Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas in eurogame land

We'll it's nice to have a German girlfriend as it means you get christmas on the 24th, English Christmas Eve, and then with my family on Christmas Day. I did not get as many Eurogames as two years ago, but it has been harder to fit in time to play. Also my girlfriend got me so many nice presents I can only say thanks!

Blue Moon City was a great one to unwrap.

Friday, 21 December 2007

New site live http://www.luxury-briefing.com

We got http://www.luxury-briefing.com out into the world a week ago. Thanks to the hard work of Yard Studios and myself. Just a little clean up to do. Its a magazine that now has a much better presence online. They are taking first steps from a high class subscription only magazine Luxury Briefing to Blogs from staff and archive content online.

I think the strategy will work for them, they just have to shift there work cycle to contribute content and drive subscriptions. Working with the subscribers is the next step and interesting to see what they do.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Why is changing DNS for a domain such hard work

It should not be such a hard task. Move a .com and .co.uk domain from free hosting at where it was register to new paid for hosting. In an effort to give the client as little down time as possible it will have taken me about 5 days and 1o phone calls and a lot of emailing and reassuring the boss and then the client.

I wanted to move two domains for my agency for a clients site to the new hosting we have on 1&1. The client registered the domains a few years ago and have had some flash on there BT free website for a while now.

So I hoped having changed 5 or so domains before that I could save the downtime and loss of email and my hassle by just changing the dns settings. New IP address for the A record and leave the dns where it was.

So phone 1&1 for the ip address or the simplest way I could change the settings. They said sure here is the IP and also I did a reverse dns and got the same ip.

At end of day 1 this was all good but the domain had not moved it was just doing a redirect to the new temporary domain at 1&1. boo...

So called 1&1 again next day and they said you can't do that as we do not garentee your ip and it might get changed but dns would not. So how is it possible? you must ask 1&1 to change the DNS server to ours. Will that effect the email? No I am told you can point an MX record back to BT for the email. Fine I thought, now try to find any information on BT site as to changing DNS servers and they give one page and it just wants to transfer the whole domain. For my hosting on DSVR (now Demon) I was able to call them with the new dns servers and they made the change for me. All fine that time the renewals stayed but the dns moved. This time BT said it was not possible. I must do a transfer on their site.

Now I find I need lots of security question that I have to go back and ask the client for. Also that you do different things to move .co.uk and .com and some pages say I need to pay and some not. Then as the domain needs to be both transferred away form one company into the nothingness of the net and then picked up by the new company each site can only tell you half the story.

One said I needed an AUTH code and the other a Transfer code, these for the .com are the same thing. and must be requested and then given to the new owner. Then you have to enter the contact address details for the domain.

But before anything can happen BT website went down and they can not manage to make changes without there web admin and then they are closed for the rest of the weekend.

So finally on Monday when we need to be live tomorrow the domains seem to be moving with one domain down and the other changing, we are in the twighlight zone of time to live and dns renewals.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Learning a new langauge to expand your horizons

I am taking a plunge into learning a new language, I need to increase my German to teach my son and talk to my girlfriends family. And with my new job trying to get my head round language learning as a whole. Cactus Language http://www.cactuslangauge.com

They do all sorts of training angles Evening Courses, TEFL courses, Learning a language on holiday. So lots to learn and figure out where and how people go to learn a language when booking online. Its good think to think of when I'll be taking a course in January.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Proving your worth online, can I trust this person

This is something that I come round to now and then, and when signing up and entering details into another website that needs a profile.

Where do you find out who a person is and if they should be trusted or worked with. This is because online trust has a big part to play in relationships and business.

Other points
No of posts
Comments by others
Several sources saying the same thing

Shared interests and feeling are the biggest thing that pulls people together. Be that your interests or tags or conversations or simply being on the same site sharing an experience.

Building a picture of me online
These need to be recognisable to other people.

Amazon profile
Ebay profile - star rating, comments, time a member, lack of negative comments.
FaceBook profile - to those who can see it
LinkedIn profile - public or shared version. Employment history indicators, Recommendations, number of connections.
Current company - listed on the company website to prove your working there
Personal homepage
Personal Blog - this does not have to be on personal things but be your writing.
Yahoo profile
MSN profile
MySpace page

Personal for me:
BoardGameGeek profile - interested, games owned, comments made, thumbs up given, contributions made.

Will keep looking this week for more examples.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Making really soical widgets for FaceBook

Peg Davis posted this week about Widgets and social sites full of virtual swag for the social network masses on Marketing Experiments. Asking what the value of the widgets is, when popular ones are water and food fights?

