Google Sitemaps is working

Google Sitemaps As I’ve posted previously, I started ‘testing’ Google Sitemaps last week. So what have I done? I added my feeds first. They were there already so that didn’t take any effort. Next I added a plugin to my WordPress installation that would generate a sitemap automatically and added that one also.

Now the big question. Is it working? It seems so…
At the Google Sitemaps ‘Control Panel‘ I see that the feeds and sitemap are being fetched every 12 hours or so.
Looking at my serverlogs I see Google spidering like crazy in the past 24 hours or so. Their spider jumped from a third to the first place in the bot-list. So spidering is great. What about the indexing? Seeing a spider is one thing, being indexed another.
Well, great news on that front too. If I lookup my pages in Google I see that a lot of them are cached on june 12 and 13. (That’s like yesterday)

In conclusion: Google Sitemaps looks like the tool to keep your pages in Google fresh. Now if other searchengines would follow, that would be nice. πŸ™‚

Some reservation: It could be that Google is doing an all out spider-run which may (or may not) indicate a Google Dance is underway and we’ll see some updated PageRanks. Time will tell.

What do search engines see in my page?

Search engines are your ultimate blind visitors. They don’t see JavaScript, stumble over framesets, ignore CSS, feel around HTML-tags and leave them alone, choke on Flash. All they really want to see is content. And that content is plain text. Text that can be indexed, weighed, stored, chunked, ranked & retrieved. Or whatever it is they do…

So if you want a glimpse of what Google/Yahoo/MSN can really see in your pages take a look at the Search Engine Spider Simulator. It’ll take your page, strip off all HTML, media, links, meta-info and commonly used words. What is left is a resumé of all the unique words that are on your page.

Now if this simulator doesn’t return anything maybe that’s your explanation for not being indexed.
No content? Why bother.

Google Sitemaps weblog plugins

In the previous post I said that Google Sitemaps will accept your feeds just as well. And it does, no worries. But as I looked further into the dynamic generation of sitemaps I found there were WordPress plugins already available. (Just 3 days after the service went public. How’s that for a user community …)

Currently I have Arne Brachhold’s Google Sitemaps Generator v2 Final running. All I had to do was upload the plugin, activate it, make an empty sitemap.xml writable and I was up and running. You’ll get an extra administration page after activation where you can set a whole lot of options. We’ll see how this one fares.

If that plugin doesn’t work for you. Dirk Zimmermann also has a plugin, although that one didn’t work out for me as I have my WP in a subdir (presumably).

People using Movable Type may want to look at Niall Kennedy’s Weblog.

Update: Arne Brachold’s Google Sitemap Generator for WordPress just bumped up to version 2.5. Good stuff: 1. you can now add external pages that aren’t generated with WordPress. 2. The plugin pings Google to notify them of an update. 3. The plugin has become multi-lingual.

Google Sitemaps (Beta)

To let webmasters help Google index their site better there is Google Sitemaps. Sounds like a good idea.

So how does it work?
First you need to have a Google account (having a GMail account is probably enough).
Second you need to create a Sitemap file in the root of your site. This is an XML file that lists all your indexable pages. Google even provides a generator for this file.
Third you have to tell Google where your sitemap file can be found.
Last, wait to see what Google does with the sitemap file.

I’m still stuck at the the second stage. The generator from Google requires Python to run. Unfortunately I can’t. I don’t like to update the file mannualy so I’d like this to be automated. If anyone knows of a good solution to generate sitemaps automatically. I’d love to hear about it.

Update: It seems that Google Sitemaps will accept RSS 2.0 and Atom 0.3 feeds as well. So for now I’ve added those. And looking at my logs I see Google visit some links.

IE 7 around the corner…

Looking back at my blog I see that I post a lot about Firefox. But there is another browser around that is even more popular. Yes, Internet Explorer!

Unfortunately IE6 has been around since 2001(?) and hasn’t been updated since. Apart from the occasional Service Pack or Security Update, IE6 has basically remained the same for about 4 years.

You say: “Hold up. The sites I visit are getting more advanced! So IE6 is up-to-date.”

Yes and No. IE6 is a capable browser. It has been ever since its release in 2001(?). But… back then IE6 was just a newbie. The majority of the browsing public was using IE4. And every webdeveloper/-designer can tell you that although the technology was there, ‘we’ had to consider making our pages visible in IE4, and God-Forbid NS4. So there was no way we could use all the nice ‘cool’ features of IE6.

Now that no-one is using IE4 or NS4 anymore (If you do, consider upgrading! Please!) we developers are using more & more sophisticated techniques. Like CSS, XHTML and/or XMLHTTPRequest. The latter was originally conceived in IE4’s RDS, but back then no-one used it. Nowadays Google’s GMail revolves around it. But I digress.

Back to the story. Seemingly to Firefox’s success the developers at Microsoft woke up. Back in january the development team was brought to life again. And they promised a beta version would be available mid-2005. (It’s june already.) I’m not trying to sound negative. But having Firefox as default browser for over half a year I’m anxious to see what comes from Redmond. I see they promise tabs, maybe RSS, …

BUT it will all be ONLY available for people running on Windows XP Service Pack 2! Way to go Microsoft. No longer available for Mac, Windows 2000, Windows 98SE, Windows ME. I personally think that’s not a good strategy. But that’s me.

