The invotrak blog

The invotrak blogJust a quick note to let you know about the new invotrak.com blog, launching today. If you’re not already aware, we launched a new online invoice-tracking service recently, which helps freelancers and small-businesses keep track of the invoices they send to clients. The service is free, and we’ve seen quite a few people join up.

The blog is to keep much of the invotrak-related content in one place (without cluttering up this blog). It’ll have invotrak-related news (new features, notices, etc), as well as original content we think is of interest to users. If you’re interested in freelancing/entrepreneurship/etc, you may find the invotrak blog interesting.

Bad Webapp Names

There’s a funny article up on ReadWriteWeb about some of the worst webapp names, though only 10? Almost every day there’s a stupid name coming across the TechCrunch wires. But on the flip side, you have to give a lot of these people credit: coming up with a name for a product is very difficult.

Case in point: for a long time, we’ve been calling our monitoring software RSP (which, for those paying attention, doesn’t stand for anything). The name is forgettable and boring, and really doesn’t convey what the product is all about. So, in a teaser for the future, we’ll be ditching the name RSP in favor of something else. It’s a bit more web 2.0-ish, it’s kind of fun, and it’s different. I won’t say just what it is yet, but it’s coming soon. :)

Freelancers/small business: Track your invoices

invotrakApologies for the shameless plug, but I’m excited to mention our new site which launched late last week: invotrak.com. We do a lot of consulting work for various clients, often with many projects running simultaneously, and it got harder and harder to keep track of the invoices we sent to our clients. So, out of this need, invotrak was created. It’s free and easy to use, so if you’re in a similar position to us (freelancers, small businesses, etc), check it out and let us know what you think.

Also, apologies for the lack of posts lately – we’ve been real busy getting invotrak launched and work with our clients. Hopefully we’ll get some more posts up this week.

Cool Mac App: stattoo

For you Mac users out there, there’s a cool app I recently stumbled across called stattoo, by Panic Software. It’s a simple little app that adds mini apps to your desktop to show interesting information (i.e. weather, latest email, upcoming appointments, etc). It’s a little faster than using the Dashboard, looks wonderful, and unobtrusive enough not to interfere with other things you’re doing.

Give it a try. It costs a couple bucks if you like it, and so far I’ve been very impressed.

(Further) cutting down on the spam

As I mentioned recently, this blog is just inundated with spam on a regular basis, and keeping it from making it into comments is quite a chore. The first step in fixing the problem was to install a CAPTCHA system (in our case, we used a simple math question rather than a hard-to-read image), but it doesn’t solve all the problems. For instance, the other source of huge levels of spam was fake trackbacks. Solving this, however, was so simple I should have done it from day one.

The solution was to install a simple WordPress plugin to check for a legitimate link to our blog – it loads the referenced page from each trackback and searches for a link. If there isn’t one, it marks it as spam. Simple – and it’s reduced the number of spam comments that reach our moderation queue to near-zero.

Between the trackback checker and the CAPTCHA, blog spam is much more manageable.

Cutting Down on the Spam

Draconis CaptchaI’ve been getting annoyed lately with the deluge of spam this blog receives. For a blog without particularly regular content (and not a very large audience, too), we seem to be inundated with spam.  So, I went looking for a solution.

When it comes to fighting blog spam, there’s really two routes: setting up a comment filtering system to weed out comments that match a set of filters, or a CAPTCHA component. One of my biggest gripes with most CAPTCHA systems is the ugliness of the solution: the images are made as difficult as possible to read, making it as difficult as possible for a human to post a comment. Well, I found a different solution that I am much happier with: a simple math question, asking users to solve an equation before allowing the post to go through.

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Happy Sysadmin Appreciation Day!

Today is System Administrator Appreciation Day, which (sadly) comes about only once per year.  Take a minute to think of the sysadmins who you work with (if you aren’t one yourself!) and be sure to let them know how much you appreciate the hard work they do for you.  And if you’re a sysadmin: Thank you!

There are a number of things going down across the web to commemorate the day.  Digg is sponsoring a contest, called Sysadmin of the Year, which seeks to honor the most amazing sysadmin.  Be sure to check it out and nominate your amazing sysadmin (or yourself, if you’re amazing).

Of course, you’ll want to check out the sysadminday.com website (check out the gallery – I’ve been there!).

