Dive the web

On ne surfe plus, on plonge!

Is SEO a scam?

Is SEO a scam? Is it just a buzzword used to try getting money out of us? Well, the problem is not SEO, the problem is more with self-proclaimed gurus who will tell you that by following their advice (and paying the right amount) your web site will rank high on Google, you will get lots of traffic.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not claiming to be a SEO expert and I never will be. I’ve never even done any real effort to optimize my blog for SEO. I was told I have a pretty good ranking. But this blog has been online since July 29th 2003 - and from what I understood, old and stable sites may be well ranked. But lets be realistic, if you search for PHP or HTML, my blog won’t even be on Google’s first page. Right now, my full name won’t even show this blog as the first result. I don’t mind. I don’t even really mind if nobody reads this.

But companies trying to make money on the Internet mind. And they are willing to spend money to get high on Google. No pun intended. And it’s hard for them to see the difference between the charlatans and the real gurus.

I received a email this morning from Bertrand Betsch asking me if I wanted to participate in their link exchange program (note that I used a rel=”nofollow” on the previous link). They also informed me that link exchange programs helped with better positioning of a site in search engines. I usually don’t bother to answer such mails. And I won’t answer this one either.

Why not you ask? Well, first, if you wish to link to my blog or any other web site I manage, you don’t have to ask me permission. Just link to the site. I’m not responsible for your content, only for mine. And if I want to link to your site, I will. If you object, send me a mail and I’ll remove the link. Ah, yeah, I took advantage of this paragraph to add links to lots of places. You never know :-P

Another thing I learned about SEO, is that it is a good thing to have valid (X)HTML. Basically avoid useless tags. And trying to have semantic HTML is also a good thing. The web site mentioned above has neither. The H1 tag doesn’t even have text in it.

This is the basic elements I take into account when I do a web site. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot more to SEO than valid and semantic HTML. If you want more information, point your browser to seomoz.org. It is a web site that was recommended to me by Anne-Marie Castonguay who is a true SEO and SEM expert.

And don’t take it from me. Read what the real experts have to say and check out Google’s SEO tips. So no, SEO is not a scam, but don’t believe everything you read!

July 14, 2009 - 10:01 AM Comments (3)

My CV is online

Oh, it may not look like something big, but this is the first time ever! After almost 12 years as a web developer, (X)HTML integrator, web programmer and whatever other title I’ve had over the years, I’ve actually put my CV is online. Ok, just the French version for now, I have to sharpen up my translation skills and do it in English too as soon as possible. Anyway, PHP, XHTML, CSS, JavaScript or SVN are written the same way in both languages!

Yes, weird that it should just be now. But there’s a good reason. I’m thinking very seriously about going into freelancing. So, if you need help with a PHP application or some (X)HTML integration, I’m the right person to ask! You can either leave me a message here, via Twitter (@e_Chantal) or via my email. You’ll find it on my CV!

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June 25, 2009 - 3:01 PM Comments (2)

Tips for best practices

I’ve been working in the Web industry for about 12 years. During these years, I started to read about best practices in web development. I found a lot of them useful, both to ensure a better quality to my work, but also to make it easier - and sometimes quicker. I’m not claiming to have the best solutions to everything, the following tips are just a few of the things I try to do when coding. Some apply to (X)HTML or CSS, others are more appropriate to PHP or even JavaScript. Some are valid when working in a team, others when working alone.

  • Follow conventions.

    This is valid both for team and solo work. When working on your personal projects, pick a style and stick to it. When working with a team, either agree with a coding style with the team or, if one is already chose, use it - even if it’s different than yours. It will make it easier for both you and your team members to understand your code.

  • Validate HTML and use semantically correct markup.

    HTML tags have a meaning. A <p> indicates a paragraph. A <ul> indicates a list. Valid HTML has meaning, both to humans and machines.

    Validating HTML may help you find errors in your code. Not just markup errors, but also display errors. Something that may look great in a browser may look terrible in another. And most of the time, you have to support more than one browser.

