Posts Tagged ‘Software & Tools’

Google Removes The 404 Blinders

14 Oct

Google added a simple, yet extremely useful feature to its suite of Webmaster Tools. Now you can see who is linking to pages that don’t exist. And maybe, you can do something about it.

Example 404 pages in Webmaster tools

Previously, users could view which pages were not found, but had no information about where those links came from. With the addition of the sources, webmasters can change the link (if they own the site), or e-mail and ask nicely.

As Google’s Matt Cutts says, these are some of the easiest links you’ll ever get. No PageRank passes when someone links to a page that doesn’t exist, even when there’s an errant HTML tag in the URL. While asking someone to change the link may sound like a lot of work, it’s not, in comparison to scoping out new links. In the case of broken links, you know they want to link to you, so you’re just alerting them to a mistake.

If you haven’t checked out Webmaster Tools yet, this is a good excuse to look it over. If much of your traffic comes from Google (and for many of us, that’s greater than 50 percent), it’s important to know how it sees your site. Plus, fixing mistakes should make you look better to all search engines and, more importantly, your users.

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Greasemonkey Shows Off Political Colors

10 Oct

Memeorandum colored by Greasemonkey script

Andy Baio, a prominent blogger and creator of, has released a Greasemonkey script to visualize the perceived political bias of linked content on the political news aggregation site Memeorandum. If a site tends to link to more left-leaning stories, it’s colored blue. Right-leaning linkers are red.

With the help of Delicious founder Joshua Schachter, Baio used a recommendation algorithm to analyze the last three months of linking behavior for each news source. With that data stored in a Google Spreadsheet, Baio used the Ajax support in Greasemonkey to grab a JSON feed and colorize the links. Those with Firefox’s Greasemonkey extension and Baio’s script installed will see the colorized links when viewing Memeorandum. Baio also released a full-fledged extension that does not require Greasemonkey.

This is a great example of how Greasemonkey can be used to change the way you view a page. In Baio’s case, he wanted to see the perceived bias of a site at a glance so he could choose a balanced view. The code from this project is available under the free and open-source GPL license. You could use it to create other ways of visualizing data on the web.

GreasemonkeyIf you’re brand new to Greasemonkey, be sure to read my new Greasemonkey tutorial on the versatile Firefox extension. If you’ve ever written JavaScript before, you’ll quickly learn the ways of Greasemonkey, which essentially gives you the ability to insert your code anywhere in someone else’s site, but only for your own use on your local machine.

You don’t need to bite off as much as Baio, who admits this is his first Greasemonkey script. One of the biggest benefits I’ve found is that I can write code to pull out the important stuff already in the page. My tutorial shows a simple example of that, where I create a floating menu of all <h2> tags on the page. It turns out this is useful for long Wikipedia entries… and Webmonkey tutorials.

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Google: ‘Beta’ Means What We Say It Means

25 Sep

gmail logoGoogle is probably the most prolific distributor of “beta” software in the world. Pingdom recently went through the entire stack of Google apps and found that nearly half of them (45 percent) are still officially at beta status.

Traditionally “beta” has been used to designate software that isn’t ready for prime time and may have bugs, yet millions of people use the four-year-old Gmail on a daily basis and, for most, Gmail is bug free. So why call it a beta?

The shorthand way of looking at software development is something like this: alpha = not ready, beta = still not ready, release candidate = still not quite ready and x.0 = finally ready.

So why would a company like Google want equate its products with what most people consider “not ready?” The answer is that Google doesn’t use the term beta according to the usual definition, it apparently has its own, private definition of beta.

In response to those questioning Google’s heavy, and possibly inappropriate, use of the word beta, a Google spokesperson tells NetworkWorld, “we believe beta has a different meaning when applied to applications on the web….”

The spokesperson never exactly gets around to what Google’s precise definition of the word beta is, but reading between the lines it would seem the company means something like “we’re still adding features.”

In which case, don’t expect most Google apps to ever come out of beta. Which isn’t really a problem, it is after all just a word — just be aware that Google has its own definition.

[Note that Webmonkey on the other hand is very much a beta in the traditional sense of the word. Try our RSS feed… see, beta.]

[via Slashdot]

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Vote for Your Favorite Web Framework

08 Sep
Photo courtesy Toneray via Flickr
Frameworks help build the web. Photo courtesy Toneray via Flickr

We’ve been covering DjangoCon the last few days, and if we know one thing for sure, it’s that programmers love web frameworks — libraries of often used code which allow them to copy (or steal, if you’re naughty) functionality to their own site. Why do they love frameworks so?

When you begin coding as a budding web developer, you typically start building your first site piece-by-piece from scratch. Developing your first project is the most difficult part of the job simply because you’re designing utilities, buttons, animations, scrolling, text entry, backend data management, scalable networking, etc… — usually while learning and typically by a method which will make other, more seasoned developers balk, point fingers and mock.

However, once you build these tools to your liking, you have them on hand for all future projects. Simply tweak the code for use in your next development project. Reusing code is fast, its stable and its tremendously productive.

Therein lies a web framework’s appeal. Many of us will admit we’ll never be the rock star developer some others are, but collectively joined by web frameworks, we don’t really have to be. We get a peak into what makes good code which we can implement on our own sites and learn from it in the process.

In some instances, after getting familiar with a framework, you can piece together a rich interactive website in about twenty minutes.

How do frameworks earn money? Most of them are open source and depend on the financial and content contributions of friendly programmers. Some have a foundation behind it which fund and provide for the business aspects of the project in exchange for the rights to charge large operations using the code for customized support.

If you’ve never used a framework because you think they’re for noobies or are less powerful and less scalable than a custom-written site, consider the websites already powered on popular frameworks:

  • CNN, New York Times, Apple, Digg, and Fox News use Prototype JavaScript libraries
  • Digg and BBC use JQuery
  • LinkedIn, Walmart and (of course) Yahoo use Yahoo UI Library (YUI)

So which are the best? Prototype and JQuery are arguably the most popular JavaScript frameworks. Meanwhile, Python-powered Django has a considerable drive behind it as does PHP’s Drupal. Ruby on Rails has a verifiable fan base. There are many more up-and-coming frameworks out there. Which do you use? Add your favorite web framework and vote for your favorites below.

[Hat tip to Pingdom]

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