Domain junkie?

As much for my own reference as anything else I feel I should compile a list of my current domain portfolio, both in development, and  published. Hopefully this might act as a reminder not to buy any more until I’ve progressed some of these as projects. Well, maybe just one more…

www.designcheshire.co.uk – Project: Web Design Cheshire

www.designmidlands.co.uk

www.designshropshire.co.uk

www.ellesmere.me.uk

www.genealogybookshop.co.uk

www.generationx.it

www.generationxcomputers.co.uk

www.generationxcomputers.com

www.generationxhosting.co.uk

www.generationxinternet.com

www.hibbott.com

www.inventiveinnovations.com

www.languagetolife.com

www.mummycool.co.uk

www.mummycool.com

www.mummywear.co.uk

www.mummywearmaternity.co.uk

www.mummywearmaternity.com

www.myonlineguide.co.uk

www.shropshireholidaycottage.co.uk

www.specialistbookshop.co.uk

www.specialistbookshop.com

www.thestartupbusiness.co.uk

www.ukpta.co.uk

www.ukpta.com

www.ukpta.org

p.s. Like all addictions I needed just one more fix, and www.languagetolife.com is it.

I’ll blog seperately and in more depth on my plans for the development of the names above soon. In the meantime if you want to make me an offer…

Ellesmere Triathlon Results

Ellesmere Triathlon 2008In spite of my somewhat sporadic training, the triathlon went rather better than I had realistically expected or hoped. My total time was just over 3 hours, with my split times as follows:

Swim, including T1 35:49

Cycle, including T2 1:25:50

Run 59:25

Total 3:00:04

It was a fantastic day, with ideal weather conditions, and I really enjoyed the race. My intention now is to concentrate on my running for the remainder of this year with a view to entering a sprint (probably Oswestry) and another Olympic triathlon (hopefully Ellesmere) next year. I’m planning to keep up my cycle and swim fitness with one session of each every week and hope be able to shave (at least) the extra 5 seconds off to complete my next Olympic under the 3 hour mark!

Full results can be viewed at http://www.tri247.com/results_5225.html

Under Fire

Generation X Hosting is currently experiencing what we believe to be a distributed denial-of-service attack, also known as a DDoS attack.  A distributed denial of service attack occurs when multiple compromised systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system in an attempt to make a computer resource unavailable to it’s intended users. Our network providers are working to blackhole the attack higher in the system.

Black hole filtering works by forwarding malicious traffic to an imaginary interface known as Null0 – similar to /dev/null on Unix machines. As an invalid interface, traffic routed to Null0 is essentially dropped. This technique also minimises performance impact during the DDoS investigation so that the rest of the network remains stable under the increased load. 

I am pleased to report that most mail and web services have now been restored and that in spite of the attack our web monitoring service is currently showing an uptime report of 99.96% across the Generation X network.

Ellesmere Triathlon 2008

Ellesmere Triathlon 2007My mid-life crisis had been progressing quite nicely.

I’ve started running, but amongst my friends that seems almost obligatory. Turn 40, start running, sustain a rather nasty knee injury. Rather like parenthood, taking up running feels like joining a secret club that you didn’t know existed until you became a member.

I’ve even completed a couple of 10k races over the past year and the Lake Vyrnwy half-marathon.

However, this week I’ve considerably raised the stakes. In just over 12 weeks, on June 1st, I will be competing in the Tri-UK Shropshire Triathlon. This is an Olympic (or standard) distance triathlon, comprising an open-water 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bike ride, followed by a 10 km run.

My stated aim is simply to complete it. Secretly I’d like to achieve a time of between three and three-and-a-half hours. I suspect this might prove a little ambitious, but everyone needs a goal. As things stand at the outset I have run a 10k race, pretty much on the flat, in 54 minutes. I practised swimming 1.5 kms in our pool on holiday last year three or four times in just under an hour. And I once cycled from Cambridge to Colchester on a 3-speed bike, with a terrible hangover, in just under a day. By accident…but thats another story. Training begins in earnest with a swimming session tonight.

In the words of my dad, “If you win you’re a hero, if you lose you’re a fool”. Time – in this case just 86 days – will tell!

Technorati

To quote the Technorati website:

Technorati currently track 112.8 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. They search, surface, and organize blogs and the other forms of independent, user-generated content (photos, videos, voting, etc.). They index the live web within minutes, providing their users with up-to-date information about the topics and authors they care about. Technorati is the authority on what is happening right now on the live web including the blogosphere. They can help bloggers by driving targeted traffic to their sites, and allowing them to connect to the millions of other individuals in the blogger community.

Lets see if it works.

Simon.Hibbott.com is currently ranked 8,911,336. It currently has no authority.

Here’s what that means and how it’s calculated:

Web 2.0 Online Operating System

I openly declare myself as a zealot when it comes to Open Source software and applications. To me it defines the spirit of the internet in terms of open free access to information through global collaboration.

Online Operating SystemToday I came across a cool Web Operating System called Online Operating System (OOS) which provides users with an online desktop and set of applications they can access from anywhere with internet access. It comes with a file manager, a system control panel, several utility programs (text editor, image viewer, games, etc.) and a comprehensive groupware suite.

The user interface seems at first glance to be fairly intuitive. I was able to create and save a document, set up a basic web page and send and receive mail from my new oos.cc account – all within minutes of signing up. In addition to the applications themselves they offer all users 1GB of free storage for files, photos and an OSS homepage.

User surveys in the forum show an age range of 17-38 (now 42!) and that most use the system for a combination of file sharing, desktop portability, free webspace and in a surprising number of cases playing Lemmings. But as one forum user states “This is the future of application delivery!”

