How to Build a Database driven website part 1

Building a simple database driven website.

This is part one of a multi part yet to be determined ‘how to’ aimed at showing you how to build a database driven website.

Ok for this recipe you will need.

  • An idea of what you want to do
  • Basic knowledge of HTML
  • PHP enabled webspace
  • A Mysql Database
  • PhpMyAdmin
  • A dataset
  • Will and determination to get it done

Continued here


Celebrity Big Brother 2007

Celebrity Big Bro 2007

I missed the live version of c4’s celebrity (note the small c) big brother   last night so have plotted my bottom on a big squishy cushion and have decided to watch it. I am finding it all mildy amusing. There is  this Donny Tourettes chap swearing and sounding off like a big plum, swearing for England sounding like a 1st class prick (with ears ) I think he’s a little bit lashed too,  no doubt got sloshed up before he entered the house. I’m loving some of the incredulous looks these people are giving him though – too funny, Jermaine Jackson just looked at him utterly bemused as he said “Hows ya fuckin Bruvva..” or words to that effect…anyhow enuff of him, he’s giving the swearers amongst us a bad name!

What’s really interesting, strictly from a people watcher perspective is how a group of strangers, z list celebs or not, kind of smile and form alliances and groupings at such an early stage. You can see them all sussing each other out deciding whether to buy or reject the new people in their lives. Cleo Rocos ( a girl who was famous for her knockers) has  taken a shine to our sweary upstart…and ooh, look who just walked in, its Face from the A Team (Dirk Benedict)  carrying his token big fuck off cigar. He was in Battlestar Galactica too and ha! Mr Tourettes has just been rude to Dirk Benedict he referred to him as  Dirk ‘Fuckin’ Benedict.

Ha, this show is funny – Its a giggle to watch people trying to impress each other; funnier still to see people embarrass themselves too!

Ken Russell (film director) is a character, big fat old boy, lively as anything, 80 odd years old, eccentric as hell, pink shirt ,purples trousers, green embroided waistcoat.

There’s a Bollywood star too. Shilpa Shetty good looking woman (funny name) ; but I wouldn’t have known she was famous.

There’s also Jo O’Meara (S Club 7), Ian ‘H’ (Steps) Danielle Llyod Lloyd (Model not very well known at all) Carole Malone (Carole who??) . Last but not least there’s Leo Sayer (“you make feel like dancing” – “when I need love”) 70’s singer, curly whirly hair.

I think I could get lost in a nightly  hour or so of this stuff for the next couple of weeks. Yeah, I know, just a bunch of show offs all trying to raise their profiles to relaunch their flagging careers and what not, but sometimes that’s when people can be at their bests; when they are hungry with a point to prove.

What does any of this have to do with search and technology? Um..its on the telly and err, just go and do a few googles for Celebrity Big brother and play spot the affiliate marketer site 😀

Google is Beta-Testing Keyword-based Ad Filtering

This could be kinda cool for publishers. Caydel reports that Google is beta testing keyword based ad filtering. Publishers will be able to input negative keywords so that low priced cpm or cpc ads won’t show…

Hmmn, interesting eh? How many times have you seen ads that made you think what’s all that about then, a 0.07 cent ad how cool, not!

I’m hardly a PPC or adsense expert but Ive played with both so can see a few advantages and disadvantages here.

For advertisers, dependant upon take up and use, couldn’t this well push up costs? As publishers exclude low cost kw’s from appearing, then there would as a consequence be less playgrounds to play in. Less exposure = less clicks =  less revenue/higher cost conversions overall…no? It would also have an impact on the adwords/adsense arbitragers out there too. It’ll sure squeeze their capacity to get that ultra low cost traffic.

As far as publishers go, would it be all good? Or could they overstep the mark and exclude too many kw’s, just to be left with PSA’s or alt url ad outputs.

Will be an interesting one to watch!

I am the Green Lantern

Whilst reading about search patents and stuff like that over at Spideyman’s I decided what the heck, and took this little quiz…

You are Green Lantern

Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

Apparently Green Lanterns all have power rings, this definitely makes sense, especially when viewed from a nice curry and few pints of Stella Artois perspective. 😀

Colour Psychology – Blue sky, green fields, white serenity

The psychology of colour

pink1.jpgIt occured to me that some of the websites I like to read or visit, and some Ive just stumbled upon or viewed out of curiosity have that nice blue, green and white mix going on. I’m turned off by dark stuff, I don’t want to read white text on black, its just not my thing. So why is this? Why do I find one set of colours appealing, yet another so off putting. The web is about information right? I go to pages to learn stuff and connect with ideas and improve my understandings, interact and have a little play. At least thats what I like to think from a logical perspective. Can you believe that in all the years Ive knocked up websites of various types and themes and different business models and purpose, that I never once considered the emotional impact of the colours I used! Not once! I usually sat there and ummed and ah’ed or looked at an existing brochure and just went with a range of options that popped into my head, or varied a theme I’d seen elsewhere and liked.

