Choosing a template

I want to change the template for this blog, because I fancy a change.  But choosing a template is not easy!  Instead of templates just changing how the site looks, over time, they end up changing how the site behaves, how you include little snippets of code, how your SEO stuff works, etc.

There are some really good looking templates out there, but they’re either too big or too small, or too fiddly or too hard coded with features I don’t want / need.

It’s pretty frustrating, mitigated by the fact that I’m not paying for any of this and it’s only thanks to other people’s freely provided effort that I have software to run a blog from anyway.

I’ll keep looking.


I changed themes to test out the new default WordPress theme, didn’t like it and then when I switched back to Mandigo, it won’t let me edit the settings 🙂

Please stand by while I try and fix things!

Stupid Spammers

So I’ve commented before on how stupid spammers are, mostly blog comment spammers clearly in the context of this blog.  Obviously there are bots which submit spam, and there are clearly people being paid a tiny amount of money to post spam, and here’s another favourite.

If you are given some boiler plate text to copy into blog comment spam, and the boiler plate text says ‘examples in this post’ then you really should replace that text with some examples, rather than leaving it in verbatim, otherwise it doesn’t work.

I really enjoyed this post, especially the ¡°examples in this post¡± portion which made it really easy for me to SEE what you were talking about without even having to leave the article. Thanks

See what I mean?

Also, if you post this comment to a blog,

Great crap as usual…

with the hope that it’ll get approved and your URL will get spidered, think again about your choice of wording.  Seriously.

Sometimes I wish they’d just stick to selling fake watches.

If you write – they will come

I’m interested, peripherally, about how people find web pages and why they read them.  Especially with respect to personal blogs (such as mine) for people who are neither famous nor especially interesting.  The two things I can tell you are,

  1. If you write it, they will come.  People will read anything, and if you eventually get your blog to show up on searches, some people will turn up and read stuff.
  2. The more you write, the more chance you’ll get visitors and the corollary, if you stop writing, they will go.  It doesn’t matter what you write, almost, if you write every day you’ll get visitors on that basis.  If you write once a week you’ll get fewer, if you write once a month you’ll get fewer still.  If you write sporadically you’ll get sporadic visitors, if you write consistently you’ll get consistent visitors.

So there.

New spam comment tactic

I’m always intrigued by how the spammers try and get comments onto threads, the latest approach is to copy someone elses comment verbatim, but hoping that it gets posted so that their name-url link is published.

On huge blogs with a lot of comments it might actually succeed.  On a tiny blog like this with about 40 comments, it’s pretty easy to spot the dupes instantly.

Not much blogging goin’ on

So my rate of blog posts has slowed over the last few months from the peak of 2008.  You may ask ‘is it the fault of Twitter’, have my astounding insights been dulled and diluted by a desire to spout 140 character chunks of wisdom?  Actually, it’s because I’m playing a lot of Lord of the Rings Online and various PS3 games really.  On top of that we had a June and July from hell madness where we had visitors left right and centre and went to weddings and generally were out having a life.

I think Twitter is to ‘blame’ certainly for a reduction in the 2 line blog posts I would sometimes make and perhaps Twitter is a better place for that kind of thought anyway.

But mainly it takes some minutes to sit down and write a blog post or a movie review (increasingly, for films which have been out for several years and no one wants to read reviews about) and those minutes are at the moment taken up with Lord of the Rings, the PS3, the garden, the house or life.

I’m sure as Autumn sets in and Winter gets a grip on our goolies, I’ll be here more often, shivering out a few words of painful insight that you didn’t want to read in the first place.

iPhone / iPod Touch / Android mode

Added what looks to be an awesome plugin for creating a mobile version of the site.  If you’re viewing this through an iphone / ipod touch or android phone you should see the new style (you can turn it on and off at the bottom of the page).

Obviously, I can’t check from Android, if you can, let me know if it works.

This is the plugin home page – WPtouch

Ego-stroking Spam

Spam comments have changed over the last few months.  When I first started the blog the spam comments were essentially heavily laden with links to other spam sites.  Either blatant (just lists of links) or thinly disguised (long diatribe of text with links spread throughout).  Recently though, there’s been an increase in short comments in which the spam is just a URL link of the submitter.  The comments all have the same thing in common – ego-stroking.

