David Beard, Archaeology in Europe, has re-kindled my interest in the rejuvenated Webring system. I did once join a couple of Rings when they were "migrating the codes" and, apart from that troublesome episode, it was hard to find quality rings. There seemed, at that time, to be a lot of clowns involved and too few good Ringmasters?

In fact the Webring concept is one of the most sparkling facets of the internet; whereby genuine communities of common interest grow organically . . best moderated not by natural selection but by _Ringmaster Selection_. Best not genetically engineered either?

Inspired by David's participation in the Archaeology Ring I sent the ARA's request to join . . and within the day had several positive and cheerful emails, e.g. : "Welcome ARA ! According to our records this is your very first submission to a WebRing Ring. This email contains some information and tips for first time members. We hope you find this helpful and that your experience with WebRing will be a long and satisfying one!...."

In a Ring you can directly visit any member's approved website - then from their home page click ->"NEXT" on the Webring panel (at page end) - arrive at next member's site - repeat the same procedure ad infinitum - except that it is not quite ad infinitum in the true sense because you tend to make one complete (or part) circuit of a genuine "RING shape" (merry-go-round) . . returning to your starting point having reviewed all the current theories, thoughts, reports, and presentations. The "RANDOM" function is good fairground fun. From today you can try this, and please evaluate the Ring venture with me, via the mauve-headed Webring panel on the current ARA homepage. Will it be like "A day at the Races"?

Friday, May 28, 2004

Proto Blog

For eons we've been maintaining the ARA News page as a kind of "Proto-Blog"; probably from a epoch pre-dating the evolution of Blogger technology's ease of publishing. And the ARA News web page is nicely paralleled by the press cuttings service supplied to Members in the hardcopy ARA Newsletters; for which submissions are always invited . . to: ARA Hon. Archivist, Anthony Beeson, via Contact-us.

Anthony has recently brought great stories to us, exempli gratia, about the Roman City of Zeugma . . and the identification of the "second" Roman Noviomagus (in Kent).

Technology to date has been efficiently provided by ZyWeb in the Roman City of Exeter [Isca Dumnorium]; augmented by the ace alerts from Google [Oppidum Francisco Sanctus]. It takes me about 3 minutes to publish a "breaking story" summary . . linked via dial-up modem to the "Tales of Two Cities".

I focus today on _The News_ approach in order to re-make the point that "Content is King" and fundamental to website "stickiness" ?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

iCan aGain

MORE than just elections - Guardian - UK
... Online videoconferencing will be looked at for rural areas, while existing services - such as the BBC's online iCan service, which allows campaigners to set up ...
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/egovernment/story/0,12767,1224521,00.html

This daily-once News Alert is brought to us by Google News (BETA)...

Thank you G. BETA . . . Peter
P.S. [ Create your own Google News Alerts at: http://www.google.com/newsalerts ]

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Tempus Omnia Revelat

The intent within that Latin tag is to say "don't get impatient!". But how to avoid web pages trying our patience?

Do you experience eager anticipation when waiting for a web page to creep fitfully onto your screen? . . salivating like a Pavlovian dog?. . or snarling rage? (like one of those "Cave Canem" roman doorway mosaics).

Russian scientists have provided me with a handy tool to check web page loading times.

Their excellent Xnote Stopwatch is a tiny, efficient, download. Activate it at any time in a corner of your desktop and analyse . . to the millisecond . . that page. . find the glitches! Graphics too large? Gizmos to be pruned? . . I use the snap function and the report form to note: 1. first appearance of some readable text; 2. when screen first fills and looks inviting; 3. when the browser says _"Done"_. Here are some results this morning for another really great tool, and nice site, "Sequoiaview" (from the University of Eindhoven): phase 1, 5.18 secs; phase 2, at 11.87 secs; loading phase 3, at 53.70. That last figure is quite high but the graphics are worth waiting for . . and meanwhile there is interesting reading.

Must see "Tempus Fugit" pages from my friend and Graphic Design Guru: Daniel Will-Harris. I think his Sun/Moon design watch, with roman numerals, would go well with your toga? however I prefer the black one. Daniel also has screensaver clock designs and is known to pronounce infinitely wise words about the web. More stories about Daniel (and the Lion?) will follow in this column.

