The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Entries for 'eoghan'

24

Rusty TypewriterWhen I first launched CLUAS.com in 1999 I used Microsoft’s FrontPage to publish and maintain content on the site. While FrontPage was, er, cutting-edge back then it today is a massively out-dated technology (indeed Microsoft announced several years ago that they are retiring FrontPage and will no longer support it from next year on). So in 2005 I started looking around for alternatives to FrontPage out of necessity.

I was acutely conscious that whatever choice I'd make would be vital for the site's future and so it took me over a year of pure procrastination to come to a decision on what technology I would deploy on CLUAS. In the end I went for an open source Content Management System called DotNetNuke ("DNN") which, after months of testing, I finally installed on CLUAS in November 2006.

DNN is actually a peculiar beast - an "open source software" project built on top of proprietary Microsoft technologies, a company considered by many to be the antithesis of Open Source Software. DNN is in fact today the biggest open source project today based on Microsoft technologies, and its active community strives to continually advance and improve DNN and oversee a release of a new improved version of the core technology every 3 months or so.

Another reason I selected DotNetNuke was that it has an extensive number of 'pluggable' add-ons (called 'modules') available that introduce new features to the core DotNetNuke platform, so users are not limited to the ‘core’ functionality. Some of these 'modules' are free and some you have to pay for (such as 'Active Forums' which drives the CLUAS Discussion Boards). However one thing I never appreciated when I initially chose DotNetNuke was the dependency CLUAS would come to have on one of the freely available modules – the Blog Module. This module allows for basic blogging functionality and we now use it on CLUAS for publishing all album and gig reviews, in addition to maintaining all the CLUAS blogs. In a nutshell a huge proportion of new content is today added to CLUAS via this module. The problem is that the blog module lacks much of the functionality and, let's call it, "visual panache" that comes with leading blog platforms such as Wordpress, Blogspot and others. The DNN blog module more or less 'does the job', and often not efficeintly or prettily

DotNetNuke Blog module project teamWhen I came across these limitations in the blog module I would, instead of grinding my teeth, submit an enhancement request to the DNN Blog Module team via the ‘Enhancement submission’ procedure they have put in place. To my pleasant surprise some of my  enhancement  requests got integrated into subsequent releases. I also became a regular on the official Blog Module forums and struck up some off-forum contact with other heavy users of the Blog module, including members of the team that are developing new versions of the module. Cutting to the chase , all of this resulting in the blog module's Team Lead Antonio Chagoury offering me a slot on the official blog module team about 2 months ago (as a QA tester and not as a coder, thankfully, considering I am not capable of writing a line of code if my life depended on it).

The last month has seen a flurry of activity behind the scene as the team - which also includes the very excellent Don Wortherly, Rip Rowan, Jim Bonnie and Dario Rossa - prepares the next version of the blog module (v3.05). I have been very active in all of this (identifying bugs, scoping out new functionality that would improve the user experience, etc) and I must say that the next release is really shaping up to be an amazing improvement.

While it won't be released for another month or so I plan to 'dog food' it here on CLUAS in the next week and the differences will be visible immediately to CLUAS regulars. While the CLUAS gig, album and blog sections will all look snazzier, some of the most important improvements will be invisible to casual visitors. There are a number of enhancements that will make the publishing of gig & album reviews and - of course - blog entries, so much easier for CLUAS writers. For example, those who publish content to CLUAS today will in the future be able to do so without even opening their web browser as the new version of the blog module supports the possibility for writers to publish content direct from their desktop (using the free 'Windows Live Writer'). The writers have for too long had to put up with a inadequate and cumbersome method of publication, now they will have a smoother route to getting content to CLUAS readers.

There are a rake of other improvements with the next release but I've bored you long enough so I'll put on the brakes, for the moment that is. What I will say (as I allow myself to get carried away about it all) it will be one of the biggest improvements to CLUAS in quite a while. Excuse the cliché but, watch this space.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
16

Hot Press logoBack in October last year I predicted that within 6 months the Irish Times would remove its insistence on payment being required to access the vast majority of its content. Well, 6 months came and went and there were no such changes on ireland.com.

However it might be that my prediction was about six months out as, in the last week, there has been indications that the Irish Times is getting ready to restructure its online services, allowing free access most of its articles. The sooner they do, the better for them. And Irish web surfers.

But what about that other Irish pay-to-view website, Hotpress.com? When will they also see the light and knock down what is becoming a more and more pointless pay-wall?


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
30

Back at the beginning of May CLUAS relaunched its email newsletter. The first newsletter I must say was a bit of a stab in the dark, considering it was four years since CLUAS had sent out its last newsletter and in the intervening period newsletters have fallen to the wayside a bit as a means for people use to get info from or on websites (especially with the rise of RSS feeds and social networking sites). Nonetheless, call me a traditionalist or whatever, I still think a newsletter can still play a valuable role for extending the reach of CLUAS.

