28 September 2005


Throughout this I've never claimed to be a web designer or even that technical. I know how to create useable sites, and sites which fulfil marketing needs, but in terms of PHP or CSS hacks or anything like that I knew I might have to learn a bit.

Well, I've already learnt a fair amount about PHP this week. And tonight I've been playing with some CSS things in order to get stuff to work how I want it to.

The thing is, in Firefox everything I was doing displayed fine. Firefox is CSS 2.0 compliant. Or at least a damn sight more so than current IE browsers. So while I'm trying to build a compliant site (for the sake of future-proofing, accessibility, and - although I intend to test it - so I have a fairly good idea how it'll behave in compliant browsers) I, like many web developers, am struggling with the barriers IE puts in the way.

Of course, IE has the biggest market share and it seems there's little we can do about this. While I'm a big fan of Firefox (regardless of security issues, it's just nicer to use) I'm not going to be stupid about this and just say "well, if IE looks wrong that's their problem", or - conversely - just work to IE. It's a good learning and problem solving exercise to get stuff cross-browser compatible. And it makes business sense.

Still - there's good news. Microsoft are catching up with the really useful, really powerful stuff the open source people have been evangelising about for ages. Not only do I hear that Vista (the next Windows version) will have RSS support, but apparently IE7 will fix a lot of CSS bugs. Hurrah! Microsoft *aren't* evil. They waver around that difficult line of comprimise between technical people and everyday users and they're obviously never going to satisfy everyone. But they're working on it.

Now, let's see what the damn thing looks like in Opera set to text browser emulation...


It works in Opera. Looks jolly odd with structural elements showing, but that's no surprise...

27 September 2005


I'm really, really tired and the pain in my shoulder is telling me one thing: I need to invest in a proper chair for this desk. I'm slouching.

The day job's stunningly busy at the moment (and because it's paying the bills at the moment it has to take precedence; there's also the fact that I have some pretty cool, and exciting, projects on the go there). Setting up is kind of taking a back seat to that, setting up the JuicyFly website (especially teaching myself PHP, which is why I've been up late and why I'm so tired) and doing admin type tasks for the Cambridge Comedy Club like arranging venues and meetings and auditions and things.

It sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm not. I like to be busy. I need to better plan my time, though, as it looks like I've got some more stuff on the horizon and I need to make sure i look after myself properly.

So - things to do tomorrow - go to bank and make appointment, look into a chair (Staples have some fairly cheap ones), and have a proper lunch break - during which I will read my book and make sure I get back on track with start-up tasks.

26 September 2005

Busy busy busy....

Well, I'm hard at work on the website at the moment. I've just made (borrowed, largely) a PHP parser thanks to The Art of Web site. It seems to be working, so I need to now put the rest of the page in place around it... in the mean time, I'll add the parser to the holding page of the site.

Jobs for the week - make an appointment to see the bank manager, save money (car insurance at the weekend - grr!) and do some more on the business plan. Oh, and finish the site. I may have some time off work over the next month or so and spend some proper days doing business stuff rather than staying up all hours doing it.

24 September 2005

The best web stuff. Made simpler.

I think that is my new one-line pitch. That's what I'm all about - helping people get really good, really functional websites but in a simple way they can keep up to date. There are too many far too complex but largely useless sites out there; and there are too many simple sites which just look - well, simple, poorly maintained, and just plain bad. It needn't be like that. If a site's set up properly in the first place - with the right aims and proper training - it can stay good for a long time.

It's based on something my friend Becky said to me. We were discussing the trouble I was having with writing the one-line pitch/tagline and I joked that I might just leave it at "web stuff". To which she - very sensibly - replied "why not? Isn't the whole point of what you're doing to make things simpler for non-technical people?". And once again, she was right - so I took what she said, added it to the jokey tagline I had, and came up with the above. A google search of the phrase comes up with nothing. So I'm sticking with it.

My friends are ace. They've had all the best ideas. I sometimes think starting a business is less about doing stuff and more about pulling together all the ideas your friends have into one place and acting on them....

