Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

February 28, 2007

When Spam Filtering Is Too Smart

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 10:04 pm

One of the main reasons I use Gmail is because of the great spam filtering. In fact while I was at work today it automatically stopped 1055 spam emails from getting to my inbox. (yes, I really get that many spam emails / day sent to me…. It’s what happens when you list your email address in the whois info for 40 some domain names)

Anyway, I learned a valuable lesson today: Check that spam box from time to time.

I just opened it up and saw that there were almost 200 contact form messages from one of my websites waiting in the junk email.

But how?

It seems that some bots have been spamming my contact form with links. This started a couple months ago and I tolerated it. For every 2 real contact forms I’d have 1 full of spammy links to porn sites. I wrote it off as part of making yourself available on the web. (maybe I should have put a captcha on it, but I hate those things.)

Anyway, this same bot is most likely spamming other people who (unlike me) report it to Gmail with that “spam” button. I may have unconsiously submitted a few as well.

It would seem though, that since all my contact form emails have the same subject and from address, that Gmail started putting them all in the spam box. Whoops!

So, if you’ve sent in a contact form for freetext.biz in the last month, I just spent the last 2 hours replying to them all. Check your email.

Sitting On A Fortune

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:10 pm

Boing Boing has a small post about a boat that runs on biodiesel that’s made from liposuctioned human ass-fat. Incredible!

At $2.45/Gallon my ass could be worth a decent chunk of change!

Hopefully this idea takes off. Like the post mentions: it doesn’t seem that America would run out of fuel anytime soon.

February 26, 2007

Getting the Front Page of Google

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 5:32 pm

Earlier this month I wrote a short article titled What The Hell is cpsrvd? It was a quick post about how I researched something and saw that the results I got weren’t too helpful. To fix that, I decided that I would write something better than the top Google results for my query. (“cpsrvd failed“)

As I mentioned at the bottom of the article, one great SEO technique is to find things people are searching for where good results don’t exist and make a good result. That’s what I tried to do with that post.

Anyway, I wrote that article on Feb 9th, and I’ve been periodically checking it’s ranking. Today (the 26th) it’s on the first page of Google for “cpsrvd failed”. It’s not a high traffic search term (that’s not what I was going after) but it is a way to bring highly targeted visitors to your website.

Clearly this was just a test (there’s no financial incentive here for me), but it’s a great example of how focusing on “usefulness” can result in great webpages and great rankings. Sometimes you need to step back and stop worrying about things like keyword density and just focus on making your site more useful than the competition. Try it out – it works!

February 22, 2007

I Broke My Car

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 7:16 pm

When I turned 16, the first car I was given was a hand me down 1992 Pontiac Grand Am that my Mom had driven. It ran great, had low mileage, and there was nothing wrong with it – so I bought a Chevy S-10.

After that lease ran out, I had that 1992 Grand Am again. It still ran great and had low mileage (due to sitting in the garage for the last 3 years) – so I bought a Jeep Wrangler.

Fast forward to 2006. I was driving that Jeep Wrangler almost 60 miles / day back and forth to work and bitching about gas prices (why did I buy a car that only gets 17 miles to the gallon on a good day?) when I remembered that Grand Am.

For the past year or so I’ve been driving the Grand Am to work every day, and saving my Jeep for the weekends. It worked out great!

Anyway, I’m sad to report that the Grand Am seems to have finally met it’s match.

A few months ago the heat started going (it still blows very lightly..but it works).

Then the speakers started going.. but I think I fixed them.

A couple days ago I heard a rattling in the trunk and thought nothing of it. Yesterday though, it got really really loud so I decided to take a look:

If you can’t tell, that’s my shock… sticking up through my wheel well and into my trunk.

I’m not sure what it’s going to cost, but I’m sure it will cost more than a 1992 Grand Am with 92,000 miles is worth. It’s looking like it might be time to donate this car to Mother Waddles and take the tax write off.

I’m just sad to see it go. I’ve had this car ever since I started driving. Oh the memories.

The Spread of A Story

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 11:53 am

I wanted to blog about Google Apps Permier Edition (GAPE), but after seeing it mentioned on so many other sites, I had a better idea. Instead of talking about GAPE, let’s look at how a news story spreads across the internet.

  • Feb 18thZDnet talks about the possibility of the product
  • 10:00 pm Yesterday – Google Blogoscoped mentions the feature is coming.
  • 1:30 am – Google officially launches Google Apps Premier Edition
  • 2:00 am – First mention of it by bloggers on blogspot
  • 6:00 amRobert Scoble mentions it
  • 9:50 amSearch Engine Land carries the story
  • 10:00 amSlashdot has picked up the story
  • 11:00 amTechdirt replies with an editorial about Google Apps competing with Microsoft.
  • 11:11 amNews.com publishes their version of the story

Who’s next? Wired? Fark? Digg** Where are you guys at?

* – Some of these times are estimates based on Google News finding the story.
** – The story has made it to Digg, but only in the upcoming, and only had a handful of diggs at the time of this writing – not significant enough to count as “on digg”.

Update: As predicted, Wired chimed in with the story late at 11:52 am.

Judge Gets Jail, Hacker Rewarded For Committing Same Crime

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 8:53 am

I was just reading this article about a California judge who was sentenced to 23 months in prison for possession of child porn. That’s not the part that upsets me though.

It seems the judge was caught when a canadian hacker named Brad Willman installed a trojan on the judge’s computer and started reading his filed. Brad then turned the child porn over to authorities and they arrested the judge.

