Holy Optimization, Batman

A long time ago in a galaxy far away I used to do a lot of newspaper writing but got burned out by that and figured I could reach just as many, if not more, people on the web. So 10 years ago I registered a domain (and then a dozen or so more) and figured I’d be happy if I could ever reach 1 million page views/month which would be a much larger audience than I’m sure my newspaper writing ever had.

Unfortunately, I reached that in 2004 and then became very bored with the writing thing (World of Warcraft didn’t help).

The weird thing is the traffic just keeps increasing. Last Fall, the server was serving up about 1.2 million pages/month. Lately that’s climbed to about 2.5 million pages/month and is still rising. Not bad for something I do in my spare time.

Anyway, what’s also amazing to me is that the server that’s now 2-3 years old is able to keep up, especially given all of the dynamic elements that are part of pretty much every page. Macrobyte has done an excellent job of optimizing Conversant to get the most bang for the buck from hardware.

Conversant — Tagging Since 2001

It’s kind of funny to read things like this, from a Jan. 24, 2006 Wall Street Journal story,

While tech-heads have been using the method for the past year or so, tagging is now moving into the mainstream.

I don’t know if there were other services that allowed it at that time (and Lord knows I searched for them), but Macrobyte built an extensive, completely customizable tagging system into Conversant back in 2001. Conversant is the software that runs this site, and I’ve been extensively tagging all the articles I post here and at my other sites since then.

It’s nice to see the rest of the world finally catching up. And if you’re looking for a very forward-looking company for software development, check out Macrobyte.

One More Yanisar Rave

And while I’m praising Conversant, I should mention that Yanisar Enterprises also did an excellent job of taking my web sites to that sports cliche “next level.”

I hired them to do a redesign of AnimalRights.Net and they also did some basic re-architecturing — the two in combination have sent pages views at the site through the roof.

They were very reasonably priced and very professional. I hope to put them to work redesigning this site very soon.

One More Conversant Rave

A couple years ago I received what I think was the strangest e-mail anyone’s ever sent me. The author of the e-mail was an individual who set up a web site devoted to the same topic as one of my web sites. I liked and respected his site, but the e-mail was to the point — he felt that my site was so well done that his had become pointless and he was shutting it down.

Wow. That floored me. Personally, I don’t think my sites are all that, especially since I get bored or busy quite frequently and just stop posting for months at a time.

Anyway, I’ve said a lot of things about Conversant in the five years since I moved all of my web sites to it (wow, can’t believe that much time has flown by). But the bottom line is this — pick any topic and using Conversant I could build a kick-ass site by myself that others would have to spend thousands of dollars and bring a team of people in to keep updated and organized.

I’m working on a special project now and, of course, I looked at all the sites that I’ll be competing with for attention. They all have made design decisions that leave me scratching my head thinking, “why would they do that?”

The answer is clear on closer inspection — the software they’re using to run their website pretty much limits them to that. So I’ll go live with my site this summer, and by January 2006 I’ll be in the top ten on Google for the search term while they’re still wrestling with their clutzy CMS.

So, in summary, give Conversant a try. It will turn you’re skinny weakling of a website into a muscle-bound one that all the search engines will love in just 15 minutes a day!

Weblogs.Com Outage for Many Conversant Sites

According to Seth Dillingham, Weblogs.Com has started ignoring pings from many Conversant sites, including this one.

Seth writes,

I’ve debugged the pings we’re sending, repeatedly. The server always returns the “thanks for the ping” response that indicates the ping was received successfully. Yet, our sites are never listed. The same is true for pings I’ve sent manually. It appears to be accepting the pings and then ignoring or forgetting them.

The service is run by Dave Winer. I wrote to Dave on May 6th to find out if he knew about the problem. No response. I wrote again on May 8th. Still no response. I wrote again this morning. Still no response.

Wow, there’s a shock. Remember how Dave freaked out when he thought Google and de-indexed his sites and how angry he was because he couldn’t get a response from the company? But, hey, the rules don’t apply to Dave. If he wants a problem to go unresolved for weeks at a time, its not a bug, its a feature.

Since I know the pings are going through correctly, and Dave is ignoring my email, I’m concluding that we’re being intentionally ignored. Why, though? I haven’t a clue. Is it something personal against me? Something technical about Conversant that he doesn’t like? (Then why didn’t he inform me?) Is it some business consideration? (I can’t imagine what that could be, since Dave isn’t in business right now.)

. . .

Being ignored by weblogs.com isn’t the end of the world, but there are a number of blog tracking and categorization systems (including Blogshares) that using its changes.xml files in the heart of their applications. Not being listed means we basically fall off the radar.

Yep. Not a major problem; more of an annoyance. A service so widely used by others probably needs to be in the hands of someone a bit more stable and responsive to fixing outages than Dave.

Dave’s great at innovating and coming up with incredible ideas, but he’s not the person you want in charge of implementation and support.

Sometimes the Developers (Pleasantly) Surprise Me

Seth Dillingham has a funny post here about users who ask him to configure Conversant in weird ways,

A Conversant user recently asked me to custom-configure one of his sites, because he wants to do something that isn’t available via the web-based configuration.

Why not? Because we never saw anybody wanting to do this. We’ve never done it, never tested it.

I set it up for him, but I’m still experiencing heart palpitations.

I know what he means, because I’m the one who requested the odd custom configuration. So far, its worked incredibly well. In a couple months I’ll be able to show off the cool things I’m doing thanks to this bit of wizardry.

But what it really does is speak to just how well Seth’s developed Conversant. A lot of software tends to produce very frustrating roadblocks. Its great if you want to do things the exact same way the developer does them, but start deviating from that plan or start asking “what if I mixed feature A and feature B” together, and most of the time you’re out of luck.

Conversant, on the other hand, does an excellent job of taking a wide variety of basic building blocks and then letting the user mix and match them in pretty much anyway he or she wants. There have been a handful of times where I’ve done something in Conversant and it worked even though Seth said he hadn’t thought of using the feature in that way. When you can do things with software that the developers never intended or thought of, you’ve got an extremely well-done piece of software.

And that’s a great way to describe Conversant.