Monday, May 24, 2004

BBC iCan

Innovative, as ever, the BBC has been quietly developing a new approach to putting issues instantly "on air". Grahame's topical and tragic note (below) seems ideal for immediate release and inclusion on beta iCan. Read the iCan aims and objectives.

Grahame Soffe, ARA Chairman, reports today:
"Bryn Walters and I rushed down to Shillingstone, just NW of Blandford Forum, Dorset, at the weekend, to see a huge "new" Roman villa that has turned up there; big rescue archaeology emergency - only _5 weeks for volunteers_ to complete as much excavation as possible before our heritage is obliterated by a new housing estate. Might it be an idea to put out an Association statement on the ARA website? The ARA may agree to assist with a grant; the Board must meet to finalise this. I'll update this report asap."

Let us enter the new iCan avenue of empowerment and campaigning. The ARA's substantial reputation is built upon direct action . . sometimes "indirect action" sending SOS messages to the right people at the right time . . to save our history and heritage from builders, bureaucrats, and the plough.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Motley Fool

Fool.co.uk and Fool.com (USA) are top rated web sites that make specialist subjects sparkle with crisp copywriting. The branding, metaphor, and key to their approach is the Shakespearian "Court Jester" (always allowed to make cutting remarks, in life/death situations, without loosing his head).

Web User magazine gives Motley Fool a rare ***** star review: ". . informal but informative style . . like listening to an economics professor with an honours degree in plain English." . . "New Fools are also eased in with a list of suggestions from the Fool School section, such as finding and opening the best online bank account . . "

Motley Fools' neat membership form usually loads swiftly in 8 secs. via dial-up modem (that is _fast_). Try the ARA membership form . Send in your own reports on webpage load speed ? . . .the _vital factor_ in web usability.

If you feel hesitant about reponding via the " c o m m e n t s " text link (below this paragraph) please email your contribution using: click here> the ARA contact-us page.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Ptolomaeus: Webcartographer

Martin Dodge is literally a _visionary_ . . Researcher at University College London . . creating breathtaking surveys and visualisations of cyberspace. His Atlas of Cyberspace will deserve a posting of it's own.

Immediately what I find relevant is his review of website structures and navigation choices. If you look at that (blue link above) and scroll down that page I guess you will be enchanted also.

Sitemaps that work: 1. The London Natural History Museum presentation; 2. The Google 2003 Sitemap; 3. The Google 2004 "via icon" service chooser. Hope you agree?

Friday, May 21, 2004

BTW - Raison d'ĂȘtre

BBC NEWS - Technology - prompted me to start this experimental blog. See my reason for launching-forth: via the blue link in this paragraph. I'm inspired by the "eco-system of ever-changing ideas".

Evan Williams, of Blogger, is quoted: "Blogging has shown itself to be a fundamental part of the web. But we still have a tremendous way to go."

That reminded me of F.Scott Fitzgerald (1925): "Gatsby believed in the green light, the . . future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then . . tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . So we beat on . . borne back ceaslessly into the past."

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Langreiter.com

Just look at the Langreiter folks' clever construction: comparing Google vs. Yahoo!

Search Engine Strategy, IMHO, has to be prioritised in the present agenda. You will see on Langreiter's page that the ARA site has, with intermittent tweaking, managed to nudge to number 2 ranking with Yahoo! . . . and 3 or 4 in Google. Romarch is the site that outpaces us at present and your comment is welcome especially if you can pinpoint what it's redeeming features are; this morning 109 inward links?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

British Museum

Sam Moorhead, in a recent note, has written: "Roman websites: many exist already! If you go to the British Museum website's Education Section you will see that I provide links to a wide variety of sites, some much better than others. Perusal of these will give insights into what is possible, and what might be novel". Sam has provided further helpful hints which will be recorded (gratefully) in this column.

Task Master

How about our friend Bill Thayer's way of listing his web-development tasks !

We all do "job-lists" but Bill keeps his published in some detail on his website. In the Association for Roman Archaeology perhaps we should follow this example . . but in any case the intention in this blog is to catalogue possible (cost-effective) development projects over the next few months.