This is an avenue I have been taking some time to brainstorm. I have yet to come up with something that fits the brand I work with though.

Most of the widgets I have found on facebook do nothing for social or community. And seem little way to get value from. (though I still love adding ones I like.)

Most offer the opportunity to share an image or add a flower or fish to someones page, or versions of poking (little-gamers poke with more humor) like ninja/jedi/pirate. The quizes seem to have some value and you gain information and it is interesting to learn things about friends.

They only seem to increase time on site for FaceBook, and get abandoned quickly. I have dropped the fish and flowers and other sections from my facebook account, as they require other people to actually be interested in giving me a new fish every few days.

I think there needs to be more that leverage the community and shared space. Most just enorage more messaging to talk about them. The best I have come up with is a game of "pass the parcel" (TM me when i get time) You pass the parcel to one of your friends, they have to open the next layer and there coudl be nothing, something funny, a message, an ad, a voucher and a prize or celebrity to the winner. But the key thing is it exists only on the person who has it, so people want to track it and ask that person to pass it on. Much more social, well to me its a start.

Also note here long tail and Tim O'Reily both taking about the small number of widgets with the traffic

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Get real web stats for WordPress.com blogs

I have been a bit fustrated with stats on Wordpress.com, as they use Google Analytics themselves and only give you a few days limited stats. I have been thinking of writing my own stats script for image loaded on a client site to record stats. You can see the basic stats and I am sure that is enough for alot of bloggers. I want more detail of my SEO efforts and so was glad I found a package that has an image tracking option.

Clicky who claim to be web analytics 2.0 (not sure quite how 2.0 yet apart from the design) As they record actions as well as pages. They have some extra options like an API to all your data over google analytics so may check them out some more. With the Javascript version rather than the image version I am using on the wordpress site.

They have a trial option for 21 days and then a couple of paid options for upto 50,000 views so not for big sites put small personals and blogs should be good.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Test - using Yahoo search for a week

This week I am going to use Yahoo Search (mostly from in firefox, like normal) instead of Google. I'll look back at google now and then to see what difference the results are. I'll be using the .co.uk version of each.

I decided to try this for a couple of reasons. One my post last week after reading how the top 10 in each tends to be different. Also working with websites with puchase parts at the moment tend to rank and be crawled better by Yahoo. As opposed to the research style of Google for text content.

My first test today resulted in -1 yahoo +1 google, for my serach for the ServerAlias directive for Apache. 'apache server alias' on Yahoo returned a top 10 on the Alias command, which is for aliasing directories not the whole server domain name. Google got it right with the first result being a page with ServerAlias on. It was resarch query so going with type.

Term | Yahoo | Google | Type(Reseach/Shopping)
'apache server alias' -1 +1 R

The test continues.

Posting your name first in title helps Google rank

I think the change I made last week posting the name of the compnay first in the url for the homepage readlly did work for Google ranking.

I changed from
About the Restaurant << The Black Rat Restaurant, Winchester
The Black Rat << The Black Rat Restaurant, Winchester

And now I get a reasonable rank on google for 'the black rat' on its own, 4th on google.co.uk. I think that is quite respectiable as the site does not have any PR yet and there must be millions of pages about real rats, 6,300,000 to be exact.

So quite pleased with my results at the moment.

Offline is a good boost

The other boost the site stats the local county newspaper did one review and one interview and then posted them on two of their websites. So the traffic jumped to double the highest point for a day on friday when it hit the news stands. See if it drops off again this week or not.

Another quick tip:
Put the url in plain text in a post on your blog as Google News tracker seems to like that more that in an a tag when reporting on wordpress.com stats. Not sure if it helps more than that. But it could be why my blog ranks over the main site?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Taken over the google top 10 for brand terms but main site not top

Well I am all over my keywords now on google now some of the backlinks and reviews are kicking in I hold 8 out of the 10 places on google.com and .co.uk for:
the black rat winchester
black rat winchester
black rat restaurant

Now I know they are not big terms but that does not matter they are my key brand terms for this site. The only problem is the main site is now no 3 or 4 as sub pages are showing on the search. Now all the pages seem to have 0 or unranked PageRank but this blogger account is from a bigger domain and then a review site and then the host site. Now my view is the domain with the keyword should come first but I guess bigger and older sites are still more important.

I have made a couple of changes and will watch next week to see if I can get the restaurants site to be first on the list. But anyway I am pleased with my results as I have not worked too hard to get those words. I am working to get into restaurant winchester and the more generic terms that I am low in.

