A Campaign After My Own Heart

I’ve just come across a campaign after my own heart, trying to ban the use of the Comic Sans font.

The website is fairly light hearted, but the underlying campaign is quite serious. My bugbear is that the font is often misused. The site highlights it’s use in college exams and medical information. I too have come across a selection of weird and inappropriate uses in all sorts of official documents and websites. Perhaps one of the most inappropriate use I have found is a church that decided to write their entire Parish Profile in the font.

Whilst in the main I just find it’s use annoying, I have some sympathy with professional typography specialists who object because the font is actually pretty badly designed, in particular with regards to the font kerning. So when a series of characters in the font are printed, the spacing between each letter is incorrect. Whilst this may sound a bit petty, it becomes more of a problem when a document has to be professionally printed and typeset. As an aside, it is worth bearing in mind when producing a document for professional printing that the Word default fonts of Times New Roman and Arial, which are TrueType copies of the established Type 1 fonts, created by Microsoft rather than spend the money to licence the actual fonts from Adobe, are also unpopular with professional typographers, precisely because they are not totally accurate copies of the Times Roman and Helvicta fonts.

Going back to Comic Sans, it is significant that the designer of the font, Vincent Connare defends the font by pointing out that it was never designed to be used as a typeface at all. It was designed as a solution to the problem of finding a font suitable for childrens software. He has also been quoted as saying that even he is amazed when he goes to a restaurant and discovers the menu printed in Comic Sans!

As an alternative, the campaign website offers a large selection of properly designed typeface fonts that can be used as alternatives, and that won’t annoy profesionals who are trying to typeset your document. They also include a selection of propoganda including a flyer explaining the campaign, and some cartoons to get the message across too!

Ban Comic Sans

Screwdriver Mode

I read an interesting blog posting today by Scot Hacker discussing a talk given by Brian Eno on what he calls Screwdriver Mode.

The definition he gives of Screwdriver Mode is when the temptation to fiddle with the possibilities offered by technology take over from what you are trying to achieve. So for example in a Word document you end up spending ages working with the fonts and layout, distracting from the words in the document. Or whilst spending ages tweaking the settings on your digital camera you neglect to take any good pictures.

Scot offers some other examples of how the temptations of screwdriver mode sometimes take over. Definitely worth a read.

Back Every 60 Seconds (But Gone in 22)

You might have noticed the latest British Gas advertising campaign, as they attempt to stem the flow of customers away from them following their recent price hikeswhich look set to continue. The campaign focuses on customers who come back to British Gas, claiming one returns every 60 seconds. However the Evening Standard City Spy highlights another figure they were forced to reveal by the Stock Exchange.

Advertising. Marvellous medium. British Gas billboards are trumpeting that one customer comes back to it on average every 60 seconds. What the ad campaign does not say – but what the company has been forced to admit to the Stock Exchange – is that, unfortunately, it is on average losing existing customers at a rate of about one every 22 seconds.

Since as you may know I work for one of the companies that have benefited from customers moving from British Gas, this did raise a few smiles today!

Having said that, one of the interesting points that the campaign highlights is that money isn’t the only criteria against which to choose your energy supplier, despite what Energywatch and the government say at times. However what it is worth bearing in mind is the other figure quoted in this BBC article, which is that about half of all consumers have never bothered to switch, and are still with their pre-deregulation suppliers. So in some ways that implies that many of the people who are now switching back, will be the same people switching away some time in the future, churning from supplier to supplier.

As a final point, if you’re tempted to switch supplier, EnergyWatch is a good place to start. Aside from independant advice on comparing prices, they also keep track of the quality of customer service, including keeping a tally of complaints – interesting reading…

Scoble Feeds The Conspiracy Theorists

Reading through the new postings to Robert Scoble‘s blog, the Scobleizer, I came across a posting that as a Mac user I found pretty funny.

The posting is on the subject of a video of the recent Longhorn RSS announcement, however due to limited bandwidth, rather than posting two versions, he had only posted a Windows Media streaming file. This had caused problems for Mac users because the Mac version always shows the lowest bandwidth stream in the file rather than the largest. To his credit he is now chasing up the relevant team at Microsoft to sort out the problem.

The reason I found the whole thing funny is that most Mac users try to avoid dealing with the Mac Windows Media Player because of the generally poor performance. Also quite apart from the performance, even the latest version won’t run all the videos that the Windows version displays, and streaming video to it is just a waste of time.

Whilst I’m not convinced, many Mac Zealots will have you believe that Microsoft deliberately put out a poorly performing version for the Mac to give the impression of cross platform support to encourage people to use the format, but then to argue that to get good performance you really need a Windows machine, as the Mac can’t cut it. Whilst there may be a myriad of reasons as to why the bug wasn’t spotted sooner, the admission on Scobleizer can only add fuel to the conspiracy theorists!

Enterprise Flies On To The End

I’ve just finished watching the latest episode of Enterprise to air in the UK, and to be honest it was great. It didn’t get lost in technobable, nor did it suffer from plot holes the size of the Channel Tunnel. It was just a generally very entertaining hours entertainment.

I have to say that although I particularly enjoyed this episode, most of the rest of the series has been great too. Basically, once series four kicked off, Brannon Braga and Rick Berman handed control to new boy Manny Coto and the series is all the better for it. Berman and Braga only returned to write the reportedly lousy series finale that we get in the UK at the beginning of August.

To be honest, it seems that what the team decided to do in the final series was just go for fan pleasing episodes, the kind of stuff the fans were expecting from the beginning. So tonight we saw the green skinned Orion slave girls again, who appeared in the very first episode of Star Trek, and in the closing credits for many episodes, and other original series aliens were mentioned. The plot was simple, and one that had been done before, with the Orion girls being part of a plan to capture the Enterprise, with all but two of the crew affected, however it was very well executed and entertaining, even having an almost Spock like moment of dead-pan Vulcan humour towards the end.

All in all, had Enterprise been the show it has been during these final episodes from the beginning I’m sure it would have been much more of a success. Anyway, at least Manny Coto has found a new home on 24, and I for one can’t wait to see what effect he has there.