To get our newsletter out CLUAS is using the services of YMLP.com (Your Mailing List Provider) a well established and trustworthy third party for sending out newsletters (for those who wonder why we don’t just send it out ourselves using normal email software I should point out that a third party is really needed for newsletters with several thousand subscribers as sending such a number of emails in one go is no trivial matter with the growing number of restrictions ISPs have put in place to combat email spam). Anyways, I digress...

One of the interesting additional services these YMLP guys offer are detailed stats on how many people clicked on a link in the newsletter to reach CLUAS and what links were the most popular. As I like my numbers I thought I’d indulge a bit and provide some details below on what these stats threw up for the first CLUAS newsletter in four years.

The first thing I was looking out for after I hit the ‘send’ button for the newsletter was how many of the 6025 email addresses we had in our subscriber list would still be active and how many would were dead. Considering some of our subscribers emails went back to 1999 my guess was that about half of them would be dead addresses. I was surprised to see that just 30% of the addresses turned out to be the virtual equivalent of a black hole (of the original 6025 only 1834 addresses turned out to be totally dead, and were automatically removed from the mailing list). Of the remaining 4191 email addresses an additional 216 bounced back to us with what they call a 'soft bounce' (e.g. the recipient's mailbox was full). Such soft bounces will only be removed from our mailing list if there are 3 consecutive 'soft' bounces. All in all of the original 6025 a grand total of 3975 newsletters were delivered. The number of people who choose to unsubscribe was a very low figure: only 33 people unsubscribed (less than 1% of the newsletters delivered).

But how many people who received the newsletter bothered to open it and of those how many chose to click on a link in the newsletter to visit CLUAS? It is actually impossible to get accurate stats on how many people opened a newsletter (for a variety of valid reasons I won't bore you with here) but these YMLP guys provide us with accurate stats on the number of links in a newsletter that were clicked on. They were able to determine that a total of 462 links in the newsletter were clicked by those who read it. The most popular links that were clicked were:

The accuracy of the 462 links clicked in the newsletter I do not doubt and, at a first glance, it seems quite low for an email received by almost 4000 subscribers. However you need to dig a bit deeper to understand the full picture. The visitor analysis software used by CLUAS.com (the Google Analytics service) revealed that someone clicking on one of those links in the newsletter went on to view an average of was 3.3 pages on CLUAS. This means that those 462 clicks generated just over 1500 'page views'. Still, not massive number for a mailing received by 4000 subscribers. But my guess is that among those who chose to click a link in the newsletter there were many who would not have visited the site in a long time and, hopefully having liked what they saw, some of them will become more regular visitors to the site. It is this difficult to measure aspect of a newsletter's impact that is an important part of its real value, even if RSS feeds and the like are - for some - a more modern way to get updates on the latest stuff happening on a website.

I'll be looking out to see if this sort of figure (1500 page views, for an email received by 4000 people) holds up with our future newsletters. I guess my better judgement will again take a walk and I will end up blogging about it. You can start groaning now.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
16

Two weeks ago I posted a blog entry about how Google had, all of a sudden, dramatically reduced the number of CLUAS.com pages it crawls in a day (it dropped from an average of thousand pages a day to about 25 a day, see the graph below). 

I put this down to be something to do with the fact that CLUAS stopped running Google ads for 3 weeks in April. I predicted that once the Google ads were back up and running (as they were two and a bit weeks ago) all would return to normal. A quick check earlier today in CLUAS.com's Google "Webmaster Tools" account and I saw that (for once!) a prediction of mine was on the money. Google is once again crawling a daily average of 1000 pages on CLUAS. Check out the graph below for the evidence that Google is still all chummy-wummy with us.

Number of CLUAS pages crawled by Google, may 2008


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
02

Up to about 4 years ago I used to send out a CLUAS email newsletter every two or so weeks. It was very successful in regularly drawing to the site many visitors who would otherwise stop by very irregularly, if at all. The overall effect was that the newsletter helped drive traffic levels upwards. By the time I stopped sending the newsletter out it had about 3000 subscribers. However I had to stop sending it as emailing so many people simply got more and more difficult (as ISPs started, with the rise of email spam in general, to severely limit the number of emails one could send).

But, after a bit of research in the last few weeks I today relaunched the CLUAS newsletter with the help of YMLP.com, an excellent and reasonably priced third party mailing list provider. In choosing a company to go with I was conscious of the possibility of ending up with a company that would turn out to be some dodgy non-EU, non-USA backstreet outfit that were in this game to harvest email addresses to sell on to spammers. I am confident however that's not the case with the company we are using (who are a legitimate business operating out of Belgium).

It turns out that the number of email subscribers on CLUAS has in the last 4 years greatly increased - we now have just over 6000 emails (basically the original 3000 + over 2500 new registered users of the site + a few hundred who have chosen to register just for the newsletter in the last four years (either via our newsletter subscription form or via our end of year readers' polls voting form when we gave voters the option to sign up for the newsletter). My guess is a very big proportion of these 6000+ emails will be dead/dormant accounts (even up to 50%, some of those subscribers do after all go back to 1999!). Thankfully the mailing list service we are using automatically filters out dormant emails (based on delivery error messages received from "dead accounts") so the list will be cleaned up quick enough over time. Even so I think the revived CLUAS newsletter will regularly pull in a healthy number of visitors who otherwise might miss out completely on the CLUAS site.

