UK Blog Awards 2017: Voting is open and markwilson.it needs your support! #UKBA17

Please vote for markwilson.it in the UK Blog AwardsI got a bit of a surprise in my email recently, when I saw that someone had nominated this blog for the UK Blog Awards 2017.  That’s a nice touch – after 14 years and well over 2000 posts (some that even I now regard as drivel and some that people find useful), it’s exactly the kind of feedback that keeps me going!

The site has no marketing team (just me), no social media campaign (just my website and my Twitter feed @markwilsonit) – and now it’s the public vote where I’m up against all of the other entrants in the Digital and Technology category vying for a place on the shortlist of 8 blogs.

So, if you’ve ever found something I’ve written useful (or maybe just because you think I sound like a decent bloke and you’d like to support me), please head over to the UK Blog Awards website and vote for markwilson.it in the Digital and Technology category!

Voting is open from Monday 5th December 2016 at 8:00 until Monday 19th December at 10:00 and each email address only counts once!

Ad blocker detection

Ad blocking has become increasingly common on the Internet. We all hate those sites that place obtrusive ads in the middle of content (Forbes, ZDNet, I’m looking at you!) but for many sites it’s fairly passive content – simple images, banners, etc. placed above, below or to the side of the main content. We might not particularly like it – the ads are not always intelligent (how many times have you bought something and then seen ads for the site where you already made a purchase based on the cookies on your computer?!) – but nothing in life is truly free and the websites that offer advice, etc. that help fix our problems are often at least part-funded by ads.

My blog currently has over 2000 posts written over a 12 year period. Some are good, some are bad. Some are rants, some are really useful with lots of positive comments saying words to the effect of “thanks for sharing this”. A few years ago, I used to make about £50 a month from Google ads. With hosting charges of around £100 a year, plus domain name registrations of about £25 a year, that gave me some profit to go towards IT equipment and let me write more blog posts. I even set up a company for my writing and consulting. Then along came Google’s Panda algorithm change which de-emphasised blogs in search results. Almost overnight, I saw 90% drop in revenue.

My company ceased trading a while ago – and my day job now means that I can’t continue it for contractual reasons – but, to be honest it had long since become more effort than it was worth.

I now make about £60 a year from ads and maybe a few more pounds from referrals. The UK Government takes 42% of this in tax. I write less content than I used to (I’m a busy guy but I’m also less motivated to do so). My website hosting costs far outweigh the revenue of the site but the ads help a little. This blog is nothing more than a labour of love.

On the last site redesign, I moved my ads to the bottom of the page. I also added a notice asking people not to block the ads. Now I’ve upped the ante a little by using Pat O’Brien‘s Ad Blocking Advisor WordPress plugin to display a notice when the site detects ad blocking. I’m not ad-blocker-blocking because you can still read the content, but I do ask people with ad blocking software to reconsider:

“It looks like you use ad blocking software in your browser. I devote a lot of time to this website and the advertising doesn’t even cover my hosting charges but it helps a little. Please support this website by adding it to the whitelist in your ad blocker. Thank you!”

Ironically, I had to install an ad blocker to test the website functionality!

No more FeedBlitz for markwilson.it updates

I’ve offered email subscriptions on this blog for years now, initially using FeedBlitz, then FeedBurner and also via WordPress.com.  Ironicially, given that FeedBurner is now owned by Google, it’s FeedBlitz that I’m least happy with – primarily because of the poor quality adverts that it wraps around my content.

For this reason, I’m going to be switching off the FeedBlitz feed over the next few days.  I’ll contact every existing subscriber on the FeedBlitz feed, before switching them over to the WordPress-powered subscription, but thought it appropriate to  post an update on the site as well.

It’s great to know that people still read the content I create – you can always subscribe to the RSS feed or for email updates via WordPress.com or using the Subscriptions section on the right hand side of the blog homepage.

Thanks for your continued support.

Fighting back to the spammers: charging for removal of blog spam links…

Right from (almost) the start, this blog has suffered from spam. I guess it just goes with the territory but I’ve written in the past about people who’ve left spam comments and then found Google’s index quotes them out of context or tech companies criticising their competitors “anonymously” in blog comments.

Even when I was helping my then-CTO to raise his social media presence, my employer’s PR agency was encouraging the use of comments on blogs to generate backlinks and now the tide is turning as Google cracks down on low-quality backlinks.

As a result, I’m getting an increasing number of emails from digital agencies including phrases like the one below:

“I’m writing to request the removal of a link to my clients’ [sic] site which is located at the following page:”

They’re (or their clients are) wasting my time, so I reserve the right to charge for removing such links.

The irony is that, over the last few years, Google’s index changes have penalised original content creators like myself in favour of corporate websites and this blog has just a fraction of the traffic it once enjoyed (oh, those were the days)…

Would be blog spammers at this site should check out the Rules for Comments.

Website moving to a new server…

My hosting provider has told me that they are moving this website to a new server over the weekend.

All being well, the move will be transparent but I will also need to point the domain names at new DNS servers, so, if I disappear offline for a while on Sunday night, please bear with me and I should be back again once the interwebs have updated…

Half-baked cookies…

I don’t know if this website uses cookies. I think it probably does beacuse I have Google Adsense code and Google Analytics code in place. It wouldn’t surprise me if WordPress uses some cookies too but, like many bloggers, I use off-the-shelf software and, as long as it works, I don’t worry too much about how things happen.