As they say there are always about 80% more non brand terms you can get search traffic for than brand terms (will quote the report when remember it)

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Wordpress tip - Set page order for Pages on blog

If you have Pages in your wordpress.com site, not blog posts but the static pages, you should set the page order for them.

This is a little tab at the bottom on the right of the edit page. But default this is '0' Zero so they sort alphabetically. This can be fine, but as I found when I set one of these pages to be the homepage of a blog, as the site uses it for their main site and do not blog much yet. I found that if I change the name away from 'About the restaurant' the first page is no longer the first link in the menu.

I could not think of a better A word to start with and had added restaurant to my usual 'About us' title for SEO but now I find that because the site title is not the first words in the title it does not come up first in Google.

In google it ranks the words closest to the start of the title or header more, so you want your company name first on the homepage. But this should not be first on your other pages they should have page title and then site title. As then you get blocked the other way because all your titles can look the same to google as they all start the same. On Wordpress they do have the page title followed by the site title which Blogger does not, but I can not change it for the home page.

All this brought me back to searching 'the black rat restaurant' in Google and the site now comes 3rd for what is really it's own url! now it is not so bad because it is a victim of my own success as the first places are this blog and another site with a review of the restaurant. But the site could be loosing traffic as people may not click from these 2 sites through to the main one.

This is when I noticed the page order option and by setting the order of all the top level pages I can have the homepage first in the list but name it 'The Black Rat' rather that about and then I get first in the google listings I hope ;) I'll look next week and see.

My only thought now to further fix it is dropping the 'The' as that is a stop word even being part of the actual name. Think I'll test and see...

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

When technology moves on in the Mobile world

When technology moves on and you can't find old spares it is very annoying and looks like everyone is after your money for something better than you need.

It feels like only yesterday that shops could not get enough mobile phone accessories, but now click the fingers and they are all gone. I must admit the cheap headphones and cases never were made well or had long shelf life but lots of people wanted them. Now it seems we have moved to the next level and making bluetooth headsets is a little harder.

I only noticed this change in my local world when my audio connection to the digital world vanished one night last week. I swear i know where i put my phone headset but now the fairies, washing machine, or small son has made off with them. My newish nokia n73 and commute to work are now devoid of interest and full of other peoples noise. My itunes is full of great podcasts and the radio is passing me by too. So i thought they'll turn up i'll just get a cheap set while i wait but no, the shops are now empty.

Why did they stop selling? I guess the market has moved or the chinese workshops are spending there time learning and stocking new christmas gadgets.

on mobile

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Second: Hit the directories

Next it was off to take the search results and generate back links on any restaurant directory I could find.

All offer slightly different listings so I thought I would show our listing where it is live. Some sites review the posts so you have to wait a few days. Some like Google Local even call or send you a card to your address to prove it is real.
I'll write some more about getting listed and what results the sites gave soon.

- Found this page by a random route on the google.com/local homepage but not listed if you just search from the main site.
- The other way I found on to the map is by creating your own maps in google and then the results come up in web searches, which is nice.



www.virtualtourist.com - add a forum post and review

wikitravel.org - wikipedia's travel site, not many there which is good.






www.upmystreet.com uses www.thomsonlocal.com results



www.freeindex.co.uk - This has a nice interface to add description of the business, using a fill in the blanks on existing sentences



First SEM: Preview post before site live

The first good think I did was right a preview about the restaurant opening in this blog on Blogger. That was good in two ways. First the owner of my borothers restaurant was not sure he wanted to pay for a site. We showed he needed one buy the fact that my one post got position 1 on Google for 'the black rat winchester' in a few days. This showed that no one was going to find them without my page and I even got personal emails of people trying to book dinner. So found that that works as a good example but I guess it was because we have an open market on the name. Everything else is for real rats or a black rat drink in america.

So even though I think The Black Rat is a bad name for a restaurant but for SEO it is kind of good as there is no real competition on the name. Unlike say "The Royal Hotel" or something common.

This ranked page still is the top referer after google. And when they had a website up I linked this ranked page. Even this related post will help the rankings, though it would be better on food not SEM activity.

Tracking the growth in site rank of a new blog/website

I have had the theblackrat.co.uk website live for I guess a month now. The work was done arround the 1 August but as it was never not live to the web I forget the exact day. I then started SEM work about 2 weeks ago. So I want to watch how much work I do effects the ranking and traffic of the site.

The site:
A worldpress.com free blog with extras paid for (CSS and own domain). Now it is a blog site but they are not going to use the blog for a while it is just about seven page straight website. I customised the css template a little.

