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Blog, What Happened to You? [en]

Blog, What Happened to You? [en]

When I’m asked what the difference between a blog and a website is, I usually make this drawing to explain it.

Difference between a blog and a non-blog website

It’s not perfect, but it helps. With a “traditional” topic-based website, you have a site structure which looks like a tree, with different pages on different topics. With a blog, you have a succession of posts organized chronologically (inverse chronologically, actually) on one page. Then each post has its page, and it’s archived forever in the back-office.

The two models tend to blend — more and more sites have characteristics of both.

There are two trends, however, which irritate the hell out of me. (If I know you and you’re doing this, please don’t take it personally — I don’t hate you for it. Really. But it annoys me.) They are:

  • the blogazine
  • systematic teasers or partial posts on the main blog page.

Prepare for the rant. I’m putting on my flame-proof underwear.


First of all, let me say that there is nothing wrong with making a magazine with a blog CMS. But Lord, why do blogs have to try to pretend they’re all magazines? It feels like bloggers are trying to make themselves look “high-profile”, because top “blogs” like TC, RWW, etc. are actually magazines. They might have started out as humble blogs, but they are not anymore.

“Media-blogs” are a special breed of blogs. Their content is there to generate revenue directly, through advertising and sponsorships. That has an impact on their content, and on the place they try to occupy, alongside old media. Why would everybody want to look like one? Dressing like a movie-star does not make you be one — and why would everybody want to be mistaken for one? If you’re a geek or a businessman or an entrepreneur, why don’t you just be that? There’s nothing wrong with being yourself and making you approachable.

There’s nothing wrong with having a blog that looks like a blog.

Coming to practicalities, there is a real concrete reason for me, as a user, to not like it when one of the blogs I read turns into a blogazine: very often, this transformation goes with the disappearance of the “main blog page”, the page which gave blogs the place they have in the publishing world of today, the unique stable page which you could go to at any time, confident that you would find the last 10 or so things the blogger you were reading had written.

The blogazine goes with excessive categorization and silofication of blog content. And I think that’s a real shame for most bloggers who take that route. Hey, even if all your last posts are on a big mixed-up main blog page, you can still point people to individual categories if you like. That’s what category pages are for, right?

Partial posts

People put forward all sorts of good reasons to display only partial posts on their main blog page (or archive pages) — roughly the following:

  • improved SEO
  • more page views
  • increased scannability

Until somebody shows me convincing data for either of these three claims, I am going to simply say “bullshit!” (and I’m remaining polite). I’m going to put the culprits on the stage one by one and tell you why I think my reaction is justified. I don’t have any research to back me up (am planning to do some though, so if you want to lend a hand, get in touch) but I do have some reasoning which I believe holds together.

Improved SEO

I have to admit I’m biased against SEO. For me, most SEO aside from “markup your stuff properly (be search-engine friendly) and have great content” is a pile of rubbish. I mean, there are some very obvious things one needs to do for SEO, but they are “common sense” more than “secret tricks”.

If a search engine is doing its job correctly, it will pull out the page that is most relevant for the human being who typed the keywords it based the search on. Make it good for humans, roughly, and it’ll be good for search engines.

When SEO gets in the way of the human experience, I have a big problem with it. And partial posts on the blog page does get in the way of a good reader experience. Why do I know that? Because of what I call the “closed door” phenomenon. A link to click, like a folder to open, is a closed door. You don’t know what’s behind it. You don’t know if it’s worth your while. Chances are you won’t click. Chances are you won’t read the rest of the post.

Even if you know the post is going to be worth it, to read the ten posts on the home page of such a blog, you’re going to have to click on each title (all ten of them), and open them in different tabs, or go back and forth, and maybe get lost in the process.

The original blog format puts all the articles neatly one beneath the other. You start reading at the top, scroll down as needed, and before you know it you’ve read the ten articles.

So, if it really does improve SEO to display only partial articles, I would say that the problem is with the way the search engines work. We should never be creating bad user experiences for the sake of SEO.

