The good folk at WordPress (where this blog is hosted) are offering a $30/year ‘no ads’ upgrade. Before I rush out and pay my $30, I am wondering how many of you actually see ads on this blog. Please add a comment below to let me know if you see any ads on this page. A simple “yes” or “no” will suffice. If the answer is “yes” a screenshot of the page would also be appreciated ( email it to andy [at] oryxdigital.com ).
I have now been writing successfulsoftware.net for a year. During that time there have been a high points (such as my post about bogus software awards making the front pages of Digg, Reddit and Slashdot) and low points (such as WordPress accidentally shutting the blog down). Here are a few numbers for anyone that is interested (as reported by WordPress.com):
Total Views: 311,424
Most views in a day: 56,447
Genuine comments: 856 
Spam comments: 22,050
The post on bogus software awards accounts for a whopping 178,000 views on its own – over half the total. When I wrote it I only expected to get about 200 views. In fact, I have been consistently wrong at predicting which posts would generate the most interest.
Often the commentary on a blog article is more interesting than the original post, so I am delighted by the number of genuine comments. Thank you to everyone that has contributed so far. I apologise if Akismet marked your comment as spam and I didn’t spot it. I have given up looking through the spam logs. There is just too much of it and one can only read so many spam comments about Viagra and bestiality without becoming profoundly depressed about the human condition.
I have got plenty of ideas for new articles (33 to be exact). I just wish I had more hours in the day to write…
 Including replies by me.
Floyd Price of Code Spaces has taken over the day-to-day running of microISV blog aggregator planetmicroisv.com from Baruch Even. He has already given it a fresh coat of paint. I appreciate the efforts of Baruch and Floyd to maintain this useful resource. planetmicroisv.com is well worth adding to your RSS feed if you are a microISV (or aspire to be).
This blog is (currently) hosted on wordpress.com with a redirect from my successfulsoftware.net domain. Having wordpress host this blog has a number of advantages, including:
- I don’t have to pay for bandwidth
- I don’t have to update the wordpress software
- wordpress can handle big traffic spikes
- built in spam filtering
I was generally very happy with the service, which has been free so far apart from paying a few dollars for the redirect. But when I tried to log into this blog on Wednesday, all I saw were the chilling words ‘account suspended’. The blog itself was still up, but I couldn’t log in to change anything or export it. I emailed wordpress technical support and started backing up the text of all the articles I hadn’t backed up already.
Then the images started disappearing from the blog.
Then the blog disappeared altogether, replaced by a message saying that it had been suspended for violations of terms of service.
Apparently wordpress can shutdown your blog at any time without warning, without right of appeal and without giving a reason. I was not a happy man. It is bad enough to have your blog shut down, but never to know why would be a particularly cruel and Kafkaesque punishment. I also discovered that it could possibly be a wordpress bug. I sent another email to support and Patrick McKenzie kindly posted onto a wordpress forum for me (I couldn’t even log in to do that).
I was wondering what to do if it never came back. Although I had backed up the text of the posts, all the comments would be lost.
Eventually, after about 24 hours, I got the following email from wordpress.com support (quoted in full):
Sorry about that. Your high quality blog is restored,
The blog reappeared and my login was restored. Phew.
Following this incident I have considered moving the blog off the wordpress servers. I don’t like the idea that wordpress can suspend a blog without giving a reason. I am also not wild about the fact that wordpress can run ads on my blog if they want, which I only found out about recently. I realise they have to make a living, but I would rather pay them a small fee than have ads.
But wherever I move the blog there is a danger some third party is going to let me down. Even if I hosted it myself my Internet connection or server hardware could fail. At the very least I am going to regularly export the full blog in XML format (Manage>Export from the wordpress control panel), so that I can resurrect it elsewhere if needed. As usual it takes a disaster, or near disaster, to make us think about back-ups. Are you backing up all your important data?
