All posts by ciblog

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Search engine optimisation? Four questions answered.

As part of our sister design business Create Services we often get asked about search engine optimisation. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

What is it?

In simple terms it means setting up your website in such a way that the internet search engines are more likely to display it early in their results when relevant search terms are used – and by search engines we largely mean Google since they handle around 70% of all searches (Yahoo does around 15%, Microsoft Bing about 10% and others 5%). Search engine optimisation is not the same thing as Adwords, which is Google’s brand name for paid advertisements on their search results pages.

Do I need it?

It really depends how you expect the majority of your visitors to find your website. It may be that the most of your clients will be directed to it via other media, such as having your website address on letterheads, business cards, etcetera. Of course if someone searches specifically for your company name you would expect any search results to include your site in the first few entries, but that should happen with any well designed site provided your name is not very common. It’s the people who search for words associated with the type of business you do, or your general location or a product you sell, people who might never have heard of your business before, that optimisation is aimed at. So, does your website need to capture the attention of those type of people?

How do I do it?

Ah… if only there was a simple answer to this one! Google is notoriously secretive about the methods they use to order search results. One thing that is known is that the number of references (links) to a website on other websites not associated to it, is used as a measure of how popular a site is. So well known sites, which are referenced all over the internet, will tend to feature higher in the results. But it’s also something that is largely out of your control. You can encourage or pay other sites (especially any professional bodies you might be a member of) to publish a link to your site which might help a little, but really it’s only by being around and established for a while that you’ll accumulate enough links to have any impact.

Providing original content which does not simply advertise your business but is a useful resource for people can help in getting links. For example a care home website might provide a page ‘five things to think about when choosing a care home’ which would be a guide for people making the difficult decision to have an elderly relative looked after. Use social media and link to your site regularly from your accounts there.

Besides having the site well-designed and standards-conformant (which is a given for any site we build), the most important thing you can do is make sure that the text on your pages reflects accurately your business. In addition to the text that any visitor sees, you can also add some hidden information (meta-tags) to the pages which search engines will pick up.

I’ve heard there are tricks you can use to get Google to rank my site higher?

People are continually trying to find new ways to ‘beat’ Google’s system. There are two problems with this approach. Firstly it’s difficult to assess how well any of these ideas actually work. You need several months of data and even then you can’t be sure that some other factor hasn’t changed in the meantime. But more importantly, if Google decide you are artificially trying to boost your place in the search results they may blacklist your site completely, meaning you end up achieving exactly the opposite of what you set out to do.

You have to laugh

An outrage took place at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday. ‘Islamic terrorists’ dressed up in the costume of war and well-armed with the weapons of war took the fight to their sworn enemy and killed… a bunch of cartoonists??? A great victory for caustic reviewers of comedy everywhere.

Prophet Muhammad sent down a special message from paradise with his apologies “I’ve tried to get them to lighten up but no, they keep going on about how no-one should make fun of me as if I was the one with no sense of humour! Get it straight, I thought a lot of that stuff was fucking hilarious, especially the ones with the Pope”.

So, our brave satirists paid with their lives and we mourn their loss and grieve with their families. But in their passing we now see the jihadists for what they truly are.

An absurdly silly bunch of people who can’t take a joke.

Je suis Charlie!

Have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It’s that time of year again, but this time, rather than dwell upon the meaning of the festivities I’d just like to offer a little perspective and I can think of no better way to do that than with the lyrics of Monty Python’s Galaxy Song

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you’ve had quite enough

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the milky way

Galaxies

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide

We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point
We go round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth

Credits: Eric Idle & John du Prez

If you’d like to watch the song as originally performed by Eric Idle, here’s the video:

From everyone at Careimages, enjoy the holidays.

Change of address

With effect from Monday 20th January 2014, Care Images has a new office address:

qrcode
Ground Floor,
94 Leonard Street
London
EC2A 4RH

Our telephone number – 020 7254 1500 – remains the same, as do all our email addresses.

