Blogs WebDev

Stop WordPress Overwriting Custom .htaccess Rules

For as long As I care to remember I’ve been having issues with my WordPress .htaccess file.

.htaccess file is a small Apache file that lets you do all sorts of funky things with requests made to your server. It’s also one of SEO’s best tools. I have a lot of custom 301 redirects set up, including a redirect which makes my site available only via the www subdomain.

WordPress Permalinks

Well WordPress has a habit of rewriting the .htaccess file to allow some of the SEO-friendly URLs you regularly see (also known as ‘permalinks’). And each time it does so I lose my rules. It’s a royal pain in the arse and when this happened just the other day I thought I’d take the time to fix this for once and for all. I had to dig through the WordPress Codex to see what was causing all the trouble. save_mod_rewrite_rules() is the culprit. That little function, and my own ignorance of how WordPress processes the .htaccess file.

The solution

As with most solutions it’s really very simple. As with most simple solutions it’s only simple if you know about it. So here it is:

WordPress .htaccess file looks like this:

# BEGIN wordpress
<ifmodule mod_rewrite.c>
rewriteEngine On
rewriteBase /
rewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME}!-f
rewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME}!-d
rewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END wordpress

Now here’s the really important bit:

Never place your own rules within the ‘wordpress’ block

The WordPress block is the bit that starts with # BEGIN wordpress and ends with # END wordpress. My mistake was to place my rules within this block (after the rewirteEngine On line). This seemed the sensible thing to do – after all rewrite rules must come after rewirteEngine On, and my understanding was not to repeat this command.

How WordPress rewrites .htaccess files

When WordPress rewrites the .htaccess file it does so by first checking that the file is writeable, then exploding the file using the # BEGIN and # END strings. Anything outside of those markers should be left intact after WP rewrites the file.

In my case I had to add a new block with a second rewirteEngine On so that Apache wouldn’t break (although I don’t think this is strictly the correct way to write the file). Here’s what my new revised .htaccess file looks like:

<ifmodule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
[... ]Funky custom rules go here[ ...]
# BEGIN WordPress
<ifmodule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END WordPress

Perhaps the WordPress folk could add an additional comment into the .htaccess file that explains this better?

Well there you have it – how to stop WordPress overwriting your custom .htaccess file rules.

JavaScript Standards WebDev

$65m, And Some Of The Worst Use Of Javascript Ever

Javascript is one of my favourite web technologies. When I stop to think how the Internet would be without Javascript I can’t help but think how much less productive and enjoyable my days would be.

Take for instance all the great apps Google makes freely available. Gmail would still work, but the crippled Javascript-free version doesn’t cut it for me. And then there’s Reader, another of my most used apps. It doesn’t degrade quite so gracefully. Actually, like Calendar, it doesn’t degrade at all.

Complicated web apps can be forgiven for not degrading in the absence of Javascript. By their nature they rely on JS to handle heavy lifting functions. For more elementary functions graceful degradation can enable similar functionality. Personally I favour scripting to the DOM after the web page loads and replacing HTML functionality with a Javascript alternative that adds behaviour to the page. That way your site remains functional without Javascript.

But what happens when you use Javascript when you really shouldn’t?

The $65m Javascript Links

Back in 2006 one of Ireland’s largest Internet acquisitions saw, the web property of The Irish Times newspaper, purchase for a reported $65m. I covered the story here. is (apparently) an extremely profitable property (real-estate) website.

