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This Blogging Month: July

Once again, this month I’ve had more hits than ever before – more than 500 extra hits per day, taking me to just under 130,000 hits this month, from a total of sixteen different countries (one fewer than last month). Almost 10% of you are now using Firefox – up from 8% last month – and the proportion of IE users has fallen slightly. Just of 97% of you are running Windows.

Enough about you, now let’s talk about me! This month has seen quite a number of aesthetic changes to the site. These have been introduced to make the site easier to understand as well as easier on the eye, as shown particularly by the retirement of the little icons that used to symbolise ‘permalink’, ‘trackback’, and so on, and introduction of a more straightforward approach to printing content. You may also notice that the advertising on the site has moved about a bit, instead of being stuck in one big column in the sidebar. I’ve tried to make them look as unobtrusive as possible, whilst also trying not to hide them away where no-one clicks them, and many pages now have fewer adverts than before. Let me know whether or not you think I’ve got it right… I certainly think I’ve got it right, since the revenue from advertising is over twenty times greater than last month, which is astounding considering all that’s changed is the position of the ads, and reduced their number.

In order to reduce loading time, each archive page on the site now displays seven days’ worth of posts. Therefore, if you go into a monthly archive page, you will only see the posts for the most recent seven days on which posts were made – you can then take yourself to earlier posts using the appropriately titled ‘earlier posts’ link at the bottom of the page. Once there, you’ll be able to come back again using the ‘later posts’ link. Note, however, that these links will only navigate you through the subset of posts you’ve chosen – so if you’ve chosen April 2005, you’ll only be able to navigate through April 2005 posts – you can’t get to March 2005 posts by repeatedly clicking ‘earlier posts’. It’s really not as confusing as it sounds. Just give it a try, and appreciate the better loading times.

Also new this month is the ‘Possibly related posts’ feature on all posts’ individual permalink pages. This section highlights other posts which the computer thinks are about similar topics, and so may also be of interest if you liked the particular post you were reading. It’s not always perfect, but it’s often pretty good, so take a look.

In another major new feature, you can now access this site on the move via your WAP enabled mobile phone. Simply point your phone’s browser to sjhoward.co.uk/mobile, or text ‘sjh’ to 60300 and the link will be sent to you. Texts cost 25p.

Yet another new feature for this month is audio posts – you can now access all posts filed after 12th July 2005 in mp3 format, simply by clicking the ‘audio’ link above them (or, on individual post pages, below them). A podcast of the most recent fifteen posts is available, so you can now take sjhoward.co.uk wherever you go, both on your mobile, with the new service described above, and on your mp3 player. Why not give it a try now, and listen to this post?

Except, clearly, you already have, you clever person you. Welcome to the audio feed, and I hope you’ll stick with us and use this feature in future. I’m supposed to be reading you this post, though, so I’d better get back to it…

For more information on any of the changes and new features, you can look at the regularly updated site guide.

Looking forward to August… I’m going to be parted from the internet several times during August (the first of which begins tomorrow), so posts will be a little more sporadic than is usual. Normal service will be resumed at some point in September, though when in September will depend on how quickly internet access arrives in my student house. The next ‘This Blogging Month’ update is likely to come at the end of September, rather than August, because I’ll be away at the end of August. I’ll make September’s a double-edition extra special version for you. I can tell you’re looking forward to it already. Anyway, in the meantime, why not browse some old posts? Do check back for new posts, or subscribe to the RSS feed, and enjoy your summer.

This 699th post was filed under: Site Updates.

Abortion rates hit all-time high

It seems natural to return to a subject I’ve often posted about for my 700th post, and this article allows me to do just that:

The number of legal abortions carried out on women living in England and Wales last year was the highest ever, up more than 3,800 on 2003.

I think I’ve made my abortion views fairly clear over past posts – abortion isn’t something I particularly like, but nor is it something I feel should be criminalised, as this penalises only the most desperate.

What’s shocked me in this case, though, is not the figures themselves, but the Department of Health’s response:

The DoH said: “It is disappointing that the overall level of abortions has increased this year.”

