iTunes Ping and Facebook: The Smoking Screenshot

September 2nd, 2010 by Nick Fitzsimons

Since Apple announced its new social networking service for iTunes, Ping, there has been speculation as to why it doesn’t integrate with Facebook.

Kara Swisher of All Things Digital asked Steve Jobs about this after the event:

…he said Apple had indeed held talks with Facebook about a variety of unspecified partnerships related to Ping, but the discussions went nowhere.

The reason, according to Jobs: Facebook wanted “onerous terms that we could not agree to.”

The plot thickened when Cult of Mac’s Giles Turnbull spotted a mention of “Connecting to your Facebook account” on the Ping page at apple.com (which is still there at the time of writing). Then Dan Frommer of Silicon Alley Insider pointed out that a mention of connecting through Facebook appeared in Steve Jobs’ demo of the Ping UI, although it doesn’t appear in the same place on the release version.

As I was having a play this evening after setting up a Ping account, I went to the “People” screen… and look what I found:


Oops! 'Connect with Facebook' message on iTunes Ping's 'People' screen
View on flickr

So it looks very much as if Apple planned Facebook integration right until the last minute, and when it was pulled they didn’t do a very good job of removing mentions of it from either the web site or the application itself.

I was astonished myself at the lack of Facebook integration: I assumed it would be a given for something like this. Presumably one of two things will happen. Either Apple and Facebook will come to a rapprochement, at which point Apple can flick a switch and enable integration of the two networks; or Steve Jobs will treat Facebook the way he’s treated Adobe over Flash. Given his track record of standing firm on such matters, those who want Ping and Facebook integration had better hope that Facebook cracks first.

Twitter 1 Daily Mail 0

August 22nd, 2010 by Nick Fitzsimons

Journalists copy stories from other sources all the time. In theory, they should provide attribution, but this doesn’t always happen. When they copy a story from elsewhere without checking the date of publication, this can end up making them look pretty dumb.

On BBC News’s “Most Popular” feature, it’s not uncommon for older stories to pop up from time to time. This evening, the number two spot is occupied by the “Pornographic videos flood YouTube” story from May 2009. It seems that somebody in the Daily Mail newsroom, being unable to go out and dig up some news for themselves, decided that a quick harvesting of BBC News would help while away the afternoon, for at around 16:00 BST the same story, rewritten to fit in with the Mail’s house style, appeared on their web site.

BBC web developer Jake Archibald, aka @jaffathecake, noticed this and tweeted about it. Co-incidentally, I had just seen the BBC story linked to by a user on a forum I frequent who had also failed to notice the dateline, so I immediately realised what had happened.

Being a helpful sort of chap, I went to the trouble of registering with the Daily Mail’s site and posted the comment “You do realise that the BBC News story you copied comes from May 2009?” My comment was held in a moderation queue, so I left the story open in a tab while I wasted time elsewhere.

Returning about fifteen minutes later I reloaded the tab to see if my comment had made it through moderation, only to be greeted by the message: “Sorry… The page you have requested does not exist or is no longer available.:-)

It’s nice to see that the Mail’s newsroom staff are sufficiently on the ball to remove the story so rapidly late on a Sunday evening. Without wishing to nitpick in the face of such efficiency, wouldn’t it be even better if they learned to check the dates on other people’s stories before re-writing them and publishing them under the byline “Daily Mail Reporter.” They could save themselves a lot of wasted effort.

UPDATE: After posting this, I had a conversation with a journalist friend who pointed out that, on a Sunday afternoon, the newsroom of a national paper is probably staffed by young people seeking a break into journalism and working for a trivial wage, as newsrooms were some years ago, when he himself was such a person. (I strongly suspect that nowadays the newsroom is staffed on a weekend by young people working as unpaid interns in the hope of getting such a break, though I may be wrong.) If such a person was responsible for this #mailfail then I hope that they will not be punished but rather be given guidance on how to avoid such errors in future; for the person truly responsible was not them, but the editor who approved its online publication without further checks.

Further update: via Martin Robbins, here’s a mirror of the Daily Mail article.

P.S. Mail developers: you should really be returning 301 Moved Permanently rather than 302 Found to redirect to your 404 error page. Even better, don’t use a client-side redirect for 404 Not Found at all.

