Faking slow connections to improve user experience

Often, when developing sites locally, or even when you're on a fast connection to the live server, it's easy to forget that the experience in the real world can be different once latency and slow connections are added in.

For instance, that delete request over AJAX that removes a DOM element in microseconds on your local machine might take a second for someone in an area with poor connectivity. Does your app feed back to the user that the click or touch has been registered and that you're definitely doing something?

It's easy in Rails to make things happen remotely. Take a link like the following:

<%= link_to "Delete", some_item, method: :delete %>

This will send a delete request to the object. If you want this to happen over AJAX instead, it's very simple using remote: true:

<%= link_to "Delete", some_item, method: :delete, remote: true %>

Now you've made the same request with Javascript and your response can be a fragment of jQuery that removes the DOM element. If you're on a slow connection, the time it takes for that to happen can be significant enough that the user might think nothing happened and will attempt to click again. At best, this will raise an ActiveRecord not found error, at worst they might time that second click that they manage to delete another item. (There's a whole other conversation about confirmation vs undoability, but that's for another day.)

The first thing you can do is give feedback that the action has been registered. Rails allows you to easily disable a link or form button and (optionally), replace it with something else. So, let's tell the user we're working on their request:

<%= link_to "Delete", some_item, method: :delete, remote: true, data: {disable_with: "Deleting…"} %>

Now, when the delete link is clicked, it will be disabled (so clicking again does nothing) and we feedback to the user with a subtle interface change that we are performing their request.

So, maybe you're super awesome and always remember to think about things like this, but when working on a complex app, it's easy to miss areas where feedback and perceived responsiveness are not quite up to scratch, especially when they are non-issues for your super-fast, zero-latency, local-database, non-contended, SSD-toting, retina Mac.

I've started using a little helper that can be switched on and off to simulate, in a super basic way, what it's like to use your app with a slower connection, making it really obvious where the feeback mechanisms aren't what they should be.

In my application_controller.rb file I add the following:

before_action :sleepy if Rails.env.development?

  def sleepy
    sleep ENV["sleepy_time"] || 2

This adds a two second (or whatever you've put in the sleepy_time envoronment variable) delay to all requests.

Obviously, you could expand this out to be able to switch it on and off at will (it gets a little tedious simulating slow connections all the time), but as a way to test your application with a bit of a delay, it's super simple and will make it incredibly obvious where your interface needs to feed back more information to the user, or make use of non-remote Javascript to really tighten things up.

Why Apple Buying Path Could Make Sense

With reports that Apple could be in talks to acquire struggling social network Path, I look at some reasons this might be a good idea.

From its inception, Path was designed to be small, intimate, your closest friends. Initially, you were limited to sharing with only 50 people, forcing descisions on who was actually important in your life. It always felt as if you were sharing on a more personal level, confiding in those you knew and trusted, making it a refreshing change from the ever-present pressure to acquire more followers to amplify your message like Twitter and Facebook.

In addition, Path has always been exquisitively designed, surprising and delighting with interface flourishes and meticulously crafted controls.

However, it is well know that Path hasn't really hit the level it needed to. My own account (which I signed into today for the first time in months) is a wasteland with virtually no activity.

Apple has had a similarly poor track record in social. Ping never took off and there is a general feeling that they just don't “get it”. However, Apple are extremely successful in the field of personal communication, with iMessage sending billions of communications between people since its inception.

With iOS 8, Apple are further boosting Messages with the ability to quickly send voice notes and easier photo sharing.

Now look at the type of interactions Apple is promoting on the Watch. Close, personal, intimate. Apple don't care about the frivilous relationships, they care about the ones you care about.

The ability to send your heartbeat to another person? How many people are you really likely to want to do that with? One? Yet it's an interaction they've seen fit to put into the device as a highly publicised feature. Same with tap. Just a tiny, quiet reminder to tell someone you're thinking about them. Sketch, too, relies on an intimate relationship with the person you're communicating with, an unspoken understanding between the parties to interpret these tiny little drawing and derive meaning from them.

Launching Path this morning, I was struck by the emphasis they placed on the private nature of the app and the importance of real relationships.

So, we have Apple, with little to no track record in social networking outside of one to one communication with Messges, but with a desire to make your personal relationships more delightful and engaging. All with their legendary focus on design. Meanwhile, you have Path, with a beautifully designed product, concentrating on the close, personal relationships you have but with an actually functioning, albeit underused, social network.

