How To Export Your Google Reader Feed

As of July 1st 2013 Google Reader will be no more. I’m a little disappointed to say the least as I’ve been using Google for a number of years now to aggregate content from my favorite blogs and websites into one place. I know a lot of people now use Twitter as a replacement and while this is a good way to surface articles you wouldn’t otherwise see, it can be a bit haphazard.

I was surprised to find out just how many people no longer use an RSS reader. I attended a course run by Martin Belam last year at the Guardian offices called “So You Think You Want To Be A UXer?” where Martin asked an assembled class of 40 or so web-professionals if they used an RSS feed. I was one of only a few people to raise their hands. Will Critchlow asked the same question at a Distilled Live even in January and again I was only one of two people to raise their hands.

A good alternative to Google Reader is Although this currently relies on Google Reader API to populate their tool the company have created their own version of the Google Reader API called Normandy. Feedly will seamlessly transition to the Normandy back end once Google Reader has been closed.

Of course there are many other RSS readers available and if Feedly isn’t your cup of tea you’ll want to export you Google Reader RSS feed before the service is shutdown. Here’s how you do it:

1 – Log in to your Google Reader account and click on the “Settings” cog icon located to the top right of the page. Click “Reader Settings” from the drop-down menu. This will then take you to a new page

Google Reader Settings Menu

2 – Click on the “Import/Export” tab and then click on the “Download your data through Takeout” link found under “Export your information”. This takes you to Google Takeaway.

Google Reader Export Feed

3 – Wait for Google to do its thing and click on the “Create Archive button”

Google Takeaway

4 – Google Takeaway creates a .zip file of your Google Reader account which can then be downloaded.

Download Google Reader Feed

Google news_keywords Meta Tag & how the British Press have embraced it.

Well last week was fun. Despite being super busy I managed to take some time to look at the newly introduce news_keywords meta tag introduced by Google.The idea behind  this change is to give journalists and writers more freedom when constructing headlines and titles for their work. This in turn encourages less focus on optimising titles with numerous keywords and the virtual restrictions on writer’s potential wordplay opportunities. In Google’s own words:

“The goal is simple: empower news writers to express their stories freely while helping Google News to properly understand and classify that content so that it’s discoverable by our wide audience of users.”

Despite Google encouraging writers and journalists to spend less time optimising their article titles, there are a couple of key points to take away here:

  • Firstly, the news_keywords meta tag can only contain a maximum 10 keywords
  • Secondly, and most importantly, this doesn’t meant that keyword inclusion can be omitted from article title.

Google are clear in their announcement that the introduction of the new meta tag is still only part of the puzzle and does not guarantee good visibility within search results.

The implementation is easy and works in the same way as the traditional keywords meta tag:

<meta name=”news_keywords” content=”Keyword1, Keyword2, Keyword3″>

For more information on implementation see the Google help guide.

It’s been a few days since this news was announced by Google and now seems like a good time to see if any of the large news websites have included the news_keywords meta tag on their websites yet.

A quick look at the source code for the leading article on the BBC website revealed that the BBC are not yet using the news_keywords meta tag.

The leading article on The Telegraph website is also yet to be marked up with the news_keywords meta tag. I know that Richard Underwood (Head of SEO at The Telegraph) had voiced some concerns on Twitter about the new element, so potentially this deployment has been delayed at The Telegraph until testing has been completed.

The Guardian have also yet to implement the news_keywords meta tag from inspection of the source code on their leading article. The Guardian however does still use the traditional keyword meta tag.

Inspection of The Independents leading article also revealed that no keyword tag had been used on the source.

The Times:
Seeing as so much of The Times content is hidden behind a paywall the news_keywords tag probably isn’t high on their list of development priorities at this time. However the top ranking Times article in Google news didn’t contain the new element.

So as we can see from a number of the major British news outlets, the news_keywords meta tag has yet to be embraced. It’s still early days though and there is the potential for busy development schedules to hold a small change like this back. Surprisingly, off all the sites briefly assessed above only The Guardian and The Telegraph use the traditional keyword meta tag for their articles. This may be due to CMS systems, or could they know something the rest of us don’t?

Posts of the Week – Week Ending September 21st

A short and somewhat late round up of articles from last week. What can I say? Been busy.


Search Engine Optimisation: Knowledge Graphs,, Instant Answers, Siri, Provenance and the Economy of Attribution
Michael Smethurst talks about experiments with possible futures in the BBC R&D Department

A newly hatched way to tag your news articles
Google announce a news_keywords metatag which allows news writers to express their stories freely while helping Google News to properly understand and classify that content so that it’s discoverable by our wide audience of users.

