Category Archives: Web

The Single Founder Myth

I’m a huge fan of Paul Graham’s writing, but having just read The Single Founder Myth by Mike Taber, I find myself agreeing with Mike more than Paul.

Mike links to a Joel on Software post from 2000 called Ben and Jerry’s vs Amazon, which despite being over six years old, makes the choices faced in running a startup very clear.

I’m not sure I qualify as running a startup anymore, as is over 9 years old, but I run CSDO Media as a one man band, and I definitely prefer the organic “Ben and Jerry’s” method of growing a company.

A new website in less than 12 hours

Less than 12 hours after coming up with the idea, I’m happy to launch (link now removed)

It’s a simple site for searching UK car reviews, based on Google’s new Custom Search Engine

Inspired by the review Matt Cutts wrote, I spent some time writing lots of URL patterns that would filter only the review pages of most major UK car sites. I’m pretty happy with the result, which I think gives nicer results than just a plain “model manufacturer reviews” search on Google UK

Budvar Lager and Online UK Supermarkets

I’m a bit of a fan of Budvar Lager, but it’s quite difficult to buy it in reasonable quantities anywhere near my home. My local ASDA used to sell it, but I haven’t seen any there for about nine months.

As usual, I did some searching online to see if I could find someone who would sell me Budvar at a reasonable price.

Firstly, all the specialist Internet drinks sites proved to be useless. They’re fine for premium wine and spirits, but the postage for crates of lager is just too much. I don’t want to pay £35 or so for 24 x 330ml bottles of lager. I like Budvar, but not that much. Kronenbourg 1664 is nearly as nice, and is often on offer at my local ASDA.

Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s all claim to offer Budvar online. Below is a brief summary of my experiences with their services:


My first order was with Tesco. They had a good offer on for 24 x 330ml bottles of budvar for £18 each + £5 delivery

First annoyance is that you have to create an account and log in to browse the site. It really puts you off checking out what they have on offer

The site is functional, but is not very pleasant to browse. The text is too small, as are the photos. I wasn’t tempted to browse past the lager section

Delivery slots were hard to get. I had to book over a week in advance. The delivery slots were also two hours long

Despite the above issues, three crates of Budvar turned up as requested. The annoying thing is that they now no longer stock Budvar at all 🙁

Overall marks: 6/10


This felt like a trip back to 1998. Their site (just recently updated) works with Safari, but doesn’t like Camino. I was shown a page suggesting I upgrade to Internet Explorer 4 or higher, or Netscape 4.5 or higher. There was a link to a non-existent page on Netscape’s website. No mention of Firefox etc. This is a disgrace in 2006

Their site in general is comparable to Tesco’s site. ASDA’s navigation is worse, but their product details are better

They do allow you browse (using Safari) without logging in, and they showed Budvar as being available. Once I created an account to place an order, Budvar wasn’t listed

I raised a query about this through their website, which states that they will back to you in 48 hours. It took them roughly two weeks to call me (it was long enough that I can’t be specific about the number of days). The guy I spoke to said that the site you see without logging in is just a demo, and that products shown there might not actually be available

When I asked about why my local store didn’t stock Budvar, and why I couldn’t order it, he suggested filling in a form elsewhere on the ASDA website. Somehow I have my doubts that this would result in me being able to buy Budvar anytime soon

I’ve been bombarded with emails by ASDA since creating an account. Many more than either Tesco or Sainsbury’s. So much so that I’ve asked them to stop sending me emails

Overall marks: 3/10


Sainsbury’s site is nicer to use than either ASDA or Tesco. Bigger text, clearer navigation, no login required to browse the site

They stock 4 x 330ml bottles of Budvar for £3.99, but you save £1 if you buy two packs. So basically it’s £21 for 24 x 330ml bottles. More expensive than Tesco, but at least they still sell it

Delivery was available within two days, and the delivery slot was one hour. Noticeably better than Tesco

As it was pleasant to browse the site, I order some Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (on offer) and 20 bags of Bacon Wheat Crunchies (not available at my local ASDA)

Everything turned up on time, although I only got 48 bottles of lager, rather than the 80 I ordered. They do warn you that this might happen. The 20 bags of Wheat Crunchies were delivered filling a single carrier bag to capacity 🙂 (they don’t sell multipacks). The lager was in carrier bags with 8 bottle per bag. Surely it would have been easier to deliver two crates as Tesco did?

I’ve just been emailed a £5 voucher for my next order, which will cover the delivery charge. They also offer free delivery between Tuesday and Thursday if you spend more than £70

Overall marks: 8/10


From my admittedly limited experience, Sainsbury definitely seem to have the edge over Tesco in terms of the customer experience, and ASDA have some serious catching up to do

Internet Explorer 7 Compatibility

Over the weekend I followed a link to a post about IE7 coming this month. To make sure I had no issues with IE7 compatibility, I downloaded the RC1 build, and had a good look round my sites for any rendering problems.

