Showing posts from 2008

My big tall Christmas wishes

So Robert Garcia is having a little contest that looks like fun with some pretty simple rules and some great prizes.

My first wish: Leadership with a clue.
This wish shall be granted come January. At minimum, it'll be more of a clue than what we've had for the past 8 years.

Second wish: More time to develop a couple sites.
I have some sites in mind that would really help out the Church in general with some social aspects and ways to drive people back to the church. I think a lot of our problems in society come from the weakening of the church in many people's lives, and I'm really feeling a calling to build something on that side of things.

Third wish: Stable economy.
Much of what has been going on has been due to poor choices by a lot of people, but it feels like it's mostly up top. See first wish. ;)

Fourth wish: Better retirement for everyone.
Too many retired people have to get jobs these days, and that makes me sad. Retirement should be a time to enjoy grandchildren, …

What lunches sound the worst?

Sometimes, what you order sounds much worse than what you eat.

We nicknamed this the Chippendale special. The order was hot-and-naked with bowtie and a spicy sausage. It sounded very indecent and gave us all a bunch of laughs.

What else do we need to try that sounds really inappropriate?

I did it!

After weeks and weeks of use, and a reboot this morning even, I finally did it. Yay Me!

Do I get a prize?

Changing the name of the blog

Since my blog has evolved from really being about online business and I want to write more about the insides of the eCommerce industry, I'm changing the blog's title. Not a big deal, but the blog is about me and what I see inside the world of eCommerce, so the new title seems to fit.

Oh, and I'm going to formally announce here that I'm working on putting together a weekly eCommerce show on WMR. I'm not leaving SEO 101, but rather adding to it. I think I have a guest host already lined up, but that's an announcement for another day.

Empty Space

Since we moved to a new data center from our old one, people have asked how much empty space we have. I mentioned we got more, but I never really said how much. The picture to the right should show you (sort of) how much space we got. I had to take 3 pictures and stitch them together (and I didn't spend much time doing it) since my phone couldn't get it all at once. Yes, we've finally got some room for expansion. I like expansion... that means more money I get to spend!!!
Oh, and we still have 1 Google Mini, 1 Database server and 1 web server to move over. It's getting closer to a fully functional death star... er... web star... er... something.

My wife in the paper!

Congrats to my wife for making the paper - and for something positive. I wouldn't be mentioning if she made the police report. :)
That's a great game. Well done! I'm still waiting for that 300, though.
(P.S. That's not her picture... just her name circled below.)

Spell check your ads!

I can't tell you how many times I see ads like below:

Sorry, but resultes isn't a word. If you don't spell check your ads, how do you think you'll ever attract an intelligent customer? Or, is that the point... a fool and their money?

Funny gmail ad

I don't normally look at the ads in my gmail, but one caught my eye today. It was in an email copy of this post, which could go on this blog too I suppose (since it involves IT hardware), but that's not the point of what I'm writing now.

Now that's a funny ad. Not quite sure how they can sell pictures of that, but hey - someone will buy, I'm sure.

Video Professor and McCain?

I've got to say, this is the first time I actually watched something with McCain in it intentionally, but the Video Professor angle was pretty clever. That's some linkbait that I can fall for and not feel guilty about at all.

Shoemoney Tools

I've been using Shoemoney Tools for a while now, and I've got to say, it's a great program. Not cheap, but still very nice for someone doing SEO or affiliate marketing.

His keyword tools generates a decent list, although it doesn't have search volume. But, as I've said on SEO 101 before, I don't care about volume - I want to rank for everything. ;)

One of his coolest tools is a "Domain Marketplace". This is for domains that aren't currently registered that have .edu, .mil or .gov links. That's a great way to kick off a new project. I've seen some interesting looking domains, but only bit on one so far. I hope to buy more soon. I suggested they add a search function, and Dillsmack added that, which makes it very useful. It'll allow you to search for a word and it finds it in the domains that are available, so you can find something that's at least somewhat related to what you're doing.

