The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'eoghan'

12

Some pretty major changes are to be rolled out next week on CLUAS. One small part of this is a new logo. Below are three candidates in contention. The first two were developed by 50dollarlogos.com, the 3rd one by CLUAS blogger Stephen McNulty and Matt, a designer colleague of his. Let me know which you prefer:

Candidate A: 

First CLUAS logo candidate

 

Candidate B: 

CLUAS logo number 2

 

Candidate C:
(click on it to see a higher resolution version of it)

CLUAS banner idea

 


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15

CLUAS site links on GoogleDid you ever do a Google search and see that, just below the number one result, there is a set of supplementary search results? These are what Google calls "site links", basically about 8 or so extra links that can take you to some specific pages on the no. 1 ranked site for your search. Google does this for a small proportion of sites, those it considers more important and CLUAS, for many years now, has been one of them (hooray!).

Every few months Google updates the links that it places as "site links" and I recently noticed that if you run a search now on Google for 'CLUAS', 5 of the 8 "site links" for CLUAS point directly to pages we have that list our gig reviews by venue. These pages actually have been a big success, even before Google decided to highlight them among the "site links". They bring a lot of traffic to the site via all the search engines (and not just google) and a lot of this traffic are first time visitors to the site.

In total we have pages for 8 venues and last year these pages alone were visited a total of 16,787 times, about 50% of these visits were referred to us by - indeed - the Google search engine. In the table below I dig out (thanks to the Google Analytics service):

  • the number of visitors who were referred to these pages by search engines,
  • the average numbers of pages each of these visitors went on to read on CLUAS during their visit, and
  • what percentage of these visitors were hitting CLUAS for the first time.

As you can see the pages have been a fruitful source of new visitors, some of whom may go on to be regulars, increasing the overall CLUAS visitor base:

Venue page

Number of referrals by Google Average number of pages per visit % of new visitors
Olympia theatre 1907 2.21 84.2%
Vicar Street 1651 2.24 88.6%
O2 (ex-Point Depot) 1380 2.30 94.9%
Ambassador Theatre 1366 2.10 92.5%
Whelan's 1307 2.28 80.6%
Tripod 547 2.31 90.5%
Button Factory (ex-TBMC) 316 2.23 92.2%
The Village 123 2.46 86.2%
 Totals  8597  2.23  88.2%

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15

Active Modules logo2009 is a year that will see the roll out of a large number of major changes to CLUAS. For the moment I confidently say that the CLUAS.com site, within a few months, will look hugely different and will offer new services to visitors. But the changes are not only visible ones, almost as important will be changes that will be put in place behind the scenes.

The first changes of the year were already put in place last week when the software that runs the CLUAS Discussion board ("Active Forums") was upgraded to the latest version. Such an upgrade usually delivers an incremental improvement. However this time the upgrade has delivered a quite dramatic improvement of the discussion board (especially in terms of speed) compared to the previous version. This is simply down to the fact that the guys who developed the software (Active Modules) started again from scratch and, for the latest version, re-built it from the ground up. The result is a discussion board that loads up in the browser so much faster than before. This is thanks, for example, to:

  1. a big reduction in the number of round trips the CLUAS website would have to make to the site's database each time a discussion board page is requested by a user; and
  2. a reduction in the memory 'footprint' of the discussion board (i.e. the amount of web server memory that is 'hogged' by the discussion board).

See the table below for a few examples of the reductions that have been put in place.

 

old version

new version

Server Footprint    
    Memory Utilization

64-128kb+

0

    Session State

~2kb/user

0

     
Trips to the Database    
    Main discussion board page 4 + 2 per forum

1

    List of Topics View

4 to 6

1

    Single Topic View 4 + 2 per reply

1

This sort of reduction in 'demand' on the database is vital for a site such as CLUAS that is hosted on a 'shared server' where there are many other websites (possible even over 100 other sites) hosted on the same server. A potential consequence of this is, if CLUAS was to hog too many of the available resources (CPU, memory, etc), we could be booted off the shared server (where we are charged the modest amount of US$16/95 a month) and asked to move to a dedicated server which would cost over US$200 a month (a minimum of USD$130 for the web server + US$75 for the database). Needless to say the more CLUAS can do to decrease its use of the CPU and memory resources on our shared server, the better.

But it's not just performance improvements. There are lots of other improvements, which I'll be exposing on the discussion board in the coming while. All in all, the upgrade was well worth the approx US$100 the software cost (paid for out of the CLUAS Google Ads revenues of last year).

That said there still remain a few things that, post-upgrade, still need to be fine-tuned. For example we have always had a script of code that automatically pulls the latest discussion threads and puts a link to them on the home page. This 'script' no longer works because of changes to how forum hook into the database but - with the help of Stephen McNulty - the script on the home page will soon be updated to work with the new version of the discussion board software.

