Go, Do, Be.


12/12/2008  — 

100k Pageviews For Free

I love that netscrap.com is popular with the folks who use stumbleupon. People have had a fun time reading through the scraps and often email me about it.

Every once and a while everyone converges on a piece of scrap almost all at once.

Kinda cool how easy google analytics makes it to see the piece of content that's performing and then get a quick breakdown of all the referrers. Just a few clicks helped me peg stumbleupon as the source. There's not enough detail to tell me exactly what page is driving traffic to netscrap.com. Was it from the homepage or some other highlight? Who knows. It's probably over now anyway.

FWIW- NetScrap.com is hosted on a single shared server on http://www.intermedia.net/, which has been pretty good about these spiky traffic events. NetScrap is also running on zombie technology for over 10 years (though CF may have briefly been not-zombie) with minimal down-time (and fortunately minimal features).

09/03/2008  — 

A day on Chrome

I admit it. Upon hearing Goog's announcement about Chrome's public beta, I threw up in my mouth (just a little bit). My learned-reaction comes from too many years wearing the QA hat at consumer-facing websites. The last thing the world needs is another browser floating around... another platform to support... another frigging pile of test-cases to down-prioritize and never get around to running.

I got over it. I spent a day surfing with Chrome, Goog's new browser. Here are a few first impressions.

Starts with a 475k downloadable setup program.

Once it's in, you can import Firefox or IE settings (including cookies) then it starts GoogleUpdate in the background (not surprised).

User agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US) AppleWebKit/525.13 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/ Safari/525.13

Wow! It's nearly Safari for windows. It's using webkit, already in Safari and sounds like it's going to be used in android. Kinda makes sense to steer users toward a platform that's capable of making the leap to mobile devices.

As software goes, Chrome is handsome. In fact, Chrome is a pretty clever name since there is practically no chrome to the browser. Screen real estate isn't wasted on the borders, status bars, or any of the chrome-y bits that are likely ruining your browsing experience.

Under the hood, Chrome boasts separate process space for different operations. It's trying to get around the single-threaded way most browsers work (without clever webdev hackery). There's also a revved-up JavaScript interpreter... or virtual machine... or something. Need to learn a little more about V8.

The task manager is a nifty idea: show all the processes that are running: tabs, plugins. Kill a process if it's out of control. Be sure to hit the 'Stats for nerds' link on the Task Manager. Is that actually showing memory usage for IE (which also happens to be running on my system at the moment). Yes. Kinda neat. It'll show FireFox too (but not seamonkey!). Helps you 'place the blame where blame belongs' if/when things go wrong.

Chrome's memory stats.

Are you on Chrome right now? Here are a few interesting views under the hood:

My day with Chrome has been a surprisingly upsell-free experience. I see the Google Gears integration, but nothing compelled me to use it. I expected to be directed toward Google Docs... it never happened.

Goog probably gets all of your usage data. Chrome logs everything in your browsing history unless you're in incognito mode. The Google docs describe a scenario where a user might want incognito-mode to order a surprise birthday gift, but I think they meant to say 'download porn'.

"To browse the web without keeping a record on your computer..." I love that. You'll clearly be keeping records on other computers.

Lots more info in the comic book. Allegedly, Goog printed up a bunch of these things and mailed them out. Anyone have one?

Overall I'm impressed. It's snappy, handsome, seems to handle all the torturous pages I drag my browsers across. No heavy upsells. Seems to have a lot of open-sourced projects under the hood. I'll check back in a few weeks.

08/20/2008  — 

Digsby will change the way you communicate online

Really. It will.

Digsby IM client r00lz Digsby is a multi-im client along the lines of Trillian, Pidgin, and the Meebo. Use Digsby to organize your IM chatter. Through a single application/interface, you can ping all your friends on the big IM services (AIM, YIM, MSN, GTalk, ICQ, Jabber). They kick it up a few notches by supporting Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace social services. They kick it up another notch by supporting email as well: gmail, ymail, msnmail, pop, imap accounts.

