Thanet Star

Time to act our age?

With the online community getting rapidly very fed up with the moaning and groaning of a the "backbiting club" - a group of no more than a handful blog writers including Simon Moores, OVIT and other (fictional) characters who have been making (largely indirect) snide remarks or attacks on each other for some time. What happened recently is that Simon has still failed to realise that all attention is not equal and getting insulted by a small hardcore of immiture Internet users, with too much time on their hands, is not the same as being famous. What's more it does not feel too nice.

Simon has, fairly recently "closed his blog" in a move that others have all-but-called sulking, by our local (and high carbon footprint) writer of "Thanet Life". It has gotten to the point that this particular political "pundit" has gained a satirical commentary all of his own "Thanet Strife" is the result and it shows a great skill at satire (whoever the author may be).

Thanet is no stranger to satire and controversy. Who can forget Gannet College, the one shot blog critical of Thanet College. No one knows who put it up and if they do they did not manage to get it taken down (they did make the local news though).

Quite rightly the more mature element of Thanet blogging (those of us that actually have something to say, for example) have been pressing for the discussion of real issues. Real issues like the loss of jobs due to the death of the local town centres, supporting local museums and businesses and seeing things in the bigger picture. The message is clear to all that want to bend the ear of the local press over this storm in a tea cup - "get over yourself!"

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Begging the question: how did you conclude that?

Yesterday, while I was at a KCC initiated conference, Eastcliff Matters author published a post entitled "Failing Schools Rescue Plan". In this he explains that KCC will be taking action to make sure the lowest performing schools improve their figures on the percentage of students getting A to C grade passes at . This is a good thing but there is a limit to the work a school can do with students to help them improve academically.

He also quotes Kent Labour's Children & Families spokesman, , as saying "Local councils with high numbers of grammar schools are among those with poor performance figures. Kent has one of the highest numbers of grammar schools in the country." and then going on to observe that we have one of the highest counts of grammar schools. I have no firm opinion on the whole eleven plus and school selection thing but I can not help but wonder if Clive Heart is suggesting that mixing higher performers and lower performers would produce better averages (it would by force of maths alone) or that we are facing a more complete breakdown of .

While I would not expect many readers to be on first name terms with such phrases as "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" I would expect that common sense should indicate that just because two things follow each other that one cause the other. This would be like saying of a cow that the head causes the tail. There are clear underlying problems that are not excuses and that must be addressed before these issues go away.

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» Continue Reading: Begging the question: how did you conclude that?

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Did the earth move for you too?

I slept through the entire thing (as always) but the earthquake early this morning managed to wake all my children up. My wife tells me that the youngest did not want to go back to sleep. Bless him (I bet my wife was not thinking that at 1am).

Apparently this was the strongest quake since 1984. Fortunately no-one was reported as being hurt in Kent (as far as the early morning news reports). There is a little disagreement in the early news sources as to if the earthquake was 5.2 or 5.3 on the Richter scale.

click the "read more" link to comment and to find more links.

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» Continue Reading: Did the earth move for you too?

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A Carnival of Local History and Heritage

There is a large amount of online information about Thanet's History and Heritage. Some of it is very interesting and well written, some of it, well, it's heart is in the right place. However it is not doing so well on the inter-connectivity front so I figured what was needed was a round up of local pages.

We shall start with Ramsgate Mitch, because I had the site open in one of my tabs: "more 'Lantern' news..." and this short ditty deals with a missing lantern(?) I was not entirely clear and was not able to find the post that it was a follow up to. If anyone wants to update me then I will update this. I traced things as far as ericsgate.blogspot.com which is an invite only blog and there the trail went cold. (Just as I got to the end of writing this item I spotted a mention in an off topic comment so hopefully I'm just being blind and can edit or update shortly).

So on to other topics...

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» Continue Reading: A Carnival of Local History and Heritage

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The first three months of Thanet Star

Looking back over the last three months of Thanet Star I have tried to select a handful of articles that represent the best of the first quarter and yet are still likely to be of reading interest now. What you will notice is that the list is that of ideas, questions and resources. I'd shrug but you would not see that.