(I’m aware that what I claim about the “bad user experience” of partial articles on the main blog page needs to be demonstrated. Working on it. Get in touch if you want to help — or if you can save us the work by showing somebody has already done it.)

How exactly are the partial articles supposed to improve SEO? Well, as you can tell, I’m no expert, but based on what I’ve heard it has to do with duplicate content. Yeah, Google is supposed to penalize duplicate content. And of course, if you publish whole posts on your main blog page, and in your archives, then you’re duplicating the content from the post page — the one you want people to land on directly when they put the magic words into the search engine.

Only… I remember very clearly, in 2007, when Matt Cutts was asked about duplicate content on blogs. (And Matt, if I’m misremembering because it feeds my theory, please set me straight.) He didn’t seem to be saying that it was really a problem. And for what it’s worth, make a note that he’s providing complete posts on his main blog page — not excerpts.

The way I understand it, the duplicate content penalty is a weapon in the war against spammers and link-farms and splogs etc. Having 2-3 copies of the same post lying around do not make your blog sploggy.

Enough for the SEO.

More page views

What can I say about this? First, the reason people obsess about page views is because of advertising. If you’re rewarded for each ad impression, the more pages are viewed, the more money you get.


But this begs the question: how much are you willing to sacrifice of the user experience (see above) for a few dollars? Most advertising revenue on blogs is miniscule.

People imagine that “more page views = more articles read”. Nope. I can read ten articles on your home page for only one page view if you publish whole articles. So of course, if you switch to excerpts only, you’ll see an increase in page views. But it doesn’t mean you’re being read more. Don’t be fooled. (This would need to be proved, of course — but the so-called proof that the excerpt method increases page views is worthless in my book, because it’s measuring something that isn’t really meaningful, unless your purpose in life is to sell ads on your blog rather than be read, which is your right, but in which case maybe I’m not going to be that interested in reading you anymore.)

I don’t care about my page views. I just want people to read my articles.

Increased scannability

This one is easy to deal with. Of course, it makes it easier to scan the articles on the first page, if it’s kept short by trimming the articles. Personally, I’m all for a display option that will allow you to see just a list of post names, or a list of post names plus excerpts. Feedly allows this kind of thing.

But do you want to be read, or scanned? Do you want people to read the first two paragraphs of your articles, or the whole articles? Do you prefer to have them scan more headlines, but click less to access the whole articles?

Again, the choice is a non-choice as far as I’m concerned.

The blog is not dead

For the last years, we’ve seen the “blog is dead” meme pop up regularly. I was recently interviewed on this topic by the Swiss National TV — just to show you it’s still around. Aside from the rise of Twitter and Facebook, the rise of the blogzine is often cited as proof of the death of blogs.

Bullshit. The bloggers are still there. We’re still there. We’re not going anywhere. (I need to write more about the so-called death of blogs.)

Now, please go and get rid of those partial articles on your blog pages.

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Stuck Reorganizing my Professional Web Presence [en]

Stuck Reorganizing my Professional Web Presence [en]

[fr] Où Stephanie se prend la tête avec le contenu de son site professionnel et se demande comment elle va bien pouvoir faire.

I’m itching to try WPML and clean up, my professional site. It’s a mess. Worse than that, it’s an out-of-date mess.

Each time I start thinking about how to reorganize it, my head starts hurting. What belongs here on CTTS, and what belongs there? How do I present what I do to potential clients, when I’m not even sure what to call myself? I do I deal with the fact that I’m talking to very different clients (schools, individuals, freelancers, small and bigger businesses, conference organizers…)?

How do I keep it simple when I do so many things?

Should I change radically and do blog-like? In that case, does it make sense to keep it separate from CTTS?

Here is a feeble attempt to try and think this headache out loud. Help is very very welcome, as long as it’s not along the lines of “stop doing so many things and pick one”.

