Sam Newman's site, a Consultant at ThoughtWorks

Archive for ‘March, 2005’

Well it seems Joshua has finally given in to the hordes of taggers out there and has taken full time. What’s interesting though is how he’s managed this. His post to the mailing list mentions outside investment:

I’ve given a lot of thought to how to make this happen, and ultimately decided that the best way forward is to take on some outside investment.

I’ve taken this step because it lets me continue to grow while keeping it independent.

As yet no mention as to what the source of that investment might be. One of the dangers of outside investment is that the service changes to the extent it is no longer one that the original users care to use. This is certainly a concern I have Bloglines since their acquisition by Ask Jeeves. Whilst I’m in no danger of loosing my bookmarks (Joshua is clear on this – the users own their bookmarks and their tags) what is more important is the metadata. What has emerged has been described as a Folksonomy by many, and is without doubt what makes valuable. The ownership of the emergent network of tags is as yet unclear.

Personally I have no problem with Joshua making steaming piles of cash of, or even the metadata – as long as I still get to use it. Only time will tell.

In my earlier post I mentioned that ShortStats is unable to track failed referrers due to the way it works. ShortStats relies on a single line of PHP being inserted into each page you want to track, which then triggers a PHP script which logs the request in the database. I realised shortly after I posted that an obvious way to track failed referrers would be to put a slightly different PHP fragment into the custom 404 page. This would then log the original request (rather than the request for the 404 page itself) into a new DB table and you’d have yourself a failed referrer. Perhaps I’ve found a little project for myself this weekend…

ShortStat shows a nice breakdown by browser type

ShortStat shows a nice breakdown by browser type

I’ve been unhappy with my host’s choice of statistics software for a while now – Analog displays too much information at the same time as not providing enough information, all in a rather unattractive package. A while ago I came across Shaun Inman’s ShortStat. ShortStat is a PHP program which should work on most PHP-capable hosts, with a lovely UI courtesy of Mr Inman.

ShortStats breakdown by country

Also available is a breakdown by country

The single page statistics view shows pretty much everything I want to see – browser percentages, hit breakdown by country, popular hits, search strings and even OS of the visitor. It works by including a PHP fragment in each page you want to track – this makes it easy to install, but does mean I’ll need to keep using Analog to track failed referrers (which is an effective way of tracking broken links). You also need to setup password protection yourself, although I already use simple a Apache setup so it wasn’t too much of a pain.

Jehiah Czebotar’s PathStats is a ShortStat plugin (although the word plugin is probably not quite correct – the install process involves overwriting many of ShortStat’s files). What it does provide is valuable thought – it shows you which page eash browser visited. This is a great way of seeing not only how users arrived at your page, but shows you where they then go. One of the things I want to provide is pages tailored to those people coming from search engines – showing them related pages, popular pages etc. I want people to find this site via google, then stay for a bit, because when all is
said and done I just want people to like me 🙂


Bits on Wheels’ 3D Swarm view

It’s only been since I acquired my mac (not to mention my 1M broadband connection) that I’ve really started to use BitTorrent for anything. I was forced into downloading it to grab the Apple training video showing just how to crack out the mac mini. Initially I used the standard BitTorrent client, but recently I came across Bits On Wheels which takes visualization of P2P downloads to a new level. To be honest it doesn’t give you much more than the normal client, but it sure is pretty – the 3D Swarm view can be kind of hypnotic.

Yet again boredom got the better of me, and I’ve spent this last weekend working on a new site design. There are still a couple of minor IE6 problems to sort, but it seems fine on Firefox and Safari. The main change is that I’m now doing much less with the sidebar in an attempt to give a nicer minimal feel. I’m going to continue to work on some pages – I want to tailor the individual post pages to those coming from search engines, and might flesh-out the content there to display information such as recent and popular posts.