The OOS project aim “is to create a common platform for and a comprehensive set of modern web applications, freely available and easily accessible on the internet” which fits in nicely with my utopian ideals. It is published under the GNU General Public License (GPL) and offers a Develop Suite which gives view and edit access to the source code of all available applications. Documentation for the Developer Suite is promised soon.

Development of the OOS applications is based on the commercial reBOX JavaScript API (Application Programming Interface) developed by an Austrian company, iCUBE Network Solutions. Whilst not forming part of the Online Operating System they promise to make a site-wide license of the reBOX API freely available to potential developers within the OOS. 

The system claims to introduce a new architecture, or paradigm, for web applications based on AJAX, DHTML and what it describes as “novel approached to http pushing”. Web 2.0 applications like this combine standardised technologies such as XHTML, CSS and AJAX with user-oriented design aiming to redefine web applications. For the user this means the ability to perform functions such as drag and drop and to be notified of changes and updates in real time.

All of the big web players have an interest in this thin client technology, but the OSS feel that their open architecture and strong focus on usability and extensibility put them ahead of the competition. I hope they’re right.

WordPress Stats

As a new WordPress user one of the first things I did was install the WordPress.com stats plugin. However, I was disappointed at the depth of information that it provides. I was fortunate enough to discover Statcounter.com when I first started designing sites almost 4 years ago, and continue to be impressed by the free service they offer. I’ve now installed the Statcounter WordPress plugin on this blog and found it straightforward and simple.

I have investigated Google Analytics and am currently using it on a couple of sites. If you are contemplating running an Adwords advertisement and marketing campaign I would highly recommend it. There are currently over 80 distinct reports, each customizable to some degree, and users can see ad group and keyword performance as part of their reports. The ability it offers users to define and track conversions, or goals, such as sales, lead generation, viewing a specific page, or downloading a particular file undoubtably prove invaluable under certain circumstances, particularly for e-Commerce applications.

For my purposes however, and at this time, Statcounter seems to provide the better solution.

Linked into LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a business orientated social networking site which uses a “gated-access” approach to build trust and credibility amongst users. Registered users can maintain a list of contact details of people they know and trust in business (called Connections). Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection.

I’d already registered with LinkedIn back in December 2007. Today, prompted by LinkedIn Profile Extreme Makeover by Guy Kawasaki, I updated my Profile and invited some existing user friends to become connections. I’ve also added a link to my LinkedIn profile from this blog. Guy Kawasaki’s article is actually more common sense than extreme. Essentially he advocates putting some effort into making your profile as complete as possible in order to make it an effective networking tool.

The Unofficial LinkedIn User’s Guide for Executives and Professionals is a more  comprehensive guide to LinkedIn and a call to action for senior executives and professionals to increase their understanding of LinkedIn’s incredible potential as a collaborative networking tool.

Social Marketing 101

Here’s an annotated list of the 10 recommended steps to starting a social marketing campaign that triggered this blog.

  1. Schedule some time each day to work on the social marketing campaign
  2. Sign up for the major social news sites: Digg.com, Propeller.com, Mixx.com. Don’t submit anything to these sites until you have filled out your profile completely and submitted news from elsewhere on the web to generate a real presence and avoid being labeled as a spammer.
  3. If you don’t have a blog, you must install one immediately. This is not an option. It is an absolute necessity on today’s web.
  4. Once you have your blog set up, join the following networks: MyBlogLog.com (install the widget on your WordPress blog), and BlogCatalog.com. (they also have a widget to install)
  5. Join groups, make friends, and interact with other bloggers on these networks. Especially the people who would be most likely to link to your blog and send you traffic who write about similar things or have an audience similar to yours who’d benefit by knowing you. You can even start your own group, promote it in the network, and send “shouts” to the group when you have announcements or need attention to a new post.
  6. Once you have established yourself on all the sites above, meaning you have a decent profile in each that shows you’ve been active and involved, move on and search for networks that are geared toward your particular market niche. There are a lot of new “vertical” social sites popping up that focus on much more narrow markets and their membership is far warmer to your kind of information than on the bigger, more general networks above. Add a new site to the mix as often as you can and repeat the steps for becoming established there as mentioned in Step 2 above.
  7. Join a group dedicated to social marketing to pick up tips from other social marketers and find new places you can sign up with to continue building your social authority. New sites pop up every single day. Follow places like Go2Web20.net to find new opportunities to connect with your market.
  8. Remote blog. Join blogger.com and put content there that is good, just not good enough to go on your main blog. This serves two purposes: 1) you get to use more of the great content you find as you travel through all the social news sites and 2) it gives you another place to link back to your main site and pass on traffic and link popularity over time.
  9. Track your progress diligently.
  10. Don’t freak out! You have other things to do and this needs to fit into, not dominate, your current business and marketing.

A sense of ones own [brand] mortality

I am currently in the throes of rebranding my company which has led me to read around the subject of corporate branding and web identity. Lat night I was re-reading Designing Online Identities: Successful Graphic Strategies for Brands on the Web by Clay Andres, which seeks to identify and examine the elements of web branding by analysing what Clay terms “great sites that promote the site brand in attractive, memorable and innovative ways”.

It makes some interesting points about the need to develop online identities that users can identify with and relate to, in order to engender trust and recognition. In particular, the second half of the book explores the use of branding elements to create different types of site and examines the use of branding in defining elements of web architecture.

I was keen to hit the web and examine some of the examples given, partly to see how the sites functioned and partly to see how the brands had further evolved and developed since publication. The book was admittedly written in 2002, but on trying to visit sites used as examples, including the authors own site and two further web design companies, I found that they were no longer open for business.

My task is to ensure that the same fate doesn’t befall the websites that make up Generation X in another couple of years.

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