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This page last updated on or about 7-19-05

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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Below follows a partial log of my personal experience in authoring this and related web sites, as well as still earlier network-related publishing in general. I also maintain the page How small-time web sites can make it financially on the web. I don't include the names of certain companies so that I won't accidentally break various contract terms I may have with them now or in the future (sorry!). Due to the chronological nature of this log, certain embedded web links and documented costs/prices for wares discussed may be out-of-date by the time some readers find this piece. This is Real World usage rather than a syrupy evangelistic exercise, so you'll find both good and bad things about authoring web sites here. END NOTES.

Back to the LATEST Web Site Authoring Log...

Web Site Authoring Log Table of Contents

1-7-05: Entirely futile wishes for the new year

I dearly wish I had a non-geek content management system for my site. Yeah, there'd likely be a tremendous, God-awful initial set up involved, to port all my existing content over to it. But hey, after that my life should be much easier. As it is today I already have to without warning do a tremendous, God-awful amount of work to maintain my site on occasion. Like when I have a domain stolen, or the top search engine declares certain site reliability practices (like static mirroring) is no longer allowed. And it can take me years of near-continuous effort to make a sweeping format change to my site.

Though it'd be painful, I'd even be willing to spend several $hundred on such a content management beast-- if only I knew it'd work as expected, and be easy to maintain, backup, and recover from disaster, and scalable-- and not be suddenly orphaned at some future point by its parent company as practically every single piece of major software I ever used before was (ack!).

But I've been burned so many times by software makers it'd be tough for even a truly wonderful package to break through my skepticism and anxiety on such matters. It's not just the money: orphaned software can cause you huge losses in time, experience, and dreams too. One great example would be Apple's HyperCard. I had great plans for it, and even developed some great stacks there (becoming a bonafide expert along the way) when Apple decided to let it wither on the vine. The Mac OS is another example. For it basically was killed by OS X, which shares almost no substantial interface similarities with it. I basically lost the value of tons of money, time, and experience by Apple killing HyperCard and the Mac OS as they did.

It now seems PC fans were right all along when they told me Apple and the Mac were a waste of time. But I was convinced GUI was the future, and Apple's GUI would eventually dominate. I was sort of correct. GUI was the future all right, but Apple licensed it to Microsoft, who allowed a thousand cheap clone PC brands to bloom with it, and Microsoft's GUI licensed from Apple became the dominant OS.

But getting back to the non-geek personal content management system-- apparently such a beast doesn't exist for less than many thousands of dollars. And based on my personal experience with costly high end software like Adobe Photoshop (the full version) and expensive hardware like modern Apple Macs, I suspect that even rich buyers of those content managers are often sorely disappointed and appalled.

I dearly wish I had a decent combination draw and paint program. Today the best thing I can find is MS Paint, the crippled little free accessory program on my HP. That's what I did my latest web images with.

Sure, I tried other, much more glorified apps. But they're even worse than Paint. And cost small fortunes in most cases ($80 upto $thousands). And can't match the low cost programs I once used on Macs way back around 1990 through 1996. Even the old Clarisworks was better than what's available today. So why don't I use it? I tried. But it's not net-savvy, so it can't output jpegs or gifs. Plus there's the whole compatibility problem of getting ancient Macs to access the internet or even a local LAN...Agh! I couldn't locate any free file converters for the old Mac formats online either, last time I looked. I did finally cobble together some really complicated and time-consuming way to get my Clarisworks images onto a PC and then into internet formats to produce my present-day small banner ads for certain of my pages. But I simply don't have the time available to do that on a regular basis (plus I've forgotten how I did it now, too).

We've got Photoshop Elements on the G4. Without a question it's one of the worst image editors I ever used. Buggy as hell too. Combine that with OS X's own infantile OS bugs and you get glitches galore. Elements was barely working well enough to simply accept a scanned in pic and save it in an internet format when our teenagers here both decided to create their own user accounts on the G4 in OS X. Apparently that created a bad plumbing problem between OS X and Elements, for ever since Elements reports various file errors when you try to use it, and simply won't allow you to perform some functions. And no, there's no diskspace problem: OS X reports something like 40 Gigabytes free on the hard disk.

The nicest looking photographic images on site today were all created in PhotoDeluxe on a Mac Performa 6400 which managed to work somewhat on the internet, years and years ago. PhotoDeluxe offered a much, much easier user interface than Elements. But there too the Adobe program went wacko at some point reporting errors, and simply lost the capacity to save files in an internet format. I tried various measures like re-installing PhotoDeluxe from the original disks, but it didn't help.

And no, I did not make the mistakes of buying much of the stuff which doesn't work in the text above. Due to money constraints I've basically used left-over Mac and PC stuff from other folks the past ten years or so. The last new major hardware I personally bought was two 17 inch CRTs and two Sony VAIO PCs. But both PCs (and one of the CRTs) were Xmas gifts for my niece and nephews in 2001. The last new computer I bought for myself was a Mac IIcx in 1990. My dad gave me an unexpected gift of a new HP system from Wal-Mart around early 2001, which is what I'm typing this on now (I did replace its bundled 15 inch monitor with one of the afore-mentioned 17 inchers due to eye problems). In August 2003 my brother surprised me with a new Compaq laptop-- which unfortunately sports a display too small for my bad vision to allow more than brief or contingency usage at this time (but I have plans to change that).

