27 May 2005

Niche Directories are the way to go

I read encouraging views from my friends on the well-respected www.highrankings.com site this morning.

In a thread about the future of online directories they all, including top-dog/head-honcho Jill Whalen, agree that human-edited, niche market directories with high standards for acceptance
are the way of the future.

That's Travel-Lists. Especially the new re-built, very-soon-to-be-relaunched, version of Travel-Lists!

(At least it will be, just as soon as I can track down my programmer, who has disappeared .... last seen in California a week ago!)

26 May 2005

Alastair McKenzie - it's my name. You can't have it.

Looking through my site statistics for the last few days I notice my name appearing higher up the list of keyword referrals than usual. This is the number of times somebody visits my biog page having searched for 'Alastair McKenzie' on Google or another search engine. There's always a few - one or two a day - but sometimes, as now, the figure leaps up to five or six a day.

The reason, I assume, is because my namesake has appeared on TV again - maybe a new series of Monarch of the Glen in which he plays a/the lead role.

Here I am, riding on the back of his fame. And, assuming he's noticed, it must be a little galling for him that I have quite a high profile on the internet, so that anyone searching for 'Alastair McKenzie' ... gets me. To get him you need to search specifically for 'Alastair Mackenzie' because that's the way his name is spelt.

It's just one of those names I'm afraid! It gets spelt every which way. Regular variations are Alistair, Alister, Alasdair, Mackenzy, etc etc. My favourite variation was when somebody entered it on the passenger list for a cruise ship as 'AllStar McKenzie'! I had to spend a week on board with people calling me 'All Star' - it was tough!

(BTW - My wife who is a writer and ex-publisher/editor absolutely hates it when people miss-spell McKenzie. I, on the other hand, as a broadcaster, couldn't care less. I only object if they mis-pronounce it!)

Anyway, what my namesake probably doesn't know is that I think he only has the name because I gave it up. His predecessor wasn't so lucky.

Under the rules of the actors' union, Equity, no two members can have the same stage name. When I came to join in 1976 I was aware of a child actor called Alastair McKenzie who had been the understudy to Jack Wilde in the film 'Oliver' and then gone on to play one of the children in the London Weekend television series of Black Beauty. So I was expecting to have to change my name (I won't tell you to what - too embarrasing!). In the event I got there first... and he had to change his name!

The Black Beauty series was very successful and from time to time over the next decade (every time they sold it to Nepal TV or somewhere) a repeat-fee cheque for a few hundred quid would turn up in the post, having been sent from LWT to Equity to me. It was heartbreaking to keep sending them back (especially with my name on them!) but Equity never amended their records and eventually sometime in the late eighties on about the eleventh occasion I phoned the LWT accounts dept and explained what was happening. That sorted it. A few months later I got a letter from him, thanking me and suggesting we meet up and compare the lives of Alastair McKenzie. Sadly we never did, I lost the letter, and I cannot remember what his stage name was.

I stopped working in theatre in the late eighties and let my Equity membership lapse a few years later. I assume that the one-person-one-name rule still applies and that the spelling (Mck v Mack) is not crucial. So presumably, if I had kept my membership up, the Monarch of the Glen would be called something else.

The good thing is that spelling is everything to computers, so he won't be wanting my domain, www.alastairmckenzie.com !

12 May 2005

It's the Internet, stupid!

And today's winner of the "I didn't know the internet could be so immediate" prize goes to Sofitel Hotels.

I've just visted their online press room to see if there was a press release on the Sofitel Lisboa, which re-opened yesterday after a complete renovation. The most up-to-date release they have is for the opening of a Sofitel in Estapona, dated 14 August 2004.

It's the Internet, stupid!

New generation websites and Google

Haven't posted for a few days because I've been focused on a makeover (long-overdue) for Travel-Lists.

One of my primary objectives is to use up-to-date coding - CSS2 and XML/XHTML. In particular I want to rebuild my lists as xml documents which are then transformed (using xslt stylesheets) for different platforms, eg. web, WAP mobile, xhtml mobiles, etc.

Everything was going fine until I discovered that Google are still living in the dark ages. I can't display my Google adverts, until I can perform a hack to make them work. It turns out that the javascript they use to deliver their Adsense ads uses 'document.write' and 'iframes', niether of which work in any strict xml enviroment.

See http://keystonewebsites.com/articles/adsense.php for a good description of what is going on.

Since content-driven advertising (Adsense) is Google's great moneyspinner, I keep wondering if their shareholders are aware that, as things stand, it won't work on modern websites! I'm also surprised more people aren't talking about it.

Meanwhile, I'm off now to have a look at how blogger.com hacks around the adsense error...

03 May 2005

Roar: Lions of the Kalahari

Went to see a preview of a new National Geographic film on saturday, at the IMAX cinema in the Science Museum in London.

Roar: Lions of the Kalahari is a Tim Leversedge production shot in giant Imax format around a waterhole on the edge of the Kalahari desert. It follows a small pride of lions over the course of a year and a challenge to the throne from a young male lion. The image and sound quality is amazing when viewed on a screen taller than four double decker buses with a 1200-watt sound system. Tim Leversedge himself was there and talked about the difficult editorial judgments to make about what to film and what not to film when a three-minute roll of imax film can cost several thousand pounds!

For me the highlight, among many, was the moment an elder lioness showed her younger inexperienced sister how to hunt. As the crowds of animals drinking at the waterhole scatter in blind panic she catches a leaping springbok in mid-air with such explosive ferocity it knocks the wind out of everyone watching!

If you are stuck in the UK suffering from safari-withdrawal syndrome, go and see it.

It is showing at the Science Museum from 15 June. There's also an amazing 3D movie, Wild Safari 3D: a South African Adventure showing from 20 May, which literally sits in the back of a open 4-WD safari truck as it drives through various parks in South Africa watching rhino, giraffes, lions, leopard, elephants and others.

Am I plugging these two movies? Yes. I really enjoyed them and so did my nine-year-old son. So I have no prob with that!

More info at www.nwave.com/wildsafari , www.destinationcinema.com/main.asp and www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

Press Release Rule #5

It's the start of the week and straight-away I can award this week's Press Release Plonker prize... to Quality Villas (an otherwise excellent holiday villa company) who have today issued a release with their, David Sullivan, named as the contact person for further details.

Only when I phone up, he is "away all this week".

(see 'Golden Rules for Writing a Press Release' post below)

A pity because nobody else is aware that such a press release has been issued. It is about one of the villas in their portfolio becoming famous because it features in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and is being used as a key location in the film. Unfortunately, because the film company are occupying it most of this year, there is little or no availability, so QV tell me it has been withdrawn from their portfolio, and may not return!

Not much point in sending out the press release then, was there!!