Microsoft Soapbox video service

Microsoft has started a new service – Soapbox. It`s a YouTube future follower, as Soapbox is still in beta and available to limited invitations (you can go to the site and request an invitation). Funny, that once again Microsoft announces a product way before it`s ready, and once again only a product that follows some other market leader. For example, previous it was (maybe still they hope) for Adobe Flash, which Microsoft tries to compete with its Avalon products. Check out – on soapbox.msn.com the video player is in Flash! I have no idea why is Microsoft spending so much money on probably worthless products, though they still keep a big part of internet users on MSN.
Just my 2c.

Tutorial: create animated favicon

Animated favicon is supported only by Firefox, for now. (Are you still using Internet Explorer??
)
If you don`t know how to create a simple favicon – just put an icon file with name “favicon.ico” in your web root folder (e.g. www.yourdomain.com/favicon.ico).

Animated favicons are stored in .gif image. You can see an example of animated icon at information security awareness blog , it shows in the address bar and on the tab. You can create it yourself using some gif animation software or exporting from Adobe Flash (I do it). When you have your gif icon ready, upload both “favicon.ico” and “favicon.gif” to your web root folder, then add this code to your webpage somewhere between and tags:


That should do it! You can also create both static and animated icon files from any image (favicon from jpg, jpeg, gif, bmp, tif, png, etc) using a favicon generator available here.

Google`s fight against spam

Google search engine results depend on some defined behaviour or algorithm. There have always been some clues in patents on how these algorithms work. There have been thousands of patents and you never know if they will be implemented in search engines algo, but you can definitely see the direction that Google is going – human editorial approach.

To get better SERP (search engine result pages) results, algorithm will not count on links or page rank only, but on human reported sites like Dmoz.org directory entries and others. so the system is semi-automatic.

In an implementation consistent with the present invention, the set of favored and non-favored sources may be automatically determined. To accomplish this, exemplary queries in the query theme may be classified into a set of topics (e.g., an online topic hierarchy, such as Yahoo!, Open Directory, or Google) using the approach for classification described above. Web hosts that appear in the URLs associated with the best matching topics to the query theme may be taken to be favored sources. For example, if the query theme is “sites that help in finding accommodation,” then web hosts listed under the Open Directory category “http://dmoz.org/Recreation/Travel/Lodging” can be taken as favored sources. (..) For example, for the query theme “sites that provide frëe downloads,” web sites that actually provide frëe software downloads would be considered “favored sources” and web sites that mislead search engines with words such as “free” and “download” (popularly known as “spam techniques”), but do notin fact provide access to frëe downloads, would be considered “non-favored sources”. The patent application infers that sites have a brighter future in the search engines, especially Google. Therefore, don’t be afraid to link out to other sites. The more value you provide to your visitor, the more you will be rewarded in the end. Your ultimate goal is to become an authority in your particular topic.

This is good and bad.

The good is, of course, we get more relevant results. Spam sites get lower results, spam blogs will be fought, but still there will be ways to avoid banning from SERPs. I have created an example of a “spam blog” which simly takes content from other sites – www.music-video-blog.com – if someone from dmoz editorial looked at the site, it wouldnt be included, but if I added manually some good posts so everything didn`t look the same, then it could go in some consideration. I still could convert that site into something useful, right now it just sits there :)
The bad for publishers is that more and more people will avoid clicking on ads like Google Adsense:
. Ads will be overused by spam site creators as they would get low results from organic referrals. Like crime is always one step ahead of police, spam will always be ahead of internet algorithms.

Afterall, publishers should take notice of such patents and recognize where the real value lies – now it seems it`s dmoz directory. Google also takes the title and decrtiption of your page from dmoz.org, so it has to be taken seriously!

Firefox 2 (b1) features, visual, download

Firefox 2 beta 1 is out! You can download Portable Firefox 2 beta or normal versions. The portable version allows you to use it without affecting your current Firefox installation. It allows you to keep all your profile data in one folder, not spread all over your windows drive (program files, documents and settings, etc). You can keep it on usb flash disk and get all your extensions/bookmarks with you wherever you go! (You can also get Portable Firefox 1.5.0.4).

The new features of Firefox include:

  • Session restore and “recently closed tabs” (like SessionSaver)
  • Spell-as-you-type for spell checking
  • Improved feed subscription (really cool!!! Hurry up Vista, Firefox made it easy! :P)
  • Improved extension management
  • Search plugin management
  • Phishing protection
  • Improved memory usage (bug fixes?)
  • Default theme update

While features are available in beta release, you don’t all of the new default visual theme for now, its implemented only partly. But you can surely see how it should look in the final release:

Fx2-new-theme-in-xp-v1.jpg

  • icons have been sharpened and made to look a little glossier, and colours have been / will continue to be adjusted to match OS palette, border visibility on mouseover
  • standard treatment for “end cap” buttons on a textbox like “Go” and “Search”
  • new light treatment for drop-down buttons until the user hovers in that textbox at which point the buttons will fill in
  • gradients on tabs and the tabstrip to make it easier to see the selected and background tab

Check out mozilla wiki post for full details on visual theme update.