But apparently has a smaller sister, a little known site called And perhaps little known for good reason. Here’s a shot of their site: Homepage

Looks innocuous enough. But the kicker is in how the primary navigation is coded:

<td id="mainmenu_td_t0" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t_on" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="'','_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(0);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(0);">HOME</td>
<td width="1" rowspan="2">
<td id="mainmenu_td_t1" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t_on" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="'', '_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(1);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(1);">SEARCH</td>
<td width="1" rowspan="2">
<td id="mainmenu_td_t2" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="'', '_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(2);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(2);">ADVERTISE</td>
<td width="1" rowspan="2">
<td id="mainmenu_td_t3" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="'', '_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(3);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(3);">USEFUL SERVICES</td>
<td width="1" rowspan="2">
<td id="mainmenu_td_t4" class="mainmenu mainmenu_t" valign="middle" align="center" onclick="'', '_self');" onmouseout="mainmenu_Roll(4);" onmouseover="mainmenu_Roll(4);">INFO & ADVICE</td>

In case your wondering what all that code does, well it does what should have been accomplished in about 10% of that mark-up. It instructs the browser, in the most convoluted way possible, how to handle the primary navigation links that you can see in the image.

But worse still, those links, the primary site navigation links, are implemented in Javascript. Turn off JS and the site no longer works. You simply can’t navigate the site.

And the real cherry on this particular pie is that search engines have never been good at handling Javascript very well. Do you think that any of the pages linked to via the Javascript code are cached by Google? I’ll let my silence answer that question.

The Motto of this Story

Javascript is a great language. Used well the potential of the web expands massively. But make sure you use HTML where it was designed to be used, and Javascript only when you need to do some heavy lifting that HTML can’t handle.

Google Search Engines WebDev

Google now Selling Domains

Well everyone has known for quite some time that Google has been using WHOIS info. After becoming a registrar some time back, many theories have sprung up about the use of WHOIS by Google, and more recently over whether Google could see through private registrations.

Well today Google announced some new features of Google Apps.

You can now register your domain name as part of the service. The cost is $10 per year with free private registration. Regardless of your feelings about privacy and Google seeing your WHOIS info, that price is still cheaper than GoDaddy who charge $4.95 per year for privacy on top of $8.95 for a .com registration.

Funnily enough the service is actually through GoDaddy

Blogs Browsers Google Marketing RSS Search Engine Optimisation Search Engines Standards Technology WebDev

Really Simple Guide to RSS

After Missing Sinn Fein’s RSS feed for my eGovernment Study I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at RSS – what it is and how to use it.

What is RSS?

Really Simple Syndication is a format for publishing web pages and other content.

In essence RSS is very similar to the content you would find on any website, with a few differences. RSS does not include any styling information that would give the ‘page’ a custom design or layout. If you can imagine reading this page without the header up top, the sidebar on the right or anything else that is superfluous to the viewing this story.

An RSS ‘feed’ can also contain more than one ‘page’ in a single file. That’s the real beauty of RSS – you can look at many stories or pages from a website without leaving the RSS ‘page’ or feed.

But perhaps the biggest difference between RSS and a regular web page is the ability to aggregate or combine multiple RSS ‘feeds’ (published RSS files are often referred to as a ‘feeds’) in your ‘reader’. A ‘reader’ is a program used to read and display the ‘feeds’ or RSS pages. Here’s what mine looks like:

Really Simple Guide to RSS - Google Reader

I read the feeds from over 100 websites just about most days. Now if I was to visit all those sites it might take me 3 or 4 hours, but my reader shows me the feeds fom all those sites on one page. I can view the website name, the title and a snippet of each item. When I click on a story title I can read the content of that ‘page’:

Google Reader open story

Using my reader to aggregate thee feeds I can keep track of many, many blogs and websites.

RSS Readers

I use Google Reader. It’s free and rather than sit on my computer it sits on the Internet so I can access my feeds from any computer with Internet access.

The main web browsers and email clients now incorporate RSS features also. Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera allow you to track and read feeds right in your browser.

So how can you tell if a site publishes a feed?

When you visit a website you might see the following icon appear in your address bar:

RSS auto discovery through META

That icon has been adopted by all the major browsers for the purpose of depicting RSS feeds. It is available for download at Feed Icons. Older feed icons might look like this:

RSS icon XML icon Feed icon

You can see that orange is the predominant colour used to depict RSS.