While the last month on the board has been quieter than normal I am fully confident that with time the changes described above, and those in the pipeline, will ensure the board gets back to its usual levels of activity.

Update 15 January: Something during the upgrade broke the RSS feeds on CLUAS and I had to totally roll back the upgrade and re-apply it. This meant some of the content added to the site in the last week (in particular some discussion forum replies) was lost. For more details on this see this thread on the CLUAS discussion board.


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28

Last night I rolled out some tweaks to the navigation bar across good chunks of the site. You won't see the changes on this page (I will get around to doing the CLUAS blog and forum pages later tonight) but you will see it on the home page and any page that does NOT end with ".aspx" in its address.

In a nutshell: the navigation bar is being moved to just below the CLUAS logo (previously the nav bar was to right of the logo, where it has been for ages).

Why is this being done? This is a first step in a roll out of a complete refresh of the CLUAS look and feel. A few quick points about the change that has been implemented so far:

  1. It means we can have more items in the navigation bar becuase the nav bar now runs across the full width of the screen (the way it has been up to now meant we had to have a limited number of items on the nav bar as the bar had less space and too many items on the nav bar meant it would wrap around and "break" into two lines on screens of lower resolution).
  2. This week I also created a new 'interviews' page containing links to all of the 50+ interviews CLUAS has done over the years (this page and its links have been spun off from the long standing Features home page, the need to do this was something I realised when I recently analysed the full archive of CLUAS content). This new interviews home page - its creation being really just a bit of "content housekeeping" - is now linked from the new nav bar and will make the archive of CLUAS interviews more easily accessible to readers and search engines.
  3. Some of the space in the top right hand corner that has been freed up by this change is now running Google Ads. The intention however is not to run Google ads here all the time but to also run ads from local acts (publicising album releases / gigs / etc) and to allow them to run these ads for free. The DotNetNuke system that CLUAS uses for managing the site already has the technology built in for uploading and rotating non-Google banner ads. I need to implement this once the new nav bar is fully rolled out across the full site. Look out for an announcement on how bands can take advantage of this.

While this change is fairly discreet - I think some regulars may not even notice it - it sets CLUAS up for a far more visible shake up of the site's look and feel in the coming months.

Update 30 October: The nav bar for album and gig reviews as well as blogs has been updated (although you may need to hit 'refresh' in your browser to see it properly). Pages that have not yet been updated with the new nav bar are the discussion forum, Gigs of the Fortnight, the 'Features' and the 'Write for CLUAS' pages. They should be sorted in the coming days.


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02

CLUAS by numbersCLUAS is well into its 9th year of operations, a period that has seen a huge amount of activity in terms of content published to the site. For the first time I spent a few moments to try and put some numbers on this.

It turns out that a total of 1380 articles (reviews, interviews or features) have been published to CLUAS since we started back in 1999. These have been written by a pool of 132 different writers, some of whom wrote just one article, others who authored scores and all were volunteers who submitted their contributions for no monetary gain.

In addition there have - so far - been 351 blog entries published by the CLUAS bloggers and 9494 discussion board topics started by CLUAS visitors.

One thing I am taking away from this is the need for a separate interviews section (currently all the interviews appear on the Features page). Their numbers merit a dedicated page, which would also make it easy for readers (and search engines) to find archived interviews.

For the full breakdown see the table below.

Gig Reviews 508
Album Reviews 588
Interviews 72
Features articles 80
Blog entries 351
Discussion board topics 9494
Writers 132
Newsletter subscribers 4843

 Thanks to all writers and contributors for their efforts, past and ongoing. Roll on CLUAS.com's 10th birthday next year!


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24

CLUAS was one of 15 sites longlisted last week for the 'best music site' category at the Irish Web Awards. The short list of six sites was published yesterday and CLUAS was not among them. The sites that made the grade were:

The shortlist represents a cross-cutting list of different types of sites: there are two music magazines (Drop-d and State), one musician's site (Enda Reilly), one local music blog (Kilkenny music), one label fansite (2tone) and one video hosting platform (the impressive Muzu TV).

So who will win? I think it is between Muzu TV and State, and that State in the end will bag it.

Drop-d compared to CLUAS and stateAlthough I like to think Drop-d could be a surprise on the night.  Their site is very impressive with its clean design, fast loading pages and depth of content. It certainly deserves to get more traffic than it appears to get. See the to-be-taken-with-a-grain-of-salt Alexa traffic chart to the right which shows their 'reach' (the red line running along the bottom) compared to that of CLUAS (the blue line) or State.ie (the gold line). Making the shortlist - and maybe even winning the award outright! - will at least help them get more visibility and traffic. 