So, first there is the “about me” stuff. Bios, CVs, about stuff. Here’s what I have:

A contact page (this is not too much of a headache):

Stuff I’ve done:

Stuff I do: the big headache. Maybe I should use three entry points:

  • delivery mode (training, speaking, consulting, doing)
  • theme (teenagers and social media, social media as communication and marketing, improving one’s online presence, blogging, events, freelancing, coworking)
  • audience (individuals, businesses, schools, non-profits, freelancers, events)

I’m not sure how useful this is… Also, my francophone audience and my anglophone audience have different interests, so my content does not overlap perfectly in both languages (not a problem, but it probably means I have to think the FR and EN sites separately).

There is also content on which I think does not belong there. It’s more CTTS-like, and might have been good at the time, but it’s a bit dated. I might retro-publish it in the blog so it doesn’t just disappear. And there is content on CTTS which is a little “business-oriented”

Right, so, how can I make sense of all this? Although with most of my clients I feel like a site architecture and content wizard, I’m aware that I’m really not that good at it (particularly with my own content, unsurprisingly).

So, help welcome. Thanks in advance.

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Today is Backup Awareness Day! [en]

Today is Backup Awareness Day! [en]

Two months ago, on February 24th, I hit the wrong “Drop” button in PhpMyAdmin, resulting in the immediate deletion of the blog you’re reading. I didn’t know when I had last backed it up.

The story ends well, though it cost me (and others) many hours (days, actually) of work to get the whole of Climb to the Stars back online again.

I’ve always been careless about backups. Like many of you, probably. We can afford to be careless because accidents don’t happen very often, and as with Black Swans, we are under the mistaken belief that having been safe in the past will keep us safe in the future. Not so. As I like to repeat, the first time a disaster happens, well, it had never happened till then.

So, I’ve decided to declare the 24th of each month “Backup Awareness Day”. Here’s what it’s about:

  • Back up your files.
  • Back up your website.
  • Blog about the importance of backing up (sharing tips, stories, advice).
  • Tell your friends to back up.
  • Help your friends back up.
  • Put in place automatic backup systems.

Bottom-line: decrease the number of people who never back up, or back up so infrequently they’ll be in a real mess if things go wrong.

Now, perfectionism is the biggest enemy to getting things done. Backup Awareness Day does not mean that you have to do all this. Here are a few ideas to get your started (better a bad backup than no backup at all):

  • If Time Machine (or any other regular backup system you use for your computer) has been telling you it hasn’t done a backup in ages, stop what you’re doing right now and plug it in.
  • If you use WordPress, when was the last time you went to Tools > Export to make a quick backup? It’s not the best way to do it, but in my case, it saved CTTS.
  • Do you use something like Mozy to have a remote backup of your most important files? Time to sign up, maybe.
  • Are you working on important documents that exist only on your computer, which is never backed up? At the minimum, pick up a thumb drive and copy them onto it — or send yourself an e-mail with the files as attachment, if your e-mail is stored outside your computer (Gmail, for example).
  • Do you have an automatic backup set up for your database or website? Set some time aside on Backup Awareness Day to figure out cron.
  • When did you make the last dump of your MySQL database? Head over to PhpMyAdmin, or the command line (it’s mysqldump --opt -u user -p databasename > my-dirty-backup.sql)
  • Do you have the backup thing all figured out? Write a post for your readers with a few tips or tutorials to help them along. (Tag your posts “backupawarenessday” — I thought about “BAD” but that wasn’t really optimal ;-))

I’m hoping to develop the concept more over the coming months. If you have ideas, get in touch, and take note of Backup Awareness Day for the month of May: Sunday 24th!

(Now stop reading and go do a few backups.)

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Websites and Blogs, Where Does One Start? [en]

Websites and Blogs, Where Does One Start? [en]

[fr] Petite prise de tête (j'aime bien ça!) au sujet du site pour Going Solo et l'entreprise (pas encore existante légalement) qui est derrière. Quel nom de domaine utiliser? (J'en ai enregistré toute une série autour de cette idée de conférences, ça m'a d'ailleurs coûté un saladier.) Il va me falloir une identité visuelle. Que bloguer où? Créer déjà un site pour l'entreprise? Bienvenue dans les méandres de mes questionnements.