Video SEO just became a lot easier!
Joost de Valk announces his video SEO plugin for WordPress

SEO is still vital for businesses today, but its long-term future looks doubtful
Matt Owen of Jellyfish voices his concerns over the future of search

UX / IA:

Storytelling to Problem Solve
Using face-to-face conversation to change how we empathize with our audience. It’s a skill we all have and, properly honed, designers can leverage it to better communicate in the digital world.

Posts of the Week – Week Ending September 14th


How Google could reshape online market research and micropayments
Eighteen months ago – under non disclosure – Google showed publishers a new transaction system for inexpensive products such as newspaper articles. It works like this: to gain access to a web site, the user is asked to participate in a short consumer research session consisting of a single question

Are You Leaving Mobile Users On The Table?
John Doherty explores user mobile behavior in Google Analytics and provides some custom reports to help you understand you mobile traffic a little better

Assigning and understanding value
Duane Forrester talks about assigning and understanding value to your visitors

UX / IA:

The second screen experience: mobiles, tablets and TVs
More people are using tablets and mobiles alongside TV to watch events, but what’s the secret to a successful ‘second screen’ experience?

Nick Fink: User Experience Best Practice
An exceptional audio slideshare of Nick Finck’s presentation – User Experience Best Practice


Reynolds Tubing Factory
Think of Reynolds and most will instantly think of 531, the iconic cold-forged steel tubing used not only for Tour de France winning race bikes but also fighter planes and land-speed motor-crafts. Since the 1950s Reynolds butted tubesets have dominated the roads, being flexed and contorted by the likes of Anquetil, Merckx and Hinault.

Cycling in China: not for the faint-hearted
The car is king in cities such as Shanghai where cyclists are relegated to the bottom of the vehicular food chain


The rise of the ultramarathon
Published late last Friday, Susan Greenwood takes a look at the increasing interest in ultra running

The Story of the Only American Not on Earth on September 11th
Astronaut Frank Culbertson watched from the Space Station as the attacks unfolded on the ground.

Watch a novel being written ‘live’
Silvia Hartmann is offering readers the chance to watch her novel taking shape, word by word, on a Google documen

Posts of the Week – Week Ending September 7th


Not many posts featuring ‘quality content’ in the search industry this week, which is a little ironic. Only one from the BBC made the list:

Search Engine Optimisation in BBC News

The third and final installment on SEO at the BBC

UX / IA:

My first week of including UX / IA posts. These two caught my eye during the week:

Beyond Wireframing: The Real-Life UX Design Process

What do real-life UX design processes actually look like? Do we have time for every step in the process that we claim to be ideal? In this article, Marcin Treder share a couple of insights about the real-life UX design process and speak from his own experience and research.

User experience trends and the problem with stealing bad ideas

There are many design patterns that exist, some of which save time and keep designers from reinventing the wheel. But are these designs helping the customer?


It’s hard to avoid the elephant in the room at the moment (the Armstong story), but I’ve included what I feel is the best I’ve read this week at the end of the list:

Be loud, visible and polite: how to be a responsible mountain biker

Mountain biker Graeme McLean spearheads a safe approach to riding on trails shared with walkers and horses in Scotland

Bradley Wiggins in GB team role for UCI Road World Championships

Wiggins and Team GB’s plans for the UCI Road World Championships

Alberto Contador takes stage and Vuelta lead from Joaquim Rodríguez

Stage 17 of the Vuelta turned out to be an amazing day of bike racing as Contador took the race to his rivals by attacking more than 30 miles from the line to finish 2:38 ahead of Rodríguez

Exclusive: Q&A with ‘The Secret Race’ authors

VeloNews editor-in-chief, Neal Rogers, chats to Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle about the release of their new book – The Secret Race


A couple of other posts to throw into the mix this week:

It’s Time To Wake up To Women’s Sport

A fantastic article by Clare Balding on women in sport

Voyager close to leaving solar system on 35th anniversary of launch

The Guardian covers Voyager 1, launched in 1977 to explore Jupiter and Saturn, being on the edge of the solar system and about to enter new frontiers in the Milky Way

Cycling In London

Please note: The following post contains sweeping generalisations.

Cycling in London can be dangerous at times. Generally taxi and bus drivers in London are considerate towards cyclists, but the same can’t be said of all motorists.

Some cyclists do the rest of us no favors by jumping red lights, cycling on the pavements, and generally being dicks.

