Given the subject matter of the current strips, this is a little interesting…

Okay, this is huge news. No, HUGE.

Over the past 24 hours, I have received two hundred and seventeen visitors. That is more than my counter had registered in the entire previous history of Sandsday.

What happened? I’m not 100% certain, and I’m trying to learn details. Apparently someone added strip number 59 to StumbleUpon and people have been directed to the site against their will.

(I personally would have preferred if they had “stumbled upon” the front page, but oh well.)

If you happen to have discovered the site from StumbleUpon, I encourage you to check out (and rate, for that matter) the rest of the site. There’s a streetsign gallery, a definitive greatest movies list you can help get off the ground, and more. And don’t forget to give me your feedback on the strip from the Feedback link or by e-mailing me at mwmailsea at blogspot dot com.

Oh, and whether you liked or disliked that particular strip, I’d advise you to come back tomorrow. I’ll have a little easter egg for you in the day’s strip…

A spot of advice for anyone who wants to run a website

One of my biggest pet peeves is when the proprietor of a site that I enjoy and check regularly for updates falls off the face of the earth. Usually they give the half-assed explanation that “My schedule has gotten too busy to keep updating.”


But when you create a web site, and you give your audience an expectation that you are going to keep adding new, interesting content, you are set for life. If you’re going to stop updating, take down everything that gives the impression you’re going to keep updating except your update records, and even there make clear that you’ve stopped updating quite so regularly. If you announce a scaled-down regular update schedule, hold yourself to it, because the longer the time between updates, the bigger penalty there is for missing it. A daily update schedule tolerates several days’ worth of missed updates. A weekly update schedule can drop off for a week, maybe two. A monthly update schedule causes problems with the first missed month, and there is no excuse for a missed update on a yearly schedule.

Even if you stop completely, you can’t stop completely, especially if you’ve been linked to from elsewhere on the Internet at sites whose proprietors are probably also too lazy to keep their links up to date, and especially if the information you provide is potentially volatile and liable to change with the news. If something goes wrong, or if your host changes everything, or if (as with Freehostia even on their free service) you have to keep renewing your website’s existence, you owe it to your readers that everything goes off without a hitch. Even if your site is fairly automated.

Especially if your website is fairly automated.

I just signed up for buzzComix, which ranks webcomics into a “top 100” based on people’s votes. The primary means of voting, as near as I can tell, is following links from the sites themselves. You have to open up a secondary panel, from a tiny button, which you can still be convinced doesn’t exist if it doesn’t pop up right away or at all, to vote from within buzzComix itself. This means buzzComix pretty much becomes a contest between those sites that are interested in flooding it with votes. Of course, that would probably happen anyway, but bCx doesn’t seem particularly interested in stemming that tide.

Or, in fact, with anything anymore. There are signs of abandonment everywhere – both from the proprietors and from the users. There’s a thread on the bCx forums calling for a fix for “vote/rank images”, referring to some function that is no longer working and whose images have been taken down. The thread dates to March 2006. It’s possible this was an intentional permanent removal, but apparently no one decided to send the word: after the initial post, the original poster bumps it about twice a month as the only posts, eventually making fun of itself by labeling the bumps as “monthly/semi-monthly bump”. After seven and a half months, the original poster laments the lack of “visible means of support”, followed – after ten months! – by the first post from someone that’s not the original poster, seconding the lament. That’s followed by several other calls for the problem to be fixed (including a note that the function in question is “kind of standard” on other similar sites, despite me not knowing what it is even after checking buzzComix’ main competitor, a problem I have with that site since it provides no help whatsoever, not that bCx’s FAQ is much better) and a recognition (by June) that the site is abandoned.

The kicker: Were it not for a recent onslaught of spam, this thread – last post July 2007 – would be very near the top of the bug report forum. That’s before we get into the current news post, which wishes us a “happy summer“… in April 2007. The current news post is nearly a year old!

What’s more, bCx’s ads routinely advertise the ability to advertise on them… indicative of no one actually taking them up on their offer. A look at their ad calendar shows that many of the same comics have spots in the ad rotation day after day. This is especially distressing when you consider that the ads advertising the ads claim that you can buy an ad “for only $1”. You have to buy them in multiples of 5, and most webcomic artists aren’t making money off their webcomics and have to have a life too, but… dude. That’s a bargain.

If only I could be certain that bCx is still “rapidly growing” and still gets “over 10,000 unique visits a day with over 30,000 page views a day” that they claim. That would essentially be buying me an easy onslaught of traffic for a day. If you read today’s strip you’d know why. Instead, I plunge into bCx rather tentatively, wondering if anyone is still listening…

I’d ask you to vote for me here, both for bCx and for Top Web Comics (which doesn’t look to be quite as abandoned as bCx, in part because it doesn’t have much forum support or news at all, but still seems to be running mostly on autopilot), but I think you should see the strip first and decide for yourselves. If you like it, vote for it using the new links on the strip page itself. If you don’t like it, click the Feedback link and let me know why or e-mail me with your reasons why. Heck, even if you like it, let me know what you think of it and how I can improve. (I’d advise you to read some of the strips before this one first, though.)

My gripe with CSS

CSS allows you to have every format rule defined for later use (here “format”
means how things appear). So if you are writing a large website and you want a
consistent appearance for every title, sub-title, how examples of code appear,
how paragraphs are aligned, (I could go on, CSS covers a wide range of
presentation options) then CSS is the way to go.

Let’s say you have a 1200 page website that took you months to complete. Your
current boss gets a promotion and another person fills his place. Your new boss
says to change the font, the size, the background, the appearance of tables,
etc. everywhere on your 1200-page site to comply with some corporate policy. If
you engineered your site appropriately with CSS, you could do this by editing
your CSS file that has all your appearance (format) rules in one place.
(Assuming you used linked stylesheets.)

Or you could do it the hard way, and hammer the appearance changes on each
and every of your 1200 pages. Remember sleep? Your constitutional rights allow
you to take the hard way (this is meant as humor, not an insult).

The above is taken from CSS is used by most modern web sites to give all pages on it a consistent look and feel, with all the information needed for formatting in a single file.

If it’s so great for formatting, why isn’t it so great for other things? Why should so many sites repeat the same info on every page for elements, like navigation, that are repeated on every page? Suppose, to take Wikibooks’ example, you were told to add a new item to the navigation bar of the site. If the nav bar is in HTML (not Flash), you would have to “hammer the [navigation] changes on each and every of your 1200 pages.”

I should, instead, be able to change a single piece of HTML or CSS and have the changes occur on all pages automatically. Instead, at best you have to rig up some Javascript to apply the changes.

What am I missing here? Is there some easy way to do this (please don’t say “frames”) that I (and evidently a number of others) don’t know about? Is there some reason why formatting should be updated dynamically but other sitewide elements shouldn’t? What’s going on here?