Showing posts from March, 2007

What makes a woot woot?

How is it that woot got to be so popular that showing a brown paper bag on their site immediately crashes their servers? Ok, so they don't crash, but they don't respond because of the DOS caused by everyone trying to purchase all at once. Of course, if it were hosted over dialup, that wouldn't be so impressive. But they're not, and I don't get it.

How did woot get to be so popular while upsetting so many people when they can't buy something? Ok, so I'm mostly speaking out of frustration, but there are some real issues going on.

For example, during the Woot-off last week there were plenty of times I couldn't get it to load. At one point, I saw a BOC (woot fans know what that is), clicked "I want one", then it went back to the previous item saying "Sold out". 30 seconds later the BOC was again on the site, I clicked "I want one", got it added, but the payment timed out. By the time it would actually accept my payment, they were…

Dealing with large numbers of records in MySQL

We recently got fed up with UPS's server outages (of the 2 IP's we typically use for shipping quotes, 1 was down pretty regularly for a while). So, I decided to populate our shippingrates table with all of the data we could ever need.

It all went along fine, until it got to about 10M records. At that point, our site started slowing and slowing, and what I found was the keys weren't able to be used for our standard query. It wasn't that big of a deal with 100k or even 200k records, but when I got up to 10M (it's over 30M now), that caused problems.

I did an alter table and made our index include one more field, and it now sorts everything the way I wanted by default. It wasn't actually the select statement causing the problem, it was the ORDER BY portion. It was having to use a filesort, which for a huge table doesn't work real quickly.

What other symptoms was this causing? For one, I was seeing the time spent waiting for IO growing. When looking at the output …

Meet the Search Engine Bots

Have you ever wondered what a search engine bot looks like? Well, I've met them first hand at Search Engine Strategies, and they're a scary beast. Yahoo's Slurp, Google's Googlebot and others are strong bots, running around and grabbing pages from all over the web. Once trapped, you'll have a hard time getting them to let it go. They'll hold on to it for a very long time, until at some point it either gets banned or it vanishes into the supplemental index. They're truly mean bots.

On the other hand, MSNbot (some may say it's a-LiveBot) has the same core concept, but it seems to have missed one important piece. While it still runs around and finds pages, it's got a much tougher time holding on to them. This has led to numerous indexing problems. Hopefully they can get their bot's issues repaired soon, but I'm not holding my breath on that one. They're just too corporate for pincers (defined as "Noun : roach clip, roach holder - metal …

New Game - Spam Olympics

We recently got SpamAssassin set up with a ruleset that seems to be working fairly well. Not only has this made my inbox much nicer to look at, but it has also created a new game in our office. We now have the "Spam Olympics".

What is that you ask? Well, each piece of spam is given a score by the SpamAssassin judging bots. We just watch those scores, looking for the top marks from the algo. Initially, we were looking at 30 somethings as being good, but it quickly moved into the 40 range, and we had a few break 60 over the weekend.

Not exactly the most productive game, but at least it makes the SPAM worth double checking for false positives. I wonder how many other offices partake in the "Spam Olympics"...

When nothing goes right...

I tried to take a test tonight. To begin with, the testing platform of choice was Microsoft Word. The background came in a "beautiful" aqua color. You know, this really bad color.

Secondly, I had forgotten all of my books at work. That left me feeling a little "disoriented". It's amazing what not having your usual reference materials does.

Third, the PC I was using was having some issues. The mouse batteries died halfway though, so I was using a lot of alt+tab, ctrl+tab, and for a new search, I found it simplest just to open a new tab in FireFox.

Add in telephone calls, a couple of IM interruptions, and children - well, it just wasn't a good night for a test.

Oh, and I didn't get much sleep last night after playing tennis late and then having to get up early for meetings most of the day.

I must be ready for a vacation... now that I feel like my brain cells have blown away like seeds of a dandelion.

Is the price of domains going up?

I just got an email from network solutions that made me laugh. You can see to the right what I'm talking about. I think they forgot decimal points, because $3499 for a 1 year domain registration isn't a good deal. Either they missed that "." key on their keyboard (6 times), or the price of domains has really gone up over the past few days since I last bought one.

Work for Google Analytics

I seem to stumble on Google jobs ads quite regularly. This time, it was for Google Analytics. The ad simply read "Join our sales team! Openings for experienced analytics professionals."

Ok... Google is having a sales team for analytics? They're going to sell something that's free... how clever. I guess they really do want to index the world's information... one site's stats at a time.
Positions are available in Mountain View, CA and New York, NY for the following:• Account Manager
Account Executive

Chow Wii

The root of all evil, John Chow is giving away a Nintendo Wii. To enter, all you have to do is write a blog post about it. This is mine. Where’s my Wii? The contest is sponsored by They make promotional pens.

(I know... I took the easy way out and just did a copy-paste of the text - and thanks to Andrea for making me read it in the first place.).

One problem with shared hosting...

If you use shared hosting, be aware that your server may not always be correctly configured to handle daylight savings time changes. The podcast I had intended to go live at 10am will actually be live at 11am central due to the server David is hosting on not being updated with the latest daylight savings time changes.