Here are a few simple things to remember whilst cycling around our fair city by bike:

  • All drivers are stupid*
  • All drivers are blind to cyclists
  • The few drivers that have seen me are actively out to kill me
  • All pedestrians have a death wish
  • People on Boris Bikes are idiots
  • Nodders** are idiots
  • Red light jumpers are idiots
  • Many of the other cyclists are idiots
  • Tourists are idiots
  • Give lorries and buses the space they need
  • Be patient.

No doubt this list will evolve over time.

* Not all drivers are stupid
** Nodders – A new/unfit commuter, who, as they slowly move along nod their head from side to side in time with their pedal strokes. Usually they struggle to hold a straight line.

So You Think You Want To Be A UXer?

On Tuesday August 28th I headed down to The Guardian office at Kings Place for an introduction to user experience training session. The course was run in the evening by Martin Belam who, until recently, was Lead UX at The Guardian.

So You Think You Want To Be A UXer?

Like most people who work with websites, I find my job overlapping with several disciplines and quite often find what’s best for search is also best for the user. I’ve also found myself advising clients on information architecture with increasing regularity in my role within the search industry. I’ve been following Martin’s blog for a while now in order to gain some insight into UX and IA, so when the opportunity to attend a UX course run by the man himself came up, I jumped at the chance.

First though, a trip back in time – Around ten months ago I was working on a large consultancy piece for a major UK financial publication. The main scope of the work was to outline best practice for search and noting specific requirements for the design and development teams involved with the project. There was also a large section of the consultancy focused on the clients content and how best to present and organise it. In hindsight the project would have benefited hugely from an information architect, but my own research led me to The Guardian’s website and in particular their use of tag pages.

Generally, The Guardian ranks well for a large number of lucrative search terms. Head on over to Google and search for something like ‘Labour’ or ‘Lib Dem’ and you’ll see The Guardian website on the first page. Back in November 2011 The Guardian website ranked in the top 10 for terms like ‘gold’ and ‘oil’ consistently and the pages that were ranking were tag pages.

Tag pages are essentially dynamic pages that aggregate appropriately tagged content from across a website. Anyone familiar with a blogging platform such as WordPress will know how tag pages work. A bit of further delving into The Guardians use of tag pages led me to a series of posts on their developer blog called Tags Are Magic. This series of posts spurred my interest in the benefits and importance of Information Architecture and subsequently User Experience.

So with a little bit of research already completed on how The Guardian handles information architecture and an increasing interest in UX and IA in general, I was pretty excited to attend this course.

What is covered?

Martin had the unenviable job of covering as much about UX as possible in 3 hours. Of course there’s only so much you can do in 3 hours and Martin did well to keep the evening running at a good pace covering a number of UX basic principles while also incorporating a number of practical activities.

Here’s a shot list if what Martin covered (what I remember):

  • What is user experience?
  • What skills do user experience professionals need?
  • Designing for people
  • Designing for computers
  • Designing for business
  • An introduction to UX research methods
  • Information architecture and domain models
  • User flow and task flow
  • Building for people
  • Building for developers

A fairly ambitious list to cover in 3 hours I’m sure you’ll agree, but delivered without haste. The practical exercises we undertook included a basic UX testing method, a sketching exercise and a card sorting exercise.

UX testing method practical:

During this exercise Martin had us break out into groups of three and each person was assigned a position:

  • Tester
  • Victim
  • Observer.

In this exercise the tester set the task to be completed on their mobile, the victim (or the user) had to complete the task, and the observer had to record the actions taken by the user.

During the evening Martin stated that UX recommendations based on opinion are worthless. Everything should be backed up by data and research. This exercise helped to reinforce this point and give a basic but practical taste of conducting UX testing and recording the outcome.

Sketching practical:

The sketching exercise brief was basic: “Create an interface that allows people to make a custom hat”. Having been a front-end developer I naturally drew a website page template, however, there were a range of different approaches from everyone in the room.

Of particular benefit during this exercise was being asked to pass our sketch to the person to the left and having that person make an improvement to your design. This helped to demonstrate how you, the UXer, needs to understand the expectations of the end user and to take criticism positively in order to improve the product.

Card sorting practical:

This exercise had the people on each table undertake a card sorting exercise. On the surface this seemed like quite a basic exercise, group similar cards together by topic, but as we got started we soon found it to be a little more complicated. It was obvious that the topics had been derived from a news website and that multiple sub-category cards could be placed under multiple top-category cards.

