Now we operate a luxury holiday let apartment looking straight out over the beach – some of the most enviable views in the area!
August 8, 2012
May 2, 2012
Just when I thought I could get back to doing actual development work on my website a bunch of interruptions arrive … ain’t it always the way! of course some of these have been coming for a while but nonetheless, everything seems to pile up …
EU Cookie Directive
This piece of legislation, which came in on 26th May 2011 (with 1 year for websites to comply) requires that websites explicitly tell users (a) what cookies they have and (b) what opt-out from those cookies they have. Well, that’s a very brief version of a large and complex subject that much better people than I can’t make head nor tail of! Basically, we have to expose the world of cookies to users, 99.99% of whom, I suspect, have no desire to know and the rest already know about!
At first glance the task seems impossible, but picking through what our site actually does and taking a few leaves from attacat’s book (plus a nice little code snippet) has, I think, solved my problem. If you use UKTW then you may notice a new yellow icon bottom right … this is the attacat code snippet and my take on the information appropriate to meet requirements – I may well be wrong, but I am at least showing willing
Of course, everything, including this blog, should carry the same .. or is it just sites hosted in the EU … or just when a site is viewed from the EU … or … or …
I started hosting clients sites very many years ago and, to assist, became a Webfusion reseller. In the end I probably had 30 sites there but realised a couple of years ago (after a flurry of support emails) that they were never going to upgrade the servers hardware or software – though curiously I did find the systems upgraded after a mass hack attack a while back.
Then, just before my hols, they told me that the old Webfusion stuff was being decommissioned and all websites were being moved to Heart Internet. This pleased me as I have been a Heart Internet reseller for a while and they’re great.
However, there were a few issues, not least the phone call yesterday that everything was about to go off-line … it would seem that the migration was automatic if (and only if) your nameservers were with them – 10 of mine were not. I then started looking at the 10 sites they’d moved .. some were copies over 9 months old!! I was up till 03:30 this morning transferring databases and files … wouldn’t have taken so long but their “back-up to zip file” produces files that WinZip can’t read!
I have been with Demon since I started, modem, ISDN and broadband – I have a business account with a fixed IP and have chosen never to move. Now they contact me and say all their email is changing systems and I should expect some disruption … sigh
My next job, if I need one, will NOT involve computers!!!!!!
March 26, 2012
Well, that explains a few things. Traffic dropped off a lot at the end of last week and I put it down to us having a really sunny weekend – fewer people want to go into a theatre when its so lovely outside, especially when its the first really hot weekend of the year. Fair enough.
But I did think that the drop was quite substantial, so I was not surprised when I read today that the latest Google Panda update is rolling out. Apparently they tweeted the fact on 23rd March but I picked it up in the excellent SearchEngineLand.
I had noticed the the continuous increase in traffic which started back in November when we switched back to UKTW had sort of levelled out and started to sag a bit a couple of weeks ago which I put down, in part, to the Panda update around the end of Feb as well as seasonal factors, bit this latest drop is quite significant.
When I said “I was not surprised” that does not mean I was not disappointed. I was. I am.
I am because I put in a lot of work and was starting to make headway back to some sense of normality. now it looks like something has changed again at Panda HQ and we’re all guessing again …
March 22, 2012
Well, in truth, I never moved away but the first Android Application I developed seemed such a daunting task that I decided to use a high level development environment. I chose Windev Mobile 16 as it seemed well established and creates an abstraction of the Android environment which can be manipulated using thei own programming language and tools. Theoretically, the same code can then form the basis of Web or other implementations (in a future release even iOS I believe).
The system arrived and I installed it – the fact that it comes with a licence dongle is not surprising considering its £900 cost but the fact that the dongle cannot be replaced seems somewhat harsh … fortunately I have neither lost nor damaged mine but the fear of it was always at the back of my mind.
The first thing I found was that the documentation was not great … it was translated from French (no real problems) and covered Android in only quite superficial terms 0 there are, however, a number of working example apps that demonstrate many basic functions. Getting set up takes a while, you must still download and install the Android SDK but once all that was working you have an emulator and the ability to create apk files or install directly to a connected phone.