In regards to software, I've pretty much used only what became available through the channels described above. I did download some demo ware of various other apps, but none of the graphics apps I tried turned out to be worth buying for my purposes. I've read reviews of higher end software (plus tried it first-hand on various corporate and friends' computers), with the result being Canvas would likely be my first choice for a graphics app today.

But it costs an arm and a leg. Despite the enormous cost and ever-present uncertainty that the app's latest version would actually work as hoped, I went online and was within one click of buying it maybe a year or two ago, because I figured I'd first try it on the Mac G4 plus scanner leftovers I'd just gotten access to, and if it didn't work as needed there I'd try it on the Windows XP laptop. But just as I was about to buy I discovered the dual version was no longer available. No, I'd have to choose between OS X and XP versions. That sudden deletion of a major option stopped me cold.

So for now I'm hand-sketching images, scanning them in with the Mac G4, emailing them to my PC in another room over the internet(!), and then using MS Paint and IrfanView to color and resize them, and apply copyright text. Wow. Some high end professional sounding operation, right?

I dearly wish I had a reliable and reasonably functional and economical personal computing/web authoring/web surfing platform. The horrible OS X would simply force me out of web authoring altogether with its huge limitations, numerous bugs, and vast expense. All versions of Windows and Internet Explorer are becoming so plagued with software bugs, spyware, viruses, and hackers that Windows/IE users at any time could be knocked off-line indefinitely, prosecuted for various computer crimes for which they were entirely innocent, or forced off PCs entirely due to the expense of having to buy all new PCs way too frequently due to being unable to keep previous ones running. WebTV was ruined ages ago by Microsoft even for the most limited purposes of web browsing and email, and Linux is still too geeky for 98% of us to live with on a daily basis. A preacher I know just in the last few days told me he may be forced to buy a new PC because his old one seems to have been knocked permanently off-line by his efforts to rid it of spyware which was rendering it unusable. This was Windows XP, and all he did was try using XP's built-in restore function to go back to a configuration in existence before he noticed the spyware affecting his machine. I had to move my HP PC to a different room because it repeatedly overheated in the original location, even after me doing my best to clear its innards of built-up dust with an air compressor. But even if it wasn't overheating the Windows ME on the HP seems unable to make effective use of the extra RAM I added to the machine so I often must reboot after opening too many windows or apps (like 4 apps) or copying too many files over the LAN at a time-- or else risk crashes and file corruption. But even treating the PC like a baby it still crashes on simple bootup about every seventh or eighth time on average, forcing a diskscan-- very much resembling the all too frequent involuntary desktop rebuilds in Mac OS 8 and 9. The Windows update function on the machine has stopped working too.

I dearly wish I had a projector display system for my worsening vision. In the meantime I'm going to try a 20 inch LCD and a set of mirrors. OWWWWW!!!!!!! I would NOT buy such a beast if I thought I had any other decent alternatives.

I wish I had a decent spell checker (and broke link check) for my HTML pages. Even at the late date of early 2005 though this is apparently something you'd have to pay extra for and even then it might not work, based on personal experience. When I first received my HP PC I was thrilled to see that apparently MS Works on the machine included a program very like MS Word with its fabulous spell checker. But alas it wasn't web page savvy. Getting HTML into and out of the program for spell checks resulted in all sorts of problems every way I tried it. Works invariably screwed up my HTML with its output. HTML editors offer extra cost spell checking modules, and I have had access to other word processors, but nothing seems to do a decent job with HTML, plus I can't afford to buy dozens of packages to find one which works. I personally know of computer users who take this path and spend thousands upon thousands of dollars, trying practically everything out there that's for sale, and still they seem to end up having no appreciably greater computing and web functionality than I do getting by on a shoe-string. Mainly they just suffer more than me, as they try to cope with the new problems their new software causes with their old, plus with their computer in general. As well as the huge credit card bills. That's pretty awful if you think about it.

There's online link checkers. But the last few times I tried them they didn't work. For every broken link they were correct about there were ten others where they were wrong, when I manually checked them. Ow! You're better off checking them first-hand! But of course if you have hundreds of pages and thousands of links that's humanly impossible...

I wish my region of America had reliable and economical electricity and broadband internet access. At the moment we have neither, pretty much forcing new PC buyers to add a UPS to their purchase or else risk PC and internet banishments of indefinite length due to power outage-related glitches alone. Here at WebFLUX Central we're also pondering a possible fallback to dialup, as our monopoly cable company is raising prices more frequently than even our health insurance companies. OWWWWWW! And these price rises are for a service with frequent outages and slowdowns. Apparently these things are just more signs of the continuing decline of America.

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

12-1-04: Zero internet access for the zillionth time

I wish we had a choice in broadband net service providers here, but we don't. It's the same story as for our cable TV access. A monopoly.

So our service is lackluster at best and horrific at worst. While at the same time hideously expensive. I have family members trapped with the same company some 25 miles away in a wholly different part of the company net, and they've at times experienced even worse service than us(!)