Making your feed icon appear in the address bar

Since most of the major browsers now support RSS it is a good idea to notify the browser that you have a feed so that the RSS icon appears in the address bar. To make your feed visible to agents you should include something similar to the following META in the head section of your page:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="" />
<link rel="alternate" type="text/xml" title="RSS .92" href="" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom 0.3" href="" />

This auto discovery technique is also used by most readers and blog aggregators so it is a good idea to include it.

RSS features and uses

RSS can be used for many purposes. E-commerce stores can publish their products via RSS. Employment sites often offer customised search feeds so users can keep tabs on particular job-type vacancies. Many large sites offer multiple feeds so you can track only the information of interest to you.

Search engines and RSS

Search engines love RSS. They just devour feeds because they are very machine readable. Feeds also contain something search engines love: TEXT. And lots of it.

Very often my feed will rank well for specific search phrases and my site might have 2 or 3 pages ranking on the first SERP (Search Engine Result Page) – the post, my homepage and my feed . When multiple results from my site appear on a results page the probability of receiving a referral increase dramatically.

So does RSS matter?

RSS is here. It has not reached the tipping-point just yet, but the integration of RSS into the major browsers during 2006 means that RSS should become more and more mainstream over time.

And just as I finish this what appears in my reader?

the latest research done by and goo Research shows that RSS’s bringing more accesses to the sites.

Q1: Do you visit more sites due to RSS feeds?
– More, 34.6%
– Hasn’t changed, 59.5%
– Less, 5.8%

Q2: Do you visit sites you read on RSS feeds?
– Always, 23.5%
– Sometimes, 58.1%

From Multilingual-Search.

Perfect :mrgreen:

Google Search Engines WebDev

Google Search for US Patents

Google has announced the launch of Google Patent Search.

You can now search the US patent corpus using the the interface used for Google Book Search (worth a look itself just to see the progress of web-based UI’s).

I’m sure Bill Slawski over at SEO by the Sea will be interested in this.

Browsers CSS JavaScript Standards Usability WebDev

eGovernment Accessibility Analysis

  1. Summary
  2. Download Report (.pdf)
  3. Introduction
  4. eGovernment
  5. National Disability Authority
  6. Accessibility
  7. New Internet Technologies
  8. Detailed Results
  9. Is the eGovernment interface accessible?
  10. Is it all Bad News?
  11. Lynx Browser Results
  12. Notes
  13. Errors, Ommissions & Corrections


The websites of a number of Government Departments, Agencies and Political Parties were tested for accessibility and coding standards. The sites were also checked for contemporary web technologies such as RSS.

Results Overview:

Government Department websites tested: 16
Valid CSS, (X)HTML & passing WCAG 1.0 Level A: 4 (25%)
Sites passing WCAG 1.0 Level A: 12 (75%)
Sites utilising RSS: 4 (25%)

Other Public websites tested: 18
Valid CSS, (X)HTML and passing WCAG 1.0 Level A: 0 (0%)
Sites passing WCAG 1.0 Level A: 12 (67%)
Sites utilising RSS: 2 (11%)

Political Party websites tested: 7
Valid CSS, (X)HTML and passing WCAG 1.0 Level A: 0 (0%)
Sites passing WCAG 1.0 Level A: 3 (43%)
Sites utilising RSS: 3 (43%)


There is one entity that impacts daily on each of our lives. That entity is the Government.

The Irish government is the body tasked with the administration of the land of Ireland. As such the government is responsible for making the law, enforcing the law, and maintaining the welfare of the citizens. It is no surprise that the interface of citizen and government is one of the most important elements of any political system.

Technology is the new interface

The first Information Society Action Plan was published in January 1999 and in November 2001 Ireland had become the top performer in an EU benchmarking report on public service on-line delivery.

In March 2002 the Irish Government published “New Connections – A strategy to realise the potential of the Information Society”. The document set forth an action plan identifying key infrastructures that required development, one of which was eGovernment.


eGovernment refers to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) as an interface between the citizens and government of a nation. Most often the term refers to the use of the Internet as a communication platform to allow the exchange of information and the execution of processes that had previously been undertaken via direct human interaction.

