How To Crap Up Your Computer


Ever get a toolbar, pop-up ads, or search engine change on your computer and wonder how that happened? It’s easier than you think if you click too quickly!

I’m typing on my recently reloaded laptop, Resetting a computer to its day one state solves a variety of problems. This machine is breezing along.

Unfortunately, reformatting removed the good with the bad. One-by-one I’m reinstalling needed software. I just installed Filezilla.

Filezilla is an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client. It’s used to move files to my web servers. It’s 100% free, licensed under the GPL. However, if you’re not careful, what Filezilla brings makes changes to your computer!

Filezilla comes with a few add-on programs. They’re not part of what I’m trying to download. They’re attached to make some money for the developers and to pay for bandwidth to get the files to me.

You don’t have to install these ancillary programs. In fact, if you think about it, you probably don’t want to install them.

Most people just click through. Too late. Here’s what they’ve agreed to.

“Set MySearchDial as my home page, default search, and as my default new tab.”

The Google entry for “remove MySearchDial from my computer” is long. It’s a question that’s been asked a lot. The MySearch Dial removal process isn’t simple.

Reading the comments from the afflicted is sad. They sound like victims of a drive-by crime.

Of the friends and family tech support calls I get, removing programs like this is the most common request.

Most people think they were hacked. Nope. You gave them permission!

I’m Getting Set To Change My Blog

Each of these steps is tiny, but none of them is particularly well documented. If anything’s been left out I won’t know until it’s failed!

blog backend screencap.jpgWithout getting too terribly geeky my blog runs on Movabletype. That’s a software package which puts my typed words into the visual format you see. Moveabletype has served me well, but the trend in blogs (and other similar sites) is toward WordPress.

Simply put WP is supported by a huge community of developers and MT is not. That means WordPress can do lots of tricks this blog can’t do right now. In a Twitter, Facebook, search engine optimized age some of the tricks are pretty important.

There is a feature in WordPress to actually import a Movabletype blog like this one…. hold on… I’m laughing hysterically. You really don’t think it’s that easy, do you? I mean there is that feature. It almost works!

Others have blazed this path before me and dropped breadcrumbs along the way. I’ve been in arcane files located on a distant server changing “\n” to “\n \n.” I’ve created files to remind my server which version of software it needs to run.

Each of these steps is tiny, but none of them is particularly well documented. If anything’s been left out I won’t know until it’s failed!

The blog’s server will move too. Right now it’s hosted by a company in Chicago. It will probably reside on the Pennsylvania servers of a German company when I’m through. That should be invisible to you.

With all this the look of the blog will change. Though it has to change a little it’ll probably change a lot. There may be fewer full stories on the home page but more summaries and links. Maybe a better way to show photos? I’m mulling the decisions.

It needs to look nice while not pissing you (my readers) off.

I’m thinking of designing the theme myself from scratch. The more I look the more that seems doable. Most folks choose to use a pre-designed theme.

More than I can chew? Possibly.

I’m fixated on typography. Some blogs look so pretty because of the way they use type–how it’s spaced and formatted for headlines, quotes and lists. I’ve been searching for advice on this particular nuance but have come up short so far.

I’m open to suggestions. It’s like a fresh sheet of paper has been laid before me. It’s geekily exciting.

The process should take a few days… by which I mean a few weeks… so probably by late March… 2011.

I Need Your Help

What we need are users to tell us what’s wrong or confusing and enough stories so when the site goes live it will look appealing. Even with the few stories we already have the site is a great read and I think you’ll enjoy it

If you read this blog on a regular basis you know I’ve been obsessed with a web development project. It’s done!

Well, not exactly.

The website looks done but Helaine and I really won’t know if it’s totally working without testers. That’s where you come in.

The site is It’s set up to be a place where people tell their stories about celebrity meetings and run-ins. If you’ve ever run into a celeb ‘in the wild’ we want your story.