Things were pretty good, but it did seem that the Easy Clearing technique I was using wasn’t working with IE7, resulting in the search box and tabbed navigation floating being detached from the navigation bar below.

A little searching produced this fix, which is also now reflected in the original Easy Clearing page. Basically I changed the old display:inline-table to display:inline-block, and IE7 came into line. This change has now been made to all my live sites.

Thanks to all the research done by various CSS experts, and related sites now display properly on IE7, as well as the other browsers I actively try to support – IE5 & IE6 on Windows, and the latest versions of Firefox, Opera, and Safari.

Switched my email from Yahoo! to Google Apps

After over a year of using Yahoo! Mail Plus as for my Carsurvey email hosting, I’ve made the switch across to Google’s Apps for your Domain, and I’m very happy indeed.

First, let’s say some things about Yahoo Mail Plus

Good stuff:

  • They’ve always supported sending from your own domain, rather than the “ on behalf of user@domain” used by the standard Gmail service (not the Google Apps service that I’ve switched too)
  • They offer the ability to send SMS alerts to UK mobile phones based on certain criteria
  • They can query POP mail on other servers for you. Nice for mail aggregation if you can’t forward mails
  • The facility is offered to create temporary mailboxes to help avoid spam
  • I could download my archive of emails in a zip file, to take elsewhere

Not so good:

  • Their latest web interface doesn’t work on some browsers. Safari for example. So I was still using their old interface
  • I could never find an easy way to check my email on my mobile phone or PDA here in the UK
  • Their servers have gone down a few times, I’ve had people get bounce messages for my email
  • I was having to route my email through my web server, which mean that if that went down, I lost email too
  • The service cost £11.99 a year

Now for Google Apps

Good stuff:

  • Free – in fact I was given twenty five 2Gb accounts when I only asked for one. And while the service is still in Beta, anyone who signs up can expect that the basic service will stay free for them after it comes out of Beta
  • I was instantly approved for an account. No need to wait around for a few days
  • The interface is far more snappy than Yahoo! To be fair though, I’ve only been using the service a few days. I especially like the spellchecker (nicer than Yahoo!), and the way it automatically saves drafts for you as you work
  • Nice clean mobile interface
  • Email is routed to them via your DNS MX record, so there’s no need to route through another server. This should make things more reliable
  • I could load my old Yahoo! mail into Google. This took several hours using Google GMail Loader, and I got a few error messages, but I was pleased that it worked at all

Not so good:

  • Adverts, but these seem relevant and not too in your face
  • No option for UK SMS alerts. I never used this on Yahoo!, but I liked having the option available

The Mac mini’s Killer App

I mostly bought my Mac mini for Front Row, and while that hasn’t disappointed me (especially since Apple added the ability to shuffle music by playlist), the real killer app has turned out to be something different:


The ability to play almost any music video, movie trailer, comedy clip etc through my TV has proved to be a really great feature. If friends are round and something comes up in conversation, such as the new Portal Trailer, I can have it playing on the big screen within about 30 seconds, with no need to hand round a laptop, or get anybody off the sofa.

My Favourite CSS Site

Just thought I’d take the time to mention Position Is Everything.

Since moving my sites over the CSS layouts instead of tables, I’ve found this site to be incredibly useful for helping to diagnose and workaround inconsistencies in how different browsers handle CSS.

Most valuable is the Explorer Exposed! section, which documents the various issues with Internet Explorer.

The Home Page as a Graph

Had a play around with this nice tool for creating website graphs a few weeks ago. Very pretty, and it’s a nice way to see how simple or complicated your markup is.

Now Gary has posted about this, I thought I’d put a screenshot of the Home Page up for people to see:

I’m rather proud of the relative simplicity of my graph. The key features being the three lists of manufacturers, which make up the large blue and grey circular objects. Those should really be one list, but it’s difficult to split a single list into three columns without using some hairy markup.

Wine Review Sites

I’ve just read an interesting post over on TechCrunch about several new Web 2.0 Wine Sites.

Given that I killed off because of a lack of interest, I wonder whether these sites will do much better?

cork’d looks like it might have some momentum. It’s certainly got the Web 2.0 look and feel, and more reviews than I ever managed. I do like the tags for flavours (one of the best uses for tags I’ve ever seen), and Dan Cedeholm (I thoroughly recommend his books) is one of the guys behind cork’d, so the pedigree is good.

I do wonder if these sites will run into the problem I discovered – it’s hard to write a review of wine without drinking it, and not many people drink wine in front of their computer.