Apple buying Path won't save Path (it would probably kill it as a standalone product), but it might give them Apple a team that can really bring their talents to bear on giving iOS and Watch users ever more delightful ways to interact with those they really care about.

I love the idea of a quiet network, outside the intensity of Twitter and the inanity of Facebook, where I can have intimate moments with people I really care about.

The Misogyny of “Brony”

Angry Pinkie Pie.png

Brony (n): A name typically given to the male viewers/fans of the My Little Pony show or franchise. They typically do not give in to the hype that males aren't allowed to enjoy things that may be intended for females. – Urban Dictionary

I'm pissed off about the word “Brony”. Specifically the existence of the word. There are many reasons to dislike those that self-apply the name, not least because they have fetishised and pornified a children's cartoon to the point that I have to supervise my daughter searching for desktop wallpaper, but I'm cross that the word itself exists.

A portmanteau of “bro” and “pony” (and, oh, do I hate bro-culture), its very existence says that these people need to set themselves apart from the target demographic viewers of My Little Pony. That target demographic is, of course, girls. This need to self-apply a special label, for fear they may be associated with anything female focused, is an example of how society deems women and girls as second class. 

“I can't just like My Little Pony, that's what girls do. Oh no, I'm a brony, I'm a whole different thing. I appreciate it for it's animation and character driven story lines.”

As opposed to girls who, presumably, like it for the shiny colours and sparkles?

Fuck. Off.

You're terrified that liking something that primarily targets girls makes you “girly”, which patriarchy has deemed man's greatest embarrassment. So you invent a meaningless term to avoid that stigma.

My Little Pony *is* a good show. The characters *are* great. The story lines are warm and funny and full of decent lessons for our children. It's a great show for girls, because it doesn't talk down to them, and teaches them that excitement and adventure are not the sole domain of male characters. It's a great show for boys too, *for exactly the same reasons*.

If you want to enjoy My Little Pony, do it. But inventing a label just makes you look like a misogynistic prick.

And definitely stop with the porn.

Actually, Tom Daley Coming Out is a Big Deal

Today, Olympic medal winning diver Tom Daley posted a coming out video on YouTube. It's awkward, slightly rambling and imbued with that peculiar British apologeticness for having something to say. In other words, he sounds like a 19 year old. Although he didn't explicitly use the word bisexual, he is currently dating another male but of course “still likes girls” and, since I'm not keen right now to get into the idiosyncrasies of the LGBTWTFBBQ acronym soup, I'm happy to go with bi.

This revelation immediately became the most read story on the BBC News website and adorned the front pages of basically every other UK news site and earned at least a passing mention in many others worldwide. This, in turn, immediately led to the outcries of well meaning social liberals all across Twitter that “This shouldn't be news! It's 2013 for goodness sake!” In a perfect world, they'd be right, but this is far from a perfect world and it absolutely is a big deal when anyone in the public eye takes this step. We should encourage anyone brave enough to do so and encourage the media to report on it.

Through the enlightened worldview of those complaining about the coverage, people would live their lives, loving whomever they wished and with no-one batting an eye. The daily reality for hundreds of thousands of people, however, is that their life is lived in a permanent state of fear. Fear that they will have insults hurled at them in the street. Fear that they will be left beaten and bloody. Fear of going into school to suffer another day of taunts. It's been almost twenty years since this was my daily life in school and, although things have got better for queer teens, we're a long way from it being acceptable and even longer from it being unremarkable in wider society.

This is why public coming out of celebrities (and especially those in the hyper-masculinised world of sport) is so important. It helps normalise queer relationships in the public eye, even when it is reported as something noteworthy and unusual, by putting it in people's faces where it can't be ignored. Perhaps even more importantly, it sends a message to younger people, those coming to terms with their sexuality, that this is ok. It tells them they're normal, that what they feel is not wrong, or disgusting, or something that needs hidden away. They can see people who are respected in society who are just like them and maybe, just maybe, get the spark of confidence to move closer to being comfortable with themselves.

One day, eventually, it won't be newsworthy when someone famous is seeing someone of the same gender (at least, it won't be any more newsworthy than them seeing someone of the opposite gender), but that day isn't today. We have a long fight still ahead, but the light at the end grows ever brighter and is only hastened when someone under the scrutiny of the media is brave enough to feel able to stand up and say “This is me, I am not ashamed”.