But what about Brad? Brad wrote and distributed a virus. He installed software onto the judge’s machine without his consent, and viewed all of the judge’s files. This no doubt includes confidential information only meant for a judge. In addition, Brad had to have downloaded the images to his machine to view them – if only temporarily.

It seems to me that while his actions ulitmately captured a creep, Brad should be charged with a lot more crimes than the judge.

Catching a bad guy is one thing, but do we really want vigilante justice to rule? Do we want to send a message that it’s ok to spy on your neighbor, trespass into their property, and illegally access their computers to make sure that they’re not breaking any laws?

February 20, 2007

Sometimes 7 and 8 are equal.

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 7:19 pm

Back in college I had a professor who would dock off points every time he saw the word float in our code. He never really told us why, but from then on we all started using double any time we needed a decimal.

It’s been a few years since college, but I think I’m finally closer to understanding what he meant. Take a look at the following PHP code. What do you think it does?

echo (int) ((.1 + .7) * 10);

It’s a basic PHP math operation. It should add .1 and .7 to get .8, then multiply that by 10 to yield 8 right?

Not so fast, what’s that (int) doing?

For those of you unfamiliar with PHP, it’s a dynamicaly typed language. That means unlike c++, you don’t have to declare a type when you declare a variable. PHP will look at how you’re using it and decide what you meant.

The (int) is a cast. It tells PHP to take whatever that result is and make sure it’s an integer. It’s very seldom used, but there are a few examples I can think of where it’s a good idea to cast your variables. I’ll save that for a later column though.

Anyway, run the above code. What happens? Do you see 8? No! It outputs 7!!

Take the (int) cast away though, and you’ll see your expected result.

So what’s going on here? The simple answer is that it has something to do with the way PHP handles floating point numbers. The long answer is, it’s the reason why the data from one of my applications never added up correctly.

Gmail Tracking Numbers

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:59 pm

I think one of the coolest features of Gmail is its ability to identify tracking numbers in emails and provide me with direct links to track my package. Here’s an example:

Amazon sent me an email with the following text:

If you notice, Amazon wants me to click the link, and login to their page to track my package. They don’t even tell me what shipper is sending it, so the tracking number is pretty useless to me.

Fortunately, Google picked up on it right away. Have a look:

This is just one of the really cool features that makes Gmail my main email client.

As a side note to E-Commerce sites. It’s important to nurture the customer relationship after the sale. Marketing may think it’s a good idea to draw them back to your website, but it’d be much more useful in this case if Amazon provided me with a direct link to track my package instead of forcing me to go through their interface. It may cut down page views, but I’ll be willing to bet it would increase brand loyalty.

February 18, 2007

Kitten Videos

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 11:03 pm

As family members keep asking me for more Who Dey updates, I keep feeling obliged to provide more and more pictures and such. If you don’t regularly read my blog, Who Dey is my new bengal kitten. You can catch up by reading and here, and here.

Ok, on to the new stuff:

Nobody seems to believe me when I say that Who Dey plays fetch, so I decided to get a little bit of proof. Here’s a picture of Who Dey bringing me her mouse to throw for her:

Of course, in today’s modern age we all want video… so, here’s a couple videos of her fetching. The first one is short so that you can see I actually threw something. The second one is about the longest distance I have in my house. Enjoy:

Apparantley WordPress won’t let me embed a video nicely, so you’ll just have to view them by clicking the links:

Short Fetch

Long Fetch

P.S. if anybody knows a good video capture card that has RCA inputs, and is really really cheap, please let me know. I have a pretty old camera, but I’d love to be able to somehow get some videos online.

Site Advice: When To Ask For Email Addresses

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 10:32 pm

The first question I ask myself when I come across a website asking for my email address is “Why?” What’s in it for me?

It might sound selfish, but it’s true. With all the spam I get lately, there’s just no way I’m going to enter my email address into your form without seeing a direct benefit of doing so.

If you’re designing a website, this is a good rule to keep in mind. A good question to ask is: “Am I asking for this because I want it, or because I need it to deliver more value to the user?” If you don’t have a good use for information, you shouldn’t be asking for it.

Let’s look at some examples:

Just the other day, I needed to download a program called wikto. Upon clicking the official download link, I recieved the following message:

lthough SensePost releases this information at no cost, we do ask that you submit your email address and contact before downloading. This allows us to get positive feedback from the community. It also allows you, the reader, the opportunity to contribute to our research. You will be re-directed to www.sensepost.com and your username and password will be emailed to you shortly.

Reading their disclaimer you’ll see that they not only require me to enter my email address, but all the reasons they list are for their benefit. Why do I, the end user, care about giving them feedback or contributing to their research? That sounds like more work to me. I did what a lot of you might do – I created a throwaway email address to get my login information and got rid of it after that.

So how could they have improved it? For starts, offer me some value. If registering gave me access to a members only support forum, or put me on a list for upgrades and new release notifications I’d have probably given them my email address.

Let’s look at another example. This time let’s visit domaintools.com – a WHOIS site. Domaintools (formerly whois.sc) is (in my opinion) one of the best sites around for looking up domain information. It offers all kinds of powerful tools – for free!

It’s not until you perform quite a few lookups that they ask you to register. They give you a tease by offering a daily limit, and offer you unlimited lookups in exchange for creating a free account. I didn’t mind registering here, because I’d already grown accustomed to the service and I saw its value.

The trick here is to look at things from the customer’s point of view. If they see value, they’ll gladly provide you with their contact information. If you don’t really need it, then don’t ask for it.

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