To do: Upgrade family to Servicepack 2…

Pingback/Trackback testing tool

A person I know, that will remain anonymous, has problems receiving trackbacks. So looking around Google I found this site: Red Alt – Ping-o-Mation

What it basically does is:

This tool checks to see if your blog has recently pinged Ping-o-Matic, or has sent a trackback to RedAlt.

So what do I have to do? Simple:

First, test to see if outgoing trackbacks and pingbacks from your site to other sites work. To do this, create a new post on your blog. In that post, create a link to this URL: http://redalt.com/ping

So to make sure I place a link to http://redalt.com/ping that probably shows nothing, but makes sure a ‘ping’ is sent.

Furthermore:

In the Trackback field of your post editor, add the RedAlt Trackback URL: http://redalt.com/ping

Done. So here’s the post and hopefully my outgoing pings/trackbacks have worked. To see I need to go to the site and enter my URL.

Update: Check! My blog can send pings & trackbacks. πŸ™‚ Now some more investigating…

Please ignore.

Viewing WAP sites with Firefox

Screenshot CitiWiz WAP site.In a follow up to my previous post about RSS2WAP I got curious. Is there a Firefox extension available that would enable me to view WAP sites? Well, yes there is!

The wmlbrowser extension makes Firefox a fully-fledged WAP-browser. (See screenshot of the CitiWiz WAP site to the right)

Although every mobile device will present the content visually different, this is a nice interpretation of what you can expect. Further pro’s in no particular order are:

  • Cut development time by serving up pages locally instead of uploading every change to your WAP site.
  • Develop in your favorite browser. πŸ˜‰
  • Browse your site using a mouse instead of a quirky phone-keyboard.
  • No telco costs.
  • No slow connection.
  • No need to install a, buggy, third-party WAP-browser.
  • Browse *any* WAP-site there is. Ringtone anyone?

You can get the extension from Mozilla Update.

RSS2Wap: Turn your feeds into WML.

Over at www.fredscapes.nl Fred is plea-ing that webloggers should care more about mobile devices (Dutch only).
Although the number of mobile devices is rising and the technology for delivering content to those devices has been around for years, I still haven’t gotten any experience developing for mobile. Sure, my phone contains a WAP-browser. But the resolution of the screen, connection speed and, more importantly, the absurd pricing of mobile surfing have kept me from doing anything serious with WML.
But I’ll take it into account Fred! πŸ˜‰

RSS2WAP icon Fred does have an interesting tip: RSS2WAP. This is a service that can take your feed and transform it into a WML-page. No messing around. Just take the URL of your feed and voila, your mobile visitors (if any) can see the your latest content on their phone or PDA.

For those interested: See my WAP-enabled feed here! (Not visible in IE and Firefox)

XTech 2005 Conference

This week, from 24 till 27 of may, the XTech 2005 Conference is held in the Amsterdam RAI. So what is it about?

” XTech 2005 is the premier European conference for developers and managers working with XML and Web technologies, bringing together the worlds of web development, open source, semantic web and open standards. This year’s tracks include:

* Core Technologies
* Applications
* Browser Technology
* Open Data

Formerly known as the XML Europe conference, XTech has widened its scope to incorporate neighboring technologies from the web and business. As the use of XML broadens out beyond traditional core topics, we want to reflect that in the conference. As well as XML, XTech 2005 will cover web development, weblogging, search, the semantic web and more. “

Although I normally work with XML on a sideline (RSS and hacking XSLT), it sounds interesting.

Also interesting to see is that a lot of attendees are bloggers. All the updates can be seen at Planet XTech – Aggregated coverage from XTech 2005. They even have a wiki.
Nowadays its becoming even more common to have an online live coverage of events.

Favorite browser?

Yesterday I furled a CNET article which declared Mozilla Firefox victorious. Ok, ok, firefox won from contenders like IE, Opera & Netscape (8). All of which I didn’t suit me.

Here’s the real story. I’ve been using IE ever since IE3. Why? Well, I’ve won a cd-rom with IE3 along with a videotape of ‘The Net‘. Really! Well IE4 beat NS4 hands down… Ancient history.
Nowadays I’m a webdesigner and somewhat of a webdeveloper and I could use some no-name, obscure, backwards browser. But then I would be cutting myself in my fingers wouldn’t I? Who needs CSS anyway…

As a webdesigner you have to follow the flock. And if the herd is using IE as their preferred browser, you have to design accordingly. I would be happy to design for Konqueror if 90% of the population had installed it. But it’s IE. So? No problem. That’s what they are using, that’s what i’ll design/develop for.

Well a few months ago I did something bold. I had phoenix/firebird or what it was called back then. Nevermind, I had this option in the ‘Tools’ > ‘Options…’ > ‘General’ section with a checkbox to make Firefox my default browser. So I clicked it. Just to see if my Outlook would open links in Firefox instead of IE. It did. Having grown to IE I turned back to it to make IE my default browser again, who wants a beta version of a browser as their default? But… someone please, NOT, show me where the option is hidden… I couldn’t find the damn checkbox to make IE default again. πŸ™

Having being stuck with Firefox wasn’t that bad. πŸ™‚ I found that when there’s a javascript error, Firefox could show me the EXACT line of code that was bad. In IE times it was just guess and trackback. How sweet the alert(“over here”); was. πŸ˜‰ It showed me what kind of HTML I was missing, or at least put in the wrong place (HTMLTidy). Where that &*(#&*$-div went, or didn’t went. What Google & Co could make of my pages. Well as a developer, I’m happy.

I’ll think I make a series of the goodness that came with firefox. But later…