And so I started to develop … Many things really are very easy, even nested tab sets can be simply drawn on screen and filled with a few clicks … getting around the new programming language is not too hard either. But then I started to notice some issues.
The delivered system would often crash out, normally with some unspecified framework error and rarely in the same place twice. Ok, this could be my coding but there was no clue as to what was going on.
The sql ran wildly differently in the emulator and on the phone; only 1 field allowed in the order by clause, failure of the selection criteria in a delete, failure of replace … the list went on, in the end I could only use the database for quite simplistic things without something going wrong.
Window sizing and gravity worked completely differently on the phone and emulator, in fact the system often misplaced elements on the phone when they were clearly correctly placed in the emulator and development screens .. usually simply recompiling (without change) restored things but such randomness was deeply annoying.
Support was very slow (weeks rather than hours) and often deeply unhelpful … quite Gaelic one might say
Finally, I wanted to integrate a complex existing java library and it all seemed very complex – indeed, I’m still not convinced it would have been possible.
And so, I came to the conclusion that I should bite the bullet and switch to direct programming of the Android SDK. This was largely prompted by Moodstocks releasing a new version of their fabulous image recognition library for Android which uses a local database to provide ‘instant’ recognition – however, even that carrot did not help me make the decision lightly as I have been a programmer for 43 years and have so far managed to side-step Java completely … hee hee. I have, however, become quite a devote of Eclipse (for PHP development) so that’s where I started.
Adding Android elements to my Eclipse install was an easy first step and I already had the SDK installed so I was pretty rapidly able to get the Moodstocks examples (which come as eclipse projects) up and running … to my delight, when I had issues, the Moodstocks staff were on chat all day and support was instant and intelligent (even when some of the questions weren’t!) – and yes, they too are French but are a pure delight to deal with!
What amazed me was that many of the tools I had paid for before were now sitting in front of me for free – less pretty I’ll grant you but a whole lot more functional and with immediate access to the engine room should I need it. What’s more, the abundance of worked examples available from a simple search meant that the steep learning curve proved pretty easy to climb and whilst I am no expert I think I can now produce reasonably competent, and complex, applications … importantly,. I have been able to incorporate and modify the likes of the Moodstocks library.
I make no claims to be a designer, but the UKTW Android App V2 is a whole lot better, faster and more stable than V1 … and I finally feel in control of its development … your mileage may vary but in future its the Android SDK and Eclipse for me every time
October 21, 2011
I have now got over the shock of the October 13th hit … in fact I have spent a lot of time on Webmaster Forum and decided that the hit to me was no worse than to many people … I’m still cross that I was hit, but probably more cross at myself than at anyone else .. well, expect for one website which got a Panda boost and yet I know it has not been updated in two years and currently claims that there is only 1 show on in London which it also claims, incorrectly, ends this month …. useful? I think not
So, what have I been doing about it?
Well, I decided that we were potentially approaching the end game so there was no point in holding back. This time I have gone for a wholesale 301 redirection of UKTW what’s on listings to SeatChoice. Some may think this foolish as UKTW had seen a slow decline where SeatChoice had hit a brick wall, perhaps I should have made the call to move everything the other way? We shall see. I needed to remove the last vestiges of duplication within my own stable so that’s the call I made … from now, UKTW is responsible for the archive and for theatre users (notices, links, etc) and SeatChoice is the What’s On and ticketing service.
The move didn’t go as we ll as I expected in some ways. I was always told that 301 carried all the “link juice” with it so I expected a decline in UKTW to be matched by a growth in SeatChoice .. I got the decline but precious little of the growth. So back to the forum with one further plea for help .. this time I was picked up by someone really helpful, someone who, it would seem, is fairly local and actually cared whether I got it right or not … very, very helpful in that he undid a few misconceptions for me and pointed to some reasonably obvious issues that I couldn’t spot … when you work 8 hours a day on the same site you sometimes fail to see the obvious!
