Saturday, 28 April 2007

Bad journalism

I was watching on the news the other day about how they've recently banned "junk food" advertising directed at young children here in the UK, but that it's only broadcast media, so the Web isn't included in that. The reporter said that companies such as McDonald's were still targeting children on their websites by providing games and such making "junk food" still hip, cool and fun.

The news item included footage of some kids playing "the latest game from McDonald's" which involves managing every aspect of the McDonald's corporation, from crops to cashiers.

It seems the reporter didn't do much fact checking, tho. It turns out that the game these kids were playing isn't from McDonald's, it's actually an anti-McDonald's, anti-fast food game.

The game acknowledges that running an enterprise such as McDonald's is a very complex thing, and encourages you to try it out for yourself. In order to be successful in the game you have to make decisions like when the best time is to introduce genetically modified crops, when to add industrial waste into the cattle feed (while keeping an eye on them to destroy any that become diseased), fire angry or bored staff, bride politicians and introduce "please the people" campaigns.

For the record, I'm not very good at this game, I haven't gotten past 2010.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Haircut in London

Everything is expensive in London including getting your haircut. I'm used to getting it done for NZ$10. Coming over here and having a cheap cut cost £10 (triple the price) seemed a bit rude to my frugal nature, and a non-cheap cut caused physical pain.

While working in Soho I was fortunate enough to be a few minutes walk from a Mr Topper's. With a slogan like "home of the original £6 haircut" and the 'barbers' consisting of mainly hot foreign women, it suited me well. After Soho my cheap haircuts situation has been very poor, so after several months of searching for a cheap and decent place I've given up and I did a weekend commute back to Mr. Topper's.

Now, Mr Topper's doesn't have a website, so finding out their opening hours or where their other locations are isn't the most pleasant of experiences. Searching Google will get you scattered and incomplete results. Even searching the yellow pages doesn't return all locations. (I guess to be cheap you have to pass on things like a website and the yellow pages.) So I think they should change the slogan to "Cheap if you can find us."

Well, my searching coincided with Google Maps releasing a new feature called "My maps" and I decided that I'd try and help out other Mr Topper's fans. So I took all the locations from the yellow pages, plus the location that I go to and set about creating a map. After a short while I had created a publically accessible 'My Map' of Mr Topper's locations.

As for searchability, you can now type in "Mr Topper's" (or "Mr Topper's near London" if your map isn't over the UK.) at the Google Maps site, scroll to the bottom of results and get a link for See user-created content. From there you'll see a bunch of locations for Mr Topper's with the green 'source' links all pointing to my map.

So that should be smiles all around, but I'm not completely happy. Stop now if you are not found of rants, because I'm going into a 'why does Google do so much wrong' rant. A previous rant about Google is available if you'd like to warm up first.

So I was using Google maps a couple days ago and thought I'd see if they'd indexed my map. I copied the name of my map ("Mr Topper's barbers locations") into the search box and hit go. My map showed up as described above, so I happily accepted that hordes of people would now be able to find Mr Topper's locations.

Come today and I try to duplicate my feat with negative results. Turns out I had typed "Mr Toppers" and Google was being picky. After changing the results to "Mr Topper's" I got the expected result. BAD GOOGLE! Searching for "Mr Toppers" in the web search returns results with "Topper's" so why are maps being treated differently? I now have to work some SEO magic using the wrong name to make the search engine function properly.

Also what's with the "See user-created content" link? THE WEB IS USER CREATED CONTENT! Why should it matter if I put that content on a web page on my server, or on a map on Google's? Google is hiding the most relevant content at the bottom of a page with a link title that doesn't invite investigation.


Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Credit where credit isn't due

On the Orange Netherlands website I've been given credit for the laser game that I mentioned 16 months ago.

Of course I had nothing to do with it's creation, but lets see if I can get credit for this next pearler of a time waster...

Desktop Tower Defense is quite a simple game; stop stuff from getting from left to right, and from top to bottom. It's basically like a defence only Command & Conquer. You're given several different tools to blow up the invaders, and don't forget to upgrade stuff you've already got!