Getting all 1999

The internet has become a mass of click-bait bullshit and other crud.

Have you noticed that? Do I need to make a list of the 10 different examples of how the internet sucks now?

I’m sure it is just nostalgia, but man, I feel it is too easy to publish stuff on the web and make it look slick now. Because now, making it look slick is what it’s all about.

That late Bill Hicks lamented that it seems that “shilling” for products, like Doritos, seems to be the highest aspiration of anyone these days. I agree with him, and reject that non-ethic of marketing evil.

So I’m working on a new site that is hand-coded in a text editor, uploaded by FTP, uses Server Side Includes to create the header and footer, has the absolute minimum formatting, and just looks really bare-bones.

This new site will be, of course, about skateboarding. It is to be a back-to-the-basics webpage about back-to-the-basics skating.

It will have no social media tie-in. No “like” buttons. It will have no advertising. It’s videos will not be available on youtube. They will be hosted on my server. (I do have a test youtube video in there right now, but it will be removed).

My only concession to the modern age will be the use of Google Analytics to track my site.

Can a non-linked site that doesn’t participate in social media, accepts no comments, and has only an email address for communication actually get an audience in the age of tumblr, twitter, and facebook? I have no idea. It’s an experiment.

The new site is theinsanelament.org. This is the only link I will ever up up for it, anywhere.

 

 

How to get lots of web traffic.

Here are a few ideas about getting lots of traffic on our blog/website. Now, I’m not talking about some big corporate site. I’m taking about “small” sites, created by one or a few people, without a bunch of money backing them. How can you get more than a few readers a day?

1) Be famous,once famous, semi-famous, or an opinion leader. For example, the great Steven Cohen, law librarian and conference speaker, is sort of an opinion leader. He gets readers. Granted, his blog is on a corporate site, but I’m going to still give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s a one-guy with a computer blogger. Former child star and cast member of Star Trek the Next Generation Wil Wheaton has been blogging for years, and seems to have some readership. He seems to be pretty cool guy, writes fairly well, and people know him.

2) Have compelling content that is in demand. My other site, Bob’s Trick Tips, used to get about 15,000 – 25, 000 page views a day. I’ve written about this before, but that was before user-generated content via sites like Google made video posting really accessible to the masses. Back in the old days, my site was one of the only places you could see skateboard trick videos. Now the content is the same, and it still gets several thousand page views a day, but there’s just more competition.

3) Post outrageous stuff. I’ve notices on WordPress that by posted outlandish, sensationalist, or reactionary stuff, blogs get temporary spikes in usage.

4) Create community. If you can get a community going, and then maintain its momentum, you can get pretty good traffic. Also, participating in other online communities seems to boost your traffic.

5) Useful/unique information. I’m separating this from “compelling content”. The more actual, non-opinion information I post on this blog, the more hits I get. It doesn’t equal thousands per day, but it has grown. The story I posted about the chair I inherited, along with links to patent information, etc, company history, etc., gets traffic every day.  Really, I’d rather have someone find this blog useful for something like that than to attract them because I posted some crazy political opinion.

So, any other ideas? I welcome your comments on this topic.

Bob’s Tricktips is back up

For those of you who have been using the BTT videos here on bibliosk8.net, I have got bobstricktips.com working again. Check it.

I decided to  use the Moveable Type blogging system for BTT, running on my rented server space at dreamhost.com. While I like WordPress a lot, I find Moveable Type to be a bit easier to format, and I like the way it handles categories. I’m still working on modifying a nice black, white, and gray theme I found, and I’ve still got to fix the pages with the videos on them, but everything is there and it works.

Back on WordPress.com

OK, after thinking about it for a couple of days, I’ve moved this blog back over to WordPress.com, using the same redirect that I’m using on concretelunch.net (the redirect described in this post). The advantages of using the WordPress free service are just too great. Sure, you lose the ability to tweak your style sheets and templates (unless you pay), but for this kind of blog the advantages far outweigh that slight disadvantage. It isn’t like I was doing anything creative with the template design anyway.