Basically though, I am coming to see that there’s a toolkit that you can use to get just some of the basics right, or at least help you to understand things that might be getting in the way. For me this has come down to
- http://gtmetrix.com .. make sure that your website delivers quickly as its an important part of user satisfaction
- http://www.copyscape.com .. are you copying someone else? is someone copying you? Do you simply have the same content as other people? Well worth checking …
- http://validator.w3.org … can Google make sense of your html
- Zenu – a link checking tool – no point in sending Google broken links
- Webmaster tools … check and recheck the error reports in here and make sure you fix them .. if google is reporting errors then its not getting the information you think it is!
- Google Analytics … make sure a drop in traffic is not caused by keyword shifts .. for us it can be, an important show ends and so does searching for it … check also where your traffic comes from but very importantly, how long it stays, whether it returns and how much it looks at!
- Webmaster Forum .. read, read and read some more, compare the advice to your own situation and see if it applies (be honest!), ask direct, simple questions yourself and take note of the replies
- AdSense .. if you use it check that it really is earning you, remove any Adsense blocks that are not worth it and remember, as AdSense gets better at delivering targetted customers you will lose more and more traffic
- Google .. sounds daft but search for your site and see how it looks on the result page … is it a “more desirable click” than any other result? Does your title and description draw the user in and encourage them to click? If you appear in the results and no one clicks on you Google will mark you down, if you appear in the results and people love to click on you then Google will mark you up … user behaviour is a part of the Google Machinery
Finally, make some changes, fix what’s wrong BUT don’t tinker for the sake of it … Google takes time to notice changes and also only runs the Panda every now and then (4-6 week cycle?) so don’t expect a change to work overnight – the only thing that will work overnight is a sudden influx of traffic because you got such a great piece of content that people started linking to you … the first article I put up about The River Line (with Charlie and Lydia Rose Bewley) got picked up by the Bewley fans – traffic went through the roof in a couple of hours and stayed high for days … it fell off, of course, and few (if any) of the fans bought tickets, but the links and retweets will be good for me longer term.
And rest …. be patient, if you perpetually tinker you will have no idea what it was that fixed your problem .. and if you do have a clue what worked you can then make it part of ongoing site philosophy … but remember, the days of stability are probably gone, you will need to keep an eye on this in the future
August 3, 2011
It’s a one act play for four women of assorted ages. First performed at The Blakehay theatre in Weston-super-Mare it went down exceptionally well and the cast and the author (that’s me!) got some terrific feedback.
The script of Towpath is available from StagePlays – an excellent site!
July 23, 2011
I got a delightful call yesterday thanking us for the website Arts Archive which is where all old and dead UK Theatre Web what’s on listings end up. Someone was researching a theatre’s history and we had plugged the gap in what they were able to learn from elsewhere … a great tribute to our listings ‘team’ of one truly dedicated soul. What made me smile most about the call though was that our offering was described as a “web/gopher service” … I haven’t heard that for ages, years in fact.
Gopher (port 70) predated the web and met a lot of pure information needs at the time … it was basically a plain text system that could work on anything (even a mechanical teletype) which consisted of information files. Each file was either a normal file (document, image, whatever) or was an index file … index files simply contained lists of files with plain text descriptions … each file could then be an index of a plain file … you get the picture. Fabulously simple and incredibly effective – fast as hell (important when 100 of us were sharing a 64Kbaud internet connection) and easy to manage.
UK Theatre Web’s information actually first appeared as both Gopher and Web using a combined server provided, as I recall, by the University of Illinois … the service I set up (1994 sometime) actually served information on the NAG library but I threw in a “What’s on in London” section for interest … a simpler world, no search engines, no paid services, free domain names …
It made me look back at some other stuff too … if you’ve never checked out waybackmachine.org then please do … whilst I believe that UKTW (launched as its own separate domain in Feb 95) may even predate their work it is a terrific resource for the curious
January 19, 2011
Alex has today sent out a bit of a round-robin email entitled “Could Alex Epstein – one of Lord Sugar’s Apprentices feature in your Online Publication?” stating “Having recently been fired by Lord Sugar, I’m currently looking for opportunities to share some of my passion for enterprise, marketing and public relations.” The purpose of this missive was to offer us his PR and marketing services
He chose to send this to hundreds of supposedly worthy and interested individuals, including yours truly, but in rather a plonker-eske way he put all the email addresses in the CC list instead of the BCC … consequently, (a) we all knew that we were being targeted as part of a group rather than for our individual strengths and (b) we all got given a free list of interesting contacts!