Halfway through we were stopped and another set of cards was added to the existing set. This time cards were labeled with BBC specific products such as Eastenders and Cbeebies so it was obvious where the categories had been derived from, but it didn’t make it any easier to arrange all of the cards into a logic order that we all agreed on.

This task helped to highlight that not every category or topic belongs where you expect it to go and that in many cases one topic can sit under more than one category. I think with some basic Analytics data associated with the cards, a more informed decision could have been made by the group as to which categories were the most visited as this would have dictated the hierarchy we developed.

Martin also noted that this type of exercise is good at highlighting how a dominant character within a test group can skew the results. As such, it’s best to rotate people within test groups in order to gain balanced results.

Other key takeaways:

Beyond the lessons learnt during the practical exercises, here are a number of point I thought important enough to jot down:

  • In the news sector where content can be heavily syndicated from one source, the one thing that can define your site from the competition is the users experience. Provide a good user experience and people will keep coming back to your site
  • Design for people – your recommendations as a UX professional should be backed up by data and research gained from rigorous testing of the product
  • Usability testing is vital – The designer is always removed from the end user and as such can’t design the perfect solution without user feedback
  • Field testing – This is important as it gives you a different insight into users habits
  • Remote testing – AB testing can be used as a cheaper alternative
  • “The end UX is only as good as the foundation of the system” – Get you IA right and the rest will follow
  • Guerilla testing offers a cheaper alternative and allows you to research user behaviour in a more natural setting
  • Usability testing works better in pairs, especially when approaching women when guerilla testing
  • Uncovering “unhappy paths” and optimising them to be as smooth as possible is the job of the user experience designer
  • User Experience design isn’t just about customer facing platforms but should also consider content management systems and other back-end systems to streamline internal work processes
  • Use case studies and determination to sell in user experience design to clients
  • The best usability metric to demonstrate a poor user experience is video evidence of people struggling to use a product or interface. Other metrics to consider include revenue, funnel abandonment and bounce rate.

Anything to add?

So having sat through 3 hours of UX basics is there anything I would add to the evening? In short, yes! However, if I’d had time to go to the pub after my questions would no doubt have been answered. I may even email Martin to ask a couple of specifics, but I’ll add them here:

  • Are there any examples of what not to do? – A quick reference to Harry Brignull’s might make a worthy addition
  • Designing for search – Working in the industry that I do, it would have been hugely beneficial to learn some basics or best-practice tips for user experience related to search engines.

What next?

So where do I go next having attended Martin’s course?

Martin provides some good ideas at the end of his course, so I’m not short of options. I already have the book “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” which is recommended by Martin, but have yet to start it. So that will be my first port of call. Martin provides quite an extensive reading list, including a number of blogs, so I will add the RSS feeds to my Google Reader account and try to stay abreast of recent developments. I’ll also start to follow more UX professionals on Twitter as I’m quite active there.

Life seems to have gotten in the way but rekindling this blog and making it more user experience an information architecture oriented will help. I need to restart my weekly roundup posts which have been dormant since May, so that’s a quick win straight away.

Beyond blogging, reading, and stalking people on Twitter, I need some hands on experience, which I’m hoping can be accommodated at my current company. If not, I may need to find a mentor to steer me in the right direction and sense check my work. I should also become more actively involved with the community in London and attend more meet ups.

Further details

Finally, if you’re interested in attending this course, it’s organised by Simone Baird and her team at Guardian Masterclasses. The next course is on September 17th and you can find further details here.

If you can recommend a UX or IA site to follow feel free to comment below or tweet me @harvey1dash8

Posts of the Week – Restarted

So it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these or since I’ve written anything for the blog. Compiling a ‘posts of the week’ blog post is great but it does require you to sort through the wheat from the chaff and find the ‘quality’ content. But to be honest, I just haven’t had the time recently.

I’ve also noticed a number of other blogs starting to run a similar feature so I’ve been less inclined to do one myself. If you want a regular weekly update I suggest you either check out the Fresh Egg blog for search specific content or alternatively Martin Belam’s Friday Reading series is cracking.

In the meantime here are a number of posts that have caught my eye over the past month or so:


Marketing Is Dead

The Secret Sauce of SEO

An update to our search algorithms

Search quality highlights: 86 changes for June and July

How to Befriend Your Favourite SEO Rockstar!

A Journey through Search Engine Optimisation
The BBC’s food content calendar is just epic (I hate using that word but I think this deserves it).