Introduction of eGovernment is an EU-level policy, and part of a broader EU strategy to make Europe the most dynamic and efficient economic block in the world. ICT is seen as the key facilitator of this strategy:

The successes and potential of eGovernment are already clearly visible with several EU countries ranking amongst the world leaders. Electronic invoicing in Denmark saves taxpayers €150 million and businesses €50 million a year. If introduced all over the EU, annual savings could add up to over €50 billion. Disabled people in Belgium can now obtain benefits over the Internet in seconds, whereas previously this took 3 or 4 weeks. Such time savings and convenience can become widespread and benefit all citizens in Europe in many public services. (Source: COM(2006) 173 final)

ICT is also seen as an enabler and facilitator of inclusive strategies as set out by the EU.

The 2002 document makes a number of references to the availability and accessibility of government websites:

  • 3.2.1 Website standards – Guidelines and standards for all public sector websites were produced in November 1999, building on best practice in relation to design, search facilities and accessibility guidelines.
  • 7.2.7 Accessibility – Under the eEurope Action Plan, all public sector websites are required to be WAI18 (level 2) compliant by end-2001.

National Disability Authority

The National Disability Authority is a statutory agency tasked with policy development, research and advice on standards designed to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities.

Is the eGovernment interface accessible?

The purpose of the study is to measure the accessibility of the primary government agency websites. The websites of the main political parties were also tested as those organisations are inherently connected to the administration of a democracy through their stated goals and policies.

The following tests were conducted to ascertain a measure of web standards and accessibility:

  1. W3C CSS validation service (here);
  2. Visual inspection for W3C badges;
  3. W3C Markup Validation Service v0.7.3 (here);
  4. HiSoftware Cynthia Says Section 508 Validation service (here);
  5. HiSoftware Cynthia Says WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 Validation service (here);
  6. HiSoftware Cynthia Says WCAG 1.0 Priorities 1&2 Validation service (here);
  7. HiSoftware Cynthia Says WCAG 1.0 Priorities 1&2&3 Validation service (here);
  8. Total Validator Professional desktop HTML & Accessibility validation tool (available here);
  9. WAVE WCAG 1.0 and Section 508 visual site overlay tool (here);
  10. Usability analysis of page in text browser (Lynx);
  11. Manual inspection of the mark-up to identify ‘cut-and-paste’ coding;
  12. Visual inspection for RSS feed, search for auto-discovery of RSS feed (Firefox);
  13. Visual inspection for blog;
  14. Visual inspection for real-time chat function.

In this study the 3 automated accessibility validators were used and in some case supplemented by manual evaluation in the Lynx text browser. Tests were limited to the homepage of each site (in some cases an inner page was tested – e.g. where splash pages were used and the home page was therefore an inner page). All tests were conducted during the period 20-31 November 2006.

While these tests cannot be guaranteed to properly ascertain the accessibility of any webpage, they do serve to highlight a number of flaws that would ordinarily render a page inaccessible via screen-reading technology.

Why search for RSS, blogs, real-time chat?

The Internet is evolving. Buzzwords such as web2.0 are common place. In my view what we are seeing is not a change but a natural progression. Today’s Internet is about interaction, multiple-way dialogue, and innovative communication channels.

This study therefore includes tests for interactive techniques and alternative distribution channels.


Homepages were checked for RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. RSS is fast becoming the de-facto transport for on-line information syndication (note the recent integration of RSS into the latest browsers from both Microsoft and Mozilla). In cases where a feed was not apparent on a homepage the Press section (or similar) was also checked.

It would seem both appropriate and desirable that any entity which relies on news agencies to broadcast their message would utilise RSS.


While not appropriate for every context, blogs have been found to add transparency and openness within a political setting. Blogs also allow for meaningful dialogue between writer and audience.

Real-Time Chat

Used by the software industry for many years, real-time chat facilities allow Internet users to ‘chat’ with a support agent through a real-time messaging system.