Boingboing.net has several links up to some great sysadmin day-inspired stuff (be sure to check out the UK Unix Users Group song).

Great tips for Increasing Your Web Traffic

Search-engine optimization has been all the rage ever since there were search engines – Google especially seems to be the most successful at spawning whole cottage industries around optimization (and with good reason – it’s far and away the most popular). As several have pointed out, making some simple changes to your pages, and getting into good habits, can have dramatic effects on the number of visitors to your site.

An article, 3 Ways to Immediately Increase Search Engine Traffic, over at Performancing.com, takes a look at three aspects of your site and strategies to take to increase search-engine traffic: better copy, lots of links, and networking (the social kind). Some very good suggestions.

A Beginner’s Guide to SEO is available at SEOmoz.org. This very complete article gives a great list of items you should be aware of to best optimize your site (everything from avoiding broken links and minimized downtime, to meta tags and document organization). Another great link to check out from SEOMoz is the Page Strength tool.

As you become more serious about your search engine optimization (and as your web site grows), there’s going to come a time when you need better control over just what content is being indexed by web crawlers. Matt Cutts has an article, Bot Obedience: Herding Googlebot, on building a robots.txt file and other strategies for holding googlebot’s hand over at his blog (which has plenty of other great tips for SEO).

If you’re running a blog (and who isn’t these days?), then you’re going to want to check out this 5-part post called Getting Ranked (with tips on how your page URLs should be formatted, how to improve accessibility, etc). One blogger, Paul Stamatiou, followed these tips and found a marked increased in his web traffic.

Hopefully you found these articles useful. There’s a ton of other great stuff out there, so consider this a starting point. Getting better traffic from search engines isn’t complicated, but it does require a bit of work and plenty of common sense. Good luck!

YouOS: A Web-Based Operating System

YouOS is a startup with a really neat idea – creating an entire operating system through the web browser. It sounds like a crazy idea, but with recent developments in AJAX and server-side technology, the web browser is being used for a lot more than just the web. Applications like IM clients and word processors, that were once thought of solely as desktop applications, now have fully functional web verions.

YouOS isn’t an operating system in the strict sense of the word (you can’t boot off of it), but it does have a number of features that you would expect from an OS, like a shell, a browser, and a file explorer. There’s a recent blog post on their site that gives a good intro to the project. Also be sure to check out their live demo.

I think we’ll continue to see more and applications that exist only on the web. The real boon for web apps isn’t so much the ability to run everything through one program (although that’s nice) as it is being able to work from any computer that has a browser. With YouOS, that means potentially from any Internet cafe or public library you could access every file or application that would normally exist just on one computer.

Why I Love Squidoo

SquidooIf you haven’t come across it yet, check out Squidoo. It’s a new, very Web 2.0, site that allows users to create their own “lens” on a subject of their choice. A lens can be anything you like and is intended to be a guide to other users (for instance, I created one called My Top 5 Business Books). Creating a lens is very easy, and there’s already a strong community building of “lensmasters”.

There’s a hook though: what sets Squidoo apart from other community-created sites (like Wikipedia or MySpace) is the ability to generate affiliate sales. Squidoo is aimed at creating income: either for the lensmaster or a charity (and always for Squidoo). A lensmaster adds links to purchase products (such as books, as I did, from Amazon) and upon referring a customer who makes a purchase, the online merchant has agreed to pay an affiliate fee to Squidoo. Upon receipt, Squidoo then allocates a part of that fee to the lensmaster to do with as s/he wants (for instance, claim it for themselves or donate it to charity).

I love Squidoo for two reasons: it embraces the read/write web using slick Web 2.0 visual technologies, and has a workable business model. In fact, following the cash flow through Squidoo is simple: viewers can turn to customers when visiting a lens, and sales are sent back to Squidoo and its lensmasters. The company wins because it inherently creates a community that wants to drive as much traffic to Squidoo as possible (thus further growing its community – and making critical mass relatively easy to achieve).

As a final note, I’d like to point out the uncluttered interface of Squidoo. There are targeted text ads on the pages, but nothing that distracts the eye from the content. And lensmasters are the ones with control over the content section of the pages – no annoying “inline” ads that many media organizations love to place in the middle of an article.

So, if you haven’t seen Squidoo yet, check it out. And create a lens for yourself – it’s surprisingly addictive.