Right now Google, MSN, Yahoo and the others have been electronically asked not to index us. So you won’t find the site on a search engine–yet.

What we need are users to tell us what’s wrong or confusing and enough stories so when the site goes live it looks appealing. Even with the few stories we already have the site is a great read and I think you’ll enjoy it.

The early feedback is very good. We are very excited.

So, can I lean on you? Will you take a look and post a story if you have one? Everyone has at least one close encounter of the celebrity kind!

If you have any problems with the site or suggestions for how we can improve it drop us a line.

Did I mention we’re excited?

My Traffic Report

My ad revenue took a huge hit in December 2007. It fell to nearly zero. Now I’m back in the high two figures every day. Soon I could hit a dollar!

I always keep an eye on the traffic to this site. My most watched gauge is my Google AdSense traffic–those little ads you see. Google keeps a tally of visitors&#185 and an hourly reading is always on the bottom of my browser screen.

Humans and robots (and I’m visited by plenty of automated computers searching for Google, Yahoo, MSN and lot of other more niche oriented spiders doing who knows what) act differently on the net. More than likely you’re accepting my javascript and a robot is not. It’s useful to you but slows a robot down.

If you don’t execute javascript (and you probably do) I don’t count you. If you use AdBlock Plus, which I do, I don’t count you. If you’re reading this on a feed, I don’t count you.

Before last December’s hacking I was averaging 1,100-1,200 page views per day. Quickly my traffic fell first by 2/3 then rebounded to 1/2 where it’s remained. A few weeks ago the averages started rising to around 1,000 on weekdays. I assume Google has changed the weight it gives me. As in real life this weight is tough to control.

My ad revenue took a huge hit in December too. It fell to nearly zero. Now I’m back in the high two figures every day. Soon I could hit a dollar!

To me that says more readers are being brought in by search engines to my older pages. Every entry since July 4, 2003 is still online. I’m sure each page averages a handful of reads a a year, with a small few that get hundreds or thousands of reads a year.

When you run a website you realize the remarkable power wielded by Google. I respect that. This site is more search engine friendly than ever.

This whole traffic thing is a game to me and I enjoy playing.

&#185 – Please do not click on ads as a favor to me.

Website Self Analysis

Yahoo and MSN send significantly more traffic than ever before. My problem is with Google–the big dog of search. My traffic from Google has been cut in half!

google-analytics-graph.jpgThere are too many tools available to webmasters–too many. It is possible to slice and dice website traffic until you drive yourself nuts. That’s personal experience speaking.

Google Analytics has just added the ability to compare website traffic year-to-year. Not a good comparison for me and it looks like my troubles all stem from the hack this website took in January.

Hits to my home page are up by 4%. Yahoo and MSN send significantly more traffic than ever before. My problem is with Google–the big dog of search. My traffic from Google has been cut in half!

Search engine traffic usually ends up on the inside pages… the older pages of the blog. There are thousands of those.

What makes me sad (because as Helaine notes I primarily write for myself and view this blog as a journal or diary) is that I’ve done everything I could think of to optimize the site for search. It’s done nothing. There’s little I can do to change things.

In Google’s Doghouse–Again

I’ve already asked for forgiveness. Maybe I can be forgiven before I’m banished? Maybe not?

Oh oh–it’s happened again!

Dear site owner or webmaster of,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here: This appears to be because your site has been modified by a third party. Typically, the offending party gains access to an insecure directory that has open permissions. Many times, they will upload files or modify existing ones, which then show up as spam in our index.

Thanks to my friend Bob, it’s now all gone. But is it gone soon enough?

In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, pages from are scheduled to be removed temporarily from our search results for at least 30 days.

We would prefer to keep your pages in Google’s index. If you wish to be reconsidered, please correct or remove all pages (may not be limited to the examples provided) that are outside our quality guidelines. One potential remedy is to contact your web host technical support for assistance. For more information about security for webmasters, see When such changes have been made, please visit to learn more and submit your site for reconsideration.

