Monthly Archives: June 2011

What Mark Zuckerburg Can Teach You About Blogging


I was thinking of starting TheOpenAlgorithm as a commercial venture in February 2011. The plan to create a great project that would attract people by giving away information on factors and potential factors. And make money from it by having a membership area or selling training books or video courses.

Then I watched The Social Network.

In it Mark Zuckerburg, billionaire and current CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world refuses to put advertisements on Facebook.

I abandoned my monetization plan after reflecting on the movie and the Facebook story. This proved a valuable blogging lesson for me that I hope to share with you.

How Mark Zuckerburg Can Make You A Better Blogger

What Zuck Can Teach You About Blogging

Obviously Zuck is a smart guy and a rich guy, so why would such a smart and rich teenager turn down the opportunity to make some money from a project that he had literally worked 24/7 on for over a year?

For two key reasons, that will help you become a better blogger.

The Business Model

Mark knew his business model better than everyone else. His argument was that Facebook had to “be cool” before they put advertisements on the site.

But how cool did it need to be? It was already in the thousands if not millions of members.

What Mark Zuckerburg recognized better than anybody else was that Facebook could only succeed if it had millions of active users. Until most of the civilized world was on Facebook, it was replaceable just like MySpace and Bebo.

To aid world domination Mark felt it necessary to turn off ads, because ads turn off users, and he was right to do it.

Blogging has the same business model as Facebook. Gain thousands of loyal and active fans (members), who comment, click, share and buy regularly.

Blogs fail without members.

When a blog reaches a certain number of members/loyal fans they become too big to fail, unless they doing something really stupid.

There are many measurements of when a blog reaches this point. But for me there are a few key indicators:

  • Steady and growing traffic.
  • Consistent numbers of blog comments and traffic per post.
  • Constantly showing up for the keywords you want to.
  • Having every post amplified by members via social networks immediately after publication.
  • Number of email/RSS subscribers and social media followers as compared with other blogs in your niche.

There are a few vital characteristics of blogs and bloggers who reach this point.

Product Oriented: Forget About Money

Person Focusses On The Product And Not The Money

Focussed On The Product

Zuck was adamant that Facebook must be perfect for users.

When you build a website focussed on the user and not the money, the money will come.

When you build a website focussed on the money, it’s unlikely the user will come.

As a blogger your product is your blog as a whole.

From my point of view there are two parts to a blog, the information it provides and the platform it is presented on.

The information is essentially the content, how its written, is it user friendly, is it easy to understand, broken into small paragraphs, are the grammatical mistakes, are there images and videos, etc?

The platform is the blogs design, is it social, is the text easy to read, do you have a mobile theme, how long does it take to load, etc?

Being product oriented is the most crucial part of blogging, with 133 million blogs out there to compete with, you will need to have valuable, well written and presented content, to have a chance of competing, let alone dominating.

Like Zuck you need to be obsessed with making your blog perfect for users.

Gain Market Share


World Map Graphing Market Share

Worldwide Graph Of Market Share


Just like the movie it is not only crucial that you have a great product, it is even more important to market your product.

And as documented in The Social Network, Facebook grew gradually from college to college, gaining market share of each college’s social networking time.

That’s right even Facebook with it’s astonishing growth was one college at a time.

Look at Groupon the fastest growing company in the world, they have grown one city at a time.

Of course all the usual blog marketing techniques apply, blog commenting, forum posting, guest posting, etc.

But I think you should look at marketing your blog differently.

Go from one competitors blog (and remember every blog is a competitor for a users online time but that doesn’t mean you can’t live in harmony with them either) to the next blog. Dominating them, one step at a time.

At each blog/step, comment profusely, guest post, link, like, share and mention the blog on Twitter until you have won over as many of that blog’s users to be members of your blog as possible.

Then move onto the next blog, forum or group and the next, and the next and so on.

Take an aggressive marketing stance of your blog and you will win over new members.

Don’t feel bad about being so cut throat, if that blog or forum was any good then the users will remain members of both.


My argument would clearly be to forget about making money from your blog until you reach the goals set out in this post or your own personal goals for the blog.

Have a viable monetization model in mind and on paper before starting your blog so that when you reach these goals you are able to make money from your blog.

It’s crucial to have this done, otherwise you may walk into a niche where people simple don’t spend and you don’t earn.