You can put our details straight into your smartphone with the qrcode alongside.

A very merry Christmas and happy New Year

Christmas tree

Seasons greetings to all!

Christmas is here once again and as the frenzy of last-minute shopping reaches its peak, one could be forgiven for forgetting that it is a religious festival as opposed to a retail one – or is it?

For Christian religions it is a celebration of Christ’s birth. However, the date itself is only symbolic and was simply piggybacked by early Roman believers onto the existing week-long midwinter festival of Saturnalia, which itself was a pagan carnival of excess. Even that though has deeper roots, since it marks the winter solstice, the shortest day. What could be more natural than celebrating the start of the retreat of darkness? Something that is common across many religions.

Sadly, darkness or depression is something that afflicts a lot of people, not only now, but throughout the year. But at a time when the majority are celebrating, the feeling of isolation can be particularly strong.

So, from all here at Careimages, enjoy the festivities, try to bring a little light into other peoples’ darkness and in the words of the late, great Dave Allen, “May your God go with you”.

Depression? Ssshh, don’t talk about it…

Guest blogger Geoff Gunby writes a moving article about the nature of depression and his own battle with it.

I’ve never had any problem telling people that I have suffered from depression, because, in my experience people just don’t want to know.

Their eyes glaze over and their faces take on that ‘let’s talk about something else’ expression. You just know that you might as well have told them that you’ve just cut up a herd of cows with a chainsaw.

This almost magical effect, it just doesn’t apply to strangers or passing acquaintances, but also to health professionals, nearest and dearest and friends I’ve known for years. Something about it embarrasses them. Nevertheless I don’t want to launch a diatribe about how the world won’t listen or how uncaring people are because I don’t believe that things are that simple.

Man depressed
Depression: a common problem but still a taboo subject?
If people are annoyed when someone says that he or she is depressed we have to ask why. Time and time again I hear it said that we citizens of the western world are faced with an epidemic of depression. It’s life shortening and costs working hours. There seems to be no easy explanation of why this should be given the comparatively easy lives we have. There is something there, something huge and yet somehow imperceptible, like the elephant that has been in the living room for so long that it has ceased to be something worthy of even the most flippant comment.

But what could it be, this group secret of which mention must never be made? This dark mass in the corner, that takes up so much of our time with its constant demands without our being ever being really aware of its over-solemn occupancy? The mention of which brings out such a quiet rage in the people around us. As with anybody else all I can do is to look back at my own experience of what Andrew Solomon terms ‘The Noonday Demon’ and try an make a few connections.

In 1970, when I was nine years old, Unilever sacked my father. He had moved to the seaside town I grew up in to work for Birds Eye foods in their laboratory. As part of a general rationalisation of assets the lab was relocated and my Father suddenly found himself surplus to requirements. The effect on him was quite stunning. It was as if a miniature atom bomb had gone off in our middle class home, the fallout from which would never entirely leave us.

Dad had never been an easy person, irritable, violent, perfectionist beyond all reason, but he had always had a kind of energy which got things done, kept the garden tidy and kept him interested in life. Thus I had always forgiven him his excesses. Overnight, it seemed, things just came to a halt. The grass on the lawn that he had been so proud of grew two feet tall, the vegetable patch was abandoned and he spent long hours on the sofa with his head in his hands. The swing at the bottom of the garden hung rusty and useless as yesterday’s cliché, love and kindness were a thing of the past. Too proud to claim benefit he heaped humiliation on himself by borrowing from his own father to pay the mortgage. He argued with and struck my mother on several occasions. He subjected me to mental torture, making me stand in front of him while he told me how awful my life was going to be, how I would grow up friendless, and how I had no idea about anything. Of course at the time I didn’t understand what was going on only that I didn’t like it.

I had no idea that my father was depressed, had perhaps suffered what people used to term a nervous breakdown. In time, my mother went back to work as a teacher, my father got a job in the NHS and things were OK again. Except that they weren’t.