Sincerely, Google Search Quality Team

I’ve already asked for forgiveness. Maybe I can be forgiven before I’m banished? Maybe not?

We shall see.

Meanwhile, this stinks.

Random Stuff About This Site – Very Nerdy

“Perminent!” Seriously. This blog is the number two return for “Perminent Record,” though until now that spelling didn’t exist here. Maybe I’ll go to #1!

I am always curious about this blog. I am always looking under the hood. Maybe I just write it so I’ll have something to play with.

I try and optimize this site for Google. It’s become an obsession. Google gives me some, not a lot, of information.

Here’s an item called, “What Googlebot sees,” which they let me see too.

1. my permanent record

2. geoff fox

3. geoff fox blog

4. geoff fox my permanent record

5. my perminent record

“Perminent!” Seriously. This blog is the number two return for “Perminent Record,” though until now that spelling didn’t exist here. Maybe I’ll go to #1!

Google is weird. A few weeks ago it decided 12 of the top 15 keywords appearing in the blog were months, like July or February. I actually changed all dates to numeric, hoping it would reevaluate.

Now that I am writing on and, I am listed and linked on their bio pages. One has a Google page rank of 5, the other 6. That’s great.

Good inbound links matter. A 5 and 6 will make a positive difference to a blog this size.

As a technical achievement, this blog software is amazing. This is Movable Type, version 4.1. It was free, an open source project. I had to install and configure it it myself.

Docs are for people who know what they’re doing. They are not for learning. It shouldn’t be that way. Totally unfair.

Movable Type creates a relationship between each entry I write. Articles automatically move down the front page until they fall off after seven days. There are archives with pages appearing in individual, daily and monthly presentations.

The monthly archives read first to last, a blog rarity. There are also categories where all the entries follow a theme.

Every blog entry I’ve posted is still online. Google often sends readers to pages I wrote years ago. The pages which receive search engine hits are not necessarily the best entries, but just ones with an eclectic or eccentric group of words.

If I write about a very mainstream subject, I am buried under an avalanche of more influential webpages.

I customized the blog’s look as best I could. I see other blogs whose visual style I find more appealing. Designing like that is probably beyond me. I sorta’ know what I’m doing, but really know nowhere near enough.

The blog entries are composed using a simple form on an unlinked, password protected webpage. Firefox has a spell checker built in, which automatically functions as I type. I still miss plenty.

All the heavy duty tech stuff is done magically, out-of-sight, and mostly by the blog software. Every once in awhile, I republish the blog, which updates a few numbers on each page and takes around an hour.

This blog is a single, small tenant on a server that hosts dozens of websites simultaneously. We are each given a small space and are separated from our neighbors by barriers we can’t cross. If others are abusing the server, my site gets slow.

It costs very little to maintain this site.

There are strange, orphan pages scattered around the website. I’m at a loss to explain how they got where they are, but they did. Many look like normal pages, and since there might be links to them, I leave them untouched.

The whole concept of unexpected files on a website puzzles me. In fact, as you examine computer systems closely, you’ll nearly always find extra pieces. Computers are a little more quirky and a little more fault tolerant than you would expect.

This blog has taught me to love writing. I really enjoy it. It’s challenging and exacting. If I say something just right, or turn a phrase and illuminate a point, I’ll step back and look at it, as if the words were something an artist had painted on a canvas. It’s probably a silly thing to do.

These words are crafted. I am a craftsman. I take pride.

I like the way words look when they neatly fill a space. I like how paragraphs and sentences create a rhythm on the page. I like photos. They prettify the blog and make the adjacent text more appealing.

I favor short paragraphs, which are thought to be more readable.

I have missed days since the blog started nearly five years ago. I haven’t missed many. I haven’t missed any recently. My goal is to write every day. That too has become obsessive behavior.

