Dáil30.ie re-designed and online now

Things have been pretty quiet over at Dáil30.ie in recent weeks – mainly due to the fact that Irish politicians are on their holidays.

This quiet time seemed like as good an opportunity as any to get the website re-designed and re-launched and after a plea on this blog and on adverts.ie Kevin of Alpha IT Solutions offered to take on the task gratis.

As you can see for yourself the site is vastly improved on its original design (which was mangled together from a basic WP theme by myself). The whole thing just looks neater than before, is more accessible and also works better in various resolutions and browsers.

Most importantly, though, it is built entirely with the series in mind and the podcasts will be extremely easy to find and listen to no matter what way you want to receive and hear them.

A critical part of ensuring this was to have an interactive constituency map and it’s turned out exactly as planned. Rather than have readers searching categories to download the files they want the map lets them click on the constituency they’re looking for and either stream or download a file – be it the overall constituency audio to the individual TD interviews. There’ll also be some constituency information and TD biographies where possible.

The constituency information is still to be uploaded in most cases, but if you want to see what it’ll look like check out Carlow-Kilkenny which is our “demo” page at the moment (there’s some test audio on there I lifted from Newstalk too – just a few seconds here and there to give you an idea of what it will look like).

There are one or two other pages that need to have their content edited or amended but otherwise the site is good to go.

As you can guess from this post, I am more than thrilled with the way the site ended up and I have Kevin at Alpha IT to thank for that. He took the job on knowing it wasn’t a paying gig but treated me like a high-paying customer throughout.

I came to him with a basic sketch of what I wanted for the individual constituency pages and made clear that the only thing I was keen on keeping from the old site was the logo – as you can see the whole thing is very different and all the better.

What I was most amazed by was the admin page created by them to manage the map, however. Through it I can upload the image and audio for each TD or constituency and it just drops it right in place along with the stream, download link, file information, everything. My limited knowledge of code leads me to believe that it operates via some kind of witchcraft or wizardry.

So head over the Dáil30.ie and check it out for yourself – if you’ve any comments, questions, complaints, whatever, just let me know in a comment or via email.

The site will be going into its next “phase” now as preparations are made for the beginning of the series so if you want to keep up to date on it all just add the feed (top right corner) to your RSS Reader or subscribe via email (left column).

On Culture Shock (Newstalk) at 8:45 tonight

I’ll be taking part in Culture Shock’s Sunday newspaper preview, The Lay Of The Land, tonight – it should be at around 8:45 or so.

If you’re around your radio, PC or TV please do tune in for the few minutes.

If I may make a quick bet – the main stories will probably be about the Labour leadership race, if not Shannon Airport/Aer Lingus. I know, I know, that may be hard to believe but I’m feeling lucky.

Review: UPC’s new DVR MediaBox

One paragraph review:

UPC‘s answer to Sky Digital‘s Sky+ service has finally been launched and it’s a considerable step forward for the company, even if it isn’t perfect. The box itself is considerable in size, owing largely to the built-in HDD and cable modem. The EPG is overhauled from the old NTL days and is vastly improved (for a start it goes 8 days into the future rather than one or two as before). The recording process is simple to manage, as are the live TV pause and rewind features. The downsides include a somewhat sluggish menu, a rather awkward process to find your recorded TV and an inability to record two progammes at once (which Sky+ can do). That said, all of these negatives are off-set by a well-needed new service delivered in a far more impressive way than old NTL might have managed. The promise that the new box will be Video On Demand and Interactive-capable over time is just the icing on the cake.

For an indepth review, click below to continue the article.
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Word to the wise; don’t bother emailing Revenue

As with any kind of freelance work, one additional responsibility that comes along is that of keeping yourself tax compliant.

I’ve technically been a freelancer since March 2006 and it has been the sole source of my income since then, so I now need to make sure my taxes are in order in time for the 31st October deadline this year (at least I think I do, anyway).

I recently decided to (finally) get the ball rolling on this and register myself as self-employed, although I hadn’t the first clue how to do it. So to get help figuring this out I emailed Revenue on the 30th of July and asked them for pointers on what I needed to do.

A few days passed and I had heard nothing in return so I decided to take the old-fashioned route and ring them instead; I was passed onto a helpful man who told me what form I needed to fill out (a TR1, apparently) and where I needed to send it, so I printed it off from their site and posted it a day or two later.