Between my parents things were never quite the same again and in my eyes, my father, who I had once worshipped no matter what his faults, was effectively dead. Someone to get money from if possible and to otherwise be avoided. In this period and the loss of direction that came with it were laid the foundations of my career as a delinquent, my failure at school and my inability to take pleasure in anything I later achieved. In other words the template for my own future depression.

I can’t say for sure when it started. All I know is that as my twenties progressed, I began to be aware that things weren’t right. A disastrous love affair, a pointless MA in Media Studies, moving to London with no clue as to what to do, the constant anxiety about the epilepsy which was slowly starting to control my life, the death of my beloved grandmother from cancer; all of these caused me pain, but wouldn’t it be the same for anyone? Nobody can go through life without some sorrow but people carry on and yet somehow I found myself less and less able to do so. There was something, something more, isolating me, colouring my thoughts. darkening the future, something I couldn’t get a hold on.

For years I carried on, writing novels that were never published, doing odd jobs, buying a house, getting married, travelling around, seeming to be having a good time. Yet all the time experiencing a growing emptiness, hearing an ever louder self accusatory voice pushing me towards taking my own life. Down and down I sank until there really seemed to be no hope. I had stopped working and gone on Disability Benefit because of my epilepsy and gradually I became paralysed to the point where doing anything was an almost unbearable effort.

On the surface yes, I was moving forward, was learning to paint, thinking of moving to Portugal but underneath it was hopeless. And still I just thought it was me. Finally my GP sent me for counselling after I had been to see her about something else but still it didn’t really register. I think the low point was when I told a friend’s wife not to take her kids to Disneyland because Walt Disney was a tool of the CIA. She just snapped and for about an hour berated me for being so miserable. Next day I went and sat by a pond in a park in Chester and cried for hours, watching the rain fall into the dead water.

And then it was over. My marriage broke up, I didn’t go and live in Portugal, met someone else and had children with her. And I was happy for the first time since I didn’t know when. Afraid that the darkness might just come back some day I’ve asked therapy on a couple of occasions but have given up after being made to do a kind of phone quiz and then been told that I may have been depressed but that it was now ‘in remission’.

So maybe that’s it, everybody’s happy nowadays, if a little anxious, just that I can’t help wondering what happened to me. So many books, so much research, so much pontificating, all pointing to the simple truth that everybody has their own depression. Mine wasn’t too bad, after all I’m still here, even if it did last a long time. And yet there has to be a common thread somewhere, surely?

For me the thread that leads back to the elephant comes not from looking at depression but from those who are not depressed. From the relative ease with which I cleaned out my life and started afresh. The whole process took on its own momentum – with my wife went her friends, her inlaws, a whole existence. Really I behaved so oddly that only my true friends stuck with me and it was all for the good. Change your life and change yourself. Use your choices.

Of course things are not quite that simple. But still it seems to me that the oh-so-polite anger that lies behind our friends’ refusal to acknowledge our pain is their own fear that it could happen to them. They too are simply running out of choices, and the choices they do have don’t amount to much. Surely you, sad as you are, can see that we are both the same? A tempting elephant but surely much too simplistic to cut it in the nervous world of pachyderms. Or then again…

Life after long-term illness

Today we’re very privileged to publish this guest blog from Geoff Gunby, a long-term sufferer of epilepsy, who has now been seziure-free for over two years. He talks about how this remission has effected his outlook on life.

I recently commented to a Facebook friend on the subject of seventies rock lyric, a song by Hawkwind about nuclear war, that somehow, back in the day, it was almost reassuring to have the apocalypse at hand, that at least one knew where one stood. There was a definite something to fear, no matter how much one tried to ignore it, and this allowed songwriters, for example, easy access to a sense of meaning and importance. Never mind that the end of civilisation as we knew it was a constant and real possibility which nearly did come to pass on several occasions, well it didn’t and we’re here now, lets be glib and why not?