You don’t have to stick to the monetization plan, in fact you probably won’t but make sure you have one or your blog may fail just when it had touched success.

Be focussed on your product i.e. information and the platform you present it on to users. Grow gradually, eating up market share and stealing users from other blogs and you will have set up your blog for Facebook style, probably not size, success.

10 Non Techie Reasons Why I Learned Python And You Should Too


After coming up with a mental template for my project, I knew there would be a need to automate it in a way I didn’t know how.

I contemplated raising funding (most likely through Kickstarter) and hiring a programmer or taking on a partner who could program, but that would make this a business and not a project.

For those of you who don’t know I want to keep TheOpenAlgorithm as a project free of monetization for as long as possible but I do at some point have plans to make money from it.

That’s why I decided that I needed to learn to program. Knowing this I set about researching the various programming languages.

That’s what I am going to share with you today, 10 non technical, simple to understand reasons why I picked Python and why I believe you should too.

I knew more than the average Joe about programming, but I was still totally out of my depth when I read articles talking about functions, LISt Processing and other Pythony things, in fact I still am confused when I read these articles.


Because these articles are written by Python experts who forget what it was like when they were new to the programming business or they are written for other experienced programmers who are thinking of learning a second language.

I simply couldn’t find a decent guide that would trade off or promote one language over the other I a way I could understand.

But I was lucky, I asked around my contacts who knew how to program and asked them what language to learn and why.

10 Reasons you should learn Python

Disclaimer: I thought I would write this guide now while I am still in the process of learning Python, so that I simply can’t confuse you, because I’m nowhere near a Python expert yet, when I am an expert I’m sure I will write a more techie guide to the Python features, but for now its beginner’s essential knowledge.

  • It’s free: I’ve personally never heard a better reason to do anything. Python is a totally free language to download, use and play with, that’s because a bunch of crazy volunteers who devote their time to improving the language (much like Wikipedia).


  • It’s really easy to learn: Not only have I been told it’s a simple language to learn I have experienced it first hand. Despite yet being an expert I have seen how fast my progress has been. I attribute this down to the way the language was designed, the commands (that’s the code you write) are mostly in normal English, so if you want to tell the computer to write something you type print “something” and run the program.

This makes it easy to remember commands and also makes it easy to understand what you are doing. Apparently other languages don’t act like this and you have to remember non-sensicle abbreviations.

  • Free resources: Those crazy volunteers and Python members took their generosity to the next level when they created a great beginners guide to Python, couple that with some great YouTube tutorials and you have yourself a language that’s is not only free but is also free to learn. Great, huh?


  • Paid resources: Unfortunately not everything about Python is free, you might have to shed out $20 to buy a book or pay for the petrol to take you to your local library because I would recommend learning Python fully from a paid resource.

Because of all the free resources, the paid ones have to be really good to sell and they tend to have a better structure to them. I have in the course of learning to program bought two books, the best for beginners being Hello World! Computer Programming For Kids and Other Beginners.

Don’t be put off that the book is aimed at kids, that just means it is easy to use and contains simple language anyone could understand.

But if your afraid to have a book with “Kids” in the title on your bookshelf then the other book I bought was Python 3 for Absolute Beginners, which I found less useful as it was more theory than the other book which contained a lot of exercises but would probably be quite handy for somebody with some sort of basic programming experience.

  • Google use it: In fact Python is one of Google’s preferred languages, they are always looking to hire experts in it and they have created many of their popular products with it. They build a lot of their products with Python (in fact much of the Google spidering and back end search capabilities were built in Python).

So I guess if your looking for a job with Google, Python’s a great place to start.

When you have the Google stamp of approval, you know your onto a winner.

  • It’s versatile: Ok, I promised no techie stuff so I’ll keep it simple. Python can be used for small, large, online and offline projects. It’s versatile, get it?


  • It’s quick: Some languages take an age to program not Python, remember it was created with programmer in mind and that means it is simple and quick to write code in Python.


  • Up to date: Because of Python’s volunteers and the fact that it’s an open source language there are always people trying to improve it. That’s means new versions of the language are regularly released, that keep the language fresh and up to date with current trends, making it a more powerful language that is less likely to fade away into obscurity.


  • Fast (not just easy) to learn: A Google Employee who turned me onto Python said I could become “reasonably proficient in it in less than two months”, you wouldn’t say that about learning French.

