Posted by Dom
June ended in a blur of dramatic events in Britain – the catastrophic damage caused by the unprecedented summer flooding, combined with the outrage at the attempted terrorist atrocities in London and Glasgow, ensured an unexpectedly sombre and serious conclusion to the month. As well as making sure we featured these breaking world events comprehensively, our lead homepage slides covered the usual wide range of topics during June’s 30 days, including the ubiquitous Big Brother, the UK smoking ban, the less than warm reception for the new Olympics logo, Steve McClaren’s trials as England manager, Paris Hilton’s regular attempts to grab the public attention, the final of The Apprentice, the build up to Live Earth and, of course, Tony Blair’s long-anticipated handover to Gordon Brown at Number 10.
The range of subjects we covered here on the homepage was matched by the breadth of the feedback we received during the month. One of the major advantages of checking the homepage comments we get daily is that we can respond almost instantly to any problems that crop up and rectify them as quickly as possible. Two users, for example, pointed out that one of the links in our homepage Search Hotlist – ‘which Ex-EastEnder is 37?’ – came up with some adult images on the results page. Although the rogue results were some way down the page, this was obviously unacceptable, and we were able to change the link live only a matter of minutes after receiving the feedback. Proof that your comments can be acted on amazingly quickly!
The speed which we need to work at during a normal working day unfortunately sometimes means the occasional spelling blooper slips through the net, and it’s good to know that there’s an army of eagle-eyed users out there ready to draw our attention to any linguistic howlers. One user drew an ironic comparison between our MSN News ‘Illiterate Britain’ feature, where we invite you to send in pictures of grammatical foul-ups in restaurants, bars clubs and businesses (see here), and our own failings – ”Re: Also on MSN News In Pictures: HMS Astute A sneak ‘peak’ at the……’ PEEK, surely? Does this qualify for one of your ‘Illiterate Britain’ entries??”. Ahem.
Another comment we received simply said: ”What a shame you couldn’t spell ‘sabbatical’ correctly”.
There are no excuses for these mistakes getting through, but at least when they do, there are plenty of people around to get us back on a mistake-free track!
A few people also took issue with some factual points in articles over the month. ”On your daily quiz today you say that the tea bag was invented in 1896 in the UK. I think you will find that it was actually invented in the USA and was invented by accident by someone trying to send out samples of tea to his clients,” wrote one user. There are a number of conflicting theories online about this issue, although the above statement does crop up a number of times; the ‘someone’ being the enterprising merchant Thomas Sullivan of New York, in 1904, who wrapped tea leaves in silk bags and sent them out to customers around the world. So, our apologies if we misled anyone there.
Continuing on the taking up of factual inaccuracies, ”You have got Prince William’s salary wrong. 2nd LTs earn almost 28k a year not 22k. Harry will be on 22K as he does not have a degree, Will would have got 22K whilst in training at Sandhurst but he has a degree (2.1 in Geography) and finished up at Sandhurst ages ago so will now be on 28K,” wrote one user, while a film fan wrote in: ”Just a technical note: The ‘C’ in BBFC stands for ‘Classification’, not ‘Censorship’, as reported. When the Board was created in 1912, it stood for ‘Censors’, but that was changed to ‘Classification’ in 1984/85 with the introduction of the Video Recordings Act, which was introduced as a response to Video Nasties such as Cannibal Holocaust, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I Spit On Your Grave”.
Finally, we also managed to get the date of the Falklands conflict wrong briefly in our ‘Today’s Picks’ area of the homepage – ”Your front page today asks for comments on the Falklands War, ‘Your memories of 85’. Are you really unaware that the war was in 1982?????????,” ran one irate comment. Apologies for the keyboard slip, which we rectified in a matter of minutes, and we’ll keep working hard to achieve a 100 per cent accuracy record in everything we publish or link to from the home page.
The beauty of feedback, of course, is that it encourages people to write in with their own opinions on the site, although this does tend to be what might be optimistically referred to as a ‘mixed bag’. One person wrote in: ”As a web manager and avid internet user, I have to say that the MSN UK content has declined in quality. Content is disorganised and dare I say, dull. The home page is a mash of anything! Whilst I appreciate that localisation of content requires time and resources, I’d recommend a review of the audiences using this site and their information and functional needs. The design is un-interesting and chaotic, plus littered with adverts. If things do not change, MSN will remain a portal – simply a gateway from hotmail and out to a site of value e.g. information site like BBC; entertainment sites like Hellomagazine.com, etc”.
