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Letter From England Number 12

May 2011

The months are flying past. I just wish things would slow down a bit, as I have so much I want to get done and the way things stand I will have to live to about 200 to get through my current to-do list. The trouble being, even if I manage that feat, by then the list would have doubled meaning another 400 years needed leading to eternity. But, back to this month's letter here we go ...

Foot To The Floor Heading For Speed Record

Last month I wrote about the major Google update which has been named 'Panda' and how it has dramatically increased visitors to my sites.

A Man In An Old Racing Car

It is only rather recently I have turned my attention to SEO ('search engine optimization'). For those of you who don't know this is a rather murky world, the aim of which is to get your site(s) appearing as often as possible and as high as possible in search results. There are many ideas and techniques used, a large percentage of which are dubious.

To be honest, I deliberately steered clear of the whole field as it is littered with fraudsters and shysters. The truth of the matter is, if people outside of Google, or the other major search engines (are there any?) knew exactly how the rankings worked it would mean:

So saying, Google gives out little clues, hints and snippets. Recently Google has confirmed that the speed a page loads has an effect on how your page is scored. They are not saying it is a major factor, but a factor. So, as this was a definite statement I have been putting go faster stripes on all my sites. One tweak, I will talk about later.

Spotlight - Samuel Pepys Today

We all have our little quirks and some times they surprise even ourselves. One of mine is the love of Samuel Pepys' diaries.

I knew about his diaries and after realizing that an older transcription was in the public domain I decided to use them in my failed eManac project. But, when I was processing 9 and a half years worth of text I started reading it and well .. I was hooked and wanted to make a site.

Screen Shot For Samuel Pepys Today

After visiting The Diary of Samuel Pepys, run by Paul Gyford which is undoubtedly the best Samuel Pepys resource on the internet, I decided I could add nothing new. But a couple of years later, it was still niggling away and I wanted my own 'Sam' site so here it is. This is just phase one, the diaries themselves. The next stage will be to add some articles, but this will very much be a background activity and really just written to please myself.

Lies, Damn Lies And Supermarkets

Planning permission is being sought for a new out of town supermarket. I guess it is a hypermarket, I never get terms right. Whatever, it will be a big shop with food and everything else in it and the company are claiming they will create 300 new local jobs.

That all sounds good, but surely it will just mean jobs being lost elsewhere. There is also more to the figures as I learnt recently.

A few months back, a supermarket opened around the corner from me. The big message was that it would create 80 new full and part-time posts. In one of my madder moments and promoted by a big stick I applied. What a bizarre and enlightening experience. I had a form to complete, which asked me nothing about experience or qualifications. Just name, address and a psychometric test.

An Original Supermarket

surprisingly, I was given an interview, during which I was never asked about experience, but instead had to field rather peculiar questions such as: when was I last disappointed and when was the last time I helped someone. So I made up some bull about helping blind people across roads and other rubbish answers that the questions warranted.

Suffice to say the rejection letter was one of the nicest items that ever dropped through my door. The point of this story is I was told there were no and I repeat NO full time jobs being offered. They were all part time, which I guess means less employee rights, such as pensions, sickness and holiday. When you visit the now opened shop it seems to be staffed by students and what are more than likely second wage earners. I also guess that there will be a large percentage of staff who claim housing and other state benefits. So really they have not made a big difference to local employment.

Supermarket Aisle

Let's put it this way. I open a shop and proudly announce I am creating 100 new jobs. I employ 100 people, each working an hour a week. I have made no real difference to their lives or the economy. But, lets say instead I create 3 jobs and take on 3 full time employees. 3 rather than 100 doesn't sound so good, but in fact it has made a lot more difference to people lives and also state benefits.

All About Sprites

I have been writing websites for .. um... let's just say quite a few years now. To give you some idea, when I started big bold purple text, preferably flashing, combined with animated gifs of fire and skulls were the height of chic.

I worked in computing even longer than that. I remember a dark time, before the World Wide Web when mainframes ruled the world. But, the great thing is that there is always and I mean ALWAYS something knew to learn. This happens to me on a daily basis.

During my quest for speed. I kept bumping across a term 'CSS sprites'. This is a technique that to be honest I should have known about long ago, but that is one of the disadvantages of living in a 'bubble', as I currently do.

Space Invader Characters

The term derives from the old computer games, where a largish image would be loaded. It comprised of lots of different smaller images. Then a little letter box would be opened and moved to various places of the large image, creating animation.

Well, this and all my other sites are now sprited to the max. It means that just one medium sized image is downloaded, rather than lots of requests for smaller ones and dramatically cuts down the page load time.

Goodbye

I think that about wraps it all up. I wonder what thrills and spills the month ahead will hold.

I hope you have a good month!