If you have a brain suited to programming i.e. you like computers, aren’t afraid of simple maths equations and are a problem solver then you should be able to learn your new skill quickly, which is a real bonus.

  • Great community: Ever have a problem you can’t figure out, or a link your can’t find, just ask one of the thousands of Python community members who are more than willing to help out. You will find them on forums, Twitter, Facebook, Q&A sites, pretty much everywhere.

Not that many languages have as open and helpful community which makes it a lot less frustrating when you are stuck or can’t find a bug in your code.

I Ireland where I live, there’s even a Python group that meet up every month, so I know if I ever need help or an experts view I can always go along to a meet up.

I hope that helps you decide which programming language you want to learn. On a personal note, I have found Python to be easy, fun and simple to learn. Although I haven’t really done anything with it yet, the people who I have talked to about TheOpenAlgorithm seem to think Python is ideal and completely capable of doing the job.

I would highly recommend learning Python and if not Python then some programming language. It’s well worth the effort, the sense of accomplishment of creating a program is great and even if you don’t create the new Facebook you will at least understand better how your computer, iPod and smart phone work.

Stay tuned to all my posts, both on Python and on the interesting things I will be doing with Python by following us on Twitter, subscribing to the RSS feed, connecting with me on LinkedIn, liking us on Facebook, viewing us on YouTube or subscribing to our posts via email.

Young Scientist 2011


For those of you who don’t know already, the idea for this blog is a result of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2011 (or BTYSTE for short).

I did a project for the prestigious largest of its kind science fair, that has been running for 47 years in Dublin, Ireland.

BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition Logo

The project entitled “Investigating the factors of a search engine algorithm” was relatively successful and proved an excellent starting ground for the now larger scale project.

And as you might have guessed I tried to find as many of the 200 main factors the search engines use to determine where any site ranks when you search for something on Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, etc.

I used a testing method that has since been called “reverse engineering to Google algorithm” despite the fact that I didn’t know what reverse engineering was before coming up with the testing method. To me it just seemed like the logical way to try and prove certain factors and come up with new ones.

I came up with a list of 157 factors that definitely are, probably are and might be factors and I tried to test to see whether they were or weren’t factors and by default find their weighting in the algorithms too.

The way I went about that was to take an individual factor, let’s say Page Speed (how quick a page loads) and compared the speed a page loads in all of the top 5 results of a Google search compared to the 25th-30th result, over 30 searches per factors.

The results I got back would be an average of how quick a page loads in high ranking sites (they are the ones in the top 5) and an average Page Speed of the sites that didn’t rank so well, low ranking sites in the 25-30 band.

I would compare this average and if there was a difference between high ranking and low ranking then that factor is impacting how that page is ranking in the search engines and as a result it can be confirmed with relatively high certainty that it is a factor and based on the difference between the two types of sites you could determine what the weighting of the factor was when we compared the difference to other factors.

The greater the difference the more impact it was having and therefore the greater the weighting.

Follow all that?

If you did, that’s great, if not your probably in the majority and I’ll summarize it. I created  a testing method that could be used to confirm a search engine algorithmic factor, test a new one and return a result as to whether it was a factor and then I could tell you how important that factor is in the algorithm.

Of course there were a number of problems with this testing method.

  • The project was done over a space of 2 months with time also spent on preparing presentations, report books and a project diary as well as preparing to spend a week in a hall with 500 other projects presenting my idea to the general public. That meant I didn’t have as much time to focus on the testing part as I would have liked. As a result I only tested 20 factors using this method and came up with a list of 157 factors based on intuition and other lists available.
  • I don’t know a programming language capable of doing the testing automatically so I did the testing manually. I am currently learning Python which will allow me to this in the future. Therefore I only tested these 20 factors over 300 web pages, which simply isn’t a large enough sample size.
  • The test was simply not scientific enough, I used no proven formula and took only a small sample size.


Despite all these problems the week at BTYSTE was interesting and inspiring, with people even paying for me to email them the list of factors. Essentially people found my half hearted efforts at a project interesting, and so I figured I would develop the project further.

In the 3 days that I spent presenting the project to the public I talked to a number of SEOs and webmasters and I have forged relationships with a lot of important people that will be able to help me as I continue to better the project.

