8 things we’ve been reading recently

Every week we share loads of articles within the team about web and digital stuff. Some of it news, others just fab things we’ve found. We thought if you’re interested enough to read this blog, you might just be interested enough to read these stories too, so here are eight of our favourites from the last month or so…

1 – Google’s new idea for lovely texting on Android

How the successor to SMS will take on iMessage
The VergeThe Verge

Texting matters. It’s fast, cheap, and universal. And with emerging markets who do their internet-ing on smart phones, it’s vastly more important than email. Yet texting on Android sucks. Despite having an 88% market share, and numerous attempts, Google has never managed to get their rich messaging to work as nicely as iMessage.

However, one issue is a lack of end-to-end encryption… which brings us onto:

 

2 – How modern web tech lets you avoid old-fashioned web censors

Encryption matters to many users, especially where governments do not like it. China is often mentioned when it comes to blocking apps but they’re by no means alone, with Pakistan, Turkey, and Brazil all blocking apps currently or in the past.

However governments, and the courts, often have trouble keeping up with modern web practice (Amber Rudd’s “necessary hashtags”).

Telegram has both made use of its hosting on Amazon Web Services to avoid basic IP blocking, but has then re-routed traffic via the push notification servers of Apple and Google. This means any attempt by the Russian government to block it results in huge amount of collateral damage, potentially blocking other popular apps and breaking functionality on phones.

 

3 – What if my invitation got lost in the post?

FAQs: they’re awful, they’re unhelpful, and they’re no longer allowed on our website (see why). However we might make an exception if they were as… erm… insightful as this one from the New York Times.

 

4 – Not a substitute for staff photos

This portrait is entirely built using just CSS and HTML. If you know your way around inspect element, have fun deleting divs and watching her arm vanish.

 

5 – Why TV’s Martin Lewis is making dodgy advertisers furious

With the scandal over Cambridge Analytica, you may have missed this smaller but just as important issue. Martin Lewis, annoyed at dodgy money making scams using his photo and claiming he endorses them, has sued Facebook.

Depending on the outcome, there may be major changes for how Facebook adverts are sold, so what appears to be just one man protecting his reputation could significantly change the social advertising landscape.

 

6 – Yahoo! Sells! Flickr! To! Smugmug!

You may have heard that Smugmug has bought Flickr from Yahoo, or more accurately, from Oath, the subsidiary of Verizon that now holds the remnants of Yahoo’s former empire. Here’s an interesting read from five years ago about how Flickr, one of the oldest social websites, was strangled under Yahoo’s corporate structure.

7 – New startup aims to improve higher ed systems

“Inspired by the way in which educators and students use communication tools such as WhatsApp and Slack, Aula replaces emails and learning management systems with a single platform designed to encourage interaction and student engagement.”

8 – St. Andrews move WordPress to the cloud

Our lovely friends over the water have decided to move their WordPress network out to an external provider.

One of the things that is often overlooked is how long our team have to spend keeping platforms such as WordPress up to date, especially given we have four networks with over 75 sites.

We recently performed a significant audit and cleanup of duplicate plugins, outdated themes, and abandoned sites, however we’re following St. Andrews’ progress with interest.

Written by:

Once described as 'unapproachable and rude to children', Pete nevertheless strives towards the goal of making the content of our website more friendly, readable, and useful for our visitors. Surprisingly handy with a drill.

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    2 Responses to “8 things we’ve been reading recently”

    1. Keith Duncan

      FAQs banned?
      Unless you are the library perhaps – LLC FAQs. Perhaps in reality there are “Good FAQ” and “Bad FAQ” and reality of any perceived effectiveness somewhere between?

      It may help to explain why FAQ are considered bad…
      FAQs -why we don’t have them (Government Digital Service)

      or indeed why they may still be a place for FAQ…
      FAQs still deliver great value

      Whilst FAQ may be dated arguably IMHO there is still a place albeit in a different form/behind the scenes, destined more for AI

      • Pete Hewitt

        Hi Keith,

        Thought I’d linked the GDS article from that sentence, must have forgot (shall fix). But yes the GDS approach is very much the page we’re on.

        There are still quite a few legacy FAQ sections around the website. LLC and HR are the two biggest remaining FAQers. However as sections get reviewed and refreshed they’re being removed and the content more carefully integrated into the rest of the pages.

        We’ve read that Nielsen report too although have to disagree with it. Essentially most of the arguments can be nullified by applying good Content Design to the pages. The example at the top, our vocab not matching the end-use vocab, is a notorious one but an FAQ is not a solution to it.

        Interestingly though, one place we do find them useful can be as part of the initial information gathering phase. FAQs are super easy to write, it’s one of the reasons they’re so prolific, so it can be a great way to get 70-80% of the way there in one easy step.

        Once we in the content team get our hands on them we’ll de-FAQ them but it can sometimes be easier and quicker to use them as a starting point even if they’re not the eventual endgame.

        Pete

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