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Standing Out In Thanet Blogging

By now the more forward thinking business men and women of Thanet (such as Michael Child or Simon Moores) will have started to realise that blogging has the potential to increase their sales disproportionally to the small effort required. Others have realised that blogging is a way to engage with others and "join the conversation". There is a problem!

The problem is the curse of conformity and it does not just happen in blogging but in "the real world" too. Look at all of the businesses in any given sector today. Just about all of them look roughly the same and are saying roughly the same thing. Yet, they each are hoping for better results.

It's natural to look at the competitors and see what they are doing but you will also be copying their mistakes and errors as well as their successes (if any). Without an understanding not only of what others are doing but why they are doing it it is impossible to do more than make yourself "yet another entry in the market". If you do that how will you stand out?

This is the solution.

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» Continue Reading: Standing Out In Thanet Blogging

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I'm giving away £50 in resources

In a recent post entitled "The Future of Thanet" in "The Big Blog" Adem raises some interesting questions. Prime among them is what can we actually do about the decline Thanet is facing.

"Most of the local blogs or the newspaper articles I read point towards an area in steep decline but surely there is something we can do? On face value it appears that there is nothing we can do, but that is me being pessemistic, and just because the council are happy for the towns to die doesnít mean that we should be."
"The Future of Thanet", Adem, 14th February 2008

I mentioned in the comments something I have said before - we bloggers hold a lot of power (by which I mean influence) if only we allowed ourselves to discover how to use it. The only person I can be sure to influence is myself. This is true for everyone.

So rather than moan about the state of the area I intend to take action and this is what I prose to do

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» Continue Reading: I'm giving away £50 in resources

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Get Your Blog Written For You?

For those that have never heard of the term "guest blogging" before here is a quick rundown. A guest writes a blog post for you. No, that's all there is to it.

"What's so great about that?" You ask.

For the host blog it is a chance to give the readership something different and for the blog owner there is an opportunity to not have to write a post. For big time blogs like ProBlogger it allows the main writer to travel on business without leaving the readership feeling abandoned. For the readers it is a chance to hear from experts in specific areas and enjoy a visit to another style without giving up on the one they have come to love.

One thing that has always surprised me about Thanet blogs is that I see no guest posts. Admittedly it's a fiddly thing to achieve on blogger.com as it requires giving access to the blog or posting the thing yourself (which you can not do if you are halfway across the Atlantic at the time).

Still, I see no reason why guest blogging should not take place in our niche. For this reason I am going to create another first for and offer my services as a guest blogger. I am happy to write on any related theme (or on a technical topic) on request. I will set a limit of no more than two such a week.

Tell Me About The Sort of Post You Require.

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Building a website that sells

Although Thanet Star has announced the One Pound Advert offer I will be running a series of additional offers and bonuses shortly. Before that I want to look at some of the issues involved in running an on-line advertising campaign. Specifically I want to look at what your website will need in order to make sales in any economic environment.

I do not think it matters if you have heard some of these common sense basics of online business before because we can all do with a refresher. Selling, especially in an economically depressed area like , is never easy. To close that sale you need to show how you and your product meet a need and frankly most business websites fail totally to even be in the right ball park.

I don't want to just sell you a few adverts I want to help you to use those adverts to make sales. This is something I can do reasonably for you but it is something that you will do best. I want to help you get the best from advertising on Thanet Star.

To do this we are going to look at the needs of the "average" Thanet resident and how you can meet this to create sales and leads through your website. I want to help you to boost the communication, sales planning, market knowledge, appeal, visibility and, of course, consumer confidence in and of your online marketing effort.

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» Continue Reading: Building a website that sells

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Wikipedia and the "Open Documentation" of Thanet

The Wikipedia is a large public encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It is hoped that by having so many eyes looking at the articles that the quality will slowly improve. This appears to be largely the case.