Following the interest at BTYSTE I have been offered a number of jobs and a Google employee and high level programmer have given me advice on how to improve the project.

As a result I have come up with a fully developed system for as accurately as possible testing search engine algorithmic factors.

All in all the BTYSTE was a great week, I enjoyed talking face to face with fellow SEOs and gained a lot of contacts and experience. It also has driven me on to continue with the project, bettering it and maybe even entering next year.


The content conundrum: Over optimizing your website


Certain webmasters refuse to acknowledge SEO and some go way over board. What I want to talk about today is those who over optimize their site. These are the people who read every SEO article out there, subscribe to 30 SEO blogs and change their whole site after hearing about a new factor.

These are the webmasters who changed their whole site, got rid of images and videos in May 2011 when Google told the world that they use Page Speed in the algorithm.

Let me get this one thing straight, I am not against SEO in fact I am very pro SEO being the owner of a website that helps people build links to their website. What I am against is the webmasters who forget to write high quality content because they are so focused on optimizing their website.

Great content optimizes itself

Great Content In A Newspaper

Photo Credit:

Google have been crawling websites and indexing pages for so many years they have developed a very sophisticated algorithm that recognizes high quality content.

Sure all those on page SEO factors count and should be adhered to but the quality and quantity of that content is paramount.

The whole point of Google’s PageRank algorithm is that users link to the content they find valuable. And since the dawn of search engines on page factors have consistently become less of a factor. There are two examples of this that come to the top of my mind.

Google have confirmed that they no longer use the meta keywords tag because it is totally controlled by the webmaster and can be manipulated. And then on the other side of the fence Google have very recently confirmed that they are using social signals in their algorithm and they will continue to develop this factor. Social signals are almost totally user controlled.

To summarize, how well your website ranks is being put more in the user’s hands. What can we conclude from that?

You should be optimizing more for users than for the search engines.

Optimizing for users

There are tons of articles out there on what users like and I have read many of them. Here is a summary of what most of them say:

  • An appropriate font and size is key, it needs to be large enough to read, 13-18 seems to be perfect and the ideal web font is apparently Arial and the related font family. Although there is a bit of debate on that one, the important thing is to stay away from hard to read web fonts like Times New Roman which might work well for print media but not online.
  • Use images and videos. Without a doubt users love plenty of images and videos. Take a look at my website and you will see I am a real big fan of images. You can buy high quality inexpensive images from, that’s where I get mine.
  • Break up the text with headings, paragraphs and lists.
  • Use bold, italics and underlined words sparsely and only use for important statements.
  • A good web design, I personally don’t mind this one too much, just a clean web page with a white background is what I like, don’t splash out too much on a web designer if you do go down that route.
  • Content accessibility. This for me is the most important. Link to other pages on your site just like Wikipedia do. When I visit Wikipedia I usually end up reading about 5 pages, even though I only came for 1.
  • Use summaries, sum up what you wrote in every article with a single paragraph, this is particularly important for long pages and blog posts. For example check out the summary of this post.
  • Make sure pages load quickly, but don’t sacrifice rich media for this factor.

There  are so many other things I could list but this resource from does the rest


The key take away from this post is to focus on your visitors when you write. Next time you are writing a post, think what “would a user want me to say or provide”?

At the end of the day there is a balance to be struck. For example I can guarantee there is nobody searching for “the content conundrum” but there are people searching for over optimization and related keywords. I have written this post for the user and not the search engine, but I know that the search engine benefit will come.

Google Taken To Court After Customer Service Ignore Autocomplete Complaint


Google’s customer service and method of dealing with webmasters is yet again under fire as they have been taken to court in Ireland over their auto complete function.

The Irish Case

The auto complete function was/is incorrectly suggesting that the Ballymascanlon House Hotel in Co.Louth, Ireland is in receivership. When you type in the word “ballymas” Google suggested the following search query “ballymascanlon hotel receivership”.

Google Auto Complete Worng

Google dominate the Irish search market with over 90% market share.

According to the hotel they have received calls and emails from worried customers and in particular couples who had booked their wedding reception for the hotel.

Google themselves define receivership as follows:

Google's definition of receivership

The hotel also claim that the fact that Google have placed in the minds of possible customers researching the hotel, that the hotel is in receivership they are losing out on business.

