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Shout Outs

October 30th, 2008  · stk

Randsco is "published" in a French textbook, a Florida reader sent Scott a Penn State baseball hat and Oklahoma's Red Dirt Emporium donated generously to Randsco. (Hmmm ... maybe it's time I find a way to say "thanks" to everyone that's helped Randsco ... here's a start)

Some Recent Kudos

October has been another milestone month for Randsco.com. In addition to setting new records for visitation and Google AdSense revenue, there have been a number of other, off-site developments.

Two of those arrived by mail. First, we received a hard-back book. Randsco.com is now "published"! (One of our online photos was used in the book). Second, just yesterday, Scott received a surprise package. (No, it wasn't a bomb ... it was a Penn State baseball cap! We surmise that it's a "thank you" for the Geographically Challenged article, since it arrived without a note).

The other recent event was an generous, unsolicited donation - (donations of any kind, are a rare event) - by a company in Oklahoma, for the use of the Photo-caption Zoom technique.

Over the years, we've received a variety of unsolicited, creative "thank you's" for helping with HTML code, PHP scripts and/or our CSS techniques. Two that come to mind are a hand-made Afghan rug, which we received from a U.S. Army helicopter pilot stationed in Afghanistan and the other, an Opera CD sent by a Dane, living in Spain, who's wife is a singer.

We've had it on our "to-do" list to add a section that says "thanks" for all the people that have donated, contributed or helped Randsco.com in a meaningful way. This post is a way of biting the bullet and just "starting", though it will take some time to construct something more finalized and formal.

To find out more about our plans for "thank you's" and the story behind the book, the hat and the Oklahoma PZ3 donation ... carry on

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Updated: 11-Apr-2010
Web View Count: 15761 viewsLast Web Update: 11-Apr-2010

MIME talk

September 28th, 2008  · stk

Article updated with new information from the W3C - July 2009

I've advocated for XHTML and CSS, thinking it was the future of the web. I'm no longer convinced of this. We've decided to go back to well-formed tag soup XHTML after realizing the price for serving the "application/xhtml+xml" MIME type wasn't worth the cost. Find out why

mimeBack to XHTML v1.0 Strict and text/html
In other words: "Well-formed Tag Soup"

Since late 2005, we've been serving our pages as XHTML v1.1, using the application/xhtml+xml MIME type for those browsers - notably FireFox, Opera & Safari - that understand it. (To do this, we used server-side scripting to set the MIME type in the header. For more about the technique, read this 2005 article - "Are You Serving XHTML with the Wrong MIME Type?")

XHTML v1.1 has only negligible coding changes from XHTML v1.0 strict. However, unlike XHTML v1.0, its supposed to be served as an XML document (hence the MIME type). So what? Well, serving XML-based web documents (XHTML v1.1 as application/xhtml+xml) comes at a huge price and we're tired of paying it (and our readers are too - *cough* most notably ¥åßßå).

Originally, we viewed XHTML v1.0 as predecessor of HTML, since it was standard-based and eliminated the problems of proprietary tags and sloppy coding. We blindly migrated to XHTML v1.1, thinking we were further future-proofing our pages. HA!

The future direction of the web (XHTML and HTML) is muddled. Consider: HTML isn't being phased out; developers of browsers such as FireFox, Opera and Safari are lobbying for (and developing) HTML 5; the W3C has renewed the HTML working group; and the Chief Technical Officer of Opera says, "I don't think XHTML is a realistic option for the masses. HTML 5 is it." [sources]

To find out what price our readers will no longer have to pay, and more about XHTML v2.0 and HTML 5 ... read on

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Updated: 27-Jul-2009
Web View Count: 21213 viewsLast Web Update: 27-Jul-2009
Filed in:Site News
Web Dev

Cashing in on Clicks

September 24th, 2008  · stk

We've been running Google AdSense Adverts (shown only to search engine visitors) for nearly a year and a half. Revenue has increased, over time. We figured we'd take another stab at increasing our stake, so we revamped our adverts, their placement, how they show and focused Google ad bots onto more relevant text. Learn more about our Google AdSense Advertising Empire! (lol)

Randsco Revamps Google Advertising

Back in February, we talked a bit about the history of Randsco and how it's become a calling card for web development work. We also talked about monetizing the blog and on our philosophy about Google Ads. The revenue from these context-related advertisements has been modest, but it has grown, as Randsco readership has increased.

