john's blog

Reconfiguration Complete

For the moment, I have settled on the current look and feel of the site. The Google Ad Sense is fairly non-obtrusive and the articles are flowing nicely.

I have begun reprinting the better articles on some other sites. My hope is to increase exposure over time. A rising tide lifts all boats as they say, right?

Further work will be required to really get the election section rolling. I hope to have much of that done in the coming weeks.

More Redecorating

I've grown tired of having the article categories right under the headlines, So, I've moved them to a bullet list at the end of the article. My hope is that that gives people itching to read more an incentive to stay within the site.

I've also streamlined the adsense blocks concentrating on a top banner and footer blocks. I will likely start placing books, t-shirts and maybe a donate link in the right hand column. We'll see.

I am planning on starting to grow the quotes again. I'm not a big fan of how they look, to be honest, so I'll probably look at redesigning the layout of that section over time.

Whoops!

It is amazing how easy it is to forget to post to a blog. I have been steadily maintaining the front page of this site, but maintaining the blog has been a bit more difficult to remember.

Still working on the election section of this site and the forthcoming writing site.

The 2008 election section should be really interesting when it is done. I am planning on forecasting delegate counts for the candidates and electoral college match-ups. It should be really interesting I think.

Election Feeds

The 2008 Election section now has an aggregate feed in the right hand column with news from the various campaign websites and other news sources.

Other work is still under way in that section as I work toward providing some top-notch coverage of the 2008 elections.

The section, not even complete yet, is starting to draw traffic. My coverage of the 2006 election cycle generated more traffic than I had seen before or since. I'm hoping the work I put into the new section will draw even greater attention.

You can watch my progress here.

2008 Election Coverage

Apathy.net's 2008 Election Coverage Section is now under construction. I will be featuring profiles of the individual candidates, profiles of the issues, news feeds, polling info, etc.

As of today, I've put the first page in place that lists the 25+ declared and likely candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties. When time permits, I intend to list and profile the third party candidates as well.

It will take some time to identify the issues and to determine where the candidates stand on those issues.

My hope is that the section prove to be both fun and informative. More posts to this blog about the evolution of the 2008 section as things develop.

FeedBurner Email Subscriptions

I have established a relationship with a site called FeedBurner to serve an email version of my RSS feed on a daily basis. The feed is for the main RSS feed for Apathy.net not the feed for this blog.

Their service is free, but it's quite useful. Once a day, they will send an email to each subscriber with all of the stories that you've written since the last email. They take care of all the subscriptions, both adding and subtracting subscribers, the sending of the messages and the handling of bounces.

I don't have anyone using it yet, but I like how it works in concept. Feel free to subscribe using the box at the bottom of the right hand column.

Filtering Yourself Out Of AdSense Impressions

Google AdSense tracks impressions of everyone who visits a page even the owners/maintainers of the page. They do not provide a mechanism to tell them to ignore you, which differs from their Analytics tool.

The only way to not be counted is to not display the ads when you're viewing your own pages. Here are some thoughts on how to do it.

If you are using a content management system, or CMS, set it up so that it doesn't display the ads to your user account.

If your site is done in a programming language like perl or php, but is not CMS, you can accomplish the same goal by not showing the ads to your IP address or login (if you use a login system.)

If you're not sure how to implement what I'm saying, drop a comment below and I'll follow-up with the solution if I know it for your situation.

Website Cleanup

Early this morning, I made some changes to the site to reduce the cluttered feel that was starting to come over it. The 'Save and Share' box that was at the bottom of each article, was redecorated and moved into a float within the article itself.

The ability to post comments related to any article remains open to anonymous users but has been moved to a second page.

The ultra-gaudy Subscribe box with all the little buttons pointing to various RSS sites has been updated to link to the main feed and the new RSS feeds page instead.

The presence of AdSense advertising has not changed much except that it's appearance within the site should prove more consistent.

There is still more work to follow. I will be building out a section devoted to tracking the 2008 elections, including candidate and issues pages as well as a greater number of stories and feeds devoted to the topic.

Also, the RSS Feeds page needs to be completed with feeds for the various topics.

Lastly, look for

Is it worth it?

