KD8ITX My Life, My Hobbies – All about Polyphasic sleep, Aquaponics, Ham Radio, Technology and more.

February 26, 2010

My Daily Reading List

Filed under: Humor,Misc — Marcus @ 1:36 pm

I sincerely apologize to everyone that is reading this today, you may have had things planned to get done, but if you have a moment of weakness and actually visit the sites I have listed you may well lose a day or a week browsing around them 🙂

Every morning when I get up I have a list of blogs and websites I check out, its a pretty decently long list, and there is a lot of good content in them so I present the list:

Technology

Humor

Finance

Misc

Like I said, I am truly sorry.  However you should be able to catch up on those different sites if you are diligent for a couple weeks.  Once you get caught up it only takes about half an hour in the morning to read the new stuff.

Enjoy…

February 25, 2010

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Part #2

Filed under: Web Design — Marcus @ 6:16 am

This is the second article in my series on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), if you haven’t read the first article yet, please take time to do so now.

The focus of this article is on getting the content and design for your site ready for your customers and then getting your site submitted to the correct listings.  One thing to note about the advice from this article, there is almost nothing relating to search engine optimization specifically, this is intentional.

Your #1 job with your website is to make it so that your customers love it.  If you have a high quality site to start with that provides real value to your customers it will probably end up ranking well without you doing very much, but if you spend your time obsessing over tweaks for ranking first and not worrying so much about your customers you will fight a losing battle as you will get an upsurge of traffic to begin with, but the customers will not find or enjoy your site and if they are not staying on your site but immediately leaving then all your work is for nothing.

One of the best resources I have ever read on making your website usable is “Don’t Make Me Think”.  I read this book a few years ago and it has really influenced how I think about web design.

So without further ado, here are the next steps on getting your website ready for search engines.

1)    Content, Content, CONTENT.  If you don’t do anything else, write content that is interesting to the group of people you are targeting, don’t worry about how search engines will see it, don’t worry about keywords, don’t even worry so much about a perfect logo or site design.  Worry about writing original, excellent quality content that people will actually want to read.

  • Double check your spelling and grammar, it is easy to run your content though a program like Microsoft Word to check your spelling and grammer.
  • Use consistent fonts, colors and styles throughout your site; being creative on each and every page is only distracting to your users.
  • When you have finished writing a page, stop, go to the top and read the entire page over again, don’t skim, read every last word.  Once you have finished reading the page, go back up to the top again and this time read it out loud.  If you find yourself skimming, you can bet your customers will as well, and if you have too much content they may decide they don’t want to read it at all!

2)    As soon as you have the first page up submit it to Google (http://www.google.com/addurl/), don’t worry if your site is ready or not.  Google will continue visiting your site and will pickup more of your site as you perfect it.  I have read before that Google will often times penalize new websites, so the earlier they find out about your site the earlier you will be considered an established site.  Also Google loves to see changes, so while you are working making your site better, Google will love your changes.
3)    Design elements:

  • Use consistent and meaningful page titles for each page on your site, I normally recommend your page title being your site name a dash and a very short description of your site, for example on my site here you will see something along the lines of “KD8ITX.COM – Ham Radio”
  • Make use of <h1> tags in your content, these should be used for the main headlines of your website, search engines will pickup the content in your <h1>’s as being important to the page.
  • Use page names that actually mean something, don’t use page1.html, page2.html, etc.  Use something that actually describes what the page is about, it should not be more than 2-3 words though.
  • Use text links and design elements where you can, flash looks cool, but search engines just see that as a blind spot they don’t understand.  Also the flashier your site is, the longer it will take to load which will cause potential customers to leave before your site is loaded.

4)    Think about what you are trying to sell, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an actual product, or if the purpose of your site is just a personal info site about yourself.  Your site has a purpose, and you need to make sure you understand what that purpose is at the very beginning.  Once you know the purpose of your site you can weigh any component you are thinking of adding against the purpose, ask yourself if adding x component or feature will help with the purpose of your site.  Oftentimes the less you have on your site distracting away from the main purpose the better.

  • Example #1: www.google.com, obviously everyone knows Google, but take a look at their homepage again; can you tell the stated purpose of the page from a glance?  Its search, they have eliminated everything from their page but the one element they really care to sell you on.  This may be commonplace now and not something that really stands out, but back when they first came out with the idea it was revolutionary and a part of how they have become the very top.
  • Example #2: zenhabits.net, this blog has risen in popularity from being unknown to being I believe one of the top 5 blogs on the web.  Take a look around there, what is it that has caused that blog to gain popularity like it has?  I would say very solid writing and a website that focuses on what they are selling, their blog content.  When you look at the site it is very pleasing to look at but at the same time has almost nothing there that is not directly related to the content on the site.