Detailed Results

eGovernment Accessibility Study
[NOTE: Please click on the above image for a larger resolution and an alternative accessible version.]

Is the eGovernment interface accessible?

The study tested a total of 41 websites: 27 sites passed the automated WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 (A) validation tests.

Of the Government Department websites tested 12 from a total of 16 were compliant with WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 (A).

The lack of RSS feeds on 12 department websites was a particularly odd result given the relationship of Government with the public and press, and the Government’s need to shape public perception through the news channels.

The websites of the main political parties were found to be lacking in terms of contemporary Internet technologies: Only 3 of the 7 party websites included an RSS feed and none offered multiple feeds targeting different content and audiences.

4 of the 7 party websites tested failed WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 (A), and none validated for valid CSS/HTML coding standards.

Is it all Bad News?

A positive feature of this survey was the number of Government websites that aspired for a higher standard of validation than the basic WAI WCAG 1.0 Priority 1 (A).

At least 4 sites displayed WCAG Priority 2 (AA) badges on their homepages. Unfortunately only 1 actually attained that level of Accessibility.

At least 2 sites displayed or made claim to WCAG Priority 3 (AAA) Accessibility, the highest level of accessibility, however none did validate to this standard.

Some websites tested stated a clear aspiration to achieve high accessibility and informed visitors of the ongoing effort toward attaining that goal.

Validation is a binary test – a site either validates or it does not. In some cases failure can be remedied with minimal effort, while in others achieving compliance with both WAI WCAG 1.0 and W3C coding standards will require a substantial undertaking.

Creating a website that complies with WCAG is perhaps the easier phase of providing an accessible website. Maintaining WCAG compliance is by far the most difficult area of website accessibility, even more so given the dynamic nature of many of the sites tested.

Web standards, such as those developed by W3C and WAI, are the foundation of the ‘Inclusive Web’. Websites which comply with these standards will ensure that the broadest spectrum of visitors can access their information and benefit from the full potential the Internet has to offer.

Lynx Browser Results

In cases where accessibility anomalies were flagged by automated evaluation tools the site in question was manually evaluated in the Lynx text-browser.

The search facility on a number of Government sites was found to cause practical accessibility issues:

1. Department of the Taoiseach:

Department of the Taoiseach homepage view in Lynx browser.

Here is the mark-up for the search feature:

<form id="basicSearch" action="search.asp" method="get">
<div class="searchTop"><label for="searchWord" accesskey="4" /></div>
<div class="searchMiddle"><input class="searchFormInput" type="text" name="searchWord" id="searchWord" size="16" value="Enter keyword" /></div>
<div class="searchBottom"><input type="image" value="submit" name="search_go" id="search_go" src="/images/search/button_search.gif" alt="Search" /></div>

This is Andy Harold’s opinion on the above code:

This is an attempt to resolve the need to have a label tag and to put some default text in the text field. But appears to be done purely to satisfy accessibility checkers than real life requirements, and may even upset some screen readers. I’d say this is poor practice. The label should have some text within it and there shouldn’t be a ‘value’ attribute in the text field.

Putting default text in comes from 10.4 (Priority 3): Until user agents handle empty controls correctly, include default, place-holding characters in edit boxes and text areas. But this became outdated almost as soon as it was written, because all the user agents used by people with sight difficulties can handle empty controls. So the use of label tags meets all needs.

2. National Disability Authority

The mark-up powering the search facility:

<label for="query" accesskey="4">
<input name="q" id="query" title="Enter keywords to search for" value="" size="30" type="text">
<input title="Submit your search and view results" value="Search" type="submit">

Andy Harold’s opinion:

Enclosing input’s within a label is allowed by the standards so that you don’t have to supply a ‘for’ attribute as it the label implicitly refers to the enclosed input. Having the two inputs enclosed by the label, as in your example, makes this confusing. The fact that there is no text in the label tag makes this more confusing still. So although technically you can do this – ie passes automatic validation tests – it’s not the correct use of the label element and so wouldn’t be what a user agent (eg a screen reader) would be expecting and so may cause it problems. So, on that basis I wouldn’t pass it as P3 simply because it makes little sense.

