Monday, February 05, 2007
Out with the old and in with the new (yet another PSA)
It should be as simple as breathing... but for some reason I keep getting emailed complaints from people saying they can't see my new posts.
Actually, that's not exactly true. They usually email me complaining bitterly that I haven't updated my site in a week or more... which leads me to understand that their computer simply isn't showing them my new content.
OK, here's the deal people: Your browser (you know... the program - Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, Opera, etc. - with which you view the web) has something called 'cache'. Cache is a snapshot of each page you've viewed that your computer stores just in case you want to use the 'back' button to return to it. That way you won't have to wait for it to load from its source again.
The annoying part of your browser storing a cached version of each page you view is that when when you return to a particular site every day (ahem...like mine), and your browser doesn't realize you've come back looking for new content. It thinks (OK, strictly speaking browsers don't actually think... so sue me!), that perhaps you simply want to see the same page you previously viewed... and it dutifully shows you that page from its stored memory (cache).
As a matter of habit you should try to dump your browser's cache at least once a day... especially if you do a lot of web surfing. All those stored pages can slow you down and will just cause frustration if you go back to a site looking for fresh content.
For those who don't know how to dump all their cache, simply find the tools or preferences menu on your browser and poke around a little bit. There should be a button there allowing you to delete temporary Internet files and/or cache. In that section you should also be able to set your preferences for how much cache your computer stores and how often your browser should look for a new version of any given web page (every time).
However, if you ever visit my site (or any other site, for that matter) and you are faced with stale content... a quick and simple trick that will instantly dump the stored version of the page and force your browser to go load the latest version is to hold down the Control key and press F5.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
How do it know? (A PSA for Luddites)
There's an old joke about two rednecks - Bubba and Skeeter - shivering off the early morning chill out on their rickety bass boat, when Skeeter pulls out a thermos of coffee and starts to pour himself a steaming cup. Bubba watches in blinking amazement for a couple of minutes and says, "Hey Skeeter,... I seen you put soda in that there thermos and it comes out cold. I seen you put coffee in it and it comes out hot". Skeeter nodded and said, "Yeah... so wut?" To which Bubba reponded, "How do it know?!"
For those of you who keep blogs or journals and want people to actually show up after you've posted new content, pay attention... this post is for you:
Many web sites, blogs and journals have something called a blogroll... essentially a list of other sites, blogs and journals. We'll leave aside for the moment whether the site-owner actually visits all the sites listed in his/her blogroll on a regular basis. Let's just take it on faith that someone is theoretically clicking the sites listed in every blogroll, mmmkay?
Now, some of the blogrolls out there are static... meaning they are simple lists with hotlinks on each entry. But many blogrolls out there are actually dynamic... meaning they can change order based on which sites have recently been updated with new content. This is a fantastic time-saver since it saves readers from clicking over to a site, blog or journal that still has the same, stale post at the top from last week!
Which brings us back to our old friend, Bubba. If he were fortunate enough to have Internet access in his double-wide trailer, he would probably be asking Skeeter; "How do it know when to move blogs to the top of the blogroll?"
The simple answer is: 'Magic'.
No, actually that's just the answer I would probably run by the Bubbas of the world in order to see their mouths fall open in gap-toothed wonderment. But then eventually I'd have to go on and explain to them about something truly magical called 'pinging'.
'Pinging' has a lot of definitions, but for the purposes of this post we'll limit ourselves to the following: 'Pinging' is what happens when a virtual shout of 'HEY YOU!' ... is sent from one site to another in order to say 'NEW STUFF IS POSTED OVER HERE!'
Some of you out there already use blogging software that automatically sends a 'ping' to sites like 'Blogrolling.com, Google, Technorati, blo.gs and weblogs.com whenever you post something new. Basically, whenever you hit the 'Publish' button, a message/'ping' is sent to one or more of these sites telling them your site has fresh content. They, in turn, send out a 'ping' to all the sites that have their blogroll code installed on them, and your site (if it is lucky enough to be included there) magically jumps to the top of the blogroll!
However, a lot of you out there either aren't using blogging software that automatically sends out an update 'ping'... or for some inexplicable reason you have this function turned off. It's for you
Luddites people that I've really written this post.
Take a moment and poke around the settings in your blogging software... in the preferences section... probably under 'publicity'. If you have the option of automatically 'pinging' any or all of the sites I've mentioned above, PLEASE turn it on. But if not, I would consider it a personal favor if you would take two seconds after you've posted something new to send a manually 'ping'.
What's that you say?
"How do we do that , Trep?"
Well, I'm glad you asked! Here, I'll use 'blogrolling.com' as an example of how to go about it:
If you go to www.blogrolling.com you will see on the left hand side of the page a menu option called 'Ping Form'... go ahead and click that. Now type your site's title and URL (web address) into the appropriate text boxes and then click the 'Ping' button.
It's that simple!
Oh... another thing. If your site has more than one URL (e.g. treppenwitz is linked on various blogrolls as http://bogieworks.blogs.com, http://bogieworks.blogs.com/treppenwitz or www.treppenwitz.com), you will have to send a 'ping' for each URL each and every time you publish something new.
But wait, I can hear you saying "That's too much trouble, Trep... I don't want to go to a whole different web site each time I post a new entry!". Fair enough... so I'll give you a little tech tip on how to do it from your favorites/bookmarks list:
- Enter a URL into your browser... any URL.
- Now add this URL to your bookmarks/favorites
- Go to that entry on your list of bookmarks/favorites, but instead of clicking it with your left mouse button*, click it with your right mouse button and scroll down to 'Properties' and click that with your left mouse button.
- Change the name (it might be on a different tab) to 'PING1' and copy and paste the following URL (both lines at once) into the text box (making sure to substitute your blog's URL for the letters in red):
- Before you click Save/OK, make sure you have replaced the letters that are in red (above) with your blog's URL.
- Click 'Save' / 'OK' and you're good to go!
- If you have multiple URLs, just do the same thing as many times as necessary and name the additional bookmarks 'PING2', 'PING3', etc.
Now, each time you post something new to your site, all you have to do to let everyone know about it is select 'PING1' from your bookmarks/favorites list, and voila!... just like that, somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia a redneck will stare in rapt amazement as your blog magically jumps to the top of the blogroll, and wonder, "How do it know?!"
Don't thank me... I'm a giver.
Warning: Please don't abuse this feature. A blogger I know (no, I'm not mentioning names) got into the habit of 'pinging' blogrolling.com whenever he was bored (and not when he had posted something new), just to see if he could get people to show up at his site. This person is no longer on my blogroll. You have been warned.
Additional Note: A previous treppenwitz Public Service Announcement explained the finer points of using trackback pings. If you don't know about this, go read!
* I haven't given explicit instructions for Mac users because I figure you are already tech-savvy enough to know all this. ;-)