Today I was supposed to be changing a wheel bearing on the Metro I use as a wet-weather run-around (I'm *that* middle class). But I didn't have a socket big enough to take the bearing nut off. So I had a drive around in the Midget while the weather was nice. And why not? I pay to insure and look after the thing, I may as well enjoy it.

I'm now working on the website. Design-wise I'm nearly there - at the stage when it's more sensible to actually start working on it, rather than just drawing it, anyway. I'm hoping it'll be quite good. I certainly hope so; I've abandoned one design already, so this is mark II. While I get it going, www.juicyfly.com will direct to a holding page, and it's going to link here. So maybe it's worth using http://maltpress.blogspot.com as the URL you favourite (if you do such a thing) or subscribing to the RSS feed. I'm about to put a button on for that so you can do it a bit easier.

21 September 2005

OK, some first passes at those pitch lines...

  • Making web content easy. - Dull. Sorry.

  • Taking the hard work out of web content. - Again, dull.

  • Web content – off-line ease. - nearly there...

  • Helping you make the most of the web. - hardly original.

  • Making the most of the web. - again, not especially original.

  • I’m easy – you’re content. - OK, starting to get silly now.

Writing a pitch document

That's what I've been up to tonight. "I'm sorry I haven't a clue" on Listen Again, a carton of half-frozen orange juice (really must save up for a new fridge), and trying to write a pitch document.

I've got a pitch which is one page long. I've got a reasonable pitch of a paragraph. But the one-line pitch is eluding me at the moment. Will have to work on it some more.

Other than that, little to report - still working on website designs (I really want to get this site *right*, not just something flat and dull and badly designed).

Day off work tomorrow - fishing with dad. Should be fun. Certainly relaxing, which I need given the amount I've got on at the moment.

19 September 2005

The first step to recovery is admitting there's a problem.

Hello. My name's Adam Maltpress and I think I like chick flicks.

Sorry. Last night I kind of enjoyed Legally Blonde (but perhaps not for the reasons people normally enjoy chick flicks - Reese Witherspoon, hurrah).

Tomorrow night I'm off to the cinema to see Pride & Prejudice (is that Jane Austen's ampersand?) with a friend. It's got Kiera Knightly in it.

Perhaps I don't actually like chick flicks - perhaps I need to get out more and meet some real girls...

Anyway, I had a very non-business week last week, partly thanks to IT problems, partly thanks to laziness and partly thanks to being worn out.

I've been watching "Risking it All" on Channel 4 - not always that relevant to me, as the first two episodes have been about the catering industry, and the people going into business are leaving jobs and literally risking it all. Whereas I'm trying my absolute hardest not to risk anything. Still, some interesting ideas there, and it's given me a bit of impetus to get back into it now.

The other thing giving me impetus is being told by my boss that - as long as I don't take advantage of work contacts, I only use my own contacts, I can have clients while I remain in my current job. Which is a huge bonus and not something I thought would happen. So I can start to think about the first stages of marketing my business. And writing my business plan and getting a business account and finding an accountant and...

You get the picture. Basically I have to cut down on the chick flicks/pretty girlies...

13 September 2005

Guilty pleasures.

I've got some confessions to make about my guilty pleasures. Please don't laugh.

  1. The Spin Doctors. First band I ever saw live. Two Princes still rocks.

  2. Smallville. Been watching it on E4 lately. Clark, how could you not love Chloe? You're mad, that's how.

  3. Adverts. Not all of them - that damn Charmin advert isn't exactly a favourite - but a lot of them. And the medium itself. Sorry.

You see, adverts appeal to me in so many ways. As a writer/performer of comedy, the advert has a lot of parallels (for me) with the sketch show, especially post Fast Show.

From a marketing perspective, obviously advertising has a huge role to play, and TV adverts are a massive part of that.

But the reason I'm mentioning them here is so that I remember to write an article about the "Bam!" factor of websites.

In short, the web is saturated with content and Google, Yahoo! and a huge number of other portals and search engines are just waiting to serve up hundred of other possible pages which might fulfil your users' needs - unless you make sure they know early on that they're on the right page. There are ways to do this with the positining of elements, careful use of colour and animation in the right places, and keeping content above the fold but you need to make sure your site entry points - the pages you're getting visitors referred to by search engines - say exactly what they're about to provide quickly, clearly, and in an engaging way. You've got about 30 seconds to convince people to invest time and effort making more of your site. About the same amount of time as a TV advert.