As an act of curiosity I looked into the database of 6000 subscribers to see how they break down, in terms of where the subscribers come from and what email services they prefer to use. Below is a sample of some of what emerged from my rooting in the list of subscribers (without of course compromising the identity of any individual subscriber)...

Most popular email accounts / ISPs among CLUAS newsletter subscribers

  • Hotmail (1761 subscribers)
  • Yahoo (810 subscribers)
  • Gmail (403 subscribers)
  • Eircom.net (356 subscribers)
  • CLUAS.com (239 subscribers)
  • AOL (100 subscribers)
  • Ireland.com (50 subscribers)

Most popular university email addresses

  • TCD (48 subscribers)
  • DCU.ie (46 subscribers)
  • UL.ie (16 subscribers)
  • NUI Galway (12 subscribers)
  • UCD.ie (12 subscribers)
  • UCC.ie (6 subscribers)
  • QUB.ac.uk (5 subscribers)
  • DIT.ie (3 subscribers)
  • WIT.ie (2 subscribers)
  • LIT.ie (2 subscribers)
  • CIT.ie (1 subscribers)

Subscribers based on country of origin of email address

  • .ie email addresses (895 subscribers)
  • .uk (374 subscribers, although 255 are Yahoo.co.uk addresses)
  • .de (32 subscribers)
  • .fr (23 subscribers)
  • .it (15 subscribers)
  • .au (13 subscribers)
  • .nl (12 subscribers)
  • .ca (10 subscribers)
  • .es (7 subscribers)
  • .pl (6 subscribers)
  • .be (5 subscribers)
  • .nz (4 subscribers)
  • .pt (3 subscribers)

Top companies whose employees used their work email address when subscribing

  • Microsoft    (32 subscribers)
  • RTE.ie    (13 subscribers)
  • Gov.ie    (11 subscribers)
  • Eircom.ie (7 subscribers)
  • Dell.com (7 subscribers)
  • IBM    (6 subscribers)
  • Intel    (6 subscribers)
  • Ericsson (3 subscribers)
  • HP.com    (3 subscribers)
  • Pfizer    (2 subscribers)

More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
01

(First up - apologies for my absence from this blog in recent weeks, I won't burden you with a long list of protracted excuses, suffice to say I'll be about this place a bit more often. So, moving swiftly along...)

With thousands of its pages indexed by Google, CLUAS today receives a healthy chunk of its traffic from the world's leading search engine. The number of visitors they send our way can vary greatly from day to day, from week to week, but it is safe to say that we get a minimum of several hundred vistors a day coming from Google. Behind this fact lies plenty of interesting info and observations about how Google sees CLUAS, stuff I have been keeping my eye on for years but which now (cue collective groan) I am going to explore in a series of blog entries...

Casual users of Google wouldn't be aware (nor do they need to be) of the fact that Google shares out, for free, considerable amounts of information to webmasters about how Google sees their website(s). They do this via their Webmaster Tools service and all you need to do to get this info for your website is to prove to Google that you are indeed the owner of the domain name. They then dish out all sorts of info that any conscientious websmaster would be mad for, like:

  • Search queries that most often returned pages from your site, and which of them were clicked,
  • Which pages on your site have links pointing to them from other sites,
  • The number of pages on your site that Google indexes per day,
  • The average time it takes Google to download a page,
  • Pages that it has trouble accessing.

Exciting stuff, eh?

Anyway I've been checking in with the Google Webmaster Tools service for well over a year now to keep tabs on how Google is interacting with CLUAS. Last week when I logged in I noticed something unexpected. Google all of a sudden had dramatically reduced the number of CLUAS.com pages it crawls on an average day. It dropped from an average of thousand pages a day to about 25 a day (see the graph). My first reaction was "WTF?" before calming all the way down.

Number of pages crawled by Google

There are many reasons why Google would suddenly reduce dramatically the number of pages it crawls on any site: the site might not be updated often enough to merit 'deep crawling', the site might not be receiving enough new links from other sites, the site might have started using all sorts of frowned upon practices to deceive search engines. There could be any number of reasons. However I was reassured when I saw that CLUAS articles are still appearing in Google news within an hour of them being published. Somehow I don't think we are in the Google doghouse.

My own feeling is that this is something to do with the fact that, starting for a 3 week period on April 5, CLUAS stopped running Google ads on the site (so that we could run a banner ad campaign for Independent Records). I'm not saying that I think Google went "ahhhh, those CLUAS lads, they stopped running our ads, off with their heads, etc." Here's why. See, when you visit a page with a Google ad a few things happen in the blink of an eye. Simplifying it greatly, you visit the page, the page tells a Google ad server "there's a visitor on this page", Google grabs the page, checks its content and then serves up a ad relevant to content on the page. My guess is that once we stopped running Google ads for the 3 weeks, Google during this period - obviously - stopped "grabbing pages" to check content in order to decide what ads it should run on the page. And this is what has made our "pages crawled" stats plummet (background info: Google last year bundled together the task of checking a page for ad content with checking a page for possible inclusion in its search result pages).