Along the lines of [rediscovering some aspects of blogging](, I’m rediscovering some tricky online presence questions which I’m more used to hearing in the mouths of my clients than in my head.

Questions like: do I create a separate blog for my company? for my event? how? when? who will blog on them? what will we blog on them?

To be honest, those questions aren’t actually all that tricky. For example, of course I’m going to create a site-blog (website with a blog) for [Going Solo]( Is it too early to create a site for the company, though? I’ve got a good mind for the moment to [hold off incorporating]( it until the first event is done. I mean, not to be pessimistic, but if Going Solo doesn’t work out as well as I hope, and I decide to leave the event business at that, it will have saved me the trouble and grief of setting up the company “for nothing”, right? Other opinions on the topic?

A few weeks ago, I booked a pile of domain names (my poor credit card can testify). For the company, for Going Solo, for other events I already have in mind. I got .nets, .coms, .orgs, and even .co.uks. You don’t want a porn site as a neighbour, right? And if you’re going to build a name or a brand, who knows what you might want to do with the other TLDs 3 years from now? Better have them handy. Well, this isn’t really the topic of this post, but gosh, does it add up to a pile of money.

Of course, to make things easy, one of the .coms I didn’t manage to get is (it’s an insulin pump, so not much to do with what I’m plotting). Which leaves me with a choice of, .ch, .net, .org. I’d say .org is out, as this is a commercial venture. As the event is going to [take place in Switzerland](, .ch would make sense, but then what happens when we reproduce the event in other countries? (I’ve actually already been talking about that with a few people — and can you imagine: the first event hasn’t even happened yet that they are already showing interest…)

Leaves us with .net and, the latter making sense if the mother company is indeed incorporated in the UK as I plan, but as it hasn’t actually happened yet, it could change. So, I guess for the moment I’d go with and set up a blog there, to start with.

I don’t have any visual identity yet so that means it would be pretty bland at first. (This is where I really regret not being a bit of a designer myself.) I’m half-tempted to try and recruit [Bread and Butter]( (look at the [beautiful art they did for Adsclick](, but they’re already doing LIFT (maybe a bit of a conflict) and as they’re already nicely established, I’m a bit afraid about the price tag. My more realistic idea is to try to find a small design shop in Lausanne which could use the visibility (local and international) Going Solo will bring them, or see if anything could be set up involving [students from the ECAL](

As for the company, should I set up a website already, even if it doesn’t “legally” exist? (God, I wish I were a lawyer and understood all this stuff.) I’ll need a visual identity (at least a logo) and some content. I guess there will be a lot of cross-posting between the Going Solo blog and this one, at least at the start.

Also, languages! Oh my! Actually, no. Going Solo will be held in English, therefore the site will be in English. I’ll provide some French content for local sponsors to dig through, but I’m not going to do the whole [multilingual space]( thing yet for it. Could be an idea in the long run, though… hmm.

Well, thanks for following my thought process. I’ll be setting up soon and cross-posting relevant content there so that we can all start linking to it! 🙂

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"Pouvez-vous nous faire un site?" — rôle du consultant [fr]

"Pouvez-vous nous faire un site?" — rôle du consultant [fr]

[en] I'm regularly asked by potential clients to "make a website for them". This is not something I do -- if it is the only thing expected from me -- because I think that it is often a recipe for unsatisfaction. I see myself as somebody who is mainly going to educate my clients about "the internet", and accompany them in setting up a solution for their web presence which keeps them as autonomous as possible.

This post is mainly a reproduction of a document I made for a client, explaining the difference between a "service provider" and a "consultant", and the advantages of hiring the services of a consultant, even if what you want is "a web site".

Il y a quelque temps, j’ai été contactée dans le cadre d’une appel d’offres pour un site internet. Cela m’arrive relativement régulièrement: “Nous n’avons pas de site, pouvez-vous nous en faire un?” L’attente du client, dans ce cas, est généralement la livraison d’un site clé en mains pour lequel il aura fourni un certain nombre d’informations au prestataire de services (exigeances ou souhaits concernant le graphisme, la structure du site, le contenu), avec un minimum de formation pour pouvoir s’occuper du site par la suite, ou un contrat de maintenance.

