Ship Spotting World is going online

26 06 2010

Yes, we’ve gained the server horsepower to add a new wiki for Ship Yacht and Boat fans everywhere.  We are loading under licence from Wikipedia, a selection of relevant articles to get the place started.

Drop by and see Ship Spotting World



We are moving server

26 05 2008

The is not a thing we do lightly, but we have outgrown our current home. We’re adding advertising resources to help fund the migration, the first of which is The Chocolate Cake Church, a wholly eccentric site which we hope will help fund us.



Fan Fiction area

6 10 2007

After a while you bow to pressure.  So we have.  We’ve created a whole area for Fan Fiction.  Primarily we expect this to be Thomas The Tank Engine material, but who knows what other areas we’ll attract



Onwards and upwards

6 07 2007

I haven’t commented on this because I didn’t want to influence it, but Train Spotting World is getting an increasing visitor and editor population each month.  The increase is small, but sustained, and we’re seeing a large number of new articles and extra edits just because of that.

It was always going to be gentle progress, but the progress is positive.   Most important, Train Spotting World is paying its way from the advertising and subsidising its baby brother Plane Spotting World.



Another Google Milestone

1 05 2007

All the SpottingWorld sites gained a Google Page Rank yesterday. I am now doing a happy dance.

Well, obviously I’m not doing a dance at all, I’m writing a blog entry, but you know what I mean.

Google Page Rank is not, by itself, significant, byt it does mean that several things have happened, including:

  • Google’s algorithm feels we have sufficient content to be worth ranking
  • The sites are search engine friendly and are easy to index
  • External links to the sites are from areas of the net that Google finds to be non trivial

The start of a wiki was ever going to be slow. I so wonder how long it took Wikipedia to really reach critical mass. Even so, by not forcing things and by letting knowledgeable people discover us, we are moving forward.



The challenges of building a community

10 04 2007

The only way of building a community is to keep promoting it until evangelists arrive and take it over.  The difficulty is finding the evangelists without people thinking you are spamming, or trying to muscle in on their world.

Early on I joined as many railfan email groups as I could find in order to  let members know about us.  There were no false pretences.  I asked each moderator if I could promote the site and all agreed.

Even so the promotion is an uphill struggle.  People still see us as competitive when we are an extra resource to be used.  I’m not sure how to conquer that.



Promotion and expansion

20 03 2007

I’ve been concentrating on Train Spotting World with promotions.  I think it’s mainly because it came first.  It’s also by far the largest spotting or fan community worldwide for large pieces of hardware.

While I’ve been doing that, Bernd has been tuning the  advertising that funds us to be more relevant and actually add value to the pages rather than just generate a few cents per click.

We’re in pretty good shape, performance-wise, too, now.  We’ve discovered that every little tweak of a software settings file  empties all the database caches.  That’s not particularly helpful, especially during the setup phase, so we’ve disabled that element.

This means I can start to concentrate on promoting Planes.  I’ve done some already, but it is also interesting to see how it develops under “Google Power”.  Planes is just under half the size of Trains, so will feature less well in Google.  It also came later, so is taking what feels like ages to be spidered.  In reality, of course, it is taking the usual length of time any new site takes.



We need a week’s more data

14 03 2007

We have been tuning and tuning the site and software, and we’re pretty much tuned to the hilt as far as our current server goes. We need another week’s worth of data points to be sure of the class of server we migrate to when we migrate, but we know we’ll outstay our welcome on the server we share at present.

That’s the thing, you see. We share a server, and the mediawiki software is a huge eater of resources. Now, while the share of resources we have is limited by the environment we live in, shared servers work by selling the same resource several times over, on the basis that no individual site will use its share to the full.

We’re using our share to the full. It’s hardly surprising, because, between the two main wikis that are live currently we have over fifteen thousand pages in the database, and we’re serving and storing some large pictures.

So we’re gathering data about performance, we’re benchmarking on an offline server to see how performance enhancements relate to a dedicated server instead of a shared one, and we’re looking at the balance sheet to make sure we take a server that is within the advertising revenue that funds the sites.

We’re set to move in a few weeks, and we think performance, since it is on a par with Wikipedia at present, is acceptable for that timeframe. But it isn’t wonderful, and we’re aiming higher.



Well, we are getting there with tuning the sites

11 03 2007

We’re set up for when we need to migrate to a different class of server, and we ought to have an excellent speed increase at that point. Because these sites are very much hobby sites they have to fund the migration themselves, so we have to do our best with the performance we have now. But plans are well afoot that we will be able to move forward after a few weeks with our current server setup.

Migration to a new setup is not a criticism of our current and excellent server company. We simply have created sites that have a different footprint from their plans.



Wikimedia is like a Tango

11 03 2007

Every time the lead pulls his partner into an embrace, or struts, the partner resists, in a tango

So it is with wikimedia software.

Bernd has a small fight on his hands right now. We added a new extension: When a new user joins they are welcomed on their talk page, and an interface is created to their “yet to be created” blog.

We had an error on a hew user’s registration and that point us to the fact that nothing was being created in the log files nor in the RSS feed for the new users.

Like all good Tango dancers he is leading his partner firmly and will prevail. Like all good partners she is resisting him, firnly and theatrically.