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James Rutherford

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Category: tech

We returned to Newcastle University’s Culture Lab for June’s event, which had a ‘freelancing’ theme.

The talks explored how to shape a CV, tools to help freelance workflow and possible methods for passive, secondary income.

Paul Easton, on Journalists

Before the scheduled speakers, Paul Easton gave a short talk to encourage freelancers to engage with offline media journalists.

Journalists are always on the lookout for good stories, particularly if you can provide a radical opinion, local or topical item. If you can offer exclusivity, then they’ll be even keener!

If you’re writing a press release, keep it punchy and don’t swamp it in adjectives- that’ll be easier for a journalist to use.

You should try to supply a good, relevant and high-quality photograph – these can carry a story and seriously increase your article size.

Most journalists are very approachable, so don’t feel intimidated.

When questioned, Paul suggested steering clear of advertorial- it’s often very obvious and a lack of authenticity won’t do you any favours.

General Admin

Paul mentioned that offices were available at Hoults Yard. He gave an example outlay of £300/month.

Those interested in a Ruby User Group should get in contact with Lee Irving (@magpieuk)

Other Talks

Detailed write-ups of the other talks will appear here over the next couple of days.

Further References

Phil Sherry has published a clear and concise report.

I’ve just updated this site from WordPress 2.9.2 to the brand new stable release of WordPress 3.0.

The upgrade process was very simple, and everything appears to have gone smoothly… brilliant!

Dom encouraged a simple approach to SEO. His points included:

  • Pick your niche: Look at what people are searching for in your market
  • Basic structure: Get decent URLs, title and heading tags
  • Content: Produce something worthwhile
  • Be realistic: High search placements are slow to gain and easy to lose
  • Remove as much duplicated content as possible
  • Judge your sources: Don’t read any SEO blogs!
  • If you’re outsourcing updates (as with any other outsourcing), check everything
  • Don’t do everything at once: Test the impact and improve incrementally
  • Be savvy: Fact check any lines you may be being fed by an SEO agency

Areas relevant to Google for you to look at now or in the near future:

  • Google product search
  • Google local
  • Universal Search (blogs, tweets, video, etc)
  • Microformats

Dom presented a few Twitter anecdotes in his unique style, which illustrated:

  • The importance of context – information which you may not be communicating
  • That without context, meaning may warp or amplify
  • Anyone may be listening (e.g. potential future employers)
  • Strangers may go to great lengths to pull a prank (well, Dom and Tim may, at least)
  • People will interact and respond in unpredictable ways

References: Dominic Hodgson@thehodge

Related: BBC News – Be careful what you tweet

Andrew introduced a free SEO analytics tool released by Microsoft.

The tool is distributed via the Microsoft Web Platform and runs on Vista and Windows 7. [The SEO Toolkit is independent of other components- no IIS server install is required].

The tool parses as a search engine would, so can be used to examine sites built with any underlying platform (e.g. PHP, JSP, ASP, flat HTML, etc..) and will highlight a range of potential problems. It will analyse both locally hosted and publicly-released sites, so is useful for both development and audit.

It has three main features – site analysis, robots editor and sitemap editor.

It includes a powerful query engine and is extensible (in VB.NET or C#).

A very useful talk for me- this is a tool I’ve not encountered, but I could see it fitting very appropriately into my web development workflow.

Slides and talk are now up on the SuperMondays blog.

References: Andrew Westgarth@apwestgarthCarlosAg blog

Tim isolated Google as the only worthwhile ‘optimisation’ target, and introduced some common fallacies. His notable points were:

  • Google does not crawl meta data
  • Keyword density isn’t important. Mentioning a term once on a page should be adequate
  • Content is not rated by semantic relevancy
  • Buying links is officially frowned-upon, though realistically, links are very commonly ‘bought’ in one way or another- even from Google themselves
  • Markup structures are important, but not as important as most SEOs say
  • Google does analyse page structure to discount footers, advertising blocks, etc. (see ‘page segmentation analysis’).
  • SEO advice is predominantly [erm...] cobblers.

Both Tim and Dominic (speaking later) recommend SEO Dojo as a (rare) worthwhile source for SEO information.

Tim accepted a few questions, outlining how you might become relisted if Google have penalised you [with a 'reconsideration request']; how problematic penalisation can be [usually 'not very']; some potential hostile SEO tactics and how you might try to recover from them [perhaps employing a 'Reputation Management Consultant', though Tim's general feeling on those in this role is less than glowing...]

