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


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…


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>

Book Review : 3 secrets to effective time investment

Picked this up as Cal Newport wrote the forward and mentioned it on his blog. I took away a few key points. A lot of the book I was able to skim read, but if I can keep myself in the frame of mind of choosing where to invest my time rather than it getting spent – it’ll be worth the read.

Here are my notes:

Plan your day, week, month – make sure you invest your time where you want to.

When frustrated by everyone else think “what can I work on that is under my control and can make a different”

Don’t compare yourself to others – you don’t know how much help they get, or sacrifices in other areas they have made.

Set realistic expectations of yourself – don’t set ridiculous project deadlines

Be compassionate to yourself

Don’t be a perfectionist! (unless it is truly important to you) – the cost of wanting everything to be perfect is horrible!

Don’t over commit – and only choose the things you want to invest your time in. Find out what you like saying Yes to and doing.

Set expectations – don’t answer emails too quickly – train others what to expect from you.

Big projects – people are scared of doing them and making progress as often these projects are public and very important.

Routines – help you make consistent progress on big projects without sacrificing health and key relationships.

Pick up the book from Amazon!

Microsoft.Devices.PhotoCamera change camera resolution

I’ve been having some fun building an app for my Windows Phone this weekend using Azure Mobile Services. I wanted to do some stuff with photos as well by uploading them to Azure Storage as blobs. The camera seems to default to the maximum resolution when using it in code so I wanted to set it to something smaller like 640 * 480 to make the size of the images smaller.

There is a nice code sample here of how to do it:


But when I placed this code in the OnNavigatedTo method of my xaml page I was getting an error. Seems the way to get this to work off the bat is to make use of the camera_Initialized event. So in OnNavigatedTo add:

camera = new PhotoCamera();
camera.Initialized += camera_Initialized;

and in the camera_Initialized event you can change the resolution:

Size res = camera.AvailableResolutions.ElementAt(0);
camera.Resolution = res;

Hope this saves someone some time…!

Power of habits, runstreak and golfstreak

Since giving up playing football (soccer) around the age of 28 I’ve slowly been getting lazier and fatter. Gone are the days of being 72 kg and charging up and down the wing. 4 years after quitting football it got to the point where I needed to decide if I wanted to get fat and embrace obesity, or do something about it and get fit again. I’ve been playing golf since finishing football, but unfortunately that doesn’t keep the weight away. I’m aware I need to address my diet as well as exercise – I’m hoping that getting fitter will help drive healthier eating.

Ken Hughes is a crazy runner, doing ultra marathons and other crazy stuff like that. He introduced me to the idea of #runstreak, a group of people on twitter who run at least a mile each day (often more). Some people I’ve seen have run streaks of over 1,500 days and Ken himself at the time of writing is up to an impressive 184 days. The original idea seems to have come from Ron Hill who has run every day since 1964!!!

Usually when I’ve done running before to try and get fit I would plan something such as 3 runs a week. But when Saturday comes around and I am yet to even do one run I realise my plan has again failed. So I thought I’d give #runstreak a go – and amazingly right now I’m up to day 50. This include:

– 14 days running while on holiday in Mauritius.
– running a mile at 11:30pm at night after too many beers, just to keep my #runstreak going

At first it was pretty hard to motivate myself, and I didn’t expect to get anywhere close to 50 days – but now I actually look forward to my run each day. As someone who works from home it’s a good reason to get out of the house each day and means I have to plan my days out which helps with general productivity. I’ve got a Garmin GPS watch that allows me to track my distance and calories burnt – it’s very motivating trying to beat what you’ve done over the previous 30 days.

With #runstreak going so well, I wondered what other things I could apply this streak thing to. As you may know I do enjoy playing golf, but golf is one of those games you have to practice quite a lot to play well. It’s a vicious circle too, because if you don’t play well you can’t be bothered to practice. The past 18 months I have been on this vicious circle – playing once, playing badly, and then choosing not to play or practice again for the next 3 to 4 weeks. I wondered if #golfstreak could bring back the enjoyment of the game, and enjoyment of practicing again?

