Soapbox Saturday: The most annoying thing about the British Newspaper Archive

5 May

 I haven’t really spent much time on the British Newspaper Archive website since it launched last year, but I decided today that I would fork out some money for a few credits to spend over the couple of days. I had bookmarked a few pages over the last few months, waiting until the time was right to actually view the images.

So today for the first time I have started to discover some of the website’s annoyances. The poor quality of the OCR in places was a little annoying, most of the images I was looking at were of a reasonable quality, especially for someone used to searching newspapers on old and worn microfilms.

Some of the PDF downloads were not such good quality, in fact some were unreadable, and it is quite fortunate that the images of the Sussex Advertiser appear to be quite good quality. All in all the website is useable, not outstanding, but acceptable.

There is however one thing on the site which was soon getting on my nerves, that damn Twitter feed below the main header.

I am not a fan of Twitter, quite frankly I find it annoying to keep being encouraged to follow people and organisations on Twitter, almost as annoying as being told to “Like us on Facebook”.

There I would be reading a newspaper extract when another message would appear in the banner above, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it I couldn’t help but be distracted. The movement of the scrolling text was impossible to ignore.

But what’s that, there is a pause button at the right-hand end of the banner, that would do it. Sure enough it did, the annoying scrolling text stopped. I could focus again on the image I was interested in without fear of distraction.

However my relief was short-lived, the minute I moved to another screen, the scrolling text was back again. Please brightsolid if you must inflict highlights of your Twitter feed on me then please give me an option to turn it off and keep it off.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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4 Responses to “Soapbox Saturday: The most annoying thing about the British Newspaper Archive”

  1. Canukgenie May 6, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    My major complaint about the BNA is that they could really use a convenient, easy to use clipping tool, that would take the citation with it. Now I download the whole page to my PDF reader, then take a Snapshot, then crop the area, then put it in a Word document, then manually type the citation on the bottom. Totally inadequate for a pay site. You should be able to select the area, hit a clip button, and save it in a document – citation and all.

    • John Gasson May 6, 2012 at 11:04 am #

      I quite agree. My Print Screen button was the only effective way of capturing the information short of transcribing it all there and then, that was pretty annoying when it filled an entire column in the paper.

      I would be happy just downloading a PDF of the whole page (providing I have some record of which article it was I was interested in) but the quality of some that I looked at was so bad as to be unusable.

      • Canukgenie May 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

        When I was at the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City last February, I asked the executives from FMP who were there promoting the BNA about this. I got a non-answer. “We’re improving our site all the time”, or some such. I emailed their tech support on the issue and they told me to just use ‘print screen’.

        There are three things wrong with this.
        1. Print Screen prints everything on the screen, banners and all.
        2. If your story is longer than about three column inches, it has to be shrunk until it is probably unreadable on an 8 1/2″X11″, or A4 sheet of paper.
        3. I’m paying for better service than this. If Ancestry can give readable prints, so can BNA.

        I must confess that I am quite annoyed at their dismissiveness. What do you think we can do about it? Got any contacts with people of influence? I’m just a lonely researcher on Vancouver Island in Canada, but I’m happy to help. We need somebody who can knock a few heads together.

  2. Roy Stockdill May 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    I agree that the transcribing and OCR-ing is awful. Personally, I continue to use the GaleCengage website which I still have access to as a virtual subscriber through a county libraries website. That site duplicates much of what is on the British Newspaper Archive site – AND it’s free!

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