I guess that’s why Ive always called myself a web developer rather than a designer, I’m more interested in the codey techy widgety bits than any overall appeal to the heart – wow, what a huge ommision. But hey, so what, no big deal, like I said, I’m not a designer – never have been, that just happened to be a label slapped upon me by friends and stuff, my falut of course “What do you Rob?” “Um..I make web pages” ergo Rob, becomes a web designer.

Anyways – that little confession aside, its interesting to read about colours and what they say and how they can influence our readership and message, check out a few of the links, it’ll make for some interesting thoughts and observation.

Here’s what the guys over at infoplease have to say

Blue – The color of the sky and the ocean, blue is one of the most popular colors. It causes the opposite reaction as red. Peaceful, tranquil blue causes the body to produce calming chemicals, so it is often used in bedrooms. Blue can also be cold and depressing. Fashion consultants recommend wearing blue to job interviews because it symbolizes loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms. Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms.

Green – Currently the most popular decorating color, green symbolizes nature. It is the easiest color on the eye and can improve vision. It is a calming, refreshing color. People waiting to appear on TV sit in “green rooms” to relax. Hospitals often use green because it relaxes patients. Brides in the Middle Ages wore green to symbolize fertility. Dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth. However, seamstresses often refuse to use green thread on the eve of a fashion show for fear it will bring bad luck.

The people over at Little Monkey Murals expression a similar variation on this theme

Green – Is the colour of harmony and balance. It is good for tired nerves and it helps with the heart area. It will balance the emotions and bring about a feeling of calmness. Green is a good general healing colour. Green is a restful colour so will aid sleep, it also represents nature, and therefore promotes balance, harmony, peace, hope and stability

Blue – Is the colour of truth, serenity and harmony, by helping to soothe the mind. Blue is good for cooling, calming, reconstructing and protecting. Blue will help feverish conditions, it will help stop bleeding and it will help with nervous irritations. Researchers found that children tested higher on IQ tests in rooms with blue ceilings Blue, if diluted to a lighter hue, can reduce stress and relieve tension. Is a colour of peace, tranquility and wisdom and can generate a sense of well-being. Blue gives the impression of space and coolness and represents serenity and loyalty.

Then there is white of course colour wheel pro has this to say

White is associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity, and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection.

White means safety, purity, and cleanliness. As opposed to black, white usually has a positive connotation. White can represent a successful beginning. In heraldry, white depicts faith and purity.

In advertising, white is associated with coolness and cleanliness because it’s the color of snow. You can use white to suggest simplicity in high-tech products. White is an appropriate color for charitable organizations; angels are usually imagined wearing white clothes. White is associated with hospitals, doctors, and sterility, so you can use white to suggest safety when promoting medical products. White is often associated with low weight, low-fat food, and dairy products.

I’m definitely gonna think a little more about this in any future projects, thats for sure.

Affiliate thoughts for 2007 – keeping ahead of the chop

Easy come easy go… 

It’s no news to say that the days of easy rankings with easy commissions are long gone. With some search engines, it just no longer works. Anyone, and lots are, can whack up a DB or add a feed from some central source. It’s child play, and from a search engine viewpoint its just not welcome. They’d be happy to kick yo ass as soon as look at ya, and who could reasonably blame them? You can have the most well linked, beautifully constructed site in the world full of some mythical kw density perfection, css’ed to the nth with elements positioned to the max, but if you aren’t saying anything new, then the chances are that things could get pretty serious pretty quickly. Search engine death could well become you. Sure, you’ll get spidered, but expect to go supplemental pretty quickly, and if that don’t happen then you might get extra lucky and get lumbered with a nice fat -31 ranking penalty.

Fat or thin?

Over the years, there’s been quite a bit of discussion on what constitutes a thin or a fat affiliate. Lets look at travel. Fat boys like tripadvisor for example, are flying with lots of top spots on a range of travel related kw’s whereas others are floundering.

