The diary and photos of Chris Beach. I'm into windsurfing, coding, badminton, drawing and composing music using computers and synths.

Let's start with a quote:
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours" Stephen Roberts


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google sitemaps for webmasters - search stats, crawl stats and keyword analysis

Google has a added new features to its Sitemaps program, giving interesting statistics on searches made through Google for a given website. Commercial SEO companies charge a lot for this kind of information.

To enable Google Sitemaps for your site, prove that you're the owner by creating a text file on your web server with a name provided by Google (see www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/siteoverview)

After doing this you can access search stats, crawl stats, page keyword analysis and a few other useful bits of information. One particularly nice detail is the average position in Google results for each of the most popular keywords.

Some screenshots:

written by Chris Beach
02/03/06 1:01pm
(11 years, 6 months ago)
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google page creator

Google Page Creator has just been beta released, and it's very impressive. The aim is to allow anyone to create and publish webpages, and there are several notable features:

  • It's fast. Regardless of experience, a simple page can be created and published to the web in less than 60 seconds. The templates, WYSIWYG editing and one-click publishing make this system rapid.
  • All pages are periodically auto-saved (by default), and also saved when navigating away from the system
  • The URLs of published pages are very friendly - e.g. http://beachyboy.googlepages.com/
  • The templates are well-designed and flexible
  • An HTML editing mode is available
  • Images can be uploaded

The app is written using heaps of cross-browser AJAX and is going to be very interesting to dissect. Give it a few hours and Simon is sure to have analysed the code inside-out smilie face

written by Chris Beach
23/02/06 10:36am
(11 years, 7 months ago)
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design classics

Every so often I stumble across sites with designs that stand out so much I bookmark them in del.icio.us for future reference. If anyone is interested, here's the RSS feed, and if you don't use a feed reader, the more traditional HTML version is here

written by Chris Beach
21/02/06 3:13pm
(11 years, 7 months ago)
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new ajax search facility

When it came to a search facility on this site, I wanted to make something badass. For maximum responsiveness, I chose to code it using a technique called AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML).

For those that haven't heard of this technology, it's an elegant mechanism provided by JavaScript that allows HTTP requests to be made by the browser without reloading the page. This means fresh data can be pulled from the server as the user interacts with a webpage.

Try entering a word into the search box on the top-right hand corner of this page. After entering two letters, the search will kick in, returning its results to a window displayed on top of the content of the page. To get back to the page, press escape or delete the search term.

I have a lot of ideas for improving this feature. In particular I want to use MYSQL's full-text search relevancy feature to improve the quality of search results. Secondly, the user should be able to use the up and down cursor keys to choose a search result, and then use the enter key to load it. This way, the keyboard could then be used to perform a search - user presses alt-s to move to the search box, enters search word(s), presses enter, navigates to result using cursors and presses enter to load.

written by Chris Beach
16/02/06 6:51pm
(11 years, 7 months ago)
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pixel advertising on essexclubbing.co.uk

Inspired by the trend started by Alex Tew, I have placed a pixel advertising space on essexclubbing.co.uk. Advertisers can purchase an area of this space and place any graphic they wish there, with a link back to their site.

Essexclubbing.co.uk is currently getting around 900 visitors per day, and since the advert is placed on all pages within the site, it would be get around 4000 impressions per day. If you're interested, space is available to purchase.

I've noticed that pixel advertising is also beginning to appear in blogs. There is some debate as to whether the HTML image maps used in the adverts contribute to the Pagerank of the advertiser's site. I shall experiment with this over the next few weeks.

Update 22/12/2005: An eBay listing is now up

written by Chris Beach
22/12/05 11:10am
(11 years, 9 months ago)
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javascript image loading problem in firefox - solved

Firefox seems to be restricting JavaScript image loading. The following code works fine in all browsers except Firefox:


function loadImage()
{
   var objIcon = document.createElement( 'IMG' );
   objIcon.src = "/techJournal/firefoxIcon.png";
   document.body.appendChild( objIcon );
}


[see it in action]

Could it be that the security lockdowns in the latest version of Firefox prevent image loading in JavaScript? If so, does anyone know a workaround that I can introduce into my code?

Update 21/12: It seems the problem only occurs on certain FF installations, although I haven't yet discovered the root cause

Update 22/12: Many thanks to Ben Basson, who correctly identified the problem (dom.disable_image_src_set was set to true in the about:config page)

written by Chris Beach
19/12/05 4:12pm
(11 years, 9 months ago)
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vote scores for site users - encouraging quality submissions

My sites feature a thumbs up/down voting system for most types of submission (e.g. comments, links, suggestions etc).

