Elements or Lower

Mon, 15 Dec 2008

Our Guide to PayPal

Our Guide to PayPal:

Most of our customers use PayPal to take payment for reservations made from their wedding gift list.  This allows you to simply and safely accept credit card payments for items on your

Thu, 04 Dec 2008

Helping Hand

Helping Hand:

We have hundreds of couples using our honeymoon gift list service, with honeymoon destinations all over the world.  We’ve even had couples spend their honeymoons in places as far-flung as the…

Wed, 03 Dec 2008

Facebook Advertising

There’s ongoing discussion on whether advertising on social media such as Facebook is worthwhile, something we’ve been considering ourselves. I’d like to bring a couple of my own experiences to the table.

I’m quite the fan of the Canadian electronica band Delerium. Earlier this year, I noticed a Facebook ad for their gig at the Carling Academy in Islington, a very rare performance outside of North America, and an event I’d never have known about otherwise. With enthusiasm, and something even approaching gratitude, I clicked. Tickets were booked, a great time was had and a t-shirt bought.

It’s safe to assume that the ad was targeted relatively narrowly: people living in the UK (perhaps even just London), who have listed Delerium in their favourite music on their Facebook profile. Only a handful of people would have seen the ad, really — but because Facebook ads are PPC (price per click), the event organisers would have only paid for the times the ad was actually clicked. They may well have recouped their investment through finding me alone.

Exposure isn’t the issue here, it’s targeting. Search ads on Google are relatively well-targeted, based on the keywords you’re using for search — but here, the ad was an absolute bullseye. I was precisely the right demographic, and (unlike all the singles ads I see on Facebook that ignore the fact that I’m listed as married) the ad wasn’t an annoyance. In fact, quite the opposite.

Similarly, later in the year, I was served an ad for the new album from Oceanlab, the text of which was something along the lines of “Like Delerium? Listen to this!” — so I clicked, and discovered easily my favourite album of 2008.

What’s to take from this? Well, when advertising is that well-targeted, it stops being advertising and starts being a service. I didn’t need convincing and I wasn’t a hard sell. And, it seems, the purveyors of fine electronica know this.

I wonder if there’s an alternative payment model somewhere in here? One where you’re encouraged to be a specific as possible in your ad spend — ads that get clicked are free: it’s the ones that aren’t that cost you …?

Tue, 18 Nov 2008

Ah, crap.

Ah, crap.

Fri, 14 Nov 2008

This, sir, is why I loves me some Olbermann

Wed, 12 Nov 2008

Sometimes I wonder what my computer is trying to tell me about…

Sometimes I wonder what my computer is trying to tell me about the quality of my work.

Tue, 11 Nov 2008

Misty Peaks

Misty Peaks:

We very recently released a new theme on Buy Our Honeymoon, Misty Peaks.  We’ve been asked a couple of times this year for a theme suitable for winter honeymoons — trips to the Canadian…

Wed, 05 Nov 2008


I keenly remember watching the results of the 2000 election come in with an unshakeable sense of foreboding.  The election of the President of the USA is unique in its international significance, and a Bush presidency smelled only of trouble. But how bad it would get? I had no idea.

In 2004, I found four small items of consolation in Kerry’s defeat, among them the first hints of Obama’s rising star in the Democratic Party.  Here, I thought, we might actually have the first African-American President.  But the very next President? I had no idea.

In 2012, my daughter will be six; in 2016, ten.  What will the world be like for her then?  I have no idea.

But today I have hope.

Fri, 24 Oct 2008

What the Pfuck?

Cartesian dualism — the latest weapon in the war on Darwin

Cartesian dualism — the latest weapon in the war on Darwin: It distresses me immensely that I no longer have either the time nor patience to properly engage with philosophical argument such as this, other than to observe that the problem of consciousness in no way suggests the conclusions that proponents of “Intelligent Design” would like it to. If you decide that the problem of consciousness leads you to dualism — that the mind is outside the scope of physical science — you can’t then use that as an argument against evolution any more than you could other rigidly extra-scientific propositions such as, say, the axioms of mathematics.