Oh dear.

Geoff Gunby
Geoff Gunby: looking forward to an uncertain future
But we’ve all done it, posted something and then spent the rest of the day in frenzy of remorse, all the time wondering if it’s not to late to delete the evidence of one’s stupidity, raking over and over how one has just exposed oneself in all one’s crude shallowness to the baleful gaze of the great rational out-there, who are all, even as you sit transfixed, about to unfriend you and then share with everyone you have in common what a fool you are, leaving you in virtual limbo for ever and a day. Anyway maybe I was feeling stubborn, maybe I just had an attack of proportionality, but I just let it stand and of course, needless to say, no one did any commenting, complaining or unfriending, even if they had been finally confirmed in their suspicions about me.

Besides the fact is that people do tend to be more at ease with hardship than uncertainty and that this is mirrored in the suicide rate actually going up at the end of wars or during times of economic improvement rather than with the enemy at the gate or in the trough of depression and this was what I would like to think I was really alluding in my post – to that in a strange way its much better to be done for, to be in the depths of despair and to be able to give up rather than to have to face up to deciding what to do next and to the fact of your own uncertainty and growing realisation that there are no givens.

In the past I have suffered from depression and whilst it is not an experience I would recommend to anyone the fact is that one does become habituated to it in the same way as one might to being unemployed or in prison. More relevant to my present circumstances and to this line of discussion is the epilepsy from which I have suffered for the whole of my adult life and from which, due to good doctoring and my having made some lifestyle adjustments, I am now enjoying a remission which has lasted for over two years, constituting the longest time I have been well since I was 14.

For 37 years I have suffered from scary petit mal seizures and from over the top grand mal tonic clonic seizures. I’ve collapsed into freezers in Sainsburys and lived on Bonjela for days without end. Every day of my life has have spent in the shadow of this life threatening illness, the only positive aspect of which is that, like a character in a story by Doestoevskii, that patron saint of the epileptic, I can never remember what has happened.

I have spent my life working out how to get enough sleep, making sure I get and take my medication, all the time worrying about the effect it is having on me, calculating the risk in climbing stairs and ladders, visualising roads and hillsides as places upon which to collapse and die, woken up in hospitals not knowing my name hundreds of times over, having screamed and turned blue and cheated death by a whisker, suffered the pain over and over of a bitten tongue or a scraped face or bruised pride and just carried on and carried on until all this has become my normality, a normality to which I have to say I became adjusted and in the end clung to with all my might. I was ill and that was that.

And now that things are better, now that I have taken the time to realise that without alchohol I would have had few if any seizures, reviewed the implications of this and taken the step of stopping drinking, having faced up to the addictive nature of the drink/meds combination, what I am left with is a whole lot of fear. It may be that I have simply got better as many epileptics do if they make it past forty, but still I can still look back over a life shaped by an illness and think what if?, what if?, and it’s like standing on a clifftop facing away from the edge. I think what if, what if? what if I’d died, what if I’d chosen to live earlier, and of course, as with all such questions the answer is that there is no answer, only the future.

Yes. I am now confronted with all the issues that my illness helped me avoid ranging from ‘am I really that bad at chess?’ to ‘can I succeed as a painter’, from ‘how can I make a living?’, to ‘can I be loved for who I am and not merely as a dependent?’. The whole of my life has changed and with it has come massive uncertainty, penetrating into every aspect of my daily routine and everything I do, should I think of learning to drive?, should I buy a bike and dice with the London traffic?, should I finally finish with disability benefit?, am I still ill?, should I aim to cut my medications?, just how does one cope with the social anxiety of going to a party straight and being surrounded by boring middle aged people drinking and taking drugs like there was no tomorrow? Questions, questions and more questions and I love it. Nothing more than everyday worries and yet so so precious. Through my experience as a long term patient I can see them as something to be grateful for rather than something to run away from or to ignore.

