Tim's Blog

30 September

Nodisp works
UPDATE: Whoah there horsey! I was too quick on the gun in generalising that all search engines don't spider metatags. All of them do. But they give greater priority to the text and use the occurance of similar terms in the metatags to give pages higher rankings. So keep those metatags updated!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an initiative to enhance the search engine targeting of websites by hiding text using the display=none cascading stylesheet tag. I'm now writing to say that my theory works. If you do a search on tim yang, you'll see that the first line contains the hidden text.

My mistake was that I put the hidden text in the middle of my website, so now it's mixed with some of the blog text. I should have put the hidden text at the top of the site -- and I have addressed that oversight so in a few weeks if you do the search again, it will display correctly. I have also refined the wording because it was too long. Google more or less displays 170 characters of the text that includes the search terms. So now it reads
<span style="display: none;">Tim Yang is a copywriter, account planner and web developer living in Malaysia. Brand differentiation and consumer insights rule his work. Tel: +60123509130.</span> (168 characters.)

(It may seem wasteful, but I still prefer to use prose as opposed to keywords simply because a) it makes more sense when you read it. b) Google displays the hidden text as prose.)

So now if you were to do a search for a copywriter web developer in malaysia, the first site is mine. If you do a search for copywriter in Malaysia, mine is the 22nd, but my resume is first. As soon as Google re-spiders my site, any search for those terms will also display my phone number. Great advertising technique, huh?
11:23:38 AM - timyang - No comments

29 September

The reason
Being the romantic that I am, going after Captain Scott Speicher, the last known MIA from the Gulf War, would be the reason that would allow me to support action in Iraq. And I think it's going to be the key to opening up the fence-sitting opinion in the US too.

Speicher went down in his F-18 Hornet in 1991 during a night-time dogfight with an Iraqi MIG and was thought to be dead for four years. The US tried diplomacy to get information on Speicher over the last half decade without much success. Since 1995 Iraq has denied that Speicher was alive. They provided some human remains which they claimed was Speicher's but was found not to be. They hold up that Speicher's wingman reported his plane exploded when it hit the ground and no ejection was seen. General Shalikashvili, the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs and currently the chairman of the committee of retired generals that's telling Bush to go slow, was so convinced of Speicher's death that he refused to allow the recovery of 'old bones' at the further risk to military personel.

What's keeping his case open is a bit flimsy. There has been at least one eye-witness (of questionable quality) and his flight suit was discovered at the crash site, knifed-open and with no trace of a body. But it was enough for Clinton to push the paperwork through to change Speicher from KIA to MIA in early 2001.

Despite the new status, in March this year while the Iraq war machine was already in full momentum, Rumsfeld and the Pentagon cautiously denied there was credible evidence that Speicher was alive, quoting that it was all hearsay. Now they're changing their minds without new evidence. With domestic war-opinion polls hedging on the large middle ground, Bush has decided to finally play the Speicher trump card. The current media attention on Speicher, along with Speicher's promotion-in-absentia to captain within the last couple of months, shows Bush is trying to set up Speicher as a potential pawn in domestic war negotiations. Then again saving a hero captain plays just as well in the media as saving a lowly lieutenant.

Do I believe Speicher is still alive? Probably not. Even if they took good care of him, how long can a white American eat Iraqi food and not attempt suicide?
11:45:04 AM - timyang - No comments

26 September

Adventures at the gym
It was one of those days when, by sheer coincidence, everyone said to themselves, "Who's that fat toad staring at me in the mirror?" and came to the gym. It was so packed, the chatting and the grunting was actually louder than the music which can usually be picked up by ground-controllers at the airport. Through their earmuffs.

So I found myself having to slip sets of chess presses inbetween other people using the equipment. I was in such a hurry, I didn't notice that the guy who used the barbell before me had left it in the lowest rack -- much closer to the bench. In short, this is what happened:

Me: [Lies back quickly on barbell bench] WHAAAAAANNNNGGGGGG!!!
Me: [Gets up and waves madly] It's ok, everyone. No concussion here...

