Bryan Ruby


Thoughts, Words, and Deeds

IT and Personal Goals for 2007

For the most part, I usually say "no" to making New Year resolutions and IT predictions. I never really get things 100% completed to say I've resolved those things that I previously promised. I have yet to ever fully predict what is just around the corner for IT (actually it almost usually turns out better than even my most optimistic predictions). However, no matter the time of year, I always have goals that I strive to meet.

The following are some of my open source IT goals for 2007:

  • Return of the Geek. Outside my "day job", the past year has been filled with freelance projects designing and hosting sites for various clients. As I wrote a few months ago, the whole experience of working outside of work for cash has led a bad taste to my mouth. When you really don't need the money, why do it? For 2007, I rather spend my time contributing to open source projects such as Drupal. I've been a wall flower for too long and I think the core developers would like to see wall flowers not be wall flowers.
  • For sites that I own, I need to do a better job of installing the betas and release candidates. For example, when I started CMS Report it was with Drupal 4.7 Beta 1. I'm sad to report that this site is still using Drupal 4.7. It's very hard to contribute to open source if you're not willing to go on the edge with some of your production sites.

Measuring traffic at MySpace, Yahoo, and your site

BusinessWeek published an interesting article titiled, Did MySpace Really Beat Yahoo? The article discusses the difficulty to confirm which site actually has more traffic, MySpace or Yahoo.

The discrepancy has revived complaints about the accuracy of reporting agencies' results, which often differ from companies' own audience measurements (see BusinessWeek.com, 10/23/06, "Web Numbers: What's Real"). It also underscores the rivalry between comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings for recognition as the most trusted source for Web-traffic data. The winner, if one emerges, may set the standard for how site popularity is measured, influencing how marketers dole out billions in online ad dollars each year. Recognizing the high stakes in that tussle, comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings both are refining their tactics.

Initially, you might say, "who cares, the sites I design won't compete with these big dogs". But consider this, there is not a client or site owner that doesn't want to see more traffic with their sites. The client already knows how many users they were getting with the old site. What happens if the client now observes that the site you redesigned gets less traffic? At least, less traffic according to the the statistic package they are using. Either way, the client isn't happy and wants to know what you're going to do to correct the problem?

Did the design changes you made really chase the site's users away? Is there something in the stats package that don't account the traffic correctly due to the new features you added? These type of questions you need to be able to answer convincingly and without hesitation.

Drupal and Joomla comparison

On a recent visit to Drupal's forum I found another post with both Joomla and Drupal in the subject line. Making comparisons between Joomla and Drupal are very common these days as they are currently considered the top two open source content management systems (CMS) out there. The forum post written by Steve Burge contains a link that takes you to a comparison table he did between Joomla and Drupal. While the table may not give the full picture of each CMS, I'm convinced that Burge tried to be as non-bias as he possibly could in his comparison.

There is something interesting about the table posted at Burge's site. Specifically, take a look at which elements according to Burge each CMS excels in and which elements each CMS fails. Did you notice a particular pattern in where each CMS is considered to have failed? If not, perhaps you didn't see the excerpt I posted earlier from Gadgetopia's Deane Barker, titled Architecture and Functionality in Content Management.

Let me be more specific. In the table Drupal fails on such elements as Shopping Carts, Event Calendars, Document Management, and Themes. The majority of these items are functions or features which are considered lacking in the Drupal CMS. Regarding the other CMS, Joomla fails to deliver in such elements as user permission, content management, multi-site management, and standard's compliance. Joomla fails in elements that are more architecture centric.

The botnets are coming to a Windows PC near you

The November 20, 2006 article "Spam surge linked to hackers" from eWeeks is a must read. Unfortunately, I can't find the actual online version of the article in print.

The article discusses the increasing complexity hackers are using botnets running on tens of thousands of hijacked Windows computers to spread spam. The article focuses on the research by SecureWorks regarding the malware trojan called Troj/SpamThru. Some scary unique features have been identified with this trojan including:

  • Peer to Peer Communication (hackers can have control without a server)
  • Anti-Virus Scanning (Uses anti-virus software to scan against rivals)
  • Template-based spam
  • Almost half of the PCs infected are PCs with Windows XP SP2 installed (outside of Vista, Microsoft's most secure Windows system to date).

Do I bring this up because I don't like Microsoft products? Not at all and in fact as I write this post I'm using a Windows XP system. My point is that if you plan on using Windows XP do all of us a favor and be sure you've installed on your PC the latest software updates and security patches available.

Shame on you if you are still using an older and even less secure Windows system such as 98, ME, 2000, XP, XP SP1. If you aren't running a firewall and/or anti-virus software with your Windows system because of "performance issues"...either get yourself some new hardware or consider loading an alternative operating system such as Linux.

Above all, start practicing safe computing. I don't want to hear any excuses why you're not...

Creating E-government the right way

Computerworld and the National Policy Research Council (NPRC) recently completed a study ranking the Websites of state, county, and local governments on usability and other criteria. In the study, Michigan's site earned top marks.

According to the article, the "the e-government report card is based on an extensive examination of 11,227 official government Web sites." Sites were judged on 25 criteria, including "whether people could use them to pay taxes, bid for contracts, find government jobs and complain to local officials about concerns such as potholes." Also included in the article was a report card summarizing other top e-government performers among city, state, and local sites.

What separated the winners from the losers?