So thank you, Tom.

My Daughter writes to Lego

Sakura (nearly 10) has been incensed that the Lego Club has started sending gender discriminatory magazines (on top of their “girls” Lego sets), so we explained to her she could write to them to let them know. The following is her letter to the Lego Club, written entirely without help (except proof read for spelling). Very proud of her.

Dear Lego Club Magazine,

I have been getting the Lego Club Magazine for a few years now, and I think it’s wrong you have started sending boys and girls different magazines. Yes, I know when Lego Friends was invented it was geared towards girls, but that does not mean that all girls in the Lego Club will instantly love it and want to get a whole magazine about it every month. My little brother gets his magazine every month and I enjoy the content in his magazine much more than the “girls” content.

Some of my favourite Lego sets are: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Hero Factory and Lego City. I am also asking for Lego Mindstorms for Christmas. My interests in Lego are not just in Lego Friends. I’m not just talking about girls, some boys (including my brother) love Lego Friends and may love to read about Lego Friends.

I think that you should give every member a choice, or, even simpler, just print one magazine with both things in it. If I had a choice, I would pick the one you’re sending to boys in a heartbeat.

Yours Faithfully,

Sakura Gibson

You're Right, Victoria Coren, Rapists are People Too

Yesterday, Victoria Coren published an article on The Guardian's website entitled “Roman Polanski and the Sin of Simplification”, looking at the case of the celebrated rapist and filmmaker. In 1977, Polanski drugged and anally raped thirteen year old Samantha Geimer and has subsequently spent decades avoiding answering for his crime. Coren does not dispute this and admits to thoughts of violence and anger when thinking about the heinous act. Then, in a somewhat bizarre twist, she starts into a series of non-sequiturs to help us see that Polanski was so much more than a rapist.

Coren recounts the tragedies of his life; Polanski's mother died in Auschwitz, his pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family. Then she speaks of “a second complicating factor”, being that Polanski's work is “filled with beauty and humanity”.

The point she is trying to make is the importance of avoiding reductive simplification, that we should look at both Geimer and Polanski as nuanced people, not just a child and her rapist. Unfortunately, she does such a spectacularly poor job of explaining this point, she just comes across as an apologist for Polanski. When you start an article describing, in relatively clear detail, the rape of a thirteen year old girl, that is how you frame the rest of what you will write. So once you start talking about “complicating factors”, don't be surprised when people take it to mean you think these factors should be taken into consideration when examining the rape.

Furthermore, to choose this particular example to make the point is so spectacularly egregious that it is insulting in itself. Polanski has spent nearly four decades continuing and being celebrated for his work, enjoying what can only be described as a free and pleasant life in France and Switzerland, whilst being defended on all sides by Hollywood friends who think he has suffered enough. With the exception of being unable to travel to America without fear of being arrested, his life has been unaffected by his crime. There has been no reductive simplification. He hasn't been vilified because of it, he has been celebrated despite it.

Personally, I believe that the biggest legacy Polanski has is that he drugged and raped a thirteen year old girl and not only got away with it, but had people defending him over it. No beautiful works will surpass that. No nuance to his character changes that. I can feel great sorrow for the man for the horrific things that happened in his life, I can love the work he produced, but it in no way changes what I consider to be the defining act of his existence.

There is a kernel of truth to this article though. An important one, far beyond the pseudo-intellectual, liberal naval-gazing Coren descends into. It recognises that rapists are real people, with real lives. Casting them as monsters and strangers in dark alleys allows us to marginalise them, pretend they could never be people we know, people we respect, perhaps even like. When over 90% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, we must face the fact that they are real people with real lives. Recognising this to be the case, we can start to challenge our preconceptions of what a rapist looks like. Too often, we hear “he couldn’t be a rapist, he’s too nice” and from that flows a river of victim blaming and marginalising. We claim that there was a “misunderstanding” or even worse that the claims are false, all because we are too uncomfortable to face the truth that the real men in our lives are the ones who rape women. There is no nuance required.

Teaching Our Children Only “Yes” Means Yes

I don't know what sex-ed lessons are like in school these days. It's been twenty years since I had them and neither of my kids (9 and 6) are old enough to have started them yet. Even ignoring the fact that mine were taught by convicted paedophile Lindsay Brown, they were very much of the “this goes here, this happens and babies”. I doubt much has changed. My parents, awesome though they are, weren't much better. They bought me a book after I asked why my dad had had to have an operation (it was his vasectomy). I pretty much devoured every page of that, I was probably the most technically knowledgeable twelve year old in my school, but you can pretty much forget any teachings about emotions, relationships, or any of the stuff that gets you to the part where you're ready to put all that technical knowledge to use.