References: Tim Nash@tnash

A few forthcoming events were announced at SuperSEO (SuperMondays)…

10th June – Thursday Fizz

Business speaker and former ‘Dragon’ Rachel Elnaugh gives a morning talk, then an afternoon workshop.

The Hub’s 1st Birthday Bash runs throughout the evening at the Baltic.

References: Thursday Fizz

24th June – GDS Bitesize Workshops

Business workshops for the North-East Digital sector.

References: Gateshead Digital Summer

24th June – Summer Net-Together

Codeworks Connect / Think and a Drink annual barbecue and social event.

References: Summer Net-Together 2010

15-16th July – Webdurance

David King introduced the Webdurance ‘charity hack’ event, bringing together 36 web developers to build/expand websites for 6 charities over the course of 24 hours.

It should be a lot of fun and very wholesome. Volunteers are still encouraged to apply.

References: Webdurance websiteWebdurance Twitter

Last night’s SuperMondays SEO event (which – breaking format – really ought to have been entitled ‘SEOperMondays’) convened at the Beehive, Newcastle University and was, yet again, well attended.

The format mirrored previous events; registration/refreshments, followed by general announcements for us North-East geeks, a number of talks and then away to the pub… which we packed out (that’s what you call a good conversion rate!)

To keep my notes digestable and focussed, I’ll be splitting them over five (!) posts- I’m cleaving off some ‘Diary Dates’ and a further three for the talks themselves.

The general notices included:

NorthernNet – Northern Knowledge

High-speed communications network connecting the North, launching a business directory (Northern Knowledge).

References: NorthernNet

Inkspot Science

Collaborative data sharing and analysis/workshop tools provided as a cloud service. An earlier SuperMondays talk by Paul Watson outlined some of the technology.

References: Inkspot Science

…and Way Back When

Long-time SuperMondays attendees may remember Craig Rothwell’s talk on the OpenPandora handheld back in January 2009. It’s taken a long time, but the good news is that the first consumer units have just started shipping- and it looks like an excellent little machine, particularly for the games player on the move! Better still, it’s a user focussed project, and units are being assembled here in Newcastle.

References: OpenPandora

One thing I missed out on while using Google’s hosted version of JQueryUI was that some widgets and functionality require your page to link in a theme.

I was scratching my head as to why some UI functionality seemed to be working (e.g. draggable), but other functionality was not (e.g. resizable, tabs); and linking in a theme was the answer.

It doesn’t seem to be well documented, but Google also host a number of default themes, which may be included thus:

<link rel=“stylesheet” href=“http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jqueryui/{version}/themes/{theme_id}/jquery-ui.css” type=“text/css” />

So, the Cupertino theme can be linked in to version 1.8.1 thus:

<link rel=“stylesheet” href=“http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jqueryui/1.8.1/themes/cupertino/jquery-ui.css” type=“text/css” />

More information here (NB. links use an old version of JQueryUI).

http://www.stemkoski.com/jquery-ui-1-7-2-themes-list-at-google-code/

A great optimisation for many modern websites is to farm out the hosting of linked items, such that the client browser can receive your base page code (HTML) and then pull media in from a number of directions.

Google host a number of JavaScript APIs which may be linked freely be anyone who signs up for a free Google API key.

Adding a library this way:

  • Reduces the load on your server- one less thing to push.
  • May well be quicker for the client- Google have a fast worldwide architecture, and the library may also be cached from a visit to another site.
  • Means less code for you to manage (and FTP up).

On the downside:

  • You’re reliant on an additional system- which adds an extra potential failure point to the process (this may make a page more likely to part-load than completely fail – which may or may not be advantageous).

Google currently host multiple versions of JQuery, JQueryUI,Prototype, Script.aculo.us, MooTools, Dojo, SWFObject, YUI library, Ext Core, and their own native APIs.

This month’s SuperMondays event pulled the magnifying glass over the first intake of tech start-up accelerator, The Difference Engine.

Jon Bradford opened with an introduction to the scheme- a model which runs most successfully in the US (they have ten placements to every one in Europe).

The Difference Engine provides seed fund and mentoring for promising tech projects, in exchange for an 8% business stake. £20k funding is provided (from a mixture of public and private investment) and the mentoring runs over a 13 week period at Middlesbrough’s Boho One.

Introductions, contacts and experience are brought to the fledgling teams, and after the incubation period, they are given the opportunity to demo to venture capitalists in the North and London.

This first round had 70 applicants across Europe, of which 10 were selected (and one was lost before the 2nd March start).

He was followed by representatives from five of the nine groups:

(Interested parties should be able to glean information about their projects from Twitter feeds)

The remaining four start-ups are headed by:

Further info: