3 Good Books – new side project

I’m trying to increase my luck surface area at the moment by putting a few side projects out there and seeing what sticks. The thing that motivates me is usage, progress, and improvement. Most of the projects I consider these days rely on natural search traffic from Google and it has become very hard to predict which sites and content you will be able to get traction with. There is nothing more miserable than working on a site for a long period of time with nothing you try moving things forward and getting more visitors.

3 Good Books is one of these side projects. I’ve started a number of projects around books before – but they were more home run type projects – all or nothing. As this is a side project – it can move along over a long period of time. It also scratches my own itch – getting good book recommendations from peers. I am fed up of getting crappy book recommendations from Amazon – and this is an example of machine learning being annoying. Just because I bought a single book on juicing – and then gave up on juicing after 2 attempts to use and clean the juicing machine – doesn’t mean I want to be recommended juicing books forever more.

I have already got a few good book recommendations through that I have purchased that Amazon hasn’t recommended me before – so for that the side project is a win already.

Posted in Books, seo | Leave a comment

Campervan First Trip

We bought a campervan on Saturday, got the camping equipment on Sunday, and set off on Monday!
We spent about a week viewing new and used campervans, and with the help of the members of the VW California Club – quickly made a decision to buy on Saturday. I will write up more later about our decision to get a VW Campervan soon.

Campervan at Woolacombe

Campervan at Woolacombe

I knew we would be nervous about getting out there and doing the first trip, so we just wanted to get it done. Sophie’s parents and family were holidaying down in Devon this week so we thought we could head over there and potientially meet up with them. We only planned on staying away for 2 nights as we thought this would be a good test to see what other equipment and camping stuff we would need.

Leaving things to the last minute as we usually do we didn’t have a lot of campsite options that had space with electric hookup. But we found one and booked it on Monday morning just before we set off.

As we were driving down the hill to Woolacombe and our campsite we saw a couple of fire engines and soon realized that the campsite that we were staying at was on fire! The main facilities building that housed the reception, bar, swimming pool and sauna had caught fire! Thankfully nobody was hurt, and after a couple of hours at the beach and a fish n chips supper we headed back and were allowed in.

The reception was moved to a bungalow near the site entrance, and although they had no record of our booking they slotted us in. All credit to them for continuing to run and sort things out after such a stressful event!

Unfortunately the fire had knocked out a lot of the electrics in the park and so our hook up point wasn’t working. That was the assumption anyway – or there was something wrong with it in the van! Either way, we had to use the leisure battery to cool the fridge and turned it off once it got cold. It stayed cold enough during the night which was the main concern.

The weather started to take a turn for the worse once we were allowed into the park. Really windy, and heavy showers. I’d read some tips on the VW California Club forums about pointing the van so the lowest point of the raised roof was in the direction of wind and this seemed to work. While we still did get moved a bit by large gusts – it was nothing compared to the battering people in tents were getting. It was certainly a good test for the van, and I think we can now be safe in the knowledge that it can take most of the bad wind and rain conditions the UK can throw at it.

bad weather at Woolacombe

bad weather at Woolacombe

Sleeping arrangements worked out great. Isabel slept in the boot – which she thought was a great adventure, and Sophie and I slept in the roof. With Sophie being 3 months pregnant I’m not sure how much longer she will be able to get up on the top bunk – but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Isabel in her boot bed!

Isabel in her boot bed!

The campsite was Europa Park and it was ok, but with the swimming pool closed and the weather looking like heavy showers and windy we decided to pack up and head over to meet Sophies family near Westward Ho! It took about 15 minutes to pack everything away apart from the roof which I waited until Sophie came back to lower so she could check the material wasn’t getting snagged in the roof mechanism from the outside.

We met up with the Calienda’s and gave the tour of the van which we have done a few times. It is good fun showing them all the storage, gadgets and clever things that are packed in. Sophies dad has a Mazda Bongo campervan, but I reckon we might see him in a VW soon!
After hanging out at a windy and cold beach for a few hours as the kids hunted for fish and crabs in the rock pools we set off again. We didn’t want to head back to Woolacombe as that was going away from home – so we set off either with the aim of finding a campsite close by or just driving back to Reading. A few miles the other side of Bideford we came across Riverside Caravan and Camping Park and they had space for us that night. The site had a small river flowing through it and 3 fishing lakes which would be great for any anglers out there.