Unfortunately, some half-baked EU directive about privacy and cookies (half-baked – get it…) takes effect this month after even the UK government needed a year to get its act together (the Information Comissionners Office, which is responsible for enforcing the associated UK legislation, only removed its last cookie in March).

What’s worse is that the ICO’s guidance for website owners is really difficult to follow. Peter Bryant (@PJBryant) pointed me at an article in PC Pro magazine that suggests I should be OK without doing anything, meanwhile Kuan Hon (@Kuan0) from the Cloud Legal Project at Queen Mary University suggested a few weeks ago that we all need to be looking carefully at our sites if we want to avoid a fine…

I’m no lawyer and I can’t afford to be paying fines so I checked out some WordPress plugins that might help me. Some were linked to websites that should check my site for cookies… except they didn’t seem to work – and, anyway, I don’t really want to be making a big deal about cookies (they are, mostly, harmless).

I selected a very simple plug-in called Cookie Warning that presents a message (importantly, not a pop-up) to first time site visitors. The message is customisable (although changing the size of the text on the buttons will involve me editing the plugin) and it seems to be enough for me to gain consent from users. Importantly, it doesn’t seem to impact the way in which search engines see the site.

Only time will tell if this change negatively impacts my traffic – I’d like to think that most of my visitors understand enough about cookies to realise that this is not really such a big deal – but it will be interesting to see how this pans out over the next few months as companies big and small update their sites to comply with the legislation.

Computer Weekly Social Media Awards 2011

This time last year I was pestering blog readers and Twitter followers to vote for markwilson.it in the Computer Weekly IT Blog awards and I was surprised (and absolutely stoked) to win the Individual IT Professional (Male) category.  This time around I haven’t entered as an individual but I do have a favour to ask…

As part of my day job last year, I launched Fujitsu’s blog platform for the UK and Ireland. Although I handed the platform over to our marketing teams following incubation, the CTO Blog is still my baby and I edit most of the content (although I do try to ensure it’s written by others).

One year on, I’m pleased to say that our CTO Blog has been shortlisted for what is now known as the Computer Weekly Social Media Awards and I’d like to ask for your support again:

  1. If you don’t currently read the blog, please check it out.
  2. And if you like what you see, please consider voting for “David Smith/Fujitsu CTO Blog” in the CIO/IT Director Category.

It’d be pretty cool to win an award again, and a great finish to the year for me at work…

Rebuilding my site: please excuse the appearance

Regular readers may have noticed that this site is looking a little… different… right now.

Unfortunately, my hosting provider told me last night that they had a disk failure on the server. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem (that’s why servers have redundant components right? Like RAID on the disks?) but it seems this “server” is just a big PC. I can’t get too mad though… the MySQL database backup scripts have been failing for a month and it was my sloppyness that didn’t chase that up, and it was me who hadn’t made sure I had a recent copy of the file system…

So, as things stand:

  • I think I have restored all posts from 2004 until almost the end of August 2011;
  • I need to restore the later posts and comments (using copies from FeedBlitz, Google Reader, etc.);
  • There are no plugins (so things look odd); Some of the plugins have been reinstalled (but things may still look odd);
  • There are no graphics (they were hosted outside WordPress) I’ve restored all most of the graphics and other external media but there are still some I need to track down;
  • I have not restored the theme (so I’m using the WordPress defaults and there is no mobile theme);
  • The theme I’m using does not specify UTF-8 encoding so lots of  characters; Still some spurious characters appearing on some pages…
  • There are no fewer ads (which you might be happy about, but I do still need to pay the bills).

Please bear with me whilst I get things back… it may take some time as it needs to fit in between other activities but it might also be a good thing (new theme has been long overdue and I might even get smarter about my backups…).

And, if you spot another problem, please let me know.

[Updated at various points as the site has been restored]

Does this make me an award winning blogger?

Absolutely amazed.

Actually, there’s another word that fits in the middle of that sentence, but I don’t swear on the blog.

Absolutely [redacted] amazed.

I was very pleased to be shortlisted in the IT Professional (Male) category for the Computer Weekly Blog Awards but, I was really treating the Awards ceremony this evening as an opportunity to network (and, in some cases to meet people in person that I previously only knew online). When I saw that Microsoft’s Steve Clayton was runner up, I thought it must have been a really big blog that won.  Me, accepting the award for the IT Professional (Male) category in the Computer Weekly Blog Awards 2010Nope, turns out it was little ol’ me (OK, so I’m not so small, but my blog is!). Computer Weekly’s awards may not have the glitz and glamour of some awards ceremonies, but they are at least recognised, and it’s pretty cool to have won an award this year.

So, a massive “thank you” to everyone who voted for me – your support was absolutely vital.  But, more importantly, thanks for continuing to read this blog.  I’m doing less and less technical work and It’s getting harder and harder to find the time to write original content (most of my online contributions come in 140-character busts these days – @markwilsonit); but knowing that people out there find it useful and are willing to support me in things like this is a great comfort.

[Updated 19 November 2010: added photo – copyright Computer Weekly (linked at source)]
[Updated 25 November 2010: added video]

Reminder: Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010

My blog needs you!

The deadline for voting in the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards is fast approaching and, even though I don’t seriously expect to win, it’s great to have been shortlisted, and I don’t want to come last either!

It’s sometimes a struggle to balance work and blogging (especially after almost seven years of it) but, please can I ask you to vote for me in the IT Professional (Male) category?

If you’re sick of reading posts that are begging for your support, I’m sorry: this is the last time I’ll ask you and I do have some more tech advice and commentary posts in the pipeline!