Actually, it was more embarrassing than that.

Me: [Rubs head] Ow!

Yeah, thanks guys. I'll go fuck off now.
11:04:49 PM - timyang - No comments

25 September

Ronald McDongnald

Ah, don't tell me you've never thought about doing it. If you've got a pix like this, send it to me! (The original came from a Fark photoshop contest. I have no idea who's the fluffer.)
07:55:21 PM - timyang - No comments

24 September

New project
I'm working on a new website design for a local film club. It's a proposal so they might not buy it at all. But the point behind working on it is that I have an impetus to study javascript. It's temporary directory is here, pending a domain and host purchase.

The website has to have a special horizontal mouse-over scroller at the bottom. All the available scrollers are vertical ones. I'm reading my new javascript manual as quickly as my little brain can absorb so I can learn enough to modify a vertical scroller or write a completely new one.

It's still work in progress as far as the graphics and colours are concerned. And I haven't loaded in the PHP scripts yet. So hold onto your horses.
04:55:16 PM - timyang - No comments

21 September

Is this a funeral or a Mac expo?
I went to the World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur this morning because I was told there was a Mac expo there and I have never been to one. Granted there aren't a lot of Mac shops in Malaysia, but they don't often get to open in the most central locations so I thought this was a great opportunity for them to highlight themselves.

...highlight themselves... highlight themselves... highlight themselves...

Along with the echo, the 20 yard wide corridors and the, oh, dozen or so booths, the exhibition managers did a smack-up job of filling the stadium-sized hall. The ones that managed to squuueeeeze themselves into the roster seemed to think that Mac users were made of money. Canvas laptop bags you could buy at department stores for RM50 (USD$15) were selling at RM150 (USD$47). One exhibitor was trying to palm off 10 year old serial mouses for RM160 (USD$50).

More tellingly were the exhibitors that were missing. There were virtually no software sellers. Gamers.com.my, the main and only distributor of Mac games, did not have a booth. Neither did the local Mac Users Group. There were no Mac t-shirt or poster sellers. None of the cut-price Imbi Plaza retailers that sell USB accessories were on hand. What kind of fucked up Mac expo is this?

I was already in a lousy mood by the time I got into an argument with an exhibitor from the Lim Kok Wing Institute that insists on positioning it's multimedia design course as prepatory for students who want a career as web site designers. Having worked with graduates of the school, I wasn't convinced that their course was on par. I asked him if the course included HTML and CSS. Yes, he replied. I repeated my question, Are you sure it has commercial style sheets. As soon as he said yes, I turned my heels on him.

I'm never going to any more expos in Malaysia again.
08:50:25 PM - timyang - No comments

17 September

Bad coffee
I haven't slept in 48 hours. I tried sleeping, but nothing. It was that bad (or was it good?) iced coffee I had at Coffee Bean the day before yesterday. I chug those down without side effects usually but this is a nightmare. I spent part of the time working on a new website design for a film club. Even the prospect of tediously doing loads of rollover graphic buttons couldn't drowse me. I even tried reading my 1965 copy of Catcher in the Rye, the most boring book in the world if there ever was one, to no avail. Who would have thought that J. D. Salinger invented the 'kid-blog' four decades before the term was coined?
10:25:14 PM - timyang - No comments

A few years ago, I had the brilliant idea of creating a meta aggregator website of products like the now-defunct Bidder's Edge and Auctionwatch.com. But it would focus on an under-served niche market that produced several millions of dollars of online sales from millions of products a year (and I had backing articles to prove it). Like all aggregators, my site would save the buyers of these products a great deal of their time and effort which they currently waste traversing numerous websites to locate their desired purchases. The revenue would come partly from advertising and mainly from subscriptions to the service after a short trial period. My thoroughly-argued 100-page business plan still resides on my hard disk.