Anyways, congrats to the all the shortlisted sites and best of luck on the night!


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16

The CLUAS Discussion board has been active now for almost 7 years. In that time there has been almost 10,000 topics discussed (to be precise: 9467 topics, and counting). Among this number there have been some real classic threads, but a problem is they risk becoming difficult to reach in the depths of CLUAS.com's constantly growing database of discussion topics. Not wanting to 'lose' the best of our topics I last week created 7 new pages which list the top 75 topics (chosen on the basis of those topics with the most replies) from each year since the discussion board was launched. These new pages will make it easier for visitors to discover some great threads from our archives such as The Slow Death Of Certain Irish Bands (from 2006), Irish Bands To Get Excited About (from 2005), Best Piece Of Music Used In Film (from 2004),and Neil Young - 105 quid? (from 2003) and Smiths - most influential band of last 50 years? (from 2002). Find other great threads yourselves via the new pages which list the top topics for the last 7 years, links provided below:

  • Top 75 topics of 2007
  • Top 75 topics of 2006
  • Top 75 topics of 2005
  • Top 75 topics of 2004
  • Top 75 topics of 2003
  • Top 75 topics of 2002
  • Top topics of 2001
  • Another advantage of this is that these new pages will help search engines index more quality content on CLUAS. Indeed, Google has already indexed these new pages and I expect more traffic - in due course - to be driven by search engines to these nuggets from our archive.


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    16

    Oxegene 2008CLUAS has been covering Irish music festivals since 2000 when we reviewed the first Witnness festival (which morphed into Oxegen). 2008 however saw CLUAS step up dramatically in terms of our coverage of the music festival season. For the first time CLUAS has provided comprehensive reviews of all the major festivals that took place this year in Ireland. Oxegen? Electric Picnic? Cois Fharraige? HWCH? CLUAS covered them all in 2008. And comprehensively so - we published a review of each day of the Oxegen, Electric Picnic and Cois Fharraige festivals, not to mention a whopping 9 reviews and 3 diaries of HWCH (delivered by the team of 4 CLUAS writers who were covering HWCH).

    Cois Fharraige 2008Within literally minutes of their publication all these articles appeared in Google News which helped ensure they were read by thousands of visitors. For example the Oxegen reviews were read by over 3000 people within a week of their publication - setting a new readership record for a CLUAS feature (the previous record having been set by Michael O'Hara's now-legendary review of REM in the Olympia which was linked to from the official REM website). The Electric Picnic and Cois Farraige reviews were read by just over 2000 and 1000 people respectively in their first week. As for the HWCH reviews, they have already been read by 974 readers and the festival ended only 3 days ago, I expect this figure will rise to 1500 by the end of the week.

    Electric Picnic 2008A big thank goes to the CLUAS writers who covered the festivals - Christine Cooke for Cois Fharraige, Jan Ni Flanahagain at Electric Picnic, Steven O'Rourke who covered Oxegen and HWCH (where he was joined by Anna Murray, Niamh Madden and Ian Wright).

    Steven O'Rourke deserves very special praise for securing the passes for all the festivals and badgering the writers to publish their reviews within 12 hours of leaving the venue! He was instrumental in ensuring this blanket coverage of the main festivals happened.

    For those of you who missed some of our 2008 festival coverage first time around, links to all the various reviews are provided below:

    Oxegen:

    Electric Picnic:

    Cois Fharraige:

    HWCH Day 1:

    HWCH Day 2:

    HWCH Day 3:

     


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    16

    Irish Web Awards 2008Yesterday the "long-listed" sites for the Irish Web Awards were published. I was pleased to see CLUAS has been long-listed for the 'Best Music Site' category. There are a total of 15 nominees longlisted for the best music site award (see them below) and at a quick glance you can see there are many excellent sites in with a shout. If CLUAS managed to make the short list it would be a serious achievement.

    Any noticeable omissions from the list below? Well I note that neither Hot Press nor Muse.ie made the list.

    The winner will be announced on October 11 in the Radisson SAS Royal Dublin.

    Best Music Site, long listed sites


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    15

    In the last month or so a lot of stuff has been going on in the background at CLUAS. Below are just some of the developments that have taken place behind the scenes (just so you don't think we do be sleeping on the job, or something like that).