Maybe I am wrong and Google just thinks CLUAS is not worth crawling as often as it did before for some other reason. Now that the Google ads are again running across the site I'll soon be able to see if my theory is right. I'll report back in a few weeks with an update on what happens.

Betcha just can't wait.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
07

Back in 2004, as part of its 5th birthday celebrations, CLUAS ran a readers' poll to identify the top 50 Irish albums of all time. Over 1300 votes were cast by CLUAS readers, giving the poll some sort of statistical legitimacy and indeed the majority of the albums that made the final top 50 were clearly deserving candidates.

Nonetheless the final results were not immune to raising a few eyebrows especially now, 4 years later, when you look through the list. For example, a Frames fixation among a certain part of the CLUAS readership back then resulted in a voting bias that helped push one two three four Frames albums to make the top 20. Indeedy. It's also curious to see that 10 of the top 50 40 albums came from the Paddy Casey-Frames-Bell-X1-Mundy-Damien Rice axis, but no surprise there considering the strong overlap of these acts' fanbases in Ireland in 2004.

Then a week ago the Irish Times "Ticket" supplement published its own list of the top 40 Irish albums of all time, as chosen by four of their journos. Again this was a solid list but one that also had its imperfections and its own bias. For example there is a rather strong affinity with albums released in one rather narrow 7 year window (1984 to 1991) by Dublin-based bands who ploughed the Baggott Inn-International Bar-McGonagles circuit (a total of six of their top 40 albums were released in this period by The Stars of Heaven, The Blades (2 albums each), Something Happens and A House). 

Reading through the two lists and noting their various strengths/weaknesses it occurred to me that a merging of the polls might just eliminate many (if not all) of their respective biases. The principle I set out with was a simple one - create a new 'Best Irish Album' listing made up only of albums that appeared in both the CLUAS and The Ticket polls. It turns out there are twenty albums common to the two lists so I went about ranking them in order of their total score (which in turn was based on their respective placings in the CLUAS & Irish Times polls, see note on allocation of scores below).

The resulting top 20 is below, I'll avoid any dumb temptation to declare it as some sort of definitive list. But I do think it is a credible listing of 20 thoroughly excellent Irish releases that marries the 'wisdom of the crowd' with the considered views of 4 seasoned music hacks. For everyone there will be at least one glaring omission in the list. For me it is Sinead O'Connor. She didn't make the cut as the one album of hers that was chosen by the CLUAS readers (the quite thrilling 'Lion & the Cobra' ) differed to that picked by the Irish Times journos ('I do not want what I haven't got').

Nonetheless the top 20 as its stands is properly distributed over the decades with 3 albums from the noughties, 6 from the 90s, 5 from both the 80 and 70s and 1 from the 60s. Nor does it reflect any bias I can see in terms of scene or genre. All in all, a balanced and credible list. And if you disagree, feel free to let it rip via the comments below. 

The Top 20 Irish Albums Ever (poll of polls)

  1. My Bloody Valentine 'Loveless'
  2. Van Morrison 'Astral Weeks'
  3. U2 'Achtung Baby'
  4. Whipping Boy 'Heartworm'
  5. A House 'I am the Greatest'
  6. U2 'The Joshua 'Tree'  (actually joint 5th with A House)
  7. Thin Lizzy 'Live And Dangerous'
  8. The Undertones 'The Undertones'
  9. Bell X1 'Music In Mouth'
  10. The Pogues 'Rum, Sodomy and the Lash'  (actually joint 9th with Bell X1)
  11. Van Morrison 'Moondance'
  12. Damien Rice 'O'
  13. The Frames 'For The Birds' (actually joint 12th with Damien Rice)
  14. Microdisney 'The Clock Comes Down the Stairs'
  15. The Pogues 'If I Should Fall From Grace With God'
  16. Ash '1977'
  17. Planxty 'Planxty'
  18. My Bloody Valentine 'Isn't Anything'
  19. Therapy? 'Troublegum'
  20. Rory Gallagher 'Live in Europe'

Note on scoring: Scores used in the ranking of the 20 albums that were common to the two original polls were calculated as follows: if a common album was a number one on either poll it got 50 points for its entry on that poll, if it was a number two it got 49 points, etc right down to it getting 1 point if it was a number 50. For each of the albums the scores it got for its position on each poll were then added up to get its total score.

The one flaw in this approach is that there were 40 albums in the original Irish Times poll, but 50 in the CLUAS poll. I had actually initially looked for albums that were common only to the top 40 of both polls – this threw up 18 albums. By extending the 'comparison check' to the full top 50 of the original CLUAS poll the number of common albums increased to the nice neat number of 20.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
04

Weight LossA month ago I surveyed over 30 leading Irish music blogs and websites in terms of how heavy they were when it came to the number of kilobytes visitors would have to download once they hit the site's home page. As you do, like.