How I wish I had hosted this thing on my own... but I'd rather not put out the cash when David had plenty of bandwidth available. It just seems silly to spend money when he already had something available.

First podcast - 10am Central

The first of our Beginning SEO podcasts will be released at 10AM central (I scheduled it for 8, but David's server is set for Pacific time.) The first one will be some basic introductions and some information on cloaking - what it is, why it's been debated lately and if it's a good idea for you to use.

We also have our Ask an SEO question page up and running. Any questions - leave them there.

What were they thinking?

As we were talking about some of the new products we were adding to our website today, this one became the center of our discussion. What was Occidental thinking in creating a product and trademark for "Full Fist", much less having a 3X size. Yes, that's XXX Full Fist action. I'm eagerly awaiting the search traffic on that one, let me tell you. That goes right along with the 4' vibrators we sell.

These tool companies, I tell ya.

Essential IT Tool for Wire Tracing

For anyone working in the IT industry, you know how frustrating it is to have to try to find the other end of a cable. Regardless if it's phone or network, it could be a very long cable that is wrapped throughout the building.

Well, some time ago we bought a tone generator and probe. We bought it elsewhere at the time because we didn't carry them at all. But we now have several models to choose from.

The one we bought was the Greenlee Classic Tone and Probe Kit. On the one end, it allows you to plug in to either a jack or use a coupler to attach to a cable. The other device goes to the other end so you can figure out which wire you've plugged in to.

I luckily don't have to do all that much with wiring, but there have been enough times, even at home, where I can't figure out what the wire is that I'm trying to use that I consider this an essential tool. Without it, one could easily spend hours trying to find that one elusive cable - and I've done that. How many…

New SEO podcast, coming soon to an iPod near you

David Brown and I did some looking at SEO podcasts online. What we found was lots of podcasts we could stick into two categories.

Advanced SEO Podcasts. There are good, available on, but very intimidating for newbies.Beginner Bad Advice Podcasts. Yeah, we found some beginner podcasts, but the advice was awful - ranging from "Create doorways" to "stuff your meta tags with keywords".So, as they said on the movie Robots, See a need - Fill a need. Starting next week, David and I will be doing an SEO Podcast focused on beginning techniques, explaining recent SEO news at a beginner level, and giving long-term strategies for people to keep in mind. I'm sure there will be some things that experienced SEO's will be laughing at as well as techniques they can learn from, but we want to make something that invites new people to start learning about our industry.

Yes, Dad - this would even apply to you.

HTTP 204 - the forgotten status

With everyone being so hot to use Ajax for things now, it seems that people forget how much simpler things can be done if you just stop and use some old-school techniques. I know I like Ajax for some things, but if it isn't necessary, then why introduce the extra bit of complexity?

I'm speaking here about the 204 status code.

Quoting the W3
204 No Content The server has fulfilled the request but does not need to return an entity-body, and might want to return updated metainformation. The response MAY include new or updated metainformation in the form of entity-headers, which if present SHOULD be associated with the requested variant. If the client is a user agent, it SHOULD NOT change its document view from that which caused the request to be sent. This response is primarily intended to allow input for actions to take place without causing a change to the user agent's active document view, although any new or updated metainformation SHOULD be ap…

Setting up subversion

After a couple of "What happened" type moments in the past, we've finally decided to set up a versioning system. At this point, we're trying to set up subversion because Nick has seen good things about it. CVS seems a little out of date, and SVN seems to find strengths in CVS's weaknesses.

Yet another adventure in a growing company begins today...

UPS data issues

I've discovered something this week that I'm working on fixing. What I discovered is this: real-time lookups aren't a good thing.

For years now, we've done real-time lookups whenever someone adds a product to their cart and enters a zip code. This allows us to not worry about rate changes and focus on the products.

But what it's also meant is we're leaving money on the table. A quick test over the past few days has shown that nearly 10% of the time, UPS's servers aren't returning data. That doesn't seem good to me.

There are days where our customer service reps complain about shipping rates taking a long time to load. Those are the times I knew about. But the 10% figure is even without taking the "Nothing returned" into account - this is just "Something useless returned".

So, as a fix, I've queried enough to get all the rates now, and I'm rewriting our shipping calculations to run entirely without querying their servers. We&#…

Snow what?

Yeah... it's snowing. It's snowing hard. Oh, and did I mention some white stuff is falling from the sky?

I guess that means I'll be working from home for a while today. Not a big deal... I just need to set up a few tunnels and I can access our dev box pretty easily. Then, it'll be almost like I'm at work - without all the phonecalls and other distractions.

Custom Theme

Hey, I finally got a custom theme for this blog. I've been using free ones from around the web. This was originally developed for use at, but I ended up using it here. There's a more "Googlish" theme coming for oneboxer.

So now I've got to say some thanks to Robert Garcia (Rumblepup). He's not really doing design work any more, but rather high end e-commerce consulting. I think he really just got tired of looking at the drab gray blog that I had and made a decent creative... all 2.0ish... just for me.