They cover the following types,

  • Personal ego-stroke: Something like ‘you have really good insight, please keep blogging, I love your posts’.
  • Site ego-stroke: Something like ‘I love this site, it’s great, I recommend it to all my friends’.
  • Site ego-stroke with question: Often goes ‘I love the site but can’t get my RSS reader to subscribe’.
  • Ego-stroke with debate: Something like ‘this sounds really good but can it last until the future?’ (I had one of these today attached to the ’77 trailer post).

I guess some people get suckered in by the ego-stroke and are encouraged to approve the posts where they would normally ignore them.  Since my ego is already the size of a small mountain I need no further strokage and so am immune.  Or maybe it’s because I’m not as easily fooled.  Or maybe my self image is so bad I can’t for a moment believe any of the comments are true.  Whatever the reason – they still don’t make it past the spam filter on the site.

Soon we’ll be seeing the following class of spam,

  • Pet ego-stroke: I love your cat, you should let them post more often.
  • Family ego-stroke: Your [significant other] looks great, you should blog about them more.
  • Country ego-stroke: I love the part of the world you live in, please post pictures and talk about it more.

I’ll hold out against those as well I think.

Stats, stats and more stats (and lies!)

I’m a bit of a web-stat-aholic.  Despite the fact that this is a personal blog with hardly any relevance to the outside world, I still feel the need to see how many people read it.  But then that’s true of all the websites I throw up.  In some ways I find the stats just interesting, even if the numbers are really small, it amuses me how people find the sites, what search strings they use, and how certain pages get more hits.

I use three stats systems on this site, Google Analytics, the stats plugin, and the CyStats plugin.  Clearly the whole area of ‘what constitutes a visitor’ is murky at best, and when a page is made up of lots of resources that each generate a request to the web server, it gets a little harder to work out how many hits you’ve had, but I’m amused by the difference in information the three systems provide, and the apparent totally useless stats plugin.

When I moved the blog to WordPress I thought the stats plugin would be a good option, and indeed it looked like it was reasonably accurate when the visitor count was 1 or 2 people a day.  However, as the site gets found by google and random hits start to increase, the stats look more and more crazy, in particular the ‘top posts and pages’ section.

Here’s the current info from that plugin for pages visited today and yesterday,

stats1So yesterday, apparently the only two pages read on the site were the Watchmen post and the Wii Fit page.  And today, people are only reading the Watchmen post and nothing else.  I kinda find that hard to believe, and in fact, the other two stats systems agree that it’s complete bollocks.  I’ve no idea what-so-ever what the stats plugin is doing but it’s certainly not recording which pages are being viewed.

Total visitors or page views being different I can live with because how they’re measured is pretty vague, but you would think a stats plugin would know which pages were being read, that is kind of the whole point.  In contrast, this is what CyStats thinks has been read today,

Windows 7 Beta - file sharing                           8   14%
Main page                                               8   14%
of protein and fat and blood sugar                      4   7%
So, what went wrong (or WordPress, Cron and Squid)      3   5%
Lord of the Rings Online - a review - part one          3   5%
Windows 7 Beta in Sun's xVM VirtualBox                  3   5%
Where oh where has my Gallium gone?                     3   5%
/category/politics                                      2   3%
/tag/dvd                                                2   3%
A month with WordPress                                  2   3%
Old photo's                                             2   3%
First real go at non-drybrush skin                      2   3%
Whiskey & Red Bull                                      2   3%
Windows 7 beta + Lord of the Rings Online               2   3%
David Gemmell Legend Award news                         2   3%
About                                                	2   3%
Eating without thinking                                 2   3%
/2006/08                                                2   3%
Archives                                                2   3%

which as you can see is rather more varied (and slightly more believable).  However, the list of visited pages on Google Analytics for today is different again, not just the numbers, but the actual pages, listing some not viewed above and missing out some that were viewed.

Ultimately, I have the logs from my web hosting account (when they work), and that means I can see, for real, which pages are being accessed and how often, but reading those logs can be a pain and using tools to interpret them just introduce more interpretation that leads to yet another set of figures.

I guess where I’m going with this post is that trusting the stats for your site is impossible, but some tools are clearly more broken than others, and the stats plugin is entirely useless, since it’s clearly unable to work out which page your visitors are reading.  Don’t trust it.