At the start of this week I got a letter to tell me I had been registered for income tax and could now take the next step in the process, which was to file my annual accounts/income/something for 2006.

I followed the advice of the letter and logged onto their Revenue Online Service website. I filed in a few details and am now waiting for some code or another to be sent out to me so I can do the dog work online, rather than through the post. How very modern.

So this morning I awoke to find an email from Revenue in my inbox – I thought it was something to do with the ROS site, like the code I needed to register, or a problem that they had encountered… nope. It was an email from a helpful individual informing me of what I needed to do to register for income tax as a self employed person… a response to the mail I sent them nearly a month ago. I do appreciate the fact that they got back to me, but it is 24 days later.

So my advice to you – if you’re looking to contact Revenue about something urgent, use the telephone and save your emails for someone who gives a damn.

All miracle fixes are fictional. Except mine.

Today’s Irish Times contains an article on comments made by Seán Brady (sub req.), Catholic primate Archbishop of Ireland, who has criticised people for turning to horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, and tarot cards to manage, predict and improve their future.

He says that Irish people have not so much abandoned their faith as they have become distracted from it and that these “new superstitions” were not an adequate replacement for faith in God, which is the only thing to bring about the happiness and stability that people seek.

Without getting into the tedious argument of whether God exists or not comments likes these from a man of God are still hard to swallow whole – even if one assumes that God does exist.

The most die-hard of Christian bases their religion around their “faith”, that is their willingness to believe something that cannot be proven, and so it is difficult to see how someone with such faith can criticise others who feel likewise about something equally unproven.

Of course putting things like horoscopes in the same category as religion instantly explains why he would make such criticism – these “new superstitions” are attracting the interest of others and supplying them with the sense of security, happiness and contentment that the Catholic church previously had a monopoly on. As they are as objective and unaccountable as religious faith, growth in their popularity is just as, if not more dangerous than, the proliferation of another religion.

But would the Archbishop speak in similar terms about other religions? Of course not, he’d be far more careful in his criticism of those who don’t subscribe to his world view for fear of seeming disrespectful or causing an incident. Things like tarot cards are an easy target because they are not centralised and do not assume themselves to be an oracle of God’s teachings, even though they do require the same amount of open-mindedness to be bought into.

One thing does stand out and that’s his use of the term “new superstitions”, which has been quoted already in this article. It has to be asked, is this Brady’s covert or Freudian way of acknowledging what Ireland’s “old” superstition was until recently?

The not-so-great Gatsby

Gatsby publishing, the company behind the now defunct US magazine The New York Dog and equally defunct Irish gossip site Blogorrah is in some serious financial trouble; although the exact reasons for this are still up for debate.

Dig & Scratch today posted a long report detailing accusations made by alleged former employees directed at Gatsby owner John Ryan. In the post he is accused of having no business acumen, of owing staff huge sums in back-pay and of putting his own fashion needs above the company and its staff’s survival.

Ryan, on the other hand, says that the business collapsed because advertisers weren’t paying up and he wasn’t prepared for the job that issue created, due to his more modest routes in Irish publishing.

One thing to keep in mind is that Dig & Scratch certainly wouldn’t be too cut up at the news of its rival’s downfall; indeed it seems as though it has gone out of its way to bring today’s news to certain sections of the Irish blogosphere. As such everything it says on the matter must be read with skeptical eyes.

But while the exact reasons for the magazine’s collapse remain uncertain one thing can be stated with no doubt – Gatsby is in serious trouble and its prospects of survival are not looking too good at the moment.

All the financial trouble at The New York Dog certainly puts the silence on Blogorrah into perspective, doesn’t it?

(73man, who doesn’t know his right from his left, was ahead of the pack with this story and has even elicited a response from someone claiming to be John Ryan… and someone who doesn’t seem to like John Ryan very much.)

Jobs.ie sitting on Facebook.ie

It looks as though job listing company Jobs.ie Ltd is sitting on the domain Facebook.ie, which currently redirects users to Irish-based social networking site TalkBeans.com.

