Friday, July 30, 2004

Doing Business as an Affiliate...

To offset the cost of maintaining my promotional site [Maryland Wired, est. late 1999], I setup affiliate agreements with some of the retail links already existing on my site. [In late March 2004 when I entered into the agreements with these retailers, Maryland Wired was the only promotional site. Wired Pages was introduced in May 2004.] When I began to publish Wired Pages I re-signed the same retailers for the new site and stopped actively promoting Maryland Wired.

Ninety seven percent (97%) of the links on my site are offered without "juice". Why offer free advertising? When I began [1999], to garner an audience I felt my promotional site had to offer a robust shopping environment. I installed links to popular shopping venues without regard to the competitive marketplace or the benefit to me. My news service [Maryland Wired/Wired Pages] is meant to provide a vehicle in which to advertise my software programs. Offering "the best the web has to offer" in a central location without harassing ads, I felt would give my user a reason to return. Today about 3% of the retail links on the site are affiliate links.

Why would I put this information in my weblog...

There are several reasons:
  1. Lessons Learned and Small Business...
  2. Interesting reading for others considering becoming an affiliate
  3. The overall number of links with "juice" is insignificant
  4. To date I have received absolutely no revenue from being an affiliate
  5. Good business practice...
  6. Accounting issues...

My most prominent affiliate links are found on my Travel page. On this page there exists two dialog areas which allow my audience to search for great travel deals from priceline [airfares] and Travelocity [cruises].

When I first placed these links on my Travel page I was getting about 40 hits a day, from redirects alone. This was in May and early June. In June, I had a total of 187 redirects and in July thus far I have 118. I have steadily been getting more site visitors, yet all other numbers have declined since the original highs in May. [Keep in mind I can only measure redirects, and totals directly hitting my travel page are not reflected here]. To date I have had no sales and very few click thrus... And folks these are some great travel deals... My audience is not even curious about the cost of a cruise to Bermuda. I don't mind not having sales... I do mind my audience not being curious. I do mind someone else getting credit for sales generated through my site(s)...

All of my affiliate partnerships go through one holding or umbrella company. The premise by which these holding companies work is-- there are merchants and there are publishers. I am a publisher or an affiliate. These holding companies make it easy for a publisher to sign up with mutiple merchants and deal with one entity [the holding company] for all issues rather than each individual merchant.

It appears as if I am a failure as an affiliate. The problem is my numbers don't exactly corroborate this assertion. Have you had a similar experience as an affiliate? What lesson should I learn...

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Java Merits A Look...

Java suffers from a bad reputation. Most web surfers are inclined to think that Java is slow and cumbersome. They [myself included] see the familiar message: Loading Java Applet... and decide to abandon the page.

Java has incurred this reputation over the years primarily due to the relative "newness" of the language and the interpretation of how to best adapt its [Java] use for the Internet. The Internet, also a relatively new development, has experienced its own growing pains.

That said, this is not going to be a technical discussion about Java. It is also not a discussion about the pros and cons of Java over some other way of providing functionality to a web page.

It is a discussion about the ways in which Java can be a dynamic tool for the web surfer that is also FAST LOADING [even with dial-up]. In many cases an applet can load faster than graphics. Yes this is hard to believe, yet true.

Wired Pages is brimming with Java applets, tools and interfaces... This may put some of you off... I hope not. I would like for you to test drive my site. The following is a list of some of the Java tools and Interfaces developed for the site:

Do not be put off by the Loading Java Applet... message... the page will be entirely loaded in just a few moments.... and hopefully you will see it was worth the SHORT wait...

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Fun With EMAIL?

Depicted in the diagram below is an example of fraudulent email that appears to have been sent on my behalf to the email account shown. It initially appeared as if someone had used my account to send this email. The sender very cleverly made it appear this way. BEWARE of clever individuals who use these tactics. EMAIL WILL NEVER BE USED TO PROMOTE MY BUINESS OR NEWS SERVICE...



As related in an earlier post, I rarely get emails from my promotional blitz, however over the last two days I have received at least five emails that appear to have failed in their delivery attempt. The following is an example of the message my server issues with each of these failed emails:



As shown in the above screen shot, each email message that fails has an associated a link. The link is usually a binary file that is not opened in case it is some sort of computer virus.

Until I can isolate the problem with my email, an alternate account that can be used is qisoftware@consultant.com.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Zip Code Retriever Broken...

Today I discovered my Zip Code Retriever is no longer performing its intended task. Before correcting this program glitch, the legal ramifications will have to be examined because It appears the US Government has changed the wording of the Terms of Use for their site. Wired Pages is a news service so the fair use doctrine is in effect where copyright issues are concerned.

