April 12, 2010

Please Stand By.

Filed under: — 10:57 pm

Well, it looks like I let this site go a year without a real post. Again.

I’m going to bring it back, and in a tradition I’ve carried on since 1998, the first post in a year will be one with no useful content at all. You’re soaking in it.

I’m currently debating what to do with this site. I might write more about what I do in my businesses (running web sites and, lately, iPhone development). Or I might just turn it into a list of links to things I write elsewhere. At any rate, something will happen here soon. I’ll at least update the categories. I just noticed “PalmOS” is still there. How embarrassing.

I’m currently in San Jose for the excellent 360iDev conference. Working on an iPhone app, which will hopefully be published soon. Playing with my new iPad, which is either The Future of Computing or The Death of Creativity as We Know It depending on who you believe. I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with either side.

I will post a full report on 360iDev soon, if nothing else. Stay tuned. In the meantime I’m occasionally on Twitter.

February 27, 2009

The unrecognizable Internet of 1996?

Filed under: — 8:59 pm

In The unrecognizable Internet of 1996, Farhad Manjoo of Slate Magazine gives his impressions of the Web of 1996, although he admittedly wasn’t there. This is amusing in the same way as hearing a modern high-school student talk about the music and fashion of the 1970s, but I thought I should correct some of his misconceptions.

I started thinking about the Web of yesteryear after I got an e-mail from an idly curious Slate colleague: What did people do online back when Slate launched, he wondered? After plunging into the Internet Archive and talking to several people who were watching the Web closely back then, I’ve got an answer: not very much.

David Wertheimer says that’s bullshit, and I agree. In 1996 the web was already so busy that a single person couldn’t keep track of the whole thing, or hope to read everything online. My quotations site was two years old by then, and even in the narrow field of sites about famous quotations it was one of about 200. I couldn’t keep track of all of them. By contrast, when I launched the site in 1994, it was the only one in the category. In early 1995 it was one of three sites in the category, and I regularly talked with the owners of the other two.

Some of Yahoo’s 1996-era front pages have been saved in the Internet Archive. What’s interesting about them is what they lack. First, no e-mail: The first webmail site, Hotmail, launched in July of 1996.

But webmail is not email. People were emailing each other long before Hotmail, using desktop clients like Pegasus and Eudora. They looked pretty much exactly like today’s desktop email clients, except for one thing: there was no spam.

In 1994, a Swarthmore College student named Justin Hall began links.net, one of the very first personal Web sites.

This seems wrong – I set up a personal site in 1994, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t “one of the very first”. I doubt I was one of the first 500.

I’m sure I could find a few other mistakes in this shoddy article, but my point is this: 1996 was when the Web really started to get big. Real media companies like Time Magazine and the New York Times were seeing its potential for the first time, regular people who weren’t computer-obsessed were beginning to outnumber the geeks, and businesses like Amazon.com were just starting to make money online. The dot-com boom had begun, and advertising-powered sites like Slate were starting to make real money. Saying this was “not very much” going on online is like saying that, since there was no TV, no SUVs, and no Wal-mart, there wasn’t much going on during the industrial revolution.

[via Kottke]

March 12, 2007

SXSW 2007

Filed under: — 1:32 pm

I’m at (South by Southwest) in Austin, Texas right now, enjoying the second half of the best conference for web geeks every year.

I’m not going to be writing live about anything, but I will be writing detailed posts about a few of the panels I’ve seen this year. I’m generally too exhausted during the conference, so that will have to happen later.

Laura and I will be here until Wednesday, so if you’re reading this and you’re in Austin, drop me a line!

May 9, 2006

New JavaScript Book

Filed under: — 2:22 am

If you’ve wondered about the light posting here for the past few months, I’ve been busy writing a book. While I always fancy myself able to multitask, writing books seems to consume my time and brain power until I lose track of everything else. If you or your email is one of the things I’ve lost track of, I apologize. I’m much better now.

At any rate, I present Teach Yourself JavaScript in 24 Hours, 4th Edition. This is the biggest rewrite since the original edition of the book in 1999. The previous edition was published in 2002, and JavaScript has come a long way since then. I’m happy to finally have an edition of the book that catches up with the latest developments.

Along with the typical updates, this book has some new material on Ajax, JavaScript libraries, Greasemonkey, and new debugging tools. I’ve also replaced many of the examples, and fixed most of the ones that remain to be modern, unobtrusive scripts. There’s also a chapter called “Unobtrusive Scripting”, an emphasis on web standards, and a near-complete lack of the term DHTML.