Personnellement, je n’aime pas du tout travailler comme ça. Je préfère apprendre à mes clients comment pêcher (ici: mettre en place une présence internet) que de leur donner une caisse de filets de carrelet (ici: un site internet bien emballé avec manuel d’utilisation). Même si on peut argumenter que je ne suis pas une [pure consultante](, c’est quand même le conseil et l’accompagnement qui sont au centre de ma démarche, dans une optique “comprendre et apprendre internet”. Ça convient, ou ça ne convient pas, mais c’est comme ça que je travaille en ce moment.

Suite à une première rencontre avec le client où j’ai expliqué tout ça, j’ai résumé sous forme d’un document écrit les principaux éléments de la discussion. Comme je l’ai déjà fait (voir: [Musique: bénéfices d’une bonne stratégie internet](, je reproduis ici avec quelque modifications (anonymisation en particulier) ce document.

#### Consultant ou société de services

Le rôle d’un consultant est d’accompagner le client dans une démarche (de changement ou de résolution de problème). A ce titre, il peut être appelé à fournir des services, mais ce n’est pas là son rôle premier. Il vise à ce que le client soit autonome à la fin du mandat. C’est un investissement dont les résultats resteront sensibles sur le long terme.

La société de services fournit un produit fini, souvent avec un contrat de maintenance. S’il faut apporter des modifications au produit après la fin du mandat, il faut faire à nouveau appel à la société de services (et payer en conséquence). Le client reste dans une relation de dépendance, un peu au coup par coup.

Cette distinction est certes simplificatrice. Dans le cas qui nous occupe, on peut dire que le “problème” auquel on veut remédier est la non-utilisation d’internet comme canal de communication, et que “créer un site” est la solution proposée. Mais ce n’est pas nécessairement une solution suffisante, car les attentes quant à la résolution de se problème ne sont pas juste “avoir un site”, mais à un plus haut niveau (stratégie de communication tirant parti de ce qu’internet peut offrir, peut-être une certaine autonomie par rapport à ce média généralement mal connu, également).

En l’occurrence, l’appel d’offres lancé par l’organisation concerne principalement la livraison d’un produit fini (un site internet), dont une partie du contenu et des caractéristiques ont déjà été élaborés de façon interne.

En tant que consultante, je ne livre pas de produits finis comme le font les sociétés de services, à moins que cela ne soit dans le cadre d’un mandat plus large. Le risque que le “produit fini” ainsi livré tombe à côté des attentes réelles mal identifiées est en effet trop grand. Je considère que cela ne rend pas service au client (qui court de grands risques d’être insatisfait en fin de compte), et par extension, cela ne me rend pas service non plus en tant que professionnelle.

#### Un consultant pour une démarche internet

On peut se demander — et c’est compréhensible — s’il est vraiment pertinent d’utiliser les services d’un consultant pour la mise en place d’un site internet. Ce n’est effectivement absolument pas nécessaire si tout ce que l’on désire est “un site”. Cependant, il faut être conscient qu’en abordant les choses ainsi le site en question risque fort d’être insatisfaisant, ou de le devenir dans un futur plus ou moins proche.

En effet, un site internet, au contraire d’une brochure imprimée, n’est pas véritablement un produit qui peut être “fini”. C’est un espace, un lieu d’ouverture sur l’extérieur à travers internet, et qui est en évolution permanente. Faire évoluer cet espace (ne serait-ce que pour garder à jour le contenu pour refléter l’évolution de la vie de l’organisation) demande l’acquisition de certaines compétences à l’intérieur de l’organisation.

De plus, internet n’est pas simplement “du contenu imprimé accessible par ordinateur”. C’est un média à part entière, avec ses caractéristiques propres, sa culture, ses règles, et sa technologie. C’est un média très mal connu du public non spécialisé, d’une part parce qu’il évolue très vite (rester “à jour” demande donc un investissement conséquent), et d’autre part parce qu’il est très jeune (les personnes de plus de 25-30 ans n’ont en général eu aucun contact avec ce média, même passif, durant leurs années formatrices).

