Google to Drop Support for IE6

It appears that Google is about to Drop Support for IE6, which might be the final straw for the outdated browser.

On the Official Google Enterprise Blog, under the tile of Modern Browsers for Modern Applications there is a post that confirms what right minded people have been pressing for for a long time: IE 6 is on it’s way out. The entry posted by Rajen Sheth, Google Apps Senior Product Manager, starts with the compelling reason why IE6 must go:

The web has evolved in the last ten years, from simple text pages to rich, interactive applications including video and voice. Unfortunately, very old browsers cannot run many of these new features effectively. So to help ensure your business can use the latest, most advanced web apps, we encourage you to update your browsers as soon as possible.

Although IE6 has been a staple for millions of users in the past, it is time to move on and embrace the future with tabbed browsers like IE8, Firefox, Chrome and Opera. On behalf of web users and developers everywhere, we thank you, Google!

To read more about this subject see:

More Viral Marketing with Aleksandr Orlov

The latest episode in the viral marketing campaign Compare The Meerkat has aired, and of course has made it to YouTube. This time the advert (a short film called The Journey of Courageousness) even has a trailer!

The film called The Journey of Courageousness, by Aleksandr Orlov, documents the courageous journey of the Meerkats from their home in the Kalahari desert to finally end up in Russia. As usual for this sequence of adverts, the production is excellent, and the storyline is brisk and full of comedic moments. Check out Sergei looking seasick on the ocean crossing!

Compare The Meerkat Film Trailer

The Journey of Courageousness – Compare The Meerkat Advert (Jan 2010)

How Long Should A Blog Post Be?

Our post last Thursday has sparked some debate around the office about how long a blog post should be. I mean honestly, a blog post should be as long as it needs to be, and no more!

It is a bit like the instruction I was given all those years ago when as a newbie mechanic I asked how far should I tighten a bolt. My mentor, a wily old veteran who had probably been around at the retreat from Dunkirk (or is that Dunquerke?), nodded sagely and then told me (with a straight face) to tighten it until it snapped, and then back off a bit…

As a rule, I always finish a blog post off and then leave it for a few hours before going back to edit down a bit. Usually it just needs to have a few superfluous words removed, and the odd repetition corrected. That is really the same thing, as my old mentor would have advised; write until it is just too long, and then back off a bit!
A quick random sample of a few blogs gives a sample (admittedly unscientific!) of post length as a general guide. The following are average word count per post:

  • Techco Support average 368
  • Bruce Thompson Coaching average 438
  • Guardian Technology Blogs average 665

However if you average up posts from one of the more prolific bloggers, the word count can be a lot higher. Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist averages about 1500 words a post, with some as high as 1856.

Now if you think about it, the length of you article reflects the content. For a helpdesk how-to, you really only need to know the problem and solution, so a low word count is appropriate. For a coaching article, more wordage is required, because there is likely some scene setting, to give people the vision, sounds and feelings that they might experience. If you are a worldly wise uber-blogger like Penelope Trunk you probably have a lot more to say.

The advice we give to trainee bloggers who ask the question “How long should a blog post be?” is simple and gradual:

  • Aim for 200-300 word to start with
  • When confident aim for 400-800 words on a specific topic
  • Once you are a veteran blogger, make your post as long as it needs to be!

To check out the blogs we have sampled here, click on the links below to take your own word count:

Outdated IE6 Browser Still Widespread in Government

Does it seem odd that with Chinese hackers exploiting Internet Explorer 6 vulnerabilities to infiltrate Google’s network, so many Government departments are actively prevented from upgrading to a safer, more usable browser?

As noted in the Bristol Programming blog, the numbers are almost unbelievable. Together with an undisclosed number of desktops in the Ministry of Justice using the vulnerable and out of date browser, the figures for IE6 in Government are breathtaking:

  • More than 750,000 workstations in the NHS
  • 500,000 in the Department of Work and Pensions
  • 300,000 in the Ministry of Defence

Is it possible that the cost to Government that outsourced IT providers would demand to upgrade the browser are so high that it is worth the risk of compromise? There must be some major national security threat if users ever get the ability to use tabbed browsing; what else could explain the reluctance to upgrade? Perhaps some bold MP would like to ask the question in Parliament.

