Category Archives: Web Design


Several years ago I was looking for a vanity URL. You know the type that are short and sweet.

My first thought was artes.ea however there isn’t a country with .ea as their top-level domain.

Then playing about with how I say artesea I realised I could get .tc is the top-level domain for the Turks and Caicos Islands and at only $39 it seemed a bargain. So for the last 2.5 years I’ve been using the domain name as a shorter to my blog posts, but mainly for my version of Dabr dab.argh.

However I was rather surprised to find out that my registrar this year sent me an invoice for $130 for the renewal.
So come two months time I’m letting the domain expire. I’ve already started on the work to move to including a nifty cookie transfer script so you don’t need to authenticate with twitter or change your settings again. Short URLs are no longer needed now Twitter forces the links, and the other projects with be mothballed as a backup on my PC.

I couldn’t really afford to keep in my domain portfolio at $40/year so the price rise has helped me put an end to my rash purchase.

LibDemBlogs Delays

So whilst at work this morning I noticed I had several alerts from LibDemBlogs telling me it had been unable to create the half hourly updates. I get these once in a while, but as long as it’s just one it will be fine on the next build. However these were pretty much every 30 minutes.
With a spare few minutes I could see in the logs that a request to read an RSS feed of a site had gone from taking a few seconds to over a minute, and LibDemBlogs reads the RSS feeds of over 400 sites.
However I had no time to take a further look, but managed to send an email to the hosting company to see if they were aware of any issues. A reply later in the day informed me that indeed there was an issue with packet loss in to the datacentre and they would let me know any more updates.
On getting home I’ve been able to activate a couple of settings, the first is to stop reading the blogs of anyone who hadn’t posted anything in the last 60 days. This reduces the number of blogs it needs to read to around 200, but means that if you haven’t blogged for a while, and just created a new post it won’t be spotted.
It’s helped and the site managed to build the 8pm update, however as it’s giving up on reading the RSS feeds of some blogs there is a chance your post just now won’t appear for a couple of hours.
My hosts have a plan of action late tonight, so there will be some downtime near midnight. Hopefully this will fix the issue, and I can role back some of the tweaks.

As a side affect this also impacts Liberal Tweets, LibDig and dab.argh where you might see random errors or timeout messages.

LibDemBlogs AdFree

I’ve been running LibDemBlogs for over 7 years now and it’s displayed advertising to
a) help pay for the hosting costs and
b) put some cash back in my pocket for the hundreds of hours I’ve spent on the site.
Originally I used GoogleAds and was one of the first political sites to run with the MessageSpace network.
Now whilst both have brought in money, recently it’s not been enough to cover the hosting costs. To ensure that the site could continue to run it has the begging box each month asking for donations to help meet them, and happily every month £25 (and in the past £35) has been received.
Then last night I wondered why I still had the adverts. Google were trying to push dodgy miracle wrinkle cures, and MessageSpace had some roll over film flash ad, did I really need them anymore?
Checking my Google Adsense account it showed that I had reached the magical £60 mark in December to have the money wired to my bank at the end of January. It also informed me the last time this happened was August 2010. On average the last 3 years it’s been about £5 a month.

So thanks to the kind generosity of the readers who every month provide the money to host LibDemBlogs I have just removed the adverts from the main page. Historical archived pages will still contain them, the odd information page might still have them until I can go through and edit the code and this site (my personal blog) will continue to have them, if only just to see what Google thinks is relevant to each post.

Time to stop using

Recently I’ve seen a large number of tweet moaning about “New” Twitter, whether it’s the layout, lack of old style retweets, or the constant pestering at the top that there are New Tweets for you to read.

This surprises me, as I really didn’t think anyone was still using the website to read twitter, but then checking nearly everyone has “via web” at the end of their tweets.

So how do you avoid all these problems? Use a webclient instead. I’m going to recommend dab.argh, why? Because it’s my webclient. It’s a branch of dabr an open source project which was first created to improve the dreadful mobile client. Continue reading Time to stop using

Better Moderation

My latest wordpress plugin is called Better Moderation and was built to be used on LibDemVoice, but is available for all.

One of the biggest problems we have is that people like to leave rude messages, under the current system in WordPress you can add their IP address, email or name to the moderation list and in future their comments no longer automatically appear.
You might even find some keywords they like using and you can add these to the list.
The problem occurs when you login to see what comments are awaiting moderation. You look at the list and there is a new comment, but why has it been moderated? Maybe a swear word, in the past you added them to be blocked, one of the other admins manually moved them to the moderation queue, might just be too many links, or a collection of these rules.
So you approve the message, it appears on-topic, but the reason was that someone else in the team had decided that this person was no longer welcome.
Continue reading Better Moderation

Deleting error_log on mass

I’ve recently moved to new VPS servers and something that you need to be careful with is an incorrect setup in your php.ini file. Just a small typo can result in a line of errors everytime a PHP page is loaded, and on a WordPress blog that can be high.

So once you’ve noticed that you have quite a few error_logs and that you have solved the issue causing the errors, this one line of code via a SSH terminal can delete all the logs for you.

find . -name error_log -exec rm -f {} \;

As a warning this won’t prompt you to delete the files and a typo could result in you losing everything.

How LibDemHome was created

So this morning LibDemVoice announce that it had been bought out by Lord Ashcroft as was renamed LibDemHome.

Of course being announce in the morning of the 1st April it was just an April Fools joke. One first conceived over two years ago, and started three months ago, but to ensure that everything went smoothly (and that I didn’t have to flick a switch whilst asleep) here are the steps used to have a new domain name, different theme and redirects.

Continue reading How LibDemHome was created

NOtoAV Poster Generator #argh2av

With the no side continuing with the lie that AV will cost £250 million, and having no other argument in their ads, I’ve built two tools over the last week.

The first is like my Labour-o-matic (created during the General Election). ARGHtoAV allows you to generate random campaign slogans for the no team. Like “17th century peasants need a fifth dimension NOT an alternative voting system” and “Hard-working families need to accept the status quo NOT an alternative voting system”.

The second is a step up, and a bit like the MyDavidCameron site, where you can create your own graphic which you can save, share or blog.
Now my favourite is a slight cheat as I allowed myself to have a custom image, but you can create your own here.

Wanted: LibDemBlogs Intern

Due to changes in my lifestyle (baby and new role at work) I’m getting rather behind on managing LibDemBlogs, so I’m looking for someone to help.

Unlike some bloggers I’m not expecting you to ghost posts for me, just answer the 10 or so emails a month adding new blogs to the database, and removing those no longer active.

Please send a short cover letter to [email protected] explaining why you would like to help out.

(Un)official Twitter Widget

Do you have a WordPress blog, but hate playing about with the source code of your theme to insert the Official Twitter Widget?
Do you wish that instead you could just have a WordPress widget which did all the hard work for you?
Well now you can, with the (Un)official Twitter Widget.

This simple WordPress widget allows you to have the Twitter widget on your sidebar.

I wrote this widget for a client who wanted the new Official Twitter Widget, however all the WordPress plugins I came across either used the plain old widget, or did their own thing with the data.
It’s based (heavily) on the work from seanys, which used the old widget.

To install either use the built in plugin installer and search for (Un)official Twitter Widget, or visit the WordPress Plugin page and download the file, unzip it, and FTP it to your /wp-content/plugins/ folder.