There Is More To Jerry Springer… And You Want To Know It

He had also been linked to a prostitute across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky. God love him – Jerry paid by check!

jerry-springer.jpgIt was a Saturday night, years ago and I was aimlessly watching TV in the family room when Stef walked in. The set was tuned to C-SPAN.

C-SPAN is to middle school girls what kryptonite is to Superman. I expected her to immediately leave. She did not.

On the screen, a man was in the middle of a lecture to an auditorium full of college students. C-SPAN’s search engine tells me this clip doesn’t exist, but I saw it. Stef did too. The lecturer was Jerry Springer.

She watched in total amazement.

It wasn’t something we talked about, but obviously Stef had seen some of Springer’s low rent, daytime circus on TV. This was, however, a very different Springer. She was confused.

He was smart. He was well spoken. His words were well thought out and elegantly chosen.

I don’t remember her exact words, but “why” is a reasonable summary of her question to me. Why is someone like this doing something like that?

I tried to explain only someone like Jerry could do what he did. It was too demanding for a lightweight. The content might have been awful, but the execution was masterful, and that was the show’s real strength.

Even then, I knew he had been in politics. He had been mayor of Cincinnati and a highly rated, and well loved, local TV anchor.

He had also been linked to a prostitute across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky. God love him – Jerry paid by check!

This Saturday, while listening to my shower radio, I heard the whole story. It was on NPR’s, “This American Life.” Like his C-SPAN appearance, this was an unexpected find.

Jerry Springer’s story is stranger than fiction. How could it be otherwise? Still, whatever you expect, there’s more… a lot more. He is everything good and everything awful, with little in the middle.

This time, as opposed to C-SPAN, the aircheck does exist&#185. If all you know is what you’ve seen (I know you’ve seen his show – don’t deny it) this is must listening.

&#185 – The Springer story starts around 4:00 in.

The Google Cycle

My new pages have been optimized to make them friendlier to search engines, but that’s still under 1% of this site. I’ve added more detailed sitemaps, which help focus the search engine resources to look at pages I want seen. The templates for my blog have been rewritten to move more important content higher in the page.

As some of you might remember, I was hit hard in December by a hacker who made it look like my site was hosting close to 100,000 bogus pages&#185!

These phantom webpages were linked to other pages, often on other (probably compromised) sites. Google took note and, at first, began to index them. Then, they removed me entirely, trying to preserve their integrity.

The dust has cleared. Those pages are disappearing from Google’s database. It’s interesting to watch how this happens. With the tools I have, I can see that in nearly real time.

Webpages and links are crawled by Google, Yahoo! and others on a regular basis. Even with hundreds of pages seen daily, individual pages go weeks or more between crawls.

I’ve uploaded a file to my server setting a roadmap, so the bad pages will no longer be included. I thought Google would pull them immediately, since it looks at this file every 24 hours. Instead, the process has taken weeks.

Google shows the number of pages they have in their files which no longer exist is down to around 10,000. That number is reduced every day as they continue to ‘crawl’ my site.

I think of computers as being fast, often instantaneous, machines. However, when you deal with as much info as Google does, even fast takes a lot of time and instantaneous doesn’t exist.

As of yesterday, around 75% of my website traffic was being drawn by people searching for the crap the bad pages held. People are still finding me when they search fror: “bs haker free download ” or “free mobile mouse key generator virtuallab professional 5.” Soon, that should stop.

By far, the most visited piece on my site today is my “Oops” page, where I send all traffic looking for pages that don’t exist!

I’m not sure where my traffic will be when all this ends. My new pages have been optimized to make them friendlier to search engines, but that’s still under 1% of this site. I’ve added more detailed sitemaps, which help focus the search engine resources to look at pages I want seen. The templates for my blog have been rewritten to move more important content higher in the page.

Yahoo! has begun to look at my pages in a more aggressive manner. So far this month, they’ve looked at more stuff on than Google. That’s a huge change. Google is still sending more traffic (excluding the traffic looking for hacker inserted pages), but only on a 3:2 ratio over Yahoo!