This campsite was really nice with gravel parking areas for the hookup spots. We plugged in and the electric hookup was all working which was great so we could leave the fridge on overnight. It was a relief to know the hookup worked as it should. The Riverside campsite had a restaurant and bar on site so we ate there that night as the shop didn’t have much food for us to cook and we didn’t really fancy getting the stove and stuff unpacked.

South Molton Riverside Caravan and Camping Park

South Molton Riverside Caravan and Camping Park

The only meal we really had in the van during this first trip was the breakfast before we set off for home on Wednesday morning. Shreddies and milk was enjoyed by all. Isabel thought it was great fun eating her breakfast outside on a picnic bench. It is funny how odd little quircks bring smilies to toddlers faces.

We learnt a ton of things from this 2 night trip. Immediate things we need to buy:
– drive away awning – will give us so much more space
– CO monitor – don’t feel comfortable hooking up the gas until we have one

We have a few things coming up such as baby scans which mean we won’t be able to get away for a couple of weeks so we should get the awning sorted by then.

Posted in Campervan | Leave a comment

New podcast – Britstrapped

Martin Judd and I have finally got around to putting a podcast together. I think we first met at a Business of Software London networking event, and have been good friends ever since.

During the past 6 or 7 (may be more!) years we get together regularly for lunch or an evening meal and beers, and chat about how our businesses have been going and what our next plans are. Many times we have said this would make an interesting podcast.

After a few false starts at the end of 2014, we finally had the courage to record something and post it up. Now 5 episodes in – we are really enjoying doing it. Hopefully others find it interesting or useful.

Martin and I enjoy the accountability aspect of it. Doing the podcast means we ship something each week, and hopefully people will enjoy following along in our journey and struggles of running our own businesses.

Check it out at:

If you have any questions or topics you think we should cover on the show send them over!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Smoothies are the way forward?

Always a sucker for a good list of book recommendations.

Always joking with friends about new business ideas, and whether they are Amazon proof. Fish and Chip shop might be the only answer soon? hahahaha

Planning makes sure work gets done!

Planning what not to do, is almost as important as planning what to do! Have read similar ideas such as the ‘What not to do list’

Thinking I should start aiming a bit higher and work towards buying Liverpool FC. Only problem is, if I paid that much for something, I’d want to be picking the team too!

I’m working through the back catalogue of James Altuchers podcasts, and this is a real gem. I could listen to AJ Jacobs talk forever he’s so interesting! Can’t wait to start reading his books.

I am thinking home made smoothies might be the best way to get fruit (and more importantly) veg into me.

Great case study on content marketing. Shows any sector can write good content and get links when you mix it with other interesting niches/sectors.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Interesting Links

Some interesting things I have seen over the past couple of weeks…

I love Mr Money Mustache – wish I could live as frugally as him! Some other good tips and thoughts on investing. I have picked a few shares in my ISA this year, and although they are doing OK (more by luck than judgement) I will sell them and buy index funds instead.

Interesting thoughts on why Google is getting into areas other than just search

I had the pleasure of seeing Tobi Lütke present at The Business of Software conference a few years ago and he was nice enough to answer a few questions I had via email. Great to see Shopify doing so well.

Good video on staying on the right side of Panda

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Interesting things

Tony Robbins – people either love him or hate him. If you are into your self help books, I’m sure you have read either Awaken the Giant Within or Unlimited Power. I enjoy reading his stuff, but don’t go with all the hype. His new book is about money, and it has the same message as Scott Adams thoughts below on Matt Cutts blog, but in 500 pages. Anyhow – this interview with James Altucher is interesting and fun, and worth listening to.

If you don’t want to read Anthony Robbins new book, just read the blog post above – and you’ll be good.

Panda penalties are frustrating (we think we got hit by one in May). You won’t get any notice from Google you are under penalty, but at least working out of it is all in your own hands. Better still – take note of the above points and don’t get hit!

Want some business ideas you can start yourself in your spare time and then scale up – check this out.