Sure enough it has! I am now up to day 27 of #golfstreak and am playing my best golf for nearly 2 years. On top of this I won the club championship at Theale Golf Club – the main competition of the year – and my handicap has come down. Of course I have to put up with the jokes from some of my fellow golfers about never doing any work and always being on the course, and may be you are thinking the same? But #golfstreak doesn’t mean you have to play 18 holes every day. It can be 50 balls down the driving range or 30 minutes practicing my chipping and putting. With longer evenings at the moment and planning ahead it’s not too tricky to get out and practice/play a bit each day.

The best thing of all is not getting nervous for competitions. For the club championship I just kept saying to myself “it’s just another day of #golfstreak” and while everybody else got nervous and shot their worst rounds of the year, I played nice and steady for 2 days. Sweet!

The weight hasn’t been tumbling off yet from #runstreak, but I’m definitely getting fitter and able to run faster and longer. I’ve given up diet coke this week (I was drinking about a litre a day), and chocolate should be next week. I might have to start #fruitstreak. Don’t even mention the house, I might have to start #DIYStreak soon!

I hope to keep #runstreak up as long as I can, but expect #golfstreak to come to an end when I have to travel due to work. Good thing about running is you just need yourself and some trainers, golf needs a bit more equipment unfortunately 🙂

5 Conclusions From Seeing The Stone Roses

I had the pleasure of watching The Stone Roses at Heaton Park yesterday – Saturday 30th June 2012. A day I’ll remember forever. I first got into music around 1994 with Oasis, so missed out on The Stone Roses when they were at their best in 1989 – and didn’t see the band before their split. I’ve seen Ian Brown, John Squire and Mani separately in their various guises – so was very excited when they announced getting back together with Reni too.

1, The crowd was great
I’ve been to loads of Oasis gigs and there has always been a bit of a feeling that things could kick off at any moment. People seem quite aggressive and up for a brawl. The crowd at the Stone Roses average age was probably a bit older than the last time I saw Oasis at Wembley, but I think the fact that the music is more relaxed and chilled sets the feeling for everyone. I didn’t see one instance of trouble all day, and everybody was really happy and smiling to each other. Apparently there was some trouble at the bar the night before with people struggling to get served quickly – but there wasn’t any evidence of this on Saturday.

2, The Stone Roses were great
They were better than I could have imagined. I was worried about going to see them in case they sucked – but it was an amazing day, and they were amazing. Nothing else to say really…

3, Beady Eye need Noel Gallagher
It must be annoying for Beady Eye that the songs people enjoyed most were the couple of Oasis covers they did – Rock n Roll Star and Morning Glory. I think their own stuff would be average Oasis songs at best. And even these Oasis covers they did weren’t as good as ‘proper’ Oasis with Noel playing. But then I always was a Noel person 🙂

4, John Squire, Mani and Reni are awesome musicans
Beady Eye had Andy Bell and Gem Archer on guitar, bass, drumer and keyboard player – and of course Liam Gallagher singing – but they didn’t seem to produce as much noise and music as just the 3 of Squire, Mani and Reni. It’s interesting listening to The Stone Roses play with just a single guitarist as they use the moments of not playing as important parts of the song, and of course Mani is an aweseome bass player so almost acts as a second guitarist.

I also wonder if they keep the PA at 8 or 9 for the support acts and then wack it up to 10 for the main act.

5, I wish I continued playing the guitar from being a teenager and in a band 🙂 But of course there are many interests and hobbies I wish I continued or focused more on – playing golf from when I started at 10, interest in making computer games, cycling, art and drawing.
But interests come and go – but there has to be something said about focusing on one skill.

Even now though I couldn’t choose just one of the above things to focus entirely on.

Did The Stone Roses get back together for the money? They’ll certainly be making a lot of money just from these Heaton Park gigs and it’ll be interesting to see if they write any new songs. I don’t think anybody who saw them play yesterday cares though and the band did seem to be enjoying themselves rather than just going through the motions.

Measuring my productivity

I’m always for looking for new ways to get more things done, and figure out the kind of work I enjoy doing the most. Just before setting off for Seattle a couple of weeks ago I read a (guest) blog post by Cal Newport:

Time management: How an MIT postdoc writes 3 books, a PhD defense, and 6+ peer-reviewed papers — and finishes by 5:30pm

Having read this I went over to Cal’s own blog and saved a load of content onto Instapaper to read on the flight. Needless to say I highly recommend taking a read, and start with the section ‘Patterns of Success for the Working World’:


The part that interested me most from the guest blog post was the story of Jim Collins (who’s books are great), keeping a stop watch on hand and monitoring how he spends his day. I often feel as though I struggle with focusing on the important stuff and so decided I’d do this over a week. The results were quite interesting. Creative work for me was programming – building new things…Communication was email and Skype, and admin was any other type of day to day work.