I think it turned out pretty well. The new book will be available in July or August. I’ll be posting more about it here before then. I’ll also be redesigning my equally antiquated JavaScript Workshop site before the readers of the new edition arrive and laugh at it.

Now that I have time, I’m going to give my websites some much-needed attention. I will post here frequently with “behind the scenes” looks at the work I do running the sites. Stay tuned.

January 5, 2006

CES Coverage

Filed under: — 4:23 am

Laura and I are at the CES show this week. The exhibits don’t start until tomorrow, but we sat through a few press conferences and Bill Gates’ keynote speech today.

I’ll talk more about CES here soon, and in the meantime we’re posting some detailed articles at The Gadgets Page.

Update: Laura’s also posting a bunch of fitness gadget reviews at Starling Fitness.

December 31, 2005

2005: A recap

Filed under: — 7:08 pm

As the year ends, it reminds me of what I’ve accomplished in 2005, and what I haven’t accomplished. Here are some highlights:

  • January 1, 2005: Laura and I launched a fitness weblog, Starling Fitness. It’s now quite popular, with 1400-1500 visitors a day, and has built enough of a community that we get comments often.
  • March 3, 2005: Facing unprecedented levels of traffic, I moved most of my sites to a new dual-Xeon server. It handled the beginning-of-the-school-year rush nicely, and hopefully will last another year or so.
  • March 31, 2005: Darren at Problogger published an interview with me, probably the first time I’ve been interviewed.
  • April 12, 2005: I wrote my first WordPress plug-in, View Future Posts. It was well-received and the announcement has over 40 comments. I’ll be releasing an updated version soon.
  • May 17, 2005: I launched a new weblog, Sequenced Notes, focusing on making music with computers and electronics. That one’s mostly for fun, and it still doesn’t have much of a readership, but I’ve enjoyed writing about my musical hobby.
  • May 19, 2005: Google launched their Personalized Google feature, and included my Quotes of the Day as one of the default components. This has brought an extra 100,000+ visitors a month to the site and is now responsible for just over 5% of its total traffic.
  • July 21, 2005: We launched The Quotations Weblog as part of my most popular site, The Quotations Page. Thanks largely to Laura’s regular writing, this weblog now gets about 1200 visitors a day.
  • September 4, 2005: We launched the new WordPress-based version of The Gadgets Page. It’s grown rapidly since then, now seeing about 800 unique visitors a day.
  • November 7, 2005: The Quotations Page had its best traffic day ever, with 124,687 unique visitors. The holidays slow things down, but I expect to beat that record in January.

Now that I list it all out, it’s been a busy year, and I haven’t mentioned the book project that’s kept me busy the last couple of months. I’ve missed out on a few accomplishments—like my goal of posting here once a day—but all in all, 2005 was a pretty good year. I’ll save my 2006 goals for the next post.

September 4, 2005

The Gadgets Page 2.0

Filed under: — 12:23 am

I launched The Gadgets Page in late 2003. I had high hopes for it at the time, imagining I’d be writing tons of in-depth articles. Instead, the design and the content spent the last year or so stagnating. I’ve decided to make an effort to revive the site:

  • I’ve turned it into a weblog—it was essentially a weblog before, but all of the content was in the form of longer articles, and I rarely have time to write more. Allowing room for shorter links and articles as well as longer ones will let me update the site frequently.
  • The site was running some homebrewed CMS software. It is now running WordPress 1.5. Weblog software didn’t really fit my focus for the site back in 2003, but WordPress has grown since then, and I’ve learned to work with it. This will allow me to focus on writing, not programming.
  • I’ve created a new design for the site. It’s minimal, but it works and it’s a table-free CSS layout, unlike the previous design.
  • Matthew Strebe (of SlashNot) and I wrote all of the earlier content. My wife, Laura, who has been writing like clockwork at Starling Fitness, will be joining us to provide regular posts.
  • Since I’m trying to develop a daily writing habit, I’m setting a goal of writing one post per weekday on The Gadgets Page, starting Monday.

So, I’ve added a gadget weblog to my rapidly growing empire of multiple personalities. I have no intention of competing with Engadget or the other big ones—I can’t even keep up with reading them—but I’m looking forward to writing about gadgets, and I hope the site will evolve a unique voice and audience. Time will tell.

July 21, 2005

New site: The Quotations Weblog

Filed under: — 8:43 pm

We’ve finally added a weblog to our massively popular quotations site. At The Quotations Weblog my wife Laura and I are writing about quotations and related matters.

The site (The Quotations Page) has actually had a couple of semi-weblogs on it since 1997: A once-regular “quotes of the week” feature and the site updates on the home page. I’ve imported all of those into the new site, and now it will be much easier to post regularly.

