Vivid Ultramarine CD

In June of 2004 when I was participating in the DarkBlue SEO Challenge, I created the Nigritude Ultramarine FAQ. The goal of the contest was to put a page at number one in the Google results for the nonsense search phrase, “Nigritude Ultramarine”. As part of my FAQ, I tried mention other things of interest on the web that used one or both of the keywords. Among the sites I linked to was a Australian band called Vivid Ultramarine. After the contest was over, I left the FAQ up but mostly forgot about it.

Around the end of January, I received an email from Dean Catoggio of Vivid Ultramarine. Turns out they’d been receiving a few hits on their website from the link on my contest FAQ. Dean offered to send me a free copy of their CD, Ford Cortina. I’m always a supporter of local bands in Dallas, so why not Australia, I thought. Besides, I could hardly turn down a free CD. The CD arrived yesterday and I stuck in the CD player not really knowing what to expect. It’s actually quite good. The title track, Ford Cortina, is my favorite but the other two tracks, Sky Blue and VU Groove are also good. Check ’em out.

Cats, Caps, and Contests

Ultracap Update

After prototyping a cell-balancing circuit for my robot power supply based on Maxwell 350F Ultracaps, I discovered the original choice of the TI TLC25L4CN low-voltage op-amp was not a good one. The little chip just couldn’t deliver enough current to balance the cap voltages in any reasonable amount of time. The peak output of the prototype was about 4 ma. So after spending a couple of hours searching for an op-amp that could operate at low voltage and put out a substantial amount current, I came up with the TI TLV4112IP high-output-drive op-amp. At last week’s RBNO, I built a second prototype and… it works! The new op-amp outputs up to 300 ma easily. Using the test circuit, I set it up with one Ultracap at 1v and the other at 2v. In little over a minute, the system balanced with both caps at about 1.6v. Next Tuesday, I’ll put together a more complete prototype with four Ultracaps and three cell balancers.

The cell-balancer has also proven to be a good way of trying out the GPL Electronic Design Automation (GEDA) package. I’ve been using the schematic capture program gschem primarily (screenshots) and have been asking lots of stupid, new-user type questions on the mailing list. They’ve been very patient with me so far and I’m begining to get the hang of it. It turns out good-looking schematics. Once I finalize the power supply, I’ll post a link to the GEDA files for anyone who might want them.

Cats in the garage

The abandoned mother cat and two kittens we brought home a few weeks ago are still with us. We know a lot more about them now. The kittens were much younger than we first thought. We’ll probably hang on to them until the kittens are a bit older. Susan has settled on names. The half-siamese mother cat is Sophie, the black kitten with the missing toe is Zippy (though she insists on spelling it “zippie”), and the tailless calico kitten is Callie. No luck finding a home for any of them yet. Callie is probably too emotionally disturbed to make a good pet but we have located a group called Barn Cats International that assists with finding homes for problem cats on farms and ranches where they can live with minimal contact with humans. Hopefully we’ll be able to find good homes for the other two. If anyone in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area needs a cat, let me know!

Nigritude Ultramarine contest outcome

The contest ended on July 8th. Thanks to everyone who linked to my site, especially, Bram. His link resulted in more hits on my site during the contest period than anything except Google itself. Feel free to remove those links now. I’ll probably leave the page up until the domain expires. I ended up in position 6 in the final results. The winner was a blogger who apparently won primarily through old fashioned Google bombing. Oh well, my site received a sort of honorable mention prize, the Judge’s Choice Award. My prize is one of those teeny, tiny “James Bond Stealth digital cameras” like you see on ThinkGeek. I’ll post a photo as soon as I get it talking to my Linux box (it only comes with Windows software but it has a USB cable so I’m hoping I can just mount it like a little USB drive).

We’ve been pretty busy at the office doing website design jobs. The lease on our office space is up soon and we’re deciding whether to stay put or move to new space. Even if we move, we’ll stay in Dallas and probably in the same general area.

Movies, Ultracaps, and mod_virgule

Advogato has been down for something like three weeks now. I’m beginning to wonder if it will ever come back! I asked around on the Gimp IRC channel and learned that the server lost a power supply.

Meanwhile, the nigritude ultramarine page is hovering around 12-15 in the Google results. There just aren’t enough inbound links from high PR pages to compete with all those link farms and other black hat tricks. Just over two weeks to go.

I mentioned how bad Van Helsing was in my last entry. Since then we saw The Day After Tomorrow, which was pretty good. If you liked Independance Day, and can overlook the compression of a multi-hundred year sequence of weather events into one week, you’ll probably like this one. The Dick Cheney vice president look-alike is good for a few laughs. The movie remined me of the old Fritz Leiber story, A Pail of Air – though it got a bit colder in his story.

We also recently saw the latest Harry Potter movie, which was not as good as the previous ones, and The Chronicles of Riddick, which was also okay. These two were see once at the matinee price movies but still enjoyable. Next up, the release of the original, uncut, subtitled Godzilla; maybe this weekend.

I recieved the four 350 F capacitors (yes, I said 350 Farad) from Maxwell and we’ve been playing with them down at the DPRG Lab. It takes a few minutes to charge one from the bench supply at several amps. Once charged, we were able to run a small motor (no load) on one for over two hours. And they’re designed to be exactly the same size as a standard D-Cell battery. Just the thing for a BEAM ΓΌber-photovore I think.