Remember that the standards can’t cover every situation and so are purely there to guide you into making good decisions. In this case you could put some text in the label (and take the input elements out of it) if you really want it to be passed as P3. But if this makes the search facility too visually unappealing, just drop the label altogether. This may not make it technically ‘P3’ but more importantly it will still be accessible because of the title attribute, so it shouldn’t matter.

3. Pobail

Here is the Lynx view of the English version Pobail homepage:

Pobail English homepage view in Lynx browser.

And here is the underlying mark-up:

<label for="search">
<input type="text" name="qt" id="search" value="" maxlength="1991" />
<input type="submit" value="Go" class="submit" />

While the search element may pass automated validators, the form itself has little value to users of screen reading technologies. The ‘Advanced search options’ link is in another div.

[NOTE: Andy Harold is the developer of Total Validator. The tool is available as either a free Firefox plug-in or a professional desktop application.]

Study Notes:

  1. Strange use of JavaScript that depreciates in Lynx but prohibits access to links in non-JavaScript enabled browsers.
  2. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism displayed a WCAG 1.0 AA Badge.
  3. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism did not validate WCAG 1.0 AA
  4. RSS feed not included in META section and was not auto-discovered by browser. Auto-discovery allows browsers to display and bookmark RSS feeds.
  5. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment displayed a WCAG 1.0 AA Badge and passed that standard.
  6. RSS feed found on inner page with no META auto-detection.
  7. Address in footer is an image – ALT=”Department Address”. This is a particularly poor implementation as the address can neither be read by screen-reading technologies or copy-pasted form the browser.
  8. uses a splash homepage. Inner English language homepage tested.
  9. Empty LABEL (no text node) in page’s search form.
  10. Empty LABEL (no text node) in page’s search form.
  11. BASIS carried a WCAG 1.0 AA Badge and failed that standard.
  12. Framed site – each frameset was validated individually.
  13. WAVE cannot validate framed sites.
  14. In-line style attributes – no CSS file to validate.
  15. claims site is WCAG1.0 AAA compliant with timestamp. That page, which is unlikely to have been updated, failed AAA validation.
  16. RSS feed found on inner page with no META auto-detection.
  17. RSS via auto-discovery, but no mention on page.
  18. RSS feed found on inner page with no META detection.
  19. FAS Ireland carried a WCAG 1.0 AAA Badge but failed AAA validation.
  20. FAS Ireland homepage contained 6 errors when tested for WCAG 1.0 AAA.
  21. carried a WCAG 1.0 AA Badge.
  22. contained 30 errors when tested for WCAG 1.0 AA.
  23. In-line style attributes, framed site.
  24. No publicly published link was found.
  25. Resolved to the website of Clare County Development Board.
  26. uses JavaScript links to popup new pages – blocked in FF and IE7. The site was virtually unusable.
  27. Server not found error.
  28. Website did not respond for – this could cause problems for many visitors. WAVE validator was served the login page so WAVE analysis could not be performed. There were also some issues with the search form which are discussed toward the end of this document.

Page URLs

Government Departments
Foreign Affairs, Dept. of
Agriculture and Food, Dept. of
Arts, Sport and Tourism, Dept. of
Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Dept. of
Health and Children, Dept. of
Education and Science, Dept. of
Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Dept. of
Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dept. of
Finance, Dept. of
Defence, Dept. of
Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dept. of
Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Dept. of
Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Dept. of
Taoiseach, Dept. of the
Transport, Dept. of
Social and Family Affairs, Dept. of

Government Informational Portals
Business Access to State Information and Services
Public Service Information for Ireland

Other Government Websites
Office of the Revenue Commissioner
Official website of the President of Ireland
The Courts Service of Ireland
The Office of Public Works
Central Statistics Office