This weblog runs the latest WordPress, with a couple of quirks:

  • I’ve crammed WordPress into the site’s existing (table-based HTML 4.0 transitional) layout. The whole site including the weblog will be moving to a CSS-only layout soon.
  • Since this will be an ideal spam target (page rank 7) we’ve required people to sign in to leave comments. Since we have an existing phpBB forum, it detects whether you’ve signed on to the forum and allows you to post without a separate WordPress sign-in.

Here’s something interesting: I launched the weblog yesterday with little fanfare, simply adding “Weblog” to the site’s navigation bar. Yesterday there were approximately 66,000 visitors to the site, and the number of visitors to the weblog was 394. So apparently merely having a weblog isn’t getting this mainstream audience excited, and we’ll actually have to promote the thing…

May 19, 2005

Personalized Google

Filed under: — 8:01 pm

Google has a new personalized home page feature that displays content you choose on a Google search page suitable for use as a home page. You can include things like Google News and BBC news on the page, and your GMail inbox if you have one. A nice JavaScript UI lets you drag the boxes around the page. Here’s the announcement at Google Blog, and a reaction from Jeremy Zawodny at Yahoo, who finds the whole thing eerily familiar.

They seem to be planning full RSS (or Atom?) support, but for now there are only about 10 feeds you can select from. Along with the BBC, Wired News, and Slashdot, I’m very pleased to report that they’ve chosen my Quotes of the Day as one of the feeds. It is using RSS, as you might have guessed, and someone at Google was nice enough to email me to let me know they’re using my feed and warn me that it might bring me some traffic (bring it on!)

As Jeremy pointed out, Google has taken a tiny step toward becoming a “portal” rather than a mere search engine. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

May 17, 2005

New weblog: Sequenced Notes

Filed under: — 10:40 am

Sequenced NotesWhen I’m not working on websites, one of my favorite hobbies is making electronic music with computers and synthesizers. I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like to write about making music, but this isn’t the place for it—first of all, I like to keep this weblog somewhat focused on web development and computers, and second, music can be an obsession at times, and it would take over this site for months at a time if I allowed it.

Besides, another of my obsessions is starting new websites.

Sequenced Notes is my new electronic music weblog, where I’ll be writing regularly about synthesizers, sequencers, and other aspects of digital music production. I think it will be fun to write about something a bit more “right brain” than anything else I do, and I’m hoping it will convince me to spend more time actually working on music. It will also be an outlet for another of my hobbies—building my own synthesizers.

I had a bit of fun with this site’s design, which is inspired by the “piano roll” editor used in sequencers. It uses a CSS layout loosely based on the one I did for Starling Fitness. It’s a bold, kind of intentionally geeky look—believe it or not, I toned it down a bit before finalizing the design. I’m particularly happy with the way the top graphic merges seamlessly with the background grid.

The logo font is Jason Kottke’s Silkscreen. I used this font directly for the tagline, and built the logo text in the sequencer grid one giant pixel at a time based on the letters in the font. I’ll probably use Silkscreen column headers in the sidebar too, but I haven’t done that yet.

This site is my first experience using WordPress 1.5, and the source of my earlier post about WP 1.5. I’ll be upgrading my other sites soon.

Let me know what you think, and I hope I have a few readers who are musicians and will find it worth a read. Stay tuned for next week, when I further expand my portfolio of multiple personalities weblogs with an additional unrelated site.

[The name of the site is a pun: “sequenced notes” could describe a weblog, as well as the primary component of electronic music. Get it? No? Congratulations, you’re not as much of a nerd as I am.]

April 18, 2005

The past and future of Homesite

Filed under: — 2:52 pm

I’ve been using Homesite as my primary HTML/PHP/JavaScript editor for nearly ten years. I think I bought it in 1995 or 1996. Nick Bradbury was a one-man business at the time and Homesite was advertised on CompuServe. I think it was version 1.0. (I met Nick at SXSW 2004 and enjoyed reminiscing about those days.)

I’ve stayed with Homesite ever since, upgrading to version 2.0, then 2.5, then 3.0, then 4.0, then 5.0, and finally 5.5. Along the way Homesite was acquired by Allaire in 1997, and Allaire was acquired by Macromedia in 2001. Homesite development has been pretty stagnant since the Macromedia acquisition. The product always seemed to take a back seat to Dreamweaver. New versions were few and far between, and often added more bugs than they fixed.

