Recently in Techie Category

For those looking at SEO conundrums.

So what I learnt today is that if you do :


User-agent: * Disallow: /a Disallow: /b

User-agent: Googlebot Disallow: /c


Google’s serach indexer will ignore the lines for User-agent: * and only read the ones specified specifically for itself. So /a, /b get indexed and /c does not

However :


User-agent: Googlebot Disallow: /c

User-agent: * Disallow: /a Disallow: /b


Then google will correctly not spider /a, /b or /c.

Although I can find no mention of this rule in ordering.


Ok, I’ve noted that Google does say this actually; and moreso that if you have a bot specific block then that bot will ignore the rules for all bots.

So I’ve had to go and paste rules into each and every specific bot section

But what I have learnt today (1 day later) is that if you leave blank lines in a user-agent block then some engines will disregard that instruction (Yandex). I also had fun reading translated russian webmaster guidelines

So long and thanks for all the fish...

So someone asked me to post my leaving note from the BBC.

From: Nick Holmes
Sent: 09 August 2010 10:52
Subject: Elvis has left the building...

So it is my sad duty to announce my departure from the BBC.

After 12 years, 5 months, 4 days, and 8 hours, (or 648 weeks, 4538 days or 21.6 months of Sundays), of service to the BBC, my role and I have cast off to find other shores.

In a time before Dinosaurs walked the BBC Online world ( I started as a fresh faced 22 year old, working on the BBC's Trusted Guide to the internet, above the post office on Shepherds Bush Green. One of my first technical queries was, "So where are the technical production guidelines, you know the way you build websites", to which I was told there were none and there began my grand mission.

Brought in by the famous BBC Online names of old, (the late) Helen Gill, Sheila Sang, Jo Gausden and Scott Gronmark, I was annointed with the purpose to serve the public. After just over a year I was elevated to the role of team leader, and stayed there happy in my evolving role and responsibilities; until in recent years the apple cart was upset by reorganisation after reorganisation, and finally resolving to my departure.

In so many ways I will be unhappy to leave the BBC, and I will always have good memories of working with so many wonderful people and fighting the good fight with others, striving to put right what once went wrong. Oops, is that 'Quantum Leap' or just the last thing delivered a day before launch. Either way I was fortunate and grateful to have had so many spins of the wheel.

I will forever remember the Client-side Development team, that I was proud and honoured to be part of for so long, the brilliant efforts contributed, watching people grow in their roles and capability, watching them blossom and go on to bigger and better things, holding back the lump in my throat and the tear in my eye. The team Christmases with Secret santa presents, the team mp3 collation, team Christmas parties and a can of spam left in a desk draw to go off for a fortnight (yes, you Mr Maslen). The SSI tools made in 2001 and retired 12 months later due to lack of management support, which are still in use today on the site. The BBC Opensource site I built in my own time, with no design (clearly) or editorial resource, with no management support or funding, just a tall ship and a star to steer her by. The 43 minute site, from concept by Tony Ageh and Gareth Ford Williams, to publication (under its own tld no less). What would a farewell be without mention of Barley (and nav5 in all its permutations, 4 and 3) that I made so many years ago, so many memories, so many wrestles between creativity and individuality of sites and conformity of being part of the BBC, tied up in code.

I will remember the Standards & Guidelines - creativity, standardisation, politics and bun fights. The way that they were (are) held up outside the BBC as a guiding light in other development teams both domestic and foreign (as is turns out). The browser standards, the download standard, the accessibility standards, the great and all encompassing(x)html integrity standard, that was the father to them all, to name but a few. The versions that were never agreed and so never saw the light of day (SEO, Downloads v2, XSSI, Semantic Markup and so many more).

I remember doing charity work through the BBC, helping on school kids projects to get them into web building, building community sites for underprivileged areas of Hull. Equally helping various people to start learning a bit of html here and there to progress their careers or just make their own community websites. I remember doing roadshows round the nations and regions offices talking about accessibility, CSS and other web tech; I'm still sad I never made it to Belfast, but they know how to make someone welcome in BBC Scotland :-). I remember being in TVC on the millennium, updating the site as Big Ben chimed, waiting to see if the technical world melted down from the y2k bug; updating the children in need site on the night as photos, stories and new totals came in; getting free pizza while launching the first BBC toolbar, only to find that schools had not built the site, which they had argued so hard to have included on the list of linked sites.

I remember the camaraderie of Bush House bar (leading to a pseudo wife, wonderful 2 children and a home in the commuter belt), the family of the development team (with the occassional dodgy uncle), the New Media Christmas parties (with amusing stories to tell from each), the caring environment where appraisals and objectives were something positive, rather than the one time a year you'd get a proper line management conversation. The training and mentoring, the idealism and values, the BBC we once were.

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."
Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5, 19-28

I had to learn that at school, and seems so pertinent now at the end of all things. I only hope that some will say I made a positive difference, once.

And so, as the die is cast, I bid adieu, I would leave a final note with another :

"When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive
I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand."
"Thank God, I have done my duty."
Admiral Horatio Nelson, The Battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805)


Nick Holmes

Web 2.0 Expo

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Black hats get no lunch.

So I'm at web 2.0 expo this week. It's starting well. I've learned how to optimise and fiddle re SEO stuff.

I also learnt if you get a speaker that likes the sound of his own voice too much then all the lunches are gone when you come out. (poor mark).

update - no coffee and wireless only works well when you can get an IP address, sat through 2hrs with no connections... wont drop my connection again...

javascript mime type

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apparently some official bodies regarding mime-types finally caught up with the fact that ecmascript and javascript exist. So there is application/javascript
rather than application/x-javascript. but of course this wont change anything for a while yet, it will still be text/javascript for 'type' in the script tags in your html and browsers wont get it and server software wont get it. All for a few years anyways. But I guess its a move in the right direction.

(thanks to anne's weblog)

Image replacement problems

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So, we were having a chat at work today about image replacement, using images to replace headings text for the puposes of prettified / designed fonts. We ended up with no options save images in pages with alt/title tags, or trying to persuade designers to use livetext with font declarations.

Inspired? maybe

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So I'm at @media 2006, and well it makes me think. Getting on and developing some stuff, in Ruby on Rails, with DOM scripting and so on? What to do at work? The fact that we're missing a trick with the team abilities just doing the same over and over rather than progressing, or are we keeping it feasible (no not really).

Accessible coding

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At the place that I work I'm always on about accessible coding. We have a bunch of standards so people know how they can make their pages more accessbile.

I've just found some others advising on Accessibility Best Paractice, and I've found a firefox extension toolbar specifically to help with accessible coding frrom the same people:

Mozilla Accessibility Extension

Firefox Extensions

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So I thought I'd list a few extensions that go with firefox, some that I can't do without, some I use a bit and some I just started with :

Cookie splitting with Apache XSSI

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Reference :


Cookies can be split up pretty simply using XSSI's 'if expr' statement and the Perl compatible regular expressions (PCRE) it is capable of.

URL Decoder

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I use this for devloping stuff, Url Decoder and Encoder, its really quite handy for decoding cookies too.


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