Tue, 21 Oct 2008

Kate and Rose’s Gay Wedding Cabaret

Kate and Rose’s Gay Wedding Cabaret:

We recently found out — to our delight — that one of the first couples to sign up to Buy Our Honeymoon from outside the UK had been interviewed for the Wedding Podcast Network’s Newlywedcast!

Sat, 04 Oct 2008

Happy everyone!

Happy everyone!:

If anything, this year’s National Wedding Show at Earls Court was even more positive, and certainly busier, than the last.  We spoke to dozens of couples, many of whom hadn’t ever considered…

Fri, 03 Oct 2008

Bridalwave: Highlights of the National Wedding Show 2008: Buy Our Honeymoon

Mon, 29 Sep 2008

Doctor Who: What are you doing here?

(via b3ta.com)

Doctor Who: What are you doing here?

(via b3ta.com)

Mon, 22 Sep 2008

The Star Trek A Team

(via b3ta.com)

The Star Trek A Team

(via b3ta.com)

Wed, 10 Sep 2008

The National Wedding Show

The National Wedding Show:

Buy Our Honeymoon is delighted to be exhibiting again at the National Wedding Show at Earls Court. It was great last year to be able to speak to so many couples, and we’re really excited to…

New Balligomingo album nearly ready

New Balligomingo album nearly ready: Great news about one of my very favourite acts, delivered by one of my other very favourite acts.

Fri, 05 Sep 2008



Thu, 04 Sep 2008

Or just pray it doesn’t happen to you

Obama’s Uncle in a Baby Bjorn

Fri, 29 Aug 2008

Change happens

Thu, 28 Aug 2008

I’m here to warm up the crowd for Joe Biden

Wed, 27 Aug 2008

LazyWeb Request: iPhone Power Miser

LazyWeb Request: iPhone Power Miser: I couldn’t agree more.

No Way! No How! No McCain!

Tue, 26 Aug 2008

Redhat perl. What a tragedy.

Redhat perl. What a tragedy.: “Some investigation revealed that there’s a long standing bug in Redhat Perl that causes *severe* performance degradation on code that uses the bless/overload combo.”

Gifts promised as cash

Gifts promised as cash:

Recently, we’ve been working hard on improving the usefulness of your Gift History, and we’ve now launched a further couple of updates that should help you manage gifts that are to be paid by…

Wed, 20 Aug 2008

iPhone SSH review: iSSH v. pTerm v. TouchTerm v. SSH

iPhone SSH review: iSSH v. pTerm v. TouchTerm v. SSH: Currently, only iSSH and SSH are available in the UK App Store.

Mon, 18 Aug 2008

Serving static files with Django and AWS - going fast on a budget

Serving static files with Django and AWS - going fast on a budget: This is the kind of problem where mod_perl shines. We have a similar approach for a caching layer on Window on Woking, but we stop short of actually serving static HTML files from disk (though it would certainly be worth exploring this in the future).

A simple mod_perl handler, early in the Apache request cycle, determines whether the visitor is authenticated and whether a cached copy of the requested resource exists. If the cache can be served, it is, and no further dynamic code is run (except for our logging phase, once the content has already been dispatched).

Because of mod_perl’s tight integration with Apache, this handler is pre-loaded into memory, and the database connection can also be pre-loaded, so there’s next to no initialisation overhead. Were the cached content a static file on disk, it wouldn’t even require the database call, just a file test.

Thu, 14 Aug 2008

The History of Predictive Text Swearing

The History of Predictive Text Swearing (via Gruber) — “we do not offer them cock…”

Wed, 13 Aug 2008

Bruce & me…

Bruce & me…: Fascinating, and just a little bit depressing.

Mainlining the active ingredients of cannabis

Mainlining the active ingredients of cannabis: Who’d have thought there’d be fascinating science on BBC Three? I can just see the Daily Mail headlines now: “Outrage as Licence Fee Bakes BBC Researcher”.