But still incredibly I find when things get a bit much there is that same voice prompting me to take a chance and have a drink, smoke and joint or stay up all night and it has me wondering, how many others are there in the same boat or worse, people for whom getting better is not so much not an option as just a little bit too scary to contemplate, who are holding themselves back just because they can’t face the questions. Of course there are limits to what people can do, to what extent simple willpower and clean living can do to bring about recovery, but the eternal debate concerning to what extent being labelled ‘disabled’ is in itself disabling will, of course, run and run. As will all the other questions.

Living and coping with MS

We are publishing a powerful and moving piece today on our blog from Nikki Kyriacou a graduate of photography, whose mother Maggie died from complications around MS last year.

I knew Maggie around 30 years ago when we were both working in residential care homes for adults with physical and learning disabilities. She was a joy to work with, a wonderful communicator who loved people and life.

Nikki’s piece is much more than a chronicle of Maggie’s deterioration of health. it is a testament to the love and care provided by Nikki’s dad Soph and herself and we are delighted to publish this moving piece in memory of a very special person.

Mark Rivlin

Although I grew up knowing my mum had Multiple Sclerosis, I have asked my dad to help me with this blog as he was mum’s full time carer.

Maggie Kyriacou
Maggie Kyriacou: A wonderful wife and mum
It was back in February 1992 when my Mum lost her vision in her left eye known as “optic neuritis” where the nerve supply from the eye to the brain inflames and the vision pathway is lost within that affected eye. Although optic neuritis is associated with MS, not everyone who gets optic neuritis goes on to develop the disease.

It was a shock to my parents when this happened, especially as mum worked with adults with physical and learning disabilities in the early 1980s and knew what MS was, I was too young to understand what was going on. She spent 11 days in hospital on high doses of steroids to reduce the optic neuritis, which it did, but was told by her neurologist it may come back in the same eye or the other eye and that this was a sign of MS but needed to have a lumbar puncture to confirm that.

Mum was in denial as she didn’t want to have the lumbar puncture, and it was my dad that said you should have it done as it may be benign – another form of MS which didn’t mean she would get the symptoms. Eventually mum had the lumbar puncture (this is where they remove fluid from the spine and test for MS) about a year after the optic neuritis happened and it confirmed it was MS and mum was in tears as she knew what lay ahead having worked with people suffering from MS.

Things continued as normal and my dad gave Mum all the support she needed, but things did start to deteriorate; mum would be unstable walking and her vision was not as it had been (excellent at one time 20:20). She continued to work and also pursued her passion which was singing and started to sing in clubs and pubs in and around the north west of England. She was doing well and loved it so much that her MS symptoms did not bother her as she was focused on something positive.

Unfortunately, as positive as mum was, the illness started to take its toll and make her life more difficult and started to take medication which gave her bad side effects and her singing had to take a back step. In fact, it had a big impact on us all and even I had to stop going to my ballroom dance classes as dad couldn’t take me. It was hard for me and dad to see the person we both loved so much not being able to do what they wanted.

Eventually dad had to help mum with dressing and washing as it became too difficult for her. She started to use crutches to aid in her walking, but this did not last for long as she was falling and needed a wheelchair. She was looking depressed and started to feel a burden and dad would say to her: “In sickness and in health”. It became a round-the-clock job for him as mum’s disability was progressing and needed the care on a one-to-one basis. Dad, being a proud man, didn’t want carers from the community to do what he was more than capable of doing it, and better. “This is my wife, not a telephone number,” he would say.

Mum was finding it difficult to swallow and we had some near issues of choking, and at one time it was so bad we had to rush her to hospital – we can still remember that July day in 2001. It scarred us both. They advised that a peg tube be fitted to be able to feed mum directly into the stomach through a pump machine as swallowing even blended food was hard and drinking was dangerous as she aspirated (food or water goes into your lungs as you have no control over swallowing).