On some legal advice I had to dump the idea. The problem was it required deep-linking (linking to specific documents within a website) and there were some high-profile court cases at the time that disproved of that. One of those cases, brought about by Ebay against Bidder's Edge, was won by the plaintiff for a frightening fee. If I could not deep-link to Ebay, the world's largest clearinghouse, my consumers would lose a chunk of motivation to visit my meta aggregator. So the idea was nixed.

A recent article in New Architect reviews deep-linking and suggests that the pursuit of deep-linkers is not consistent. After all, search engines rely on deep-linking and deep-linking does drive traffic to the parent sites. More importantly, it suggests the key issue against deep-linking is not proprietary information (which was what concerned my legal advisors the most) but server load.

So perhaps my idea is not dead after all. I would simply have to work out an agreement with Ebay to allow my robots to spider their site at an acceptably low-rate of update. My aggregator needn't be so time-sensitive since quantity is its competitive advantage (well at least initially). Now if only I could sell my idea to an app developer...
10:58:20 AM - timyang - No comments

14 September

Meta manipulation
The unusually-popular Blogchalking meme has good intentions in that it helps people, using keywords on search engines, find bloggers that they want to read. It also does it quite happily in a non-interfering way by putting the personal info in metatags. But the idea is seriously flawed.

First of all search engines like Google don't take their cues from metatags. Rather, they spider the textual content on the page itself. If you do a search for the details in your blogchalking info, I guarantee you won't find your blog. (This is not to say that defining metatags is useless. Google, for instance, still displays your description when it lists your site. However, keywords and author are pretty much bunk.)

That comes to my second point. The type of info called for in blogchalking as it stands is irrelevant. No one would search for someone aged 30-40 living in Ontario. They're more likely to go to social databases for that. Such a search also throws up inaccurate sites. It's more likely to locate lottery numbers or other such nonsense.

However, cascading stylesheets offers us a solution. You can define a tag with .nodisp {display: none} and contain some more pertinent information about yourself such as what you do and where you work, like so:

<span class="nodisp">Tim Yang is a freelance copywriter and web development consultant living in Malaysia.</span>

.nodisp allows me to write anything -- complete essays even! -- and it won't show up visibly, but it LOADS in the page as textual content. This is somewhat the same effect as if you were to define the text colour the same as the background colour. That was the first thing I tried. However I found Internet Explorer has forseen this eventuality and refuses to comply with such a command and prints all contained text therein in the default colour.

In display: none we have the solution. And it's also Netscape 4 compliant. Hurrah!
12:22:22 PM - timyang - No comments

13 September

Malaysia Business Breakfast Club
That was a really good conference this morning at the Hilton in Petaling Jaya. It was run by the Malaysia Business Breakfast Club which offers the opportunity to network with members and guests strictly for business, not social. Met lots of interesting people, collected their name cards and got one tentative offer to do a website for a TV production company that puts their portfolio on the internet. Ben, the owner, refered to it as streaming media because he read it in an article. But I think he means inline video display for apps like Quicktime or Windows Media Player. If I can pony up the RM1,200 (USD$350) to join, I might get more work like this through MBBC.

UPDATE: This is really nuts. Me, a web designer? I tried to position myself as web strategy consultant, but the offer goes to prove that the client base doesn't want strategists. At least not off-hand. I don't do too well with Photoshop, but my coding skills are pretty darned good for Malaysia. Actually, they're goddamned good for anywhere in Asia, including Singapore. I've seen really badly-mangled and non-standard source code from all over here including the portfolio site of local web designers. Time to start using a validator, Josh. I'm going to use this opportunity to push the web strategy part and do the coding at the same time, but I'm going to sweat bullets when it comes to graphics unless I polish up my skills really fast.
12:23:48 PM - timyang - No comments

11 September

The politicians in Malaysia are curiously quiet about what the rest of the world is doing on September 11. Not even the most out-spoken dared to repeat the regular bit of tantrum over the proposed plans to attack Iraq. Despite the fact that the prime minister's office has acted on Bush's vague definition on the war on terrorism to attack and arrest Muslim-extremist sects, he has never said anything to the tragedy of the loss of life. It's not that he doesn't care. He is still beholden to Muslim votes and feels that the under-currents are not in favour of any kind of support even if it's directed toward relatives of the dead. I think he is wrong because the real tragedy this far from New York is that the sense of tragedy over 9/11 has never been raised as higher than an eye-brow.