The Zip Code Retriever is found on the lower half of the Business page. As of this posting the program will return a message indicating there are no zip codes available for a particular address or city/state combination. This will be corrected as soon as possible.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Beware of Web Counters....

Supplemental to my last entry:

I just added a new webpage counter to my Wired Pages home page. I tested it in three different browsers [Internet Explorer, Netscape 7.1 and Safari] to make sure all the browsers updated the counter. The count showing was the same in all three browsers...

Beware of Web Counters...

Will be writing a JDBC program to update what will be a newly created database to track page counts, both for the QiSoftware domain and the Wired Pages news service... Won't be this week... Let you know how it goes...

Web Counters...

I recently added a web counter to my weblog. See sidebar... The 1591 showing in the diagram was the screen image I took early yesterday, Monday, July 19, 2004. On Sunday I set the initial count of my webpage counter for this weblog to 1575 using the conservative methodology outlined in the following discussion and diagrams. Because my weblog is relatively new [June 1, 2004] I decided to use the hits the server software recorded. Initially I maintained this weblog at qisoftware.blogspot.com before switching to my own domain @ qisoftware.com/blog/, around the 10th of June. The following charts show hits for the months of June and July [through the 17th] to my weblog:

June Numbers:


July [through the 17th] Numbers:


The figures I use are conservative. For example the /me/AboutMe.html hits, denoted with ** showing in both charts [626 for June and 340 for July] are also hits to my Weblog but are redirects so are counted as direct hits to qisoftware.com rather than actual hits to my Weblog url - http://www.qisoftware.com/blog/. (It appears that if you redirect within a website - Webalizer counts it as a direct hit rather than a hit to the particular url.)

Webpage counters are another way website owners can track information and ensure that all statistics are being tallied correctly. Another statistic to note are the number of referrers [corrected 8/19/04] for a particular url. As of July 19, my Weblog has linked to another page on my website [qisoftware.com] 1486 times for July and 2036 for the month of June. Here again these numbers are conservative because /blog/ and /blog are not the same url to Webalizer and I am only reporting the numbers for http://www.qisoftware.com/blog/. The /me/AboutMe.html numbers report 545 referrals for June and 20 for July [through the 19th].

Saturday, July 17, 2004

LunarPages....

My web hosting company LunarPages has promised to a get someone right on it... I recommend them highly. They are an outfit that provides Linux, Apache, CGI, JSP, ASP, and a myriad of other services for under $8.00 a month.

I provide a lot of backend work, or server side work and they are an ideal solution for websites that require ecommerce or database solutions.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Logging.... Email... and Other Communications...

Why doesn't my web-hosting service log all of my site hits? I have pondered, written about, and worried over this question for almost two weeks running.

As an example of these issues I offer the following:

Just moments ago I tried to bring up this weblog twice, and I received a 502 code stating that there were too many requests for the page/server congestion... (Have you ever seen a 502 code?). Yet my log files indicate that I have absolutely no activity on my domain server. When I was finally able to retrieve my weblog, again the hit did not register in my logging file (yes I cleared my cache in case it does not log 304 - not modified codes). I am very concerned by this. I have offered to look at my web host's environment conditions and settings (at no cost) to find out what is causing this problem. They declined my offer. I love my web-hosting company. I would recommend it to anyone who needs an affordable solution for web-hosting (not going to plug it here by naming the company). However, I cannot understand why my bench mark tests fail to log hits during the normal course of a day. My bandwidth usage is a fraction of the total amount allotted each month, yet I have had a hard time retrieving some of my pages, because it appears my server is busy. My Wired Pages search engine is another reason my server bogs down yet I never get data indicating that the search engine is ever run.

I know that some of you will ask whether I partner with my web-hosting company. The answer is yes, however I do not think this is the problem because the link is in an obscure location on one of my web pages that no one ever hits.

I have spent at least an hour on the phone with my web-host trying to have this problem resolved. This entry in my weblog is more my vent at this situation and the frustration I feel with this ongoing effort to understand why my hits are not being logged. Oh and yes it is persnickety about which hits it will log. Almost as if someone has set up an environmental command to say get the file but don't tell her...Yes I am really venting now...

I never get email so I won't wait for your email response (well not from my promotional blitz anyway). I never get phone calls either... Do you think it's a conspiracy? :-)

There is perhaps another explanation. My promotional blitz has garnered me a whole lot of new users. Maybe, my web-host thinks I am hitting my server and clearing my cache, thereby making it look like a lot of different sites are hitting. (The one thing my web-host and I agree on is that I am getting a lot of new site visitors). This would account for why the hits from my own ISP are being ignored. I can easily get log data from my ISP indicating my full IP address versus some other user with a similar IP address. My ISP provider is one of the most popular services available. And I do promote my site on my ISP. The reason I looked at this issue today was indeed another user who wanted some information. His hit never showed up and we share the same ISP. I believe however if my web-hosting provider made this assumption it was a horrible error... I use cpanel (web-hosting program to manage a domain) quite a bit and it logs my IP address.. Even my web-host would be able to discern my IP address from someone else's. I will look at this issue further... There also appears to be omission of logs from other sources, but it is intermittent. Today was the first time I was able to get consistent behavior.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Alexa... More Findings...