Tue, 12 Aug 2008

Visitor counters

Visitor counters:

Following a handful of requests for this, we’ve added another new feature to your Gift History.  You can now find a quick visitor counter at the foot of the page:

So far, your list has been viewed 273 times using a total of 52 different computers.

The counter shows both…

Fri, 08 Aug 2008

Emptiness, Oh My Stars, the Emptiness (1961)

Emptiness, Oh My Stars, the Emptiness (1961): Via Kottke, the ParallelFilmGuide documents movies that haven’t been made in this reality, but surely have in others.

Mon, 04 Aug 2008



The announcement was made earlier today that the wedding gift list firm WrapIt has now officially gone into administration.  Along with everyone else, we were very disheartened to learn of the…

Large Hadron Collider nearly ready - The Big Picture -…

Mon, 28 Jul 2008

Nick Jr’s Jump Up Event

I’m happy to admit that I’ve developed quite a soft spot for much of my daughter’s favourite television. Kids’ TV is at its best when peppered with little gags intended for parents, such as Ming Ming’s asides in The Wonder Pets, or practically anything in The Backyardigans. So it was with pleasure that we hauled ourselves over to Milton Keynes on Saturday afternoon for Nick Jr’s Jump Up event.

Sportacus from Lazy Town, played by Magnus Scheving: that's why Mum's gone to Iceland

The event is set up to have a stage show, featuring a variety of characters from the channel’s trademark shows, surrounded by a selection of food stalls and themed activities around the perimeter. Tickets are free but strictly limited, and of course the whole event is a grand exercise in brand loyalty — ours is not a CBeebies household, and that’s the way the organisers would like to keep it.

Zoë, naturally, was just a shade overexcited and certainly overwhelmed, and after a couple of hours was more than ready to be taken home. This helped spare us much of the dramatic queuing for the various perimeter activities — that, and the fact that Zoë’s at the very youngest point of the target demographic, so almost all of them would have been beyond her.

The staff were friendly, and entirely unfrazzled by shepherding around 3000 very small children, together with their parents. The weather was glorious, the ice cream welcome, and the venue spacious. But that’s not to say it was an unqualified success: there are a handful of things that sprang easily to mind that could have turned it from good to great.

The queues for each of the activities were colossal, and small children and long queues in hot sunshine are a recipe for trouble. Much of the event felt like it was designed for a smaller number of visitors, in a venue able to accommodate a great many more. The longest queue, from what we could tell, was for the Thomas the Tank Engine bouncy castle. It needed more of these, even if they weren’t as strictly themed.

And whilst seeing her favourite characters on stage was lovely, I can’t help thinking that the kids would have adored being able to actually meet them in the flesh, as it were. Not for nothing does Disney have Mickey and Pluto patrol the grounds of Disneyworld, and although anyone who signs up to be accosted by a riot of toddlers whilst in a giant foam suit deserves every penny they’re paid, I’m certain the effect of Dora, Fifi and Piper O’Possum roaming the MK Bowl would have been just as successful.

Finally, and I don’t want to be churlish, but the stageshow went to great efforts to make it clear that you can see Arnie and Barney, or Stephanie and Sportacus, or Pablo and Uniqua, every day on Nick Jr — we know this already guys; that’s why we’re here!

Fri, 25 Jul 2008

The Process

The Process

Giles Coren’s letter to Times sub-editors

Giles Coren’s letter to Times sub-editors: I rather enjoyed Giles Coren on that recent TV show thingy with renowned bobble-hat-donator Sue Perkins — but this, oh now this might have made me start to worship him just a little bit.

Wed, 23 Jul 2008

Photoshop vs Fireworks

Photoshop vs Fireworks :

Predictably fascinating stuff. FWIW, I’m firmly in the Fireworks camp, but I suspect this is mostly because I’ve never been able to properly understand or navigate Photoshop.  When I was initially migrating from the Acorn to the Mac, Fireworks shared just enough with the applications and conventions I’d been used to that I was able to pick it up without a great deal of confusion.

Photoshop, not so much.  It was only recently that I discovered it’s actually possible to resize an object in Photoshop without having to scale the entire canvas.  Even now, I can’t remember how it’s done, merely that it’s possible.  I think maybe you have to press T or something with the layer selected.