To read the original article click here to visit the Bristol Programming blog

Another Email Hoax To Avoid

Another one of those pesky email hoaxes popped into our in-box today. It was the Simon Ashton hoax, with the warning forwarded by a well meaning friend. As we tell all our staff, collogues, customers and friends, the email hoax works because people think “better safe than sorry”

The amount of email that a typical hoax can generate is a major cost to organisations. Just think of a company with 60 employees; if each person takes a minute to read a hoax virus email, that will cost an hour of lost productivity. Then if half of them spend a couple of minutes forwarding it to their friends, that is another hour lost! Once a few people in your company have received a warning and mailed it to all their friends and colleagues, a mail overload can easily result.

We support the advice that companies should consider circulating a policy on virus hoaxes to all their staff, in an attempt to avoid the costs involved.

For a sample anti hoax virus policy click here to visit Sophos – Don’t fall for a virus hoax

Top Tips For Writing A Blog

We often get asked to give advice and tips about writing a blog. Common questions people ask are:
How much should I write on my blog? How frequently do I need to add posts? What do I do if I get stuck and can’t think of anything to write? While we cover this sort of thing during our WordPress training, it doesn’t hurt to extract a couple or three top tips for writing a blog, just as a reminder. They are:

  • Aim for 200-300 word to start with
  • Write every day if you can
  • Find Inspiration in anything you do

How Long Should I Make My Post?
For a beginner, we advise you to make your first few posts about 200-300 words, about something you are really passionate about. If you find you have a lot more to say, check if you could split it into two or more smaller articles. If you are a prolific writer, then you can make you posts longer, but for a start, aim to have just three bullet points.

How Frequently Should I Write?
Our advice is to publish small articles every day on your site if you can. That way the content stays fresh. If you find that too time consuming, try a small submission every two or three days, or once a week. If you have split a long article into two smaller segments, post the second part the next day

What Do I Do If I Get Stuck?
Anybody can get a block if they are a writer, it is par for the course. If you found yourself going too long without inspiration try this easy sequence:

  • Clear your mind and do something completely different for a while.
  • When you have had a complete break, go and read the newspaper, on-line news, watch TV or surf the net.
  • When you see something which interests you, imediatly write about it!

If you use this technique, you can find Inspiration in anything you do. It really is that easy! Good luck and happy blogging!

IAP WordPress Blog Goes Live

The Institution of Analysts and Programmers has embraced the Web 2.0 concept and changed the format of it’s website to the popular blog format. The site is using WordPress, with the Atahualpa WP Theme by BytesForAll.

The Institution is Britain’s leading professional organisation for people who work in the development, installation and testing of business systems and computer software. A number of PRINCE 2 Practitioners are members of the IAP, and a few hold prominant positions in the organisation.

If you want to see what the new WordPress powerd IAP website looks like click here to visit The Institution of Analysts and Programmers

Featured WordPress Blog – Chas Harris Footloose

Our featured blog this week is a hosted at, and it is by Charles Harris of Footloose Films. It is a good example of why blogging using WordPress is such a liberating outlet and is part of what make the Internet great. Check out “Best TV drama, my arse” for a sample of Charles’ forthright opinions.

Charles Harris is an experienced award-winning writer-director for cinema and TV. He sold his first script for production in Hollywood and has since worked with top names in the industry from James Stewart to Spike Milligan. As script consultant, he has helped professional writers from Britain, Europe and USA, sat on BAFTA awards juries and lectured on MA courses at London University and London Film School. He is also a qualified NLP trainer and Advanced Presenter.

The Chas Harris Footloose site carries information on Writing and Directing, with a sideline of NLP and Martial Arts! It is small but growing steadily, so we will keep a watching brief on this site. Charles runs workshops on writing Treatments, Screenwriting, and Pitching, which is grabbing the attention of entertainment industry professionals in just a few words. Everybody can use some tips on that!

