Bryan Ruby


Thoughts, Words, and Deeds

Traffic Rank and Site Confusion at Alexa

A few months ago I came across Alexa Web Search for the very first time. Alexa not only offers the usual search engine features, but also additional site statistics dealing with traffic ranking. Naturally, I entered my own site into the rankings to see what I could find. Considering my site has been around for only six months I was impressed that I had a traffic rank under 300,000.

Considering that there are nearly 50 million sites presently on the Internet, a site ranking under half a million is pretty good in my book. I had heard that sites using the Drupal content management system ranked well with the various search engines so I was pleased I chose Drupal for my site. All and all, those first few moments visiting Alexa were spent patting myself on the back for a job well done.

Then to my surprise I noticed that although I had typed in cmsreport.com, Alexa displayed uly.net. Uly.net was a domain I had never heard of before visiting Alexa.com. Worse, it appears that uly.net may have been benefiting from the traffic my site receives.

Traffic Rank for uly.net:

218,200

Where do people go on uly.net?

  • cmsreport.com - 98%

Now some of you might be asking yourself, why do I really care how my site is ranked? I'd like to say, it really doesn't matter to me either since I do run this site for "fun". But, I have an ego. I do get a sense of pride for finally having a site where people actually show up and visit. Put it this way, when you host sites that rank above 2 million you feel somewhat rewarded to finally have a site with only six digits in its rank. More importantly, there is benefit to understanding how traffic rankings from sites such as Alexa, Google, and Technorati are being utilized.

The CMS deja vu phenomenon

At the turn of the century it was estimated that there were over 7 million Websites in the world. In October of this year, Netcraft estimates that there are now nearly 50 million active sites on the Internet. However, I can't help but wonder how many of those 50 million sites are actually unique sites?

Sure, from time to time we are all guilty of recycling a post with the same content from one site to another. Increasingly though, I have come across sites that share not just a little bit of content but are almost exact duplicates of each other. On some cases, the only difference between the sites I'm comparing are their domain name. Let me give you an example of the déjà vu we are now seeing.

I came across a very good article about developing our own content management system titled, "Hands on: How to roll your own CMS". The article is written by Nigel Whitfield and I found it on the UK site, Personal Computer World. So far, I've found the article on four other sites. The four sites are:

  • Computeract!ve
  • WhatPC?
  • Personal Computer World
  • IT Week

Now it isn't too uncommon for various sites under the same parent company to share articles. It also isn't uncommon to see a publication syndicate their articles out to other publications. However, if you take a look at all four sites I found the article you'll see that they have much more in common that a few articles from sister companies. If you remove the header and name of the sites, it would a difficult task to pick the sites apart.

When IT changes too quickly

As I have mentioned in the past, besides this site I also run a site called "WebCMS Forum" [now defunct]. The forum is a place I started in hopes of bringing users of various content management systems (CMS) together for exciting discussion. While the number of users participating in actual dicussion have always been low, those people that are posting often write something that makes hosting this underused forum well worth my time.

This week I had a user, Anti, talk about frustrations with rapid changes currently happening with the content management system, Drupal. Don't get her wrong, she likes Drupal. However, for the first time in a long while, she is in need of taking a deep breath before absorbing all the new changes into her routine. At the forum she writes:

It seems like such a short time ago, in reality maybe six months or so, that I felt I at least had a finger on the pulse of Drupal. I knew where each off the settings were and was never intimidated by the concept of taxonomy and I was happy as can be. While none of that has really changed, I can still install and configure a Drupal site in record time, I am sometimes completely overwhelmed by the explosion of new ideas I find on Drupal.org. It is all very exciting but after watching this thing for a couple of years I suddenly feel out of sorts. Things really do seem to be happening right now.

Using Firefox 2 with Content Mangement Systems

As you can tell from the screenshot below, I am using a release candidate of Mozilla's Firefox 2 while viewing and editing content in my Drupal site. If you look closely at the image or click on the image to enlarge it, you will also see that I don't always focus my browsing on Drupal. Take a look at the tabs and you'll see me taking a look at a number of other open source projects (such as Joomla and e107). I have been known to have 20 tabs open referencing just as many different portals, forums, and blog applications as I can find. What can I say, I'm obsessed with Web content management systems (CMS).

I have been using Firefox 2 since last May so my time spent with the new browser is even a couple months before the beta version was released. I can't say my initial impressions of Firefox 2 were all that positive. It wasn't the expected bugs in the development releases that squelched my enthusiasm for the yet to be released browser. No it was my original opinion that Mozilla couldn't possibly improve on Firefox 1.x that kept me from acknowledging Firefox 2 as a significant release. Over the past few months I found that Firefox 2 is a browser that has changed my browsing style and it will likely do the same for you.

David Baron: New Firefox 2 theme and lessons learned

I just got done reading an interesting and important post by David Baron of Mozilla. Although his initial focus is on the Firefox 2 browser, he makes some valid points that easily carry over to lessons learned involving software development and general project management.

The post in focus from Mr. Baron is "New Theme, Old Problem" and as titled centers to some problems with the new Firefox theme. Mr. Baron states that he doesn't "really care one way or the other about most of the changes". But what does care about are the changes done to the tabs in the new theme. Mainly that the new tabs no longer blend well from the operating system it is running on. He likes the "old way" better where:

In previous releases, the tab strip used native-looking tabs on Windows and GNOME, which have an appropriate native tab concept...I've long seen the ability to build multi-platform user interface that looks and acts native across those platforms as one of Firefox's strengths, and one of XUL's strengths, and I think improving the native-ness of the user interface is an important goal. Native user interface means Firefox fits in with the appearance and conventions of other applications, making both Firefox and those other applications easier to use.