The has a large number of pages on the subject of and things in Thanet (such as Thanet College, The Scenic Railway and Invicta FM to name but a few). In this article I hope to give a general overview to the articles and the nature of the Wikipedia (for those who have yet to discover it).

The List of people in Thanet details an overview of famous or notable persons that lived in or visited Thanet. People include Karl Marx, Charles Dickens, Gary Rhodes, Siouxsie Sioux, T.S. Eliot and a host of others.

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» Continue Reading: Wikipedia and the "Open Documentation" of Thanet

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Are Thanet police worth the money?

We are being asked to provide more money, each year to fund new police officers and yet it would seem that our local coppers are ill equoipped to stop thier own stuff being stolen.

"CASH, televisions and computers are some of the items stolen from Margate police station in the past five years, we can reveal."
Furniture, clothes and TVs are stolen from police station, Kent Online

If I recall there was a large investment of money made recently that was spent on PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers) instead of the regular "bobbies" we were led to believe we would get. Now we are being told that we will have to foot the bill for something we in Thanet were told would be given to Thanet.

I'm none too impressed. How do you feel?

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» Continue Reading: Are Thanet police worth the money?

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Do You Know How To Deal With a Cyberstalker?

Happy valentines (what's left of it) - I hope your love life is going well even if the local blogging is not.

The big buzz across the Thanet blogs is the closing of a prominent blog (I'll not link as solicitors threats are not nice and I can not be bothered to pay lots of money to defend my right to an opinion), the defacement of another (allegedly, but I've not looked into it) and the mentioning of other forms of blog based harassment.

Let us be quite clear that we are discussing not only trolling (posting volatile or inflammatory comments for the reaction) but also illegal harassment. The more "famous" a blog and it's blogger the more that personality will become the target of the attention of others. This is normal but death threats are a crime and should not be tolerated.

Cyber bullying was one of the issues at the heart of Internet Safety Day but it does not just happen to teenagers (a third of all kids have experienced this according to some sources). It also happens to bloggers of all levels, ages and political leanings.

Who can forget the high profile harassment of who not only stopped blogging but canceled speaking engagements and was to scared to leave her house (Wikipedia article). Then there is the story of the 78-year-old Holocaust survivor attacked by a nutter who traveled a very long way to carry out his threats. This form of behaviour has prompted repeated calls for a "blogger's code of conduct" and one of the reasons I have a written comments policy.

In that gray space between the cut and thrust of a hot debate and the need for arrests there is a lot you can do to protect yourself. There are also some things that you can expect if you get mildly famous. Things that (often) go with the territory.

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» Continue Reading: Do You Know How To Deal With a Cyberstalker?

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Software is no golden bullet - Internet safety in Thanet

Parents and teachers are today being advised that they "need to install software" to keep their children safe but are not necessarily being told of the inherent limitations of such software. The issue of Internet safety can never be dealt with exclusively with software. At best software is a tool but as with all tools it is how you use it that maters.

Keeping yourself and your children is the Key Message of today. and all over Kent (and the whole for that mater) are highlighting the dangers that exist on the Internet. The most important principle of keeping your children safe remains unchanged - talk to your kids before someone else does.

Thanet has a few unique additional issues for consideration due to it's smaller size but relatively large scale of social media use. In this article I will cover the basics of Internet safety as well as some of the challenges that Thanet faces. I will also be exposing some of the myths of Internet safety.

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» Continue Reading: Software is no golden bullet - Internet safety in Thanet

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More on Comment Spam

I was alerted by one of our councilors to the fact that Thanet Star was not exactly available today. This is very irritating as I had taken the day off and gone out to enjoy the fresh and unseasonably mild weather. When I got back I had something of a situation to deal with.

My "AI" like script that keeps the spam at bay started to notice spam in flood loads yesterday. I had let about 10,000 through before I noticed the problem. I used the spam to train the filter and then I removed it.

The system was then able to keep the system clean while we all slept. Between this morning and about 2pm it picked up over 25,000 spam log events. Of these it dropped two and let them through. That's an error rate of less than 0.008% which is very good.