In my effort to garner an audience for my new website Wired Pages I have noticed somethings about site rankings. I track Alexa [a popular site ranking portal] daily to get my latest ranking. My site since March/May [qisoftware.com/wirepages.qisoftware.com] has been getting more unique site visits, meaning there are more different users to my site everyday [currently averaging around 200 new unique sites per day, counting all subdomains]. This has been steadily rising while Alexa claims my site's rankings are sliding. I am perplexed by this. I have noticed the Alexa Tool Bar in my logging data. I do not have the Alexa Tool Bar. I am not sure exactly how it works, but if I am steadily getting more new users to my site why would my sites stats be falling?

Let me explain how my site is accessed. Wired Pages is not really co-located with the QiSoftware.com domain. The site's programs and search function are located on the QiSoftware.com domain server, but the pages themselves are located elsewhere. The QiSoftware.com server is only logging for redirection clicks and not direct access [i.e., bookmarked] to Wired Pages nor navigation once a user is on the site.

I have checked with my web-hosting company. It appears that sometimes not all logging is done, however Alexa claims it does not rely on my host's statistics but the Alexa Tool Bar. However, if Alexa were in part relying on my site's logging data this could explain why my Alexa ratings keep falling... My logging data is out of sync with site totals such as unique site visits and referrels... I have been told this is because the system [my web-host's server] could be busy and not logging everything...

Can someone explain all this to me?

Supplemental: To date, I have been trying unsuccessfully to get my web-hosting service to log everything that hits my server. If certain files are being omitted because of the following Apache module settings: mod_log_config and the mod_setenvif; then the web publisher who owns the site should be notified at once. There is also a keep alive timer [also set at the server level] that may be instrumental in logging issues, this can cause intermittent logging if set incorrectly. I hope to have my logging issues with my web-hosting service worked out in short order...

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Mistaken Identity....

Wired Pages was a new website in May. Since then I have taken every opportunity to promote the site in hopes of making Wired Pages if not a bona fide success at least certainly known by more than a few individuals.

To that end, I have used any and every means to promote the site. For instance during evening hours I try to spend two or three hours promoting through chat rooms. I am relatively new to the chat environment [February 2004], so I had to learn a great many lessons about chat room etiquette. I believe some would suggest I have a few more lessons to learn :-) (see etiquette issues below....)

Because I am a "techie" type I tend to spend more time in the Computer or Tech Chat areas. The most surprising thing that I have come across in these interactive sessions is the number of people who don't believe that I am as pictured [taken late November 2003 after an all day shopping spree with family]. And even more surprising is who voices these doubts, the computer and engineering types that I have worked with all of my professional life.

This entry in my weblog is to quash the doubts of those that ask... Yes that is really me... Yes my qualifications as outlined are genuine... [and yes I think you will read this...giggle...]. I also belong to a Java User's Group (JUG) in the area and I attend meetings as often as possible. In addition, I worked a number of years in the Northern Virginia area and still have business ties in the region. I am sure my face is recognized by more than a few in the Washington Metropolitan area.

Now a bit about my chat room etiquette that you have found disfavor with....
  1. I say hmm... too much kind of a vanilla response to say I am still here
  2. why do I always put ... after everything some of you have long names... habit
  3. why don't I PM anyone or allow anyone to IM/PM me too many bots and I really like chatting with a room
  4. why do my fellow chatters feel that I ask a question and then leave the room... easily distracted and maybe didn't realize you answered
  5. why don't I use more chat abbreviations like everyone else.... I am new to chat...

Hope I covered all of your peeves... :-)... By the way I love chatting...

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Bandwidth & Capacity

This morning I was up early discussing network engineering with someone who appeared to be an expert on the subject. I am of course no expert, however I have done a bit of research on the subject of bandwidth and capacity. My findings, due in large part to the Left Brain organization, have been compiled and placed in a chart, found at this link: Bandwidth & Capacities. The chart is also accessible from the Wired Pages Reference page.

In addition, the Technology page has a link to Broadband Reports a comprehensive site that discusses everything relating to broadband service and related equipment.

Let me know about errors or updates for the Bandwidth & Capacities chart.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Alexa a Waste of Time....?

Does Alexa Work..... ?