  • Comment your code

    This one will never be repeated enough. Commenting helps you and team members. In six month, you may not remember what you did today. Comment! Comment! Comment!

  • Don’t commit incomplete or buggy code

    Except on rare occasions, it’s better to never commit incomplete or buggy code when using a source control tool. Stuff that goes into the common repository is supposed to work.

  • Keep team members informed

    Communication is important. You refactoring code, you need to let team members know. Email is useful. Documentation is better. When you create a new library, let team members know about it. If they don’t know about it, they may create something that does pretty much the same thing. Time wasted.

  • Be consistent when indenting.

    This is good for whatever language you use. Consistency in indentation helps finding your way around your code. By indenting, you can quickly see blocks of code or remove unused blocks.

  • White space is your friend

    Yes, this goes with the consistency in indentation. But white space also means inserting white lines between statements or functions. But don’t overuse it. There’s no need to put 10 carriage returns between blocks of code.

  • Google too

    Yep, Google is your friend. Your best friend. If you have a problem, chances are, you’re not the first one. It’s probably documented on mailing lists or Stack Overflow. Google knows, Google remembers!

  • IRC channels

    It’s amazing who you may run into on an IRC. Lots of people hang around on those channels and may help you. If you ask nicely and respect the channel’s rules.

  • Use available tools: good IDE, debugger, Firefox addons.

    A good IDE will help you in may ways: auto-complete built-in functions, sometimes a built in debugger or direct access to your version control tools.

    Firefox has great addons such as Firebug, the web developer tool bar or the regular expression tester that could save you lots of headaches.

  • Check logs

    Logs may indicate problems. Apache logs, PHP logs… The information you may find in these logs may prove useful. But you need to learn how to read them!

  • PHP Errors

    In a development environment, set your php.ini’s error reporting to E_ALL and display_errors to ON. This can help tracking errors and solving problems. But make sure you change this when going online.

What are your tips? What techniques do you use to ensure the quality of your code?

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June 10, 2009 - 12:50 PM No Comments

Montreal Metro and Twitter

A little while ago (28th of May 2009 to be exact), there was a bomb alert in the Montreal Metro. It took me forever to get home, because I took all the wrong decisions. Actually, I ended up walking home and it took me 90 minutes. It could have taken me less than 40 minutes if I had chosen to walk directly from work instead of trying to get into the metro. I had no idea what was going on exactly - it’s only when I got home that I learned about the bomb threat at Berri-UQAM station.

I thought it would have been really cool if I knew of some iPhone app that would have given me the information… And there was information on Twitter about what was going on.

So here it is: my first iPhone optimized web page. Actually, it’s also my first try using the Twitter API.

It’s quite simple, it basically does a search on Twitter using some hash tags: #yul or #montreal and #metro or #stm. The icons are from the Crystal Project (very nice open source icon library by the way).

So, basically, the YUL STM & Twitter page could be used to get real-time info on what’s going on in the Montreal public transit system and avoid long delays. Use the tags (#yul OR #montreal along with #metro or #stm) and your Twitter post will show on the page.

Don’t hesitate giving me feedback or asking for new features.

Screen shot of the application on iPhone

Screen shot of the application on iPhone

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June 7, 2009 - 9:04 AM Comments (2)

Updated Wordpress

So… Wordpress is now updated to version 2.7.1… I have to admit that the first reason for doing this was that the Wordpress application for iphone is not compatible with the version I had. What you are reading now is my first iPhone written-blog entry :-)

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June 1, 2009 - 12:41 PM No Comments

Back online

The blog is back online! The upgrade from version 2 to version 2.7.1 of Wordpress went smoothly. Except for the usual character encoding. Everything was in ISO-8859-1 before and now, it’s all in UTF-8. I had to go through the mySQL dump to replace the culprits. There must be an easier way to do this.