Homesite is a programmer’s text editor for HTML and other web languages. While it has a built-in preview and even a simple WYSIWYG mode, it’s most efficient for people like me who think in HTML (and PHP and JavaScript) and just want convenient access to their code. I’ve never had any patience for visual editors like Dreamweaver. Homesite is just my style.

Despite being a fan, I’ve been planning to switch from Homesite for some time, because it didn’t seem to have a future with Macromedia. Now I’m not sure what to think, because Adobe is acquiring Macromedia. I have a feeling this might be the final nail in Homesite’s coffin, although I’d love to see Adobe take better care of it than Macromedia did.

Luckily for me, Homesite creator Nick Bradbury created another great editor, TopStyle, after leaving Allaire. I’ve always figured I’ll switch to TopStyle eventually, but put it off because I’m comfortable with Homesite, and the CSS emphasis didn’t mean much to me. Now that Homesite’s future is more uncertain than ever and I’m doing all of my design with CSS, it’s probably time to take another good look at TopStyle.

April 11, 2005

WordPress 1.5 first impressions

Filed under: — 3:28 pm

I’m setting up a new weblog (to be announced shortly) and have been experimenting with the recently-released WordPress 1.5 for the first time. It’s an incremental update from 1.2, but there are some nice new features. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • The Dashboard: This is the new front page of the weblog Administration interface. A sidebar shows a few statistics about your weblog with links to latest posts and comments, and the rest of the page is essentially an RSS aggregator that displays WordPress-related items. I found this clever, but since I already have an RSS reader most of the screen’s contents are redundant. I’d rather see more statistics and a larger display of recent comments and posts, but I’m sure others find it useful, and it will expose things like security updates to a much larger audience.
  • Administration: Aside from the obvious Dashboard, the administration interface has been rearranged a bit, but it’s essentially the same as the 1.2 interface and easy to get used to.
  • Themes: I have to admit, one of the reasons I’ve put off upgrading to WP 1.5 was that I use custom templates on my sites, and it would take some effort to convert them to 1.5’s new theme support. These concerns were mostly unfounded—it turns out creating a theme is a simple matter of creating a directory, copying the files for an existing theme into them, and editing the PHP and CSS files. Adapting a WP 1.2 template is also a simple process. Switching themes takes a single click from within the Administration interface, so this will be a great way to experiment with updated looks without messing up the site.
  • Default Themes: WordPress 1.5 includes two themes: WordPress Default is the new theme based on Kubrick and WordPress Classic is the theme that came with WP 1.2. Both are decent looking, but considering how many people use WordPress without ever changing the theme, I’d like to see a bunch more included by default. At the very least, the Themes administration page should include a link to wherever one goes to find new themes.
  • Pages: Pages are similar to posts, but aren’t time-dependent. With the URL rewriting feature, you can create pages like www.example.com/about/ without editing a single file. Pages look just like a post (including a comment form) by default, but you can create a custom template to fix that.
  • Nofollow: The rel=nofollow attribute is enabled by default for all links in comments, so spam comments won’t receive any pagerank. I think this is a very good thing as a default, but I’m disappointed that there’s no way to turn it off—I micromanage my comments and have no use for the feature, and I’d like my commenters to benefit from their legitimate links. Fortunately there’s a plugin that turns off this feature, but this should really be a built-in option.
  • Comment Spam: WordPress 1.5 defaults to moderating all comments except those from previously approved posters. I’ve turned that feature off, but it’s wonderful to have it as the default—this will lead to less freely-spammable abandoned weblogs in the long run.
  • Logged-in Users: If you’re logged in to the weblog (as the administrator usually is) you don’t have to enter your name and email address when posting a comment. Yay! This is a reason to actually enable the registration feature that I’ve previously ignored.

I’ll write more about WP 1.5 as I discover more about it, but in general I’m impressed—I look forward to many more great things from the team. I will hopefully be upgrading this weblog to WP 1.5 this week, and I’ll let you know how that goes.

April 7, 2005

ProBlogger interviews me

Filed under: — 9:27 pm

Darren over at ProBlogger published an interview with me the other day. If you’re curious about what I do besides this weblog, it might be worth a read.

Darren said some very nice things about me, so I’ll say something nice about him: although he’s relatively new on the scene I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned from ProBlogger since it appeared. I’ve also had a bookmark for his Digital Photography Blog for a while.

Darren posts something like 25 times a day at various weblogs, which amazes me. I’m trying to work my way up to 6 posts a day between this site, The JavaScript Weblog, and two other weblogs that will be announced in a few days, and it’s difficult.

Doing this interview also reminded me that I’d like to post more here about making money online, whether with weblogs or more traditional sites. I’m going to get to work on that, starting with an article tomorrow.