More Antisocial Networking

July 24th, 2010 by Nick Fitzsimons

Following on from the recent brouhaha surrounding Gillian McKeith and Twitter, this weekend brings another example of how not to respond to Twitter comments in the shape of a threat of legal action against blogger Luke Bozier.

Luke tweeted his unflattering opinion of ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s new web site, and also posted more detailed criticism of Tangent One, who are apparently responsible for the site, on his blog.

Shortly afterwards, he received the following message from somebody describing themselves as executive director of Tangent Communications plc, parent company of Tangent One:

I respectfully suggest you delete that tweet, issue no more similar ones and generally try to sell your products in a more professional way. I really don’t like the prospect of either a public slanting match or legal action, but if I need to protect my company’s business and reputation, I will.

This has resulted in Jack of Kent (aka legal eagle David Allen Green) repeatedly re-tweeting the original tweet and promoting the hashtag #OffTangent, which is now trending nicely in the UK.

Assuming the threat received by Luke Bozier is real, one has to wonder at a digital agency whose response to online criticism is to immediately reach for the threat of legal action.

If they had chosen to ignore Luke’s tweet, it would have been seen by those of his 1,000-plus followers who regularly check Twitter, and perhaps passed along by some of them. The overall effect would almost certainly have been negligible.

Instead they came out blustering and, just as happened with the @gillianmckeith account the other week, have whipped up a storm of virtual criticism.

I’m not sure these people really get how this “social web” thing works ;-)

Antisocial Networking

July 14th, 2010 by Nick Fitzsimons

For some background to the Twitter-related brouhaha that led to this post, read Jack of Kent’s The Integrity and Honesty of @gillianmckeith.

So, @gillianmckeith tweets that @bengoldacre‘s Bad Science contains lies, and Mr Goldacre promptly calls her (if it was her…) on it. @gillianmckeith then appears to remove the offending tweets and tries to suggest that that account isn’t necessarily the Gillian McKeith’s account; but unfortunately it’s linked to from her own site (to which I am not granting any google linkjuice, by the way).

When this is pointed out, the link is removed from her site by somebody. Unfortunately, it’s only removed in the sense of being commented out, and is still clearly visible in the source. Also, as David Naylor points out, it’s still present on places like her YouTube channel, which is linked to from the same “social networking” section of her site.

Time to bring out the big guns: now, the entire “social networking” section is removed.

You guessed it:


<!--
<div id="gillianssocialnetwork">
 <a href="http://twitter.com/gillianmckeith" target="_blank" title="Follow Gillian on Twitter">
  <img src="i/twitter.jpg" alt="Twitter" width="39" height="44" border="0" class="networkicon" />
 </a>
 <a href="http://www.facebook.com/GillianMcKeithOFFICIAL" target="_blank" title="Gillian's facebook Page">
  <img src="i/facebook.jpg" alt="Facebook" width="39" height="44" border="0" class="networkicon" />
 </a>
 <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/gillianmckeithTV" target="_blank" title="Gillian's YouTube Channel">
  <img src="i/youtube.jpg" alt="Gillian's YouTube Channel" width="39" height="44" border="0" class="networkicon" />
 </a>
 <a href="http://uk.linkedin.com/in/gillianmckeith" target="_blank" title="Gillian on LinkdIn">
  <img src="i/linkdin.jpg" alt="Gillian on LinkdIn" width="39" height="44" border="0" class="networkicon" />
 </a>
</div>
<div class="rightcolitems">
 Do you social network? So does Gillian! Follow her on the links above
</div><br />
-->

All I can really say is: #viewsourceftw.