Political Party Websites
Fianna Fail
Fianna Geil
The Labour Party
The Green Party
Progressive Democrats
Socialist and Workers Part
Sinn Fein

Websites Highlighted in Society Action Plan
Revenue Online Service (ROS)
FÁS e-recruitment
Land Registry
Examination results
CAO (Central Applications Office)
Driving tests
Government Contracts
Public Service Recruitment
National Sheep Identification System (NSIS)
Farmer IT Training

National Disability Authority

Errors, Ommissions & Corrections:

  1. 11-December-2006 12.01PM Since publishing the report it has been brought to my attention that the Sinn Fein website does indeed have an RSS feed. The feed is available at in the side-bar. My apologies to Sinn Fein for any inconvenience caused by this ommission.
General Marketing Statistics Usability WebDev are the proud winners of the ‘Best Website Launched in 2006’ Golden Spider award.

The following is taken from a press release from’s Public Relations firm Thinkhouse PR:

“Best Website Launched in 2006! We are absolutely thrilled,” said Gavin McConnon of “We spent a lot of time researching and trialling the website ensuring that it was designed in a browser-friendly way.”

The press release goes on to say:

Beating off stiff competition from sites such as;; the Golden Spider was awarded to for its performance, as a functioning site in addition to design, innovation, content, navigation, technology, interactivity and ease of use.

An apology

I try very hard to not be subjective. I feel the quality of what I write here is dependent on being as objective as possible. The next line is purely my subjective belief:

If the above is correct, and the judges did indeed award a Golden Spider to (the site has been updated since the GS awards) for “its performance, as a functioning site in addition to design, innovation, content, navigation, technology, interactivity and ease of use“, I think they should hang their heads in shame.

As a business I think may well be exceptional. As a website it most certainly is (was) not. Had the award been for the ‘Best New Internet Business in 2006’ I would have little or no complaint. currently ‘owns’ the top 10 positions for the search phrase ‘’.

General Search Engines WebDev Search Feature Broken

We all know the got a make-over, but have you tried using the search facility?

Well, not to dally about too much, the archive search facility is a tad bit broken. I’m not quite sure what the problem is. First I thought that perhaps each word of the search query was being truncated. But then I noticed some search words coming back with different spellings.

Here’s what I searched for and the returned query:

  • searched for ‘ireland house’ – matched ‘ireland: 423756, hous: 101978’
  • searched for ‘ireland house prices’ – matched ‘ireland: 423756, hous: 101978, price: 102252’
  • searched for ‘irish property prices’ – matched ‘irish: 715996, properti: 164708, price: 102252’
  • searched for ‘house price inflation’ – matched ‘hous: 101978, price: 102252, inflat: 13885’
  • searched for ‘minister cowen’ – matched ‘minist: 134897, cowen: 5678’
  • searched for ‘the irish times’ – matched ‘irish: 715990, time: 703415’
  • searched for ‘mystery guest’ – matched ‘mysteri: 6967, guest: 10148’
  • searched for ‘cavity’ – matched ‘caviti: 271’

I tried those last two to see if the results were correct. ‘mysteri’ would match with ‘mysterious’ but the search yielded pages without an occurrence of ‘mysterious’. While a search for ‘cavity’ returned results.

It appears, therefore, that the search is based on the correct phrase, but the results page is displaying the wrong search query.

As I mentioned, I thought that perhaps queries were split along word boundaries and then mistakenly truncated, but the appearance of i’s instead of y’s threw this theory. And then of course not all words seemed to suffer the chop. Search problems

Perhaps someone can see an obvious cause of this that I cant?