Microsoft’s search engines are still mostly MIA. Even with sitemaps and robots files, this month they have seen 1/8 the pages Yahoo! has. Google sends around 100 times more traffic my way than MSN.

It almost looks as if Microsoft isn’t trying. Maybe they’re not.

Why do I care? This site isn’t here to make money.

Having ads on the site and watching how they are placed and work with my content is an education in how the Internet works as a business model. I still have a lot more to learn.

&#185 – I originally posted lower number and never saw the need to update them as they changed on a daily basis.

A Brief Status Report

In other related news,, it now looks like the attack on my site produced over 69,000 spam pages! Mind boggling, isn’t it? That’s how many pages Google indexed before I cleaned things up

I guess I’m sort of pleased with how quickly the site has come back together. Movable Type 4.1 is very different, but I’m getting the hang of it. Not being a programmer or web professional, there are a lot of head scratching moments for me. So far, I’ve been able to do just about everything I’ve attempted (except getting the archives to display in proper chronological order).

My friend Peter has a weird text problem, where entries are truncated in such a way as to be unreadable. I haven’t been able to replicate the problem, though I’m sure it’s real.

My friend Wendie isn’t thrilled with the narrower columns, though the prevailing wisdom is, they make a site easier to read.

It looks like I will be staying with this reddish look. Once I built my new masthead with the grunge font, the color scheme was locked in.

I have made some minor tweaks to become more search engine friendly. My quote: Back when I was in school, teachers would always scare me with stories of how my exploits would end up in my permanent record. I believe this is it! – Geoff Fox,” was at the top of every page. It was the except you’d see in search engines.

Now the words are integrated in a graphic, not spelled out in text. The actual page content will now show up in the except. That’s as it should be.

If you have any problems with the site’s operation, suggestions or questions, I’d like to hear from you. You can leave a blog comment or send me an email.

In other related news,, it now looks like the attack on my site produced over 69,000 spam pages! Mind boggling, isn’t it? That’s how many pages Google indexed before I cleaned things up

After a few weeks off their site, Google has resumed indexing me. My traffic is way up – nearly twice normal numbers. Much of that is due to people looking for the pages posted by whoever broke into my system. I guess there’s a market for that stuff.

I’ve posted a robots.txt file, which tells search engines what they should and should not index. Hopefully that will clear away the bogus pages they’re still pointing to.

Blogger’s addendum: Tonight I created a new page, explaining to those who get here by accident, why they’re here. It shows up automatically to anyone who enters a bogus page on this site.

I’ve Been Working On The Server

I finally broke down, and with the help of Gary, upgraded this blogging software. This is scary stuff. It is possible to break the website! Sure, everything is repairable, but restoring is punishment at best.

Amazingly, it all worked… except comments. I’ve left a question on the MovableType forum, which will hopefully bring an answer.

I know it’s probably been boring to hear about my Google problems. Give me another day… maybe two and I’ll be done. To me, this blog is like a diary and I want to chronicle the things I do.

I’ve used this time-out with Google to rethink my search engine optimization. Google should be my friend. I’ve created a few files which will make this site more visible to search engines and more tightly focuses on its real content.

Google only checks one of the files, robots.txt, once a day. After waiting since last evening, Google finally hit it and immediately threw up an error flag. I left out one word! I wait one more day.

Today’s traffic is around three times yesterday’s. Google’s return is felt.

The Evil Within (My Website)

I have been complaining for a few weeks now about the disappearance of my website from Google. It was a problem that only appeared when a page was clicked directly from a search engine, not entered by hand. Instead of my blog, spammy pages of links appeared, looking like they were coming from

I looked and looked and couldn’t find the content ascribed to me. Nothing.

A few times, I asked for assistance from the Google Groups Webmaster Help Forum. They didn’t solve my problem, but they did help me figure out where to look.

Tonight, I think the mystery is solved.