The keyword tracker is ok, but not amazing. I&…

Moving servers made simpler

How many times have you moved a website from one server to another and found that something doesn't work? If you're like me, the answer is more than once. At some point, those errors can become costly. Misbehaving applications can cost serious amounts of $$$ when your business relies on them, but testing every page in every way possible isn't necessarily possible, either. Error logs can help, but dont always tell what the user did. As we're moving this time, I installed a Coradiant TrueSight. This 1U server monitors and logs all inbound and outbound communications, giving real time reporting and monitoring of all pages. It may be pricey, but not having it could be even more costly. I'm glad we had the available funds and management that could see the value.

SES San Jose - Hear Me Speak

Next month, you can hear / see me at SES. I am once again speaking on the Shopping Search Tactics session and will be lurking in the corners at all the events surrounding SES. Hope to see you there.

The Dark Knight - OMG!

I can't remember the last time I went to a movie that was so good I wanted to stay and watch it again, but The Dark Knight fits that very well. There were 3 to 4 places they could have ended the movie and still have had one of the best movies of the summer, but they went beyond that in my mind and created one of the best movies ever. I could go see it a few more times, seriously.

Data center move

So far, I've managed to move 1 load balancer, 1 database server, 1 Google Mini, 3 switches, 1 session monitor, 1 mail server and 2 web servers. Of those, only the load balancer, the mini and 1 web server were in production at the facility we're moving out of. I guess that means it's a good thing I got the full 8' of space and that the 13U had no chance of cutting it. Still to move: 2 Google Minis, 2 switches, 3 web servers, a memcached box, 1 database server, 1 load balancer, and our T-1. Then, our current mail server can become a development/staging server. Such fun moving can be,

Top Affiliate Challenge launched

The show launched, and boy did our ISP underestimate the bandwidth we'd be using. Not only was that a fail, but it took me about 12 hours to get plan B, C, and finally hit a homerun with plan D. We're finally there, even though it seems like it should have been done ages ago.

In any case, check out Top Affiliate Challenge every day to keep up with what's happening, and Go Team ToolBarn!

Yet another (small) project

For those that aren't aware, I am a tennis enthusiast. I have a couple of Head Radical raquets, love my Babolat ProPulse shoes, and watch as much of the majors as I can. I even participate in leagues and enter tournaments when I can.

What's the point of all of this? Well, I volunteered in November to create a website for our local tennis association. I hadn't heard anything in quite some time, so I pushed a bit on this a couple of weeks ago. I got the go ahead finally last Wednesday and put together a site already. It's not perfect yet, but it's better (IMO) than most of the other area tennis associations.

So, how about some feedback on the site for the Fremont Tennis Association? What information can I add or what can I tweak to make the layout better? I've got quite a few additional ideas yet, but just as in e-commerce, an outside perspective can make a big difference in direction.

Twitter, get some resources

A couple of weeks after I read about Facebook getting $$$ to buy 50,000 more servers, I found it amusing to see this image on Twitter:

Come on already, Twitter. Everyone can see your resources aren't sufficient. Get with the program and buy some servers already.

Top Affiliate Challenge

I'm starting to get interested in what Thor has going on at now. There are a few good auditions going on, and I just signed up to be a team sponsor. Watch for Team to win it all this July. I think we'll have another exciting announcement next week as well. Stay tuned for more info.

I can has...

Many of you are probably familiar with I Can Has Cheezburger. If you're not, it's a site where pictures of animals (normally cats) are portrayed with funny / catchy slogans with simple misspellings that make it even better. That's often referred to as lolspeak.

Today, Michael (sitting across the square room from me) came across one of their tools for making your own and put together this image:

Very nice. Now, we just need to get a blog set up for to start putting those on.

It's Browie's Birthday and he'll have a contest if he wants to.

Browie is having a contest on his personal blog. Hey, free iPods deserve a post and a link.

Happy Birthday, Browie.

Google Analytics problems, again.

Trying to load the dashboard for Google Analytics today, I first came up to "An error has been detected". I thought that was nice, but when I hit refresh and the dashboard did come up, it was even better.

Thanks for the data, Google. It's appreciated. If your Urchin purchase keeps doing this well, I'll be forced to give more money to Yahoo for their IndexTools purchase.