Social news and bookmarking sites, such as reddit.com, digg.com, slashdot.org and stumbleupon.com, use voting by users or selection by editors to rank interesting stories. Much to my surprise, I recently had an article from this blog featured prominently on all four of these popular sites. This generated a large amount of traffic and gave me an interesting opportunity to turn the tables, by using my hit statistics to rank these sites.
On the 16th August I published an article about a little experiment I did to prove that many software download sites hand out awards automatically, without reviewing the software. Most developers who have submitted software to such sites probably suspected this already. But the experiment proved it conclusively by garnering awards for software that didn’t even run.
I wrote the article because I wanted to shine some light on this unsavoury practise. I wanted it to be as widely read as possible, so I posted a link to it on a few software developer and entrepreneur forums that I frequent. Later in the day I posted it to reddit.com. I also added my vote to the people who had already posted it to digg.com and programming.reddit.com. I expected a few hundred people would read the article, mostly regular readers of my blog. But it got voted up and made its way on to the home page of reddit.com. Traffic started to flood in.
My recollections of the next few days are a bit hazy as it all happened rather quickly. From the front page of reddit.com the article made its way across the front pages of digg.com, and then slashdot.org, like a electronic Mexican wave. The article also appeared on the home page of WordPress.com and received traffic from social bookmarking sites stumbleupon.com and del.icio.us. Large numbers of blogs and forums also linked to the article. Hits on my blog peaked on the 17th at 53,422 hits for the day.
A few observations from the data:
- The social news sites have the attention span of a one year old on amphetamines. The hits from digg.com went from 15,161 on Friday to just 648 on Saturday.
- The article was linked to from 375 blogs (according to technorati.com) and an unknown number of forums and other sites. The top 4, 10 and 20 sites account for 52%, 61% and 65% of the total traffic, respectively. A long tail of less popular sites makes up the rest.
- Things really took off once the article reached the front page of reddit.com. I visualise the links spreading across the Internet analogous to a sub-atomic chain reaction. Just as energetic particles decompose into cascades of ever smaller particles, bigger sites propogate their links to ever larger numbers of smaller and smaller sites.
- The onslaught was wide, but not deep. A relatively low percentage of readers followed links in the article or read other articles on my blog. While that still made quite an impact on the number of visitors to the home page of my seating planner software PerfectTablePlan, there were few additional downloads and (according to my cookie tracking) 0 additional sales. This is not too surprising when you think how untargetted the traffic is. Experience has shown me that small volumes of targetted traffic make more sales than large volumes of untargetted traffic. But still, one of you must know someone who is getting married? ;0)
Totalling all the visitors to the blog over the 5 days I give you the successfulsoftware.net official ranking for social news and bookmarking sites.
Here is the full top 20:
The article has generated a lot of comments. I particularly enjoyed the reviews here (I hope they haven’t been deleted). Interestingly the order of the number of comments/reviews for the 4 top sites is very different to the number of hits.
Please don’t take my ranking too seriously. The story reached similar positions on the reddit, digg and slashdot home pages, but my methodology here is far from rigorous. A different type of story on a different day might have resulted in a quite different ranking. Amongst other issues:
- The WordPress stats only show the top 40 referrers for each day.
- The article made the front page of different sites at different times.
- Just because someone clicked through, doesn’t mean they actually read the article.
- My article might simply have been more interesting to the type of people who read one site than the type of people who read another.
- I have no way of knowing whether any of the visitors were bots.
But social news sites aren’t exactly rigorous in their ranking either.
Please note that I created this blog to write about what it takes to successfully create and market commercial software. I don’t intend to become another blogger blogging about blogging. It’s bad for your eyesight (see point #10 here). Normal service will be resumed shortly.
 To the best of my knowledge the article reached a highwater mark of positions 1,2 and 2 on slashdot.org, reddit.com and digg.com respectively and was featured in one of the ‘popular’ pages on stumbleupon.