I have trained the filter on the spam it let through and have reset the logs but they represent around 50,000 to 75,000 hits of a purely automated nature. This is more than 25 times the daily reported average for Januaray 2008. It seems that it is time to roll out an even more proactive defense of my server as I will not put up with this sort of thing.

Unfortunately I have turned off logging to conserve stability and this means that if your comment gets eaten I will not be able to restore it. The only answer will be to try again using different words. (sorry).

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Dane Park: Update!

In order to get to the bottom of the Dane Park issues raised in recent articles I sent out some emails. This effort was hampered by the lack of availability of some parts of the council website. However, despite technical issues from these emailings I learned a number of things which only a few directly applied to the issues at hand.

In response to the chain of events my emails put into motion Thanet Life has more details as to what is going on in Dane Park. Apparently the grass will be seeded in the spring and the lighting issues are currently slated for work.

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What is Matt bookmarking in Thanet now?

At the end of last year I wrote an article entitled "What is Matt bookmarking in Thanet?" wherein I provided a listing of all the sites in my "" bookmark folder. That list of bookmarks has grown and changed as I keep an eye on what is going on in our little isle. Several months on and it reprisents a cross section of the wierd, the wonderfull and "the noted" of Thanet online.

Some links are NFSW (not safe for work) and some are most evily none discriptive. The have ended up in the folder because I noticed them for some reason. Perhaps that reason was research, perhaps not. I tend to note far more information than I can reasonably use.

Sadly this is part of the nature of "the wired world" and something I'm going to have to solve sooner or later. In the mean time here is what Matt is currently bookmarking.

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» Continue Reading: What is Matt bookmarking in Thanet now?

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Danger: Bad Lighting in Dane Park.

The sad state of Dane Park, a broken roof.
Thanet District Council ran the "I Love Dane Park" public consultation from Wednesday 14 February to Friday 30 March 2007 in a bid to whip up a little excitement about the park and get some direction for changes. Direction, it my cynically be suggested, that was mostly planned already. (Something I am sure Cllr. Shirley Tomlinson, or any other member, will deny vigorously).

According to the council's own website: "Results from the "I Love Dane Park" consultation show that local people want to see better lighting in the park in the future..." [SOURCE: "I Love Dane Park" - consultation results, Thanet District council website]. This work is supposedly well underway with the lighting already in place but local reports indicate otherwise.

Yesterday I took a trip tot he park on a fact finding mission and "Warning: Dane Park in Unsafe Hands?" was the result. As I mentioned at the end of that Article I went back there that night to find out more...

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» Continue Reading: Danger: Bad Lighting in Dane Park.

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Warning: Dane Park in Unsafe Hands?

Dane Park
Yesterday I took up an invitation to to attend a "breakfast" arranged by , a "dads group" that meets every second Saturday at the Six Bells Centre (run by ). While I was there I was able to talk with some of the dads there about issues that they felt were most pressing.

After I had explained "what's a blog?" by likening it to an online newspaper a number of issues were brought up.

1. That it is impossible to take a pushchair out and about with getting the wheels covered in dog poo. It was also mentioned by a number that things were made more difficult because the paths are often too narrow. Dads would like to see some councillors spending a day pushing a pushchair around Margate.

2. That Dane Park is a disgrace. I was told that not only do the lights not work but that the council ripped up the "old" swings but they have not even put in the "new" ones. Apparently the whole operation makes a mockery of the "I Love Dane Park" consultation of last summer. I went to investigate.

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» Continue Reading: Warning: Dane Park in Unsafe Hands?

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Blocking spam in the short term

My apologies to my regular and irregular commenters but I have had to activate an anti spam question while I write a more sophisticated way of filtering junk. While irritating it is less irritating than seeing six thousand links for the local blue pill. This anti spam question takes the form of a random and dead easy question that is added to the form.

It will remain until I have the time to write a sophisticated filter that can actually analyse the comment and figure out if it is spam. I could bore you with the technical and geek details (think "Bayesian methods" or the like) but the short story is that I have something in mind. Until then, sadly, you have to answer a stupid question to post a comment.