On November 23 at 9:04 PM and again on Dec 10 at 10:54 AM someone gained access to my server.

Whether it was a hack or exploit doesn’t matter. My host would like me to think it was an exploit – meaning it was through my doing. Whatever.

New .htaccess files were inserted in every directory on my web site. These files, which begin with a dot to make them normally invisible, control how certain web requests are handled.

These .htaccess files looked for 404 errors. That’s what you get when a page is missing.

This explains why I couldn’t find the spammy files on my website. This exploit only worked if a file name that DOESN’T exist was entered. Only then were they composed on-the-fly.

On top of that, a second file specified the trick should only worked if the request was coming from a search engine. No wonder I couldn’t make these spammy pages appear.

As awful as it is, I have respect for the programmer who accomplished this. It’s a very sneaky trick, and it sat on my site for a few months before I discovered it.

The .htaccess file called a php file, which is similar to the one this web page is served to your browser on. One set of these php files had an all numeric filename (002314.php, etc) and was 617 bytes long. The other used simple computer-ish names (server.php, command.php, etc.) and was 1260 bytes.

Every web attack has a weak spot and I had found it. Having the files all be the same length, and placed on my machine on specific days, made it easier to scout them out.

To make matters worse, permissions were changed all over the place. These are the rules that decide who can or cannot read, write or execute files. Lots of stuff was turned 777, meaning anyone could do anything!

The person who attacked my machine had opened all the doors. Now anyone could gain access and do anything.

Good grief!

I called on my friend Bob Hart to help.

Bob claims not be be a computer expert. Right.

His logical, organized, well exercised mind knew all the commands and tricks to remove thousands of files and reset an equal number of pointers without hurting anything. He dictated long strings of characters for me to type in… and they worked!

Is there an Emmy for computer assistance? I nominate Bob.

So, now you know the good news. The bad news is, it can happen again because I don’t know how the miscreants got in. I’m working on that next.

Hopefully, in deleting files, rewriting permissions and changing passwords, I will slow them down until a solution is found.

Once again, I’m begging Google to let me back into their good graces. Traffic on the blog is down about 75%. has slid off the face of the Earth!

Making Your Website Popular

I got a call from a relative tonight. We were talking about his business and its web presence (something more and more critical by the day). He was disappointed because search engines weren’t bringing a lot of traffic to the site. In fact, they brought almost none!

He’d looked into the idea of ‘search engine optimization’ or SEO and realized he had a problem. I opened my browser, looked at his site and realized the more he knew, the less happy he’d be with his site’s usefulness in the real world.

Search engines don’t see the Internet the way we do. They can’t understand pictures. There are also various methods of page markup that are, at best, difficult for them to understand.

My relative’s site was nearly 100% written in Adobe Flash. That’s one of those tough to read methods.

The site looks good to a human and horrendous to the machines that really decide what we’ll see. There are some small improvements he can make, but his problems are deep seeded.

I was having this discussion about SEO at work a while ago. I offered an opinion on story headlines and how they should be written. In TV, headlines are teasy. They promise to deliver something in the future, but give you almost nothing now.

On the Internet they can’t be done that way. People are searching online for what they scecifically want . They’re not looking for a play-on-words pun or ironic little twist. Headlines that tease and don’t convey the gist of the story are counterproductive on the net!

The intelligence built into Google or Yahoo isn’t as clever or adaptable as you are. Some very good content is lost, because it’s ‘too fast for the house.”

I will help fix my relative’s site, if asked. Sadly, I won’t be improving it for the end user. My goal is to make it more attractive to machines!

Where You’re From

Helaine started it with a couch conversation Sunday evening. She wondered, as I had in the past, where were you while you were reading this blog? The numbers are in, and I’m a little surprised.

About 100 of you have left a note on my website over the past few days, telling me where you are. Since I average over 1,000 page reads a day, it’s a significant, though not overpowering percentage of my readers. 59 of that group are reading in Connecticut.