Short falls:
The domain has to now www. but apart form I think that www. looks nice does not matter. I can not edit the template html and can not add any javascript (so nice google map embeded). Also anoying is no Google Analytics as they use it internally at WordPress so you get very basic stats. And can not edit or have any meta tags, which would be nice for the description tag.

My work:
I then worked my way through directories to get some back links and google ranking for my keywords. I took my first 5 terms ran the searches on google took all those sites and tried to get links. Also WebCEO software gave me some good links in Partners and also Google related: on sites of other winchester restautrants gave more links.

Are spiders taking over?

I have been wondering for a couple of weeks now if spiders are taking over my house in brighton, and have seen the same ones in other areas of the town.

They seem to be multiplying at a quick rate and are all over the trees outside and oftern inside.

Now though this week it looks like we have two larger ones that are either fully grown or more important.

One is hide up at the top of our washing line bracket and the other on a large pot plant.

They are thick brown bodies and spiky legs and they have very strong webs.

Me wonders if they will take over or the end of summer will kill them off or drive them inside.

apparently they are European Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) or Korsspindel.

Monday, 3 September 2007

The joys(ish) of TinyMCE - Rich Text Editor more controllable than last time I looked

I have been trying to find a RTE for a new site I am doing. I would have liked the WordPress/Blogger/Google one to compare but they do not seem to be avalible to download, and stripping javascript out of another site is never a fun job, for more than a couple of lines.

Last time I used it at timeout.com we had a few limits that we had to hack around, they seem to have cleanly added these thing in now. So I'll talk about what I found.

  • Making images not have full urls
  • You can valid your own set of tags and strip out ones you do not what.
  • Add in predifined lists of links, images, css tags
  • Overlay your own css, as would be in the site.

Making images not have full urls

You can valid your own set of tags and strip out ones you do not what.

For us default a tags "target" to "_blank"


This example string tells TinyMCE to remove all elements that are not a "a, strong, div or br" element, convert "b" elements to "strong" elements, default "target" to "_blank" and keep the "href", "target" and "align" attributes of the elements.

valid_elements : "a[href|target=_blank],strong/b,div[align],br"

Add in predifined lists of links, images, css tags

Again to have an external js file that was full of links for the editor and could be built on the fly either from common site links or other data for that story (they have entered an actor so the list has links to all his related films) would have given some quick help and less errors.


This option enables you to have an external list of links, which can be generated by a server side page and then inserted into the link dialog windows of TinyMCE. The links can be to internal site documents or external URLs.

Example of usage of the external_link_list_url option:

external_link_list_url : "myexternallist.js"

Example of a external link list file: (myexternallist.js)

var tinyMCELinkList = new Array(
// Name, URL
["Moxiecode", "http://www.moxiecode.com"],
["Freshmeat", "http://www.freshmeat.com"],
["Sourceforge", "http://www.sourceforge.com"]

Catching sumit or button comands for custom events.

This would have been good for our custom popups or to do some checking before submiting the form. Also could be used to block some buttons i.e fonts, to some access levels.

So all in all some good things, I just do no like the icons and layout. But you can do the buttons as javascript calls and the menu bar can be sent to another div for styling so should be possible to make it nice.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

The SQL world outside MySQL - Well I never knew

I have been using MS SQL Server this week in my new job. I believe several things of this before I even touched it, some bias some guesses.
A. I do not like most MicroSoft work. Some times they have done something usable like Word 5 but then they add a lot of rubbish.
B. I have seen it lock up alot in a dev environment when I have not seen the same of MySQL.
C. I would rather have linux live servers not Windows.
D. I have not used it much.

I do not think MySQL is the best database but it is damn good with websites and PHP for my sites so far. It might not be what I'd choose for a bank for example. But straight data it is fine.

I have been using it to add stuff to a Intranet admin and to a website. Now the connection etc is happening in a library so I have not seen anything getting it to PHP it is just through SQL in the gui tool that I am learning.

Now the first thing is I do not seem to able to be lazy and edit the tables phpMyAdmin style. But I think I have seen that done before. I have liked that you can have lots of selects in the same window and running it brings a table for each. And highlighting it runs just that command. But then I came to date fields. It seems that the server returns the date column as "27 Aug 2007 10:20:22" and it does not have simple formating in the SQL to getting to return differently! Why is it returning words in the date format when I have not asked for it. There was a small extra bit of code that I was shown that you passed a single format id to to return a different format, not very nice though. So with a couple of functions it would return "27.08.2007 10:20:22.234" which is more what I would like.