5)    Once you have completed the first version of your site and are ready for customers its time to submit your site to a couple of directories that in my experience help with your page rank

  • www.dmoz.org: This is an old school hand edited directory, once you submit your site to them it may take weeks to months to get included, and they can very well decide not to include you.  With the sites I have worked with, once they got listed here I noticed the major search engines giving a bit of a bonus to them.
  • http://technorati.com/: If you have a blog on your site, submit it to here, make sure to have a few good solid posts before submitting it here though.  The last site I submitted took about 3 weeks to go through their verification.
  • Misc:  Is there any directory type sites you immediately think of when thinking were to find competitors in your industry?  If so find out what it takes to get listed with them, it may be free or paid, but if they are already getting the traffic to them it is worth investigating.  Also as a note, don’t bother with just the spam link trading places; I would stick with well known sites in your industry.

Next up in the Search Engine Optimization series I will go over the tools you can use to promote your site and then validate your results.

Until Next time…

February 20, 2010

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Part #1

Filed under: Web Design — Marcus @ 7:49 am

Today is a homework day; I am working on a series of posts about search engine optimization (SEO).  If you are interested in this subject and will be following my next few posts on this subject, please take a few minutes and go through this exercise below.  Print off these questions or copy them into a word editor and actually write down your answers and save them.  We will be using these over the next few posts

  1. What is the purpose of my site? (One sentence)
  2. What are 5 of my closest competitors?
    1. #1 __________
    2. #2 __________
    3. #3 __________
    4. #4 __________
    5. #5 __________
  3. How is my site better than all 5 of my competitors? (One sentence answer per competitor, fill this out as if you were a customer that has visited both your site and your competitor, what would they say makes you better than this competitor?)
    1. #1 __________
    2. #2 __________
    3. #3 __________
    4. #4 __________
    5. #5 __________
  4. No really, why would someone want to come to my site over each of my competitors I just listed? (Really think about this, if it’s because you think you have a kick-ass web design, or because you know in your heart yours is the best, then that is not good enough to convince your customer.)
  5. What is my unique advantage that will make people choose me over my competitors? (Write this out, take paragraphs, pages if you need to).

Ok, now take what you just wrote down and look at your website and see if you have conveyed the reasons you have written down why someone would choose you over your competitors.

When someone comes to your site for the first time, they should very quickly be able to fill out question #1 and #5, and if you did your job correctly their answer to those two should be almost identical to your answer.

One last note, do not breeze over this exercise, take time and really think about these questions, because even if you don’t you can bet your competitors are.  You need to make sure you have better answers to these questions than they have, because these answers can and should guide you into the very core of what your website is and should influence every decision about your site.

February 17, 2010

Valentine’s Day

Filed under: Food,Misc — Marcus @ 10:50 pm

So a bit late on getting this posted as Valentine’s Day was several days ago, but I wanted to post up the fun stuff Meagan and I did.

First off the food…

We started off with our main course: Filet Mignon, our famous mashed potatoes (We found out you can have ranchy mashed potatoes and cheesy mashed potatoes at the same time, the rest is history!), and corn.  Anyone that knows us very well should know we pride ourselves in our cooking, well after the meal we decided this was definatly in the top 5 of best meals we have created and there is some debate about it maybe being the best meal we have ever cooked.  This was our first shot at cooking Filet Mignon, but it was a true success, after the meal we figured it out and it cost right about $15-$20/plate for the meal, so not really cheap, but seeing that we usually go to a very expensive restaurant for Valentine’s Day and spend around $150 for the meal for the two of us this was quite cheap.

For dessert we had leftovers from the night before, we made a triple layer chocolate cake for some friends we had over the night before, the cake turned out perfect.  I think this was the third time we have made a triple layer cake, we are getting better at them, but they are still a challenge.  Both Meagan and I have our assigned jobs making the cake, she bakes the three layers beforehand normally and then we both make the frosting and I am the one to frost it (We found out on the first one that frosting a cake is a lot like doing grout work with cement, and I have no end of practice doing that from my construction years!).

Later on in the evening we made some floats that were just awesome, we had some blackberry pomegranate pop we had been saving, so we filled up the cups about half way with vanilla ice cream and then poured the pop over it, it made a really fun drink.  It was made perfect when Meagan brought out the heart shaped straws.

As for gifts, I got Meagan a fountain pen she has been wanting,  she tries to journal every day and has been wanting a fancy pen to use for it, so I got her that and a bunch of different colors she can use in it.  Meagan got me two different firesteels (from www.firesteel.com).  I have been wanting one of the new firesteels they have with the handle on them, the last time I went camping the firesteels were fun, but they were really hard to hold onto, the new design fixes that issue and I can’t wait to try them out in the woods next time.  Below is a picture of me with my new firesteel.