It isn't only Malaysians at fault. There's a small remark in one of the national dailies that the US embassy is closing for the day, not as a mark of respect, but because of security concerns -- as if the ambassador himself was a co-conspirator in the silence. If anyone is marking the day, the newspapers have refused to report it.

It's just as well that they're observing it without a word, even if it's so they don't incriminate themselves.
11:27:46 PM - timyang - No comments

Power breakfast
Pepper Lim of GoPepperGo, a web development company, SMSed me just now to invite me to a 6.30am breakfast conference on Friday at a hotel along with a bunch of other people in the web development industry in Malaysia. I met Pepper a few months ago over lunch through Jeffery Seow, the ex-managing director of Ogilvy & Mather Malaysia. We compared notes on what's happening and what will happen in web development over the next few years and we were pleasantly impressed with each other's knowledge and understanding of internet behaviour and business strategies.

The conference, I expect, is Pepper's idea of a mini First Tuesday. I just ordered a bunch of name cards with my Mahathir dotorg email address. Mahathir is the prime minister of Malaysia and I'll use my ownership of the domain as evidence that web development is in danger of being stagnated because the government is obviously ignoring it and that there really is potential to grow it with the right kind of forward thinking innovators at the grass-roots level. Hopefully I don't piss off too many people at the conference with my gung-ho views of the internet and the lackadaisical attitude of web developers in Malaysia toward it.

*Slaps self*

Shaddup, Tim! Repeat after me: they're NOT idiots. They're just ignorant! IG-NO-RANT...
10:34:21 PM - timyang - No comments

My blog is accessible from China. Overthrow the government! Pledge allegiance to democracy! Buy cheap pirated movies!
11:40:15 AM - timyang - No comments

10 September

Yesterday I went to scout the Batu Caves location ahead of Mitch and Rebeca's visit. It's a bit stinky with the monkey poo and pigeon poo all around. But it's still quite worth the visit as a cultural location if I can get Shan to play tour guide for a few hours. He's performed there during the Thaipusam festival so he'll have plenty of good stories. I don't know about Rebeca, but Mitch ought to have no problem scaling the 267 steps to the Cathedral Cave because of all the biking he does.
12:24:59 PM - timyang - No comments

08 September

Tada! A print-design for a web-page.
After a bit of testing Spamerang.net is ready to go. I'd decided early on that I wanted a print-inspired layout that relies only on type-face design for elements. Too often in web-design do you see one of these. Too rare do web-designers get the opportunity to do it. And it fit the content-laiden site to a tee.

I used to make such horrible mistakes (and I spent much too long going over them) when I constructed the tables in my head instead of on paper. I drew the skeleton with a 2B, noting colspans and rowspans and absolute widths and heights so there would be no error in its mark-up. On this design, I relaxed and went with relative widths instead because I can't predict how the various browser version and machine configs will treat the text.

In these kinds of designs, the trick to avoiding confusion is to fashion and craft each section one-by-one and without relation to each other THEN put them together. If they look nothing like each other, so much the better. Such designs thrive on diversity.
10:41:23 AM - timyang - No comments

07 September

The French are crazy
They've been hitting my Spamerang.net site like nuts for the past few days thanks to some massive French word-of-mouth campaign.