I changed the focus of this site nearly nine months ago. I took the site from being a personal site to being focused on real news. With the focus of most news being on celebrity gossip and sensationalized crime, I thought a voice of reason exposing the news that really matters might be a good idea.

I have tinkered with the format a few times trying to attract more readership, but with the exception of a couple of lucky breaks where I got out ahead of the curve on a story, traffic has been completely flat. I'm getting about forty page views in a typical day -- and that's only slightly better than when I first started.

Does what I'm doing matter to anyone reading this? I'd really like to know.

Election Coverage

I think I am going to start building profiles and topics for each of the candidates on both sides of the aisle for the coming 2008 presidential elections. There are something like 20 of them, so it could represent a lot of work.

With each story I post that mentions the candidates, I feel like I should have topic categories with their names so that I can catalog the news about them over time.

The danger of course, is that either I start covering a lot more political news or the stories archives will be incomplete and may not present a full picture of the candidates. Hmmm....

I think I still need to think about this some. What do you think? Comments always welcome.

Blog Migration

Recently, I migrated a website for a group to which I belong from PHPNuke to Drupal. The migration of the data was only half the battle. You see, search engine traffic and deep links from other sites all depend on the URL. When you change the software that is running your site, you will change the URLs as well.

I have been piecing together some scripts that capture requests to old URLs and redirects to the new URLs but the process is tedious. When a website has 400+ pages, is it even practical to setup all the necessary forwards for every page?

The site doesn't get a lot of traffic, but the 404 page gets the most hits of any page on the site now. I have given guidance on the 404 page asking people to repeat the search that brought them using the site search tool because the content is there, just moved. Clouding the issue further is the fact that the site was being spammed something awful, and the URL used to do the spamming also results in a 404 message.

Am I worrying over nothing?

Online Petitions

I have, in the past, questioned the usefulness of online petitions. I do have to wonder now, whether a special one might do some good.

President Bush offered last week to withdraw from Iraq if the Iraqi people requested it. I am giving consideration to setting up an online petition that will only accept signatures from Iraqi IP addresses for exactly that purpose.

What do people think of such an idea? My chief concern is that it will either do nothing, or it will make me a lighting rod for right-wing attack.

Understanding AdSense

I've been using AdSense on this site more-or-less since the beginning. I try to keep its presence unobtrusive, and I think that that shows in the results. My click thru rate is hovering around 0.75%, which is roughly one click for every 133 page views.

I've started to look into improving those numbers, but so far I'm not seeing anything that won't make its presence significantly less welcome. If you're reading this and have had better success with AdSense, I welcome your comments below.

Data Migration

The art of data migration is an interesting thing. Taking data from one application and transforming it to be data for another application sometimes feels like using parts for an old VW Bug to repair a new VW Bug.

No matter how smoothly the migration goes, you always seem to end up with parts left over from the old bug and parts missing from the new bug. You want to bring along all the old parts incase you missed something, so you find yourself checking both ends of the car to determine which end has the trunk so that you can dump the left over parts in it.

The trick to data migration is to determine the purpose of very field in every table for both applications. And then, just like in elementary school, draw lines between the fields that are the same in both places. Think of that as Steps one and two.

Step three is to determine what fields in the new database aren't being populated from the old database and then figure out what fields must be populated and how to populate them. This may mean some transformation of old data to make it fit (hopefully in a less dramatic fashion than cramming a square peg into a round hole.) Some fields may have to have their values fabricated. For example, if you must know when a record was created under your new data structure and you don't have that under the old structure, you're gonna need to make up a date.

What Makes A Good Blog

The current wisdom on blogging suggests finding a niche and sticking with it. But what if you interests aren't niche-like. For example, my site focuses on drawing attention to real news. How does one make a niche out of that?

The key to news sites seems to be frequent updates: four or more times a day. But, there's another component: you occasionally have to break a story to draw any real audience. When I first launched, I did one or two stories a day, but they were really deep, analytical pieces. That drew more traffic than my current style of adding my own two-cents to headlines that I think are important.

However, the flip-side is that commenting on today's stories, rather than writing the story myself, takes considerably less time.

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