March 22, 2005

People I met at SXSW Interactive

Filed under: — 10:46 am

While at , I tried to keep track of everyone I met and talked to. I was not entirely successful, but nonetheless here’s the nearly-complete list of everyone I met in Austin this year. This list is XFN-compliant, so someday it might be useful for social network analysis or some sort of “Six degrees of Jeffrey Zeldman” game.

First off, here’s the list of people I met last year and had a chance to talk to again this year:

Simon Willison, Yvonne Adams, Jeremy Dunck, Jason Calacanis, George Kelly, Alex Russell, Nick Finck, Anil Dash, Dave Shea, Molly Holzschlag, Matt Haughey, Kevin Cheng, Eric Meyer

Second, the list of new people I met this year:

Robert Scoble, Meri Williams, Elly Thompson, Andrew Jaquith, Ka-Ping Yee, Kimberly Blessing, Steve Chipman, Kate Chipman, Karina Longworth, Rebecca Hurd, Chris Baker, Jacob Kaplan-Moss, Adrian Holovaty, David Ryan, Richard Rutter, Kevin Wen, John Pratt, Dinah Sanders, Jon Hicks, Jeffrey Zeldman, Keith Hall, Craig Newmark, Don Turnbull, Eric Rice, Amit Malhotra, Craig Ogg, Dan Gillmor, Craig Cook, Thomas Vander Wal, Steve Turnidge, Aaron Boodman, Jock Gill, Gokul Rajaram, Charles M. Smith, Bill Flitter, Henry Copeland, Phil Kaplan, Will Pate, Lockhart Steele, Sergio Villareal, Anders Pearson, Jenifer Hanen

As always, there were lots of people I missed talking to. In a way, every SXSW is a very fast succession of missed opportunities—for every panel you see, there are four or five you’re missing, and for every person you talk to there are lots of interesting people you’re missing. Nevertheless I had a great time—thanks very much to everyone I spent time with there, because the conversations with smart people who are just as excited about this whole web thing as I am are even more valuable than the panels.

March 21, 2005

I’m back from SXSW

Filed under: — 4:14 pm

I’m back from the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. Actually I was back last Wednesday, but it took me a while to get back to writing. The show was great fun—I think I attended about 15 panels and speeches, and in between I had a rare chance to talk to people who understand what I do for a living. While I admire those who were live-blogging the events, I just didn’t have the energy, so I’ll be posting some belated comments about the show this week.

One of the highlights was meeting a number of “famous” people. This began when I ran into Robert Scoble in the hotel elevator on the first day, and it took me nearly 10 floors to realize who he was. (Thanks for the link and the Channel 9 Guy!) Scoble came to the kickball game where I also ran into some friends from last year: Simon Willison (pictured with Channel 9 Guy here), Jeremy Dunck, and Yvonne Adams.

Kickball was the geekiest sporting event I’ve ever seen, and the only one I ever participate in. There were so many digital cameras this year that I’m sure there’s an embarrasing picture of me playing kickball somewhere on the web. If you took it, I’ll pay you to take it offline.

I also met Jeffrey Zeldman, Craig Newmark (of Craigslist), Jon Hicks (who designed the Firefox logo), Dan Gillmor, Matt Haughey (of Metafilter), Jock Gill (who created the first White House web site in 1994), Phil Kaplan (of AdBrite and F—ed Company) and of course Jason Calacanis, my boss at Weblogs Inc. The great thing was that none of these people acted the slightest bit famous. The downside is that now that I’m back home, nobody here has heard of any of them…

The true highlight, though, was all of the intelligent conversation. Outside of the panels, the most educational moment was when Thomas Vander Wall took a few minutes to give us an impromptu presentation on Attention.XML over Thai food—truly something I’m not likely to experience anywhere else. I’ll post the complete gratuitous list of everyone I met at tomorrow.

The final Geek Moment of the trip happened when I was at the Austin Airport waiting for my flight and I heard the PA system say “Jason Kottke, come to security checkpoint 3 to claim lost property.” Thanks to the web I actually found the rest of the story.

March 11, 2005

Off to SXSW

Filed under: — 6:39 pm

In case you haven’t read enough “Off to SXSW” posts lately, here’s one more. I’ll be in Austin for SXSW Interactive this weekend and part of next week. Actually I’m already there, and I’m posting this late.

I’ll probably post sporadically while I’m here, but then again I may not. Semi-regular programming will resume on Wednesday.

If you’re in town for SXSW, I’d be happy to meet, so drop me a line. (My email should reach me on my PDA or laptop.)