But please, please, don't use bears performing bowel movements to do that.

12 September 2005

Another quicky....

I'm watching the Guardian site with interest at the moment. I thought that, with the re-branding and re-launching of the newspaper, there would be radical - or at least some changes to the site.

As far as I can see, the only change so far is that they have bullet points in some of the front page summaries now. The digital edition has changed but the main, free part of the site has remained very similar - and this is the part that new readers, captured by the new-look paper and the hype surrounding it, are going to be seeing.

Sounds a bit like a missed opportunity? Well, in many ways it is. But in other ways they're probably trying to avoid one of the horrors of launching a website with a fanfare - it's pretty easy for things to fall over. And with the number of people who are going to be looking at the site - given the media attention the change has generated - that's not really a risk worth taking.

Now, the Guardian has the resources to properly test an update to the site and probably even phase the update to make sure nothing goes wrong. But phasing it means you wouldn't get a big launch.

And besides - it wasn't the site which needed updating here - it's the site which has led to the need to update. Broadsheets, when the internet is so widely available, take far less advantage of the real benefit a newspaper has over a website - portability. While you can happily read the Sun on the tube, the Guardian is always a struggle.

Well, until now.

Edit: a little more browsing discovered this article about the site which - quite reassuringly - confirms exactly what I thought

Comments - sorry about the login thing

I got hit by comment spam, I'm afraid, so for the time being I'm keeping comments restricted to logged in users only. Once I don't have a "day job" I'll have more time to keep an eye on things and will open it up again.

If you want to get in touch, use adam[dot]maltpress[at]JuicyFly[dot]com - cheers!

09 September 2005

Very busy, so just a quick post

Busy at work but I really had to blog this story - exceedingly interesting read.

Guardian Unlimited - Digital dialogue on the web

07 September 2005

Quiet night

MG midget front wing
Originally uploaded by Maltpress.

I'm very tired tonight, so I'm trying to keep work to a minimum. Feeling a little under the weather for some reason.

I don't have a huge amount to do except refining the service offering. I think I can do that now; I've had a day away from it, and really not thinking about it, except at lunch.

I had a very nice lunch with a friend from work. We put the world to rights and talked about my plans (and hers) - and explaining things to her helped me get my head straight about some of the things I'd honestly not thought about. I've always been very grateful for my friends and family, but doing this, I think I'm even more appreciative - having someone to bounce ideas off, who's supportive but not afraid to tell you when you're wrong - it's very important. As dad always says, it's not what you know, but who you know. Obviously knowing something helps, but knowing when you don't know as much as you think - and knowing who to ask when you need to find things out - that's pretty important.

That was rather self-help lifestyle coach talk, for which I apologise. It won't happen again.

Anyway, despite the astronomical price of petrol at the moment, I decided to make the most of the sunshine (and show off to the friend I had lunch with) and drove my little baby to work today. Doesn't quite fit my plan to save petrol money this month by driving the bare minimum, but I think - given that I had a bad day yesterday and needed cheering up - it was worth it.

There's something about the burble of an A-Series engine in third gear as you pull away from a 30mph limit which can't help but bring a smile to your face.

And with that incredibly petrol-head comment, I'll leave you for the evening.

06 September 2005

Service offerings

Tonight I'm writing an outline of my service offerings. My book says I need to develop my business idea, so I'm listening to the Goon Show on BBC7's listen again and writing the details of the services I'll be offering. Then I'll test the ideas to destruction and re-work them.

Oh, and I'm getting some readers to this blog who aren't me. Hello! Nice to see some people are reading. Leave a comment to let me know you're there. It would be appreciated. :)

05 September 2005

How newspapers deal with the web

How newspapers dealt with the challenge of the internet is quite an interesting story. I'm planning to start producing weekly articles/opinion pieces, and perhaps this will be one of them in a few weeks' time when I have my website (proper) set up.

But in the mean time there's an interesting article in today's Grauniad all about it. How do you counter the fact that news on the web is now free? You give your newspaper away free. Or at least a large chunk of content.