Google AdWords Phishing

Today, one of our call center employees forwarded me a phishing scam I hadn't seen before. It was a neat angle, though. Just thought I should mention it so nobody gets taken by it.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Update Your Billing Information
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2008 17:45:15 -0300
From: AdWords-NoReplay <>

This message was sent from a notification-only email address that does, not accept incoming email. Please do not reply to this message.


Dear Google AdWords Customer,

Your ads have stopped running because we were unable to process your billing information.

We will reactivate you account after you update your billing information.

In order to reactivate your account, please sign it to your account at <>, and update your billing information. Once your account …

Nascar never cared before 5 years ago?

Today, as I was reading an article on, I noticed a banner on the left margin. They were toting "Celebrating 5 years of caring". Well, I don't think I took that how they wanted me to, but I see that as "before then, we didn't care at all".

Seriously, how do people at these marketing companies get jobs? That's a terrible message they're sending, which for a charity shouldn't be tolerated. Surely someone other than me can see the negative side of this message.

Usually, I like Nascar's advertisements. This time, I almost found it offensive. Really, if you didn't care in the past, cover it up... don't flaunt it.


I made my first widget the other day. One line of JavaScript and I now have sale items showing on my blog here in the margin. It only changes every 5 or 10 minutes right now (memcached is beautiful, no?), but it should scale well because of that. With the way that our affiliate program works, it would be really easy to create about 5 of these for affiliates to embed along with the tracking image, then control the actual content on our end. I think I'll make a few config options first, like titles and colors, but it should be useful.

Servers Revisited

Servers. Gotta love 'em. I know I do.

It's been a while since I posted up some hardware to keep my geeky friends drooling, so I thought I'd show a few pictures of our hardware setup now. The first picture is our server room, which I haven't featured before. Top to bottom: Tape backup, the server that had our inventory / accounting system on it before (now just file storage for the most part), our old dev box, our internet gateway box (XML interface between our site and our system as well as a firewall / NAT system), a Google Mini for ProperPet, the KVM switch for these servers, 3 dev servers for the sites (1 dev, 2 staging to mirror our setup downtown), the UPS for those 3 (which barely shows up with some green lights), the keyboard and monitor for it, our ACD server, and the big Dell box that powers our system now with its battery right below. That's a decent amount of hardware for one cabinet, but it's not nearly as dense as our environment downtown.

This is ou…

PCI compliance

Eventually, every ecommerce company hits the crossroads where PCI compliance goes from being a nice to have to being a need to have. Of course, those in charge say everyone must be compliant regardless of size, but who are they trying to fool? They're not going to waste time auditing someone doing $10,000/year online. Hackers probably won't waste their time on those people, either.The part that makes compliance tough is the moving target. Come July, there are a whole new batch of standards that merchants need to follow or risk huge fines. Not only that, they could possibly lose their ability to process credit cards. I doubt that, though, or someone like TJX would have lost their card processing abilities.Personally, I'm in the middle of buying application firewalls. That sure beats pushing everything through a third party code audit if you ask me, but either is very pricey.So, do any of you reading this have any opinions on app firewalls? Good brands? Bad? Features? Reliab…

New local meetup

If you're interested in web design and in the Omaha area, as so many of us are, there is a local meetup you may be interested in. Check it out here.

Heather, the organizer, seems like a nice gal that just needs a little bump to get this thing going, so I thought I'd give it a mention here. It's great to see another local meetup in the online space. It compliments NPMMO nicely.

Funny Kontera Ads

I was playing around with Kontera tonight, and decided to check a few pages to see what gets displayed. Let me tell you - some of these are funny.

Yes... I've always wanted a review of how nice it is to have herpes. Or maybe I haven't. How lovely.

Saving money. What is this, a discount in Vegas? Too weird.

Wow, I never realized that was an adult site. Here I thought they were shopping related. ;)

Dynamic graphing is uber cool

As we continue to get more servers to run our websites, one of the complications that arises is monitoring. As part of the solution, I created a few service monitors to let us know if something goes down. However, being proactive is better than being reactive. Enter graphing. We now have a dedicated machine showing us cpu and memory line graphs with overlaid text for each server, as well as some bar graphs for network activity to each machine. In the interest of going modern and trendy, I even decided to use a CF card for booting and slax as the distribution for this machine. Now, on to monitoring the memcached hits vs. misses.

