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Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Something I saw on Seth Godin’s site today. Puremedia is a web design company with a one page web site. To tell the truth, they’re cheating because they have a link to their old site which has the full story and portfolio, but the idea is still there.

Can you make your statement clearly in one page? If you are good, do you really need any more?

It’s a bit like the idea I wrote about a while back that if you are really good you don’t need to write a CV because your reputation will speak for you. Here is a bit different. I think that what they are doing is going for the teaser approach – “We are cool, so cool that anything we say about us would not be cool enough. Try us.”

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This is the title of an article by Nicolas Carr published in The Atlantic that I saw linked somewhere and read.

The thesis is that in our new media hyperlinked world we are thinking differently and that this spills over from what we do on screen and affects the way we carry out the rest of our life. We are becoming part of the search algorithm and skimming, evaluating and processing information rather than reading, contemplating and mulling it. Our attention span is reduced, we are requiring that everything be presented to us in the most efficient manner. We don’t have time to consider, assimilate, compare and contemplate.

We live hectic lives full of change and overloaded with realms of information at the command of our fingertips. As we are able to do more, know more, experience more we feel compelled to expand to our potential, but this is at the cost of peace, quiet and Carr would say wisdom and understanding.

Carr is suggesting that the web is making us think shallowly and mechanically and reducing our wisdom. Her concedes that in ancient Greece, there were those who decried the written word for devaluing wisdom just as the same was heard with the advent of printing.

In Judaism the codification of the oral Torah in the days of the second temple and thereafter were also accompanied by the same fears. Not all the wisdom is something that can be recorded and codified. You cannot be a Hacham (a wise person) without being a Talmid Hacham (a disciple of the wise). Judaism prescibes the need to live with (“serve”) Talmidei Hachamim in order to become one yourself.

This is the same in many if not most disciplines. You can’t learn everything from books. Not from Google either.

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I apologize for a computer-geek-speak post. Skip it and bear with me, if it leaves you clueless.

When I updated my site a couple of months ago, little did I know that I was making it invisible to Google’s indexer – Googlebot.

One of the improvements that I wrote into the site was that it would identify the prefered language of the browser and select that as the default language.

In the headers passed to the server in the request there isa header called accept-language and it tells the server which language I prefer. My browser passes the value en-us,he;q=0.5 which means I prefer US English, after that I will accept Hebrew and the q=0.5 means that my preference is a 50% one and that I will also accept anything else. From reading the documentation it would appear that if the header said q=1would mean “send me nothing other than these languages”.

Anyway, my code does the following pseudo-code:

If you have a language cookie, then use that value

Otherwise, if the first prefered language (Request.UserLanguages[0]) is “he” then use Hebrew

Otherwise use English

The problem with my code is that the accept-language header is not mandatory and the standard I linked to above states that if no accept-language header is provided then it is assumed that all languages are equal. Googlebot knows this standard and does not provide an accept-language header in its request. This is very logical if you think about it. Google wants to index everything and they don’t what language it is in.

My code was returning an unexplained 500 to Googlebot and got me totally wiped out of search results. What was happening is that when I referenced Request.UserLanguages[0] I was getting an exception because the Request.UserLanguages collection was uninitialized. I have fixed this and put the whole section in a try-catch. I suppose I could have just checked for Request.UserLanguages.length == 0 but I decided to play super safe.

BTW, the way I debugged this is worth a mention as well. If you search for ServerVariables in Google you get a whole lot of pages that demonstrate a dump of the server variables of your request. The version of this page shows the server variables of Googlebot’s request. Thus, by comparing the page in the Google cache with the one I see I could see what the environment differences were between Googlebot’s request and mine. I then used this spoofing tool from “Smart IT consulting” to see when Googlebot could see the page.

Incidentally, before I got to this solution I found a simple “hack” for Mozilla (more a configuration than a hack) that allows you to change the user agent reported by the browser. I tried this and made my browser pretend to be Googlebot. However, this didn’t help because I still had an accept-language header in my request.

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Follow-up 18th March 2009: This article refers to Iron Speed Designer version 5. Version 6.0 now officially supports medium trust.

If you have been following me, or if you have read my about page you will know that when I am not painting, I work in the IT industry as a web-programmer-architect-tech-geek. So when it comes to improving my website, I don’t go shell out money to somebody to do it for me; I do it myself. Also when I want to learn something new and I haven’t got a chance to do it at work, then I can always try to implement it on my own site.

I wanted to build a better interface for uploading new items to my website and managing the database and I was going to learn a new tool in the process. As you will see, I ran into problems.

Anyway we have this cool tool (cool in a geeky way, not really cool) which we use at work called Iron Speed Designer that is a web site generator. You create a database on SQL Server, Oracle or MySQL, give your tables and fields meaningful names, add foreign key relationships and then run the wizard. Five minutes later you have a “good-enough” full ASP.Net web application for insert, update, view of all your data tables. Cool. Well cool if you want to build a website and especially if you are understaffed, lazy or are just not a geek and don’t know how to create your own website. Seriously this application can save you (wo)man-months and loads of money.

What is even cooler is that the whole thing is XML template based, so you can modify the templates and the code generated is ASP.Net, so you can (and are positively invited to) add your customizations after generation and do what you want. If your database has changes you can then get the tool to pick up the changes, regenerate and keep all your customizations. Well cool have I said already?

Iron Speed have three versions of the tool which just include increasingly more functionality as you pay more. We use the most expensive one at work. I downloaded the free version to use for myself.

However – and there tends to be a however whenever you get to one of these technological wonders – it works wonderfully on your own internal servers but not on hosted servers. Why? Well if you thought this post was geeky, then it is going to get worse now.

The problem is in the trust level required to run the generated code. For some reason the base classes that do the basic plumbing of the system appear to be making unmanaged calls or reflection. If your site is running under full trust this is no problem, but in a typical hosted environment this means trouble. My host (GoDaddy) imposes medium trust and although there is a guy who claims in the Iron Speed forums that you can get around the problem, I couldn’t. I tried rewriting the classes like he says and in more places but in the end I gave up.

Conclusion Iron Speed v.5 does not support medium trust. A shame, but that’s the way it is [Version 6 now does – RS 18/03/2009].

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I just got listed on the Artists Blog Search. This is a useful site which uses a Google custom search to search listed artist blogs. If your blog isn’t there then you can drop them an email and get yourself listed. Sure can’t do any harm.

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Since I started my blog, I’m getting a lot of hits on my site from Google searches. The links in my blog page seem to have done wonders for my site’s rating and the blog itself doesn’t too bad either:

Some searches to do for fun:

  • definition of real art (blog comes out #1)
  • real art studio (blog #5)
  • Paintings by Israeli Artists (rafistern.com comes in at #3)
  • israeli artist painter (rafistern.com#8)
  • jerusalem fine paintings (rafistern.com#4)
  • שדה פרגים (rafistern.com #4 after Van Gogh)
  • בניאס (rafistern.com #6)
  • Nahlaot (rafistern.com #8)
  • חומות ירושלים (rafistern.com #3)

The downer is that if you change the searches even a little bit, then the results come out differently. Shows just how fickle Google can be.

For example while “Paintings by Israeli Artists” comes in at #3, “Paintings Israeli Artists” comes in at #11 on the second page and they say that they are ignoring the “by”.

Worse, while “jerusalem fine paintings” does really well at #4, “jerusalem fine art” is just nowhere to be seen. My guess is that the latter is what most people search for.

Oh well, more work still to do…

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