Google subdomain exploit

If you`re interested in SEO, then you should subscribe to www.sitepronews.com newsletter. They always have good articles (dunno if they are original or “private label articles”).

Latest article by Eric Lester is about exploiting in google`s algorithm and how one guy filled Googles index with few billion sp@m pages. He explains that Google indexes each subdomain as independent, so on one domain you could generate countless pages with keywords and AdSense ads. In some previous article they stated, that subdomains add PR to the original domain, so this is even more useful for those who practice “artificial SEO”.

Anyway, i`m sure you have seen a page that contains nothing but keyword stuffed content with ads all over the page, and lately these spam pages get more and more top positions in SERP`s. IMHO search engine sp@m will get more annoying than email sp@m in the near future, so be ready. Right now google is trying to fix this loophole and removing fake pages manually by searching them using the spammer`s original domain with “site:”, but meanwhile copycats are out there writing theyr generator scripts.
Read full article here (printable, readable version) or full site article.

Google Conversion University helps out!

Google analytics is one of the best free tools for web statistics, but now Google makes another step towards web developers. Google posted about its Conversion University – online resource for SEO tactics and optimizing your web page for better conversions (both Adsense and organic). Right now the “university” offers articles in 4 categories:

There are countless sites on the web with articles on search engine optimization. Many of them are writing articles to promote their own sites and products. Google promotes its Analytics, Sitemaps and AdWords tools (its slogan says “Learn. Explore. Profit.”). Since Google is still the most visited search engine on the web, it matters. The guidelines in Conversion university should be accurate and wouldn`t lead your websites to conflict with google algorithms and ranking.

For example, the first article on Driving Traffic is “Sitemaps for SEO” which tells you five reasons, why you would use Google sitemaps:

  • Submit all of your pages to the Google index – for free.
  • Find out how you rank on the top search queries.
  • Find out how Google sees your site.(page analysis)
  • Unblock your site (in case your robots.txt blocks any pages).
  • Get re-included (if you`re banned, follow Google quality guidelines)

Another article in Converting Visitors category explains Five tips for writing web headlines :

  • Include your paid keyword in the headline.
  • Don’t sound like an ad.
  • Highlight benefits rather than features.
  • Make headlines look easy to read.
  • Don’t forget subheads.

I see Google Conversion University quickly popping up its popularity among SEO websites in the near future, you should really take notice, even pro masters of SEO should find something new there. Take a read, the devil is in the details!

Firefox SessionSaver – dont lose your open sites

I`m a enthusiastic Firefox user since it`s early days and I was really pleased with its “tabbing” capabilities. When Opera 8 was released, I decided to give it a try. Opera was fun – fast, intuitive, attracting, full of features. The feature I liked the most was saved sessions – when you closed the browser, it saved your open tabs, so you can get back to them next time you launch your browser. But Opera had some minor problems – it didn`t render all Flash pages correctly. As I am a Flash desiger/programmer, this was hard time for me, so i got back to Firefox. But I couldnt live without saving my tabs anymore, so I searched for Firefox extensions that would do the job and I found it – SessionSaver! It really does the job! It allows you to save different sessions, export sessions with settings so you can import it on another Firefox installation. It also allows you to get back to accidentally closed tabs (like Ctrl+Z in Opera).

There are some little drawbacks though – I`m so used to tabbed browsing that I don`t save pages as bookmarks – I leave the tab open :) Right now I have 35 tabs open, sometimes it goes up to 40, and this slows down your browser`s launch time – it refreshes all your open tabs on launch.

There is another alternative – Tab Mix Plus , it has much more features than sessionsaver, but that adds to your computer processor. It launches Firefox faster, as it saves your pages on hard disk (I guess). Unfortunately I had problems with TabMixPlus performance (might be some incompatibality), so I switched back to SessionSaver.

Give this feature a try, you won`t regret it!

www.djnet.lv

www.djnet.lv – Portal for djs and clubbers. A place where you can listen fresh house music from various latian djs` collections. No mp3 downloads, just flash player, allowing to create playlist, comment songs.

This is my biggest project, since I have spent more than a year keeping it up to date and making essential changes and add-ons. Project online since May 2005. Since then it has been 99% Flash + remoting + sql + php, Flash admin panel for djs to upload songs and modify info.

LV: www.djnet.lv – Flash portāls, kur var paklausīties svaigu house mūziku no manas atlases nu jau vairāku dj personīgās atlases. Dziesmas var klausīties online pleijerī, veidot pleilisti, lai atstātu skanēt fonā, komentēt, diskutēt.
Mans lielākais web-projekts, uzsākts 2005.gada maijā. Kopš tā laika nepārtraukti to uzlaboju. 99% Flash, remoting, mysql, file/user management, advancēts flash CMS priekš dj. Viss taisīts no nulles, mana paša ideja.
www.djnet.lv