Check if your web page is mobile friendly

‘Mobile Friendly’ label that is starting to appear in some Google Search results. I’ve just noticed it appearing next to some of our pages this evening

You can’t work flat out all the time, or at least I can’t! Motivation and enthusiasm generally comes in bursts. Enjoy it when it happens, and manage things when you are feeling slow

I am very jealous of Brecht Palombo. I have done a couple of week long road trips in the US and they were some of my favourite times away. I’m determined to try and take Isabel and Sophie away for 6-12 months before Isabel starts school. I have started de-cluttering already!

2nd lecture I have watched in this series, and again some invaluable points – and 2 good book recommendations.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Interesting Stuff

Some interesting things I have read or listened to recently…

Good thoughts, slow and surely, and honestly – wins the race!

Some more interesting views on recent panda and penguin updates, and the future of these updates

interesting idea that penguin penalties are related to a sites outbound links, rather than inbound

See your decisions through the eyes of your people

Testing lazy loading of images on some retailer page – will be interesting to see from an SEO perspective whether page speed, or assets on a page, give the most benefit.

Treat as one opinion piece from many on the subject. Getting links to pages is still biggest ranking factor.

Founder of Scibd – nice interview by James Altucher. Didn’t realise Scribd have a book subscription offering – which sounds very good.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Disavow Tool Idea

By the time the next Google Penguin update runs it could have been 12 months since the last big update. That is far too long (and is really fucking up the internet) – but I will save that moan for another blog post!

A monthly job for us has been analyzing our links and deciding which to tell Google to ignore as they are from spammy sites. To be completely clear, we try and do everything whiter than white. A lot of sites in our sector have really suffered from buying crappy spammy links and being hit by Google penalties so we have always tried to do things the right way. Even so – shitty sites still link to us, for various reasons:

1, People are trying to do negative SEO on us and get us penalized by Google so their ranking increases

2, Other sites actually include linking to our site as part of their practice of buying links and expired domains, to try and show Google their linking strategy is legit.

3, Sometimes relatively new or low quality sites will link to you

As part of wanting to keep a clean and proper link profile we have been doing a monthly check of links reported from various SEO tools such as MajesticSEO and Hrefs, and of course the links reported in Google Web Master Tools.

At the moment it seems a bit of a manual process of using Microsoft Excel and Notepad to create your disavow file, and I’m sure a tool could be a better job. Here are the features I would consider being useful:

1, Ability to upload lists of links exported form other SEO tools mentioned above

2, Mark links and domains to be included in a disavow file.

3, Track which links have been previously uploaded, to save duplicated effort each month. Allow notes to be entered against domains/links.

4, Scoring of Urls to help the user decide whether to disavow links

5, One click generation of your disavow file

6, When urls are imported, would be useful to highlight urls/domains other people have disavowed.

Sound like something you might use? Point 6 would certainly be useful once you have a large amount of users and would make generating a disavow file much easier!

If you think this tool would be useful, drop me a message : nick dot swan at gmail dot com

Posted in seo | Leave a comment


runAllManagedModulesForAllRequests=”true” was something I added to all my web.config files for ASP.NET MVC when I wanted to run the web app in deployment on my Windows Server 2008 box.

I wanted to have Glimpse configured for the project though, and as this needed the ability to add (another) module in web.config, I decided to figure out why runAllManagedModulesForAllRequests was needed in the first place, understand a bit more about it, and then hopefully fix it properly as it always seemed a bit of a hack.

Thankfully there is some good advice here:

Don’t use runAllManagedModulesForAllRequests=”true” when getting your MVC routing to work

And a hotfix from Microsoft so you do not need to do any hacking with web.config:


Edit 21/8/2013

Turns out applying the above fix might cause some issues if you then have a . in a url slug, eg /blog/guide-to-hotels-at-hotels.com

The .com part causes an issue.

The below link to a stackoverflow answer shows how to add a httphandler that solves this problem…


Posted in asp.net mvc | Leave a comment

ASP.NET MVC RenderSection

This post is as much for my own use as others as I’m always forgetting how to add sections to an asp.net mvc masterpage.

In the master page add your subsection using:


and in the views implement this section using:

@section Footer {
<p>This is my footer</p>

You can make the section optional in your view:

<footer>@RenderSection(“Footer”, required: false)</footer>

Posted in asp.net mvc | Leave a comment