Yes, we're desperate for broadband here. From what I read about the rest of the world America has maybe the worst (and costliest!) broadband internet service of all the developed countries today. So apparently much of our economy is tilting into the same direction as our health care industry-- which has also rated poorly in cost-effectiveness among developed nations.

I've talked elsewhere on site about America's crumbling power grid. In a lot of ways we look more and more like we're sliding down and out of developed country status and into third world conditions.

Want some references besides my first-hand experiences in these user logs? Check out The astonishing decline of America. It's really sad.

On the brighter side, at least my site hosts seem to be LOTS more reliable than my personal computers or internet service provider!

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

11-8-04: There went my bandwidth-- again

Our broadband ISP service ran unusually well the past 4-6 weeks or so. That is, it ran as advertised in the brochures. Always on, and reasonably responsive. Four to six weeks is a longer than typical period for such performance, and so I knew the end had to be coming soon. It happened today.

Now our internet access is running at around the same speed as a 28.8 through 56 k modem. Yes, dial up speeds. Based on past history our net access will run this slow for days, punctuated on occasion by a complete and total outage where we can't get out at all.

Will the wonders of modern American technology never cease?

Of course, our frequent US net outages and slowdowns (and the widening lead of other countries over the US in consumer tech like broadband internet) are merely in keeping with the other breakdowns going on in American infrastructure.

To see a very personal example of how our local US power grid is breaking down, check out my main PC log. You can also read about the largest power outage in history in the northeast US (which dragged down parts of Canada with it) at POWER OUTAGE; CBC News Online; August 20, 2003 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/poweroutage/). To read about the ongoing breakdown in American infrastructure and other institutions click here.

I do my best to get as much work done as possible whenever I'm lucky enough to have both electricity and internet access at the same time(!)

And yes, I live deep inside the USA. In town, not out in the country-side. The nearest US border is many hours away by car.

I guess maybe Bush was right when he said lots of folks think Iraq is doing better than the US at the moment. I hear the Iraqis only pay around a nickel for a gallon of gas (with US taxpayers paying the other $1.50 for them). That should help pay for the gas they need for their personal electricity generators.

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

9-22-04: The large text acceptance problem in web forms

I'm starting to see why my new e-commerce buddies were having such a hard time dealing with a large chunk of customer text in my testing.

Turns out existing web technologies remain astonishingly weak and fragile in this field. To solve this seemingly simple problem would likely require an inordinate amount of database work. The problem was apparently made much worse when Microsoft became the dominant web browser maker years back and then promptly dropped built-in email support in the browser, handing it off to whatever separate email program might be on a computer at the time.

Though their market share makes them insignificant from a business standpoint today, many other browser makers may have followed suit in their own software.

So there may be no way I can (in a practical and widely compatible manner) fully integrate the ordering process for this particular new site service. Doh!

But as in other matters, if I can just figure out who might have already encountered and solved the root problem here, maybe I can examine their solution and adapt it to my circumstances. But who should I be looking for? Book or magazine publishers who accept online manuscripts? Maybe vanity publishers? Hmmm. Perhaps a modern Writer's Market book or online adjunct would offer some clues...I'm off to the races folks!

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

9-22-04: Site reliability in the face of natural disasters or censorship affecting large regions, and how to check the status of multiple personal domains with one button click

Site reliability in the face of natural disasters affecting large regions

Based on the best info I have today, it appears the physical location of the host of one of my domains is in Florida, and the other in California. So in terms of natural disaster it'd likely take something like a major hurricance striking Florida and a major earthquake striking California around the same time to knock both my domains off the air.

Just recently two substantial hurricanes struck Florida within around 30 days of one another. But my host there barely wavered in site uptime, so far as I could tell.

Site reliability in the face of censorship affecting large regions

Another consideration is censorship and whistleblowing protection. Both government and business have been known to go after folks who broadcast info they (government and business) don't want known. Such malevolent forces might only shut down your web site and confiscate all your computer equipment, or they might make you disappear.

A large part of these considerations must include anonymity. That is, the ability to keep your identity hidden when disclosing certain pieces of info. Whistleblowers often desperately need such protections, even within the most advanced democracies in the world.

So wrap all these things up with the redundancy you'd want against natural disasters over large regions too, and you soon see a need to perhaps have at least one domain in a foreign country which offers more or suitably different identity and publication protections than your native land.

Do I currently have such a foreign domain? Nope. But if and when I get a third domain I might prefer it to be of such a foreign nature. Unfortunately, at present there may not be many major sources of good info on what nations would be the best and most reliable such hosts for web masters of other countries. For instance, what nations would offer the best whistleblower protections and anti-censorship measures to counteract the United States, for the purposes of an anonymous US citizen? Substitute your country of choice for the USA in that query to see what I mean. Maybe you're a British citizen seeking such protections. What country would make the best host for your site?

I may be able to offer more info on that topic later.

An easy technique to track the uptime of all your domains

I likely spend more time online than 95% of folks, doing research, updating the site, dealing with email, etc. So I'm pretty sensitive to outages, both from my ISP and my two site hosts.

I have a trick I use to automatically check both my domains' status with one click. I've set my web browser's home page to my 'what's new' page-- but only indirectly. You see, that page really exists on jmooneyham.com, but there's a redirect for it on jrmooneyham.com, pointing to jmooneyham.com. My home page is set to the redirect on jrmooneyham.com. So whenever I click my browser's home button it automatically goes to jrmooneyham.com, then the redirect there sends it to jmooneyham.com. This way I check the status of both domains everytime I click my Home button.