The SQL is TRANSACT-SQL so I know I have to learn more syntax. That I do not mind so much. But when I asked if I could format the date I was told use PHP to do it. That seemed like a fair answer but it is a database dates are a key part. The thing that annoyed me about that was that feels like a Microsoft developer response, "It just is that way, use another tool to hack around with the result." I think it should work better.

I had something else too, just have to remember what.

I Remember GROUP BY in SQLServer you have to have all the fields in the SELECT also in the GROUP BY. Now on MySQL I can happy group by something and then pull out all other data in the select now limited.

I learn this from my manager and then on the www.themysqlguy.com podcast on the same day, that MySQL has a mode to behave more like a traditional DB and not so forgiving. This "MODE" or TRADITIONAL also then has the option to turn on all fields for a group by must be in the select. Then from that I read in the manual, from his links. SQL Mode in the Manual


Make MySQL behave like a “traditional” SQL database system. A simple description of this mode is “give an error instead of a warning” when inserting an incorrect value into a column. Note: The INSERT/UPDATE aborts as soon as the error is noticed. This may not be what you want if you are using a non-transactional storage engine, because data changes made prior to the error may not be rolled back, resulting in a “partially done” update.



Do not allow queries for which the SELECT list refers to non-aggregated columns that are not named in the GROUP BY clause. The following query is invalid with this mode enabled because address is not named in the GROUP BY clause:

SELECT name, address, MAX(age) FROM t GROUP BY name;

As of MySQL 5.1.11, this mode also restricts references to non-aggregated columns in the HAVING clause that are not named in the GROUP BY clause.

Also that in this traditional mode when inserting data for columns that are tool long will cause an out of range error, rather that truncating. This might be good for one insert but several on a non-transactional table could mean you only add half the data before the error.

So I learned something I did not know before about how data is treated on insert. I might not think the Group by is right and the Date rubbish but I learned something new.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Google Maps now list user results from MyMaps

I have just noticed that Google Maps is now listing the data added from My Maps (google users saved public maps).

I noticed this when I searched for the restaurant I just did a site on and the results include the cutom map I had made for their website, and my result is first for the user content.

So at the bottom of the Search results for Local business matches there is a link for "See user-created content" and you get a list of all pins added by users that match the search.

So Red pins for Google and then click and see blue pins from users

This makes another great SEO/SEM option to get exactly the copy you want into the local restults and AT THE MOMENT the only things commonly listed are people giving driections to friends. I.e. Small coverage and not so specific, and as we all know that makes a good target to give good data.

At the moment you do have to click to this extra content, but there are few results and maybe other searches on google services mix the results on the same page?

So off to create map locations of all the sites I work on and key locations for their content....

Monday, 27 August 2007

People value listings

It has been so nice and easy to promote the restaurant site I have just done. There are hundreds of sites listing and talking about food, drink and listings on maps.

Most of the sites I have worked on are hard to find back links and communities for, they are magazines and media brands. They talk about other people but are only talked about by business. To work with a brand that offers a physical product is a nice change. Also a product that fits into listings just gets eaten up on the internet.

As I see it the main avenues are:
  • Listed in directory listings
  • Listed in guides listings on a subject
  • Reviewed in press
  • Reviewed by people
  • Enter awards for mentions
  • Write a blog around the restaurant or an aspect and get links to that.
  • Guest in other media or properties, like magazines or judging panels
  • Write a column on another site
  • Make some content that people can syndicate on there site.
So on to the searching an linking and back to the comments later.

Very Offline 2.0 or too much money

I got a nice summery gift card in the post on thursday wishing me good luck in my new job. I thought that was nice as none of my friends had yet. And it felt like it was from a friend. But it was from an employment agency. I have got my job with Click with Technology though an agency, but not this agency.

It was a nice card like for a birthday or some other event, not a mass printed company card, and not a postcard. It was even hand written to me. But why would the nice lady at Milk send me a card? They are not getting any money from me and Computer People were very nice and helped with the job but they did not send me a card. So why?

I think it is one of two things Offline2.0/Web2.0 or too much money. They have been sending lots of personal emails out with job positions and even a party to meet people and find work. So looks like they are going after lifetime contacts. I mean sending a card for 1 or 2 pounds for the chance of a referral or working with them again is probably alot cheaper than other methods. It is certainly more personal and interactive. That card has sat in my kitchen on a pile of papers for a few days, before being filed (I could not quite throw it away, it was nice), that has got to be alot more brand visibility than an email i got last week that i will never go back to with job offers.

