Archive for the ‘Website’ Category

Mindwheat

Posted by Arlo on Sep 18, 2004 under Website

A Piece of MindwheatBlogging has become pretty damn popular and the internet is filling up with all sorts of creative uses for them. You’ve got the personal journal blogs, the photo album blogs, the current events commentary blogs, and the ever-delightful link-disseminating blogs.

Oh, damn. I shouldn’t have used the second-person singular in the last sentence. First-person works better because I, myself, have each of those blogs!

Okay, so yeah, you know about the personal journal one; you’re reading it. And if you’re any sort of repeat offender, you know about my photoblog, too. But there’s a good chance that this will be your first introduction to Mindwheat.com.

Mindwheat is, for lack of a better label, a “Community Blog.” Four of my friends and I decided that Greymatter might be up to providing the interface for a site where we could swap internet links. If nothing else, the theory was that it would cut down on the number of “This site I found is so funny – YOU HAVE TO READ IT!” subject lines we get from each other in our inboxes.

Each of us five primary participants is an avid internet surfer and while there’s some crossover in the sites that we frequent, we maintain distinctive and diverse interests. We figured that Mindwheat might be a great way to share those interests and, after a month of steady posting, it looks like we were right.

There are profile pages on each of us at Mindwheat, but I think a short introduction might help you get a feel for who’s going to post what.

There’s Calder; He’s got the market cornered on the pro-Republican side of things. Maasman digs up all the cool music and Amelia is our resident librarian. Mike should change his name to Mr. Non-sequitur because it’s quite impossible to guess what his next post will be about. I’m all over the board, too, as I embrace my inner Liberal Artist, but if anything I’m more likely to gravitate to the multimedias (Did I just say “multimedias” – someone please interrobang that!) Oh, and for the record, all of us have a nasty habit of posting just plain goofy shit every now and again.

Mindwheat is a great site for me because I don’t spend hours writing and editing each entry. In 5 minutes I can post a quick link to something that I found interesting or comment on something someone else has posted. I’m don’t concern myself with improving my writing there nor do I worry that I might offend someone. If you read both A Midgett Blog and Mindwheat, you’ll likely find that my Mindwheat persona is the more irreverent one.

So, take a look at the site and see if you like it enough to grace us with a bookmark. Comment on an entry if you’ve got something to add, or give it a karma point to show how much you liked (or didn’t like) it. If you have any suggestions to make the site better, let us know!

Oh, and why is it called “Mindwheat?” Well, for the answer to that you’ll have to watch Doctrine.

Photoblog — Stats for August '04

Posted by Arlo on Aug 31, 2004 under Website

Photoblog web stats for August ‘04It’s the first of the month again, and I thought I’d give you an update on my Photoblog. Here’s the scoop over the last two months:

July: 76 Unique visitors, for 174 visits
August: 111 Unique visitors, for 1387 visits

Holy schmoely that’s a lot of visits! What’s going on here? Well, let’s not get too excited – I’m pretty sure most of those visits are attributed to the new RSS feed that I put up. If anyone else is tapping into it like I am, they’re probably loading that particular XML file multiple times every day (I have my aggregator checking for updates every hour; that would be 24 hits every day.)

I am pretty excited about the 111 unique visitors, though. That’s almost a 50% increase over the previous month. As I implement more and more marketing strategies for the site, it’s getting much harder to evaluate what works best, but I’m cautiously optimistic that the RSS feeds are doing their job. Not to mention the RSS indices that I submitted my site to – each one seemed to at least send a few hits my way this month.
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Photoblog — Stats for July '04

Posted by Arlo on Aug 2, 2004 under Website

July '04 Photoblog web statsIt’s early August and time to check out those Photoblog stats again. If you remember from last time, I opted not to do anything for the month of July that might increase the number of visits. As I suspected, I earned slightly fewer unique hits than the previous month, but the results were still educational.

Here’s the quick breakdown:

June = 83 unique visitors with 162 visits
July = 76 unique visitors with 174 visits

What’s interesting here is that the ‘blog indices in which I registered my Photoblog are still generating hits. Last month, I signed up in 20 or so indices. I’d say 15 hits on my site were from those same indices sending a ‘bot to check if the URL was valid. Since I didn’t submit to any new sites throughout the month of July, it’s arguable that I actually gained a few new visitors instead of losing 7 as the statistics indicate.

Looking over my list of referrers, I see a sprinkling of “globeofblogs,” “blogwise,” “linkexchange,” and “eatonweb portal.” Not a whole ton of hits, but at least they’re pointing some people my way.

I’m also noticing a few more keyword searches resulting in hits on the site. I¡¦ve got two each for “isabela de sagua” and “mendenhall glacier poster,” and one apiece for “nags head photo sunrise,” “isabela de sagua cuba,” “open-shutter photography,” and “pictures of el sano banano.” I know exactly which photos each of these point to — still no sales, but I hope they found what they were looking for. A couple people bookmarked my site this month, too — that’s a good omen for repeat visitors.