The results showed a huge diversity across the sites: the slimmest (that'll be CLUAS) stepped in at a super-svelte 97 KB, while the heaviest (egocentric) was over 20 times heavier with its scale-busting 2.1 MB of data that each visitor had to download just to access its home page.

Alas, the truth is there are far more people out there using dialup to access the internet then we'd ever imagine (Mulley only yesterday wrote about there still being 200,000 dialup users in Ireland alone) and for such users your site will take an eternity to load if it is weighed down with 100s of kilobytes of data. It might not be terribly sexy but, until broadband is ubiquitous, keeping an eye on the 'payload' of your site or blog is really the smart thing to do.

So how are Ireland's leading music sites doing sites doing one month on after my original, er, exposé? Did any of them implement the recommendations I provided and trim themselves down? The answer, in short, is a definite 'yes' for a large number of them.

The table below provides an update of the sites' weights. Of the 32 sites originally surveyed, 21 have reduced their 'weight' in the intervening month (several by massive amounts). A month ago only 8 of 32 sites made into the 'green zone' (i.e. weighing in at 250 KB or less). Today 11 of the sites now merit for a privileged spot in the said zone.

At the other end of the scale, the number of sites in the 'red zone' of the table below (i.e. sites for which visitors would have to download a whopping 1 MB or more of data to access their homepage) has dropped to 4, compared to 7 a month ago (although Indie Hour - which appears to have eaten a few proverbial pies in the last few weeks - was just 1 single kilobyte away from a spot in the red zone).

Overall, the average weight of the 32 sites is today 20% lighter than it was 4 weeks ago (the average weight of a site was 631 KB at the beginning of February, today it is 515 KB). Some sites have made amazing progress in the last month and merit a special mention:

  • www.Donal.ie has lost a mind-boggling 1374 KB in the last month, allowing it to slim down from a hyper obese 1.9 MB to a cuddly 526 KB. Amazing work. No, really.
  • Egocentric has lost a similarly impressive 1255 KB in the last month, slimming down from a modem-melting 2.1 MB to a mere pudgy 845 KB. Keep drinking that virtual slimfast though as 845 KB is no walk in the park for those 200,000 Irish dialup users.
  • Cheebah has gone from 1.2MB to 278 KB, a huge drop of almost 1 full megabyte which has taken it out of the red zone and parachuted itself right to the edge of the hallowed 'green zone'.
  • Matt Vinyl and Asleep on the Compost Heap each having shaved off about 400 KB from their payloads.

Check out the full table below and see how your favourite music sites are doing (and I for one am pretty pleased to see that CLUAS.com's 3 entries are all in the top 5). The 4 colour coded categories correspond as follows:

  • Less than 250 KB: ("Optimal balance of content and page size")
  • 251 KB to 500 KB: ("Total nightmare for dialup users")
  • 501 KB to 999 KB: ("High risk of testing the patience of broadband users")
  • Greater than 1 MB: ("Clinical cases of inexcusable hyper cyber-obesity")

Ireland's Top Music Site's & Blogs
(ranked in terms of page size - updated 4 March 2008)

Current ranking Previous ranking

Site / Blog

Components of webpage (in KB) Total page size Weight loss / gain?
HTML Images CSS Flash

1

(1) CLUAS (*) 16 39 12 3 0 71 KB -26 KB

Up 2

(4) Thrill Pier 22 1.5 74 4 1 102 KB -75 KB
Down 3 (2) Test Industries 18 80 1 17 0 117 KB no change
Up 4 (7) Key Notes 21 90 59 13 0 182 KB -52 KB 
Up 5 (6) French Letter 19 107 56 13 0 198 KB -27 KB 
Down 6 (3) Music Road 16 160 16 2 8 204 KB +43 KB
Up 7 (13) House is a Feeling (*) 66 118 24 2 0 211 KB  -135 KB
8 (8) Hot Press (*) 62 144 6 7 0 219 KB -29 KB
Up 9 (10) Thumped 7 130 51 32 0 220 KB -50 KB 
Up 10 (18) The Red scrapbook 20 146 75 4 0 245 KB -194 KB 
Up 11 (12) Phantom FM (*) 50 144 34 13 9 250 KB -53 KB 
Down 12 (5) On the Record 19 175 38 26 0 259 KB  +70 KB
Up 13 (28) Cheebah 19 232 12 16 0 278 KB -922 KB
Up 14 (19) Muse (*) 41 166 94 19 1 321 KB -153 KB 
Down 15 (14) Kilkenny Music (*) 46 178 24 26 52 328 KB  -26 KB
16 (16) State 7 264 86 31 0 389 KB  -33 KB
17 (17) Nialler9 17 280 96 22 6 420 KB -6 KB
Down 18 (9) Sinead Gleeson 16 411 0 7 2 437 KB +184 KB
Up 19 (23) I Prefer the Obscure Mix 18 583 33 2 6 444 KB -194 KB 
20 (20) Indie Limerick 17 314 81 4 28 445 KB  -87 KB
Up 21 (25) Asleep on the Compost Heap 16 394 69 4 0 484 KB -416 KB
Down 22 (15) MP3 Hugger 132 183 151 4 40 510 KB +118 KB
Up 23 (26) Matt Vinyl 18 340 70 4 82 515 KB -485 KB
Up 24 (31) Donal O’Caoimh (*) 32 405 81 8 0 526 KB
 
