Focus with your feet

Photography class passed me by, so I never discovered the utility of a fixed focal length lens. Say what? For the uninitiated, it mostly means that you’ve got no zoom, just fine focus. So, you need to put a bit more effort into framing your shots. I picked up a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II on Friday afternoon, just in time for a weekend blizzard.

Wonderful Weather

The low aperture makes it’s pretty solid for indoor portrait photography without a flash. Canon also makes a 50mm USM lens with f/1.4 but it costs about five times as much.


The lens is the lightest that Canon makes, and the Digital Rebel XT is the lightest camera. Thus I was walking around with the lightest possible dSLR camera and it still felt like a brick. The lightness comes from the plastic construction, it doesn’t feel cheap though. Apparently, the first version came with a metal lens mount, you might be able to find one used. The lens is probably the lightest on the wallet too, weighing in around $100 usd.

The Nude Curling Effect

You may have heard people talk about the Digg Effect or the Slashdot Effect, but there’s nary a mention of the Nude Curling Effect. It must be one of those long tail niches that’s ripe for the picking. Umm, did you say nude curlers?

For those that haven’t noticed, there’s an international sporting something-or-other going on in Italy right now and said sports shindig includes women’s curling. What does this have to do with me? Getting my site shut down, that’s what. Yes, women’s curling is indirectly to blame for site outages and sluggish behaviour ’round these parts.

The Story

Around prime time EST on Tuesday evening, some entity in the sports media latched on to the fact that the women of curling had posed for a nude calendar. Regular eightface readers will note that I covered this news a few months ago. And there-in lies the problem.

The main offender: Women of curling nude calendar. It was a one-liner linking to a Globe and Mail article that has since disappeared. Hits started turning up from Google as the news made it’s way onto the sports stations in Canada, so I fleshed out the post with links leading directly to the calendar. Incidently, it’s still for sale via The Curling News.

Now, my post is one of the first three returned via Google when you search for nude curling calendar. When a broadcaster mentions nudie pics, of course people are going to turn to the internet and why not start with Google. That explains the traffic spike to some extent.

The Problem

I noticed a number of hits coming in for the post on Tuesday night, figured it had to be the Olympics and someone reporting on the calendar. Put a Google Ad on the page (it’s my only one) via some WordPress custom field voodoo and went to bed. I thought the traffic would die off, and it wouldn’t hurt to make a couple bucks. But the traffic didn’t die off, it came back hard Wednesday.

The Nude Curling Effect

Now, it’s Thursday and the traffic isn’t slowing down. The server started acting sluggish this afternoon, I figured it was probably my fault and decided to take a look at the resource usage (you get lots of space and bandwidth, but not lots of processor). Uh oh, first problem, I discovered WordPress 2.0’s .htaccess rules don’t play nicely with my stats directory and I couldn’t get at the data (solution via Dreamhost wiki). The resource usage info is cryptic, but it looked like I was over.

I started to look for a nice way to make static pages within WordPress, when I received a friendly email from Dreamhost support informing me that I was over usage and that they had effectively turned the domain off.

My solution will come in a second, but first, let me bash my web host. Dreamhost has grown a lot over the last year, it’s good for business, but it has left them lacking in the support department. Rather than proposing a constructive solution and working with me, they found it easier to shut me off and tell me to look at cryptic statistics. Sure, it’s probably the right solution for most of the processor abuse cases, but maybe there’s a root cause that isn’t user stupidity. It’s also important to note that you can’t check the stats with the directory disabled. I responded almost immediately and two hours later, have yet to hear back, short of an auto-response. Thankfully, I’m capable of interpreting cryptic numbers and coming up with my own answers.

The Solution

With large amounts of disk-space and bandwidth available on low-cost plans, it’s easy to forget about processor and memory usage. If you’re on a shared maching, it can be troublesome when you’re receiving a lot of traffic.

Normally, a page that you request from WordPress doesn’t actually exist. When a user requests the page, the software generates it on the fly via templates and database requests. All of that requires processor and memory overhead. So, if you can identify one page that’s receiving most of the traffic, you can replace it with a static version (an actual file).

I created a new directory in my account called static, that will allow me to house lightweight version of various pages that are prone to traffic spikes. After creating a stripped down version of the curling page, I rerouted the post to the new page via the “Remap subdir” option in the Dreamhost panel.

The Aftermath

The server seems to be more responsive now, but we’ll see what happens. The Olympics will be over soon enough.

Comment this

CoComment vs

There are tons of weblogs around these days. A large chunk of them have commenting systems. If you read and comment on a number of sites regularly, you end up forgetting about most of them. There’s also no way to let your readers know what you’re reading. So, we need a way to track what we’ve posted elsewhere. Enter coComment and another way to use


coComment is another one of the closed beta-du-jours, a site that aims to do it for you (and track popular conversations, vis-a-vis popular posts). You read a few of the comments (Solution Watch, Tech Crunch, Scoble) and it sounds like the second coming of sliced bread: it’s going to be “HUGGEEE!!”, everyone needs it, filling a void, it’s a simple idea that will work.

The idea isn’t really new, Kottke started doing something similar awhile ago. Flickr lets you keep track of photos you’ve commented on. coComment will just be another site I have to check on a daily basis. This isn’t a jab at coComment, so much as an attempt to outline my solution and point out an alternative that isn’t in closed beta. coComment will serve a different set of needs; doing things like aggregating the comments, offering notification and some community aspects.

All niceties aside, I will take a jab at any Web 2.0 company that uses tables for layout. Oh, and there’s something called spacer.gif? For shame.


I’ve been making an effort to participate more in conversations on other weblogs over the last few months, and can attest that they’re hard to keep track of. Zach told me he’d been using to keep track of his comments and pointed me towards two posts offering a few more details. Basically, it comes down to tagging anything you comment on with @commented-on (see mine). already has a number of ways to integrate itself into your site, os and browser. You can also tag whatever you want, although coComment seems to be doing a good job covering all the popular services. If you’re a user, the extension for firefox can make the posting process relatively painless.

It’s simple, works for me and keeps track of my comments.