UPDATE, 2010-07-15T01:00: Actually, that isn’t the only Twitter-related content that has been commented out on that page. It also has the following:

<!--    <div id="twitterboxheader"><a href="http://twitter.com/gillianmckeith" target="_blank"><img src="i/gillianmckeith_on_twitter.jpg" alt="Follow Gillian on Twitter" border="0" title="Follow Gillian on Twitter"/></a>
    </div>
<div id="twitterboxmain">
<div id="twitter_div">
<ul id="twitter_update_list"></ul>
<br /><br />

</div>
<a href="http://twitter.com/gillianmckeith" id="twitter-link" style="display:block;text-align:right; font-size:1.2em;" target="_blank">follow me on Twitter*lt;/a>
</div>
<div id="twitterboxend"><img src="i/twitterboxbase.jpg" /></div><br /><br />-->

which is code to display the latest tweet from @gillianmckeith, and towards the end of the source code is some HTML loading some JavaScript:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://twitter.com/javascripts/blogger.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/gillianmckeith.json?callback=twitterCallback2&count=1"></script>

which actually updates that box with the most recent tweet.

You will notice that the JavaScript section hasn't been commented out. This would suggest that the data is still being loaded from that Twitter account by that page, whenever it is viewed. And indeed, a check with the wonderful Charles HTTP debugging proxy, a tool which allows one to examine the low-level nuts and bolts of one's computer's communications with the web, shows that this is the case. When I load the page at gillianmckeith.info into my browser, the second script shown above sends the following additional HTTP request to Twitter from my browser:

GET /statuses/user_timeline/gillianmckeith.json?callback=twitterCallback2&count=1 HTTP/1.1
Host: twitter.com
Pragma: no-cache
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10_6_2; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.16 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0 Safari/533.16
Accept: */*
Referer: http://www.gillianmckeith.info/
Cache-Control: no-cache
Accept-Language: en-us
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
Cookie: <removed for security reasons>
Connection: keep-alive

which sends the response (formatted for clarity):

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2010 23:38:55 GMT
Server: hi
Status: 200 OK
X-Transaction: 1279150735-24110-17319
X-RateLimit-Limit: 150
ETag: "fcf22c639f08a8ca540302c7c569266e"-gzip
Last-Modified: Wed, 14 Jul 2010 23:38:55 GMT
X-RateLimit-Remaining: 143
X-Runtime: 0.00977
Content-Type: application/json; charset=utf-8
Pragma: no-cache
X-RateLimit-Class: api
X-Revision: DEV
Expires: Tue, 31 Mar 1981 05:00:00 GMT
Cache-Control: no-cache, no-store, must-revalidate, pre-check=0, post-check=0
X-RateLimit-Reset: 1279153007
Set-Cookie: lang=en; path=/
Set-Cookie: <removed for security reasons>
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Content-Encoding: gzip
Content-Length: 630
Connection: close

twitterCallback2(
[
    {
        "contributors":null,
        "source":"web",
        "created_at":"Wed Jul 14 13:06:40 +0000 2010",
        "coordinates":null,
        "truncated":false,
        "in_reply_to_status_id":null,
        "user": {
            "profile_link_color":"ff0073",
            "description":".",
            "location":"Earth",
            "profile_background_image_url":
            "http://a3.twimg.com/profile_background_images/111501429/Picture_145.png",
            "profile_image_url":
            "http://a0.twimg.com/profile_images/813972928/gillian1_normal.jpg",
            "profile_sidebar_fill_color":"e07ecc",
            "profile_background_tile":false,
            "screen_name":"gillianmckeith",
            "lang":"en",
            "statuses_count":1344,
            "created_at":"Tue Jul 08 15:26:42 +0000 2008",
            "profile_sidebar_border_color":"000000",
            "profile_use_background_image":true,
            "followers_count":2570,
            "contributors_enabled":false,
            "friends_count":16,
            "following":false,
            "geo_enabled":false,
            "profile_background_color":"ffffff",
            "protected":false,
            "favourites_count":1,
            "name":"Gillian McKeith",
            "verified":false,
            "profile_text_color":"000000",
            "url":"http://www.gillianmckeith.com",
            "id":15354299,
            "follow_request_sent":false,
            "notifications":false,
            "time_zone":"London",
            "utc_offset":0
        },
        "place":null,
        "geo":null,
        "in_reply_to_screen_name":null,
        "favorited":false,
        "id":18517738649,
        "in_reply_to_user_id":null,
        "text":"The moral of the story:  Love your neighbour and your enemies too."
    }
]);

That is data from the Twitter API, containing the public information about the @gillianmckeith account together with the most recent tweet from that account, in a standard data format called JSON. You can get the same info from this link, just to show that there's nothing special going on here. In fact, here's the same info but for my Twitter account.