February 28, 2005

Browser Stats: The State of Firefox

Filed under: — 10:08 pm

Nick at Digital Web posted his latest browser statistics, showing a dramatic rise for Firefox—45%, the same result as Kottke posted yesterday. Both showed Internet Explorer at about 30%. Before you get too excited by those numbers, Nick notes that they came from a developer site and do not reflect mainstream usage.

Well, I happen to have a popular site that does approximately reflect mainstream web usage, so I thought some browser statistics might be interesting. The following are February 2005’s browser percentages for The Quotations Page, along with those from February 2004 for comparison.

BrowserFebruary 2004February 2005
Internet Explorer89.93%76.47%
Netscape 4.x0.82%0.45%

Definitely an increase for Firefox/Mozilla, mostly at the expense of Internet Explorer, but Firefox has a long way to go before it beats IE on a mainstream site. On the other hand, 14% is very impressive, and Microsoft has a very good reason to get to work on IE 7.0.

[Fine print: Data based on approximately 11 million page views in February 2005 and 9 million in February 2004. Percentages do not add up to 100% because I didn’t include site crawlers, search engines, or RSS readers. Safari, Konqueror, and Camino were all below the measured margin for this site’s statistics, so all I can tell you is that their usage was less than .05% for both periods.]

January 19, 2005

Starling Fitness update

Filed under: — 4:51 pm

Laura and I launched the Starling Fitness weblog right before the beginning of the year, and she’s been working hard filling it with daily content. If you missed it the first time, please check it out, or read our original announcement for the details.

The site is two weeks old, and largely thanks to links on some of our other sites, we’re already getting decent traffic—an average of 300 visitors a day. Considering that we’re not getting any traffic from search engines yet, that’s pretty good. It should be interesting to see how a weblog on a mainstream topic like fitness can grow.

Within the last couple of weeks I’ve fixed the remaining minor issues with the site design—at least I think I have. Let me know if anything appears amiss.

January 18, 2005

Google supports anti-spam links

Filed under: — 5:44 pm

Google is rumored to be adding (confirmed) a new feature to help take the bite out of comment spam: a nofollow value that you assign to a link using the rel attribute. The idea is that you would add this attribute to links outside your control—such as URLs within weblog comments or forum postings. Here’s an example link:

<a href="http://www.figby.com/" rel="nofollow">

Links with this value wouldn’t transmit PageRank, or wouldn’t be followed by Google’s crawler at all. This is similar to the vote links concept in that you could link to a site (such as a spammer you’re complaining about) without giving them a positive endorsement, at least in Google’s view.

I have some concerns about how well this is going to work:

  • It needs support from all search engines, not just Google. I know most of us consider Google the most important, but the spammers would be just as happy to rank highly in MSN or Yahoo search. (update: see below)
  • It needs to be the default behavior in all major weblog applications and services before it will have any impact. This is going to take a while.
  • Spammers won’t get the message for a long time. Just like redirection schemes, it only works if the spammers believe it works, and that won’t happen until it’s supported across most search engines and weblog platforms. Even then, many spammers are likely to continue spamming weblogs for a year or two “just in case it helps.” Spammers are not known for their intelligence.
  • Is it really fair to take away the pagerank benefits of legitimate comments?
  • Dishonest webmasters will use this attribute to game the system. I’m not quite sure how, but they’ll find a way. One obvious way is to set the nofollow attribute on all external links, to prevent precious PageRank from leaking out of their sites. Whether this does any good or not is debatable, but they’ll do it anyway, and it’s bound to confuse the already-strained algorithms that produce PageRank.

I’m sure we’ll also see people who sell links based on their PageRank and then add the nofollow attribute later, making the purchased links worthless—but as far as I’m concerned, anything that hinders the widespread practice of selling links for ranking can’t be a bad thing.

Regardless, it’s a step in the right direction, and maybe someday there will be less comment spam on weblogs.

Update: Google’s official announcement has more details, including the fact that they’ve already got WordPress, Movable Type, and LiveJournal on board. Oh, and Yahoo and MSN are on board. This may just work…

January 17, 2005

Figby.com is 4 years old

Filed under: — 5:18 pm

I posted recently about the 10-year anniversary of my oldest site, The Quotations Page. I noticed today that it’s been four years since I first launched this weblog on January 16th, 2001.

When this site first appeared it had no traffic, as is typical with new sites. It also had a table-licious design, some home-made weblog software, and a rather serious case of delusions of grandeur. I thought I was going to out-do Slashdot with my coverage of tech news, despite only typing one paragraph whenever I felt like it. I also built a membership-based RSS aggregator into the site, something I like to think would have turned into Bloglines if I had the time and the venture capital.