Movies and TV aren't much help either. Couples look at each other and both instantly know it's on. But real life isn't like that. Most of my clumsy teenage fumblings were the result of desperately dropping hints, trying to read body language and proceeding very, very slowly in case I got a slap round the face. Hell, I lost my virginity without anyone actually asking if I wanted to. Sometimes I said no to people, sometimes people said no to me, but I don't think any of us ever said an explicit “Yes”. I never asked anyone “Is it OK if we do this?” and no-one ever asked me.

We didn't know we could ask.

This isn't right. Teenagers are confused enough about their burgeoning sexuality to have to deal with trying to second guess if the other person is 100% happy with where things are going. They shouldn't feel they have to. They shouldn't be furtive about wanting to explore sex when they want to do so. We should be teaching our children that other people aren't some mythical creatures to be tamed, we should be teaching them they are human beings, just like they are. We should be teaching them that sex and sexual desire isn't something bad or shameful and that the best sex is the one where everyone is on the same page. And the only way to do that is to teach them that they must always ask. We should teach them that it's a non-optional component. We should teach them it is normal to ask. And, bad news parents, that means you need to actually talk to your kids about sexual relationships, not just the mechanics of sex. If you can't talk about this with them, what chance have they to work it out themselves?

It's all very well teaching our girls they're allowed to say “no” (and our boys to listen to that, immediately), but that isn't really where the problem is. “She didn't say no” has let too many people get away with rape and sexual assault and has ruined too many lives. We need to teach our boys to wait until they get a “yes”, or an invitation. We need to teach our girls that it's a no until they are asked and willingly say yes. We need to ensure that everyone knows that a blurred line means no, that ambiguity or gut instinct is not enough.

We need to teach that respect means asking first.

Feminism: Being Male and Being a Good Ally

Depending on personal definitions of feminism, as a male you can be either a feminist directly, or a feminist ally. But, as someone who has lived in a male body and presents (for the most part) as male-gendered, I've found it can be very easy to really cock things up, often unintentionally. These are a few things I try to keep in mind. I appreciate critical feedback and further suggestions.

You're not special

You might think you're an enlightened, 21st century guy, sensitive to the problems women face and all in favour of equality. But so what? Do you really think that not oppressing people is something laudable? That not being an asshole is praiseworthy? Being a feminist should be the default position for all decent people, so don't think that coming along with a feminist attitude will get you showered with goodwill, because it's the absolute least you can do.

The problem is bigger than you think

Start appreciating just how bad it is for women every single day. When you look at some of what would be regarded as the “big” problems, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, you'll go cold when you first read the numbers:

  • 70,000 women raped
  • 400,000 women sexually assaulted
  • 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse

That's just in the UK. Those numbers are for a single year. One. That's almost 200 rapes every day. Home Office: Ending violence against women and girls in the UK. March 2013

That's before you even begin trying to count the hundreds of thousands of cases that go unreported.

Then look at the casual (and not so casual) sexism that women and girls are subjected to every single day just going about their business. Follow @everydaysexism on Twitter. Have it coming into your timeline for a week and realise that far from being a rare occurrence, the abuse suffered is relentless, dehumanising and demoralising. And it's not just some “trolls” on the Internet (I've already said this is not trolling), this is real people, face to face, in the real world.

You do not and cannot know what it's like

Don't think that reading what happens, or even seeing a catcalling builder shout at someone to “get your tits out” in any way allows you to know what it is like. Recognise that you have not lived with this, or anything like it, for your entire life and that you simply cannot begin to appreciate the effect it has on a person. The best you can do is listen to women speak of the effect, and try to empathise. But also realise that at any stage, you could stop worrying about it and it no longer affects you. For a woman, that is not an option.

Recognise your privilege

As a man (and even more so if you're a white, straight man), you occupy the highest rung on the social ladder. You can't even begin to believe how easy the world makes things for you. You are the oppressor, which means you can't be oppressed. There is no such thing as societal misandry, fuck your “men's rights” and fuck your complaining when some little thing doesn't land in your lap like you've been used to. You come from thousands of years of history that have set you up in a position of power. Now stop whining about it.