So if you are one of the 1 or 2 sites that actually links to bibliosk8.net, you don’t need to change anything. My scripting genius (i.e., the script I found in 5 seconds with a web search) has taken care of that for you.

Combining free blog hosting with your own domain name.

Hosting a site on a free service like WordPress.com has some advantages. For one thing, they really keep the blogging software up to date, with constant improvements, new widgets, etc. You never have to lift a finger to upgrade. The problem is that you are limited as to disk space, bandwidth, etc. This is why this blog is not run on WordPress.com – I wanted to go beyond the services that WordPress provides for free. I have a rented server account with Dreamhost.com, on which I can host as many domain names as I need, with tons of bandwidth and storage.

I recently started a new skateboarding blog called “concretelunch.net“. I plan on using a lot of photos and videos on the site, which will require both disk space and bandwidth. I purchased the domain name, but I’d rather host the blog — which will be the “homepage” — for free on WordPress.com. At the same time, I want to use my Concretelunch.net domain name (so I can just refer to “concretelunch.net”, rather than “wordpress.concretelunch.com”) and also use that domain to host and serve large files, run other applications, etc.

Here is a nice way to make it all work. I set up the blog on WordPress.com. Then on my server, under the domain concretelunch.net, I deleted the existing index.html file, replacing it with index.php . The index.php file contains only the following code — a simple redirect to my WordPress.com blog:

<?php
header( ‘Location: http://www.yoursite.com’ ) ;
?>

The nice thing about using a redirect like this is that I can use WordPress.com’s free service for low bandwidth stuff, but if I want to point to something like a gallery URL, like “concretelunch.net/gallery” (which doesn’t exist yet), I can do that easily. Of course, this only works because the server I host my domain name on runs the PHP scripting language. However, you could easily find a PERL or JavaScript redirect script to use instead.

Moving your site to a new server: some tricks

For those of you who aren’t techies, here is a basic technique for bypassing the “middle man” (your own computer) when moving your website from one server to another. By harnessing the power of the Linux command line, you can really save some time in a most kickass way.

If you have a website with a lot of content, like large picture galleries or video files, moving to a new server presents some challenges. I’m going to ignore the obvious challenge of getting all the systems, like your blog system, your gallery program, etc, to work again. The most basic challenge I’ve found is simply moving those large files and directories. For example, if you have a directory with 400 megs of images in it, and you need to move the whole thing to a new server, but you have a normal DSL line at home with a horribly slow upload speed, it is simply not practical to download the whole directory to your computer then upload it to the new one. It will take all day.

Continue reading “Moving your site to a new server: some tricks”

Blogging, WordPress themes, and Good People

Now that I’m running this site on my own server (having moved from WordPress.com), I have a few things to say:

1) WordPress is bad ass. What a great blogging system to get for FREE. Killer. I love it. Why do I love it? Well, I’ve mentioned the spam control — that is huge. I also really like the availability of lots of themes, and the total ease with which those themes can be used. Did I mention that all this stuff is free?

2) In my blog roll, you’ll see Manton.org. This is the blog of my one-time coworker, Manton Reece. Manton is an independent Mac software developer. Besides being a cool guy and married to a very cool former classmate of mine, Manton knows lots of cool people, and he’ll often point to them in his blog posts. For example, this Red Sweater Blog. This is the blog of another independent Mac software developer. Why do I point to this site? Well, I really like the simple but effective layout of this blog. Like Manton’s blog, the layout is simple, attractive, and totally lacking in bullshit. It works.

Having searched for simple, effective WordPress themes, I can tell you that most are neither. A lot of developers want to show how crazy they can get, resulting in some seriously jacked themes. Red Sweater Man didn’t make this mistake. His blog looks good. It is readable. Me likee.