Oh, and there are absolutely no prizes for guessing how bad the mark-up in there is 🙁

Browsers CSS Marketing Standards Usability WebDev

Golden Spider Awards – The Results

Last night the ‘Internet Oscars’ took place in Dublin. I’ve been trying to find out the results. The Golden Spider website is still selling tickets :mrgreen:

So i found the results over at Silicon Republic:

  1. AOL Best Financial Website
  2. Best Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Website
  3. Best News, Media & Entertainment Website
  4. Comreg Best Sports, Health and Leisure Website
  5. FÁS Best Social Networking, Community & Not For Profit Website
  6. RTÉ Best Education Website
  7. Best Marketing Campaign
  8. Department of Communications Best Web Design Agency
  9. IEDR Best Technology Innovation Award
  10. Allianz Best Retail Website
  11. Cash Collector Best Professional Services Website
  12. Irish Jobs Best e-Business Website
  13. ArgusCarHire.Com Best New Website Launched in 2006
  14. Best Broadband Application Award
  15. Arekibo Best Public Sector Website
  16. Red Best HR, Training and Recruitment Website
  17. Internet Hero 2006 Award
    Winner: Cormac Callanan
  18. Eircom 2006 Golden Spiders Grand Prix Award

Well done to all the winners.

Cathal Magee, managing director of eircom commented:

The entries this year were outstanding and testament to the strength of the Irish internet industry. These awards provide an important opportunity to recognise and showcase online excellence.

[Emphasis mine]

I have to say that my research begs to differ with you Mr. Magee.

Marketing Technology Usability WebDev

When You Get Exposure Leverage It

Publicity leads to sales. Why? Because getting people to notice you is half the battle. If you can get a customer’s attention you can sell him the benefits of your product.

GPS mapping software for your Symbian phone

Sometimes in the morning I have the radio on. Occasionally I hear Pat Kenny, not because I particularly like his show, but because he comes after whoever preceded him.

Yesterday morning there was a very interesting interview with a guy from OSI (Ordinance Survey Ireland). They’re the people who produce the maps of our country.

The discussion was about a new GPS mapping application that lets users view OSI maps of Dublin on their mobile phones. The benefits were spelt out in a very compelling manner. Tourists, it was mentioned, could guide themselves with the mapping software, while Dublin’s residents could use the maps to find unknown streets and locations. And if you use a Nokia GPS phone the mapping software will even guide you to your destination. Pretty cool, and definitely the way of the future.

Buy on-line

Users can purchase and download the GPS mapping software for €29.99 from the OSI website, and the product comes complete with 500 POIs (Points Of Interest) for many of Dublin’s top attractions and locations.

It sounds like a really fantastic product, and I was quite surprised that an Irish company (and a publicly mandated body at that) was actually at the cutting-edge of this type of technology.

Great exposure, dreadful follow-through

This morning I got a chance to visit the OSI website to learn more:

OSI homepage

Hmm.. not much to go on there. I expected there to be some emphasis on this new cutting edge mobile phone GPS mapping software. Well I’m honestly none the wiser so I select ‘Browse our mapping products and services’:

OSI mapping products and services

I’m really not making much progress here. I cant see any mention of mobile phone GPS mapping software. Maybe ‘digital products’?

OSI digital products

Not there, so back to the homepage and this time I try ‘GPS services’. The guy on the radio did mention that this works with GPS. Nothing there either. To be honest at this stage I’m beginning to wonder if this is just some big joke. So I try ‘OSi Trail Master’:

OSI Trail Master

Well this might be it. Unfortunately there’s no real reference material here to tell me what I’m looking at. Alas, it’s another false hope. Only two more options on the homepage left, and next up is ‘OSi StreetSmart’:

OSI StreetSmart

Bingo. With hindsight the name makes sense, but without any pointers figuring this out is far from trivial. Anyhow, now that I’ve finally found what I came here for I’d like to find out more. I suppose I should click the image – it is an anchor after all:

OSI more details

How to burn great publicity

Now most people couldn’t buy the publicity gained from a nationwide radio interview. That type of broadcast is just marketing gold-dust. Businesses have flourished on the attention garnered from radio mentions…

Yesterday morning the OSI gave us a text book example of how to burn through fantastic publicity with poor follow-through.

What’s the lesson? When you do get great exposure make sure you’re ready and waiting to fully leverage it.