Shut the fuck up

Yes, we all realise that you're used to flexing your privilege to make sure the whole world listens to you, but there's more than just a passing chance that your cute little theories and insights into feminism are bullshit. So why not park your ass over there, open your ears, and actually listen to people?


And when you're done sitting there listening, open a book. You can never live through the abuse and oppression that women face, but you can at least know the history and the political and philosophical arguments that underlie feminist theory. My Goodreads shelf has a good selection of feminist works (and thank you to all the wonderful women who helped compile it). Reading them is a humbling experience and will at least allow you to be vaguely knowledgable if you do get into a philosophical discussion.

Stop being self-satisfied

Remember how you're not special? Well sitting there being proud of yourself helps no one. You're all for equality, great, but are you actually taking any positive action? Are you standing up to misogyny you witness? In work? Down the pub? Or do you just let it slide, preferring the ease of ignorance to the friction of confrontation? It doesn't take long in an all male group for casual misogyny to appear. Ignoring it is giving it tacit approval. Are you prepared to take a stand, even if it means your friends start complaining at you “going on” all the time? If not, you need to ask if you really are in support of equality or just want to pay it lip service.

Always be listening

Once you start listening out for the casual, every day misogyny that permeates society, you will be shocked at just how prevalent it is. If you can become attuned to it, you'll realise that not only is it a problem, but that many people don't even realise they're doing it. It will help you become better at avoiding it, but it might start making you sad after a while (and boo-hoo, it's not even directed at you).

Don't derail

For every argument, you can almost certainly come up with some edge case to disprove the point, or a fictional legal circumstance to blur the lines, or a reversed situation that shows it's not all one direction. That is not helpful. Learn to recognise that your cute little hypotheticals are so rare that they are a statistical anomaly. The problems you have some deep philosophical musing about are actually real problems that millions of woman face every single day, so forgive them if they're not that interested in your sophistry.

Be humble, your opinion should always be secondary

No matter how much your brain screams that someone is wrong, you need to bite your tongue and realise that you do not have the insight they do. As a male, you cannot tell a women is doing feminism wrong, because you don't get a say in the right or wrong way to do it. Remember we talked about listening? Well, you mansplaining your way all over a conversation will only make you look like an asshole. Don't do it.

Recognise your own misogyny

With thousands of years of patriarchy behind you, it is easy to accidentally be misogynistic without even thinking about it. If you are, and you get called out on it, you have a chance to take the high ground, apologise, admit you made a mistake and try to be better in the future. Even if you don't think you were, you're not in a position to make that judgement.

Also, try to catch yourself playing into the patriarchal role. Did you have a brief smirk at some casually sexist joke or comment, even an involuntary one? Internalise that, realise that you have been conditioned to react that way and try to train your brain to react with revulsion. Hey, no one said this would be easy.

Don't expect to be welcomed

As a male, you represent the entire history of oppression of women. Deal with it, it is the one piece of baggage that comes along with your lineage. Even if you yourself, in your enlightened, equality-loving way, would never oppress anyone, the fact you represent that oppression means some people will never accept you as part of the feminist movement, nor will they ever trust you. Recognise that many people have very good reasons for this, often horrific reasons. If you take offence that you, representing the oppressor, are not universally loved, you are just exercising your male privilege again.

Stop thinking with your dick

Seriously, it's liberating. When you view women as people, not potential sexual partners, you remove a lot of baggage from yourself when talking to them. You can engage your higher brain functions, converse with them like *gasp* real people, and generally have a much more fulfilling life. Ideally, men should grow out of this naturally as they leave puberty, but all evidence suggests that the vast majority don't. Why not make a conscious effort to start thinking about all people like people?

“Don't Feed the Trolls” and Other Stupid Advice

Back in the good old days of the Internet, when all this were geeks as far as the eye could see, there was a relatively harmless pastime called “Trolling”. Generally, this involved saying something outrageous in an attempt to get people arguing amongst themselves (a flamewar) while the troll ran off into the distance, giggling at their mischief. Typically, the topics were things like people's choice of operating system or programming language. Childish, but no-one really got hurt and typically those rising to the bait were frequently much worse than the original protagonist (because if there's one thing geeks love, it's to argue about inconsequential things). From this, the phrase “Don't feed the trolls” was born, suggesting that the best way to deal with people wanting to cause trouble was to ignore them as they'd soon get bored and go away. That phrase has now entered Internet lore as received wisdom. This is important. “Don't feed the trolls” became the easy reply to anyone who responded to antagonistic behaviour online.