I recall a time when for like, 4 or 5 years a particular little travel network absolutely kicked arse on all of the big 3, Google, Msn and Yahoo. Be it ‘hotel in town‘ or  ‘town hotels’ these guys had top spots usually in the top 5 positions. They were nothing other than a well constructed, well linked network of affiliate feeds that did little other than pump out content that their suppliers provided. It really was an education to look at what these people had done. Their strategy was for the time, basically fab. They hosted a variety of big sites across a variety of IP’s. They mixed pages up with a mishmash of approaches doing things like varying page element factors, curtailing product description content, differing kw and kp densities, different navigational placement, text types, god you name it they’d factored it in one way or another, and it paid them big dividends. I guess really it was a day when it was all about getting as many pages into the search engine db’s as you possibly could. Their duplicate content filters were so underdeveloped that provided you did enough variation in the places that mattered, ie page naming, title tags, H tags general kw peppering here and there in your content spread etc, then you’d be pretty ok. In fact you got massively rewarded and could do some great stuff with inward link creation too. You didn’t have to worry about going out and sourcing zillions of links from here there and everywhere, you’d just create your own and ensure that they were appropriately placed and hidden across a network of unidentifiables, albeit in the sense of what the spider saw and registered at least!

A different breed of engine

Today of course, these guys are nowhere to be seen, at least not in any recognisable guise. Their network was nuked and they don’t rank for jack no more. Things like the Google eval team have given people using that particular strategy a short sharp shock.

New generation networks, if they hope to have sustainable long term SERP viability have to be a whole lot smarter in 007. Content feeds and databases, particularly with regard to outputting their contents within a site needs special attention – noindex tags, robot exclusion protocols really are serious considerations, to not do so could really be a huge folly. Drastic?,Perhaps so, but what with duplication filters and all, the question is one of almost can you afford not to?

Sure, there will always be those who look to employ methods for circumvention, all that lovely content is just too good to pass up on after all, right? Not sure about you, but I’ve seen all manner of interesting adaptations; things like replacing keywords and phrases programmatically so that an aspect of a phrase like um…this hotel is decorated to a fine standard  is changed to read… this fine placename hotel is adorned to a splendid configuration instead, or variations upon that theme. I’ve seen sites that rank well by using contractions of product descriptions, eg chopping the first 40 characters from the phrase and outputting the remainding 180 chars. Ive seen others that just hide them all together, via a document.write or iframe method. Some go as far as employing people to write phantom reviews, and some even write programs that write reviews on the fly! It really is incredible to see the ingenuity and nous that people have with this stuff, it really is the most elegant of elegant of spamination. I think its fair to say that people do this because they realise that things may well be tenuous, they know that unless you are whitelisted then you need to tread very carefully as your income stream is very precarious.

As simple as adding value then…

Perhaps its simple though, isn’t it all about  thinking  in terms of adding value, going above and beyond what your competitors are doing, seriously asking yourself will you be able to pass some random manual inspection, which lets face it, if you are ranking in a competitive earning space, you are likely to receive sooner or later. You’d be an idiot for thinking that just because you managed to outwit the bot via some clever use of string functions, or tag placement or link generation that a human wouldn’t pick up and notice something amiss.It isn’t unreasonable to assume they’d ask whether your site handles all the look up processes – Does it check for availability – Are the payments handled insite, or do they go off elsewhere?-  They’d see through a hidden frame or  include or some obfuscated url redirect,  you just will not be able to get away with what you once did, and if you think you will then, i wish i could share your complacency, as any serious examination of what you do would look at exactly some of these things.

On the positive, some of the better providers and networks do offer more advanced solutions of course, this helps insulate both them and their partners and is basic good business sense, but lots don’t too and for those who are getting hit via various penalties resulting, its a bit of a shame at best and a damn tragic waste at worst.

Should these guys be helping their income generators in this way?

If you are a search rep then you’d prolly say no, it sucks and doesn’t help in the goal of delivering varied unique content, but OTOH why would any big supplier expose themselves to the vagueries of singular url streams of income that could be cut off at the whim of a policy shift. I know what I’d say of course, I go with the majority scatter and seed approach. Watch the darwinian process evolve and reward my best performers. I’d also help nurture and protect  newcomers too, my future top performers. Give them tools to get their users interacting, enable the creation of communities,  feedback tools, make it all that little bit different, employ advisors to help steer and encourage and generally add value all round, but I guess i’m me, and not some multi layered corp that moves real slow.

I’ve used travel as its any easy example to flesh out and one that I’m at least familiar with. I do wonder whether other sectors face similar challenges; I expect they do no doubt to both lesser and greater extents, especially in some of the mass product markets. It would be great to read some inputs, feel free to call me out!

Google and People and 007

I was just over at Matt Cutts’s blog reading his thoughts on some of the challenges that he sees  Google generally facing through 007. He talked about Googlers in general almost suggesting that they were of the same pod, well not directly perhaps, but it was a thought that occured to me; and kinda got me thinking on this whole corp structure and ethos thing. Why do some organisations flourish whilst others flounder? Great management really does matter, not just of business and ideas, but people too.