Another comment read succinctly: ”A picture of Alan Sugar: joyless dullard. A reference to Posh Spice: Pointless non-entity. Several references to Big Brother: Why? Britney & K-Fed: Who Cares; what kind of idiot calls himself K-Fed? The word ‘Gossip’. Paris Hilton: need I say more. In other words everything that I try so hard to avoid. My new homepage? No, not really”.
One user took issue with our piece arguing how The Simpsons had ‘jumped the shark’ a long time ago (read the article here): ”Who on earth wrote that rubbish about the Simpsons getting tired? It’s still as popular today, if not more so than ever! I certainly wouldn’t want it to end, and I sincerely hope it will continue for another 400 episodes. Whoever wrote that review needs to find another career path because they certainly do not understand the meaning of the word entertainment!”
The debate that Laura touched upon last month about The Apprentice and when we should post results on our home page reared its ugly head again when the final came around: ”You are a bunch of prats. You implore us to make this our homepage and there, in your face, is the result of The Apprentice. Doesn’t it occur to you thick ******** that some us may be online because we are working away from home and looking forward to returning to seeing recording of that show. Now we know the result. Thanks MSN. Leave the news to those who specialise and concentrate on what you do best”.
In this instance we did publish the winner of the contest too early, and should have taken into account the number of people who were recording the programme and had no wish to see the conclusion spoiled by an over-hasty link on the home page. All we can say is that our procedure for dealing with publishing this kind of news, whether it’s an Apprentice winner or a Big Brother evictee, is constantly being looked at, and if you still think we’re running news in this area too quickly, feel free to write in and let us know.
On a more positive front (phew!), one user wrote: ”Hi, more a question than a comment, I love the MSN site, its very informative and great for keeping abreast of what’s happening. Could you perhaps have a platform to showcase outstanding unsigned bands? Something similar to artist spotlight page you have at the moment”. Our music editor James is always keen to promote new music, so there may be some interesting developments in this very area in the near future.
Our health editor Ross Chainey’s piece on what to do if you need to gain weight safely (read the article here) drew this appreciative remark: ”Hi, i just read the article about people having a hard time gaining weight. I am so happy to see this because I am also the same way… I have a very hard time gaining weight, and people are always passing rude comments to me which makes me feel very sad, and I just hate my body even more… I know I am skinny, but I can’t help being this way, I eat everything and anything. I had a baby last year and I was happy that maybe I will gain weight, but no I went back to the way I was and am… so I hope for all the people with a weight gaining problem – you just need to be strong. I will try these tips I got to gain weight, but I just wish that people would also take this seriously and think twice before thinking we have an eating disorder. Thank you.”
Before I leave the monthly feedback round-up, I should mention the wide range of comments we’ve received on this very blog during the last four weeks. Topics covered included whether Cornwall should be regarded as a country in its own right, regular updates on how to get involved with supporting the campaign to free Alan Johnston, and our most popular blog of the month – Ian’s passionately argued attack on the ‘Facebook generation’. My colleague’s thoughts certainly drew a strong response from you – with the at-present 235 comments ranging from ”I think the author of the article is reading way too much into this. Yes, as with any social networking site, there are sad people on Facebook who just want to show off and see who can get the most friends, but this doesn’t mean that everyone who uses it has some form of insecurity” to ”I absolutely 100% agree with everything you’ve said there, Ian. The whole thing about having to have millions of friends, otherwise you’re ‘lonely’ – it’s pathetic. I think I can quite honestly say that I can count the number of real friends I have on one hand… one of them being my wife!”. If you have any thoughts to add to the debate, voice them here.
Finally, in amongst the complaints was one ray of light that brought a smile to the face of one of the three females on the homepage team. ”Just seen your photo on the MSN blog,’ wrote one user, ‘and I simply wanted to say that I personally think you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. I just felt I had to let you know… Thanks for making my heart skip a beat this morning.”
Awww. Keep the questions, criticisms and random compliments coming in, and Ian will be back in a month’s time to round-up all the July feedback.