Then the Internet got popular. All sorts of people were frequenting first newsgroups and forums and then, increasingly, social media networks. Normal, everyday people who were here for the content, not for the technology that made it work. And when everyone is on the Internet, the worst people are there too. People who hide behind the anonymity of their keyboard and spread their vile prejudices, hatred and intolerance with little to no fear of recrimination.

Recently, these people were thrust into the media limelight with abusive attacks on Caroline Criado-Perez (@CCriadoPerez), who campaigned to have the Bank of England feature women on UK banknotes. One would hope that most people would see this as a positive step, helping address the sexual inequality that is still so prevalent in our society, or at least something so inconsequential as to be not worthy of their attention. Instead, it resulted in a relentless, inhuman attack from literally hundreds of anonymous Twitter users, threatening rape, violent sexual assault and murder. An attack that is, while diminished from its height, continuing still. I recommend you read Caroline's August 2013 speech to Women's Aid (serious TW) to get an idea of how horrific this abuse was. At its height, hundreds of abusive and threatening tweets were being directed at Caroline per hour.

While there were many, many people offering support, responding to the abusers and calling upon Twitter to take more action to prevent the abuse (in line with their policies), there were an almost equally vocal number trying to explain that “ignore and block” was the way to go. That responding only encouraged them. To make her account private. And what was the phrase that kept cropping up? “Don't feed the trolls.”

Caroline has already done an incredible and much better job than I could ever do of explaining why ignore and block isn't a valid option when under an onslaught such as that she experienced. She also addressed why expecting the recipient of an attack to bear the responsibility of changing their behaviour is victim blaming and how ignoring or blocking doesn't prevent you from reading the abuse in the first place. The human brain doesn't erase the words retrospectively.

But there's another issue. Naming this behaviour as “trolling” implies that it isn't serious. That it's just “teenagers having fun”. (In actuality, the arrests made in the Criado-Perez case were men in their 20s and 30s, far from the “stupid teenagers” the apologists were so keen to label them.) It deflects from what this really is, misogynistic, obscene, and, in many cases, illegal abuse designed to cause fear, to perpetuate gender stereotypes and to silence people with the audacity to speak out against the status quo. This isn't trolling, this is abuse. This is a symptom of the violent, rape culture society that most people would rather not admit to existing.

They do this by claiming it's “not people like me”, that it's “only trolling”, that the Internet “isn't real life”. Anything to avoid the real problem or to have to take any responsibility in making this behaviour unacceptable. To ensure those who practise it are rightfully pilloried by society and their peers in the cases of “minor” infractions, or to demand that the appropriate legal action be taken (and taken seriously) when it reaches levels such as that experienced by Caroline.

Ignoring an uncomfortable truth is much easier than taking action. Enough is enough. A decent person will not stand idly by watching fellow humans be abused. We are all responsible to help stop it. It starts with basic empathy, recognising a problem exists and to stop telling people you know better than they how to deal with it.

No More Page 3 — My letter to David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun

David, David, David.

Where do we start? I mean, you've had thousands of letters by now asking you to drop the Page 3 girls, so it's not like you don't realise the number of people who are not just ambivalent to the feature, but actively opposed to the message it sends. And it's not just those feminist activists you love bantering with on Twitter, it's people from all walks of life, up and down the country.

How did we get here? It's 2013, for goodness sake, are we really still portraying woman in the mainstream press as nothing more than eye-candy for men to ogle? Do we really think that is what they have to offer society? Do we really think men can't get four pages into a daily newspaper without some titillation? It does a great disservice to both men and women that you continue with what was already a dubious practise. Perhaps you are afraid that The Sun is actually being kept in business by bared breasts? Perhaps you lack the conviction in your editorial team to produce something people would read on a daily basis without a bit of softcore pornography thrown in? And let's be clear, this is pornography. It is not newsworthy, it is not being presented as art, it is clearly intended to arouse. Despite this, you continue to claim The Sun is a “family newspaper”. Perhaps you had a much more liberal upbringing than I did, but pornography has never been wholesome entertainment for children to enjoy with their parents as far as I am concerned.