This claim seems reasonable enough as any time you search for the first 8 letters of the hotel name you are told that the hotel is in receivership, surely making potential customers far less likely to book with the hotel over fears that the  hotel would be liquidated before the booking.

I found a very interesting forum thread from brides to be worrying about their hotel being in receivership/liquidation.

They don’t mention names on the forum thread but they do Private Message each other their suspected hotel names. The most interesting part of the forum thread is the fact that they are spreading the message that a hotel in “North County Dublin” (near Ballymascanlon Hotel) might be in financial trouble.

If you read that thread suggesting a hotel in North County Dublin may be having financial difficulties and then you type in the first 8 letters of the hotel you are thinking of booking your wedding with and Google a trusted company suggest that the hotel may be in recievership.

Would you be more or less likely to book your wedding with that hotel?

Clearly these suggestions created by Google’s Auto Complete algorithm are causing Ballymascanlon to lose business and are also eating up staff time with responding to worried customers.

Past Cases

You may remember a number of other cases that were successfully lodged against Google in Italy and France over the same issue.

On 31st of March 2011 a court in Milan ordered that Google censor their Instant search product for derogatory suggestions.

After the case the victorious side had this to say:

“Google argued that it could not be held liable because it is a hosting provider, but we showed that this is content produced by them, although through automated means.”

Argentina also ordered censoring of suggestions that led to anti-Semitic or offensive websites.

Google were convicted in French court on defamation grounds not once but twice, luckily for Google they only had to pay €1 and the plaintiff’s legal costs.

Customer Service Failures

You would think that after all these cases that Google would at least clean up their act and make a better attempt to respond to webmasters when they report such mistakes.

But no, Ballymascanlon Hotel made persistent and multiple attempts to reach Google and ask them to remove the incorrect and offending content.

Attempt #1

What Google recommends you do if you have a problem with auto complete:

“If you see a problem with the predictions in autocomplete, it’s probably caused by one of the scenarios described above and we are already working to address it. If you have feedback or questions about autocomplete, you can post them in the Google Web Search Help Forum.” – Source Google

They tried to contact Google online via their webmaster forum as recommended, but received no response from a Google employee.

Here’s the message they posted on the Google Webmaster Forum:

The Google Auto Completer offer the words “ballymascanlon hotel receivership” when you type in “ballymas”

I have read the FAQs and checked for similar issues: YES
My site’s URL (web address) is:

Having these words appear as a prompt implies that there is a lot of evidence of the Hotel being in financial trouble or receivership. This is not so but it has had an effect on business confidence and has caused our customers to ask questions about us. Please remove this prompt as there is no evidence in any google search of the Hotel being in receivership.

Rachel Russell
Finncial Controller

Attempt #2

Ballymascanlon sent a letter to Google Irish offices asking again for them to remove the offending content, they received no response.

Attempt #3

They sent another letter to the Google Irish offices, this time via registered post meaning that Google had to sign for the letter and the fact they had received it could be tracked and confirmed.

The response they got back was described as “standard” by a hotel employee.

So again no help from Google who themselves do have a removal policy:

“While we always strive to neutrally and objectively reflect the diversity of content on the web (some good, some objectionable), we also apply a narrow set of removal policies for pornography, violence, hate speech, and terms that are frequently used to find content that infringes copyrights.”

Attempt #4

They sent a Cease and Desist notice to Google via It also mentions a website that has infringed on copyright that they would like removed from the Google Index.

Court Case

Having received no help from all of Google’s recommended complaints avenues Ballymascanlon House Hotel decided to take Google to court over the alleged defamation of the company’s name.

The company’s owner has said that “we aren’t looking for money” but to reaffirm the companies good name.

Google will argue that suggestions are created based on an algorithm that is influenced solely by user’s searches, here’s a handy article on how Google suggestions work.

Ballymascanlon will present the evidence that I have presented above and of course copies and proof of their attempts to contact Google and resolve the issue outside the courts.

Not being a legal expert I have no idea who will win in court, but my gut feeling based on the evidence and the fact that other cases similar to this have been won against Google is that Basmascanlon will get the injunction they wish ordering Google to remove the suggestion that the hotel are in receivership and may receive some compensation.

