Sunday, November 08, 2015

The reasons your website is not performing well

The sheer giddy brio of it. The email came breezing into my inbox, purporting to tell me the ten reasons my website was not performing well.  So far, so ordinary. But here's the twist; the website in question was retired over three years ago.

Given that it is part of recent history, and that there is a new website doing much the same thing, the old domain name is still very much owned and earning its keep, deep links carefully redirecting to new content on the new site, the old world seamlessly subsumed into the foundations of the new. So the domain name has an owner and that'll have an owner email address attached, which is doubtless how I got on the list. But why was it sent to me for this web address and no other*?

I think I may have fallen victim to an algorithm. One which looked for owners of websites that seem not to be doing too well on google. And of course it's not going to be doing well on Google; all it's doing is sending all the old readers to the new domain name.

Google does know, of course. In fact, after the last redesign (with a little work from the developers and, er, me setting up a hundred or so redirects) Google had me showing a good face on the relevant terms within 48 hours. It was breathtaking. And a human check would quickly identify the clear data footprint of several sites knocked together, their domain names steadily, one by one, pointing to the survivor site as the others winked out one by one, too specialised or duplicatory to survive the rationalising web.

The content of the email was both fretfully pushy and link-farm generic, a few technical SEO terms thrown in, all wrapped up in a phishy sort of chumminess. The complete lack of company name and multiple other red flags would weed out all but the most busy and naive. I particularly liked the note that they had a host of "ethical" techniques - hinting none-too-subtly that there might also be unethical services available. It assumed I was working in sales, which is really just the business equivalent of saying "my dearest friend".

I batted it out of the joint mailbox at speed rather than reporting it back to the spam filter which should have caught it in the first place. Regretting that now. Hopefully many of the other people on the list reported properly.

*My email address/es is/are linked to ?maybe eight? web addresses. I probably forgot a few.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

let me remove the improvements you have included as standard

I use a popular image hosting site (in fact, I use several, but there's one in particular that I adopted early and have stuck with since) many of whose best features have eroded over the years (alas, the notes function) but from time to time it adds another little thing. Sometimes these are great -- smart auto-tagging and the magic view (where the site sorts your photos into plants, people, animals, with only the occasional hilarious mistake) have been pleasant surprises this year.

But there have also been unpleasant surprises, the most unpleasant of which has been streamlining the embed code generator. It's had the noddy and big-buttons makeover which characterises the tablet-focussed web, accompanied by its usual reduction of options. So now, instead of asking you if you want their code snippet to top and tail your image with a bunch of text, it just does it, automagically.

This is quite tiresome, especially at small sizes, where the code top-and-tail can almost double the height of the image. I appreciate that they're just dying to say "hosted on Flickr" right where you can see it, but really when that information is a hover or a click away, is it really needed?

my minecraft home  irrational kitten fox tiara

Naturally, given that if you're embedding you're often in code view anyway, stripping this additional bobbins out is a moment's work. But I'm old enough to be in the count-down to arthritis, and every click counts.

Edited to add: The code no longer seems to be loading effectively (I suspect to no-one's great sorrow) but it added almost a centimetre of logoed and betexted space above and below the image.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Gucci/medicaid mashup bot sends me a re-reminder

I've been looking for weeks (well, actually a couple of months) at my cervical smear letter. It's never a pleasant experience and this summer has been busy, and complicated. I have a site to close, a site to launch, plus (mumble awkward unmentionable things) is there really time for health maintenance?

Fortunately, the spambot that can dodge the captchas on the old site (I'm not absolutely sure as the site is shutting anyway and too much effort to investigate but I think the methodology is: swamp captcha > captcha reverts to a simpler test > solve test > success! > site notices captcha has reverted to simpler test > resets captcha > repeat) has a bit of a fondness for medical terminology, and sent me an additional reminder:

Reminder: your cervical smear

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Contraindicated play: connective watery forward.

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The orogastric frail, syphilitic spoiled services.
A subconscious peristalsis: presses theophyllines.

Uterine spermatoceles appliances, indwelling quiz.
Proteinuria cost-containment, or unrelieved prone trachea.
Avoid continued urgent measured spreading pathway.

An cortical request warn malignant.

Suitably reminded by my robot friend, I have now made the appointment. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the "book nurse" button on my patient portal (though I'm sure it's there somewhere from conversations I've had with other practice users) so had to use a phone, like a little old lady, which I suppose is what I shall become, bit by bit.

Monday, August 10, 2015

jam yesterday

This is my Jam announced its closure late last night. I came late to it (a long time after I gave up on my previous semi-social music recommendation randomiser,, which went during the early days of Flash instability, following one too many terrifying jackhammer soundcard lean-on-the-power-button errors) and I'm intermittent on everything nowadays, so I'd barely cracked 20 jams. I feel like I just arrived in time to see the closing down signs.

