Archive for April, 2004

Indexing Tweak Redux

Dugh mentioned in the comments of my post on using the “robots” meta tag with Blosxom that he was having some trouble with interpolate_fancy getting everything working, and asked for my template. Since my comments system is still nearly 100% feature-free, I decided to just create a new post.

The goal is to help search engine robots to only index permalinks (individual posts) but not pages containing multiple posts such as data or category archives (or your main page, since the content changes). To do this, we need to add a <meta /> tag to the <head> of each page. For index pages, we need the following:

and for individual posts, we need this:

My solution requires two plugins for Blosxom: Rael’s interpolate_fancy plugin and my own storystate plugin. A word of warning – if you aren’t already using interpolate_fancy, this isn’t a simple drop-in – you’ll have to change all of your templates. For more info, see the interpolate_fancy docs. My storystate plugin simply provides a number of additional variables denoting the state of the current story, for use by interpolate_fancy’s conditional tags. For this application, we need $storystate::permalink, which is true if the current page represents a single post, and undef otherwise. Here’s the relevant section of my head.html flavour template:

That’s all I did. I haven’t seen much change on Google yet, but it’s only been in place for 3 days. Hopefully, as Google reindexes more of my site, all of my index pages will drop off, leaving only permalinks.

Update: The change shown here has a nasty side effect of no longer indexing the blog’s homepage, see Tweaking the Robot Tweak for an improved version that fixes this bug.

Biological Cron Job

For the first few months I had this site, I was very lackidaisical about performing backups. When Sean had problems with his site after his host’s server died, and he had no recent backup, I determined to do better.

My hosting service doesn’t offer shell acess (I’m thinking of switching), but does provide a handy one-click-to-make-a-tar.gz button for creating full site backups. This means I can’t schedule backups automatically, and of course I’m too lazy to setup reminders (especially since I rarely fire up iCal). I make backups when I think of it. Tonight, for some reason, I thought of it. As I retrieved my latest backup, I noted the dates of my last several backups:

jclarkor.011204.tar.gz
jclarkor.021604.tar.gz
jclarkor.032004.tar.gz
jclarkor.042004.tar.gz

I seem to be developing a pretty regular habit of pulling a backup once a month, around mid-month. Kind of like a biological cron job.

I Knew I Was Right – But I Was Wrong

UPDATE: See the end of the post for a retraction. The original post remains for posterity.


Even though I swore off CompUSA several months ago, today I almost caved in. In the end, they just proved me right. You can’t trust them.

I was browsing the sales ads in today’s newspaper, looking for a large harddrive cheap to put in my TiVo. Circuit City had a 160GB Western Digital for $109 after rebate (plus a $20 gift card), but curiousity made me check CompUSA. They had the same drive for $59 after (multiple) rebates. Being that I didn’t see the ad until late in the afternoon, I figured going to the store was probably pointless… they never have much stock on these kinds of offers; they just want to get you into the store. I’ve been bitten many times.

This evening, I decided to see if I could get the rebates if I purchase the drive from their website. I’ve read the webpage and both rebate forms, and I can’t really tell. It all implies that you must purchase from the store in order to get the rebate. Of course, the rebates are only good for drives purchased this week, and only from CompUSA. Tempted, I decided to use the “check availability” feature. Naturally, all 5 stores within 50 miles of me had already sold out. But then I looked a little closer:

Product (un)availability

The highlighted section tells the story: “availability information is up-to-date as of 4/18/2004 3:40:41 AM”. That was before the store even opened on the day the ad broke.


UPDATE: Never let it be said that I can’t admit a mistake. When I posted this Sunday night, I believed that all 5 CompUSA stores in my area were sold out of this promotional item before the promotion even began. On Monday evening, it occurred to me that I should recheck in the interest of fairness. Sure enough, on Monday all 5 stores showed the drive in stock, “as of 4/19/2004 03:36:41 AM”. I can only conclude that they held the items until the sale promotion began, before putting them into stock. To appologize to CompUSA for jumping to an incorrect conclusion, I went today to purchase a drive. They still had it in stock.

A Few Tweaks

I’ve just finished making a few tweaks to the site. Please shoot me an email if you see anything untoward. The updates are mainly for the benefit of search engines. Here’s what I’ve done:

  • Added <meta name="robots" ... /> tags to control what pages are indexed. I’ve set them up so that permalinks (individual posts) should be indexed, but index pages (main page, category pages, date archive pages) are not. This should prevent Google from listing dozens of hits for what is really a single post. For more info, see this old post (which I’m just getting around to acting on).

  • Added the post title to the page title on permalinks. This way, all my hits on Google won’t be titled “jclark.org”. There are a few Blosxom plugins that can do this; I’m using storytitle. I only made one small code tweak to the plugin, to remove dates from the page title on date archive views. It wasn’t implemented correctly (any date link, including year or year/month/day links, put the year and month in the title), and I didn’t feel like fixing it, so I shut it off. The info is at the top of the page, and Google doesn’t need page titles for index pages now (see prior bullet).

Now I just need to setup a robots.txt, at least to prevent downloads (e.g., source code for Blosxom plugins) from being indexed. I still need to add search, but I’m lazy and Googling is so much easier… just include site:jclark.org in my search and I’m set. In fact, I even created a custom Firefox search extension to let me search my site via Google from Firefox’s toolbar search box… but that’s another post.

Page 23

Page 23

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

And no, nothing much has changed since then.

Krikorian, Raffi. TiVo Hacks: 100 Indutrial Strength Tips & Tools. O’Reilly and Associates, 2003: 23.

You know, I usually don’t do these me-too-blog-meme things, but I had just been flipping through the book not 5 minutes ago, giving some thought to giving my TiVo a 160GB brain transplant, so I figured, why not? Besides, I’m couch-ridden with a sinus infection, and I’m bored.