My first idea was to move the blog under http://www.divetheweb/blog - the blog actually spent the night there. For some reason, my first thought when I woke up this morning was about Google. So I moved back the blog to the root of Dive The Web.

Now… what should I do about the theme? I like the current theme, but would rather have a more personalized theme. The previous one was nice, but it’s really time for a little change, isn’t it?

Dive The Web banner

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May 30, 2009 - 9:40 AM No Comments

Trac

Yes, I’ve done it. I’ve installed Trac this morning.

Simple goals:

  • manage our many projects
  • build a knowledge base
  • keep track of bug fixes and changes

I’ve been working for a while on a CMS that is largely built on the Zend Framework (PHP5, of course). And I’ve already corrected lots of stuff, but didn’t keep track of things properly. I really hope this helps :)

Next step: make all this work with SVN!

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May 28, 2009 - 2:25 PM No Comments

Ubuntu…

J’ai enfin fait le pas. J’ai installé Ubuntu 8 sur mon laptop au bureau. Au début, j’ai installé la version 64 bits pour me rendre compte qu’Eclipse fonctionne mieux avec la version 32 bits. Et puis, tout d’un coup, on décide de tester Zend Studio pour Eclipse (ah oui, ça nécessite Eclipse 3.3 - Europa). Je réinstalle Ubuntu en 32 bits. Maintenant, mon mail ne fonctionne plus correctement :(

Toutefois, comme on avait partitionné les disques, je n’ai perdu aucune donnée. Pas besoin de faire de backup. Gé-ni-al! Et c’est tellement moins long que d’installer un Windows.

Bon, maintenant, c’est SVN. Le plugin pour Eclipse ne fonctionne pas correctement. Après avoir cherché (merci Google), certaines personnes recommandent d’utiliser la version 1.2 plutôt que la version 1.4 du plugin. Donc, utiliser http://subclipse.tigris.org/update_1.2.x comme adresse pour le site de mise à jour.

L’installation de Zend Studio se fait très bien. Une fois que vous avez trouvé le guide d’installation (ce lien va ouvrir un PDF)… Évidement, Zend Studio n’est pas gratuit…

Toujours est-il que malgré les quelques petites difficultés, mes premiers pas avec Ubuntu me font vraiment plaisir. On trouve énormément d’informations sur le web, j’ai une bonne excuse pour ne pas tester sous IE (va falloir que j’installe une VM un jour)… Mon ordi boote à une vitesse très satisfaisante, j’ai une réponse ultra rapide lorsque je clique quelque part. Wow… je crois rêver.

Je vais quand même garder un Windows. À cause de Civilization.

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July 3, 2008 - 9:09 AM Comment (1)

Des jeux et encore des jeux!

J’ai été bien silencieuse ces derniers mois.

Beaucoup de changements : un nouvel emploi depuis près d’un an qui me demande beaucoup (mais que j’adore), les chroniques de jeux continuent… Tout va bien quoi!

À ce propos, je viens de terminer la phase 1 d’un super projet. Un CMS - Chantal Management System, bien entendu ;) - pour gérer les critiques de jeux et les rendre disponibles en ligne. Le tout développé en PHP4 (on n’a toujours pas installé PHP5), MySQL, Smarty pour la génération, XHTML strict et CSS. Il reste quelques petits ajustements à faire pour la validité de certaines pages, mais en gros, le bébé est prêt.

Prochaines étapes : optimiser le code, rendre le PHP orienté objet, s’assurer que toutes les pages soient vraiment XHTML strict… Bref, encore pas mal de travail, mais je m’amuse comme une folle!

Donc… en grande primeur : jeux.communication.org! Avec des photos haute-résolutions prises par Fred.

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September 22, 2007 - 1:39 PM No Comments

Marcher pour Kyoto


Coalition Québec Vert Kyoto - Grande marche le 22 avril à Montréal - http://quebec-vert-kyoto.org/

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April 20, 2007 - 9:37 AM No Comments

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