Are faster blogs more Google friendly?

Perhaps. And if you’re looking to be found by Google, you want to do everything you can to make sure you’re not doing things to make the process harder.

A month or so ago, Google announced that they’re ranking system would take page-load speed into consideration when determining how to present search results to visitors.

Eventually I’d read enough about this, and had installed a cool free performance monitoring system (powered by Pingdom) that allowed me to review my website’s display speed. But of course, life gets in the way and I’d been a bit lax in reviewing it, so this past weekend I took a look. I found this:

This is a response-time graph, the shorter the green line, the better. Which meant that I now had to spend some time figuring out what I’d done that caused my system to slow so significantly.

It appears that the culprit was a mis-configured caching plugin. So, I spent a bit of time playing with the settings on the cache plugin, removed a couple of fancy ‘type’ related plugins that were calling external javascript (external content calls can really slow things down, especially large content objects), and tweaked how the cache works.

And in initial runs, I seem to have reduced the page-load speed by about  40%. Not as good as it was initially, but better than it was quite recently.Yes, I’ll be monitoring results a bit more closely now, and tweaking things as I go. And of course, I’m always open to suggestions too — in the comments please 🙂

Hopefully, Google will look more favourably on my blog, as this site isn’t quite the slug on the Internet anymore.

Time will tell.

Everyone’s a winner

It’s been a bit longer than I’d wanted, but I’ve finally gotten to wrapping up my first blog contest.

The premise was simple; tell me a backup horror story and you could win a Clickfree Transformer SE backup system. And some of you did tell me some pretty good stories.

Here’s some excerpts:

On Versioning:

Being an artist, dur­ing one of the more heated pro­gram­mer debates I took a closer look at the SVN logs and dis­covered that indeed this guy had stealth­ily checked in some­thing between our changes. Luck­ily for us, when you use a ver­sion repos­it­ory sys­tem (soft­ware or hard­ware) you can roll back your changes to a pre­vi­ously uploaded state that’s stored on the device (since all the data gets saved for each change that is made). I gave this a try loc­ally and quickly dis­covered what the prob­lem was and relayed it to the rest of the team.

On server backups:

I had a stack of flop­pies (and my brother and mother had stacks of flop­pies at their houses) that could only be read by an Osborne com­puter and that I was the only per­son I knew who still used an Osborne com­puter.… so I went out and bought a backup Osborne. And sure enough, my com­puter died a month or so later. But I thought, no prob­lem, I have my back up, and it sur­vived long enough for me to upload everything to the UofA’s MTS sys­tem. There! Backuped on a main­frame, what could be more secure than that?

On offsite tape storage:

I put in a help ticket to request the tape. Unfor­tu­nately, it’ll take three weeks for the tapes to be retrieved. Ah well, that’s ok. My reports are not a 911 and I’m just happy my data is safe. Six (6) weeks later the tapes arrive and reveal my web logs can­not be restored from the backups. Data gone.

On luck:

Next, we real­ized that no one had ever attemp­ted to do a res­tor­a­tion of the data. Upon fur­ther invest­ig­a­tion we dis­covered that it wasn’t just a mat­ter of people not hav­ing attemp­ted it but that we couldn’t actu­ally do a test restore on the old sys­tems without affect­ing the pro­duc­tion sys­tems. Had we wasted hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in tapes in a vault that could be worthless?

Well, thanks to some great work by Larysa at Clickfree, we’ve got prizes for all the contest entrants. If you ‘ve not read the full entries then check out the comments on the entry post here.

Congratulations! I’ll be pinging the winners shortly 🙂

Fat lady sings. Winners announced soon.

Thus endith my first blog contest. And a very cool ride it was.

My good friends at Clickfree, a Canadian backup technology company, agreed to provide the prizes (Clickfree Transformer SE) for a blog contest challenging folks to provide there best (or worst I guess) backup horror story.

I’ve received some rather good entries. Check out the comments in the original post for the entire list, but here’s a couple of excerpts to give you the idea:

In a multi-developer game development environment:

We updated our local SVN repos and tried to work with the new changes that we were all mak­ing (plus unknow­ingly the changes this other guy made)… only the game ended up crash­ing. It worked fine before this latest update and no one was sup­posed to have made any changes that would cause this prob­lem, and yet, here it was, the game was crash­ing. Franticly we looked at all the changes “we” had made for the prob­lem (remem­ber we did not know this guy had checked any­thing in) and argue­ments rose over who was at fault of this issue (oddly no one fingered the par­tic­u­lar pro­gram­mer in ques­tion since we didn’t know he had com­mit­ted any­thing, plus it was 4am and no one was think­ing straight).