Faire appel aux services d’un spécialiste de ce média lorsque l’on décide d’y faire ses premiers pas permet:

* de comprendre réellement ce qui est en jeu, et donc d’être plus en contrôle de ce que l’on va y faire, et de ne pas naviguer à l’aveugle;
* d’adapter l’utilisation de ce nouveau média à la culture spécifique de l’organisation, y compris à son degré de confort avec un outil peu connu, et donc potentiellement déstabilisant et inquiétant;
* d’avoir un interlocuteur qui peut “faire l’intermédiaire” entre l’organisation et les sociétés de services auxquelles elle ferait appel;
* d’acquérir une plus grande autonomie par rapport à ce média et une stratégie de communication en évolution.

#### Forme possible d’un mandat

Voici par exemple comment le consultant pourrait accompagner l’organisation dans le cadre de la mise en place d’un site internet:

* soutien pour la gestion du projet à l’intérieur de l’organisation
* formation technique et “culturelle” des personnes gérant le site, y contribuant, et des décideurs
* assistance technique et stratégique en cas de difficultés
* accompagnement durant la préparation, mise en place du site, et même après
* réponses aux questions
* coaching rédactionnel
* interface (“traduction”) avec les prestataires tiers
* aussi possibilité d’agir comme société/fournisseur de services (=”mettre en place le site”, avec un outil de gestion de contenu léger rendant les mises à jour possibles de façon autonome), mais pas obligatoire
* …

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Why I Got Lost in LeWeb3 Videos [en]

Why I Got Lost in LeWeb3 Videos [en]

[fr] Petit tour des problèmes d'ergonomie qui ont été la source de mon billet précédent concernant

Right, I’ve somewhat figured out how I managed to [get lost in the LeWeb3 videos]( and not find things like permalinks or slider bars.

When you’re on the [fullscreen page](, no controls are clearly visible. Where is the pause button? There is “launch your TV” (tried that, but never go the answer to what it does, too slow to load for me) but that’s about it. When you click on individual videos, the URL never varies from Well, I poked around as I could, and gave up.

One thing I had overlooked was the four little icons near the bottom of the video which is playing (you can click on all the photos I’m showing here to access notes and extra info):


Which one would you click on? Well, after I really started to suspect there must be a way out, I tried them all. The third one was the most interesting to me:


To be fair, when you mouseover the buttons, some text is displayed. For example, text for the four buttons in the first photograph is “Sound”, “Video Greeting”, “Menu”, “ShowHide”. Unfortunately, you **do** have to mouseover to get to that information, as the icons themselves are not all self-explanatory. I definitely do not expect to find a menu listing of useful stuff I might want to do under the logo.

One shouldn’t expect a site user to drag his mouse over every portion of the screen which might be clickable to see what it is. Scanning available options is a job meant for the eye, not the hand. To make matters worse here, the mouseover text takes roughly twice the time a normal “title” tooltip would take to appear (on my system). A good two seconds. Who knows — I might even have mouseovered those icons and come to the conclusion there were no tooltips, when they didn’t appear after the expected delay.

The problem repeats itself. Look at the vertical bar of icons in the screenshot above. Have a guess. What do you expect them to do? Well, here is what the tooltips say, from top to bottom: “Share”, “Get link”, “RSS feed”, “Info”, “Flag it”, “Help”, and “About us…” — you’ll notice that the same logo is used for the “About us…” link as for the “Menu” one. It makes much more sense for “About us…”

In short, [rather poor usability]( for essential navigation items and functionalities on a page like this.

Now, I’m still hunting for a permalink to the video I’m watching, remember? “Get link” sounds like a good one, though “Info” is tempting too (chances I’d click on that directly if I start mouseovering from the bottom, which would be logical as that is where my cursor was).


Bingo! There’s my permalink. Let’s click on it.


Well, that worked as expected. I get to see the video, I can display useful information about it, and I can even download it. Nice. The only sad part is that the URL in the address bar has changed from to What a pity!