That Connecticut number is a stunner, because website stat programs paint a very different picture. I tried to address this a few days ago and was a little confusing. Two of you responded, though it seems my poor choice of words let you miss the point.

Most ‘regular’ readers come in through the home page (or read my most recent entries through my RSS feed using Yahoo!, Google or an installed feed reader). Most out-of-state readers are probably here after following a search engine link which brought them to an older entry. They never saw my home page or my request.

Most of you (not all of you) know me from my job on TV. I’m not sure how that will affect my writing going forward… if it affects it at all. I already parse my words, remaining ever alert that what I say on my private website can reflect on my very public life.

A number of the respondents left their web address. That gave me a chance to take a peek at them.

Marko in Dayton, Ohio also has a blog – though no entries since April. He has built some pretty cool Pinewood Derby race cars with his son, referred to as “#2.”

Doug Harris is also a blogger and also stopped blogging in April. Did something happen in April I didn’t hear about?

Mike, in Arlington, VA has a website with a cool name: RadioMojo. His home page explains he’ll no longer be doing whatever it was RadioMojo did. Its date: April 25th.

You can’t make this stuff up.

A reader name Mumbles linked to his photos on Flickr. There’s a lot to like here. I enjoy looking at other photographers work, trying to find ways to improve mine.

I wonder if Mumbles knew I’d look at his work… or guessed I’d tell you to look? He probably wanted me to look at them. Mission accomplished.

Chuck Schultz sent his photo link too. He’s into racing cars and dogs. You can tell a lot about a person by their photos. Dogs are very photogenic. They never mind posing nor care if you take too many photos.

I wonder if there was a downside to growing up as Charles Schultz… but not ‘the’ Charles Schultz.

Chuck is a ham operator. There are a bunch of them here. I wrote an article recently in the national ham radio magazine, QST. I’m sure that brought some of them to my site.

Jeff in Muncie, Indiana is a ham too, with a blog and a podcast. That’s an undertaking. I listened to some of his latest entry about Hiram Percy Maxim, in many ways the father of ham radio. The podcast sounds like the kind of first class radio production you often hear on NPR.

Jeff has links on his blog… though none to me. I like links.

Am I boring you? You don’t have to read this if I’m boring you.

My father left a message. My sister left a message. My cousin left a message.

Meredith has put much of her life online in a free form way. That’s how this website started, but I found it too difficult to be free form on the web, which cries out for structure.

John, from “The new and exciting Bridgeport, CT” linked to his family’s website. I like this idea a lot, but I like reading “Christmas letters”.

My friend Kevin’s family just put up a family blog with my help. With four girls out in the world, often away from their Connecticut roots, their blog promises to keep the family closer.

Adam left a link for his blog. It is the antithesis of this one in that I have long entries while Adam is often satisfied with a few words or a sentence.

I like his reference to your worst hair decision ever.

When I was a kid, a new barber-in-training cut my hair so short that even pre-teen Geoff knew he was in trouble. I’m still cringing over that. The guy who owned the shop told me to come back in a few days and the hair would have grown back enough to repair the damage.

More recently, a news director sent me to her hair stylist, who proceeded to make me look like Lyle Lovett. Even Lyle Lovett doesn’t want to look like Lyle Lovett. And, I still had to wear the hair on-the-air. Mortifying!

Damon Scott checked in from Lubbock, TX. I’ve written about Lubbock a lot recently, because of the TV Guide Channel reality show about a Lubbock newsroom. They seem to be in reruns, because the DVR hasn’t recorded anything the last two weeks.

Damon is a jock, doing afternoon drive on Mix100. His photo is nowhere to be found on the station’s website. I looked. I always look for disk jockey photos.

When I was a disk jockey, I used to answer the ‘hitline’ trying to pick up girls who were calling to request songs. My first day in radio (really) I got a call from Jeanine, who told me about the sexual failings of a station’s newsman.

