Thursday, 30 December 2010

Planning The New Year

New Year PlanningAT THIS TIME, last year, I was bemoaning the fact that I had been unable to close the Spink file and that that MP’s name was to haunt my Christmas celebrations during 2009. Fortunately, I was able to close that file five months into the New Year,  when Castle Point’s new MP, Rebecca Harris, defeated the odious Bob Spink in the General Election last May.

With Spink’s shade put to rest, I was finally able to clear my desk this year (as I normally do) in preparation for 2011. During 2010 I had written a number of pieces about Canvey Island’s Dave Blackwell; but they had all been finished to my satisfaction. The facts had been published; the speculation supported; and the stories had been put to bed.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Focusing On The Dangers Of 2011

New Year2011 PROMISES to be a very busy year for newspaper photographers and camera wielding bloggers – with plenty of opportunities to capture both peaceful and violent protest as the true impact of Coalition Government cuts becomes clear.

Castle Point Borough Council is faced with a funding cut of some 30% over the next two years and, although a straw Canvey Beat poll found that residents back the government’s austerity measures: a further poll found that there was no appetite for a Council Tax increase to mitigate the size of the financial gap. If the Council is to court public opinion, it therefore has no choice other than to impose deep cuts on the services it provides.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

2010?.. I Must Have Blinked!

Santa ClausTHEY SAY that time passes quicker as you get older, and that seems to have been the case this year. I will book 2010 down as one of those years in which I was too busy to do anything else – and yet got very little done.

2010 was the year in which I intended to add some photographic coverage to the Canvey Beat; but never got around to taking any shots of Canvey Island or Castle Point. Instead I indulged myself putting my new camera’s capabilities to the test and appeasing my agent’s call for more feature material and additional photographic stock.

Apparently, having seen the results, she is not about to let me fully retire just yet.

I had been expecting it. The shedding of staffers has continued to occupy management’s mind this year – and freelancers are in demand more than ever before. But the bad news is that many staffers have now taken-up freelancing – and are prepared to work for peanuts rather than bolstering their early income with an additional part-time job.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

A Productive Week While The Car Remained Covered In Snow

Snow sceneAS IT HAPPENS I am one of those people who like inclement weather. I like driving in it, and I like being out in it – because it normally provides some good stock photographs. But this week I needed to remain at home to await some postal deliveries – so my attention turned to my Blogs.

It was the Canvey Beat to which I first turned my mind because it has a very good readership; but only when I provide a new post. I recognised, some time ago, that there was little reason for guests to return until I provided another piece – but I could not figure-out what to do about it.

Monday, 6 December 2010

My First Live Blog

Cover it LiveLAST FRIDAY I decided to bite the bullet and hold the Canvey Beat’s first live Blog – at 9:00am when most of its readers would be at work!

I had decided to cover my local MP, Rebecca Harris, as she led the debate on her Daylight Saving Bill’s second reading in Parliament; and, in case my own performance dried-up, I decided to invite a number of local councillors as panellists.

CoverItLive promote their system as taking just two minutes to set up; but, in reality, I found it to take much less. The interface is a breeze to use and I had all the relevant settings for my first broadcast defined in under a minute.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Where Do You Stand, Politically?

ParliamentRECENTLY, a fellow journalist (Susanna Rustin at the Guardian) was researching a piece about Town and Parish Councils, and decided to give me a ring.

‘Where do you stand, politically?’ she asked, as I gave her the low-down on Canvey Island’s Town Council.

To my utter surprise I replied: ‘Here? Conservative.’ And then, as time appeared to stop around me, I found myself trying to justify what I had said.

Friday, 26 November 2010

MORE Tag Reveals Interesting Fact

Canvey Beat visit lengthPART OF THE PROBLEM with getting to grips with Website visitor statistics is the fact that they are largely imperfect. If a visitor chooses to type a site’s address into their browser, and then just remains on that page - without clicking on anything - there is no means of knowing how long that visit has lasted. (The StatCounter employed on the Canvey Beat Blog categorises all such visits as lasting less than five-seconds, for convenience).

All that one can be sure of, regarding such visits, is that no links on the accessed page attracted the guest’s attention – and that information can be useful; but it should also be remembered that the ‘less than five-seconds’ statistic also includes visits by those simply checking if a new article, since their previous visit, has been published.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Statistics, Correlation – And Stupidity

Government at workIT IS SAID that, in the middle of the 20th Century, both the Russians and the Americans conducted a programme of psychic investigations in order to establish if such ‘powers’ could be harnessed in their espionage activities. And it is also reported that both sides, despite reaching no firm conclusions in the matter, nonetheless achieved some surprising results.

One of the most interesting findings was from establishing a ‘coven;’ consisting of 13 individuals whose leader would set its members a task – such as accurately predicting the number of individuals recorded in a selected telephone book, or how many cookies there were in a jar.

What they found was that the 12 guesses (formulated through deep meditation, trance, or simple concentration) differed widely from one individual to another. But, if the results were averaged (by totalling the results and dividing by twelve) then, on many occasions, the calculation proved to be absolutely right.

They also found that these accurate results were more frequent than could be rationally explained by chance.

Perhaps Government should return to its ancient, pagan roots and establish a number of specialised covens to develop its policies - in preference to the modern method of relying upon computer modelling and stupid statisticians…

Friday, 12 November 2010

£4.8 TRILLION In Debt – And Counting…

Trillion Pound Horror StoryFILM MAKER Martin Durkin explained the full extent of the financial mess we are in last night on Channel 4: an estimated £4.8 trillion of national debt - and counting…

His programme focused attention on the fact that the UK’s public sector now spends more than all British companies and individuals put together and that, despite the Coalition’s spending cuts, National Debt, in 2015, will still be more than it was last year.

Government cuts, it is argued, are too little, too late. And it is difficult not to agree.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I Should Have Used That MORE Tag From The Outset

IT IS ONLY DURING THE LAST WEEK, since returning refreshed from a long overdue holiday, that I have really paid much attention to my Blogs’ Home pages. Indeed, I have never considered them to be anything more than my most recent post – or posts. It had never occurred to me that a Blog’s home page was a separate entity that could be configured to provide a window onto the author’s most recent articles – and that the key to providing that feature was the MORE tag.

Both BlogSpot and WordPress permit their authors to specify the number of most recent posts to be placed on the home-page – and both hosts provide the ability to split those posts into two halves by inserting a special code from within their editors. When present, that code ensures that only the first half of the respective post is placed on the Home page, and a hyperlink in the form of a ‘Read more…’ label is inserted immediately below it to access the rest.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Another Move To BlogSpot

MY REGULAR READERS will not be surprised to find that I have moved my personal Blog from WordPress to BlogSpot. Although I first encountered some formatting problems here when I first moved the Canvey Beat, they have all since been rectified – and posting to BlogSpot sites is much quicker.

It no longer makes sense to continue a WordPress presence, which does not permit Google AdSense advertising by its authors – and has now removed the ability to host JavaScript.

BlogSpot has no such restrictions, and its recent addition of detailed statistics to compete with similar facilities offered by WordPress has made my decision much easier.