Yet, so pervasive is The Sun, that many children know about Page 3 girls many years before they learn what pornography is. I remember pages with topless girls being laid out on tables in school when we were painting, before the teacher quickly turned them over. As a child, I didn't understand why there were naked girls in the newspaper (and back then they really were girls, as young as 16), but I knew it made me feel uncomfortable. I dread to think what effect it had on the girls in my class, being taught at eight or nine that their bodies exist to be flaunted for the pleasure of others. And I know you know about these effects. You've had the letters from women, from teenagers, from children, who have had Page 3 used to diminish their status, to objectify them, to make them feel like they were pieces of meat. How can you read those and claim with a straight face that it's “just a bit of fun”?

So why are you so intent on keeping them? Does it come down to something as simple as you just love breasts so much you think pictures of them need distributed 2½ million times a day? What possible contribution can it have other than to reinforce that women exist purely for the pleasure of men? To normalise the objectification of woman in society. To teach children growing up that this is acceptable? The only reason it is still accepted in our society is 40 years of your paper continuing to present it. If it were announced now as a feature it would quickly make a pariah of the publication and be withdrawn.

I'm not going to pretend I read The Sun, or that I would start reading it were the pornography removed, but as the most widely read newspaper in the country, you are in a unique position to send a message that woman are more than mere objects, that you respect them as people, not just a “great pair of knockers”. That you recognise that society is moving on from its patriarchal roots to one of inclusiveness and mutual respect. Will removing Page 3 solve the problems of misogyny and hatred millions of women face every day? Of course not. But it will help. It will make a difference. Why would you rather chase the tails of the direction society is moving rather than leading the vanguard? The voices speaking against you are growing in number, not diminishing, it would be a fool that ignores the change.

Please, no more Page 3.


The Pet Connection NI: I think I'll avoid them

Good friends of mine left their puppy with The Pet Connection NI while they were on holiday and came back to a dog with a broken leg, a vet bill of over £400 and The Pet Connection NI refusing to accept liability.
Obviously I don't know the details of what transpired, but common sense suggests that places like The Pet Connection NI should have insurance to cover injuries sustained by pets on their premises and accept responsibility for the pets under their care. It's like a child minder letting your kid fall down the stairs and then claiming it's the child's fault.

Of course, social media means that now (literally) thousands of people know about the story and will make sure to avoid The Pet Connection NI, including myself.

Original post about Hopalong Teddy and The Pet Connection NI

A wee move

So, I moved the blog over to Posterous. Couldn't be arsed faffing around with Wordpress when this does more than what I need. Old posts imported, domain redirected, easier posting achieved. One more thing to look after out of my hair.

Talking to politicians - Steven Agnew (Green)

Thanks to Steven for taking the time to talk to me and put up with some gentle ribbing about him having two cars.

Questions for the politicians?

As before, I'd love to take a few questions from the riff-raff to ask the politicians I get a chance to speak with. Remember all the devolved stuff is no longer the concern of Westminster, though I'm not sure what *is* the concern of Westminster regarding NI. Pop any questions you want me to ask in the comments.

Election 2010 - talking to the candidates

OK, the emails have been sent, going to try and get 20 minutes with each of the North Down candidates standing for Westminster. So far, my impressions come from the candidates websites. Steven Agnew (Green) - Nice website, easy to find a direct email for Steven. I have previously spoken to him prior to the European elections so expect this one to be easy to get. Stephen Farry (Alliance Party) - Website looks like it's from 1997, but it was easy to get a direct email address for Stephen Sylvia Hermon (Independent) - I got her email address from her canvassing flyer. It's a Hotmail one, which never fills one with hope. Kaye Kilpatrick (Traditional Unionist Voice) - No email addresses on website, only a contact form (and a very poor one at that). I didn't fill in all the fields (nothing to indicate some were mandatory) and I got a completely blank page with "All the fields are required, please go back and submit the form again…". Thanks for that. Filled in the missing field with a n/a and got another blank page "Your request is being processed". It was still like that ten minutes later, so no idea if it actually went through. They refused to talk to me last time, so I don't hold out much hope now. Liam Logan (SDLP) - Easy to find a direct email address. Which bounced. Emailed the general address complaining about them putting duff email addresses up for their candidates. Ian Parsley (Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force) - No direct email address and the generic ones weren't clickable to send email. Sent one to their contact@ address, which bounced. Tried again with the info@ and it hasn't bounced yet. Complained in the second email. So, let's see how things go. If someone wants to lend me a better mic this time, that would be awesome.