After years of steady growth, markwilson.it has seen a small drop in the number of blog subscribers in recent months.Â To me this means one of two things:
- Perhaps RSS is no longer the most useful way to consume blog contentÂ (for example, I rarely read RSS feeds these days and rely instead on what friends, peersÂ and industry contacts “talk” about on Twitter to understand what’s worth reading.Â I know that many of my readers follow me on Twitter @markwilsonitÂ too).
- People don’t like my posts.
If I’m brutally honest with myself, it’s most likely to be the latter – after years of blogging furiously, I have seriously scaled back – partly (mostly) due to a lack of timeÂ – and so I guess some people have assumed that I’m no longer blogging (or at least not blogging enough that’s interesting enough to keep in their feed reader).Â That’s a shame – and it’s not really something that I want to see becoming a continuing trend.
Strangely though, as my blog output has dropped significantly, and my subscribers have dropped (ever so slightly), my bandwidth usage has continued to rise – to the point that my hosting provider actually dropped the site returning a “bandwidth exceeded” message to readers recently (thankfully, this was resolved within a very short time of me noticing and bringing it to their attention).Â When I started to look into this, I found that the biggest jump in bandwidth usage related to my upgrade from WordPress 2.2 to 2.9 in January.Â I couldn’t understand why the same database, same theme, etc. running on a new version of WordPress would result in a significant increase in bandwidth usage until I saw that WordPress no longer contains an option to compress content for clients that support it, or, in WordPress parlance: “WordPress now leaves compression as a decision for the server”.
There are loads of plugins out there to enable GZIP compression on WordPress 2.5 and later; however I found that the WordPress guys are right – the simplest way is oftenÂ to let the web server handle the compression – after all, I’d like to compress content (and save bandwidth) for all of my content, regardless of whether it’s served from WordPress.
I found the answer in Ryan Williams‘ comment on a post at Il FilosofoÂ – by adding a few lines to my .htaccess file (after checking that my host has the deflate module enabled in Apache), I saw a 72% reduction in the bandwidth required to serve my home page.Â This is the code I added:
Header append Vary Accept-Encoding
In a nutshell, this tells the server to deflate various text-based document types.Â Job done.Â There are various tools available on the ‘net to see if a site has compression enabled (such as GIDZipTest) but my favourite is IsÂ My Blog WorkingÂ because it also tells me about some other items that I might like to look into to potentially improve the efficiency of the site.Â Hopefully now I’ll see my bandwidth fall back within my quota – which should also please my hosting provider.