Thumbnail image for Evening Standard Erection

An e-mail from the Ada Lovelace Day folks dropped into my in-box the other day, mentioning that Roma Agrawal would be speaking at Ada Lovelace Day Live. That set a little alarm ringing in my head that I'd seen her name before recently, and meant to write about it.

You see, I was reading a profile of her in the Evening Standard, after picking up a copy left on a train, and after getting slightly annoyed at the "Gosh! An attractive female engineer!" tone of the piece, nearly choked on my coffee when I got to this line:

This softly spoken 30-year-old in a yellow dress is the woman who made sure the biggest erection in Western Europe didn’t fall down.


Did we really need to go there - connecting her dress and the word "erection"? Do we really have to focus on this talented and successful engineer's sex appeal?

Honestly, I expected to see that the author was a man - but no, it was Susannah Butter, evidently a woman. And I was shocked enough that I ended up grabbing a photo, intending to write about it.

Am I reading too much into this - or is this a gratuitous and unnecessary sexualisation of a feature about an engineer? Would we ever consider commenting on the dress and sex appeal of an equivalent male engineer?

UPDATE: As it turns out, Roma has already written a response:

This one sentence contradicts the core message of the article: that women can excel in engineering and other male dominated industries on their merit. I believe women should be judged on their skills and contribution in the workplace and shouldn't have to fear being sexualised.

The Loop on iPad

While we're on the topic of iPad magazine apps:

We in the publishing game have a name for this phenomenon - we call it “shovelware”. We used to use the term to describe the way we just took our print copy and shoveled it onto the web - a phase that, thankfully, most publishing businesses have moved beyond. However, the arrival of the iPad has given us the opportunity to get that ol’ shovel back out of the box, and shovel our magazines straight into a new form.

Oh, make no mistake, this has been made very easy for us. Adobe - amongst others - has given us tools to take our magazines and shove them onto the iPad with just a few clicks. And publishers have been doing this with abandon - if limited commercial success. Now wonder: this is shovelware 2.0, and it will be just as damaging to our businesses in the long term as its 1990s version was.

That's somebody called "Adam Tinworth", writing in InPublishing.

And then he goes on to describe a magazine app that's really good. I think you'll enjoy it…

iPad Newsstand

David Jacobs of 29th Street Publishing talking about magazine apps:

What we have learned is that the replica will never be successful. Consumers have soundly rejected them: digital subscriptions make up only 3% of total subscriptions. But I am of course optimistic about the future of magazine apps, since the industry has an opportunity for a reboot. There is a challenge (and an opportunity) since the mainstream conception of a magazine app is what amounts to a photo gallery of pages of a magazine, with the occasional widget or animation. But that’s not a transformation that is going to happen overnight.

Why did it all go so wrong? Joe Zeff of Joe Zeff Design, an app studio, is direct:

It’s easy to blame Adobe DPS for the spate of lookalike magazines; instead, I blame the publishers. They blindly followed AAM née ABC guidelines and created digital magazines that were hardly different from print. They prioritized customer retention over customer acquisition and focused on rate base expansion instead of new product development. They have failed to excite advertisers, blaming weak CPM numbers that could be strengthened by aggregating audiences through networks.

In short, rather than prioritising creating greta customer experiences, the magazine industry prioritised protecting its own business model and workflows - with appalling results.

The whole iPad Magazine roundtable at Newmanology is well worth a read - as it gets right to the heart of the challenges and opportunities of this format.

A brand new, responsive OM&HB

The days when I switched my blog design every few months are very long gone, but here we are again with a new look OM&HB, only 20 months after the last one.

Here's what it looks like right now:

Responsive OM&HB

And this is why it is significant:

A responsive OM&HB

Yes, I've finally gone mobile-friendly and responsive.

I pretty much had no choice: tablet and phone traffic is nudging towards 50% of my site traffic - and it gets even higher than that on "big hit" posts. If I care about my readers - and I do - I should be catering to their device choice.

Also, frankly, when I'm talking to publishers and journalists about mobile strategy, having a design that's not mobile-friendly was getting rather embarrassing.

What's changed?

  • Responsive design! Yes, I said that above. But it's the most important thing...
  • The sidebar returns. Yes, I tried to bury it all at the bottom of the page, but it didn't work. A single sidebar is still useful.
  • Sharing buttons are gone. An experiment: I want to see if the lack of sharing buttons has any traffic impact.
  • Pagingation. You can actually (at long last) page back through older entries from the homepage of the site.
  • Taupy RIP. Yes, the lizard finally bites the dust. Here, for a final time, is Taupy, the mascot of this blog for the best part of eight years:


What do you think?

Declan Curry

The above photo was circulating Twitter yesterday, and at least two media outlets - Romenesko and FishbowlNY - ran it as an example of a BBC captioner having a bad day.

They found the image and they ran with it. They didn't contact Declan or the BBC. And today, they're both apologising.

As it happens, I was at university with Declan - we worked on Imperial College's student newspaper Felix together. I'd seen the photo before - when he posted it to Facebook, sharing a joke he'd written himself. Yup, the caption was by him - and was the best part of a year old:

click on the comments link to see the discussion

And there we have it. Two media outlets turned their journalistic instincts off when presented with something fun on social media, and made fools of themselves.

You don't get to stop applying the basic techniques of journalism just because you found something on social media. Verify, check, double-source. Or you'll be apologising to your readers - or your editor - pretty quickly.

Back on the blog

Today has been defined by server problems and vomit. Server problems kept me from posting this morning, and vomit (as produced by my daughter) for the afternoon.

But I am back.



If you're reading this, you're almost certainly a regular reader of my blog - because I'm going to do exactly no promotion whatsoever of this post. This is just something for my regulars, if you like, and those they choose to share it with.

I'm going to start doing a newsletter in the next few days, which will be called the Digital Publishing Irregular.

It will be, as the name suggests, about digital publishing, and it will be irregular. It will be more opinionated and broad than posts on this blog, and will represent, in many ways, the first draft of ideas that will eventually make their way here.

If you're interested in this, feel free to sign-up below:

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Expect occasional missives thereafter…