Google Fails Webmasters

The major issue for me with this case is not that Google’s algorithm failed to pick up the fact that the suggestion was incorrect, as stated earlier suggestions are based on user’s searches and sometimes the algorithms can get it wrong as a result.

The major problem is that Google totally failed to respond to the companies multiple attempts to contact them and resolve the problem outside of the courts.

Google totally ignored the webmaster, the websmaster they have spent millions of dollars endearing and building up a relationship with through their webmaster forum, multiple blogs and YouTube channels.

Why in this simple case presented with clear evidence and a reasonable solution did they simply blank the webmaster?

Maybe this is a small problem in an overall view of Google as a webmaster friendly search engine but if that is the case then why haven’t they removed the suggestion even after the multiple attempts to contact them and the fact that the case has been reported in one of Ireland’s largest newspapers.

This case hasn’t been taken because of the failure of Google’s Suggestions algorithm, it’s been taken because Google buried their head in the sand and refused to address the problem, a failure of Google’s Customer Service/Webmasters team and not the engineers.

Update June 10th

After publishing this article I sent the link to Chris Brayden the General Manager of Ballymascanlon House Hotel for the past 11 years and he kindly offered me his time on a phone call to clear up a couple of questions I had that I couldn’t find the answers to online.

It appears my article was nearly 100% accurate so I haven’t changed anything in it, but this update should clear up any questions you may also have had.

According to Chris there were in fact 3 solicitors/lawyers letters sent to Google, all after their attempts to have the issue resolved via online communication. The first was a simple letter informing them of the fact that legal action may be taken and asking for a response, which they didn’t receive within the 7 days as per notified in the contract.

The 2nd letter sent 8 days after the first letter also received no response and copied the first letter.

The 3rd letter sent after the first two weren’t responded to asked Google to appoint solicitors/legal representation and accept summons, which Google did not do. Rather they responded claiming that Google team based in the United States were responsible for the algorithm and therefore the issue must be resolved with the US team, which is of course the team that should have responded to the online communications.

Despite Google Ireland’s call for relations with the US office, past cases have been tried in the country of the infringing search engine e.g. Google Italy and France and Chris stated that if the case goes to the courts “it will be tried in Ireland.”

A really interesting piece of research the company did before going public on their case against Google was to check the number of searches on the keyword “ballymascanlon hotel receivership” there was and before going public Brayden said that the relatively accurate Google Adwords Keyword Tool reported “monthly searches of 56” for that keyword.

The top 4 keywords that Google ranks in order of relevance when you type in the keyword Ballymascanlon currently are:

Ballymascanlon, Ballymascanlon Hotel, Ballymascanlon Hotel Carlingford and Ballymascanlon House Hotel with 390, 1,600, 170 and 170 exact, monthly searches respectfully according to Google’s own tool.

So even the reasoning behind Google showing the suggestion is under questioning.

Chris, who admittedly isn’t a search engine expert was confused and rightly so as the why Google were showing a less searched term, that they find less relevant than other search terms above those queries that are more popular and more relevant when according to Google that is the basis for their auto complete algorithm.

The only reason I can think of is that they try and show a diversified range of keywords that differ greatly in the results that return, which makes some sense but certainly could pose problems with regards less competitive keywords.

Chris said “Google are very difficult to deal with” and “they (Google) believe they are above the law.”

The legal team representing Ballymascanlon House Hotel and the manager meet again on Monday 13th of June to discuss further developments and correspond with the Google team based in Mountain View, San Francisco.

The most interesting development from my point of view was that Brayden confirmed that the hotel was only seeking an injunction against Google using the suggestion and their legal fees, Ballymascanlon aren’t looking for any compensation and as such have no monetary motives behind the court case.

Whether or not they will win is something that is yet to be decided and I too am undecided if Google are in the wrong to use this suggestion, if there are people searching for it then maybe it should be shown as an option to users.

But the lack of real or useful results for the recommended search term has shown the cracks in the auto complete algorithm, and couple that with the fact that the hotel has received “weekly” calls from concerned customers and the potential loss of business and I can see why the case has been taken.

Once again I will stress that this is not a failing of the algorithm but of the people, the employees who “passed” the issue “from team to team” and nobody took action to aid a customer, a content creator and a respected business.

A problem that could have been avoided.

More updates to follow…..


Credit update: Thanks to Mark Tighe and Mark Paul from the Sunday Times for breaking this story first.