Nigritude Ultramarine Update

While it’s unlikely that my Nigritude Ultramarine FAQ is going to reach the number one spot on Google by July 7, it’s been more than worthwhile participating in the Dark Blue SEO contest so far. I’ve been able to document a lot of the search engine activity and have learned some new things. For example, I was aware of many black hat SEO tricks that boost a page in the Google results, but I had no idea there were black hat tricks to directly attack a competitor’s site and push it down in the Google results. My page has been the subject of one cloaked page attack and several fraudulent Google spam reports so far.

I can also tell you that it’s possible to get a completely new site listed in Google within 48 hours and that Google updates their results every 24 hours. The page rank trust metric, on the other hand, may only be updated once a month. My page was first listed on May 9th and still has a page rank of zero. I expect this may change sometime in the next week.

Even without using any devious, black hat tricks, I’ve managed to stay in the top 15 results, out of over 350,000, with nothing but good design, actual content, and a handfull of links (most of them due to the goodwill of a few other folks who enjoyed the page).

I did succumb to the temptation of one highly ranked link yesterday, however. I added a link to my contest page in the June edition of the Robot Competition FAQ, which is in the approved LoPIP and goes from news.answers to the RTFM MIT FAQ repository and eventually ends up on faqs.org. Faqs.org is one of those rare sites like ODP, a site with a Google page rank of 9. I don’t think this is likely to boost my page’s position in the search results much but it should give me a higher page rank, which can’t hurt.

Nigritude Ultramarine Update

Since my last post, the Nigritude Ultramarine FAQ, my entry in the SEO contest has been indexed by Google and is now showing up in the results. Unlike the hundreds of other pages out there, this is one of a handful that are actually intended to be interesting. It’s also one of the few that’s not using every dirty, black hat SEO trick in the book to try to cheat the Google rankings. No parasitic link farms, no referrer spamming, no keyword spamming, no page cloaking or any of those other things evil SEOs do to replace real Google search results with spam. Suprisingly, my page made it into the top 20 results anyway and is now bouncing around between position 9 and 12.

That makes me happy mostly because it means Google must be doing a very good job at resisting the SEO attacks so far if a purely information page is ranking that high. I have tried to optimize the page in the sense that it contains validated XHTML/CSS, minimal graphics, and correctly uses the meta description and keyword tags. And I seem to be getting some links to it from other sites, though nowhere near the thousands of links the SEO people are creating to their sites from link farms. Google showed 32k results this morning. There are only about 200-300 contestants so the rest of those must be sites linking to the contestants. I’ve probably got no more than 20 links to my page at present. (feel free to help me out by adding one, if you’d like!)

One thing that I found surprising is how far some of the SEO experts are willing to go to pump up their pages. Within two hours of my site being picked and shown in the Google results, someone filed a Google spam report against it. After doing some searches on SEO discussion forums, I discovered this is standard operating procedure for some SEOs. They file spam reports against any sites close to or higher than theirs in the Google results in the hope that Google will pull their competitor’s site from the database.

Nigritude Ultramarine

A recent slashdot article brought to my attention the DarkBlue SEO Challenge, a contest with the goal of getting a webpage to the number one position in Google’s results for the search phrase “nigritude ultramarine”. I decided to take a whack at it despite the unfortunate choice of words (most people I’ve mentioned it to seem to think nigritude has a vaguely racial-slur sort of sound – it actually means the “state of being the color black”.

The first step was to grab a domain, so I grabbed nigritudeultramarines.com from GoDaddy. The name was picked up by the root name servers last night and now I’m on the way. Most of the other pages I looked at were jokes or meaningless tangles of links connected to parasitic link farms. The link farms seem to be a typical trick used by SEO “experts” to attack Google’s Page Rank trust metric. In much the same way as if a user created hundreds of fake mod_virgule accounts at Advogato or robots.net and tried to certify their main account. Google’s page rank is somewhat resistant to this type of attack but if enough trusted sites link to the the attacker’s link farm, the attack can be successful. A favorite ploy is for the attacker to add domains to the link farms that are recently expired domains with ODP listings. ODP links have a very high trust value (as high as 9 or 10) and just a few such domains can boost the page rank of a parasitic link farm tremendously.

ODP has been putting a lot of effort into combating this and other SEO attacks. Google also expends a lot of effort tweaking their page ranking algorithms to untangle the mess SEO experts make of things. Thinking about this gave me the idea of making a purely information site built in the traditional Internet style to see how it would compare in the Google rankings to a typical “expert” optimized page. Would it be overwhelmed by link farm boosted pages? Would the Internet community favour links to it over the contentless pages? Would anybody even care? ;-)

To this end, I’ve created the Nigritude Ultramarine FAQ. It contains, you guessed it, frequently asked questions about the whole nigritude ultramarine thing. If you have a question about the subject, serious or not, feel free to stop by and ask it. And if you’d like to help me out, I wouldn’t mind a few more links from other sites. Just a simple contextual link with the text nigritude ultramarine – nothing tricky please; no contentless link farms, link spamming, referrer spamming, or the like.

The site has been up for a full 24 hours now and is already getting a fairly steady stream of visitors. The referers seem to be personal blogs, so someone noticed and began spreading the word before me. I have submitted the URL to Google but haven’t been visited by GoogleBot yet. I did get an unsolicited visit from the Ask Jeeves/Teoma spider within hours of going live and was also hit by the QuePasa.com robot today (not sure how either discovered the site).

So far I have aquired inbound links from several PR7 sites, so hopefully I’ll start out with a reasonably high placement in the search results. But on the other hand, some of the SEO folks out there have pages with 4,000+ inbound links from their link farms so this may be a futile exercise. Time will tell.

Update: As I was writing this entry, Googlebot hit the site. We’ll see if I make it into the results by tomorrow. I’ll make some webalizer stats of the traffic available if anyone is interested.