Are social referrals killing SEO?

I think this is an improvement to how we write for the web. Instead of optimizing for a machine algorithm that can bring traffic to an article, writers must concentrate on making the article interesting so that readers will share it with their friends. Curation is the key, which is also why I hated the “social reader” apps that want to post for me to see everything my friends read. I want to know what they recommend I read.

“Sixteen months ago we received the same number of monthly referrals from search as social. Now 40% of traffic comes from social media,” Scott Havens, senior vice president of finance and digital operations at The Atlantic Media Company, said in a phone conversation ahead of his on-stage interview at our Mashable Connect conference in Orlando, Fla. last weekend. “Truly [our writers] are not really thinking about SEO anymore. Now it’s about how we can spin a story so that it goes viral.”

From: Why ‘The Atlantic’ No Longer Cares About SEO

Apache: Allowing access to subpaths

Seems this is always a tricky one that I run into when setting up a new test site. If you want to lock down the entire site behind a password, but need to allow some unauthenticated requests for external integration, then have a look at the solution below. It uses SetEnvIf to open up access to selected paths. This should work too, if your route most requests through a front controller script using a rewrite rule.

In this brief tutorial, we are going to enable users to access any file or directory of a site that is password-protected via htaccess. There are many reasons for wanting to employ this technique, including:

From: Stupid htaccess Trick: Enable File or Directory Access to Your Password-Protected Site : Perishable Press

Start ups are for everybody

I came across Dan Crow’s insights into startups and older workers this morning, and I couldn’t stop myself from nodding in agreement through out the article. Part of it, surely, is that I am now closer to 40 than 30. But everything he says about the value of spending time with family, the pointlessness of working grueling hours, and the skills that come from experience had an air of “I’ve been there”.

Many startups, especially in Silicon Valley, have a macho culture of working extremely long hours. I vividly recall a long stretch of consecutive 100+ hour weeks at Apple early in my career — which came on top of a 3 hour commute to San Francisco. The quality of my work noticeably declined, and it took me months to get my focus and energy back afterwards.

It seems that both corporate america and silicon valley startups, while vastly different cultures in almost every regard, still see people as expendable resources that can be used up and replaced. Sure, if you’re working non stop for a startup, you can tell yourself that there’s a huge payoff at the end, or the chance of it. But the risk is that you spend your 20s and early 30s working forever without much to show for it. That was never something I wanted to do, and I’m lucky that I didn’t have to, either.

Why startups shouldn’t just be for the young

Fixing IE8 font aliasing when using fade effects

One of the joys of testing with IE8 is the added google time that I get to spend hunting down bugs and solutions. If you find something mesbehaving in Redmond’s browser, then the Internet knows about it and has a fix somewhere.

Todays culprit was caused by using jQuery’s fadeIn effect on a div containing text. The way that jQuery has to animate the opacity transition causes the font’s to not be anti-aliased, appearing all rough and blocky during the animation. It’s due to the use of the filter property to affect the opacity, There are a couple of fixes, including hooking into jQuery to alter how the fadeIn/fadeOut/fadeTo effects work, but the simplest solution is to give the element containing the text a background-color.

Although littering your CSS with redundant background-colors will be a pain when you redesign your site, I think its preferable to relying on a javascript solution.

Web design fail: Northlanders

Its amazing to still come across web design failures like this one. The image above is a screen cap from the Northlanders, a site about a series of graphic novels about Vikings. The main purpose of this site is to sell the books, either physical or digital copies.

The designer, who is undoubtedly from a print background, realized this and used the large white circles and large text to draw the visitors eye to those element. But they failed massively by only making the small text below the “Buy…” headers the clickable links, as I highlighted above. Anyone who actually wants to purchase the books has to be lucky enough to mouse over just the right area to find the link.

This is a multi-level fail. We’ll ignore the fact that the underlying markup is table-soup from 1999. At least the large text should be a link, most users will hover over that first, not the smaller text below. What’s worse, the links aren’t simple link elements, it uses an image map to define the clickable regions, since all 3 circles are part of a single image. And, if you decide go and use an imagemap, why do you not make the whole circle clickable using the circle shape allowed in imagemaps?

You might think that such design decisions don’t matter, but this design makes it harder for users to buy what you are selling. Its costing you sales, and it doesn’t need to.

Make any printer AirPrint compatible

At home, we were missing the ability to print from our iPad or iPhones. While I’m not an OS zealot (anymore), I did upgrade to an iPhone last month, and have had an iPad for a while now. They’re very useful for casual computing, checking email, browsing. But if we needed to print something, it was a hassle to fire up a laptop or desktop computer to use our networked printer.

It turns out that Apple’s AirPrint uses DNS Service Discovery, an open standard.  There are programs out there for Windows and Mac to let you share a printer attached to that OS via Airprint.  It turns out, you can use it on Linux if you run the Avahi daemon and CUPS. Of course someone has already figured out how to do it: CUPS with Apple AirPrint, using a python script airprint-generate.

I was following the instructions, but the airprint-generate.py program would not generate the XML file to make it all work. Diving into the code, I saw that the printer had to be configured as a shared printer in CUPS, which makes total sense. I didn’t have it configured that way, since its a network printer, any other device could connect directly to the printer server. The setting can be changed through the cups web interface or by adding the line below to your printers.conf file. airprint-generate.py will now find your printer and generate the configuration file to add to your avahi services directory.

Shared Yes

The one downside to this setup is that the computer running cups + avahi has to be on for this to work. But, you could buy an inexpensive ARM device, like the upcoming Raspberry PI or another one listed here and build yourself a custom, Airprint compatible printer server.

Drupal finally using OOP

Finally. This is a huge step forward for Drupal. After eschewing OOP practices for a long time, its finally winning over core developers, which will make working with Drupal as a Framework easier in many ways. I copied the announcement below, but you can see that patch and discussion here.

This patch is about to be committed. It is the foundation to change for example $comment from an stdClass to a comment specific class allowing for $comment->save(). This is a monumental change and everyone is invited to review and familiarize with the new system even before it is committed.

What is possible when you use proper classes? The first thing I envision is a plugin/pluggable system in the same way that Zend Framework allows you to use Controller Plugins and View Helpers from a pluggable object, without the need to inherit or compose an object. For example, in a Zend View, you can call a partial like this:

{syntaxhighlighter php}

partial(‘my-partial.html’);
?>

Now, the View class doesn’t have a method named partial, instead the magic __call method intercepts the call, gets the Partial view helper, and calls its invoke method.

Grokking Zend Framework 2

I’ve found these to be helpful in porting a ZF1 app to ZF2, which is in Beta1 status at the moment.  Rob Allen’s tutorial -updated for the beta, worked for me out of the box using git submodule.  The programmers reference manual for groking new concepts, although sometimes it takes a couple of reads. Finally, looking at the code for the EdpUser module helped me figure out how to use DI and how to structure a functional module.

Once you start to understand the Dependency Injection container and the new Module bootstrap, in many ways its easier to get up and running than with ZF1.  I love that modules are first class citizens in the new MVC implementation.