Help! My Website Is Down!

I hear that familiar cry a couple of times a week. Sometimes followed by “what have you done?!”. Normally, nothing – it’s just your server, your connection or local server, or the internet itself.

There are a couple of great tools you can use to see what is happening with your site.

Down For Everyone Or Just Me? lets you know whether the problem is for everyone, or just you. If it is down for everyone then there’s a bigger problem.

Ding! It’s Up! will send you an email/SMS/Twitter when the site you specify is up, or for that matter, down.

dingiu

You should also check the status of your server through your host’s tools if they have them. Also try to remember what the last thing you did was. If you were just writing a post and then it wasn’t working, well there’s a problem you haven’t caused (probably), but if you were changing plugin settings or a theme template file then perhaps undoing that last step may bring your site back to life.

Host Gator is My Recommended Host

Host Gator (or Hostgator as some people call them) is the host I recommend the most. I use them many times per day on behalf of my clients, and find them great to work with.

I get asked which webhost I recommend a few times a week, and it is usually a choice based on personal recommendation and past experience. A recent rough count tells me that over 80% of my clients are using Host Gator (for at least one of their sites) and the number of problems I’ve had with them? Two. Both clients will not be using Host Gator again, for various reasons it didn’t work out well with them. However compared to the problems I’ve had (or more specifically, problems my clients have had) with other hosts, they’re a great choice.

Recommended Hosts

If you have a lot of websites you may want to have more than one host. While most hosting accounts can handle multiple sites as add-on domains (this is a great inexpensive way to have multiple websites/blogs), some people like to have different hosts for their larger, more critical websites – if one host has server problems, then their other important site should still be fine. That’s why I recommend Hostgator.

The Host Gator Baby plan will be good enough for most people to start off. In fact for those on a really tight budget the Hatchling plan may work for them, but it only allows one domain.

A well known host will always have those who recommend it and those who don’t, it is all in the personal experience. I have had good experiences with the two above but there are people who have not, and the best advice is to go with what your friends, colleagues and people you trust recommend.

I could go into a long list of reasons why I recommend Host Gator, but this is a soft-sell blog, so essentially I think it is simply a great choice for beginner and intermediate blogs due to ease of setup and low cost. There are better hosts out there, ones with higher security, greater scalability and better support, but you can always move if you get to that level and feel you need to.

The links for Host Gator are affiliate links, meaning I make money if you sign up with them. However please feel free to go to their websites directly, almost all hosts have similarly priced affiliate plans and it has no bearing on my recommendations. Also the hosts will happily answer any questions you may ask, my recommendations might not be perfect for your individual situation so please contact them with any questions.

Oh, and Happy New Year! If I can help you make 2009 more successful than 2008, please contact me, I would love to help you.

I'm On Plurk

As a follow up to my “I’m On Twitter” post, I’m now on Plurk. Plurk is like Twitter but has a neat timeline interface, so check it out and let me know if you’re on there so I can follow your updates.

Many people are testing Plurk to see how it compares to Twitter and with all of Twitter’s downtime recently then people are very intrigued. It’s not fair to directly compare then, but they do fulfill a similar need. If you try it, please let me know what you think.

Plurk logo

Great New Video Tool

For those looking to add a little spice to some photos on their blog, there’s a great new video tool called Animoto. The website allows you to upload photos (or import from Facebook, SmugMug, Picasa or Flickr), say from your latest company conference, add music from a pre-selected list or import your own mp3. It then goes away and creates a unique video based on the photos and music. See below for an example:

You can create unlimited 30 second videos for free (Animoto Shorts), or extended length (and downloadable) ones for $3 each or $30 for a year (or $25 with this code: tlobsvqg), and I almost guarantee you’ll sign up for one of the options when you see the results! Short video creation can take about 10 minutes, and if you’re not happy with the results you can just press Remix, and as no two videos are the same you’ll get something else. Give it a try for free.

If you’re interested in video, as a free gift to all my newsletter subscribers, you can now get the Ultimate Guide to Online Video for free! A 45 page report looking at 61 different video sharing and video editing sites, this is yours if you sign up to my newsletter.

[Via: Brendon over at Tailored Consulting]

Online Video Guide

If you’re thinking (and you should be) of using video in your blog, how do you decide which of the many video sharing sites to use?

Life Goggles have produced the Ultimate Guide to Online Video. This consists of the Video Quality Comparison page, Video Comparison Matrix and Free Video Sharing eBook.

They have reviewed 55 of the major video sharing websites (with a brief look at 4 video editing sites) and rated them for quality, and ease of use. What BigBrainBoy called “easily the most useful thing we’ve seen online in a long time“.

So far they’ve looked at (in alphabetical order):
AOL Uncut, Blip, Break, Brightcove, Clesh, Cuts, Dabble, Daily Motion, Dave.tv, DivX Stage 6, eefoof (VuMe), Eyeka, Eyespot, Fliqz, FlixYa, Forscene, Google Video, Gotuit, Grouper, iFilm, JayCut, Jumpcut, Kewego, LiveVideo, Lycos Mix, Metacafe, Mojiti, MotionBox, MyHeavy, MyNumo, MySpaceTV, Ning, OneTrueMedia, Photobucket, Revver, SevenLoad, Soapbox, Spymac, StashSpace, Sumo, Twango, Veoh, Viddler, Vidilife, Vimeo, Vmix, VodPod, Vsocial, Webshots, Yahoo Video, YouAreTV, YouTube, Yurth, Zeec and Ziddio. If you wish to be added to this list, please comment or contact us here.

