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Hints on keeping up with the hints... Site News
In case you haven't noticed, the volume of published hints has greatly increased since Panther's release. Though this is typical with each "dot release" of OS X, the volume with Panther is unlike anything I've seen before. Since Friday, there have been nearly 200 hint submissions, and the traffic volume on the site has been staggering (compared to site averages). For example, a typical weekend day for the site is about 20,000 page views; this past weekend, we had 52,000 views on Saturday and 43,000 on Sunday! Monday's figure was 66,000 views, compared with a typical average of 34,000. The server kept up quite well, especially after I removed the 725KB movie clip that was re-downloading every time the main page loaded :).

The fast pace of hint publishing will continue for a while as I work through the backlog over the next few weeks. This is good news, but it does make browsing the site a bit tougher, so here are some hints to help you with the hints :).
  • Take advantage of the new "Panther [10.3]" bar near the top of the screen. The first link in the bar displays a page listing all Panther hints that have been added since the release date; the next two links display older (pre-release date) hints that have been verified as either working or broken in Panther; and the last two links let you email me when you find an older hint that works / does not work in Panther.

  • Use the Activity section of the "What's New" box to keep up with comments to previously published hints. Each date listed displays all hints and comments published on that day. So while the What's New box only shows the last 25 comments, clicking on Oct 27 will show all 197 entries (a single-day high, by far) added to the system yesterday.

  • Check the hint count to determine how far "in" you should read. The counter counts hints displayed in the last 24 "rolling" hours (ie not from a certain starting point each day). If there are more than 10 recent hints, make sure you hit "Next" at the bottom of the screen to catch everything (there are a couple good ones on page two today -- anyone find the "Share your scanner" hint yet!?)

  • To help me help you, please refer to the 10.3 meta-hint mentioned above to check for duplicates before you submit a new hint on Panther. Given the very high volume of submissions, I will not be able to notify you if your hint was a duplicate -- I'll just delete it and move on to the next. So save yourself some typing and check the summary hint first.
Panther marks another nice leap in both performance and features over its predecessor, and I hope the huge increase in activity here is indicative of an expanding market for OS X, both from prior OS 9 users making the move, and new Mac users migrating from other platforms. Thanks to everyone who's contributed hints and comments on the new system -- it's the community here that really makes the site work!
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Hints on keeping up with the hints...
Authored by: mzajac on Oct 28, '03 04:35:37PM

It would be great if the RSS feed contained more than ten hints. Even during normal updating, I'd find it full of unread items and wonder if I had missed anything that slipped off of the bottom of the list.

Since it only contains short excerpts, it would be no problem to include maybe 50 items or more.

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Hints on keeping up with the hints...
Authored by: grogglefroth on Oct 28, '03 08:29:00PM

Ditto. The RSS feeds really help; I just can't check it enough times a day to stay within arm's reach of caught up.

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Hints on keeping up with the hints...
Authored by: bryang on Oct 29, '03 12:46:18AM

Ditto. It'd be very useful to have more hints in the RSS feed.

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Hints on keeping up with the hints...
Authored by: robg on Oct 29, '03 01:50:39AM

I'd love to, but ... even though they're tiny, the problem is that the RSS clients ask for new files very very often -- the logs literally show requests from the same IP number several times a minute for days at a time. If there were some standard that could be enforced, I wouldn't mind going to a larger number of hints. But I'm a bit afraid what might happen to the machine if I 2x or 3x the RSS feed size -- it's already the most-hit page on the site.

And if you're curious just how much bandwidth that tiny RSS file might use, it's taken 12gb so far in October. If I double the size of the feed, that's 24gb. I would rather save that bandwidth for the actual hint content as opposed to spitting out a larger RSS file.

If someone can correct any misconceptions I have on RSS, I'd like to know that I'm wrong -- but the logs sure make it look like the various RSS clients can set ridiculously fast refresh rates, leading to needless bandwidth usage...


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Reducing bandwidth charges
Authored by: mzajac on Oct 30, '03 01:49:08PM

How about a separate feed with just the latest 50 or 100 headlines, without excerpts instead, or in addition to the existing one?

Anyway, there are plenty of techniques you can use to reduce bandwidth for both HTML and RSS files. Some of these require the RSS feed reader to support the technology too, but I think most of them have been pretty good at keeping up.

Here's a proposition, Rob: if you can use any of these suggestions to save more than 15% in bandwidth, how about giving us a better RSS feed?

  • Ask your server administrator to enable mod_gzip, to compress web pages and RSS files on the fly. On a text-heavy site like this could save LOTS of bandwidth. It looks like you could reduce transfers by 80% on your home page! Pages will load faster too.
  • If you can't make that happen, add a line of PHP to the top of the template to gzip your files. This should be easy even if you have to hack into geeklog to change the templates.
  • I notice from NetNewsWire's stats window that your RSS feed is being sent even if it hasn't changed. I had a quick look at the server headers, and it appears that the server is sending a different modified date and etag header with each request, even if the feed hasn't changed -- this is wrong behaviour. Get the server to only change the etag when the feed has changed. Then the RSS reader will load the whole feed when it's been updated, otherwise it will only transfer a few bytes of headers. About etags.

I'm not an expert, but send me an email and I'll be glad to give you advice about this stuff.

PS: I got the headers using "curl -i" in the terminal.

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Hints on keeping up with the hints...
Authored by: mzajac on Oct 30, '03 03:02:21PM

One more point to keep in mind: an RSS feed will be saving bandwidth by reducing home page hits, and not wasting it.

When you get etags working right, my RSS reader will only be downloading the whole 22 kB feed once whenever it's updated (normally once per day?).

Without a good RSS feed, I'd be hitting the home page and downloading 60 kB+ of HTML, several times per day, plus images, CSS and javascript.

The better quality your feed, the more people will use it and the more bandwidth you will save. It may even be worth experimenting with different feeds (e.g. titles only, short excerpts, full text, feeds for comment threads).

PS: found a list of feed readers that support etags.

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