CRM software runs my life

Month: January 2009 Page 1 of 2

New Server

Crucial Paradigm Logo

If you are seeing this post then you have reached the new server for my blog. I moved to Crucial Paradigm as I found their Windows VPS servers to provide good HDD limits and low Australian pings. Please let me know if you experience any improvement in speed or accessibility. This is all part of my plan to improve the exposure and performance of my blog this year, as well as launch other paid services.

Can Spam Improve SEO?

Scott Savage Akismet StatisticsFor some reason I seem to get a heap of spam on my blog. Even since I first started blogging spam somehow seemed to be drawn to my blog site (and I don’t even mention V!agr4 that often!). At the time I took the screenshot to the right 8,368 spam comments and trackbacks had been caught. That is a pretty ridiculous number. Akismet has managed to catch 99.764% of these, which is a testament to it’s effectiveness (and a major reason why I use WordPress). I sometimes wonder whether maybe allowing a few of these spam comments (which usually link to link heavy pages) would actually help my search engine ranking.

I found an SEOBook article that contained a lot of interesting findings that unintentionally supported my theory. Firstly the highest risk item is that your blog will itself get tagged as spam, however “A few bad inbound links are not going to put your site over the edge to where it is algorithmically tagged as spam”. In fact you can push this even further; “If you can get a few well known trusted links you can get away with having a large number of spammy links”.

The next step is to understand what kind of links spam comments etc. provide.  Again from the article “Spammers either use a large number of low PageRank links, a few hard to get high PageRank links, or some combination of the two.”. So how do you weed out the low PageRank links and seize the high PageRank ones? Well if everyone is running the same Akismet filter (it takes resources to build a blacklist/heuristic filter, how many are there?) then perhaps the high PageRank comments are those that are missed by the most common filters?

Therefore should I leave the Akismet filter on, but approve everything that gets through it even if it is spam? Or if I wanted to be more scientific should I analyse the PageRank of each link in the spam comment and accept those with high PageRanks? Surely in these 8000+ spam comments the spammers hit gold somewhere, the question is how do I find it?

FRS Error 13508 without 13509

error_13508Hand a few problems with this error on a new hosted domain controller that uses a VPN to connect back to the head office. Got some tips from Expert Exchange, but to summarise the various steps you should check are simple but effective (and as usual mostly DNS related):

  • Check there are no external DNS servers listed
  • Checked the localhost DNS server is not listed
  • Check that NETBIOS is only enabled over the internal NIC
  • Check that the other domain controllers FQDN’s are pingable
  • Check that the SRV records under the domain and _msdcs forward lookup zones include all your domain controllers (and only their internal IP addresses)
  • Manually trigger the domain controller replication connections through “Active Directory Sites and Services”, expand the server, right click “NTDS Settings” and do “All Tasks” and then “Check Replication Topology”. Make sure you click the Refresh button to see if all the replication links are listed.
  • Use netdiag -v and dcdiag -v to isolate any other problems
  • Keep restarting the Netlogon service 🙂

I really wish the DNS lookup that Active Directory did was a little more resilient (i.e. if the first DNS server lookup fails then use the secondary).

Thriving in a Crisis

Rahm Emanuel talks to President Obama

President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, told an audience of economists just after the election: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that is that it’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.”

Personally I think this is the best quote to come out of the current financial crisis. These are the times that people look back on and think “I wish I had the confidence to take this action back then”. The question is how do you confront these confidence problems without getting overwhelmed? I think the secret lies in having complete faith in a well researched long term strategic goal. It is always the short sighted people that suffer in a crisis.

Features vs Usability

Just one more feature...

Just one more feature...

Does adding features automatically mean reduced usability?

Some bloggers strongly disagree with this sentiment, for example arguing features only reduce usability when they are implemented poorly. I would definitely agree with some of his examples, including adding PNG support to browsers which did not affect end user usability.

Another that he gave was Google search, which is a perfect example of an interface that is simple to the nth degree. Clearly Microsoft didn’t learn anything when they tried to compete with it by adding 3 sliders to “tune” your search results. Instead Google addresses this need for additional tuning into it’s back end, which by many counts analyses and balances 10’s if not 100’s of contributing factors. There is a load or cost in adding features, however it can be paid either by your users in your software, or internally through process and/or business analysis. This is a balance however, and factors like scalability, audience and resources all have to be assessed before a solution can be scoped.

So how can you tell if you got this balance right? Usability can be tested independently with a sample pool of your audience, and this doubles as a great way to involve your customer and evangelise them. It does get expensive however, mainly due to the time and specialist software packages required (such as TechSmith Morae). A quicker and cheaper method is to just ask someone who knows, a usability expert.

There is a great article on usabilitynews.com comparing the two types of usability feedback. If it is your first attempt at usability testing (or it requires a full time resource to manage) than an expert is a great way to learn the process and common techniques. The bottom line however, is that there is no substitute for the horse’s mouth. Customer comments and videos provide concrete suggestions that will help to mitigate any external or internal stakeholder objections both pre and post deployment.

Email Marketing Problems Explained

Email Delivery FlowchartEmail marketing is not just spam, it is an important way of updating and maintaining a relationship with your customers. For many however it is a black art (literally) plagued by blacklists and emails disappearing into black holes. The various explanations for failed email delivery however are often highly technical and involve trial and error to resolve rather than guaranteed solutions.