I've been getting dozens of referal hits from emails on French-language version of the Yahoo, Lycos and Hotmail mailing systems as well as from French webmail services like Free.fr, iFrance.com and Voila.fr. I have no idea what they're saying. But I have some idea who the senders and receivers are. The first French referal hit came from a Yahoo group called Magistere -- a message board for "students and old students" of some communication-law school at the University of Poitiers. If I could gain membership in the group, I might have a better idea of the content of the exchanges. But the gist of the auto-reply I got from the owner of the group is it's an exclusive one. Darn.

Right now, I don't know whether it's appropriate to start thanking the Frenchies or start cursing them. So let's do both: Fuck you very much, you lovely French people! Yeah!
12:37:45 PM - timyang - No comments

I did a baaaaad thing
Being the anally-retentive bastard that I am, I added a script to the Spamerang.net page to redirect all French-language browsers to a file that says in big bold text: "Magistere visitors, email me!"

So right now some little old man in Brussels is looking at his computer and going Quel est ce Magistere? Est-ce nouvelle cologne? (Thanks to Babelfish for translating.)
11:16:18 AM - timyang - No comments

06 September

Remote publishing
If you, like me, have to work on a terminal away from your regular workstation sometimes, you'll appreciate having these urls at your disposal. Because I work on an iBook, I often have to publish and adjust my website from an internet cafe so that I can see what the site looks like on Internet Explorer Windows version. (This is why IE sucks for web designing -- the display on the Mac version varies a great deal from the Windows version.)

Transload service. This handy web ftp service allows you to transfer files from any website or ftp url directly to your host. Like all web ftp services, they're not very secure. I have to be careful and erase all the memory and cache files when I leave my remote terminal.
MyImager. It isn't Photoshop, but on any remote terminal MyImager lets me edit photos, crop photos, create Gif89s and change hues and chromes easily. It's handy in a fix. It also has a transload service that allows me to "borrow" images from anywhere on the web, edit them then upload them directly to my host.
Web ftp service. When I have to upload a new PHP script or stylesheet to my host, the transloader is useless. But this web ftp service allows me to visually upload anything. It also allows me to change the CHMOD on files and folders.
Blogger. This goes without saying. The index, archive page, spamlist, VCD and DVD lists on my blog (in fact every file that needs occasional updating) are published using Blogger so that I can update from any internet-linked computer in the world.
Qboard tagboard. With a tagboard, I can compile a list of places I surfed without bothering to log into Blogger to update. Just paste and post. I have to use a remote service because for some strange reason, I don't have any luck implementing the admin log-in script for the self-hosted tagboards.

In practice, I only use Blogger, Qboard and the web ftp service. The occasions where I find myself in need of the transloader are rare. And I'd rather go back and use Photoshop instead of MyImager for quality reasons. Still, it's good to know that if I was in desperate need (eg traveling and want to post a cropped photo), I could count on it.
06:07:42 PM - timyang - No comments

04 September

Tom Jones gets underwear, I get a spelling-bee champ.
From: none@aol.com
I have to agree with you thw
[sic] wanker who sends these @optdeals.com [sic] can get stuffed. By the looks of it the Form [sic] that your [sic] invited to complete must have a legititimate [sic] email encoded into a .cgi file. So here is what I suggest get an [sic] Form Bomber to send them 90000000 ;) Bye Bye optdeals.com

Er, what invitation? What form? What .cgi file? And what's with the fake email address on a personal message? Hey, do I look like the kind of guy who would post someone's email address on my blog? No, don't answer that.
05:55:42 PM - timyang - No comments

02 September

The spamerang.net domain is now mine. I'll be preparing a new template for it in expectation of a launch on the search engines within a week. So I'll be really quiet here for a while, sorry.

In the meantime, enjoy the earlier photoshop I did. It kills me. We'll probably be seeing the slogan (and a better comp of it) on USD$20 t-shirts from the environmentalists real soon, if not already. Saaaaay, THERE'S a business idea!
Only you can prevent forests
08:32:56 PM - timyang - No comments