The reasons boil down to three -- fast evolution in its feeder services, creating a need for impossibly constant development of the interface tools; an increase in these services denying sharing (which sometimes seems to be down the artist wanting that, as in the case of Prince; but in the case of artists trying to get their songs up the charts, seems more likely to be as a result of the administrative burden of enabling sharing in a world where the companies involved are beginning to set sharing to "off" as standard);  and the lack of enthusiasm, time, legislative force and money to do it again for mobile.

Sat as I am, right at the end of development on a mobile-first, social-integrated website, this chills me a little. Of course, in my sector, there's no venture capital or straining to be the next big thing; but is the approach of trying to integrate with Social Networking Sites (because that's where people are™) and designing "mobile first" (with the full awareness that the fast and divergent development of the different operating systems  means that you can only really design for a few mobiles first, and they probably won't be the ones next year's users will be using) a fool's game?

Not much to do about it, I suppose. It's the game we're in.

While I was writing this, I listened through my latest jam-list. Halfway down, I spotted a track off the new Chemical Brothers album (I'm considering purchase, and being both old fashioned and keen to support a local indie record store, do sometimes buy physical CDs, especially when there are added inducements) which I made a mental note to listen out for.

Alas, the playlist skipped straight from


which I struggled to feel sad about, as the degradation occurred without fuss or stutter, and both tracks were a lovely listen.

A quick visit to Youtube confirmed that the Chemical Brothers track had been scrubbed off Youtube, and the video labelled with the track name was instead a small random video of a snippet of music you could mistake for the beginning of a track, with many ads appended (hooray the internet).

Sunday, August 02, 2015

gucci: your experience with our brand

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Last few days before the spamfilter upgrade. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Intrusions of the future

I'm on a variety of mailing lists - youth related, e-safety, local authority, democracy and also public authority construction as a result of a mailing list snafu that rises, phoenix-like, from some forgotten or repurchased mailing list every time I get it sorted. Actually, I've stopped trying to sort it out. It sends me interesting things. Did you know:

Pollution "eating" construction materials are now a thing. Tiles and other construction materials can strip nitrogen oxides from the air and convert them to a mild fertiliser.

Councils now use robots insulate old homes - Q-bots - tiny crawlerbots that spray insulation foam on to the underside of floorboards.

Do you live in an intermediary city? They are often seen as good places to live, with higher levels of trust than found in larger cities and high levels of civic and social engagement. Half the population is projected to end up in these just-right cities.

Worried about noise in your area? You should be. The tranquillity map for England is incomplete and needs updating. This concentration on the fragmentation and intrusion of England's tranquility, also extends into cities, especially in those areas seen as "semi-rural". Speaking of which:

Quality darkness is also a concern. Did you know that planning applications need to be dark sky compliant? One of those things, I suspect, that exercises the indulged rich with their four storey basements more than the rest of us.

You can rent out the Iron Man Mansion. Presumably without all of the rocket and impact damage.

That last one; there really is no excuse. It was out-of-the-blue, straight up, unsolicited spam. But I'm still kind of pleased by the concept, even if it is less or more than it appears.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

the joy of the police alert mailing list

As a confirmed pillar of society, I signed up to receive my local police force's alert messages a few years ago. Normally they are a mildly depressing run of warnings about scams, alerts about petty thefts and the occasional statement about a dodgy someone-or-other to look out for.

But there are also the crime prevention messages, and of these the treasure is the be vigilant for raves message. Here is a prime example:

Be Vigilant For Any Potential Raves This Bank Holiday Weekend

The summer bank holiday is round the corner and your local policing team is reminding  all farmers and landowners to be vigilant to the possibility of unlicensed musical events (raves) being organised on their land.

You should be alert to any of the following rave related activity:- 

  • The removal of locks from secure access points
  • Vehicles, particularly panel vans or larger, driving off-road
  • Groups of vehicles congregating in rural areas
  • Convoys of vehicles
  • Loud music from remote woodlands
If you spot anyone suspicious who may be conducting early reconnaissance on rural land or even starting to set up an event, please report it to [your local police force] 24-hour non-emergency number 101, as soon as possible.

A message for us all. It always reminds me of that bit in Nelson where the farmer leans on the gate and says, "Is it raave your aafter?"

Hee hee hee.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

cookies set to stalker

I'm trying to identify a yellow flower that's all over the walls at Iffley Turn this year. It's a crack grower, a pioneer of loose mortar and cracked concrete. The leaves and growth habit look like a perennial geranium, though I'd be the first to admit that as it's yellow, it's far more likely to be a buttercup of some kind. Is there even such a thing as a yellow geranium?