The first resource that I created is a 1 page document to explain the problem areas in the email delivery process. It is simply entitled Email Delivery Explained (click to download the PDF). It is by no means comprehensive, but it is instead targetted at first time email marketers and budding e-sales people trying to understand the world of email marketing. If you found it interesting and want to know more, or want a great email marketing provider, then check out the MailChimp Resources page.

The second resource is a very cool program called Litmus. This software validates your email marketing collateral against the various email clients (desktop clients such as Outlook and Lotus, as well as web based clients like Hotmail and Gmail). It will provide a visual image of exactly what went wrong and where, so you can keep tweaking until it looks right. Not only will it improve your email marketing presentation, it will also check the content against spam filters like Norton, SpamAssassin and many others. You really can’t be much more thorough than that!

Pipe goes International

I have mentioned Pipe Networks before, more specifically their “Project Runway” surviving a near death credit crunch experience. There have been two interesting developments since that time.

Guam Beach Cable Hole

Guam Beach Cable Hole

The first is that Pipe have put up a blog tracking the progress of the cable installation. You can view it at pipeinternational.com. As with their DC3 data centre blog they have uploaded a ton of photos and commentary on a very regular basis. I am sure customers, creditors and other participants in the Australian networking industry appreciate the transparency of information delivered through these blogs. It is fascinating to see that, in the end, the data is flowing through a rather unglamorous combination of copper, concrete, seawater and sand. It is also great to see a company recognise the power of blogs as PR delivery mechanisms. I am sure they raise the public profile of the company significantly.

Also on the PR front the Pipe Networks CEO, Bevan Slattery, participated in an interview with Business Spectator’s Isabelle Oderberg. This interesting interview starts off with a glimpse at how close the project came to collapsing, and concludes with some comments regarding the NBN process and goals. I do agree that the Government is tackling the problem from the wrong end, they should be starting at the core and moving outwards. I guess it is easier to present end solutions to the common voter, you can’t deliver bit size statistics like 50% more bandwidth will mean 50% wholesale price cuts which will mean 50% consumer broadband saving.

Maybe the same is also true for the NBN tenderers? If the tender was only for backhaul, could they be guaranteed enough customers to viably support duplicating the infrastructure? Do they need retail customers and the bundling of products to put together a firm business case and profit margin? Again the big question is, if this rollout is viable then why has no-one done it already? At the end of the day the problem always lies with Telstra, they simply own everything that matters. Scarily, this monopoly is now extending into the wireless spectrum. Backhaul competition is a great first stage, and perhaps with the current financial state the tender process should be limited to that for now. But there should always be a second stage planned, one that makes the whole end to end process competitive. Until that happens we will be facing different versions of the current monopoly.

Personally I believe that Telstra should be seperated and that the core infrastructure (backhaul, exchange buildings and ducts) should never have left the public’s hands. There is enough infrastructure around, it is just being crippled to maximise profit and prevent competition. Now we are either going to have to buy them back or build around it, either way this is not an efficient or cheap process.

Live Mesh now Windows 7 Compatible

Live Mesh Beta LogoLive Mesh is getting a getting the Service Update that was promised before the holiday release blackout period today. The key bug fix that everyone is hanging out for is that it will now not kick Windows 7 into it’s non-Aero interface. This will soon include me, because I have a freshly burned copy of Windows 7 sitting on my desk ready to be installed tonight. I guess I will be completing the Windows Connect install survey tomorrow, fingers crossed they give out valid licence keys at the end of the beta program like they did for Vista.

One interesting point I noted was that the Live Mesh Blog no longer appears to be labelled “Beta” or “Tech Preview”. The version update appears to only be a minor one (0.9.3424.5 to 0.9.3424.14), however it looks as though some subtle steps towards a debut are occurring. Perhaps one of these will be matching Skydrive‘s 25 GB storage limit? I live in hope.

Outsourcing cost effectiveness

Satyam Headquarters

The Satyam outsourcing fraud was a story that I found interesting this week. I think outsourcing can be cost effective from a companies perspective, but it appears that it isn’t always cost effective from an outsourcers perspective. From the ZDNet article is was revealed that:

And during the September quarter, the company also reported inflated revenue of 27 billion rupees, vs. actual revenue generation of 21.1 billion rupees. That resulted in artificial operating margins of 24 per cent of revenue, compared with its actual 3 percent margin.

Three percent margins are nothing to be proud of, even in a competitive market. I wonder if the 12%+ annual wage growth is finally catching up to the outsourcers, or whether it is simply an overly competitive market and the weaker players are being squeezed out? I would guess that the market is being squeezed from all directions. I wonder if the global economic problems will help or harm outsourcers. I guess companies will weigh up the risks versus cost benefits as always, I just wonder whether the balance has tipped in the favour of the conservatives wanting to keep their core advantages in-house. I guess frauds like the Satyam one don’t boost confidence much either.

Roof Replacement


Tiles going on

Originally uploaded by Scott Savage

Today our roof is being replaced. I have uploaded a few photos of the work in progress. Work includes removing the old tiles, removing the old timber battens, the builders jacking up and supporting the roof beams in a few sagging places, putting in pink batt insulation, putting on the sisilation, putting on the new battens, putting in the new valleys, trimming the barge boards to fit the new tiles and finally cutting and laying the new tiles! It feels cooler in here already, and hopefully no leaks! The next thing is to look at fixing up the iron on the back of the roof, but this will involve putting in some more timber in the roof and unfortunately more expense. This year has to be a big year of saving!

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