The same thing happens everytime I initially open my web browser for a session. This technique could be used to cover an unlimited number of domains, but the more it covers the longer the delay in getting to your true home page, even when all your domains are working fine. So I probably wouldn't apply this to more than a half dozen domains at once.

Note a similar practice using a Favorite or bookmark would work too, but you'd have to remind yourself to use it, and there's almost no way you'd use it as often as your Home button.

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

9-20-04: Site visitors can now trigger particular page updates and sponser particular pages on-site

The first two new products/services of the WebFLUX Store are here-- in BETA form anyway. They are:

Sponser your favorite page on-site!

Choose which site pages are updated!

The transaction process is hopefully pretty much the same as big online corporations use (all major credit cards accepted, so forth and so on). I have some much more creative items in the pipeline, but haven't yet got their models worked out to mesh suitably with existing internet technologies. But I'm working on it!

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

9-18-04: The mountain grows taller even as I scale it

Wow. This is turning out to be a lot more work than I expected: and as usual I was pessimistic to begin with. YIKES!

It seems like every time I get one thing done I discover two or three more that the e-commerce folks say I should do. And so far I'm having to do an awful lot of things again and again and again to get them right.

Today I got shot down in flames on one matter by the e-commerce tech support. I got this nice message from them saying that each of my test orders was including practically a hard copy page worth of text comments and I should stop that please. Apparently I was clogging their server or database inadvertantly.

But I NEED that large comment capacity in orders. That point was a major reason I chose this e-commerce player in the first place: because they seemed to have the flexibility in web order forms format I required for my new entrepreneurial startup.

Alas, I guess I was wrong.

Of course, I must admit what I'm trying has never been done before, to my knowledge. But still, here in 2004 shouldn't I be able to have an e-commerce form which accepts a single page worth of text from customers? Especially from a current major e-commerce player?

So what's the big deal, you ask? Why in the world would I need the capacity to accept a page of text from customers? And why wouldn't it be just as good to get it separately from them via e-mail?

First of all, my new service is one of personal customization. Customizing my own site in a small way to give my customers a 'piece of the action'. Basically they send me an idea and I incorporate it into the existing content of my site, along with an embedded web link to their own site, if they want it. All this is for a fee, of course.

(I'm leaving out the details of the offer at this time because I don't want someone else to beat me to the punch. But it seems the full-fledged offer may be quite appealing to some)

So anyway, I need the customer to send me their idea. And I figure it might take several paragraphs. And I'm sure lots of people will send considerably more than that, despite me asking them to keep it brief.

So I need a good-sized text acceptance capacity. According to what I know at the moment, around 200 words is all my e-commerce folks will allow in their order forms. And they've officially complained to me already for testing that limit. But we all know someone among my customers would test it too, over and over again.

Customers want convenience and certainty. Allowing them to enter their idea within the same order form that they are buying their spot is a very basic element of convenience and certainty.

But apparently I can't offer that level of convenience and certainty for that particular service. So I'll lose some potential orders because of it. How many no one can say. But from long time experience in small business I'm sure it'll be substantial. And that means my e-commerce folks will lose money too, as they only get a cut of what I sell. So it's a lose-lose-lose situation: for me, my customers, and my e-commerce support company all three.

The inability to have an integrated idea submission field in my order form will make management of that particular service more complex than it would otherwise be, too. So I'm going to have fewer orders and higher overhead due to this one nagging limitation.

Of course, my first instinct was to write the e-commerce folks about my dilemma and how I was inventing a whole new revenue model for writers on the web, and how if the idea took off they too would likely get lots more customers and make lots more money...but I've been around long enough to know that it would be downright dangerous to make such a plea. Because the tech support person who first got it would likely NOT even read the whole thing, and even if they did, all they'd probably care about was that this guy looked to be more trouble than he was worth, and send out a memo to their hit squad to cancel my account. DOH!

At least that's the typical reaction I've come to expect from a wide swath of folks in business and government over my lifetime. Basically, humanity overall has always been, at best, only begrudgingly tolerant of entrepreneurs and inventors. And I admit lots of entrepreneurs and inventors gave folks good reasons not to especially like or encourage their ilk. The atomic bomb, nerve gas, and guillotine were all inventions. Businesses often chase profits with no regard whatsoever to any other concern, including human safety and health.

But life-saving medicines, and electric light and heat were inventions too. And some businesses actually treat their employees, customers, and totally un-involved third parties all equally well, in terms of wages, prices, and safety and environmental responsibilities.

But the key tipping factor here may be change. No matter what else can be said about them, entrepreneurs and inventors strive to bring change to their own lives and everyone else's, some way, some how. That means they're practically always a threat to the status quo-- at least while they continue actively starting up new businesses and inventing new products or services. If and when they grow rich and powerful and complacent they may well switch to the entirely different behavior of resisting change, and protecting the status quo.

And almost every individual in the world (including myself) can't help but be at least a bit skeptical-- and sometimes even fearful-- of anyone who poses a real threat of change to the way things are. At least where we ourselves aren't sure as to how our own lives will ultimately be affected.

