Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Late Post - Roots Television

I was recently reminded that I forgot to post a message here about my Roots Television interview on the Genealogy Cruise at the end of October. See the interview here:

A lesson in broken links

Recently someone submitted several new links through the form on Cyndi's List. There are several guidelines for submitting new links. Three of the points read as follows:
  • First verify the address before submitting it.
  • Type the address carefully for complete accuracy.
  • For error-free submissions, use the "copy & paste" function on your computer to highlight and copy the address from your web browser window and paste it into the text box below.
That seems straight-forward to me. The links are automatically added to a waiting area page on Cyndi's List (What's New) and they are sent to me to be forwarded to the mailing list. So, if links are submitted I assume the submitter is following the guidelines. I also assume the submitter cares about the link(s) they are submitting, thus the reason they submit. Well, you know that old saying about why I should never assume anything.

Links are often submitted to my site without much care. Incorrect URLs (addresses), no descriptions, poor descriptions, misspelled words, lack of've heard some of this from me before. But, that isn't what this message is about today. Today it is only about the incorrect addresses that cause broken links.

I don't normally pick on specific people or instances, but this one is still haunting me today, over a month and a half later, with dozens of e-mails coming to me to report the failed links. On November 15th someone submitted a link for each US state to a site called 51 new links (don't forget DC). Of those 51 links, 43 links were submitted with bad addresses and are broken. Further, the submitter didn't use consistent descriptions, so they obviously weren't merely doing a copy and paste (if so, the description would probably have been the same over and over again). 43 broken links, newly submitted, means extra work for me to now fix them on my What's New page for November (; 43 links are forever broken in the mailing list archives (; there are numerous wasted e-mails back and forth reporting the broken links to me; and a bunch of wasted time for all of you who tried to use those links. In the end, the broken links defeated the purpose of submitting them to my site in the first place--to get visitors to that site.

Now to the lesson in broken links. If you encounter a broken link you might be able to find the correct address yourself by looking carefully at the URL. In this case, the broken links resulted because the submitter put the first letter in the name of the state in uppercase instead of all lowercase letters. For example, they submitted this:
when it should have been this:
Another issue with the link for New York was easy to spot. It was uppercase, but they also left off the hyphen used in the two-word names for other links. For example, they submitted this: York
when it should have been this:

Another thing you can do is break down the address and move up directories to the main directory. In the examples above, just backtrack through the address, removing first the state name:
In this example you are taken to a page which is an index of all of the links to each state page. If this example hadn't worked we could just backtrack more through the address and go to the main homepage at:
If you haven't already learned these tricks, start looking at URLs for web sites to see if you might figure out broken links that you happen upon. I'm off to fix the links on the What's New page.

Successful surfing!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Catch-22 E-mail

This is one of the most common problems I have with AOL e-mail addresses, and the most frustrating to me. I have a lady AOL user who is writing to me. She is getting more and more frustrated and angry with me because I am not responding to her and will not subscribe her to my mailing list. The problem: every time I e-mail her I get a bounced message:

----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
(reason: 550 lady's name IS NOT ACCEPTING MAIL FROM THIS SENDER)

What this means is that my e-mail address is not in her address book as an acceptable sender, so I can't e-mail her. And the messages on my mailing list are now shown as being sent from my personal address, rather than the old server address that previously worked for her. So, I'm not sure what to do. I hate to disappoint her. But I also hate getting e-mail from people who are annoyed with me when it isn't under my control. Catch-22. Nothing that I can do to fix this....that I know of.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Problems, problems everywhere

This is a long overdue note from me. I've been dealing with several problems for the past few months, each of which compounded upon the other to make one big problem for me. And confusion for many of you.

1. I bought a new laptop in May. I spent most of the summer getting files and software moved from the old computer to the new one, setting up preferences, getting everything to work right. I had the majority of that work done and then the hard drive on the new computer died in the middle of October. The hard drive was replaced under warranty, but the warranty does not cover any file recovery expenses on the bad drive.

2. The new computer is running on Vista and the old was on XP. So, I am still in the process of learning where files are stored on the new computer as opposed to the old (i.e. where do my e-mail files get stored, etc.). As a result some of my stuff had been backed up and some had not yet been backed up. In fact, I had a new backup software program installed and was building that routine.

3. I then spent most of November getting tech support help to recover files from the failed hard drive. And digging out old copies of files from the old computer so that I could rebuild and reinstall on the new computer. I lost the install files for several of my software programs that weren't on CD, along with the some of the registration info. So, I had to revisit web sites, re-download the software, and prove my purchases in order to get the software registration codes. That was fun.

4. One of my biggest problems --- I found out that Eudora (the e-mail program I have used and loved since 1997) is no longer being supported or updated by Qualcomm. So, I had to look for a new e-mail program to install. I settled on Thunderbird from Mozilla. Since the beginning of November I have been setting up Thunderbird, converting my old e-mail to Thunderbird, and figuring out how to use this software. I'm working on new filters and trying to figure out how to automate many of the things I had automated under Eudora (i.e. replies to specific types of e-mails, etc.). My e-mail still isn't quite yet where I want it to be.

5. During all that I suffered another big blow. The one major advertiser that provided the majority of the income for the site changed their terms and conditions in September, making the way they pay commissions drastically different. So, my income dropped 70%. This will have serious effects for me and the site. First, it meant that I could no longer afford to employ anyone to help me on the site. So, my sis-in-law had to go find another job and I lost the only help I have for my site. Now it is only me working on the site alone for the first time since 1998.

6. In April I had been asked to find a new server for the site, so I moved it. As a result I also lost the tech support I used to have for the little tweaks here and there. In October on the TMG cruise I found help (yay!) through one of my genealogy computer-geek friends, Jeri Steele. She and I will be working on updates to the scripts that help me deal with new link submissions, the What's New posts to this mailing list, etc. We're just starting work on that.

7. The e-mail to the mailing list fell behind for several reasons -- the computer problems I had as described above. But, I have also had increasing episodes of inappropriate (waaaaaaaaaay inappropriate) links being submitted each day to Cyndi's List. So, each day I have to go through and remove those before the messages are sent to subscribers on the. And the CyndisList mailing list is set up to be moderated so that I am the only person who can post messages to the list. I forward the clean version of the message to the list, then I still have to go into RootsWeb to release it from the moderated section in order to get it sent out to the list. I'm finding that there has also been an increasing problem with spam sent to the CyndisList mailing list, so I have to sift through hundreds of those every day on the RootsWeb mailing server just to find my own correct messages to release them. What I'm saying, in a nutshell -- just to send out a simple message to you each day has become an incredibly unsimple process. I'm working on ways to re-simplify this.

And last, but not least--I'm a single mother of the most wonderful 10-year-old boy in the world. He is always my first priority. Evan is now in the 5th grade and his life is getting more busy, hectic, and more social as he gets older. Naturally, he gets my attention first, then the site and all of you. That is as it should be.

OK, now that you know why my e-mails have been behind and sent in large bursts to you, you also know the reason why I feel my head is exploding most days. My goal is to have most of the e-mail problems at my end resolved by the end of this year. Thank you all for your patience and understanding in all of this. I'm really sorry for all the inconvenience and confusion it has caused you.

Now, back to the e-mail (and blogging soon),