Its interesting how people who work for a large organisation can often split or diversify into different mindsets. A company that treats its workforce well, as in gives good reward, recognition and purpose can do exceptionally well and take on all comers. It really is possible to get groups of people all singing and dancing from the same collective hymn sheet. Iv’e never worked at Google, to my knowledge ive not even physically met a Google employee, but I have watched a bod or 2 over the years, Matt Cutts to be specific. Matt’s online persona is pretty cool. He enages and crosses swords with all sections of the web community and seems to have a knack for staying balanced and true to his core message. You’ll never read Matt slating anybody in a rude or disrespectful way; hell, even when he gets mad at people he manages to inject a little dryness and humour, just go look at his blog and see if you can pick out the odd ass or two! Ok, so im in danger of sounding like I’m a paid up memeber of the MC fan club , I’m not, there’s quite a bit I could say that would give a different opinion, but thats for another day of course and is more Google policy than direct Matt related. No, the point Im getting to is that corporations, organisations, teams, are lead from the front. People stand to  gain a great deal of benefit from those who have purpose and vision. Shared purpose and values are a formidable force in any sphere of life and can be the making or breaking of an organisation.

A few years back I worked for a company; this company was locked in battle, split right down the middle. Workforce vs management. There existed 2 separate collective identities. Management were commited to winning. Great you’d say, ah but no, let me tell you. It was not so great at all.Management were commited all right, but for the wrong reasons. They were commited to trying to break the organisation of the workforce rather than growing any shared objective of the business and its values. They took great pains publically to paint a face of concilliation and shared objectives, yet their actions suggested that their motives were all together different.

The workforce representatives were just as bad. Most were locked into ideas of the past, ideas that had an inherent mistrust for the motives and pressures of business resisting change at every opportunity, lobbying intensley to ensure that public ownership was maintained and sustained. There was a complete lack of trust towards any idea that through shared objectives, shared vision, shared rewards the organisation could grow and prosper and move forward united, competing on the stage that rightly or wrongly is global capitalism.

God, when I think back to where it stood in say 1996 it really did have some massive opportunities to grab this whole internet thing by the balls. It had some 5000 outlets the length and breadth of the country,  a fantastic distribution system that accessed the rail, road and air networks. Some 200, 000 mouthpieces to help grow and spread the word of new products and initiatives. It could have diversified to become a world leader, an Amazon, an Ebay, anything it wanted to really, but was shackled, shackled by inertia and closed mindsets unwilling to either trust or dare to look beyond some point of conflict or dogma. it sat idley by relying on the patronage of governmental control and finance and years upon years of irrelevant industrial collective bargaining agreements.

Why was this? Well Im not going to go into too much detail about who did where and what and why, as a lotof it is just supposition and more opinion based thn anything else. I did know a fair few of the key movers and shakers and was involved in a lengthy dispute/resolution process or two, so lets just say that I came to recognise some of the almost impossible internal presures and hurdles they seemed to be faced with, on both sides of the divide, not to even touch on any idea of individual complacency!

So, what am I getting at? I guess Im saying that as organisations grow and get wealthier and are subject to new challenges and pressures then it can be pretty easy to lose track of where one is going. Reading what Matt wrote kinda made me think in terms of, well quite clearly matt is one of those people who knows how to push and prod and get things done within his sphere of influence. I think he may have been responsible for the appointment of Adam Lasnik. If you read Adam’s posts at the google blog or you’ll see that he seems to share some of the characterisitics that Matt tends to push out. Even keeled, considerate, user focused , as responsive as he feels he can be. Another firm hand on the tiller that is the tricky path of webmaster public relations. How many Adam’s or Matt’s or Eric’s or Larry’s are there at Google? Probably an army of them. It sure seems to be an organisation that is pretty sorted, and with people like Matt Cutts questioning and responding to criticism of google, even disagreeing with things that he feels are either just wrong or removed from what he sees as the general shared purpose of making the best search engine they can for its users, then its pretty safe to say that for the foreseeable future Google from a web search perspective, will continue to be ok. OTOH of course, should the hawks be able to grab a hold though and the push for profit is put before the push for users, then it could well be a different story. Altavista should be a word that haunts many a Google stock holder. If I ran Google, I’d stick up altavista is dead posters everywhere, just to act as a salutary reminder.

Happy new year, hope its a good one for you all. Im off to burn a few more calories on this cold English morning, thank god for bicycles 🙂