At any rate, at some point I decided this site would focus on the one thing I was truly an expert on: my own opinions. In 2004, I managed to post at least once per month, something I had not accomplished in any previous year.

This year I’m taking online writing seriously, and for the last two weeks I’ve met my goal of one post per weekday. If all goes well I’ll post more this month than I did in entire years past, and as I get the hang of this thing I’m already getting better traffic. Here’s to many more prolific years!

January 14, 2005

EasyPHP Works!

Filed under: — 4:44 pm

I wrote about EasyPHP a couple of days ago. It’s a Windows installer that gets Apache, MySQL, PHP, and phpMyAdmin running with a minimum of fuss, and provides a simple GUI to start and stop the services. (Visit EasyPHP for details.)

Here’s a brief followup: it works as advertised. After copying the appropriate MySQL databases, Apache configuration files, and PHP configuration settings, I now have a working version of my major websites on my local machine. This should be very useful next time I’m updating a site—the usual cycle of change a few characters, upload, reload browser will be much quicker without the upload, and it might save me from the occasional incident when I mistype something and accidentally bring down a site.

Also, I completely forgot that I ran across XAMPP a while ago. It’s another package that includes Apache, PHP, and MySQL with a single Windows installer. I haven’t tried that one, so I can’t really compare the two. For the moment, EasyPHP works for me.

January 5, 2005

Figby.com’s growth in 2004

Filed under: — 11:32 am

statistics 2004

As you can see from the graph, this site has grown quite a bit in traffic over the last year. I’m seeing over 1000 unique visitors most weekdays now, which isn’t amazing, but it’s nice to know somebody’s reading this stuff.

The first real jump in traffic seems to have been in August, roughly coinciding with my switch to WordPress. Maybe some of the sheer charisma of WordPress has rubbed off on this site, or maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve been posting longer and better posts since switching to a platform that made it easier to post. Or maybe I had more time to post because I spent less time coaxing homebrew software into working.

Thanks to everyone who has read or linked to this site over the past year!

January 3, 2005

Goals for 2005

Filed under: — 4:24 pm

Welcome to 2005! I have committed to spend more time moving forward with my various web sites this year, and I’ll share some details of those as they happen. More importantly, my goal for 2005 here at Figby.com is to post a genuine bit of writing every weekday. I’ll still be posting Quick Links, but unlike most of this month, they won’t make up the entire content of the site.

I’ve been posting an entry or two almost every day at The JavaScript Weblog, and if I can come up with that much writing about JavaScript, I should be able to write something here with equal frequency. At least that’s the plan.

In particular, I’m going to try to share more of the day-to-day details of running a number of successful (and not-yet-successful) websites, and write more about one of my favorite topics—making money online. I’ll also write about the usual web development topics. Some of the longer articles will end up at my much-neglected website workshop site with an abbreviated version here.

Wish me luck, and if I miss a day, please call me on it.

December 29, 2004

New Weblog: Starling Fitness

Filed under: — 11:45 am

My wife, Laura, and I have started a new weblog: Starling Fitness will focus on fitness, diet, and health topics. Laura does most of the writing. The site has been online nearly a week and already has lots of content.

The site runs WordPress using a custom template I designed. It’s my first experience creating a fully CSS-based layout (no tables!) and it seems to work pretty well. I’ll be refining the design and fixing a few details here and there, but I’m happy with how it turned out. I used the Faux Columns technique to make the columns equal length and add some minor flourishes to the column borders.

Check it out and let me know what you think, or any browser errors you encounter. Now I just need to do a proper CSS layout for some of my other sites—this one for example.

December 2, 2004

10 years on the Web

Filed under: — 12:52 pm

Proof that I’m getting old: as of sometime last month, The Quotations Page has been online for 10 years. I put the first primitive version of the site online in 1994. Thanks to Google News, here’s the quotes of the day announcement from November 22, 1994 and the search engine announcement from November 25. The Internet Archive doesn’t go back to 1994, but here’s what the site looked like in 1997 and 2000.

It’s bizarre to imagine the Web when I started this site. Yahoo started about the same time as my site. Google wouldn’t appear until 1998. Nobody worried about PageRank back then, but I was quite pleased to be listed in the Internet Scout Report. Netscape 1.0 was released in December 1994, and Internet Explorer would first appear in 1995.

The site has grown quite popular since then, and what was once a simple hobby site is now a full-time job. It currently has a database of over 21,000 quotations and over 30,000 unique URLs, making the word “page” in the name sound increasingly silly. In 1996, the site had about 3000 page views per month. Last month, there were 11 million page views and nearly two million unique visitors.

