Monday, October 30, 2006

Search Engine Optimisation

After Googling my own name several days ago – and being disappointed with the results – I started to look into search engine optimisation, or SEO.

Before I go into how SEO works, let me say that I’m referring to optimisation for Google as that is responsible for something like 80% of all the searching that goes on net-wide but the techniques would also be valuable for the other search engines.

It seems that there are two “ways” to do Search Engine Optimisation, the nice, pleasant, kitten-friendly way: white hat SEO. And the dirty, spammy, fly-postering way: black hat SEO.

White hat SEO involves trying to get your site linked to by pages with a high Page Rank. This might be through paying them to link to your site, some kind of link exchange, or just asking them very politely.

Black hat wearers would use underhand techniques such as writing software or scripts to spam blogs, bulletin boards and forums with links to their site. And although each link would have a low Page Rank, the fact that there are hundreds of them would provide their page with a high ranking.

Both hat wearers make sure that key words appear in page titles and headings, and are also dotted throughout page text. Having a domain name containing the keyword is also a big bonus.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Don't take your Serious job too Seriously

At lunch, I was watching The Rocket Ronnie O'Sullivan play a bit of snooker and after he'd won he had this to say about the game:

"Just because you do a serious job, doesn't mean that it has to be done seriously."

It's so true, enjoying your job is a right not a privilege.

Mountain Climbing

The other week I walked up Snowdon with my girlfriend and two other close friends. We took the Watkin path which is about 4 miles long and has almost 1000m of ascent, including a difficult scramble for the last couple of hundred meters.

Despite it being hard work and freezing cold at the top we all have fond memories of the day. One of my mates even said, "I'm so proud of myself for getting up that scramble!"

We enjoyed it and have fantastic memories of it because we'd conquered a difficult challenge. It is the highest mountain in England and Wales after all!

And it's the same at work.

When someone completes a hard task or solves a tricky problem they are extremely proud of their achievement.

So, as a leader, delegate hard problems to challenge your colleagues and do the mundane stuff yourself. You colleague might struggle with the task at first, but as long as it's not unsolvable, they will feel a great sense of pride and triumph from completing the problem.

But remember; people like to climb mountains to get to the top. So make sure that the tasks set aren't too difficult. If you notice them having problems, give them some support and coaching to get through it.

Although climbing mountains is hard, it's enjoyable because you achieve something.

And our working lives should be exactly the same.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Afternoons Spent Updating Adobe

I currently have a narrowband connection, so downloading updates for the software that I use is a big deal. A very big deal.

Yesterday, I finally got around to downloading Adobe Reader 7.0 as I tried to view a pdf file that needed it. After a 20 Meg download (which took most of the day) I shut my computer down for the evening and thought nothing more of it.

Today I fired everything back up again and there was the Adobe Reader link on my desktop which I swiftly deleted. Something must have auto booted as it told me that Adobe Reader would now download The Updater, another 20-odd Meg file.

The Updater decided to put the link to Reader back on my desktop.

Question: Why would I need a link on my desktop?
Answer: To open Adobe Reader quickly.

Question: But why would I ever need to open Adobe Reader quickly? It's not like using Word where I open it to start writing. It’s a viewer that only views a certain, rarely used type of file. So whenever I want to view a pdf file, I go find it and then double click on that file!
Answer: Erm...

Anyway, The Updater downloaded 3 updates and then made me restart my machine 4 times! Why not just wait until the end to do the restart – the updater knew it had more to install?!

Sorry Adobe, but this just isn't up to your usual high standards.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We can do anything!

When I was at Blitz Games, I used to tell the designers and artists that the programmers could do anything that they wanted us to. It was a slight exaggeration but I always had the attitude of "It's possible until we've proven otherwise"

On a similar note I stumbled across this excellent, albeit a little verbose, article stating that any question can be answered.

The defining paragraph says:

"... we see that no real question is in principle - i.e. logically - unanswerable. For the logical impossibility of solving a problem is equivalent to the impossibility of describing a method of finding its solution and this, as we have stated, is equivalent to the impossibility of indicating the meaning of the problem. Thus a question which is unanswerable in principle can have no meaning; it can be no question at all: it is nothing but a nonsensical series of words with a question mark after them. As it is logically impossible to give an answer where there is no question, this cannot be a cause of wonder, dissatisfaction, or despair."

So, it seems we really can do anything!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Self Googling

After reading this article about self googling, I decided to give it a go.

What I found was: there is a competitive eater who goes by the same name, nicknamed The Intruder. There's also an electronics whizz who's written many books.

I did find some links to me:

Looks like I need to do some blatant self promotion!

Tagging Suggest

Ok, I got woken up at 4:30 am on Saturday morning and all I could think about was tagging. How sad am I?

I was thinking about the problem of multiple tags for similar words and I've come up with another idea:

Could systems that use tags utilise AJAX technology to suggest a bunch of tags as you type in a way similar to Google's Suggest?

The advantage of this would be that the system may suggest Black and White, instead of a user typing Black & White.

I admit that this wouldn't work with B&W unless the system also had semantic links as I explained earlier.

Giving Tags a Meaning

Tagging is a fantastic way for users to say what their data is. It gives a meaning to something that is meaningless and allows for ease of browsing or searching.

However, there are several problems with the way most tagging systems works at the moment:

  • Multiple tags will emerge that have exactly the same meaning. Such as, from Flickr, B&W and Black and White or NYC and New York City. This in itself is not a problem but when a user searches for B&W only half of the black and white photos will be returned.

  • Tags have no context. For example if you wanted to say that you took a photo of London from an airplane you might have the tags London Airplane. But the same tags could also be used for the picture of a 747 sat on the runway at Heathrow.

To help combat these problems, I propose a system whereby tags can be related to other tags on a couple of different levels: Strong and Weak links.

  • A Strong link would be used to signify that two tags are equivalent. They mean exactly the same thing but have just been expressed in a different way: B&W === Black and White. NYC === New York City

  • A Weak link would say that two tags mean very similar things or are related in some other way: Hello == Hi, Beautiful == Gorgeous, or even England == Country, Billy == name.

When a user searches for a term he could also have the option to include anything that has a Strong link to that term.

When linking tags, why stop at a single language? Why not Hello === Bonjour or Ale == cerveza?

I know that the weak links will provide tags with a greater meaning, but I'm still unsure how a particular tag can be given an exact context (such as in the London Airplane example above) and would be happy to hear any ideas.