Her breathing became problematic as MS is a muscle weakening disease and she had to be given oxygen. Things were becoming harder in all our lives and were now becoming housebound and my dad was physically and mentally tired he never moaned, he just did what he wanted to do and that was look after mum.

It became even harder for him as mum started to have cognitive problems where it affected her speech and thought, so communication was very hard. This was putting stress on mum not being able to get words out but dad had a lot of patience and started to understand what the mumbled words meant, and would ask mum is this what you meant? If it is right then blink once. There were times when mum could blink once almost straight away, but MS at times makes it difficult and if she was not able to blink dad would think he had misunderstood her, and then she would have forgotten what she was trying to say.

Dad hoisted mum in and out of bed and into the bath with system fitted to the ceiling – this took the strain off him doing too much physical movement. Toileting became the biggest problem as mum became doubly incontinent. It became so out of control she needed to have a supra pubic catheter fitted into the bladder from a hole below the naval and unfortunately she also had to have a colostomy.

Dad was in a better frame of mind; he would say to mum, just think of how life would have been 100 years ago where these interventions were not available. This was dad being dad and converting negative thoughts to positives. He was always offered respite but he couldn’t accept it as he was so devoted to my mum.

Sadly on August 25th 2011 mum died and we were both heartbroken. She was 48 years old, too young. But on that sad note, we have all the good memories to look back on and we both believe that some day we will meet up again, and hope that mum has found perfect peace.

Jobs for the (able-bodied) boys?

We are delighted to welcome Nikki Amanda Kyriacou to our blog. Nikki, who is a graduate of Photography, will be posting occasional articles as well as doing some photography for the site. Here is her first blog.

My dad is in his 50th year and is currently trying to get back into employment, after being a full time carer for my mother for 12 years. She sadly passed away last August and he did not anticipate the struggles of finding a job, particularly as he has a degenerative eye condition.

Disabled man reading
Reading the small print: For people with a disability or visual impairment finding work can be very difficult
Organisations like Remploy are supposed to be here to ensure the help and support for disabled job seekers. This has recently been highlighted in the media as untrue, as they are proposing to sack over 1700 of their employees with a disability and close down several factories (Independent: 7th March 2012).

Dad joined a work programme run by A4e known as Bootstrap. Here, he is assigned a one to one adviser who currently guides my dad to find work in what he can do now. It has been hard, as jobs are very thin here in the North West of England. It seems that most jobs are geared up for people who don’t have any disability, and sadly there have been no jobs for which dad has been able to meet the criteria.

He is a skilled man, but has had to reconsider his options because of his low vision as he would not be able to fulfil the job he trained to do. It’s been so difficult, that he has not even been able to get a job interview as of yet, which being such an active person and has always worked, makes him a little despondent.

The way a lot of people in a similar situation are trying to get back into employment is not trying to find work in what they were able to do in the past, rather what they are able to do now. I just hope that the majority of employers see beyond the disabilities that people face on a daily basis, and for them to look at a person’s ability and experience.

Introducing the Careimages Android application

If you have an Android smartphone then, from today, you can browse sample images from the Careimages library on your phone.

qrcode for app
What's this? see the info on qrcodes below
The free app is now available from the Android Market. Use this link or point your phone’s camera at the qrcode* shown here. At the moment you can’t login to our site from the app, but you can save favourites on your phone.

When browsing through random images, the images selected will be picked to automatically fit the orientation that you hold your phone in. Want to see landscape images? Hold your phone sideways and swipe through the few images currently in the cache until the app fetches some more. Note that this feature requires your phone to have an orientation sensor (most do).

We welcome any feedback on the app, either to us directly or via the market.

* What are qrcodes? They are a form of barcode that smartphones can read easily using their camera and a suitable application. For more information on qrcodes, follow this link. A suitable android app for processing qrcodes is this one. If you want to generate qrcodes yourself, here’s a page that does that.