For the month of August, I’ve already implemented the next step — an XML syndication feed. The only change to the site will be a tiny little orange XML button at the end of each page. Getting this up and running was actually pretty easy since I had already sweated out the hard work on the ‘blog you’re now reading. What does it do? Glad you asked.

RSS, RDF, and XML feeds all do pretty much the same thing: They’ll let you know as soon as a webpage is updated. In order to do that, though, you’re going to need a new piece of software. Don’t panic! I’ll point you to one that’s free and easy to use.

What you need is a “news aggregator.” An aggregator is a program that probably looks a lot like what you use to read your e-mail, but instead of checking your e-mail, an aggregator will check all the RSS feeds you’ve signed up for. That’s where that orange XML button on my Photoblog (and the blue RSS button on my ‘blog) comes in — those are my feeds.

RSS feeds have changed the way I surf the web. Instead of roaming across the same sites every day to check to see if there’s anything new posted, I now let those same sites come to me. Every hour my aggregator goes out and checks for new content from sites like Slashdot, Wired, C|net, and the SciFi channel. If there’s something new, I’ll see a popup appear (much like an MSN Messenger message) near my taskbar. When I have a spare moment, I can open up my aggregator — it stays active 24/7 in my system tray — and read the newest news.

Okay, let’s talk specifics. I’m using an aggregator called Feedreader. You can head on over to their site and download a free copy right now. Once you’ve got the downloaded file on your computer, you can double-click-install it just like any other program. After that, fire it up and take a look around.

(By the way, this is simply the aggregator I’m using. There are plenty of others out there: Feeddemon seems to be one of the best, but it’s $30 after a 20-day free trial. A friend of mine is using Pluck – an aggregator that works as a plug-in for Internet Explorer. There are also plug-ins for Outlook, as well, and even web-based aggregators like Bloglines. If you really want to get into RSS, Google is a great place to start!)

Now that you’ve got Feedreader (or some other aggregator) running, you’ll have to supply it with an RSS, RDF, or XML feed. Don’t be alarmed — all it’s really asking for is a URL. Take my ‘blog for example. See the blue RSS button on the front page? That little button has a link to the RSS feed that Feedreader needs. There are a lot of ways to get that information into your aggregator, but because each person’s setup can be different, I’ll give you the only sure-fire way I know of:

* Place your mouse cursor over the button, but don’t click.
* Look down in the status bar at the bottom of your browser — the URL to the feed will be displayed
* Open up Feedreader and click the “New Feed” button.
* Type in the URL and click Next, then Finish

That’s it! Do the same thing with the XML button on any of my Photoblog pages and you’ll already have two sites that will notify you whenever they are updated (as long as you keep Feedreader running in the system tray, that is!)

What other sites have RSS feeds? You’d be surprised! Many, many sites that have dynamically changing content already use RSS feeds. How can you tell? Easy. Surf on over to the site in question and search the page for either “RSS,” “RDF,” or “XML.” If that doesn’t turn up anything, scan the pages for a button much like the ones I’ve used. If you still find nothing… well, not everyone is as cool as I am.

Just to get you going, here are a few of the feeds I most enjoy:

‘Blogs
Wil Wheaton dot Net – The journal of an actor turned writer (My hero!)
Neil Gaiman’s Journal – The journal of a fantasy and comic book writer
A Midgett Blog (‘natch!) — The most important journal in the world… to me.
A Midgett Photoblog (double ‘natch!) — See the world through my viewfinder

Technology
Wired News — Breaking Technology news
Slashdot — News for Nerds, Stuff that Matters
Dan’s Data – This guy really knows his stuff
Gizmodo — News and reviews of tech gadgets, delivered in an irreverent style
Engadget — MORE news and reviews of tech gadgets, less irreverent
PhotographyBLOG — What’s new in the world of Photography
Digital Photography Review — Very detailed reviews of digital cameras
Dynamic Artwork — There are some great Photoshop tutorials here

Entertainment
Boing Boing — Interesting links around the Internet
Sci-fi Wire — Science Fiction news
Slashdot: Games — Computer games
Penny Arcade — Online web comic and discussion about video games

That should do it. I’m really impressed with this new way of getting information — so much so that I’ll be starting up whole new ‘blog soon (stay tuned!) In the meantime, if you have any trouble getting started with RSS — either in using an aggregator or in modifying Greymatter – please don’t hesitate to ask me for some help.

Oh, and one more thing. I want to apologize in advance for the extremely ugly subject lines in my Photoblog’s RSS feeds. When I originally set up the site, I wasn’t expecting anyone would be reading the raw HTML code. Asi es la vida… at least you should be able to see a nice little thumbnail of each week’s photos.

RSS Feeds

Posted by Arlo on Jul 14, 2004 under Website

What does RSS stand for? Hell if I know! Trying to figure that out may be harder than just explaining what it does. RSS or RDF links are syndication feeds for dynamic websites in the XML format. Sound complicated? Okay, well, yeah – it is a bit, I guess. Think of it this way: When I set up an RSS feed on my ‘blog, you can install that feed in your news aggregator so that you can be notified “ticker-style” whenever I add a new entry.