The physical law of entropy dictates that most changes won't be for the better.

Maybe my e-commerce folks are different. But I can't afford to take the chance. Finances are pressing heavily here at WebFLUX Central, and I need to get this new venture off the ground, pronto.

So here comes an unfortunate fragmentation of my new business model...

But I'm going to be rolling out quite a few different products and services. So hopefully where one gets pinched another will take up the slack....

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

9-15-04: My new store efforts move from my local hard disk to a true e-commerce web site

Well, after quite a few months of part-time work on the matter (I'm severely time-pressed by a staggeringly wide array of matters) I finally got around a dozen decent product/service offers sufficiently mature and well-rounded to try setting up a true e-commerce store around them, on-site.

The next stage entails actually dealing with the e-commerce store support folks' site itself on the matter.

I'm not going to name the folks' company here as that's usually taboo in various agreements. But eventually suitable exploration of this site will reveal their identity.

The first day was the worst, as is typical with anything new. You don't really know what to expect, and often things appear to be more difficult and complicated than they truly are.

I DID have to do quite a bit of reading on the subject, and take some notes. But to their credit the e-commerce folks have done quite a bit to help you along. It might not seem that way at first, when you're thrashing around on their site not knowing where to go first or what to do next, but within a couple days of moderate effort and determination you start to get more comfortable.

I'm currently going through the 'testing' phase of my new product listings with the e-commerce bunch. This entails putting a test form of customer orders through the system to see if what comes out the end is what you expect. This testing provision is one of the things which attracted me to this bunch, as being a programmer from way back-- as well as an entrepreneur-- I know there's all sorts of ways for business transactions to go wrong: especially in software. So testing is essential.

These folks do provide some handy HTML examples on-site, as well as links to the store pages other folks have set up with them. I used both these resources heavily to try to figure out my own best path. But it was vital that I prepare for all this months ahead of time by figuring out every possible detail of the products/services I want to offer, and exactly what input I need from customers to provide them. So if you're currently pursuing your own similar aims, be sure to create a complete HTML page presentation for your site about whatever you want to sell FIRST, before attempting to set up the actual functioning e-commerce stuff itself.

And when I say 'create a complete HTML page presentation for your site about whatever you want to sell', I mean create a page you DO NOT post to the web, but keep just on your local PC hard drive. After all, that page can't truly sell anything anyway until its ecommerce sibling is configured as well.

From what I can tell so far, I'm going to be pretty limited in what I can put on the actual e-commerce page itself-- basically just a checklist of the items I'm offering for sale, with minimal descriptions of same. So my plan is this:

Centralize all site transactions through my on-site store page. There users will be able to choose a particular offer and see its fully-fleshed out details and spiel, as well as a 'cheat sheet' detailing what info I'll need from them in order to provide certain services. Then, each separate product/service page will present a link to my single e-commerce order page on the corporate site, where the customer will complete the order form and buy, pretty much the same as they would from Microsoft, Apple, and other big companies.

I've already got a link to my main site store page on almost every other page on-site. But I'm re-thinking that now. I recently redid my store page in preparation for a different presentation there. Now I've combined my store page with a new web log which describes recent site updates and juicier news tidbits. In other words, I'm trying to make the store page a useful destination for folks in general, above and beyond its store role.

In light of this store page change, I'm likely going to change the store's link name across the board in other site pages. Where now the link says 'site store' it'll soon read 'latest site updates'. I figure the 'site updates' name will get more clicks than 'site store'.

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

9-11-04: I'm preparing to roll out a whole new site store

It's TONS of work, but hopefully will open up lots of new and valuable avenues for site-related revenues. The new store will offer products and services for which I should suffer little or no competition, and perhaps incorporate some nifty viral marketing aspects as well (see How small-time web sites can make it financially on the internet for more info on such points).

My new store selections may offer a model for how a wide swath of writers worldwide might better monetize their efforts directly, thereby putting into place another essential piece of the new online economy in terms of individual opportunity.

I have ideas for a similar model for artists-- which I feel might prove much more successful than the writer's model-- but that one's going to take me a bit longer to implement.

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

9-10-04: I cancel my America Online account, and change the filename of my number one traffic page

What!?! Changed the filename of my number one site traffic page?!? Am I insane?

I did post a redirect under the original filename to automatically send visitors to the new one.

I was basically forced into doing this by the number one search engine (which shall remain nameless so I can avoid retribution for expressing my honest opinion here). Because the Nameless One has declared that your page's filename counts for lots more in page ranking than perhaps all other sorts of attributes combined.

I was seeing my top traffic page decline precipitously in the results pages, suddenly coming in far far behind other pages decidedly inferior in quality and quantity to my own site (in its main subject matter)-- but which used my site's keywords in their filenames, while mine did not.

Ergo, the filename change.

Note that spokespeople for the Nameless One have been heard to say that they wanted site authors to be able to just concentrate on their content and not have to worry about tweaking their sites to get or stay where they should be in the results pages. But then the Nameless One turns right around and penalizes sites which don't tweak to adapt to their changing rules. I previously had to kill my practice of maintaining a mirror site to overcome single domain outages and other problems, because the Nameless One decreed only Giant Corporations like themselves were qualified to maintain mirrors, and any small sites doing so would be demoted in the results. Now it seems everyone has to change their file names too. Note this is an enormous hassle for me in regards to important pages linked from almost every other page on my site, as I have to hand change hundreds of pages and then upload them. A similar massive effort was required of me to adapt to one site spanning two domains rather than two domains each being a mirror of the other. So basically the Nameless One is interfering mightily in my content creation efforts by adding greatly to my maintenance burden, while also making it more likely my site will more often be inaccessible due to single host or domain outages. What's next? Are they going to demand $500 from every site to be included in their database? If they want to rid the web of small-time sites in favor of big corporate ones, the $500 fee would be a somewhat faster way to do it than the course they're taking now.

America Online cancellation

I canceled my America Online account. The AOL employee I spoke with about it said I'd had it eleven years.

I think it took me 20-30 minutes to cancel it over the phone, at least a third of that time on hold. And I barely managed to get out of having to go through the whole call thing again next month after receiving some sort of 'confirmation' letter(!) I had to vehemently insist I wanted canceled NOW without having to call back a second time. The AOL worker just barely gave me an opening for this though, trying to inform me at the last minute what I'd have to do and then hanging up on me-- but I was already wary of such tactics because I knew AOL had had lots of legal problems in years past about making it hard for folks to terminate their accounts.

At least I think I got it resolved with that one call. We'll find out in months to come.

My AOL email address became useless years ago, clogged with unbelievable amounts of spam. For a few years I dutifully went in almost every day and deleted screen after screen of spam. But after you get nothing but several thousand messages to delete with no reward whatsoever, you finally give up.

The main reasons I kept the account so long were (1) it hosted my original web site URLS, which I posted redirects on to my newer domains long ago, and (2) I really don't like the phone hassle of canceling things like AOL accounts.

But money looks to be getting tight here again, so the chopping ax is out and swinging.

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8-13-04: The fastest and easiest ways to set up small site forums

My niece was seeking a way to offer forums on her fledgling web site (phpbb was the system used by a site she wants to emulate), and running into that massive mess on the net regarding stuff like MySQL, PHP, and similar do-it-yourself items. So she asked for my advice. Here is the gist of what I told her.

I believe using a third party free system (remotely hosted) would be best for you (this means other people would do all the hard stuff for you, but they'd get to show ads and maybe send spam email to your users in return: you could maybe look around the net some to get the best deal for the least hassles).

Note you could always re-do all this later a different way. But letting other people do the hard stuff now might give you a head start in general.

Below is a link which seemed to give a decent intro to the subject:


And here is the Google search link I used to find the site above...

I'm NOT recommending any particular site or service here-- just presenting you with some leads to check out.

You can try the Google link above to see what other sites come up.

If you DID buy your own name and host package and try doing the nitty-gritty programming yourself, the basic process may be you have to make sure your host supports (allows) the system you want to use, then you'd have to install it TWICE: one on your own computer and one on your web site server your host maintains wherever they are located (like Florida maybe), via FTP from your house.

The reason for two installs is so you can program your database and debug it on your own computer before uploading the changes to your web site.

(note that some web host deals out there may already provide a database installed for you-- but you'll still have to configure and program it)

In my own shopping around for hosts I don't remember seeing too many saying they support/allow phpbb-- but almost all of them support plain php. Maybe there's no difference. I don't know. Or maybe phpbb is just a set of extra commands for plain PHP, meant to make it easier to use for bb databases-- such add-on things exist for other programming languages.

Note that if you manually create these two databases yourself, you'll also be responsible for backing them up and being able to re-install them from scratch again if anything goes wrong (sooner or later things WILL go wrong: I've had to re-install my entire web site from scratch on totally different servers several times-- but since I wasn't using PHP or databases like we're talking here, the process was pretty straightforward).

The phpbb stuff you're contemplating here might offer a fairly steep and lengthy learning curve for you to climb: i.e., require oodles of time and effort on your part.

I recommend though that you offload much of this phpbb/database work by using third party stuff available on the web, if you can find some package that fills your requirements.

Just learning HTML and a few other things related to all this will be plenty for you to personally do in the near term.

Once you settle on one or more candidates, you can run another Google search to check them out. With keywords like "[insert company or site/service name here] problem"

I can give you more tips later on judging the results you find from this last search.

Hope this helps!

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7-11-04: Lengthy and descriptive filenames help your page show up in search results-- around mid-2004, anyway

I've been thinking about more plainly naming my HTML files for the web, as Google is said to highly value filenames in their rankings-- and this seems to be true, based on my own use of the search engine. When I say plainly naming my HTML files, I mean naming the file of a page titled 'Nowhere to Go But Up The spectacular high speed end of Shadowfast: possibly the ultimate Mustang Mach One of the 20th century' something like "shadowfast_mustang.html". So that the whole URL would be "http://www.jmooneyham.com/shadowfast_mustang.html".

But just how long a file name will all the internet servers and browsers around the world accept without breaking? Not so long ago it seemed all file names had to be pretty short.

I did some looking around for tips on the acceptable lengths of filenames today and found the links below:

CH000209 Information about long file names
HTML Tip What's In A (File) Name
Managing and publishing Web pages
Most web servers can handle long filenames and long file extensions, but it will not accept spaces as part of a filename

From here on out I'm personally assigning long filenames to new site pages. Here's a sampling of what I've done lately in this regard:

Filename: super_car_project.html; title: The Shadowfast Super Car Project
Filename: super_car_concept.html; title: The Shadowfast Super Car Project Concept Sketches Part One
Filename: super_car_concept_2.html; title: The Shadowfast Super Car Project Concept Sketches Part Two
Filename: super_car_concept_3.html; title: The Shadowfast Super Car Project Concept Sketches Part Three
Filename: super_car_context.html; title: The Shadowfast Super Car Project Context of the Times

Note that changing the filenames of existing site pages to longer ones would also require the creation of redirect pages at the original filename locations on your server. This might be worthwhile for major gateway or high traffic pages.

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5-4-04: My first mainstream web advertising buy-- NOT!

I decided to bite the bullet and finally buy some mainstream web advertising from the highest profile provider today. I can't say who because they'll punish me severely for mentioning their name (yes, they are that powerful). But virtually anyone who's used the internet more than 30 days should know of them.

Their web site made me jump through a lot more hoops than I expected just to buy one measely, tiny ad. And was astonishingly restrictive in what I could say in that ad. After maybe a dozen tries I thought I might never be able to come up with something their automated system would accept. Their site would tell me it was unacceptable, but not precisely what part was unacceptable. So I had to read and re-read all their guidelines and basically change stuff at random, over and over again. I stayed stranded in ad censorship land this way for hours. And no, I was NOT trying to say anything obscene or hate-mongering or anything like that. I was just trying to create an ad for my page about the nature of luck and how it works. DUH!

Once I finally cleared the ad censorship hurdle, I got into the confusing jumble of keyword auctions and the traffic they might be expected to bring me, as well as the associated costs per day.

The javascript or CGI or whatever they use to make these calculations was seriously screwed up, forcing me to try all sorts of things just to get the thing to work at all like it seemed it was supposed to.

After still more agonizing hours I finally got to the last stage setting up my ad and account, and was stunned by an error message from the site that basically said 'sorry, but our site's really screwed up at the moment and can't do anything we said it'd do. You still have no account, your ad's not going to run, and you'll just have to go through all this again later. Have a nice day!'


How the heck these guys are selling any ads at all is beyond me. It'll likely be months before I have sufficient free time (and spare stamina!) to even consider going through that again.

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4-3-04: My own take on implementing pay-per-click ads in the most cost-effective manner possible

As prominently mentioned in How small-time web sites can make it financially on the internet, there's many potential money-generating methods which you shouldn't even bother with unless and until you've got a decent and consistent level of traffic already streaming into your site. Refer to that page for how-to links relating to traffic-building (unfortunately, traffic building is much like gaining fame via any other avenue: i.e., much depends on pre-existing connections and plain old luck, with hard work an extremely distant third. YIKES!).

But let's assume you already have decent traffic stats. Do you actually have the stats themselves? Some gauging system by which you can see what pages on-site draw more than others, and by how much? Many authors using free hosts may not have such stats, or else what stats they do have are way too inadequate for our purposes here. YOU GOTTA HAVE A PAID HOSTING PACKAGE FOLKS to even have a shot at a decent traffic stats package. In some cases you may still have to buy and install third party software to get those stats-- but somehow you must have them.

YOU'VE ALSO GOT TO HAVE YOUR OWN DOMAIN NAME. Building site traffic is horrendously difficult and can take years for many people. But all this traffic must go to a particular domain name. Buying your own domain name is the best current solution to this, as it offers you more control over the destination of your traffic, and makes it more likely you'll be able to recapture that traffic from incoming links even if many other aspects of your web work undergo drastic changes. Building up traffic over years to a domain you don't own or control will likely result in your work going to waste at some point-- SO BUY A DOMAIN NAME IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY.

Trademarking your domain name may also be wise at some point, in order to raise still higher the likelihood you can retain control over it in a future dispute. But trademarks require commercial use, so until you're demonstrably making money with it, you may encounter problems trademarking it (as well as be unable to afford trademarking it).

Using your own given name like 'johndoe.com' for your domain might not sound very catchy but it could add a bit more to your domain name claim in a crisis. Using '.com' rather than '.net' or '.org' also seems advisible circa 2004, not only for commercial and trademark reasons, but general familiarity among the public. 'dot-com' is the suffix with the greatest recognition and memory factor among the general population, so your advertising and marketing should go further with that suffix than any other.

The two kinds of intelligence required for maximizing your pay-per-click return.

If you only have one or a few pages on-site, this section won't matter much to you. But for folks like me with hundreds of pages and dozens of topics, it can be important indeed. Re-formatting your pages to meet the requirements of advertisers can sometimes be quite a bit of work. Plus, you'll get the most revenue per elbow grease unit from EITHER your highest traffic pages OR those pages with the highest paying clicks due to page content (or some optimal combination of the two). So knowing your page traffic stats is only half the intelligence you need. Knowing what content brings the highest fees per click is the other.

Hopefully your system will allow you to gather both types of information. But if they don't, you may still be able to do some estimates of your own. I'll try to offer a technique or two for this in a future update.