Baked taters are Russian?

I just saw a BK commercial where some dope in a whopper jr costume was at Wendy's asking for a whopper jr. They offered him a baked potato and he responded, "What is this, Russia?" Uhm... BK, that was dumb. Get a marketing department with a clue before you go offending more farmers.

A drawback of LinkConnector?

Those who know me through ToolBarn know that I use LinkConnector for our affiliate program management. They offer "Naked Link' technology, which essentially shows an image on the affiliate site and runs some JavaScript on the merchant side to track referrals.As I have started looking at affiliate marketing closer, it struck me that only approved sites can pass a referral for an affiliate. This means any RSS feeds don't count, making LinkConnector a questionable program for bloggers.I know, I'm on the merchant side so I shouldn't be so concerned about getting a few "free" sales, but as a blogger I see this as a potentially crippling weakness.Now, they do offer traditional link tracking campaigns as well, but that eliminates most of the reason for using LC in the first place.Just something for bloggers to keep in mind... A JS redirection page would probably be a good idea so the referrer gets properly set.

Terrorist Google Bombings?

The latest Google bomb for "dangerous cult" has a group claiming responsibility for it. This reminds me of a terrorist group claiming responsibility for a physical bombing. Here we are in the digital terrorism age already... I wasn't ready for that yet.

Top Affiliate Challenge

Anyone who saw Next Internet Millionaire probably remembers Thor Schrock. He made it to the final three in the contest, and easily had some of the best business sense. Anyway, is Thor's new project with many similarities to the original contest, just hosted in Lincoln Nebraska and with more of a reality feel. Contestants will be able to work when they want, how they want, and using any resources they want to accomplish the task. This sounds cool, so I might have to see what we can do about sponsorship or maybe submit a video audition. Good luck with the whole thing, Thor.

Stand still and get passed

We just re-launched recently, but that doesn't mean it won't see huge changes again soon. I've seen time after time where sites get some improvement made and then stand still for months while the designers take it easy. For us, standing still is not an option. If you watch over the next 2 weeks, you should see some huge changes rolling out. I won't give too much away, but I will say that these are all going to be changes made with the customer in mind that will be migrated to shortly. It should be fun.

What's NPMMO like?

Ever wanted to see what NPMMO meetings are like? I posted an hour plus of video on the site on this page. Let me know if you have any feedback on the video. It was difficult to get decent audio out of the video, but I cleaned it up as much as I could.


Tried to start a fire

I got a Greenway water cooler for my office and tried hooking it up today. After plugging it in and marveling at the blue light under the tap, I turned the switch on the back to the "On" position.

Granted, this was a remanufactured tri-temp dispenser, but as soon as the switch was turned on there was a big spark out the back of the unit and the lights went out.

Last I checked, this was not a good sign.

Luckily, the unit was sitting on top of my mini-fridge and not on the floor or next to the wall. Had it been closer to either, I think we could have had a fire here.

Here's to hoping that Greenway can get this issue resolved quickly.

Special promotion @

We're trying a promotion at for the next week. It'll be interesting to see how it works. You can hear what it is at and tell me what you think will happen with this promotion here.I've got my opinions, but tell me what you think. I might even send out goodies to someone that makes a guess.

Drafts count as spam?

We had a blog, hosted on our servers but powered by Blogger, get marked as spam. By the looks of things, some of the drafts were considered spam and that got the blog flagged.Here's the deal: the blog is customer contributions, making it necessary to allow anyone to send to it. However, spammers like sending to blogs, too. I go through and delete a few hundred every now and then, but without bulk delete it is very difficult to get very far.In reading on Blogger's TOS, they say you can request a manual review, but they never say how / where to request that. Thanks for that, Google. How about a form to fill out?

The Bucket List - Emotionally Draining

We went and saw The Bucket List today. It was very well written and was a great movie. Of course, big name actors like Nicholson and Freeman wouldn't take a horrible script.There were a few continuity errors in it, but those can easily be overlooked. I don't recommend going to this one and not stopping at the refreshment stand, though. The napkins come in handy at the end.