If the domain was registered after 2004 it would almost certainly be seen by authorities as being registered in bad faith; apart from this the fact that it is directing traffic to a Facebook-esque site could itself be classed as dishonest usage of a registered brand name.

Facebook’s press office has failed to reply to queries made in relation to this situation and it’s unclear if they’re aware of it or if they plan on taking Jobs.ie Ltd through the IEDR’s “dispute resolution” process to gain control of Facebook.ie.

Considering the fact that there are 28,000 people in the Ireland network on Facebook.com it’s hard to deny that the site is popular amongst Irish people – having some of its potential traffic re-routed to a rival’s site couldn’t be considered good for their business or brand and is unlikely to be something Facebook would or should ignore.

There are plenty of other dot-ie domains being squatted on as we speak such as bebo.ie, nike.ie, police.ie and newspaper.ie. They’re all being held by Gabor Varga and Jozsef Petho and tend to redirect users to websites cluttered with pay-per-click ads.

Varga and Petho are serial domain squatters and only recently lost control of buy-sell.ie to the Buy and Sell company; adidas.ie to Adidas Ireland and gogle.ie, googel.ie, googl.ie and googol.ie to Google Inc.

Site update

This site recently turned two and passing that particular milestone made me realise just how much I’d neglected ever facet of the site bar the blog.

The CV page was out of date, as was the About page, and not a single published article of mine had been uploaded to the Portfolio page since September 2006 (which wasn’t good considering the bulk of the work I’ve had published so far came along after that).

The Portfolio page is my second busiest section of the entire site and is also the most important in terms of my career – as such it was an absolute sin to let it get stagnant like that.

So I took advantage of our bank holiday weekend and got to work on updating the site.

All the sections are now up to date and almost all my published work is available to read in the Portfolio section – the only articles left to put up are the 20-or-so from The Sunday Business Post that aren’t available on their website and need to be transcribed from the print copy I have. Once that’s done I’ll start the boring task of scanning and uploading each of the physical articles too.

A whole new addition to the Portfolio page is the Radio section – this will house all of my radio and audio work, including podcasts from other websites (although it won’t house Dáil30 and it won’t be home to a new podcast… yet). Unfortunately a lot of my Newstalk appearances aren’t available at the moment but if I can track them down I’ll put them up too – for now you’ll have to make do with one Newstalk bit and one Last Word discussion.

I also decided to take the opportunity to freshen up the site a tiny amount, namely in the images used for each section. They’re all real photos featuring my own papers/radio, scanned CV, notepad/glasses/pen, phone/letters and in my opinion give a more personal touch than the last lot of images; which were in some cases pinched from the internet.

So, that’s one box on the to-do list I can tick.

Eoghan Harris gets his reward

Eoghan Harris, Sunday Independent columnist and die-hard defender of all things Bertie, has just been announced as one of an Taoiseach’s eleven nominees to an Seanad.

Having originally savaged Ahern for his failure to promise stamp duty reform in the run up to the election, Harris became a convert of the Church of Bertie shortly before polling day and spent the following weeks attacking anyone who said anything bad about an Taoiseach; including newspapers who reported facts that could have been seen as negative to him.

This was showcased with great style during his post-election rant on The Last Word, where he tried to attack The Irish Times for reporting news. He said then that his newspaper attacked Ahern until it “got what it wanted” and after that it toed the line and turned into a Fianna Fáil cheerleader.

Harris was also a passionate defender of Ahern on a pre-election debate on The Late Late Show, as well as in his weekly columns.

It now seems as though Harris has gotten his reward for playing nice and will enjoy a more than reasonable salary as a Senator. Ahern, the most cunning and devious of them all, has also managed to secure five years of favourable column inches from the Sunday Independent; although that probably wasn’t in doubt anyway.

O’Brien ups INM stake

(Via Greenslade)
The Irish Independent gives a fleeting mention to the fact that Denis O’Brien (owner of Communicorp) has upped his stake in INM from 8.35% to just over 9%.

There’s no details at present on what price he paid for the shares or when exactly they were bought.

Expect O’Brien to continue his slow-creep tactic over the coming months and keep in mind that the O’Reilly family, which runs INM, owns just around 29% of the company itself.

This means that they cannot up their stake without launching a takeover bid but it also means that there is a sizable portion of the company available to whoever is willing to pay the right price.