Now normally, when this sort of mistake is made, everyone on the list just hits “delete” or “reply” (if they want to tell the sender they’re an idiot) but for some reason this particular communication has started a bit of a comedy hour.
Basically, people are taking the opportunity to either take the piss out of Alex or promote their own companies to the assembled throng by hitting “Reply-ALL” and giving us the benefit of their wit and wisdom.
Quite funny really, Alex will never get a job in PR/Marketing if he makes gaffs such as this but he has provided a completely free self-promotion channel to a lot of grateful people
Made I smile anyway …. now, what excuse for replying can I give ….
June 30, 2010
Yes, we’re back, and without loss of position. Looks like we were banned from appearing in results for 30 days (or so) but were not actually scrubbed from the database or anything – certainly we were being spidered continuously during that period.
Feels good to be back
June 28, 2010
Yes, it has happened again … dumped by Google … no idea why, like many poor souls I have scoured the “Webmaster Guidelines” and checked that I do not fall foul of any of their criteria but still my traffic dropped 90% overnight (as did appearance in search results) and my position dropped from the first couple of pages to so far out of sight I have yet to find me anywhere.
Of course, what you might have done to get penalised you might have done any time in the 6 weeks or so prior to the penalty … so step 1 is to undo anything that might be considered “suspicious behaviour” – after all, what Google are trying to do is create a clean search result set, so anything that looks like you trying to cheat the system should be ditched.
Next, in Webmaster tools, check that you have verified the site and request a reconsideration … they will acknowledge that within 24-48 hours but actually do it between 14 and 21 days later (my experience, your mileage may vary). Read all the Webmaster Guidelines, ask for help on the Webmaster Forum (people are very generous with their time) but most of all, look at your site objectively and make sure that you are within the word, and spirit, of the guidelines.
Yes, I know, there’s lots of sites out there worse than you … but if you’re the one that has fallen foul of the Google algorithms there is no real point in moaning about others, you will have to pass inspection by a human before you are re-admitted and that is all you can worry about for now.
Google will provide guidelines, but no actual help … you will not be told what criteria you have fallen foul of nor what you have to do to legitimise yourself again – don’t complain, these are the rules. It is up to you to check, check and check again … and let Google know you have checked (update your reconsideration requests).
It is always possible that you have fallen foul of a simple change in algorithm, i.e. you have not been penalised at all, you just had a site that the new algorithm doesn’t like … this is a hard one to detect, check your competitors and see what has happened to others with the same basic content structure.
The check the following
Link farm … anything in your sites that looks like link farming – massive (spurious) cross-linking between sites you own … lots if irrelevant links in and out … these are bad news, clean up your act. Only relevant links are good, simply getting a link on some other unrelated site as part of a meaningless exchange really doesn’t help.
Duplicate content … if you’re site has no real content do not expect it to appear well in search results. If your site simply lifts and replays someone elses content … well, you’ll get what you deserve. If you have no unique content then you will be unlikely to do well, this is not a Google penalty as such, just a fact of search engine life – Google will pick just one of a set of duplicate sites to display and will basically let the rest atrophy.
Thin Affiliate Sites – are you just a bunch of links to affiliate pages trying to earn? Is your site “all-the-worlds- vacuum-cleaner-buying-links-with-commission.com”? Forget it because Google will forget you! If you misy have the links make them nofollow …
I admit, I do have a number of sites driven from the same database but they deliver different information and target different user communities … and I do have a number of affiliate links – I’m a comparison service after all and my site offers unique functionality! None the less, I am cutting duplication, increasing content and doing lots of housekeeping … let’s hope I pass muster, I didn’t on my first reconsideration request ;-(