I thought it might be interesting to see which users are getting the best votes for their submissions to the site. The highest scorers now have a star:

for scores >= 200
for scores >= 100
for scores >= 50
for >= 20
for >= 10

The score for a user is calculated by the total number of "thumbs up" votes minus the total number of "thumbs down" votes on all entries submitted by that user.

High score stars are shown on the "People" page, and whereever a user's name appears on the site.

Over on essexclubbing.co.uk, the allure of the stars led people to cheat, voting for themselves. Therefore, the system was altered to reject votes where the IP or the username of the submission matched that of the voter (that logic should have been in there ages ago!)

The crafty users quickly wised up to that restriction, and started randomly voting down other users' submissions, in order to boost their standing in the top scorers list.

...so, I've come up with a solution:

The deviation from the average vote on a submission will be recorded for each voter. Those people who habitually deviate from the average vote can be flagged.. and their once-shining star will be replaced with a broken, tarnished star.

Let's see who's the first to fall victim!

written by Chris Beach
24/11/05 3:38pm
(11 years, 10 months ago)
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explorerdestroyer.com

Firefox is billed as a self-made success story - a rise from humble roots with a commitment to "not-for-profit" ideology. It would surely be a paradox if the public were being paid to promote the browser, wouldn't it?

Well, sadly it's begun, and some players are in there early to capitalise on the rush. You can hardly blame the guys behind "explorerdestroyer.com" for turning the advertising program into a pyramid scheme. Doubtless, more will follow. People stand to make a mint promoting Firefox regardless of their credible interest in the product. It will no longer be the technology experts that capitalise from spreading Firefox hype on their blogs. The intelligent spin is over, and the torch is being passed to spammers, link farm sites and other dubious operators. They descend like flies wherever there's a fast buck to be made.

Who's the sponsor? Unsurprisingly, it's big boy Google that's stumping up the cash, in a thinly-veiled manipulation of the browser market. Once an indie outfit, they are now a burgeoning corporation with some big competitors to oust. Shouldn't they be scrutinised in the same light as Microsoft? Consider the scandal if Microsoft were to pay the public to instigate downloads of IE. They'd be ripped to shreds!

If Firefox really was the best answer for consumers then it wouldn't need such a monumental marketing campaign. It's a free download for goodness sake. Since when does a "saviour of the web" need a hard sell?

Let's step back from the hype for a moment and consider the product from a user's point of view. Firefox is slower and clunkier than the platform-native browsers Safari and IE, and it gives few tangible benefits to the average user. In particular its security record is looking more dubious every day, and its former innovations are now old hat. Even the most recent zealotry sites are way behind the times, talking about the popup blocker as though it's unique to Firefox.

Developers once had reason to force Firefox onto the market. However, this is rapidly losing steam. IE7 will fix the CSS bugs, give support for PNG, and will be incredibly security-conscious. The case for techies to push Firefox is rapidly losing weight.

Ironically, whilst Firefox blocks popups and adverts, its sponsors have created one of the most insidious and relentless viral marketing campaigns on the web thus far. For the love of god, I'd rather see porn popups than be constantly doused in fanboy "Ignite the Web" slogans and patronising, lowest-common-denominator crap about how you can "browse happy" if you stop using IE.

Luckily it's easier to block viral marketing campaigns than regular spam, since Firefox ads all follow the same format. They'd be easy for an ad blocker to distinguish. How wonderfully ironic it would be to see a "Block-Firefox-Zealotry" extension for Firefox..

written by Chris Beach
10/11/05 11:29pm
(11 years, 10 months ago)
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auctioning advertising space

essexclubbing.co.uk started from humble roots back in 2001 and it's grown massively. In the month of September 2005 it had over 13,000 unique visitors. Profit has never been top of the agenda with this site, but now the potential is there, it's time to test the water.

Today I placed a 180x120 pixel placeholder on the site template, ready for a single advert from one lucky advertiser!

To be honest I haven't got a clue how much this space is worth, or even if anyone would pay to advertise there. Therefore I've [auctioned it] on eBay to let the people decide. Let's see what happens!

21/10: 12 bids so far, 2 bidders, current price: 2.20
22/10: 20 bids so far, 5 bidders, current price: 13.00
26/10: 21 bids so far, 5 bidders, current price: 16.00
28/10: 25 bids so far, 6 bidders, current price: 22.00
29/10: 29 bids in total, 7 bidders, sold for: 31.00

Update 22/12/2005: The winning bidder never paid up. I'm now running a pixel advertising scheme instead.

written by Chris Beach
20/10/05 12:48am
(11 years, 11 months ago)
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spot the trend

Last month it appeared that Firefox had taken a little dip is overall usage. Now, in August this is looking more like a trend:

Statistics from w3schools

written by Chris Beach
26/08/05 11:33am
(12 years ago)
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