Updates and notifications from all these services arrive on the desktop in bubbly status messages that appear even if Digsby is minimized. You can even reply to a message by typing in the status bubble.

Digsby IM client status messages

I love the way this blurs the boundaries between all these communication channels. A message could arrive from a person (who cares how it got here), my reply bounces back through the same channel.

Here's another way Digsby is pushing envelopes with their service. A few clicks will let you set up a widget that you can embed in your various web-hangouts, blogs, facebook account, etc.

Digsby does a stellar job of running their project with transparency and input from their users. They've managed to build a close relationship with an active user community by using all the social resources available. They go far beyond the requisite blog (even if they brag about the strange bugs that turn up in their public testing cycles). Users have a channel to reach Digsby via twitter, to get involved with an active developer community (also on twitter incidentally). The steady drumbeat of prioritization from regular public roadmap polls has kept Digsby on track to satisfy users. On top of all this, they've built in a great alert/warning system that lets folks at digsbyhq push status message out to all users ('twitter is having trouble today').

Kudos to their team involved with support and outreach. If I were running a customer-facing service, I'd likely use Digsby to manage the customer contacts. I wonder if they're eating their own dogfood over there at digsbyhq?

There are a few caveats of course. Because what software is perfect? Digsby does not yet support IRC or Skype chats. As far as I can see, the multi or 'room' chat features aren't supported on any of the IM services. All of these features are on their roadmap.

Digsby is ready for primetime and worth a try.

04/09/2008  — 

bashWebTest Lives!

Well, I did it. I tossed a little pile of code onto google's open source site.

A few years ago I wrote (in my spare time) a little test harness around some simple command-line utilities. I wanted something to help me answer some simple questions about what was going on some large clusters of servers. Rather than clicking through a bunch of nicely formatted pages, I wanted something to make a bunch of http requests and give me a 'yes' or 'no' about the response. The trick (for me) was to try to run it on some server in the cluster which was running a really lean installation of Linux. No frills.

I could have probably compiled a jar & dropped it onto the server... but I couldn't edit & recompile a class on the server. I could probably have run a perl script, (geeze why didn't I just write it in perl?) but I think the WWW-Mechanize module wasn't installed. Who knows... anyway, I ended up stumbling upon curl and decided to write a wrapper around it using simple bash scripts.

Guess what? It worked. It was handy. Guess what? I used it at a few jobs since I wrote it. Guess what? It's still (somewhat) handy. So today (or yesterday) I give something back to the internets and interwebs that haz given me so much. I offer:

Tests are pretty simple. I'll toss a few test examples on this blizzog and onto the wiki on code.goog over the next few weeks. If you have any interest at all in using something klunky, and somewhat functional, please contact me and I'll help you get started.

Code.goog doesn't have a way to select it, but I planned on distributing the source under the 'MSL' license.

Anyway, enjoy!

01/13/2008  — 

Netscrap top queries

I was plunking around the Google Webmasters tool the other day and noticed that they provide some details about the query terms that include netscrap in the results.

Here are a few first place finishes:

Some top 10 hits that I didn't expect to find:

In any case, it's nice to see that there there are a bunch of high-scoring pages. Remember, this site has been basically untouched for 10 years. I attribute these high-ranking pages to a few simple practices:

  1. consistent use of basic meta tags: keywords especially.
  2. longevity of the domain: goog is supposed to goose the pagerank for domains that aren't fly-by-night
  3. consistent urls: for the past decade there have been a pile of sites that link to netscrap.com. I never changed my urls! So every ancient hello-world page that some pimply kid (who now runs facebook et al) linked to netscrap.com still collecting dust on some (geocities, tripod, etc.) server still links to a valid page. It's still helping!

Yes, I could still beef up the meta tags, use of the

title="" element in links, and clean up urls to be more seo-friendly to boost pagerank further. And sure, the site isn't in the top slice of sites on the net anymore. But it's trucking along with a marketing budget of $0.