So probably a good idea or one for a company throwing money around when dealing with one-to-one relationships not just a mail shot. I do not think I will use Milk as most of their jobs were not near me, but there is a good chance I'll talk about them, like here. I have been called by 20-30 or more agencies (or job site surfers doing match making) in 2 months so if you stick out I guess it helps.

Good luck to them

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

The Black Rat site is now live

I have just finished the website for my brother restaurant The Black Rat. http://theblackrat.co.uk
It was interested to make a site on wordpress.com using their controls. You do not get much you can customise but I got the domain to map and email set up for them on google apps. So seems to be a quick way of getting people an online presence while they work out what they want.

It would be nice if you could add more code to the pages as it stripped out the google map i added. So that seems to be where worldpress.org versions of the sites come in. Also you can not add your own google analytics as they use it so you get very basic stats. Also I am not sure if page rank is affected by being part of a hosted site. we will see.

Friday, 20 July 2007

nhs has gone all 2.0

The nhs service to find a doctor or hospital has gone all web 2.0 with microsoft maps.


Now instead of just getting a list a clicking to the map of each one they are all on the map and easy to see. The only thing is the messages by the pins on the map do not line up in firefox.

Not quite so 2.0 is my local doctor who's menu is random for firefox. The map has made my search easier so thank you NHS choices.

My electrician in Portslade is rather more 1998 but he is a nice guy and has linked it in from alot of directories. So I thought bz electrical deserved a back link.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

What should be in a tech test of an interview

I have been attending interviews for work for the last few weeks and the question of a Tech test in the second half of the interview has come up again. And having the test there is fair enough as you need to test skills that are easy to talk crap about and could really be crap.

As some one trained as a designer a test in an interview is new still, though I have never been a Graphic Designer and for the last few years represented a Web Developer. I would after my degree turn up with my over sized portfolio and talk about my work and mostly I do that now, but my portfolio is digital. When talking you can try to aim your words at the responses of the people your are talking to. Talking up or down points that you hope they want to here and that they believe you are the best at doing. In a test though you have to guess what they want to see and then use your words to justify it afterwards.

There is no tech or coding standard to mark against so the other person will just use the standards they like or see if the methods they like are in there.

I was given one PHP test where i was asked about UNIONS and KEYS and an other to draw a basic class. These are more trivia types so fair enough right or wrong. But the sort of things that I could get from a manual while coding. The more complicated ones are displaying patterns or thinking. So the test i thought was quite nice was write code to do "a + b / c" you can then ask questions and write out the code. This is great as there are some good tests like, where is the data coming from, are they letters numbers or variable that the maths will happen on. I wrote a class and tested the vars and then ran and output the result. i forgot that the values could be negative though. (I do not deal with may negatives, mostly keys and positives flagged as negative).

The test that came next was code with a new library a small function (a ticker in ajax). Now how should one approach this in 2 hrs? nice commented code? hack it up quick? clear code? How do you gauge the marking strategy? Do they want to see a real world app or just how quick you can learn something new. Do they want to jest the JS you use a but or the PHP you will use all the time? I think it is a big gamble as to what you spend your time on.

I went for make it clean and real world and then if I could not finish I could describe the steps. I did not know the lib so if I code the rest of the app the last bit can use up all the time I need. Also I can state that someone sharing the product would have had the ground work to base other work on or finish. For me it took too long to code the base class (I have never timed myself so did not know how long it takes to make the get sets selects etc.) I put it in a framework (CI) to save time on db calls and urls. But I got stuck in debugging where the new lib should be added into the framework and then debugging the apache and php and the javascript set up on my machine for the lib. So I did not finish the task. This was disappointing as I though I would have, but the lib worked with the code in a way I would not have so I got stuck in the wrong direction with my other code.

I did learn from it, but was disappointed in the assessment that I had not done it right when I made the code work and hour or 2 after. My critera would have been make the stuff work to the user and make the code as usable to another developer or later work. I think I did this, but I did not use the xAJAX lib in the right way. I do not think you would do many live projects this way but I guess learning new things is always a test you have to fit into a budget. The answer was apparently copy the example from the documentation and add some sql and a refresh loop in one file. But I would not do that normally so why would i show that to someone in a test that i want a job from? So after 4hours with them I'll wait and see.

How long should the test be and are certifications the way to not need the tests? Think I will look at Zend now.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Photos of the Black Rat

The Black Rat Restaurant in Winchester

Sorry they are not so clear they are on my phone

the Black Rat restaurant

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Thing to watch for this month - Registration forms

I have decided after being asked how to get more traffic to a mailing list and looking at their registration process to start with, that this month I am going to watch out for good and bad registration processes.