A slider bar appears when I put my mouse over the video, and there is a pause/play button. I’m still not sure if such features are available in the [fullscreen version]( and I couldn’t find them, or simply not available. The slider works, but unfortunately doesn’t tell me which moment of the video I’m aiming for, so it’s a bit hit-and-miss if, say, you want to jump to minute 8 of my video to hear me try to talk (hint, hint).

So, I started watching [my panel]( The sound is good, and that’s pretty cool (as I heard that it was almost unintelligable during the conference for people who were listening in on the stream). Unfortunately, somebody must have been a little overenthusiastic about compression and the small amount of key frames, because LeWeb3 speakers seem to all have contracted a really horrible skin disease which makes unsightly blemishes appear on their skin at regular intervals:

20070121-vpod-compression-illness 20070121-vpod-compression-illness-scott

Seems like [Scott Rafer]( and I should both go and see a dermatologist pretty quickly, doesn’t it?

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Flying Home Tomorrow With Easyjet. Or Not? [en]

Flying Home Tomorrow With Easyjet. Or Not? [en]

[fr] Vu la situation (brouillard) à Londres et l'impact que ça a sur les vols, je crains un peu de me retrouver coincée à Londres demain soir. Surtout qu'Easyjet est injoignable par téléphone entre 20h et 8h et que leur site web refuse de reconnaître l'adresse e-mail que j'ai utilisée pour réserver mon vol.

I’m supposed to fly home tomorrow from Gatwick. If you’ve been anywhere else than under a rock these last days, you’ll know that [flights out of London have been severely disrupted](

This morning, I called [Easyjet]( to see if there was any chance my flight would be delayed or cancelled. Their website didn’t yield much information besides the standard [arrivals page](, which told me that one flight to Geneva yesterday afternoon had been cancelled.

Anyway, the lady was very reassuring. She took my flight number, and told me that the flight yesterday had arrived on time, and that I should be fine.

Tonight, I checked the arrivals page again, and saw that both flights to Geneva this evening had been cancelled. Ouch!

This is where it gets bad. I tried to call Easyjet again, but all their lines are closed after 8pm. Great! Even the one you reach after spending 10 minutes in the menus, where you choose “if your flight has been cancelled, please press 2”. They just tell you to use the website if you want to cancel or change a flight. Well, that’s fine with me, except… For some reason, Easyjet doesn’t recognize the e-mail address I used to book the flight. They’ll send me a newsletter to the address, sure, but will say they’ve never heard of it when I try to use it to log into the website.

**And** the technical support line is £1/minute.

If I know there is a good chance of my flight being cancelled, I’d like to know about it so that I can make other plans. Change my flight, go back to Leeds, take the Ferry, whatever. What I’m worried about is that my flight is after 8pm. What if it’s cancelled, and I’m supposed to “contact my airline”?

All this is making me somewhat grumbly. I’d really like to get back home for Christmas.

*Update: I sent an e-mail to Easyjet about the e-mail address issue. I’ll receive a response from them withing 20 working days. How’s that for an SLA on e-mail responses?*

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Getting Rid of www [en]

Getting Rid of www [en]

[fr] Une recette pour faire disparaître magiquement ce satané "www" des noms de domaines que j'héberge...

I personally hate having “www” in front of a domain name. It’s redundant. If we’re visiting a website, we’re on the web anyway. It also brings no end of problems when people start writing for the web and creating links, because they think that what makes something a “website address” is the “www” in front if it, instead of “http://”. That’s how they end up with links like “” on their sites. But I digress.

On [one of the sites I manage](, we have a restricted members-only area. However, our users started reporting that when they used “www” in front of the domain name, they were being asked for the password twice. I tried myself, and I was simply asked for the password *ad aeternam*. Probably a server configuration glitch somewhere.

Anyway, I decided the simplest solution was to redirect all “www” requests to the non-www domain. I know I had that in place for CTTS at some point, but the setting must have got lost at some point. Instead of [sticking rewrite rules in .htaccess as suggests](, I modified my vhost configuration slightly so that it looked like this:

DocumentRoot /home/example/www/
ErrorLog logs/example-error
CustomLog logs/example-access combined

Redirect permanent /

Try it!


