If you know anybody who owns an iPhone, you’ve probably seen this at the bottom of their emails:
Advertising via the email “signature” is nothing new; it was probably invented by Hotmail in 1996, and is used widely today. Lots of webmail and message-platform vendors promote their products this way.
With that in mind, check out the signature on the email I just received from my little sister, a Gmail user:
Is that not brilliant? Apple bought the signature line from Gmail to promote the iPhone!
That single line of text beautifully captures the sense of lust the iPhone inspires.
I was in awe of this little line of text. Was Ridley Scott in on this?
But no, it’s not a real Apple campaign. Not yet, anyway. My sister made it up, in sarcastic protest to all her hipster friends who can afford iPhones.
It’s too good not to be real, though, so (with my sister’s blessing) I’m offering it to Apple. Give TBWA the afternoon off. We got your iPhone campaign right here.
But please send an iPhone to my sister.
This blog has historically had a relatively high PageRank value, a benefit I attributed to the fact that the software that drives it was created to meet what everybody understood to be best SEO practices in 2000-2001 — for example, each article has a short and eternal URL (mouse over any article title to see its permalink), a unique and descriptive page title, and so on. I’m not sure whether SEO was an industry in 2001, but certainly it was a skill of webmasters and web engineers to build indexable websites, and SEO guidelines were formost in my mind as I architected this website.
My site’s PageRank changed in early 2006. I was reading about SEO, ironically, and I learned that sites answering to multiple URLs risk getting penalized in Google’s index due to Google’s new (early-2006) duplicate content filtering algorithm. Although I’ve only ever published my own blog URL without the ‘www’ hostname, the server hosting this site responded to both forms of the URL: both debris.com and www.debris.com. Every page on the website was available at both addresses.
I followed Matt Cutts’ advice in early 2006 to use a 301 redirect to automagically forward everyone who was trying to get to www.debris.com (or any page there) to the equivalent page at debris.com. Shortly after that, my PageRank disappeared — the Firefox PageRank plug-in reported it as “n/a;” multiple-datacenter survey tools mostly reported it as blank, with a couple datacenters inexplicably still showing 4-5.
At first I thought this was a temporary condition resulting from the 301 redirection. I waited a month or two to see if a subsequent PageRank push would reveal the effect I’d intended, that the previous PageRank of 5 for www.debris.com and 4 for debris.com would consolidate to a solid 5 or maybe even a 6 for the canonical domain. Alas, this never happened.
In May, 2006 I created an XML sitemap to seed Google’s crawlers with the newest content from this site, thinking that perhaps this would cement in the crawlers’ collective mind that, despite inbound links from 3rd party sites to formerly duplicate-content URLs, everything was happy and canonical and uniquely addressed on the server, using the technique advocated by Google’s own webspam master, Matt Cutts. The sitemap reduced traffic from the crawlers — reflecting my on-again, off-again publishing style — but unfortunately didn’t correct the site’s missing PageRank.
By early 2007, I had waited more than six months. I wondered if my site had been inadvertently penalized, for its PageRank never came back.
So, I did the thing I should have done last March, as soon as my PageRank disappeared — I filed a reinclusion request. Honestly I didn’t really need to be “reincluded,” as my site was still in the Google index, and did turn up in searches for which my site is authoritative. But it was the only trigger I had left to pull.
A week or two later I took an additional step, inspired by a blog post by Rogers Cadenhead. He described that his blog software showed his entries at multiple addresses — the home page, the category pages, the tag pages, and on each item’s permalink page. This is how debris.com works as well. Rogers describes this as a “huge mistake.” I personally disagree; this seems to me to be a service to the user. And I have to point out that Matt Cutts’ blog shows full posts at multiple URLs, all of which turn up in Google’s index.
But as Rogers points out, the best case outcome of this seems to be that Google shows an italicized message at the bottom of results pages indicating that duplicate results have been omitted. I followed his lead and sequestered all but the permalink URL from Google’s crawlers, via “nofollow” attributes on category-page HREFs and robots.txt entries for those pages. Also I dropped the category pages from the XML sitemap.
I’m not sure these category-page changes made any difference, but the reinclusion request certainly did; this site is now showing an all-time high PageRank of 6.
And it only took 30 days. Or 13 months, depending on how you count it.
My friend Pete, former recording engineer to the stars (and to my band too) sent me a link to an episode of the death-metal comedy cartoon Metalocalypse. It’s been on the Cartoon Network since August, so this may not be news to you unless you also live in a cave.
Fortunately, either way you can see most of the episodes online.
Update 2008-01-07: The bleenks.com site appears to have gone away. Sorry, no more episode archive. But see http://www.diefordethklok.org/ for plot summaries and stills.
Some of the characters are all but unintelligible, but they’re funny anyway.
Update: whoa, things get dark midway through the first season. Or maybe I just have a limited appreciation for severed-limb humor.
Firefox had been giving me the spinning beach ball of doom for weeks, every time I downloaded a file. Whether a 5k GIF or 50MB FLAC, the browser hung for 30-40 seconds before finally popping the Downloads window open.
You’d think it would take a pretty serious computing challenge to redline two 2GHz G5 CPUs, but no — just try downloading some album art from Google Images. Apparently there is some kind of CPU-cooking fractal math in the progress-bar code in the Downloads window. Or maybe Firefox is calling into the SETI@home project on the sly, scanning a few parsecs of some remote slice of the universe for intelligible radio signals before ultimately beginning the admittedly pedestrian task of saving a few hundred bytes of image data to my hard drive.
Thanks go to Karl Pietri for suggesting I click the “clean up” button in the Downloads window. Erasing the past year’s worth of download history cut the download startup time from 30+ seconds to a reasonable .05 seconds.
More info, and a screenshot, can be found here: Firefox Download Clean Up
After spending a year considering how easy it would be to add tags to this journal software, I spent about 90 minutes actually adding tags to this journal software. See taglinks below.
It’s a pretty basic implementation; the editing interface allows me to add any number of keywords to each journal item. At the moment, the tags are rendered as links to Technorati, allowing readers to discover other blogs covering the same topic. In a couple weeks, or, honestly, about 14 months, I’ll add a local tag-search feature that allows easy browsing of all items with a particular tag (or tags).
In terms of functionality, there’s a bit of a collision with the existing categorization scheme I’ve been using for years. But this is a classic case of ontology vs. folksonomy — of top-down, prescriptive categorization versus free-form, infinite-number-of-buckets tagging. Smart money says the latter is superior for organizing large corpora.
My old categorization scheme isn’t exclusive — every journal item could appear in multiple categories. Categories are tags, really, although in my case not very interesting or descriptive ones (e.g. auto, misc, travel). Who would go to Technorati, search for blogs about “auto,” and click through to debris.com? According to my server logs, exactly nobody, despite my creative and occasionally insightful writing about the automotive industry.
So I can imagine one day replacing my categorization system, which by the way took a couple days’ worth of coding, what with the nested and hierarchical display and fancy editing interface that I’ve used all of about seven times. Once I’ve built a browse-by-tag feature, the categories will be pretty much useless. Such is evolution… that long list of category links in the right column is basically a digital appendix. Or, maybe, a male nipple.
Why now? Why add tags when I’m not even writing that often?
A couple reasons: One, because I’d like to join the distributed community Derek Powazek spoke about at Etech. Tighter integration with Technorati is a solid first step. Two, because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the atomicity of information, and how to best collect and present many bits of related information in multiple contexts, and I needed more firsthand experience with tags. More on this later, but probably in another context.