    Biggest readership of a single CLUAS article. Ever.
    CLUAS writer / blogger Steven O'Rourke got his paws on a 3 days Super-Deluxe-VIP-Access-All-Areas-and-thous-shalt-avoid-the-portaloo-queues pass to Oxegen and in return for such a lavish gift from the Gods he wrote up a review of all three days of Oxegen 2008. What's more, diligent man that he is, Steve published his three articles (one per day of the festival) within 12 hours of the end of each day. They were picked up immediately by Google (and Google News) and the consequence? Google sent over 1000 visitors to the reviews the day after the festival ended and, by the end of that week, the reviews had been checked out by 2647 visitors. This was a record for the site, no gig we've covered has ever attracted so much traffic, this even surpassed the number of visitors Michael' O'Hara's (now legendary) review of REM in the Olympia got (which when you consider that his review was linked to by REM's official site it is really saying something).

    Three new writers
    In the last fortnight a total of 3 new writers have joined the CLUAS crew having submitted their first reviews. Welcome on board to:

    Want to join their ranks? Well just submit a review!

    New social booking marking tool at bottom of all blogs
    The CLUAS blogging platform (which is developed by a team of chancers, myself included) was recently upgraded to the latest version, which brought in a number of enhancments to our blogging software. The first of these is that all blogs and reviews on CLUAS now have a social booking marking tool (at the end of the review or the blog entry). This will allow you to easily save the article or blog entry to the likes of Digg or Delicious.

    New Avatar fucntionality for comments on blogs and reviews
    Another improvement that came with the blog upgrade was the possiblity for those leaving comments on blogs or on CLUAS reviews to now have an Avatar (provided by the Gravatar service). If you don't have a Gravatar yet be sure to sign up for one.

    Optimised addresses for search engines
    The improvements of the blogging platofrm don't stop with Gravatars and social bookmarking.The URL (i.e. the web address) of CLUAS blog entries and reivews previously used to always end with the meaningless 'default.aspx'. Meaningless in the sense that it did not give a reader - or a search engine - any indication what the review or blog entry was about. That's changed, as the word 'default' is now replaced with the title of the review or blog entry. Have a look above in your browser's address bar to see what I mean.

    Simplification of how bloggers can publish blog entries
    Bloggers can for the first time publish their entries with the nifty Windows Live Writer tool (this means they can publish blog entries without even opening their browser - and more importantly they are no longer required to use the rather clunky CLUAS publication interface which our gold-plated readers can be thankful they have never been exposed to).

    Calendars added to all CLUAS blogs
    All CLUAS blogs now have a calendar so that readers can more easily navigate to old blog entries.

    (Health warning: the new two adcances for the site are a bit "backroom nuts'n'bolts" in nature. My advice is that only most hardy among you read on because, if I am to be honest, they are not really that riveting...)

    Improved 'title' tag for all discussion board entries
    It is widely accepted in SEO circles (that is 'Search Engine Optimisation', BTW) that one of the things a search engine gives most weight to when assessing a web page is that the page has a 'title' tag and that this title tag is unique and contains words that reflect the content of the webpage). CLUAS does a good job of this, except on our discussion board. The discussion board may indeed have unique title tags, however all the board's title tags contain superflous words that send the wrong signal to search engines. And it just doesn' look pretty, here are a few exapmles:

    • "Ash to stick to singles > CLUAS | Discussion Board | > CLUAS Irish Indie Music"
    • "MCD vs Consumer Association > CLUAS | Discussion Board | > CLUAS Irish Indie Music"

    See that comon part - "CLUAS | Discussion Board | > CLUAS Irish Indie Music"? Does it really serve any purpose? Is it really necessary? Of course not. Last week I therefore set up some rules so that when a disucssion board page is being pulled from the database the title is given a neater, more to the point 'title tag'. The two examples above now look like this:

    • "Ash to stick to singles > CLUAS Music Forums"
    • "MCD vs Consumer Association > CLUAS Music Forums"

    This is something that many users would not notice (nor would they care) but it something the search engines will notice and I am betting that it will result in a better ranking in search engine result pages of CLUAS discussion board topics. 

    Faster downloading of pages
    Earlier this year CLUAS started compressing the size of all pages requested by visitors and then sending the visitor the compressed version of the page (the page would usually be compressed to 25% of its usual size resulting in a faster download time, and hence happier customers). What's more the compressed page would then be immediately 'cached' on the CLUAS server so that when the next vistitor requests that very page the CLUAS web server does not have to go and rebuild it and then compress it. The server just plucks up the copy of the already compressed file and then sends it to the visitor. It's a brilliantly effective system that ensures the CLUAS server and database are not overloaded due to the traffic levels we get. Anyways, last week I tripled the size of the CLUAS cache as the previous amount of space we had available for the cache was getting filled too quickly. This meant that many compressed pages would not get saved to the cache and each time they were requested by another user the server would have to get to work again, unneccesarily. Bottom line? Downloading should now be quicker for even more pages on CLUAS.

    I have another 10 or so other improvements lined up to be rolled out throughtout September. Watch this space for the details.


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    Nuggets from our archive

    2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.