Font Conference - CollegeHumor video

Fri, 18 Jul 2008

The Truth about Web Navigation

The Truth about Web Navigation:

We’ve found the exact same thing with Buy Our Honeymoon — a sizeable proportion of wedding guests who receive a registry card with a couple’s direct wedding list URL on it will type the URL into Google instead of their browser’s address bar.

The problem for us was that we’d set people’s lists to noindex so that they wouldn’t be accidentally found for unrelated queries and potentially abused — which meant, of course, that Google wouldn’t return anything for the search query, and then we’d need to help out by phone.  It took a few calls to realise that when people said that a list wasn’t found, they weren’t talking about a mysterious 404 error we couldn’t trace, but were instead running into a search problem we’d effectively created for ourselves.

Our solution was to create a separate, minimal landing page for each list that only really featured the list URL as keywords for Google.  Then, Google users searching for the exact URL would find the landing page (and click through from there to the actual list), whilst very few casual searches would include the landing page in the SERPs.

Thu, 17 Jul 2008

Weddings in the Mixx

Weddings in the Mixx:

A couple of weeks ago, the popular social news site Mixx launched a new communities feature, where users can create a specially branded and customised version of Mixx focussed on a specific…

JavaScript::Minifier::XS and CSS::Minifier::XS

JavaScript::Minifier::XSand CSS::Minifier::XS both look to be phenomenally useful and, since they use XS instead of pure Perl, beautifully nippy.

Tue, 15 Jul 2008

Call me Noel Edmonds

It’s so good to have the iPhone back after a month with a horribly cracked screen, and this weekend afforded us the opportunity to use the GPS tracking in the maps application as we tried to navigate Milton Keynes.

And, of course, the weekend afforded the opportunity to download a bunch of iPhone apps. My favourite so far? Vicinity, which uses the GPC to provide lists of relevant Wikipedia articles, Flickr photos, banks, shops, restaurants and other local facilities based on your current location. Here’s one of the top Flickr photos for our home in Greenwich. Isn’t that just beautiful?

But I’d very much like to put a wish out there and see if the cosmos responds. There’s one app that would be really, hugely useful to me when I’m away from the studio, and that (with email) would reassure me that I could deal with work emergencies even while I’m travelling.

And that’s a SSH client. Sure, entering command line incantations using a tiny keyboard is hardly ideal, but at least it would then be possible to reboot Apache, check the contents of a MySQL database or even tweak site code if absolutely necessary, something that I’ve sorely missed on some holidays I’ve been on. It turns out that I’m not alone in wanting this.

I’d actually quite like a separate MySQL client app too, not unlike the venerable CocoaMySQL, but then I fear I’d be veering into pony territory.

Sat, 12 Jul 2008

Integrating Disqus in a Blosxom blog

Integrating Disqus in a Blosxom blog: Forgot to mention this yesterday.

Fri, 11 Jul 2008

Updates, we hardly knew ye

It’s been troubling me that, having started a companion tumblelog to this blog, it got tender and regular lovin while poor old lowerelement.com remained cobwebby and unsatisfied. But a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that (a) Tumblr generates RSS that I could easily write a program to consume, and that (b) Blosxom has the most comically simple API to create new posts: just save a text file in the right place.

So today I set about implementing a crackpot scheme based on these trivial observations. I’ve now set up a little Perl cron job to grab the RSS from Tumblr, parse it, and store each feed item in a database. Where an item in the feed is new, the program generates a simple text file with its title and content, and saves it to the server. Blosxom does the rest.

Consequently, my tumblelog is now merged with the main blog. I’ve only kept a couple of the most recent posts, below. Yes, one of them is a syndication of the Buy Our Honeymoon blog. We update that quite often.

I’ve also been profoundly unexcited by the Haloscan comments system, previously found around these parts, and have heard the siren song of Disqus. So, for the second time, it’s out with the old and in with the new. Haloscan opened comments in a popup window, styled in a way that wasn’t so much old school as homeschool, whereas Disqus embeds the comment thread in the page itself, and is altogether more modern in both appearance and underlying code. In Haloscan’s favour, it’s very easy to export the old comments as XML, and so if I can figure out how to import these into Disqus, I’ll be sure to do so.

