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Commenting on blogs is an essential part of most low budget marketing strategies, especially when promoting blogs. Plenty of people automate blog commenting, spamming thousands of blogs with worthless generic comments. There is a better way, of course.

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Dear Blogger


19 March 2007   |   Comments   |   blogging

Dear Blogger,

Please accept this letter as formal notification that I am leaving my position as Reader of Your Blog, effective immediately.

Thank you for the opportunities and support you have provided during my time with Your Blog.

Unfortunately, it has become clear to me over recent months that your goals and mine are drifting apart. I thought I would take this opportunity to offer some constructive criticism, to help you avoid a repetition of this situation in future.

Feed Contents

I, like many Readers in the field, use feeds to keep up to date with websites, including yours. I personally am subscribed to over 200 of these feeds, and I have only a limited amount of time to look through them for interesting updates. You have recently chosen to include your new photos, links and several other items to your feeds, and this has meant that the signal to noise ratio of your feed has swung strongly, in my opinion, towards noise.

I appreciate that many readers may be interested in your personal photos, and others may be interested in more specific areas of your content than I. May I suggest you change your feed structure to allow for several feeds, each with different sections of your content, to allow your Readers to select whichever feeds are most interesting to them?

Author Information

There are literally millions of blogs out there and although I only read a small cross-section of those, there are still so many clamouring for attention that it is difficult to remember a specific blog from one week to the next. Adding a personal touch, for example a profile or biography, may give your blog a more personal identity.

Post Titles

You may not be aware of this, but with so much content out there, many Readers will use your post titles to decide whether or not your post deserves their attention. Post titles like "Dear Blogger", while fine on rare occasions, are not descriptive and offer little clue to the content of a post. Better titles will increase the usability of Your Blog, and that in turn will attract more Readers.

Greed

I have noticed an increase in the advertising on your site over recent months. While I understand that you wish to cover the costs of your site, and even make an income, adding interstitial adverts and those horrific double-underlined inline green popup link things is, in my opinion, a step too far. Text adverts and sponsor links are less intrusive. I have yet to form an opinion on paid posts, however I would expect some Readers to take issue with them.

Originality

Some of your posts have simply been links to other sites with a line of commentary. While I enjoy following recommended links, I am of the opinion that this quantity of content does not quite constitute a "post" in the traditional sense. Is there a way that links could be incorporated into your site in a different way? If not, please take a moment to add to what you are linking to - I read your blog because your opinion on the subjects on which you write is of interest to me.

Communication

I have, on occasion, commented on Your Blog. I appreciate that you are probably a busy person, and that you have a lot of comments to respond to, so I would not expect a reply to each of my comments. However, I have yet to see any replies to comments I and others have left. You are under no obligation to reply, of course, however many of your Readers comment because they want to discuss your content or to add to it. More replies will in turn encourage more comments and that in turn will attract more Readers.

I am certain you will find a replacement Reader quickly. If I can be of any assistance during this upcoming transition period, please let me know.

Sincerely,
David Child

P.S. These are not the only issues I have found irksome with your blog. Rather than expand on them here, I would suggest you read Aaron Bassett's thoughts on the subject in his excellent article: Common Blog Problems (link now goes to the Wayback Machine as Aaron's blog is no longer active).

Adding and removing variables to and from URLs using PHP can be a relatively simple process admittedly, but I have a couple of functions I use often to make the process even less time-consuming.

Add Querystring Variable

A PHP function that will add the querystring variable $key with a value $value to $url. If $key is already specified within $url, it will replace it.

function add_querystring_var($url, $key, $value) {
    $url = preg_replace('/(.*)(?|&)' . $key . '=[^&]+?(&)(.*)/i', '$1$2$4', $url . '&');
    $url = substr($url, 0, -1);
    if (strpos($url, '?') === false) {
        return ($url . '?' . $key . '=' . $value);
    } else {
        return ($url . '&' . $key . '=' . $value);
    }
}

Remove Querystring Variable

A PHP function that will remove the variable $key and its value from the given $url.

function remove_querystring_var($url, $key) {
    $url = preg_replace('/(.*)(?|&)' . $key . '=[^&]+?(&)(.*)/i', '$1$2$4', $url . '&');
    $url = substr($url, 0, -1);
    return ($url);
}

A user script for Opera and Firefox that automatically numbers Google search results. Updated 16 Nov 2006 following changes to Google results page code.

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RSS to iCal


19 October 2006   |   Comments   |   rss, weather, php, bbc, ical, convert, tools, web, webdev, code, rss2ical

I have been looking for a way to convert the BBC weather feed for my area to iCal, so I can subscribe to it. It's date-based, after all, and RSS never seemed to me to be an appropriate format for subscribing to weather information. iCal always struck me as being "better" for that purpose. Of course, the BBC only have an RSS feed for local weather. What I needed was a converter.

After some hunting, I discovered that Dean Sanvitale had written a PHP script to convert RSS feeds to iCal format. However, his site (codent.com) appears to be long since abandoned and the script is no longer available from there. Fortunately, the Wayback Machine did have a copy. Dean originally released the script under a Creative Commons License which, fortunately, allows me to make the script available to download from this site (note: the script is available from this site under the same license).

So, if you're looking for a way to convert an RSS feed to iCal, this PHP script will do the job. Thanks Dean!

Source: rss2ical.txt

d.Construct 2006


9 September 2006   |   Comments

Well, I've just about recovered from d.Construct 2006 (a great evening was had with Paul, Chris and William), and what a great day (and evening) it was. Several hundred designers and developers descended on Brighton for the day, and enjoyed excellent talks from the likes of Jeff Barr, Simon Willison, Paul Hammond, Jeremy Keith, Aral Balkan, Derek Featherstone, Thomas Vander Wal and Jeffrey Veen. The follow-up evening involved much drinking, and was a great chance to meet plenty of like-minded people. For more, check out blogs talking about d.Construct 2006 on Technorati and Bloglines, photos on Flickr, the backnetwork or check out the podcast.

Why worry about getting twice as many people to visit your site, when it can be far easier to double the number of sales from the people already visiting? Here are 10 ways to improve your website conversion rate.

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Ten Web Design Commandments


1 June 2006   |   Comments   |   web design

During a particularly geeky conversation recently, the topic got around to Web Design Commandments. If I were to come up with them, they might be a little something like this. I'm sure not everyone will agree with these though, so please feel free to add to the list!

  1. Thou Shalt Be Damn Careful If Thou Must Use Embedded Audio Or Video.
  2. Thow Shalt ensure Designers, Developers And Marketers Work With, Not Against, Each Other.
  3. Thou Shalt Not Covet <blink>, <marquee>, JavaScript Slide-Ins, Images Following The Mouse Around Or Other Foul Tags and Effects.
  4. Thou Shalt Not Waste The Users' Time Demanding Unnecessary Information.
  5. Thou Shalt Not Use Flash For Everything.
  6. Thou Shalt Code Using Specifications And Standards.
  7. Thou Shalt Structure Thy Site In A Meaningful Way.
  8. Thou Shalt Not Confuse The User With Unclear Navigation.
  9. Thou Shalt Test Thy Site Extensively.
  10. Thou Shalt Give The User What The User Wants.

Search Jump User Script


31 May 2006   |   Comments   |   greasemonkey

The Search Jump user script provides a quick way to compare searches on various engines (or just to jump to another engine when the one you are using has poor results). It provides a small box at the bottom right of a search window, with links to the same search at other major search engines.

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Wondering why you should hire someone to market your website and how they should go about doing it? Hopefully this article can help.

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