Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Highgate Cemetery by Tom Royal on Flickr
Osaka by Tom Royal on Flickr

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Kitten Block – Now for Chrome

February 14th, 2011

Kitten Block for Firefox now has over 1,000 users and has been verified by Mozilla, but I’ve also had dozens of requests for a version that works with the Chrome browser. So, er, I made one. You can get it here.

As with the Firefox version, it’s very simple: no options, just simple kitten-based blocking. Enjoy!

Kitten Block 1.02b for Firefox 4 beta

October 3rd, 2010

Over the past few days there has been quite a lot of interest in my Kitten Blocker for Firefox. Thanks to Martin Belam, Tom Cox, Ms Slide (site possibly NSFW, depending on where you work, I suppose) and everyone who’s shared, blogged or passed the link around on Twitter. It has now blocked well over a hundred inadvertent visits to the Mail online, and the original Tea and Kittens site just served up its 20,000th kitten.

The original extension, Kitten Block version 1.01, is available on the Mozilla site, and works for any version of Firefox up to 3.6.x. I’ve had no reported problems, and it has now been tested on dozens of Windows and Mac systems. For those testing out Firefox 4 Beta, though, it’ll refuse to install. This is a limitation of the installer package, rather than the code.

I’ll update the Kitten Block package to 1.0.2, with support, once Firefox 4 exits beta and I can test it on the final version. In the meantime, here’s a working beta version – I’ve tested on the current 4.0b6 (and 3.6), and I’ve set the package to be valid up to 4.0b9.

UPDATE – Version 1.1, on the Mozilla Update site, now supports Firefox 4 beta.
UPDATE 2 – Firefox 4 has launched, and is supported in full by v1.2

Kittens vs the Daily Mail

September 28th, 2010

This is what the Daily Mail website now looks like on my computer. Let me explain.

It’s hard to avoid the Daily Mail. Even if you’d never choose to buy a copy, links to its website are everywhere (except this post, obviously). Some are easy to spot and avoid, but when one is obfuscated by link shortening services – particularly common on Twitter, for obvious reasons – it’s all to easy to visit Mail Online unintentionally. And this is bad for two reasons: it’ll make you very angry or upset*, and it helps to bolster the newspaper’s website stats and online advert impressions.

My solution involves kittens. All the best solutions do.

Kitten Block is a Firefox extension that blocks the Daily Mail and Daily Express websites. And nothing else. There are no configuration settings, options or adjustable blacklists and no override option, so once installed it looks rather like this:

If you click on a link – shortened, full or whatever – to either site the extension intercepts it and redirects you to a special page on www.teaandkittens.co.uk, as pictured above. The extension can of course be disabled or removed. It’s free, obviously – the code that makes it tick is mostly cobbled together from snippets on the Mozilla Developer Hub site, so I take no real credit – and anyone’s welcome to edit, reuse or improve it.

Kitten Block has been tested on Firefox 3.6 under Windows, but use it at your own risk – please let me know if you spot any bugs, problems etc. You can get it from the Mozilla Addons site, here.

UPDATE: Kitten Block version 1.1 is now up on the Mozilla Addons site. It includes support for Firefox 4 Beta (up to 4.0b7), optimised code (shorter, smarter, redesigned to prevent incompatibility with other addons) and – very excitingly – a new kitten icon.

UPDATE 2: Now also available for Chrome!

* Or both, obviously.

Daily Mail iPhone Fail (whale)

June 27th, 2010

10.30am or so this morning, on the internets:

Which would be, if true, something of a scoop for the Daily Mail. So let’s take a look at the article – here’s the first few paras:

Which is great – the source is Mr Jobs himself. On Twitter. Except that, as anyone working in tech journalism should know, Steve Jobs doesn’t have a verified Twitter account. It took all of 10 seconds to find the source –  this update:

There are many clues that @ceostevejobs is a parody account – not least the phrase “of course this is a parody account” in his biography. Apparently, though, nobody at the Mail bothered to check. I published a link on Twitter. People laughed and mocked. Sarcastic comments appeared on the article. Still it sat unchanged. A few hours later a colleague pointed out that it also contained a howling typo – that, too, sat uncorrected.

All in all, then, an astronomical fuckup that lead to an incorrect article being published. So where’s the correction? There isn’t one. Instead it took around four hours for the Mail’s web team to notice – or perhaps to decide that the traffic they were getting no longer outweighed the potential embarrassment – and the page disappeared offline at around 2pm.

So there you have it: shoddy reporting, no fact checking, an incorrect news story sitting online for hours and no apology. At least, for once, it doesn’t really matter that much.

Will somebody please think, etc

February 4th, 2009

This article on the Mail website is stupid enough (the “ice in eyes” thing comes from one teacher, who didn’t even close her school, for example), but check out the top image (after the fifth paragraph if you click the above link, or direct link here).

Now, many Mail articles seem to be designed to direct the irate towards people that they can blame for the various perceived wrongs of society, while simultaneously providing a happy glow of smug moral certainty. So then, blame-fans, let’s see what we have here: snow on the ground, and the weather’s clearly freezing. Kid on the left: T-shirt with no sleeves. Kid on the right: appears to be hugging self for warmth. Hmm. And I’m supposed to blame the school, you say?

There’s no attribution on the image and the quality is pretty poor, so I’m guessing this was sent to the Mail by a reader. Possibly one of the parents of the kids in question. I wonder if said reader actually got these kids to take their coats off just to pose a photo so they could send it off to a newspaper with a caption (“it’s political correctness gone mad”, etc)?

If that’s the case, it strikes me as a pretty good example of irresponsible parenting. I wonder what the Mail’s own pet moral guardians (including Parents Outloud, whose qualification for being relentlessly quoted appears to be a blogger page) would make of it.