So all in all it was a great weekend, I hope I don’t make anyone too hungry with the pics of the meal we made 🙂

Until next time…

February 4, 2010

Taking naps in the winter

Filed under: Polyphasic — Tags: , , , — Marcus @ 6:20 pm

There are many great benefits to being Polyphasic, mainly being able to have the time to work on my own projects and still have time to spend with my wife, and also being able to be an early riser and a late night guy at the same time.  However these benefits come at a cost, and that cost is having to take naps all the time.

Normally you will never notice me taking my naps, I get them in before and after work and then over my lunch break (where I sleep in my car at work), however I happen to live in snow country which can make taking my noon nap quite difficult.  When I miss my noon nap I am still able to function, but I feel half awake and have a hard time concentrating on things, also I find it much harder to stay up at night and I end up falling asleep on the couch when I should be spending time with Meagan.

This is my third winter I have been through since I started Polyphasic, and I struggle every year with the problem of what to do about my noon nap.  The first year I was able to find a room that wasn’t in use at work and I slept there, however with my current job I haven’t been able to find a dependable place to take a nap.  On sunny days its not a problem, because it can be 15 degrees but with the sun out the car is warm enough to sleep comfortably.  However where I live we have very few sunny days.

So this week after being fed up with dealing with this issue I decided to pose the question on how to sleep in the freezing cold and be comfortable to a survival forum I read, it turns out I should have asked for advice years ago.  Within a couple of hours the consensus was to unzip a sleeping bag and use it as a blanket in my car or to get a down blanket, genius!  I had tried using a fleece blanket before and it helped but not much, I had never thought of using a sleeping bag before.

So today is my third day of using a sleeping bag in my car, what a difference, I have been totally comfortable and haven’t even noticed the cold.  The temperatures have been in the low to mid 20’s so not that cold, but I think I can deal with 15 degrees and up with this method.  One of the other tips they had on the forum was to fill a sock with rice and heat it up before I go out, I think I am going to try that out on some colder days, that would probably help deal with the initial cold until my body warms up the sleeping bag.

If you would like to read the discussion thread here it is: http://www.survivaltopics.com/forums/general-survival-gear/6012-cold-weather-blanket-ideas.html

Until next time…

February 1, 2010

Turning E. Coli into flesh eating bio-diesel creating machines

Filed under: Humor,Science — Marcus @ 6:18 pm

Please note the following post is an attempt at humor, do not take my warnings seriously, otherwise we will have scientists trying to find smoke from some dinosaur’s car that got captured in a clay pot and they will see if they can reconstruct an evolutionary missing link just by going off from distinct properties of the said smoke.

I read a lot of different blogs and tech news sites, while reading yesterday I came across an article on Google news titled “Turning E. Coli into Road-Ready Diesel“. I glanced at that and thought, wow that could be a bad idea, but I guess its just some new bacteria that they found that exists naturally that does this, no big deal right?

Wrong, they are genetically modifying E. Coli bacteria to eat basically any organic material and convert it into diesel fuel. Lets backup and think about that statement for a minute… They are genetically modifying E.Coli bacteria to do something, probably doesn’t matter what. Three things come to mind when I think about this:

  1. E. Coli is dangerous to begin with
  2. I have seen several scary science fiction movies with this as their basis (I am Legend for example)
  3. Oh yeah, we (humans) are also organic material

Now I know that movies are just a made up fiction and not to be taken to seriously, but something else to remember is how science fiction has literally lead the way to the technology we have today. Some movie writer/director thinks up something cool, and us geeks realize we can’t live without that thing in our favorite movie and we spend the next 20 years developing it, what are the chances that the same time the geeks are making a holo deck, the real life villains are busy trying to come up with awesome virus’ etc they can hold the world hostage with? For some examples of science fiction being realized in real life check out a couple of articles I came up with one Google search and about 10 minutes of time:

  1. http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/reviews/4256186.html
  2. http://screenrant.com/tech-terminator-iron-man-is-here-brusimm-7985/

Also while we are thinking outside the box, lets think about another fact. The fuel we are burning today is a product of dead dinosaurs and other animals from a long time ago right? Maybe they were smarter than we thought they were, maybe the dinosaurs spent their spare time motoring around the planet and realized they were running out fuel created from some (now missing) evolutionary missing link and they decided to just make their own fuel out of a random virus they had found. That could be plausible right? I mean the facts are all there, well at least the facts I am paying attention to:  #1 All the dinosaurs are dead, #2 all the dinosaurs have been converted to oil (I would assume by the genetically modified bacteria they were playing with).

So why don’t we all just step back a bit and try not to go the way of the dinosaurs, lets just see if we can get by with just burning up the last of the dinosaurs mistakes, and then focus on something safer like nuclear energy, something we actually understand the processes of.

Until next time…

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