August 2004 Archives

My land line is dead today. Here are the sequence of events that have led to this:

  1. I called Cox Communications about two weeks ago to switch my land line to their service. They said ok, and scheduled a technician to come out and install it in about a week.
  2. A couple of days after that, my phone goes dead. Fearing SBC had gotten the order to turn off my service with them too soon, I called them. SBC sent out a technician, who found the line was bad and strung a new one. Unfortunately, he connected it to my neighbor’s line, so for a few hours I had their phone number. Another technician came out and fixed that, and said someone would be out in a few days to bury the line.
  3. As scheduled, a Cox technician came and installed my new phone service through them. He showed me exactly what he did, and was able to fix a problem that was caused by our inside wiring. He also had to run a new wire, and scheduled someone to come bury it in a couple of weeks.
  4. Today, two guys from SBC show up to bury their line. When they finished, I had no dial tone. One of them specifically asked, “Your phone is with Cox, isn’t it?” To which I responded yes, it is. They couldn’t fix it, so they said a SBC technician would be coming to fix it.

After they left, I went out to take a look. It took me about ten seconds to see what the problem was: Not only had they buried the SBC line, but they had wired it back into my home phone system, thus disconnecting me from my Cox phone connection.

This is not the first time we’ve had problems with SBC. I used to have to pay them to screw up my phone service, now they do it for free.

Once this is fixed, if SBC ever knocks on my door again, I’m releasing the hounds.

Well, it’s official: Bandwidth is irrelevant. You should now feel free to make all your web pages as large as possible, and only visible in Internet Explorer.

Personally, I will be spending the rest of the night adding 12 layers of tables to this web site.

In all seriousness, the spread of broadband is a good thing. However, I know there will be web designers who use this as an excuse not to optimize their sites. Sad, but true.

Speaking of Brad Choate, he just took a job with Six Apart to work on Movable Type. Makes sense, considering he is the King of Useful Plugins. Good luck, Brad — remind them they owe you a few years of back pay for all you’ve contributed.

[From Headline reads: Prostitution Ring. Article begins: Employment Opportunity. I really like reading services like Google News and Topix, which generate pages by pulling news from thousands of news sites. The variety of sources is nice, and the format makes it easy to scan the headlines. Topix even offers RSS feeds of their pages.

But, probably the real reason I like these sites is the programs behind them seem to have my sense of humor. What can you say about this headline and excerpt? Hey, the software was just doing what it was told: Pull the headline, and use the first few words on the page as an excerpt. Completely innocent, and highly amusing.

This does, however, highlight a real problem for web designers. With all the search engine bots running around on the web, pulling data and presenting it however they see fit, how can you make sure your pages are presented in the proper context?

Brad Choate restricts what Google sees on each page using PHP. This keeps the search engine from indexing content on each page that doesn’t really apply to what the page is about: navigation, ads, etc. It’s a good idea and, much like the Force, would be easy to misuse. Scammers could show one page to Google and a completely different page to browsers in order to get higher page rank and hijack visitors.

As XML and XHTML become more prevalent, I would like to see an XHTML module for search indexing. This would allow you to put a standard set of clues in your markup to let search bots know what was important. Something as simple as a search-index attribute added to all tags would let you pick and choose what gets included in search engine results. You still have to worry about misuse, but I’m sure Google would adapt, and other search engines would soon follow. News sites could mark all their advertisements as search-index="no", and not have to worry about Topix making them look silly.

But then, what fun would that be?

Small businesses and blogging — Reasons why small businesses should blog. This is something I think about from time to time. I mention Smart Goat here, but I don’t mention this site on Smart Goat. There’s two reasons for this:

  1. The main reason is, I’m not really happy with the design of this site. (As an aside, that’s also the reason I haven’t posted much lately. I keep thinking II’ll have time to work on the new design, which is excuse enough not to write.) When I do redesign it, I will probably link to it from Smart Goat.
  2. Also, I’m not real sure how much I should associate my personal life with my business life. There is more I would like to do with News Goat that would not necessarily be beneficial to Smart Goat.

So, I’m thinking about doing more blog-like content on Smart Goat. I have the news side bar, and this could easily be expanded to include articles, links, editorials, etc. The trick is writing content that would be interesting to potential clients. I could write about web design all day long (I don’t, but I could), but small business owners don’t really care about the latest CSS tricks. Also, finding the right style is important — a company blog should have a human voice, but too casual can sound unprofessional.

Things to think about. I’m still working on changes to Smart Goat, so now is a good time to try new things.

Access 2 MySQL will convert an Access database to a MySQL database. Haven’t used it, but I have a potential job coming up where this would be very handy. (via Lockergnome)