I took it and so should you! The A List Apart web design survey 2007This is a survey all website managers should complete. The collated data will give us a much better idea of what it is we all actually do, how much we like it and what we want to do next! One quibble. Should it really be called "Web Design Survey"? This catch-all phrase is used for every type of web activity, e.g. coding, techical support, online marketing, content production - as well as design. indeed, the survey questions themselves show that it is not focused exclusively on design. Something like "Web Activity Survey" or "Web Management Survey" would be better, methinks.
Big, Busy and Complex: Digg.com's Web Infrastructure Further to the note about TurboTax (below), ComputerWord has an article that gives a good insight into the commitment, investment and skills needed to operate the infrastructure of a very Large Scale website. The Digg.com mascot (a small man with a shovel). Copyright Digg.comDigg.com is a peer review community whereby site subscribers submit and vote on interesting web articles. In order to cope the huge demands of its 1.2 MILLION users, Digg now runs over 100 separate servers. This includes 30 webservers, 20 database servers, as well as several search servers (the rest are used for backup). The article reveals how important decisions about infrastructure management are for the performance of a large and busy website.
User Generated Content vs. Journalists Logo of Guardian Unlimited. Copyright the GuardianEach Monday the Guardian publishes figures for newspaper circulation in the UK. Last week's poor year-on-year results led to some navel gazing about what is in store for the "traditional journalist". Apparently, more and more hacks are reskilling to acquire new technical abilities. This is in response to an Editorial demand for interactive news material. For example, in addition to the plain text of basic newspaper websites, many are acquiring multimedia and Web 2.0 expertise. The guess is that journalists who can be "producers" as well as "writers" will have the brightest future. The opposite is also true. Techies with good writing skills can get in on the act. Matt Wells of the Guardian considers that such people will be brought ever closer to the act of news production - previously an exclusive domain. He reports that this is already seen on sites like the Washington Post and San Jose Mercury News. What journalists have recognised is that they need to be familiar with these technologies in order to understand how they may be incorporated into news production. They have probably also guessed that in the not-too-distant-future they may also be asked to file reports using such devices, e.g. to post a story from a Blackberry along with video taken from its built-in camera. However, despite these changes, the role of the professional journalist should remain steady. Why? Well, we still need someone who can sniff out a good story and write compelling content with correct spellings and grammar. The challenge for the news room is manage this transition.
2 things you cannot escape: Taxes & Dead Websites "HTTP 500. Server Busy" The Turbotax logo. Copyright TurbotaxAs the most obvious of all web errors, it gets disproportional attention. But when the website of a major tax-filing company crashes under high levels of traffic, it can seriously dent consumer confidence in the web. "One thing's for sure: I will not be E-filing for another 10 years, not with TurboTax or any other software or E-file service," says a user of TurboTax, a popular tax-preparation service. Planning for such spikes in traffic is one of the hardest parts of web infrastructure maintenance. In some cases it is simply not possible to cope with the huge demands that users can place on a site at very short notice. It is akin to 10,000 people marching into a small Post Office at 4.55pm on a Friday evening to demand that their parcels all be expedited before 5 o'clock. Not very fair on anyone! But who said you need to play fair yourself? There are some sneaky techniques for managing such demand. An attentive technical team should be able to track web activity real-time. In extreme circumstance, they could decide to allocate processing time based on some agreed guidelines. For example, if the visitors from one particular country need your services more than others - you could start to deny access to everyone else. In addition, users who appear to be simply browsing the site (as opposed to using applications) could be disconnected. Various other mechanisms exist - many derived from security procedures used to identify hackers and crackers. Of courses, none are ideal. It would indeed be best to have some extra processing power on standby. Happily, such resources are now becoming available. Recall the item below about the Amazon and its online services.
Blogging Code of Conduct: Netiquette Rebadged? A photo of Tim O'Reilly. Copyright, Tim O'ReillyHave I missed something? Where did all this talk about the need for a Blogging Code of Conduct come from? While O'Reilly certainly has a point, the hullabaloo he has created is pretty astonishing (even the Guardian newspaper devoted its editorial to discussing the implications of his remarks). Yet, from a website management point of view there is nothing new in his comments. Any site that is host to a public discussion forum (whether based on a blog or not) should already have a set of published rules about what constitutes acceptable online behaviour. This idea has been in place since the very dawn of the web. Remember 'netiquette', i.e. 'etiquette for the internet? So, let's calm down people! O'Reilly's comments do no more than remind us of our existing duties.
Sneak Behind the "Great Firewall of China" Remember all that stuff about the law I wrote about recently? Well, as you know the law is more restrictive in some countries than in others (which explains why there are so few blogs in North Korea). A practical example of how law can affect the ability of a business to offer services via the web is illustrated on a site called The Great Firewall of China. This site allows you to test if your content is banned by the Chinese authorities.
Freddie Mercury once said "I want it all and I want it now!" An image of a pie chart divided into three equal sections, labelled High Quality, Low Cost and High SpeedSenior executives often say the same thing to their Website Managers. What these executives fail to realise is that great sites cannot be built without adequate resource. The challenge for webmasters is to explain how to get maximum quality from limited funds. One way to do this is to use the concept of Website Scale. Read more about this in my new article "Executive Expectations vs. Reality"