Continue reading…


Well, right now I’m:

  • Recording the TV via the Elgato EyeTV 410 (which I can tell because there is a little TV picture sitting in the dock showing me the OC, which is cool and distracting when I’m trying to type)
  • Burning a DVD of some old backups (which the helpful Toast dock icon is informing me)
  • BitTorrenting various things (highly legally, honest)

    So, it’s that cool. The only problem now is that I’m not sure I’m cool enough to use it…

One of the hardest things about making the transition from Windows to OSX was letting TopStyle go. Quite simply it was about the only thing that made struggling with browser inconsistencies bearable, and made playing around with CSS a pleasure. I have never been happy with the OSX replacement I got for it – CSSEdit, whilst it handled previews nicely didn’t do keyword completion as well as TopStyle, nor did it have downright handy features like a colour chooser.

I tried WestCiv’s Style Master about six months ago when I was still Windows bound, but it didn’t work as well for me as TopStyle did. However the new version looks like it might have a killer feature which is encouraging me to give it another go. Style Master 4’s design pane allows you to click on a part of the preview view, and immediately edit the styles which affect that display. It also shows the elements position in the overall page structure which will make debugging cascading rules much easier. The fact that it works on both Windows and OSX is just a bonus. Anyway, with an impending heavy session working on the new site design due this holiday weekend, I’ll try and post a review soon.

I’ve put an additional anti-spam measure in – comment preview is now forced. I’m having probems with the preview comment template right now (it looks very rough and ready) but I’ll put it right soon.

Once again comments seemed to be missfiring, which I only found out thanks to a helpful soul out there (thanks Shane!). This stumped me a bit, as I’d assumed the problems I was having was down to MT-Blacklist not working with my ISP’s Perl install. The other odd thing was that I was still recieving comment spam (which thanks to MT Moderate was not reaching the actual site). A quick poke around showed that I’d fooloshly left mt-comments.cgi in place, which was obviously how the spammers were getting in.

That left the blame at the door of sub-to-com.cgi, the subscribe to comments plguin I’ve been using for a while now. Backing that out seems to of fixed the problem. Now I need to find some time to see if both MT Blacklist and sub-to-comments was to blame, or if MT Blacklist was blamless after all…

So here is the problem – I’m forgetful. This means if I think of something that I should put on my Basecamp to-do lists when I’m not actually at a computer, I have to rememeber it, which I can’t do. Or write it down on a piece of paper, which I’ll loose. Today is a case in point – I know I had three things to add to my list, but I can’t remember what they are. Well, unless Basecamp has a Blackberry front end (and for that matter someone wants to buy me a Blackberry) I guess I’m going to have to solve that little problem by myself…
Continue reading…

Milestones, Projects and To-do lists

Basecamp has the concepts of projects containing milestones, with milestones containing to-do lists. Due dates can be set on milestones, but not on the multiple to-do lists they can contain. For my general life-fixing projects (like “Cleaning Up My Finances” or “Create New Blog”, although the later might be better categorised as a making-my-life-more sad activity than a life fixing one) milestones work quite well. These tasks typically consist of a series of phases, each with their own tasks.


With using Basecamp as a general Getting Things Done tool in addition to a Getting My Life Fixed tool, I find myself wishing for something less “heavy” than a milestone but with the ablity to specify a due date in the same way as a milestone – a to-do list with a due-date would be good enough. The additional benifit of to-do lists with due dates is that you can then better organise milestones themselves. The alternate approach of course is to create more milestones – I’m tempted to create one milestone for each days tasks, but I’m not sure what benifit that would bring beyond taking advantage of Basecamp’s excellent calendar display.

iCalendar support


Striking one item of my now many lists, I checked out the iCalendar support in Basecamp. Simply put you can subscribe a tool which supports the webcal protocol to synchornise events with a changing feed. In OSX’s iCal this creates a new read-only calendar named after the Basecamp project (in addition to the default “Home” and “Work”) with the milestone’s appearing as events. From iCal you can then complete a milestone via a hyperlink, however disapointingly despite iCal’s support for to-do lists these are not imported. This may be a problem with the webcal protocol, althought I’d have to check what I believe to be the defining specification in the form of RFC 2445 to see.