There are three parts to the guide:

Video Quality Comparison

The video comparison page currently compares the video quality of 51 of the most popular video sharing sites.

Video Comparison Page Screenshot

 

Video Comparison Matrix

The Online Video Comparison Matrix quickly allows you to see what features are offered by each of the 55 video sharing and editing sites and what rating they have given them for various aspects of their service.

Video Comparison Matrix

 

Free Ultimate Guide to Online Video eBook

The various online reviews and ratings have been gathered together into a Free Ultimate Guide to Online Video eBook that is available for all to download. The guide:

  • Quickly looks at the registration process
  • Simply compares their ease of uploading your own content
  • Looks at the quality of the video
  • Rates the services of 50 of the top video sharing websites
  • Is FREE!
Free Ultimate Guide to Online Video eBook

More video sites are currently being added, so check back for the latest version. To be alerted when another version is released please subscribe to their RSS feed or weekly email updates.

Praise for The Ultimate Guide to Online Video

“Easily the most useful thing we’ve seen online in a long time.” – BigBrainBoy

“A well-written how-to.” – Bnox

“An extremely handy comparison.” – Art-For-Hire

“If you want to put your videos online and quality is an issue, you should definitely check it out.” – Download Squad

“While starting a online video company your guide to online video was really The Ultimate Guide” – JayCut

“An interesting comparison.” – Da Vinci Planet

“Good guides/reviews on a number of different video hosting sites…. worth a look.” – EyeSpyFX

“Here’s something real interesting.” – Inside Google

“A nice comparison page.” – WebZappr

What is RSS?

The following is taken from an article I wrote on Life Goggles explaining what is RSS, and answering the question what are web feeds?

With the launch of Internet Explorer 7 (IE7), RSS has finally came to the masses. Tech savvy (and Firefox) users have been using them for years and yet many people have never heard of them. What is RSS and what are web feeds? RSS may stand for Really Simple Syndication, but what does that mean to you? A web feed is for all intents and purposes, the same as an RSS feed. But what are they and how do you use them? And how are they beneficial to your blog?

RSS simply allows a website to automatically publish a basic file of “what’s new”. A user (i.e. you or your audience) can subscribe to this file (called a feed) and be notified of anything new that has been written on that particular website since you last received an update. It’s a quick and easy way of finding what is new on a site without necessarily having to visit the site yourself. Using a feed aggregator (more on these in a second), you can quickly keep up-to-date on the latest updates to many websites all in one place, and your audience can receive updates to your site via another channel.

Let’s have a quick look at my other site, Life Goggles (the link will open in a new window). When visiting this site, you can see the large orange RSS icon at the top right of the page. On other websites the location and look of these can vary, some examples are below:

Feed icon RSS icon2 XML icon

That’s all very well, but once you have found a feed, what do you do with it? You need to add this feed to a feed aggregator, a system that collects all your feeds in one place and converts the feed into an easily readable format. There are quite a few ways in which to read these updates.

1. Online
a) Website RSS readers. Some examples are:

Pros: Requires no software installation, available from any computer.
Cons: Need to be online to access.

Google Reader
Screenshot of Google Reader. Source: Google Reader

b) Personalised homepage. There are many varieties of personalised homepages where feeds (as well as other “widgets, such as email inboxes, weather updates, clocks, etc) can be added. These include:

Pros: Can also add other “widgets” besides RSS feeds.
Cons: Need to be online to access.

c) Browser Readers. Users of IE7 and Firefox web browsers will see the feed icon on their toolbars “light up”, or appear when a feed is available for a website. They can then subscribe to these feeds and read them directly in the browser as if they were a webpage.

Pros: Easy to add a feed, work just like bookmarks/favourites, but to a feed rather than a webpage.
Cons: Personal preference, I don’t find the feeds as easy to read to other systems.

2. Desktop
a) Standalone reader software

Pros: Can download and read offline. Typically faster to use.
Cons: Only available on the computer the software is installed on.

b) Integrated into your desktop email

Pros: Simplifies the reading process, just like email. Doesn’t always require separate software installation.
Cons: Only available on the computer the plugin/software is installed on.

Thunderbird
Screenshot of Mozilla Thunderbird. Source: Wikipedia

For those who don’t want to use an online/desktop reader, feeds are often available by email. Over at Life Goggles we use a service by Feedburner that automatically emails out any updates to this website every day, and one by FeedBlitz that sends out emails once a week. You can sign up here to see how each of these services work. You can unsubscribe at any time, so don’t worry about trying them out.

Overall RSS/web feeds are an attempt to allow users easy access to the latest updates on their favourite websites, in one convenient place of your choice. Your method of reading them is down to personal preference, try a few of the free options (there are many more than mentioned here, a web search for ‘RSS reader’ will find plenty of alternatives. If you have any suggestions please let us know) and see which one you prefer. Once you find out, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them! Feel free to try out the My Blog Expert RSS feed or the Life Goggles RSS feed.

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