Search Engine Optimisation: Rebuilding Food
Part 2 on the BBC’s approach to SEO and food


RIP Adobe Flash on Android


The Invisible Bicycle Helmet

Britain Is All About the Bike

BBC Radio 4 profile of David Brailsford
Audio content

A Doff To The Cap
Everyone loves a cycling cap – especially Rapha

David Millar: Making Amends

Justice for all,25212,16299_8030063,00.html
It’s been hard work finding an Armstrong post that isn’t completely biased. Richard Moore’s is as close to unbiased as I’ve read so far.


Give the BBC a Gold Medal: A Love Letter to Britain’s Olympic Broadcaster
Didn’t they do well?

An Unexpected Ass Kicking


Finally, if you’re partial to eating and like Barack Obama, check out this totally cool Barack Obama Eating board on Pinterest:

That’ll do it. I’m sure there’s heaps of “quality content” I’ve missed but I can’t include everything now, can I?


I’ve neglected my blog for the past 3 months or so. I spent time getting it up and running, granted not a lot of time, and then left it to fester after only a handful of posts. It’s no surprise really when you consider I’m not the biggest fan of blogging. Not that I dislike it, but given the option of staying in and writing a blog post and going out for a run, there’s no question which I’m going to do.

So on my return I found the white screen of death on the login page. “Oh well. I’ll leave it for a few more weeks” – I thought to myself, and promptly did. The problem with WordPress issues is that it can be very hard and time-consuming to sort through all the noise and crap on the help forums to find what you’re looking for. The white screen of death didn’t even give me an error code to work from. I’m no stranger to PHP but without any information on the issues other than a blank screen I didn’t have much to work from.

So instead of trying to work out a fix, I backed up the database, scrapped the current install of WordPress and started over.

Naturally there have been a few teething problems and questions such as “where are my images” have arisen. Needless to say I’ll be spending a bit more time on the blog in the coming days sorting everything out to restore the utter drivel that was on here before. I probably won’t bother trying to recover the images though, looks like they’ve been lost for good.

To be honest, I haven’t had the time to blog recently. I moved house, got my road bike back and a number of minor running injuries have healed. All of which have made me pretty busy, if the data on my Strava profile is to be believed I’m clocking up between 100 and 140 miles a week cycling and running. As I’ve already said given the option between blogging and exercise there’s no question which I would rather do. Add a full time job and music commitments on top of that and I don’t have a lot of free time left.

So why a resurgence of interest? – Well, I’ve been meaning to get back on it but I haven’t had a lot to write about. The ‘Posts of the Week’ blogs I was publishing on a Friday became a bit of a chore and the company I work for started doing something similar, so I dropped the idea. But I’ve come up with a plan to automate the process a little more so I won’t need to spend as much time doing it while continuing to put my own twist on it.

Mainly the resurgence in interest came from Martin Belam. I attended a course run by Martin recently at The Guardian and he reinforced the importance of blogging. Not for traffic or advertising or any marketing bollocks, but as a place to formalise your thoughts and ideas on the industry you work in, and as a place to prove a sustained involvement and interest in certain areas.

So with that in mind, I will blog. Probably not frequently, but hopefully with some purpose and an objective. Naturally Martin’s course will get a write up and I have Posts of the Week to reignite, but I’m hoping the emphasis will be more towards Information Architecture, User Experience and some general interest (cycling) commentary.

So…. See you once I’ve sorted out this mess.

EU Cookie Law Implementation

Let’s give this another go.

I first published this post back on May the 29th. Due to my blog receiving a little neglect the post was lost. Fortunately Google still had the post cached so I was able to salvage it. It’s not as complete as the first post, and is now without images, but the core information is still here.

Well what an interesting end to last week. In a massive shift away from what was outlined in last years EU cookie directive, the UK’s Information Commissioner watered down the regulations at the eleventh hour. I’m not going into details but if you want a bit of further reading check out this article on The Guardian website.

Essentially, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said that websites can assume that users have consented to the use of cookies if they continue to browse the site.

For implied consent to work there has to be some action taken by the consenting individual from which their consent can be inferred. This might for example be visiting a website, moving from one page to another or clicking on a particular button. The key point, however, is that when taking this action the individual has to have a reasonable understanding that by doing so they are agreeing to cookies being set.

As with all government regulations, there are a couple of points worth highlighting:

  • If you are relying on implied consent you need to be satisfied that your users understand that their actions will result in cookies being set. Without this understanding you do not have their informed consent.
  • You should not rely on the fact that users might have read a privacy policy that is perhaps hard to find or difficult to understand.

In English, as my colleague put it, they are saying that despite threatening dire consequences, implied consent is OK . . . But you shouldn’t assume implied consent is OK if it turns out not to be.