The WordPress theme used on the Chas Harris Footloose site is Andreas04 by Andreas Viklund. Andreas is responsible for a number of themes, which we have used on our many hosted WordPress blogs.

Follow the links below for more information

More on the MacBook Pro Dark Screen Problem

Following up on the post last week about the tendency towards the dark side exhibited by the MacBook Pro (MacBook Pro Dark Screen Rescue Sequence?) further scientific testing has now revealed the definitive recovery sequence for the MacBook Pro Dark Screen problem:

  • Pull out the MacBook Pro magnetic power connector.
  • Close the lid as if putting it away for the night.
  • Reinsert the power connector
  • Open the lid as if waking it up

The machine then should be ready to authenticate you to continue working.

The science behind this is wooly at best, but assumes that the MacBook Pro is in fact self aware, but lonely, and goes into a sulk if you leave it alone for too long. Pulling the plug and closing the lid puts it to sleep properly, and powering up and opening the lid again wakes it up again, as if it has had a good night’s sleep. So far it has worked every time!

For skeptical people who do not believe in anthropomorphism, try seeing the explanation as a metaphor; it does not matter if there is a poisonous snake by your foot, or if you just believe there is, your reaction is the same. Try the sequence and see if it fixes your MacBook Pro Dark Screen Problem, then let us know your explanation!

Dealing with Comment Spammers in WordPress

If you’ve been on the internet for any amount of time you’re probably familiar with “spam” in your email inbox. For the uninitiated, spam is an unsolicited commercial message trying to sell you something. Some of this is generated by botnets, groups of hijacked PCs which are working secretly for a botnet controller, sending unsolicited mail using the mailbox of unsuspecting PC owners, or probing websites for security vulnerabilities. Other spam is posted by people who have nothing better to do.

So what does this have to do with WordPress blogs? Well just like you can get spam messages in your inbox, people will leave spam comments on your blog. Unlike email spam, where the target is you, in an attempt to get you to buy something, comment spam generally targets search engines like Google or Yahoo! trying to increase the PageRank of a website.

You are probably aware that Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google pioneered a search technique called PageRank. Basically what it does is, in addition to looking at the content of a page they index, they also look at who links to a page and what that link says. This technology is what made Google very good at returning relevant results, and made it the most popular search engine today. So why on earth would a spammer target a search engine through your WordPress blog? Simples! As Aleksandr Orlov the meerkat would say!

By posting a comment on your blog with a back-link to the site they are promoting, they hope to cash in on the PageRank of your site and so increase the ranking of the target site. With hundreds of bots in a botnet, all probing for open comments on WordPress blogs, they could theoretically get to the top of Google search listings for a targeted key phrase. What is possibly more annoying for the webmaster of a spammed blog, linking to a site which is identified by Google as a problem site, could damage the PageRank of the blog which has been spammed. This comment spam or link spam as it is known can be the bane of a popular WordPress blog.

So how do you avoid getting spammed by the comment spammers? Try the following simple tips:

  • Activate the Akismet wordpress plugin
  • Install a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing-test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) on your comment form
  • Set Discussion Settings to An administrator must always approve the comment

If you are up to editing your web server system files, you can also block the IP address of frequent spammers if you find that a few IP’s are constantly sending comment spam. The easiest way to get rid of these spamers is by blocking their IP address using .htaccess method; adding the following to your .htaccess file:

<limit GET POST>
order allow,deny
deny from
deny from
deny from
allow from all

You can list as many sites as you like in the list, putting each one on a new line as above.

By the way Spammers, posting spam to comments on this site will get you an entry on the Google spam report at, as we use Google Webmaster Tools. As we moderate every comment before it is posted on the site, link-spam will never see the light of day, so you are just wasting your life.

For legitamate ways to increase the PageRank of your homepage, see our earlier post on the subject entitled Improving Your Search Engine Results

If you are interested in even more imaginative ways to fight link spam, check out Conversation With An Idiot Link Broker, from Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land! Click here to read Conversation With An Idiot Link Broker