Stolen Grad-student Thesis data:

I got a frantic call from a grad stu­dent once, say­ing that someone had broken in and stolen his com­puter with all his thesis data and his 3/4 fin­ished draft thesis — two years of data col­lec­tion research and writ­ing gone!

Winners?

In the next week or so I’ll be reviewing the entries and notifying the winners. And yes, there will be a blog post about it. Stay tuned!

Journalism and Big Media challenges for the future

Last night I happened to catch the CBC Radio program Ideas. They were playing the 2009 Dalton Camp Lecture in Journalism delivered by ex CBC Journalist and current Wikimedia Executive Director Sue Gardner.

After a bit of an introduction, she gets to the real meat of the matter – how the business models are working (or not) and some challenges to be faced as we move further away from the old way of doing things in the media business.

And it’s an excellent listen (and a good opportunity for me to test embedding podcasts in my blog too).

[wpaudio url=”http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/ideas_20091228_24171.mp3″ text=”2009 Dalton Camp Lecture in Journalism”]

The view out my window

Daily I work in a cube, except for today. As you can see, I’m in my ‘away’ office, yet still connected.

My 'away' office.

And yes, I am working. Through the wonders of technology, I’m cranking out the copy, sending the email, editing the text and photos.

This is Lifestyle Technology at work. Wifi enables me to be mobile / portable. And once you’re online, Skype is an awesome tool that enables you to call anyone, almost anywhere, and not have to pay cel roaming or hotel phone fees.

But as I said, I do have a few blog posts to churn out, as well as gather some background information on upcoming technology…which the reason for me being at my ‘away’ office.

No worries though, I’ll be back home later this week. But for now, I think I’m going to enjoy the view 🙂

Write a comment, win a prize!

I’ve been a fan of Clickfree backup systems for a while now. Dropdead simple and effective for most home usage. Well now the kind folks at Clickfree have given me the opportunity to share the love, so to speak, in the form of a contest, my first, in fact.

All the gory details are here, but the contest is really simple:

To enter:
Take your worst / best backup hor­ror story and write-up a com­ment on the contest page that describes a data loss hor­ror story that was aver­ted or would have been pre­ven­ted if you had a trusty recent backup. That simple.

But wait, there’s more!

Of course there is. If you’re not the writin’ type, you can still win —
Clickfree has created a special code to get a 15% discount off your order through them. Simply enter Grier10 at the checkout and you’ll have 15% removed from the total.

Remember, don’t comment below if you want the comment to be considered an Entry — leave your comment HERE.

Again, full details on the contest here, but I’m looking forward to this. It’s my first contest, so be gentle with me please 😉

Social media and the power of influence

If you’ve been following me or this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge social media fan — it just seems like the right medium that makes online communication easier. But one subtle aspect of social media is that it’s a very slick conduit for word of mouth marketing, promotion, and advertising — which is why spammers jumped in with both feet quite early on; they realized the power of this medium.

Recently I’ve helped some friends out with a tech. project that really has a bit of potential. It has nothing to do with spam, and a lot to do with influence. You’ve seen me tweet about it and know it as Empire Avenue. Yes, there’s a link, click it and see what we’re doing. Then come back here when you’re done — I’ll wait.

Ah, back now? Excellent. Until we launch I’m not able to talk about too many details, so please forgive the higher-than-normal vagueness factor, but I will sally onward with this post.

On the site you’ve seen referenced things like ‘The People’s Market’. And Pants. Perhaps influence too…

But the really cool part of that page is when you click the blog link at the top and subsequently read the latest on our ‘project’.

And the really cool part (oh, wait, I said that already). The OTHER really cool part is that we’re launching a beta. Yes, I know every Internet startup since Google has a beta; but folk seem to like them and they do give us valuable feedback, so yeah, we’ve got one too.

So, yep, we’re having a beta and looking for a few good folk interested in social media and the power of influence. And since you’re actually doing a bit of work for us, helping us test out this monster and all, we’re giving a little back:

Enter your email for early access to the beta and an exclusive Achievement that will never be available to anyone in the world or the universe ever again.

What’s an achievement? That’s a question for later, but the question for now is; do you want in? If so, drop us a line at beta@empireavenue.com. We’ve got limited spots initially, but we’ll add your name to the list and roll them out as we can.

And yes, we do expect people will write about the beta, that’s fine. And we encourage it, so if you have a blog, let us know — we’ll try and get you in earlier 😉

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