-1374 KB
Down 25 (11) Una Rocks 33 400 75 4 15 527 KB +234 KB
Down 26 (21) The Torture Garden 17 551 13 4 3 588 KB  +4 KB
Up 27 (32) Egoeccentric 28 530 198 4 84 845 KB -1255 KB
Down 28 (24) The Indie Hour 15 946 35 5 2 999 KB +162 KB 
Down 29 (27) Magoo (*) 43 1010 16 11 2 1.08 MB +80 KB
Down 30 (29) Off the Rocker (*) 54 1387 65 11 2 1.5 MB -100 KB
Down 31 (22) Cubik Music 30 702 16 12 832 1.6 MB +400 KB 
Down 32 (30) Stuart Bailie (*) 220 1756 1 0 0 1.98 MB +180 KB

Note on the above:

Figures above are the sizes of each site's main page as surveyed between 29 February 2008 and 1 March 2008 (according to the Web Page Analyser service). It just represents a snapshot in time. The sizes above are dynamic and will fluctuate whenever new content is added to, or older content removed from, these sites' home page.


More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
08

Fat Irish Technology bloggerYesterday I posted a blog entry ranking Irish music web sites, from the skinniest, to the most bloated. For those of you who missed it (or don't have the time to check it out) I basically started off riffing about how, despite the growth in broadband penetration in Ireland, website owners and bloggers should remain acutely sensitive to the size of their blogs as: a) there is still about 7% out there who are on a dialup modem and b) broadband users are an impatient bunch you don't want to annoy with bloated pages that test the outer limits of their download capabilities. I then ranked the top 30 or so Irish music sites and blogs in terms of their page size.

Today I'm turning my (weight-obsessed) attention to Irish technology blogs, namely the the 21 blogs longlisted for the category of "Best Technology Blog" in this year's "Irish Blog Awards" (this blog is also one of the longlisted technology blogs).

The table below ranks all these blogs in terms of their total size of their main page. As I did for the music sites, I have also in the table broken out the "payloads" for each different 'component category' that typically makes up a web page (i.e. the HTML part, images, Javascript files, Flash files and CSS files). The results are then clustered into 4 colour-coded categories, based on overall page size:

  • Less than 250 KB: ("Optimal balance of content and page size")
  • 251 KB to 500 KB: ("Total nightmare for dialup users")
  • 501 KB to 999 KB: ("High risk of testing the patience of broadband users")
  • Greater than 1 MB: ("Clinical cases of inexcusable hyper cyber-obesity")

Topping the list is here is Bill de hÓra super slim blog, barely detectable on the scales with its impressive 39 KB. And hats off to to James Corbett whose blog is the only other one to come in under 100 KB. At the other end of the spectrum are Ina O’Murchu and Matt Vinyl's blogs, both of which strain the scales with their 1 flabby megabyte of content (a payload that would require a poor dialup user to hang in there for about 4 minutes to complete the download).

All in all, these technology blogs are a slimmer bunch than the music blogs: over 3/4s of them coming in under 500 KB, a feat only 3/5s of the music sites were able to do. The average weight of the technology blogs is 390 KB, compared to a 630 KB average for the music blogs.

The 5 tech blogs falling into the orange and red categories below would do well to reduce their payload by pursuing tactics I yesterday recommend to the music bloggers i.e., reduce the size of images (or in the case of Tom Raftery and Ken McGuire remove the Multimedia flash content that massively bulks out their blogs) and then reduce the number of blog entries on their blog home page. All of them (except Ken McGuire's blog) have 'server side' compression already activated, the other piece of advice I offered yesterday.

Ireland's Top Technology Blogs
(ranked in terms of page size)

Rank

Blog

Components of webpage (in KB) Total page size
HTML Images Javascript CSS Flash
1 Bill de hÓra 18 15 0 5 0 39 KB
2 James Corbett 11 27 45 4 0 87 KB
3 Dave Northey 14 20 63 14 0 112 KB
4 Karlin Lillington (*) 30 85 0 7 0 123 KB
5 Chris Horn 34 2 89 4 0 129 KB
6 John Collins 14 65 71 11 0 161 KB
7 Haydn Shaughnessy (*) 49 117 3 6 0 175 KB
8 Michelle Gallen 68 114 26 2 5 215 KB
9 Niall Larkin (*) 67 173 0 7 5 252 KB
10 Michele Neylon (*) 57 165 17 15 0 255 KB
11 Inside View 13 236 26 11 0 286 KB
12 Donncha O’Caoimh 17 309 26 18 0 371 KB
13 Promenade 25 257 85 13 1 381 KB
14 Robin Blandford (*) 77 307 37 16 0 438 KB
15 What I think (*) 94 287 62 9 0 451 KB
16 Pat Phelan 15 343 58 18 39 473 KB
17 Ken McGuire (*) 66 95 51 8 447 667 KB
18 Tom Raftery 18 274 38 20 358 707 KB
19 Alexia Golez 127 579 6 10 62 785 KB
20 Ina O’Murchu 15 960 41 2 17 1.03 MB
21 Matt Vinyl 26 746 71 4 195 1.04 MB

(*) These sites/blogs do not have compression activated on their web server, for more detail on server-side compression see note 2 below.