*Many thanks to those who gave suggestions and nudged me along the way to this solution.*

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Tag me! [en]

Tag me! [en]

[fr] J'aimerais un site qui permettrait de commander un T-shirt (plus ou moins unique!) sur lequel une série de tags (à  choix) serait imprimée.

Here’s a site I would love (if it already exists, forgive me, and if it doesn’t, all you developpers get to work, please). It would allow me to print a set of tags on a T-shirt and buy the T-shirt. Easy and silly, huh?

Better: it would allow me to directly import my Flickr tags and print those. Or my blog tags. Or my tags. Or it would allow my friends to submit tags for me (“Tag me!” — get it?).

Optional: add the url of a chosen tagspace (Technorati, Flickr public, Flickr user, personal…).

A plea to the Lazyweb…

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Paypal Scam Nearly Got Me [en]

Paypal Scam Nearly Got Me [en]

I consider myself pretty web-savvy and spam/hoax-aware. Today I very nearly got fooled into giving my PayPal information to some shady characters.

This morning I got an e-mail from PayPal — or so I thought. It looked nice and branded, no spelling or grammar mistakes, security warnings telling me not to give my password or anything to anybody, and even a link inviting me to go and see PayPal’s Security Tips page. It was just asking me to login on the site and check my data there (that’s what I understood then, re-reading it now, it says they will verify the information I have entered, which is much more fishy).

I had already made a mental note of one of the PayPal warnings, which is to not trust any other site than (I’m not linking it so as not to encourage you to click on links which seem to point there — you’ll understand why in a minute). Now, remember this was early morning for me (don’t you also check your e-mail in the morning?). I clicked on the login link, and noticed the browser was sending me to a website identified by an IP address ( in this case). I stopped everything, and clicked the nice blue link that said The login page looked furiously like the real PayPal login page, and I was about to login with no second thoughts when I noticed the name in the browser bar was — not the link I had clicked on!

I had seen this address before, in another “PayPal” e-mail I had got a couple of weeks back. Already then they had managed to fool me, even though the e-mail was less well crafted than this time. I smelled a rat, so finally typed in my browser and logged in there. Nothing special happened.

I dug out the previous e-mail, slightly worried now. You see, although I had been suspicious about this first e-mail, I do remember that I had logged in somewhere. But to this moment I’m not sure if I logged into the fake website or if I had the sense to point my browser to the real PayPal website myself before logging in. I think I did, I hope I did, and in any case I just checked my account for fraudulous activity and changed my password. The first e-mail was really bad, but I was convinced enough that it came from PayPal to forget about it, just making a mental note that their copywriting was really really poor.

This made the second scam e-mail seem all the more real: when I got it, I thought “oh, so that last e-mail must really have been a fake, this is what a real one looks like.” Poor unsuspecting me.

At this point, I still thought the second e-mail was a “real” one, but that the ssl2-paypal people had someway managed to hack a redirect on the official PayPal site. I hadn’t looked at the e-mail source yet, see?

Anyway, I decided to report the first e-mail I had received.

Coming back home at the end of the day, I had an automated response from PayPal regarding my complaint. It again stated all the security measures to take, in particular the one about always typing in your browser. And I thought: “you doofuses, you had better stop putting clickable links in your e-mails if you want people to get used to typing the address!”

I was going to respond to them with a more politically correct comment in that direction when I went to have a second look at the e-mail (which, I remind you, I still thought legitimate) I had got in the morning. And that is when I realised that the beautiful blue link was in fact a fake link, disguised as a real one. You can put anything in the href attribute of an achor tag — the catch here is that their link looks a lot like the blue links e-mail reading programs create when they encounter plain-text URL’s.

So, there we go. I was nearly caught by those not-that-dumb spammers. Remember the golden rule:

Always TYPE the address in your browser, don’t CLICK on links in PayPal or other e-mails.

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