Sorry.

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Art in Margate: Inside Thanet's New Big Thing.

Love Letters to Margate (kent)
Love Letters to Margate is the project of a trio of young artists that could be sending ripples through the established order of things. Each of the three artists behind Love Letters to Margate are 25 or under and they are shaking things up a bit. The exhibit which starts on Valentines Day was created without any local authority arts funding, council commissions or other "arts money" what-so-ever.

Kate Limond, Selina Tolfree and BJ Fisher-Smith are the young artists who are showing Thanet artists that art need not be tied ever decreasing "arts funding". There was no waiting for Thanet District Council to commission work and the trio have not felt the need to wait for an expensive gallery before showing what they can do. As a result "Love Letters to Margate" opens at the Sandy-Wiches cafe, Cliftonville, on Valentines Day.

"It's quite fashionable to malign Margate (yes, we mean you, Sir Bob), and it is too easy to get sucked into Margate-bashing.", says the trio. "Moreover, we think art should be as accessible as possible and in your face, especially if you can have a cup of tea at the same time."

The main focus of the exhibition is to present a different view of Margate.

I contacted Kate to find out more...

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» Continue Reading: Art in Margate: Inside Thanet's New Big Thing.

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The Thanet Blogger Vote. See Grown Men Beg! Make Sandy Ezikiel & Co Fight For Your Vote.

You may not have realised it yet but blogs (such as this one) have the power to set the agenda and it's not just the writers that have the power. Readers have an equal power and part to play in bringing councilors to heal. This might sound amazing but it is really just common sense.

There is only one kind of voter that a candidate for Thanet Council is going to worry about and it is not the ones that are already exposing a party line. Those guys are already well entrenched in their chosen ideology and are a simply "safe votes" that are of little or no concern to a potential council leaders campaign. The ones that the fight is over are known as "swing votes".

A swing vote is a vote that might be cast in any direction and it is these that make the final decision. Election campaigns are all about the swing vote. There is a second vote that scares the potential councilor even more and that is the revived vote.

Many hundreds of thousands of people do not vote. Not ever. When a demographic that normally does not vote gets politically "enlivened" anything could happen, all bets are off and even "safe seats" are no longer safe.

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» Continue Reading: The Thanet Blogger Vote. See Grown Men Beg! Make Sandy Ezikiel & Co Fight For Your Vote.

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An interesting exchange

This Saturday saw the first in what promises to be a long line of enjoyable social experiments. My wife and I hosted a "Bring and Give" party and as far as I know it was the first of it's kind. It went very well and to everyone's benefit too.

The idea was a simple one - guests arrive with something to give. We left this as vague as possible so that the something might be a few words of encouragement or armfuls of items. This stuff could be things you purchased specially or things such as books, DVDs and videos) that you have but probably don't use any more.

These items would probably be greatly enjoyed by other people. Take for example a DVD, Video, CD or Book. There is a good chance that you started watching, reading or listening soon after you obtained it. After that it went on a shelf where many times it is simply left to gather dust with the collection of films and books where we gaze over them from time to time thinking "seen it".

Once at the party everyone was free to help themselves to any of the items on the table, taking home whatever one wished. We made sure the selection was suitably wide by making sure the table was loaded with items before we started. So at all times there plenty of choice and variety or quality items.

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» Continue Reading: An interesting exchange

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Byte Sized

Mentions

We got a mention in 5 ways to blog from Thanet now.

Blogs
Byte Sized

Creatives

Thanet Creative have a new webiste and a new name

Blogs
Byte Sized

Local Art

Local Artist, John Wooster-Brown has a new website.

Blogs
Byte Sized

Like to write?

If you love to write then the Thanet Creative Writers blog might be the ideal place to connect with your nearest writer group.

Blogs
Byte Sized

Hyper-localism

For those interested in blogging local news in and arround the UK this BBC article from last year is sure to be of interest.

General
 
 
 

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