I started the site on a personal account that came with my Internet access. In 1996 it moved to its own domain name on a shared hosting account. In 2001 it moved to a dedicated server and in 2003 I added a second server. It’s now keeping two 2 GHz Pentium 4 servers busy, along with my other sites.

I launched a slightly-redesigned version of the site today, with a more modern color scheme and yet more fixes to the ancient code. (Most of the pages even validate!) Next on the agenda: a much better search engine.

I couldn’t have lasted this long without lots of loyal visitors, my wife Laura (who compiled the motivational quotations), the regulars at the forum, and other contributors. Thanks everyone, and here’s to 10 more years!

October 29, 2004

Phishing gets professional

Filed under: — 11:27 pm

I used to joke that once viruses and phishing attacks learned to use correct grammar and no obvious typographical errors, we’d all be in trouble. Well, phishing has reached that point, according to Matt Haughey. He has a picture of a very realistic PayPal scam message.

This reminded me of what I do when I get messages like that: I just glance at the “To” address and then throw them away, because I can easily tell they’re fake. Why? Because I use a special email address for each company I do business with, and if I get a “Paypal” message that isn’t sent to the right address, I know it’s a scam. Only Paypal knows the address I use. I do the same with different addresses for other companies. Here’s an old article I wrote explaining the idea.

What we need is an easy way for users who don’t have unlimited email addresses handy to detect phishing attacks. Paypal and Citibank and other commonly-scammed companies should set something up, even if it means offering email addresses themselves. It makes more sense to me than each of them offering their own browser toolbar that tells you whether you’ve really reached their site.

October 28, 2004

Top 100 Weblogs

Filed under: — 12:20 pm

Everybody talks about the technorati top 100 but until Robert Scoble pointed them out, I hadn’t paid attention to the other lists:

The cool thing about the last two is that I’m on them. No, not this site, sadly. The quotes of the day page at The Quotations Page is #41 at Feedster and #10 at Bloglines at the moment. Not a weblog as such, but as my busy web servers can attest, it’s certainly a very popular RSS feed.

October 18, 2004

Free GMail Invites!

Filed under: — 2:40 pm

It seems that if you mention GMail, you get comments from people looking for invitations. I laughed at the comments on Simon’s post until I posted a brief link to a GMail-related service and the same thing happened. 40-odd people begging for invites and I wasn’t even offering any.

Well, since I’m a glutton for punishment, here goes nothing: I actually have three Gmail invites to give away, assuming anyone cares anymore. They won’t be going to any of these people or to anyone who begs in this thread. I will give them to the first three people who link to this post on their weblog and post the URL in a comment here. Yes, it has to be a weblog. Your weblog, not mine or some other innocent party’s. If you set up a weblog for the sole purpose of getting a GMail invite from me, I won’t disqualify you, but I do reserve the right to laugh at you.

Update: One invite sent so far. (James, it’s on the way.)

Update 10/27/04: Two invites sent. One left. (Christopher, it’s on the way.)

Update 10/31/04:Three invites sent. (Hector, it’s on the way.)

THAT’S ALL FOLKS. Thread Closed.

September 20, 2004

MarkDown vs. WYSIWYG

Filed under: — 11:58 am

When I write for The JavaScript Weblog, I get to use Weblogs Inc.’s nice backend interface, which includes a WYSIWYG editor. Working with it makes me miss the WYSIWYG editor I had hacked into this site before I switched to WordPress.

So, I’ve been thinking of adding a WYSIWYG plugin to WordPress, but there are some issues with the current attempts, and I don’t have time to write my own plug-in. In the meantime, I’ve been using MarkDown to post the last few entries, and after getting used to the syntax, I like it almost as much as WYSIWYG. It’s even better in at least one way: it uses a standard text area, so it lets me type faster than any of the WYSIWYG solutions I’ve seen.

If you use WordPress, be sure to get the latest version of the PHP Markdown plug-in, as there are some issues with the version included in WordPress 1.2.

September 17, 2004

The JavaScript Weblog

Filed under: — 3:55 pm

I’m pleased to announce that I started writing for the Weblogs Inc. Network (WIN) today on The JavaScript Weblog. I’ll be posting daily about JavaScript and related topics. Some of the topics will probably be posted here as well, but not all of them—considering my posting frequency here, it would quickly be overwhelmed with JavaScript posts.

Hearing about what WIN is doing with weblogs and meeting the staff was one of the highlights of the SXSW conference this year, and the first few moments of working with them have been equally impressive. I hope to do some good work for them for a long time.

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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