Who-za-whazzit?
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Photoblog — June '04 Stats

Posted by Arlo on Jul 2, 2004 under Website

Photoblog links from incoming sites, June 04 (23K Image)Getting back into the groove at work and then faced with a busy 4th of July weekend hasn’t left me much time to write in my web log. I still want to do a write up on the family reunion, but that will have to wait. Today is July 1st, and it’s time to take a look at my Photoblog statistics again.

Here’s the quick lowdown:

June 2004: 83 visitors, 160 visits
May 2004: 37 visitors, 116 visits
April 2004: 21 visitors, 60 visits

On the surface it looks as though I’ve yet again doubled the number of unique hits on the site, but the straight numbers are a little misleading. About 18 to 20 of those 83 hits are probably from ‘blog indices verifying my site when I initially signed up with them at the beginning of the month. Still, even taking that into account, it looks as though registering was worth the effort as the indices do seem to help boost the overall number of unique visits.

As you can see from the image to the left, most of the incoming visits are still coming from my web log. That makes sense, considering I do these write ups each month (not to mention the link on this page directly to the photoblog.) The big surprise, though, came in the last couple days of the month when I logged almost as many visits from http://www.le-cam.org. I visited their site, but I still have no idea why they linked to me! If you can make heads or tails of that particular French rowing fan site (or more importantly, if you can find the link back to my photoblog), please clue me in!

Interestingly, it doesn’t appear as if anyone arrived at my site this month via the results of a web search query. After last month, I expected to see quite a few more Google hits on the site, but I guess those “Sally Lightfoot Crab” keywords were just a fluke.

For July, I know I should be exploring a new tactic, but I think I’m going to continue as is. Rather than try to rationalize a reason why, I’m just going to admit that I’m feeling lazy. I still want to submit the site to search engines, but I think that should be further down the line. I also have at least three other plans, but they’re going to involve a lot of motivation I don’t currently have. (I want to research and implement automated RSS feeds, create html metatags for each entry, and submit every picture to Photo.net.) All those sound like too much work too soon after my vacation, so I think I’ll just let it ride for another month.

Hey, you know what? Even a falloff in the number of hits would tell me something… Oh, that’s right. I wasn’t going to rationalize. Never mind.

Two P.S.’s: First: Yes, I know it’s not July 1st anymore (despite what the first paragraph above says). I’m having terrible cable modem troubles and haven’t been able to reliably connect to the web. The good news is that tech support will be here “sometime within 24 to 72 hours.” Second: Props to Mike for helping me figure out why the last three entries are showing up on the front page of my blog — I completely spaced the fact that Greymatter operates by date rather than by entry. (I posted the last three entries on the same day — just before going on vacation — before immediately closing them. When it came time to update the photoblog, I could simply hop online and open each entry again.) Fear not… the photoblog should fix itself with the next update.

Photoblog – May '04 Results

Posted by Arlo on Jun 1, 2004 under Website

Unique Visitor Results by DayI’ve been looking forward to today. May is over and it’s time to check the web stats for my Photoblog site! Let’s see what we’ve got:

The final count of unique visitors for the month of May was 37. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll recall that April had just 21. Remember, too, that April’s numbers were essentially “unadvertised” hits (those that came off the links I semi-discreetly placed only on my own web pages), while May’s included a mini-campaign to tell my online contacts about the Photoblog (via this ‘blog, e-mail signature tags, and changing my contact name in MSN Messenger to “photoblog.arlomidgett.com”).

Looking over the details of my statistics, it’s interesting to note that the majority of referral hits came from the web log you’re reading right now. Those days where I wrote about the Photoblog site show definite spikes – 19 alone hits came from this ‘blog’s index page. The next biggest link referral came from www.arlomidgett.com, no surprise there.

Something I didn’t notice before were the number of return visitors. April had 60 visits from the 21 visitors, while May had 116 visits from 37. I can make a loose assumption that there are a fair number of people coming back to see more. That’s great!

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Photoblog Stats

Posted by Arlo on May 13, 2004 under Website

Photoblog Site Stats, 05-13-04 (13k image)So, I checked the stats today on my photoblog site and noticed that I’m right around the same number of visitors as last month. Not bad considering that we’re only 13 days into May. There are a lot of ways that these stats can be interpreted, but I try to focus solely on to the “unique IPs.” Yeah, sure, three of those visitors are definitely just me checking the site from the three computers I use the most, but I’m pretty sure the other 18 are from real people (as opposed to web crawling robots)!

So, yeah. I’m happy. Granted, I could get no additional IPs hits for the rest of the month – in which case I suppose I could conclude that everyone I’m telling this month had already visited it last month (before I had really started advertising.)

Still no orders flooding in, though. Hmmm. Maybe I should check those PayPal links again…!

I put up a new photo today if you’re interested (and yes, this is my way of copping out of writing a real blog entry.) I’ll check the stats again on June 1 and post the results here. After that, I plan to sign my photoblog up with as many blog registries as I can find. Should be interesting to see if that will generate significantly higher numbers.