Google Ads were added in June 2007 as "a test". We've been pleased with the results from these - relatively unobtrusive - ads and as a consequence, thought it time to revisit our Google Ad strategy. We're hoping to catch more paid clicks.

New Google Ad Strategy in a Nutshell

We've increased the number of Google Ad blocks to four three & a video Google Adsense Rules google adsense logo LOL ... four turned out to be a violation of the AdSense "Terms of Service" agreement (you can have, at most, 3 ad blocks on a single HTML page). So ... we've replaced the 4th ad block (bottom of the page, 728x90 banner), with a YouTube video block. (Might be entertaining ... or not.) Click the link (or in this box if it comes up over the link) to see the Google AdSense Rules , instead of one ad block. As before, we're only showing them to visitors who land on Randsco from a search engine (Google, AOL, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) We don't want to shove advertising at "loyal" readers - anyone landing here by typing "randsco.com" into a browser address bar, bookmarking us as a "favorite", or linking in from a non-search-engine link. Originally, we only showed Google Ads to search engine visitors on their landing page, but we've now expanded that to every page they click through to see. We've also pointed the Google Ad bot to only look at the body text of each article (and comment text), which - in theory - will yield more relevant ads.

To learn about Ad revenue growth, Google Ad tactics and the specifics of the Randsco Google Ad policy changes ... read on ...

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Updated: 28-Aug-2009
Web View Count: 16291 viewsLast Web Update: 28-Aug-2009

Hack Attack

September 12th, 2008  · stk

Randsco Hacked - Hackers gained FTP access and uploaded two .htaccess files, both attempted to redirect search engine visitors to another website. One failed, the other was successful. Read the postmortem on how approximately 15,000 Randsco visitors were hijacked over 5 full days, last month.

Hackers Hijack Search Engine Visitors for Five Days

This wasn't the first time our web server has been hacked. Last year, while we were hiking the West Coast Trail, Randsco was hacked, along with everyone else on our (then) shared server.

What is it about hackers? They seem to know when you're away on vacation and nowhere near a computer! Grrr.

Fast forward a year and we're now on a VPS host. This time, (as far as I know), it was only Randsco that was hacked.

For five full days in August - and a couple of partial days - all visitors clicking through to Randsco from a search engine, weren't connected to Randsco. Instead, they were automatically redirected to a spammy website that was selling "anti-virus software". The site loaded a "virus scanner" and a JavaScript alert window, which popped up in the middle of the screen. Closing these pop-ups was also difficult, as they spawned further pop-ups.

Visitors typing in a Randsco address into their address bar, weren't affected. The hackers were targeting major search engine visitors only (Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc.)

I don't know if that website was legitimately selling marginalized software or if it was a ploy to get unwary visitors to download something malicious. One is definitely worse than the other, but for me, a moot point. The fact that hackers were successfully able to redirect search engine visitors, was an egregious violation of our privacy and goal of providing helpful, relevant content and a positive visitor experience.

To learn more about how hackers gained access and what they did (a postmortem, if you will) ... carry on.

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Updated: 13-Sep-2008
Web View Count: 16379 viewsLast Web Update: 13-Sep-2008
Filed in:The Web
Web Dev

Internally Yours

August 8th, 2008  · stk

When it comes to finding which websites link to your domain, or to a specific URL within your domain, Yahoo!Search beats the pants off of Google search. Find out why.

Who Links to Your Internal Web Pages?
Why Yahoo Search Soars Over Google

google, yahoo icon

One measure of the relevancy ("success" or contribution) of a website, is to find how many other people reference (link to) its pages. To answer this question, until now anyway, I've headed to the search engine I usually use - Google.

By typing link:randsco.com into a Google search box, it spits back a list of sites that link to this domain. (Instructions for this - and other - advanced Google operators).

Doing the above yields about 200 results and going down the list, one can see which sites link to our domain. Unfortunately, many of the results are actually randsco webpages or they are sites where I have placed a link (e.g., comments I've made on other blogs, newsgroups or forums). It sure would be nice to eliminate those and see only other people linking in. (Particularly useful tracking down folks violating our copyright policy, by using our CSS techniques and PHP scripts for commercial purposes and bypassing the "donation required" step). :|

Step aside Google, because this is where Yahoo beats the pants off of your - very simple - "link:" search. Yahoo!Search is more powerful, more accurate and more comprehensive.

To learn about the power of Yahoo's inbound link searching and how to stretch your link-searching muscles .... read on ...

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Updated: 8-Aug-2008
Web View Count: 21408 viewsLast Web Update: 8-Aug-2008