In other news, I arrived at the Dome just before 9AM today in the hope of upgrading my iPhone. Turned out that o2.co.uk was wrong, and the store at the dome had opened early after all. Consequently, I found myself 58th in line, with no chance of a 16GB phone. I’m not sure whether all stores operated a similar method, but the O2 staff were sensible enough to assign deli-style numbered tickets to each of us, so that we could wander off to Starbucks and, if we fancied, perhaps the Tutankhamun exhibition, and then return to our place in the queue. When it became clear that, thanks to O2’s robust and not-at-all temperamental system, I wouldn’t be able to expect to make progress for hours, I took the opportunity to bike home along the river, work on the above, and then bike back again. I finally got my upgrade at 14:43 (according to the receipt), a full six hours after I first arrived.

Mind you, having comprehensively shattered the screen of my old one about a month ago with my fat arse, it’s all worth it.

More Gift History refinements

More Gift History refinements:

Here at Buy Our Honeymoon, we’re of the opinion that nothing on the site is ever completely finished.  We can always make small improvements here, little adjustments there.  Last month, we made…

Sleepthief - Skimming Stones

Sleepthief - Skimming Stones

Fri, 02 May 2008

A collection of unimportant things

In no particular order:

Tue, 18 Mar 2008


For over a year now, we’ve been planning and working on a new version of www.woking.gov.uk, and it’s now finally live. For me personally, the project has absolutely dominated the past six months, and together with Buy Our Honeymoon, represents some the best work I’ve ever done.

Before and after

The old Woking site had evolved gradually since prior to my involvement over ten years ago. Sure, we’d redeveloped the CMS a couple of times in that process, but each successive version of the site used content largely copied verbatim from the previous version. The structure had become labyrinthine, and the design (last updated in 2000) had become known internally as the “Rover dashboard”.

The Council’s Web Strategy Group saw the opportunity to completely refresh the site from scratch, with a brand new design, a completely reworked navigation structure, and a refresh of various aspects of the CMS. I’m terribly grateful that Article Seven was commissioned without hesitation to deliver both the new design and the technical implementation of the new site.

Accessibility was a key priority in the new site, and to that end we asked the Shaw Trust to help us work through the process. Just under a year ago, they carried out a full audit of the old site, highlighting any areas of concern. Once the new site templates were ready, the Shaw Trust assessed them, and just before the final site went live, the entire site was audited again and any final recommendations implemented. This whole process was incredibly valuable, particularly since it’s not a mere workthrough of the WCAG checkpoints. The Shaw Trust extensively test the site using people with a wide range of real disabilities, and any issues they highlight generally stem from real access problems experienced by testers using a variety of assistive technologies.

For example, there’s no WCAG checkpoint that encourages you to implement distinct link restyling on :hover and :focus, but doing so is a great help to both keyboard-only and dyslexic users. Moreover, in attempting to follow WCAG checkpoint 10.4, we’d included placeholder text in our search box on the old site, which actually caused genuine problems for a blind tester using the screen-reader software, JAWS. The new site doesn’t have placeholder text, 10.4 be damned.

We also included an option to switch accesskeys on (your preference saved in a cookie), and have a pair of zoom stylesheets for low-vision users — that also happen to be great for mobile access too.

We wanted to include Google Maps in a number of places on the site, and so I developed a system to try to mitigate the accessibility issues of this. Maps embedded on the site have their zoom and pan controls moved to a row of keyboard-accessible buttons below the map itself (although the normal click-and-drag mechanism continues to work too, of course), and a link to Google’s HTML version of the map is displayed instead in the event that Javascript isn’t enabled.

As a result of all this, the site has been awarded Accessible Plus accreditation from the Shaw Trust, one of only seven organisations in the UK to achieve such a high standard. All of us who’ve worked on the site (including a substantial team of web publishers) are immensely proud of this — but none more so than me.