My exploration of the concept of yellow geranium took me first to one major online gardening supplies company, and then (while listing enthusiastic self-seeders for my gardening blog) to a second, where I viewed two somewhat beguiling plants that were wholly tangential to my investigations of what is probably (on reflection) some kind of Waldsteinia.

Less than two hours later, into my inbox they crept.

Thank you for visiting [name redacted], Thank you for your visit to [name]. 

We noticed you were looking at [x]. We hope you liked that. We hope you had a nice time. Did you use the magnify tool to check the petals? You really should have done. You didn't buy anything but that's cool, it's fun just to hang out. Do come back. Do bring your credit card, that special one you use just for the internet. Here's out phone number, here's our email. We don't have to do it on the website. You could call us.  In fact, here's my name; and we're open right now! You could call me right now. Right now! Wouldn't that be amazing? Isn't there a hole in your life, the shape of [x]? Wouldn't you like me to fill it? I'd like that. I'd like that very much. Because I'd like to help you. I'd like to help you so very, very much.

Yours in anticipation

The automated customer service robot who loves your cookies 

When the robots come to take over the world, that's the sort of language I'm expecting. Enthusiastic, positive, helpful to a fault; fully concerned about offering us the best variety of choices when it comes to ways to terminate our unreasonably wilful organic processes. Oh, and there's an encouraging thought. The wall we're up against will probably be beautifully planted. Maybe with Waldsteinia.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

blast from the past

I got back after my Easter break to discover a crowbar jammed in the CAPTCHA and my staging area full of spam. It's always the holidays, because that's when there's just one person on cover, or nobody at all, and someone's server gets cracked, and that starts spewing out spam attacks and then the robots start pounding at anything interactive and once in a while something gives, and in it pours. Not going anywhere, of course. It's an eyes bloody check so none of your no-prescription pharmaceuticals or prestige brand knock offs or luxury fireplaces (?) will get into the wild this way. It's just a stop-it-and-tidy-up.
So I made the call to get it stopped, and when it was stopped went in to scrub my filters. And what did I find in there? A blast from the past:

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Contaminated against ethmoid medially, filled declining?
A christening, anaphylaxis, take, hyperplasia hole.
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That's one of the old spambots, that. A proper antique. Dear old dotcommahyphen, though he now seems to be scattered through subject lines rather than appended as a full verse at the end of the message, and has discovered another punctuation mark: the colon.
I have a folder of his oeuvre somewhere, I think... oh yes! From 2006:

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teak-built Post-leibnitzian chop-chop
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Dot's definitely matured in the last nine years.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Twitter, will you please stop badgering me about cricket

My phone, admittedly, is on its last legs, memory-wise. It left contract before Christmas, but when I headed back into the shop it had been given an Apple store makeover (white, about three products on sale, prices and information tidied away into 9pt type, grey on white) and I turned on my heel and left, impossibly irritated by the fact that a brand choice I had made because it was cheap, cheerful, simple and yet still offered acceptable product options appeared to have dumped the last three of those in a desperate attempt to pretend they are not the first. Which they still are. Cheap, albeit increasingly expensive with it.

So, it's an old phone. Which means two things. One, it struggles to run the apps, especially when an advert fires off. Two, the adverts being served to me are old person adverts. Twitter, since the adverts began to really ramp up (in common with many people working in my sector I recently went on a Twitter Analytics seminar which was essentially an hour's worth of pointing out that (in common with the other well-populated social network) small advertising spend = huge increase in exposure) has been a particular pain to run on the phone. The auto-loading promoted tweet at the outset is verging on cripple-ware (and I'm a regular user of advert-supported Words with Friends, so my bar is very low when it comes to what is acceptable, ad-wise) and it is as the moment always and without exception for bloody cricket.

Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with the fact that cricket happens, that people care about it, that people follow it, But I, I do not follow cricket. My sports preference is actually explicit on Twitter (I follow a few professional cyclists plus some of the more amusing commentators) but even setting that aside, nothing about my age, sex, interests or other demographic information would suggest I am likely to be interested in cricket. Why, Twitter? Why must you persist in banging on about cricket, like that friend of your Dad's who is recently divorced, getting on a bit and congenitally unable to notice when anyone is bored, or might wish to talk about something else?

Last week, for the first time, I noticed a tiny x next to the promoted Tweet, and a finger-prod provoked the hover-tip "Dismiss". Finally! I thought, I can get rid of the cricket! This morning, though, brought an email. About cricket. From Twitter. Personally addressed, just to bring home what great chums we are. "XXXXX XXXXX, experience the quarter finals of the cricket world cup!"

Oh, I am experiencing them, Twitter, I am. Whether I want to or not, it seems.