So, whatever the reason might be that some person has removed the visible evidence of that Twitter account being related to Ms McKeith, the fact is that, at the time of writing, her web site is causing data from that Twitter account to be loaded into every JavaScript-enabled web browser that visits her home page; it just doesn't cause them to display the information once they've received it.

BBC News Redesign: Sneak Preview

June 19th, 2010 by Nick Fitzsimons

Earlier on I received an email inviting me to take part in a survey on the forthcoming redesign of the BBC News web site. This allowed me to see a number of pages from the live site presented in the new layout, so naturally I made some screenshots – links on the thumbnails:

  • BBC News: redesigned front page

    Front Page

  • BBC News: redesigned story page

    Story Page

The primary change is obviously the shift from sidebar navigation to a horizontal list at the head of the page. This allows better use of the horizontal space, with much more prominent elements such as “Features & Analysis” to the side of the page.

The typography has also been improved, with larger headlines: these work well now we are no longer on 800 by 600 displays, but also work well on handheld devices like the iPhone, making it much easier to see the main headlines at a glance.

I think the font used in the navigation could be a bit larger, and an extra pixel or two wouldn’t come amiss on the secondary links (for example, “End-of-life dilemmas GPs face” on the lead story) but overall it promises to be a welcome change.

There will be other changes before the site goes live, and I haven’t any idea when that will be. Included in the survey was a mock-up of the intended complete home page design, but the differences were minimal.

I seem to have ended up with a cookie which causes me to still see many pages in the new layout, but I don’t know how long that will last. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished version of the entire site (the new video page looks good in the mock-up), but hopefully my cookie will stick around until then so I can continue to get the benefit of this nice redesign on the home and story pages.

(Hopefully the BBC won’t be too cross with me for leaking this.)

XHTML 2 Canned…

July 7th, 2009 by Nick Fitzsimons

not many dead.

In other news:

Next, the Shipping Forecast.

Fix After Security Update 2009-001 Bricked My MacBook

March 1st, 2009 by Nick Fitzsimons

This afternoon I finally got around to letting Software Update install the OS X Security Update 2009-001 for Tiger on my MacBook.

Being an idiot, I didn’t do a backup first. When the system restarted, it got to the grey screen with the Apple logo and the spinning gear, where it remained… for over half an hour.

At this point I gave up and switched over to my PowerMac, where an intensive Google session commenced. There appear to be a number of people encountering this or similar problems, but various suggested solutions didn’t work.

I was able to mount the MacBook on the PowerMac in target disk mode (which somebody on this Apple Support Discussions thread wrongly claims is impossible) and followed some of the steps listed at MacFixIt’s “Startup fails (particularly after a system or security update); solving” tutorial, specifically, deleting assorted cached OS files.

However, the MacBook still wouldn’t start, not even in Safe Mode.

So I then downloaded the standalone installer for the update from Apple. Despite being an Intel update, this ran on the PowerMac, and detected that the FireWire drive was a bootable Intel OS X installation. It installed successfully, and having ejected the MacBook drive, I restarted, holding down the Shift key to reboot in Safe Mode.

Bingo! The MacBook booted up. I restarted again, and it booted normally.

Panic over, and time to do a backup.

Hopefully this solution will prove helpful to anybody in the same situation.

New Theme: GiltEdge 0.1 alpha

January 27th, 2009 by Nick Fitzsimons

At long last, I’ve got around to developing a new theme for the site. Given the gold-and-lead colour scheme, and the dire financial straits the World currently finds itself in, the name GiltEdge seemed fitting :-)
Read the rest of this article »

Urgent Update of Internet Explorer – Install It Now

December 18th, 2008 by Nick Fitzsimons

Given that I’m so prone to criticising Microsoft, I have to give them credit for moving so rapidly to provide a patch for the recently discovered vulnerability in Internet Explorer.
Read the rest of this article »

More On ASP.NET’s Broken Error Handling

December 10th, 2008 by Nick Fitzsimons

I’ve looked a bit more into the way ASP.NET handles HTTP errors, and frankly it now seems not just irritating, but downright bizarre.
Read the rest of this article »