Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Heading Structure and Google = Irony

I've been sitting here researching accepted practice for structuring your page headings.  What prompted this review is an SEO (Search Engine optimization) report for a clients site which suggests we remove the H1 element from the site title on all pages below the index page to improve page ranking.  There seems to be a lot of conflicting views on this and if you would like to get a feel for them and the issues involved I'd recommend reading "The Hard Facts About Heading Structure"; the comments are particularly useful. 

As a consequence of reading this (and many other articles) I found myself looking at all the article pages to see how they were actually structured.  For example, you'll notice that the page containing that article uses a H1 for the Sitepoint title and for the article heading.  Which seems a fair way to go to me.

Of course, all of this research is about SEO and all SEO is about getting a better page ranking in Google.  Consequently I decided to see how Google structures it's search pages and, you know, I got a bit of a shock.  Google.com uses no headings at all either on the entry page or the results page.  The very pages everyone is desperate to be mentioned on.  The very page that everyone is sweating over their heading structure for is the page that has none at all.  If Google was dependent on getting indexed based on semantic structure it would probably have a very poor page rank.  Does that seem ironic to you?
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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Flash CS3 with MacbookPro = Very Slow

A few weeks ago my old Windows laptop suddenly went into a blue screen nose dive from which it never recovered.  Given the choice between a Vista based laptop and a Macbook Pro the choice seemed obvious.  But during the week I finally had a chance to return to a Flash  game I'm developing.  There were a few missing font issues due to differences between Mac and PC standard fonts but that didn't take long to sort out.  So finally I'm testing my physcis based game for the first time on my Mac and it runs like a dog.  It ran real smooth on my crappy old PC and it runs real smooth when I run it in the browser.  So why does it look like a slow motion replay when run from Flash CS3 on the Macbook Pro.  I had installed all available CS3 updates the day before this.  So I felt confident I had the latest version and any bug fixes would be applied.  Naturally I started searching the forums and yes there were many posts on performance issues for Flash CS3 on the Macbook Pro.  Mostly I found complaints but I did come across one totally insane idea that the crazed writer claimed worked.  To remove all performamce issues they open and close the Flash help panel and problem solved.  I was desperate and so I took the road less travelled and ,yes, my problem was solved.  Opening and closing the help panel in Flash CS3 removes all performance issues on the Macbook Pro.  Why and how the hell they came across this solution I have no idea.  It's like blue vein cheese.  How did anyone ever realise blue vein cheese should be eaten and not thrown away.  Oh, look the cheese is off!  No, no, no it's fine here try a piece.  My Flash app runs like a dog here let me just try opening the help panel.  How ever they did it I thank them.
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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Congratulations Flock

I've been using the Flock browser for a while now and I love it.  There have been a few occasions when I've found myself back in Firefox and missing those Flock extras.  In fact I'd become so used to Flock that I'd forgotten other browsers don't have a "People" sidebar; how do you people manage.  Anyway enough of that.  You don't need to take my word for Flock's greatness because Flock won a Webby in the Social Networking category.  They were competing against such web 2.0 luminaries as Facebook, Ning and Bebo  (Facebook took out the Peoples Choice award).  So congratulations to Flock.  Your hard work has paid off.

Dreamweaver Drupal API extension

For the last few months we've been using the Eclipse PDT plugin for PHP development.  During this time most the PHP work we've been doing is around the Drupal CMS.  Due to the number and range of Modules a typical Drupal site uses PDT has proved a real time saver.  I know PDT isn't for everyone...  Well if you are a Drupal developer and you use Dreamweaver you may be interested in the Drupal API extension that is being developed by xtnd.us.  The extension provides Drupal API code hints (and snippets?).  It is currently in beta but they plan to have a full release later in the year.  They also have a jQuery API extension that looks very useful.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

OzFlex May Meeting

The Melbourne based OzFlex User Group will be holding their next meeting on Monday 12th May at the Loop Bar. The night will feature a Adobe AIR presentation and they will be giving away a full copy of Flex Builder 3 Professional. Doors open at 6.30 for a 7 PM start. You can find out more and register at OzFlex.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Amazon Founder Invests In Kongregate

Yesterday TechCrunch reported that Amazon founder Jeff Bezo has invested $3 million into the casual gaming site Kongregate. From the article it seems that Kongregate didn't particularly need the money but didn't mind taking it either.

This news gives me great hope for the future of casual gaming. At the moment there are a lot of gaming portals. Many with their own API's and revenue sharing systems. This is bad news for developers. The more your game is played the more revenue you create. At the moment this means publishing your game in as many systems as possible and this may mean developing an understanding of a number of these API's. Companies like MochiAds simplify this to a degree. But you still want to optimise for sites like Kongregate (which don't display MochiAds). What casual gaming needs right now is the emergence of a small number of dominant gaming sites. This will simplify the number of API's developers need to learn, establish a common revenue sharing model and provide casual gamers a shared destination. The success of Kongregate, evident in Bezo's investment, is a clear step in this direction and consequently a good thing for developers and players.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Open Screen Project

Adobe (along with a long list of industry partners) have just announced the Open Screen Project. The aim of the project is to have a single consistent medium for content delivery across the full gamut of devices (computers, mobiles, TV ...). To facilitate this Adobe have announce four major initiatives:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast™ protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees – making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

The list of industry partners is fairly impressive and includes : ARM, Chunghwa Telecom, Cisco, Intel, LG Electronics Inc., Marvell, Motorola, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Verizon Wireless, and leading content providers, including BBC, MTV Networks, and NBC Universal.

You can find out more at the Open Screen Project Web site. This strikes me as a very exciting initiative and I look forward to seeing what news and commentary emerges in the next week.

First AIR Application : hiding the FlexChrome

Yesterday I started work on my first real AIR widget.  I've had a play around with it in the past and enjoyed what I've seen.   But it's not until you have a real project that you start  to really appreciate a new technology.  The widget  I'm building is going to need multiple windows so I spent a fair bit of time getting used to the AIR Window mechanism.  What I learned is that your life is going to be a lot easier if you can use mx:Window to create new AIR windows rather than the NativeWindow.  What I also learned is that getting rid of the Chrome in mx:Window is not as obvious as it first seemed.  The Chrome refers to the framing of the window  (i.e making it look like all the other windows the OS  creates).  It's easy enough to set the SystemChrome to none.  But that just means the window will use the FlexChrome (i.e has the features of the NativeWindow but with styles defined by Adobe).  The FlexChrome is nice but it's not suitable for our design so it has to go.  The problem is that it's not that obvious how you make the FlexChrome go away.  I finally found the answer among the mx:Window styles.  You need to set showFlexChrome to false.  The best way to do this is through CSS.  All of our windows will need custom chrome so I created a style for Window (see below) and the job was done.  It's one of those things that seems obvious now I know but that took me way to long to find.

The Kongregate Sidebar

I'm a big fan of Kongregate.  I don't play everyday.  But if I'm in the mood for "casual gaming" then Kongregate is my home.  So I was very excited last night to discover the Kongregate Firefox Sidebar.  Kongregate has this great system of badges.  When you achieve a certain level of play in a game that has a badge you get the badge.  Badges give you points.  Points increase your level.  More than that badges point to games that someone thinks is worthwhile.  Often it's the games that have won the weekly prize that get badges.  For developers badges mean more game views and that means more revenue.  So everyone on Kongregate is interested in badges.  Therefore it's a wonderful thing that the Kongregate sidebar shows you all the badges, shows which ones you are missing and links to the games.  It also shows you the current challenge, your points and if you have any friends online.  Just another reason why Kong is King!

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