Manton’s blog has, again and again, pointed me to interesting and useful information. So Manton, if you’re reading this, thanks!

3) So I’m in the middle of moving all my other websites to dreamhost.com. Let me say this: moving large sites is a huge pain in the neck. Particularly moving — arrghhh — phpBB message forums. Moving large galleries of photos isn’t fun either. I have a pathetic DSL line here at home, and the upload speed is just snail-like. Can’t wait to get into a new house and get a nice, fast connection.

4) I’m seriously thinking about moving all the old videos from Bob’s Trick Tips over to this site, setting them up on an archive page, and shutting BTT down. After 8 years this is hard for me to do, but a) it simply isn’t making enough money to keep me interested, and b) I’m just not that interested in it anymore. I still want to do some trick tips videos, but I want to make them more advanced, as befits our current age of broadband internet access. Well, we’ll see. If I can move BTT with a mininum of headache, I keep it going. If it turns into a problem, it will evolve into part of this site.

YouTube.com and the death of a website

A little lunchtime blogging. 

In 1999, when I created bobstricktips.com, bandwidth was expensive, few people had broadband, fewer people had camcorders, there were not really any free video hosting services on the web, computers didn’t come with video editing software, and blogs (as they are known today) didn’t exist.

Until this year, my site got about the same traffic every day and every week, regardless of my infrequent updates. This year my traffic took a huge hit. Why?

I have some theories. First, almost every computer you purchase now – especially Macs – comes with good video editing software. Almost every family seems to have a digital camcorder. So it is easier than it has ever been for any skateboarder to create a pretty cool video. I’ve seen videos by kids with virtually no training that look nearly as good as a professional job.

But once you have a cool video, how do you share it? In 1999, you needed your own website. There was no YouTube.com to slap your stuff into. And if your video content was popular you needed massive bandwidth, which at the time was expensive. BTT was pulling about 9 gigs a day of bandwidth at one point, which is a lot for a one-man show. Youtube has solved the problem for the average web-user.

But YouTube has gone beyond simply supplying bandwidth and storage space — it has created a social-network/search mechanism. Not only can you put your videos there, but if they are good you have an instant audience. Pretty neat. My own experiment with social networking involved putting a phpBB bulletin board on BTT, but after over a year I removed it. The quality of the conversation detracted from the overal quality of the site.

Back then it was even a little harder to create a website. You had to get an account with and hosting service, get your domain name, create the site, and upload it. You might even have to know — GASP — HTML.

Now free services like this (wordpress.com) allow anyone with two functioning brain cells to create a site, have a domain, upload images, link directly to Youtube videos and other content — pretty much without knowing any HTML or CSS at all. Perhaps best of all, WordPress takes care of controlling comment-spam for you, keeps the software updated, adds new features, etc.  Amazing. If your are a photographer, you can upload photos to a Flickr account with the same kind of built-in social network. With the nearly global change to digital cameras, you don’t even need a scanner.

So when I look at the traffic decrease at BTT in the last year, I can’t help but think that all these factors have come into play. And that’s really OK. I built BTT to teach some basics of skateboarding and it continues to do that very well. Everyone has a limited amount of time, and as the marketing people might say, there is just more competition for the same number of eyeballs now.

For me, if I want my traffic back, it means I’ll have to provide more than a kid with a camcorder and a YouTube account. I’m not sure what that is. Longer, better quality videos? Probably. I kept my videos short back then because bandwidth was expensive and connection speed was slow. Neither of those conditions applies anymore. whoisadamcolton.com, a site run by Adam Colton, contains great videos — high quality, long, well-thought-out, and entertaining. A site developed under the current conditions, unlike BTT.

I guess this is all a long way of saying I have been sitting on my lazy ass while my site slowly fades to obscurity. The question, I think, is whether it is worth my time to really re-invent BTT or leave it there, serving its original purpose, and move on to a more modern web-project.