It's a damn good principle - because fundamentally the newspaper is better than the web from the outset. It's a proper tangible product you can hold; it doesn't require power, or starting up, or lugging around in a lap-top case, or a wireless subscription. You can read it anywhere at any time. It even smells nicer. One of the nicest days I had this year was sitting in the sun at Glastonbury reading the newspaper and watching the hippies go by - it was ace. I couldn't do that with a website.

The problem with the competition, of course, came down to money. With content free online, advertising revenues dropped off and so did circulation. I think we'll soon reach a news saturation point online and start to settle into a pattern of loyalty similar to printed news; RSS feeds and blogs may muddy the waters here a little, but I really do think syndication is going to be picked up more on a specialist level (i.e. consumers subscribing to industry news, blogs etc) rather than everyone signing up to international feeds. There's simply too much news. I've signed up to several feeds, and have pretty much started to ignore the BBC one; it's too general and updated too regularly. I honestly think consumers would rather have daily updates than minute-by-minute unless something really big (terrorist attacks, natural disasters, cricket scores) is happening while they watch.

Here's how I want my news: a nice chunk of stuff tailored to me to browse in the morning. Followed by inky fingers as I catch up on general events which have been filtered for me by an editorial team I feel loyal to.

And if they want to give me free stuff too, then so much the better.

04 September 2005

Busy day!

Erm... well, OK, not that busy. I had a bike ride and I cleaned my car, and I'm about to tidy my room and then go round Dad's for tea.

I just came on here to say hurrah - I'm now part of BritBlog, the directory of British blogs. Which is nice. May drive some traffic my way and if not, I may well be able to find some relevant blogs on similar themes.

I found BritBlog via the excellent Random Acts of Reality blog. It's an excellent read.

I really have an impetus to get moving now. The week-by-week structure of the book is great, but I'm finding I have more time than I thought and I'm keen to get moving even faster, so it's full steam ahead now. I need to really push to meet with some people at work and really iron out any conflict of interest stuff.

Tomorrow I'll update you on what I need to do this week, some ideas I've been having and - on a personal note - some photos I've been taking.

02 September 2005

What a clever bit of e-mail marketing

I just got an automated email from VerticalResponse, who I've used in the past to send HTML email bulletins. They're a really good way of sending updates to people and - if you use them correctly - help reinforce brands, draw attention, and inform. I'm a bit dubious about using them too regularly, though - it's all too easy for content to be blocked, image links to be broken and so on (my webmail, for example, strips all images and as such I often get unreadable HTML emails). I know a few Sys Admins who hate them and will tell you never to send them - ever. However, as one-off or irregular contacts to really get some attention, they're great.

Anyway, the one I got was on the ever-hot topic of corporate blogging - which I think is great and I've been evangelising about for some time now - and, although I think it's a bit long for reading on screen, it's quite good. As you'd expect from an HTML email company. First link takes you to VerticalResponse's corporate blog (here, if you're interested) and it goes on to explain all about blogging.

The killer line for me, however, was "As always, this entire email was created and sent in just minutes using VerticalResponse!".

What an ace way to sell the product. I don't know why I'm so impressed with such a simple idea - and I admit the exclaimation might be going a bit far - but it's just so nicely and cleanly executed, and drives home the message so well, that I had to mention it.

And it's obviously worked as a marketing message.

01 September 2005

Itching to get going...

Had another day when I'm really itching to get going. Patience is needed, I know, but I'm really keen to start using some of the ideas I have.

The blog look and feel is getting there, and I'll finish that tomorrow.

I got the first two of my credit checks through - all clear, as I'd hoped. That's good. I'm about to do the first of my monthly accounts check-ups, as well, having got a spreadsheet ready. Sad, I know.

Networking is going OK - got in touch with a few old friends and told them what I'm up to and asked for some advice. Should have contact details for a few accountants soon.

Day-job work is very busy, too. I'm trying to teach myself better project management, though, and that's kind of why I'm working after fencing - I had some ideas how to better manage things and I'd like to get them down while they're fresh.

More updates over the weekend, I hope - no plans except saving money...