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3-30-04: I've had to stop using a third-party referrer log on-site

Well, I wondered how long I could count on a particular third party referrer log device to work on my site, when I first implemented it maybe a year or two ago. Turned out I could rely on it right up to the point that I decided to embed it much more widely across my site. Immediately after that, its quality went south, resulting in effectively a broken link on my highest traffic pages. DOH!

Because of that straw, I just finished removing the third party link from most of the pages which hosted it.

The creator of the referral system abruptly announced he was stopping it maybe a couple weeks ago. Prior to that it had been acting erratically for quite some time. After his announcement, it was completely gone for a few days, then suddenly some other outfit seemed to have taken control of it. Only the new bunch couldn't handle it, and the performance went kaput. A real shame too, for that referral system looked like a pretty good opportunity for someone to exploit, since LOTS of folks like me seemed to have embedded its link in their pages over the past year or so.

The referral system had several pluses when it worked. For instance, it offered authors like me a way to confirm traffic on various pages, as well as offer automatic reciprocal links to those sites which sent traffic my way. It also gave me yet another traffic-related notification system and perspective, differing in some vital ways from my regular traffic breakdowns, offered by my site host(s).

Unfortunately, the reverse was also true: when it stopped working it made for problems for both me and my visitors. Like creating an effective broken link on pages hosting the log, which neither visitors or possible advertising buyers would be very happy about.

So yet another day is spent purely on site maintenance. But I have to admit the referral system did me some good while it was available, helping me get a better perspective on site traffic stats than my site host services alone could provide. Plus it was a nice (and free) automatic link-back system to referring sites.

But of course spammers and other con artists have discovered such referral/link-back systems and began exploiting them for their own purposes over past months, making such systems less reliable and useful in regards to their original purpose. So the system was gradually losing value anyway for all involved. Still, I'm sorry to see it go. I might have left the link embedded indefinitely if its new owner could have kept it working in a satisfactory fashion.

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3-19-04: Major site restructuring

I've settled into a single site structure which straddles two different major domains (jmooneyham.com and jrmooneyham.com), with independent hosts for each, and a different registrar for each domain as well. Yes, this isn't the most convenient or cheapest arrangement available, but I want more protection from future single host meltdowns and registrar troubles, as well as plenty of available bandwidth for traffic spikes, disk space for site expansion, and a wider variety of site upgrade options than a single low-cost host and/or registrar may offer.

My expiration/renewal dates for all these things are staggered a bit too, so even in a worst case scenario everything shouldn't go dead contract-wise at the same time.

I'll still using relative URLs on most pages, though I've split the content up with timeline and rise & fall of alien civilizations stuff on jrmooneyham.com, and everything else on jmooneyham.com.

Relative URLs are local URLs, pointing to pages found in the same local directory as the current page you're viewing. 'imac.html' is a relative URL that'll work embedded from any page located in the jmooneyham.com domain.

To ensure the relative URLs always work, I've placed instant redirect pages at all spots where mirror pages no longer exist on each domain (A certain major search engine recently declared only major corporations are allowed to possess mirror sites without search result penalties. Is this fair? Nope!).

I've only embedded absolute URLs in that handful of pages meant to straddle both domains, like my site map and index pages. About 95% of the links listed in those pages are in the form of absolute URLs, so that I can update a single page and upload it to both domains without further changes.

An absolute URL always starts with 'http://domainname.zzz', where zzz is 'org' or 'com' or 'net', etc. So one example of an absolute URL would be 'http://www.jrmooneyham.com/future_history_timeline.html'.

Index pages are what people get when they visit the root domain with no particular page indicated: i.e., a visit to jrmooneyham.com, rather than jrmooneyham.com/future_history_timeline.html.

What about the other 5% of links on those pages? Relative URLs again, to a handful of pages which are still mirrored on both domains, like web site services (serv.html), the site store (stor.html), etc.

Another change I made was creating two different versons of my site map. The original single site map page was a comprehensive outline view of the entire site, with virtually every significant page indexed there. But what that page offered in completeness it seemed to lack in style and quick access. So I created a second site map page designed to be a portal just to my site, rather than the web in general. After all, I already have a general web portal at indexlp.html. So I did a site portal page and replaced the original outline site map, bumping the original design to a secondary option for site visitors. Thus, I now have a portal view site map, and an outline view site map.

But what of my natural site portal pages? Index.html, on both domains? I did a revamp there too. For many years those pages were merely exact copies of the timeline contents or gateway page (future_history_timeline.html). Now though, I have lots more content to choose from, so maintaining that arrangement really wasn't optimal. For that reason and others I created a short and sweet presentation page, linking to only the major features of my site. You can see it here. Note that the special font effects included there can only be seen on Windows PCs, not Macs, so far as I know. At least using Microsoft Internet Explorer as your browser.

I'm also concentrating all foreign language translation and Google cache index links in my web services pages, and reformatting my top-of-page navigational links and page titles to take up less screen real estate. As I've lost the capability to serve up a list of the latest page updates across all domains, I'm replacing that link with one to my main site web log, which itself includes an index to all my speciality logs, and on occasion is used to announce page updates.

Web Site Authoring Log Contents

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The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to jmooneyham.com or jrmooneyham.com are included.

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