What possible authority does the DoH think it has to pontificate about the decisions desperate people take, and to call them ‘disappointing’? The health service should be about providing unconditional help to the needy, not judging them. Their comments naturally imply that abortions are a ‘bad thing’, without recognising that they are often medically necessary, and that it is really the parents’ decision as to what is a ‘bad thing’ for them.

The DoH would never dream of saying that it’s ‘disappointing’ that suicide levels have increased, or that it’s ‘disappointing’ that poor diets mean diabetes is on the increase. Why is it any different for a parent who feels so desperate that they have to go through the appalling procedure of abortion, often meaning (in the case of later abortions within the legal period) that they have to go through a full birthing process, producing a stillborn foetus. Until the righteous right realise that getting an abortion is rarely as easy as having a tooth removed, then they can’t even begin to understand the mental anguish it confers upon the parent.

Could their be any greater example of the ‘nanny state’ than saying that the result of one of the hardest decisions a person has had to take in their whole life is ‘disappointing’? I think not: It is truly abhorrent that figures relating to the most vulnerable are being given a populist spin to appease Mail readers and secure political gains.

This 698th post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

More on the Guardian’s redesign

Ian Mayes has given more tantilising details of the new format, revealing that it is once again ahead of schedule, and now likely to launch in ‘the autumn’ – which, by my reckoning, is about a year ahead of schedule.

I like the Guardian’s policy of being very up-front with its readers about the difficulties it’s been facing of late:

The decision not to change to a conventional tabloid shape meant a delay that gave the paper’s rivals an advantage and that has been reflected in the circulation figures.

It takes a big paper (no pun intended) to stand up and say that yes, their circulation is falling rapidly, and yes, changes need to be made to stop this. Reading the other broadsheets, you’d think that circulation was going down quickly in every paper but the one that happens to be reporting the news.

The paper is being totally redesigned for its new format, marking a complete departure from the successful and influential David Hillman design of 1988 that was refreshed by Simon Esterson a decade later

That’s a big decision, and will probably be at first greeted (possibly even by me) exactly as the David Hillman design was – as a huge mistake. But it’s worth noticing that the Hillman design is still the most modern, fresh-looking of all the newspaper designs, and if the new Guardian can pull this off, then I will be most impressed.

It will feature throughout, in headlines and text, an entirely new typeface, unique to the Guardian.

That’s a much bigger decision that many people will realise – the backlash against The Times when it introduced the Times Millennium font as opposed to Times New Roman was such that they ended up dedicating two whole pages to explaining the differences and advantages of the new font. But I guess it fits in with the redesign of the paper as a whole – and maybe even signals a completely new masthead.
One noteable change:

They are technically more advanced (for the time being at least) than any newspaper presses operating in Britain. They will, for instance, be the first to give a daily national newspaper in the UK the option to run full colour on every page.

Previously, Carolyn McCall had said that the paper was going full colour. Now Ian Mayes is saying they have the option of priting full colour, when they want to. Perhaps this is just a semantic slip, but it does seem to signal a fairly major change of policy.

There is at least one good sign though, courtesy of Amanda Platell:

Impartial observers may have been confused when they saw Andrew Pierce’s normally scintillating People column replaced in the Times of 26 July with something that looked about as interesting as the instructions on my home waxing kit.

The clue was in the copy, which contained the word “guardian” in most items. I am reliably informed that the Times had seen a dummy for the much-heralded Berliner-style redesigned Guardian, to be launched some time this year. If this sleep-inducing display of journalism is anything to go by I hope, for the Guardian’s sake, that it was a one-off spoof based on a very old dummy.

If Amanda ‘Daily Mail’ Platell finds it ‘sleep-inducing’, and Andrew Pierce of the increasingly Daily-Mailesque Times wants to mock it, then we can happily say that it’s acheived its editor’s goal:

The editor wants the new paper, in tone and presentation, to separate itself clearly from the middle market in which he sees its closest rivals converging. He believes its new format and appearance will signal that intention.

It’s certainly a big decision to take, so let’s just hope that this radical change is as good as I’ve come to expect from the Guardian – and doesn’t signal the beginning of the end for an excellent paper. But they needn’t worry – so long as The Guardian’s journalism continues in its presently excellent form, I’ll be sticking with it, and I’m sure many others feel the same way.

This 697th post was filed under: Media.

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