Thursday, February 19, 2009

Direct traffic from Montara - yet another search engine launch? :)

Today I have experienced a spike in direct traffic coming from one particular city: Montara, California (website)

massive amount of direct traffic from a small city in California

is a small city in California, with less than 3,000 inhabitants. A hundred visits a day from city that big was suspicious.

It seems not only I have experienced this.

'The visitor' reports Internet Explorer with resolutions 1024x768 and 800x600, Flash version 10 and Java support.

Do we experience a rise of yet another web crawler? :) - the worst first impression I ever had

— You never have a second chance to make a good first impression.

Today I have visited Netvibes

highlighted problems of netvibes

I havent seen so much fail in quite some time.

  1. The page is composed from modules that use _three_ different languages at the same time - English, German and French. This is simply incredible. Different languages are even within the same widgets (see "Liste de t√Ęches. Nothing to do")
  2. Every service I've seen so far properly identifies my IP as Swiss. Netvibes shows me weather report for Paris, France. Even more, it shows me news from Switzerland and offers me to use german Google Site (
  3. Too much spam in the first few seconds of our acquaintance ("Set netvibes as my default homepage", "Sign up now, it's free"). I want to see first what you can give me, not what I can do for you.
  4. Inconsistent interface - three different types of "close" buttons on the same page.
  5. Set netvibes as my default homepage image gets cut badly on lower resolution (not seen properly on screenshot)
  6. Duplicate search boxes. Why would I need two google searchboxes on the same page? Oh, I forgot, one is german Google search, even though I am in Switzerland.
  7. What the hell will happen when I press "close" button near "Remind me later" and "Don't show this again"? "Remind me later" or "Don't show this again"? One out of these three ("Remind me later", "Don't show this again" and Close Button) is clearly redundant and even brings confusion.This is overall poor design - and on the page that is supposed to make the first impression on the user, in the most important part of screen real estate - header (see Fitt's law).
  8. Wtf does that check box does near search field in "Recherche Web" multilingual failwidget? You'll have no idea until you click it when you already have some search results to display

Google-bomb "failure" should point to , not G.W. Bush's profile. I wouild rather set my browser's homepage to about:robots - it is as much informative as default Netvibes page, however less irritating. The only real use of Netvibes was, probably, this.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up - tags on

I like how "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley is tagged "brutal death metal" on :)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Firefox is slow - how to make it faster?

Firefox was quite slow and had the following symptoms:
  • A delay when resolving host names
  • A couple-second delay when switching between tabs
  • Slow scrolling inside the page
I did some research and tweaking, and now it runs blazingly fast. This post is here as a reference if I ever have to do it again.

My current setup:
  • Sony VAIO notebook
  • Nvidia videocard
  • Linux Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron
  • Firefox 3.06 - 3.1 beta - both were lagging about the same
What I did:

Disable IPv6

(this helps with DNS responses from sites)
  1. Type about:config in Firefox address-bar
  2. If needed, press I'll be careful, I promise button :)
  3. Type network.dns in the Filter field, find network.dns.disableIPv6 value in the list below and double-click on it to make it change to True

Speed-up page loading times by increasing the amount of http request Firefox issues simulataneously

  1. On the same about:config page 
  2. Type network.http.p in the Filter field
  3. Set network.http.pipelining to True
  4. Set network.http.proxy.pipelining to True
  5. Increase network.http.pipelining.maxrequests value to about 16-20 from the default 4. 


Tell Firefox to start drawing page immediately after it receives some part of it from the server

  1. Right-click somewhere in about:config window
  2. Choose New->Integer from the context menu
  3. Name it nglayout.initialpaint.delay
  4. Set it to "0"

If you are an Ubuntu user with Emerald

update your Nvidia driver (this can give drastic performance boost)

Even if you have automatic updates on, you might still have old Nvidia drivers. There is a known interoperability issue between Nvidia drivers and Emerald, so you can either switch to another window decorator, or update drivers.
The easiest way to do it is to use EnvyNG:
  1. Install envyng-gtk if you use Ubuntu/Gnome:
    sudo apt-get install envyng-gtk
    or envyng-qt if you use Kubuntu/KDE:
    sudo apt-get install envyng-qt
  2. Launch Applications->System tools->EnvyNG
  3. Choose NVIDIA->Install the NVIDIA driver (Automatic Hardware Detection)
  4. Press Apply and then restart your computer when asked.

Firefox should be now faster than lightning.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hidden text links in comments

I was searching for "how blogger generates comment urls" for my post about duplicate title tags/meta descriptions, when my eyes stumbled over the heading of this post - not because it was particularly relevant to my query, but because I eventually did it myself for my blog - style author comments.(This guy came out with JavaScript method though, I do it with raw templating & CSS).

The blog, unfortunately, seemed pretty abandoned. Scrolling through spammy comments, I've noticed this particular one:

What was that rectangle to the right? I mouse-overed it with FireBug - it was link-infested:

Of course, when I turned off Highlight Nofollow Links in SearchStatus, the comment looked perfectly ordinary:

But how can it hurt me, if these links are nofollowed and even non-clickable?
  1. These links are hidden, thus subject to violating guidelines for Google-friendly sites, which can even result in automatic removal of your page from search index
  2. These links slow down your page . The described above link-pack was 5kb - compared to 30kb original post. Take 6 commenters like that - and your page will load almost twice longer.
  3. It can (needs more testing) change the keyword density of your site. (It's not caused by this particular comment, but two most popular keywords on that page are "Viagra" and "Tramadol", making 20% of page content. If you were an indexing robot - what would you think that page is about?)

How to fight it?

It would be possible to make these anchors visible using CSS (for example, specifying padding and background color for <a/> tags), however, everyone who visits your page would see them - and even worse - will be able to accidentally click them - which is not exactly what we need. Instead, have Highlight Nofollow Links or similar feature turned on - and once a spammer is detected - fire at will.

P.S. FireBug and SearchStatus are two great Firefox addons. No competent web developer/SEO can imagine his life without them.