Notes on the above:

  1. Figures above are the sizes of each site's main page on the morning of 7 February 2008 (according to the Web Page Analyser service). It just represents a snapshot in time. The sizes above are dynamic and will fluctuate whenever new content is added to, or older content removed from, these blogs' main page.
  2. Of the 21 sites in the above list, 15 are configured so that text files (such as HTML) are compressed by the webserver before being sent to the requesting visitor (whose browser then automatically decompresses them when the file is received). The advantage of this being that the amount of text data to be downloaded is reduced (the reduction in size of a HTML file that can be expected with such compression is usually in the order of 70-80%). In such cases it is the size of the HTML file after it has been compressed that is cited in the table above. The 10 sites who do not have this function activated (indicated above with an asterisk) are strongly advised to do so.
  3. The above list does not include the 'Digital Sole' blog (one of the 26 blogs longlisted for the Best Music Blog at the Irish Blog Awards 2007) as it was inaccessible at the time I was checking the sizes of the blogs / websites.

More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
06

Skinny or Bloated?In Ireland recent years have seen progress in the availability of broadband services (in July 2007 it was up to 15.5% penetration, according to the European Commission). However that does not mean that dial-up as an access route to the web has gone the way of the Dodo. CLUAS.com's experience is that about 7% of our visitors in 2007 visited the site via a dial-up modem (based on Google's web traffic analytics service we use). If you ask me, many website and bloggers targeting Irish readers would do well to keep it in mind that a decent chunk of their readers are still dependant on a dial up connection to access the ould internets, and that flabbing out their site (or blog) with hefty images and bandwidth choking Flash is going to be counter-productive.

But it's not just about ensuring sites & blogs are quick and snappy for unfortunates stuck with dialup modems. Those of us with bandwidth connections are also sensitive to download times. And arguably more so than someone using a dialup modem who, in order to have any chance of maintaining some sanity, is obliged to demonstrate super human levels of patience. Having a broadband connection means our patience goes out the window: expectations of loading times for any web page are hugely raised, God help a site that is slow to load when we have that big juicy broadband pipe at our disposal. Bloggers and webmasters: ignore this at your peril, especially if you are trying to reach music fans (as their broadband connection may already be under heavy pressure at the moment they try and visit your site considering they are more likely than most to be listening to streaming music or downloading recent MP3 or digital video purchases).

So how are the main Irish music blogs and websites doing in terms of keeping the flab off? Who within the well established eco-system of Irish music sites is going to test the patience of their readers, be they in dialup hell or broadband bliss? And who is successfully keeping the weight down? To get some answers I checked out the size of the main page of over 30 established Irish music sites and blogs. As a starting point I took the 26 blogs longlisted for the category of "Best Music Blog" in this year's "Irish Blog Awards" (two of which I am pleased to point out are from the CLUAS blog family - French Letter and Key Notes). To this list I then added in another bunch of music sites picked out at my own discretion, the sites I added were: State.ie, Hotpress.com, Thumped.com, the Thrill Pier blog, Muse.ie, Phantom FM and the CLUAS.com home page.

The table below ranks all these sites in terms of their total download size. For all sites I have also broken out the "payloads" for each different 'component category' that typically makes up a web page, i.e. the HTML part, images, Javascript files, Flash files and CSS files (for the non-geeks among you a CSS file - Cascading Style Sheet - is used to style and position web page content).

There is a massive variation in the list. The lightest site steps in at a lean 97 KB (that'll be CLUAS.com's home page, thank you) and the heaviest being a broadband busting 2.1MB (stand up Egocentric). In terms of time, a 1Mbps broadband connection would take over 30 seconds to download the 2.1 megabytes that constitute Egocentric's main page (only the hardiest digital souls are advised to click the link). It doesn't bear thinking about but the 7% out there still on a 56 kbs dial up connection would have to wait for over 8 minutes. There should be a law against that. Or something.

Anyways I've clustered the results into 4 colour coded categories, based on overall page size:

  • Less than 250 KB: ("Optimal balance of content and page size")
  • 251 KB to 500 KB: ("Total nightmare for dialup users")
  • 501 KB to 999 KB: ("High risk of testing the patience of broadband users")
  • Greater than 1 MB: ("Clinical cases of inexcusable hyper cyber-obesity")

Those falling into the orange and red categories would do well to assess their site's content and see what they can shave off to reduce the payload. Three tactics I'd recommend are:

  1. Reduce the size of images: A quick glance in the 'Images' column in the table below confirms that it is images which carry the most blame for the bloated sites. Using even images with slightly reduced dimensions can reduce an image file size by 75%. It is vital to understand that reducing the size of the image as it appears on the page does not automatically mean the file size is reduced. To reduce the file size the image must be 'resampled' to reflect the reduced dimensions of the image. Finally, there is little point pursuing the next two suggestions if this first one is not addressed.
  2. Reduce the number of blog entries on blog home page: The obese blogs should also reduce the number of blog entries listed on the blog's home page. Take Stuart Ballie's blog for example (weighing in at 1.8 MB). His has a massive number of entries appearing on his blog home page. If his blog were configured so that the older half of those blog entries were systematically moved to an archive page, the blog would probably leap out of the depths of the red zone and into the healthier echelons of the yellow.
  3. Activate 'server side' compression: 4 of the 13 sites in the orange and red zones do not have automatic file compression activated on their web servers (for more info on this see note 2 after the table). This can help reduce the size of the HTML file but, to be honest, the effect on the overall payload of any heavy site will be insignificant if the excessive image files are not first addressed.

These sort of steps can also have longer term benefits when you consider that an iPhone-inspired era of sophisticated mobile web access is on its way. You can bet someone trying to access your site via their future all-singing, all dancing mobile phone - be it a snazzy iPhone or a more modest non-Apple device - won't be prepared to wait 30+ seconds for a 1 or 2 megabyte web page to download.

Ireland's Top Music Site's & Blogs
(ranked in terms of page size)

Rank

Site / Blog

Components of webpage (in KB) Total page size
HTML Images Javascript CSS Flash
1 CLUAS (*) 16 39 39 3 0 97 KB
2 Test Industries 17 82 1 17 0 117 KB
3 Music Road 16 92 43 2 8 161 KB
4 Thrill Pier 16 88 68 4 1 177 KB
5 On the Record   24 97 42 26 0 189 KB
6 French Letter 19 107 85 13 0 225 KB
7 Key Notes 21 116 85 13 0 236 KB
8 Hot Press (*) 61 141 21 24 0 248 KB
9 Sinead Gleeson 18 227 0 7 1 253 KB
10 Thumped 7 155 78 32 0 271 KB
11 Una Rocks 24 173 89 4 3 293 KB
12 Phantom FM (*) 52 196 34 13 8 303 KB
13 House is a Feeling (*) 71 249 24 2 0 346 KB
14 Kilkenny Music (*) 49 179 48 26 52 354 KB
15 MP3 Hugger 24 168 146 4 40 382 KB
16 State 7 302 82 31 0 422 KB
17 Nialler9 18 233 112 22 42 426 KB
18 The Red scrapbook 19 328 89 4 0 439 KB
19 Muse (*) 41 278 106 19 30 474 KB
20 Indie Limerick 17 392 91 4 28 532 KB
21 The Torture Garden 16 534 28 4 2 584 KB
22 Cubik Music 29 148 34 12 378 601 KB
23 I Prefer the Obscure Mix 17 583 33 5 1 638 KB
24 The Indie Hour 16 781 33 5 2 837 KB
25 Asleep on the Compost Heap 19 808 69 4 0 900 KB
26 Matt Vinyl 26 704 71 4 195 1.0 MB
27 Magoo (*) 44 1044 16 11 1 1.1 MB
28 Cheebah 22 1116 27 16 0 1.2 MB
29 Off the Rocker (*) 55 1517 21 9 3 1.6 MB
30 Stuart Bailie (*) 216 1568 1 0 0 1.8 MB
31 Donal O’Caoimh (*) 36 1746 149 8 0 1.9 MB
32 Egoeccentric 30 1838 194 4 23 2.1 MB
(*) These sites/blogs do not have compression activated on their web server, for more detail on server-side compression see note 2 below.

Notes on the above:

  1. Figures above are the sizes of each site's main page on the evening of 4 February 2008 (according to the Web Page Analyser service). It just represents a snapshot in time. The sizes above are dynamic and will fluctuate whenever new content is added to, or older content removed from, these sites' home page.
  2. Of the 32 sites in the above list, 22 are configured so that text files (such as HTML) are compressed by the webserver before being sent to the requesting visitor (whose browser then automatically decompresses them when the file is received). The advantage of this being that the amount of data to be downloaded is reduced, the reduction in size of a HTML file that can be expected with such compression is usually in the order of 70-80%. In such cases it is the size of the file after it has been compressed that is cited in the table above. The 10 sites who do not have this function activated (indicated above with an asterisk) are strongly advised to do so (Aside: the CLUAS home page is not compressed - yet still manages to top the list - but the two CLUAS blogs in the above list have compression activated).
  3. The above list does not include the 'Digital Sole' blog (one of the 26 blogs longlisted for the Best Music Blog at the Irish Blog Awards 2007) as it was inaccessible at the time I was checking the sizes of the blogs / websites.
  4. CLUAS.com's three entries in the list above are all well tucked into the green zone. Hooray!

More ...

[Read more...]

Posted in: Blogs, Promenade
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |
Page 4 of 8First   Previous   1  2  3  [4]  5  6  7  8  Next   Last   

Search Articles

Nuggets from our archive

2000 - 'Rock Criticism: Getting it Right', written by Mark Godfrey. A thought provoking reflection on the art of rock criticism.