Creative Communication Admin
Monday 64% 16%
Tuesday 26% 25% 23%
Wednesday 65% 13%
Thursday 78% 14%
Friday 0% 25% 53%

First of all – in my case at least, having a stop watch running increased the amount of time I could focus. When I started working on the creative stuff, I started the stopwatch and closed Outlook, Skype and Yammer. The average time I was able to focus was around 60 minutes which I’m chuffed with, the longest being 90 mins. I’m hoping Cal is right and with training focus can be improved and lengthened as I’ve been able to see a big difference in what I can produce with being able to focus for 60 minutes each time.

Tuesday and Friday were interesting days. Tuesday is when we have out management team meeting in the morning (over Skype). After doing that first thing in the morning took up time, but then I also struggled to switch to the more creative work. Friday was a bit of a catch up day, with some admin work that needed to be done to the web site. I think I’m going to try and keep admin stuff batched together and attack it on one day rather than do a bit each day. Friday seems a good day to me.

Having the stopwatch running while doing email and Skype was also really interesting. It made me focus on getting the job of answering emails done, and then closing Outlook – and I decided to only log into Skype during certain, short periods of the day. This helped minimise  distractions when trying to focus on other stuff.

So am I going to keep the stopwatch running in future weeks? Definitely! This week has been one of the most productive weeks I can remember in a long time and also the most enjoyable. I can’t wait to see the results next week.

Notes from Rob Walling’s interview on Mixergy

Here are my notes from Rob Walling’s interview on Mixergy. I’ve been a member of the Micropreneur community for a while now and highly recommend joining.

Not happy as dev/consultant – hamster wheel
– when 50 will I still be doing this?
– wants to enjoy work

Years seeking freedom from bosses/clients – took 9 years
Freedom 1st goal, purpose second
Don’t stop learning – buying new businesses, new marketing techniques
Look for specific actions that generate sales
Divine restlessness – remodel business/work every 18-24 months
Worked day job, then 8 hours in evening working on own projects
Tried many projects this way, but they had no market
Would do marketing first now
Read/watch tactical stuff – take notes (action notes)
How to deal with significant other
– need to get their buy-in as there will be ups and downs
– explain why you want to do it
When you’re unhappy – the salary money doesn’t matter
– but money in the bank makes you happy and gives you choices
– being a slave to money and salary makes you unhappy
Changed goals – smaller ideas, served a niche
Hired VA to help with drop shipping
Does hibernate and go into focus
– heads down, massive strides forward
How to get so much done?
– only work on a few things at once
– VA tier one email support

Find a market before building a product
Learn Internet marketing
Provide value people will pay for

Notes, Clay Johnson The Information Diet

Here are my notes after watching the Clay Johnson interview on Mixergy about his book ‘The Information Diet

Decide what to consume
Better for your health
– sitting is killing you
Better social interaction
– not setting next to each other with TV on and laptops on
Challenge – just like being on a food diet
Quality not quantity
– people don’t get fat eating lots of broccoli!
Big benefits
– more time to produce
– enhance relationships

1, Measurement is important
rescue time app
Journal – simple textfile
– spot patterns
– am I reading too much on X, rather than doing it…
eg reading too much Lean Startup stuff

2, Realize the intent of the content
probably selling advertising?

3, Data Literacy
Understand in depth what you are consuming
Depth is more important than breadth
Internet makes us scatterbrains
Develop a mastery of a subject
Stuff that is actionable

4, Information Fitness
Attention spam – slowly improve it
– techniques like pomodoro timer
You don’t want to accidentally find yourself on FB/Twitter/etc
People lose track of time when looking at a screen
Notifications are evil

5, Create/produce
Even if no-one reads what you are writing, you are getting a benefit
– putting things down on paper, you think ideas out
Clay writes 1,000 words per day before noon
Producing creates mastery
Add more to the world