Registration would seem to be so easy to get a newsletter for example, but greedy marketing people still seem to want to max out the forms, or the form gets forgotten about when looking at the email.

All that is really needed is an email address box and a button to send it to the list. Maybe you could add your name too, but really most lists do not get past sending an email to the whole list anyway. A password can be handy so that you can stop spam and also be able to change your settings. But this can be authenticated and sent to the users email address anyway.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

New Restaurant in Winchester

Come eat in Winchester. My brother was in the kitchen for the opening of his new restaurant The Black Rat. (88 Chesil Street. 01962 844465) Owned by the guy who runs the famous The Black Boy pub (and a review) round the corner it is a great gastro feast. On the corner on Chesil Street and Wharf Hill, at the lower end of Winchester on the way to Bar End and the Water Medows.

They opened quietly on friday 15th June, and I'll get an update later today from my sister who went to Saturday with friends. He is sharing the kitchen and running of the place. But as he has run other kitchens and hotel kitchens I am sure it will be great!

So who am I to say any more but go there and EAT!

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Should you register an account everywhere online?

My thought today is should you register an account on all the major websites as soon as they start to become useful?

How you tell this is just a matter of listening to what people are talking about or if you see a site you may in some way use. Even if you have no plan to at the time. This is because you need to get in early to be able to get the username and often url that you want. Most people, like me want the same username accross all community sites. This is because you want to remember it but also so that seo and other people can find them. I never want to have the name+random number option but some people like my brother have adopted that style as the default as his name is too common. chrisbailey79 or baileyboy79 allows him to have a year and get his name. My name is not so common so I can get mine mostly but a new problem was recently highlighted to me, i think in boagworld or .net podcast, namly takeovers. Google and yahoo buying companies they take on the user system and add it to their own in a dual manor and sometimes require it too be the same name.

Some people who paid for Flickr accounts then had to create Yahoo accounts if they did not have them, and Yahoo being slightly big can be almost harder than hard to find a real name you can use. Their account would not work if they could not create the account, and this is a service they paid for.

Also a point for the future is if the good services online are run by Google, Yahoo, MSN etc... and the usable names are used up in less than 10 years what will happen if my son wants an account in another 10 years? Two things may happen, more domains, like google and some service providers have, so my username is tristanbailey then @gmail.com because I registered early but other friends have arksports then @googlemail.com and we just have this second part as a choice not free entry. It is like namespaces for usernames I guess. Or the systems will have to be broken up into pieces or run a bit like keychains on my Mac, having lots of usernames (probably auto assigned) assigned to one username and password. Both these do not really solve the problem for one website.

I'd be interested in any other ideas, to solve it. I figure I will have to make a system work for a site I work on at some point.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Do you need a homepage anymore?

I have being thinking about what the homepage should do for the site now that search is king and most traffic enters 'inside' your site.

Then Chistene mentioned in her post The Content Gets Priority's that Jared Spool had written on UIE Brain Sparks Is Home Page Design Relevant Any More? and I started thinking about it again.

The homepage now is used as a splash page for advertising url responses on off line media. But online I would almost never send anyone to the homepage, out of choice. A user once in the site often only needs to (or should not need to) return to the homepage when they get stuck or do not know where they should go next.

So maybe that is what the page is for guiding the uninitiated or the lost. Not to help people who know but for those who do not. I know form my use of sites that I browse the homepage of a site very quickly to get a picture of the site and see if they tell me if anything has changed or is new. I come up for air after swimming around on the more useful search and reference pages linking the desired content. I know the one thing I want from the homepage, to get off it and find something better, something i am looking for.

So maybe the homepage will drop some of the brand and gain more of the help and deep linking that will get me to the content I am looking for.

Well I can only hope my work can achieve this and see what everyone else does.

How Content Aggregators Change Navigation and Control of Content has a great example of this in two diagrams. Users are no longer using the navigation of the site until after they have first found what they want. The links then must be a call to action after they have found what they want and a trigger to the scent they are looking for if this was not it. Either way, most sites require people to find and understand the interface around them, navigate to the top of it and then back down to anything else they were looking for.

I think this leaves allot of thought out structure for users, actually for search engine to find the pages for the users and then a new set of navigation to move site ways and around the content for users when they have started at the bottom of it.