There is a medical term to describe his unfortunate haste. Jeanine was a little more blunt.

Damon – don’t pick up hitline chicks.

Actually, maybe they email photos first now? Damon, use your best judgment.

McD is another blogger who wrote back. His home page has a very nice line drawing of him (I think) in the upper left corner.

There’s something very folksy about the sketch. If it’s possible to make a web page folksy, it’s mission accomplished by virtue of this little sketch.

You told me where you were and you told me from all over the United States. Most responses came from people I don’t know, though there are many readers who I count in my extended group of friends.

Seamus. Ireland. Cool. Thanks. I even know how to properly pronounce it! You are are token foreigner,

As long as you’ve read this far, I’ll let you in on something. I really enjoy knowing you read this.

Though smaller, by far, than the audience I reach on television, this is a much more personal medium. I try to speak my mind and hope you will still think kindly of me even as I reveal myself as a guy lots of faults and insecurities.

I worry you’ll tire of me, or I’ll become boring to you. I want to stay fresh and write meaningful things, but is that possible when you force yourself to compose at the keyboard every single day? I don’t know.

More than one a friend in LA has picked up on something trivial I’ve written about and said, “no one wants to know you ate corn last night.” We depend on our friends for life’s true wisdom.

At the bottom of this screen and on every computer I use on a regular basis, there is a counter. Every 15 or 20 minutes it tallies the page hits to my website. I look at it all the time.

At 3:00 AM EDT it resets to zero. I don’t like that part.

Concerning Google – What An Idiot I’ve Been

What’s the biggest Internet success story? Google, right? And everyone, until recently myself included, thinks it’s because Google is so good at performing searches.

Tonight, I’ve changed my mind.

Before Google, there were some very good search engines. There were AltaVista and Metacrawler and others whose names are now lost to me. Yahoo!&#185 was more a directory than a search engine.

As a power Internet user in the late 90s, I was not unhappy. I was able to search and get the results I wanted with little trouble.

So why is Google such a big deal? It’s not the search as much as it’s, their search seems benevolent.

Google was very smart. They cleaned up the home page.

All the other site where you could find stuff were gravitating toward being portals. Their home pages were full of news and tips and links and they included display ads. It was obvious to their users, they were sales machines. Please click. Please buy.

Google was basically a box where you entered text and not much more. No ads.

But searching is not a one web page affair. The search page leads to the results page. No search ends on the home page. Google was satisfied making their money on that landing page.

After the home page, every subsequent page on Google does contain ads. And, they are contextually tied to what’s on that page. If it’s possible to say, they are good ads.

It’s genius. But I don’t think it would have worked had Google not been willing to treat their home page as a loss leader. No ads!

As time went on Google has been able to extend their brand. They have contextual ads on webpages, like this one (look to the right). The have a mail service, also with contextual ads. They have other services too, but the payoff (to them) is always the same, and you never see any sign of commerce when you begin to do what you want to do.

Even better, since each ‘lead’ is prequalified, they can charge a higher CPM.

It’s not like a movie on TBS, where the first block is 45 minutes long and by the end you’re stopping for spots every 120 seconds. Google works so well because they run commercials and no one minds!

In this TiVo world, where the publisher of the New York Times worries he won’t have a paper based paper in five years and where CBS has just announced they’re selling a handful of TV stations for a few million more than they paid for just one of them, Google has succeeded in making us forget they are running commercials.

It is the genius of what they do, and any other elegance in the performance of search is no more than an interesting footnote.

I doubt, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were testing Google at Stanford, they had a clue what their success could be. They were lucky wise to give away the product they had worked so hard to develop.

Business is always better when you don’t worry if people will buy what you’re selling, but instead try to sell what they are dying to buy.

&#185 – I have been on the Internet long enough to have sent a comment to Yahoo! and gotten a personally written response that referred to “Jerry’s reaction” to what I’d suggested. “Jerry” was Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang. That ain’t happening today.