Back to the navigation drawing board for me, things are evolving.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Listern to good advice

The other site that all people in the web creation and running business should listen to again and a again is MarketingExperiments.coms the people from this company must be doing some great and well paid work at researching individual element that effect websites. They are also really nice and give back to the people who can not afford to buy into their research by posting their conference calls as audio on the site. These come at the end of a report and are packed with gold dust examples of how changes work and can be tested. You would have to carry the tests out for yourself and learn your own results but you can use the things they have learned. It is a wonderful resource.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Moved to Blogger from Yahoo 360

Hi I just moved this as I have not been using the Yahoo 360 blog. I think that service want to be Facebook or something not just a blog which is all i needed.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

More into Analytics

I am continuing my research into Analytics and changing the way I think about web development to make my choices based on real ideas and not just what I think might be nice.

I guess it is part of the internet growing up at the moment. Some people taking a step back and looking at the work they are doing when it comes to building new pages and spending money on them.

I have worked for so many people that just want to make a page the way think looks good or will do what they want. And if they are paying and not interested in anything else then that is what I will do. But if there is a chance they will look at what was working before and measure the change. Or work out a brief or business case for the change and write it down.

Rant over for now, it just becomes so much more interesting when you track real metrics rather than web stats. Web stats show you what computers are doing with your site. In my view Web Analytics start to look at the people.

I have been looking for articles on or books or anyone to give me some sort of education or direction on how to take things to the next level and away from a techie hobby and into real valuable work. I had found a nice website on Usability which is the area i have been improving my code on to be better for users and SEO. In the site he had taken about 5 modeled people and taken their views and use of a website to give guidance as to making the we work for them. The best bit or the twist on most imagined people articles, is that these are Personas for real people. Modeled to represent the strange needs and attitudes of real people. So it is not person A uses IE on a PC and person B Firefox on OSX, it was more like. Person A likes to check out the latest sports news but as he is not very technical and bought his computer 3 years ago he has dated software. Person B has bad eyesite so bought a bigger monitor and set everything to appear about 170% larger (text, menus etc...). This got me thinking about making my sites usable for people with disabilities and using things like screen readers. But I also made the leap to thinking about Personas as a way of breaking down the audice for a website into sample composite people that represent the different groups.
If you look at the users on most sites they can be broken into communities or common character traits. I do not think you need to cover every visitor to a site, but if you get maybe 4 or 5 Personas that span the range of your site, you can watch the effect of changes across your site. You can plan your sites improvements and changes with statistics and against their descriptions. You can also track statistics against each profile to watch for changes in your audience that you would not see in overall trends.

After reading though this Useablity report and making a list of things that could be done for the site i was working on I stumbled upon the FutureNow.com website which connected my ideas for Personas with a way of looking at web stats to get Analytics. They have some interesting samples of the work they do for their clients and one page that lets you download some Excel spreadsheets that gave a series of trend indicators. They are quite simple and I understand they use a wider range of martics themselves but running the last few months figures for 2 different sites into these sheets stated to give out some more interesting numbers.

They do things like break down the number of page views per visit into smaller groups. 1 page, 3-10 pages and 11+ pages (well i added the middle one.) This way i can get a figure as a percentage of 1 page visits / total visits to see if that has gone up or down against the other two. As simply looking each month at Total Page Views and Total Visits tells you nothing about how your site is getting these values. If i add a great page to the site and Views goes up, are people just looking at that page or are they also looking at other pages? With the break down you can see if you are converting the massive amount of search generated traffic that give you only one quick page view into longer more profitable visits.

I am still only stating to get enough data after 5 months to work out where next with my findings, but that I can get to the where next is a great step forward. The only other thing I will say qickly is that you can not get any of these useful numbers with a non-cookie/javascript statics reporting tool. I have enjoyed using Google Analytics and for the larger site WebSideStory HBX, they start giving more usable figures as they follow people not just group hit results.

My next stage is to add forecasting in and then start A/B split-testing to meet and beat those targets. The other interesting thing it has brought to my attention the the massive amount of 1page/10second visits to the site and I believe that SEOing your site and Search Engines in general generate this figure. Most of the traffic are not getting the right thing or the right call to view and find more on my sites. This then becomes the thing to focus on converting.

A. by reducing this scanning traffic so bringing up the % of valued visitors.

--> But this makes the site seem smaller in raw data terms. And you will increase the people who are not so interested in you when you increase the traffic.

B. by accepting this number may always be high on a content not community site but targeting at it to interest those visitors more and increase Committed and Heavy users of the site.

--> If you have interested them to come to your site it is much easier to interest them further.