New preference to open external links in a new window. PS: jQuery rocks

Somehow my blog posts always turn out to be small novels. So if you only care about enabling this new preference, and not the who/what/why etc, go to your site preferences, click "edit site", then check the checkbox "Open external links in a new window". Then all links in your Clicky stats that point to external sites (your own content/downloads, and incoming/outgoing links) will open in a new window instead of the same window. If you want some more background and to hear my rambling about how awesome jQuery is, read on...

There hasn't been huge demand for it but some people like external links to open in a new window. I didn't want to make this the default because for you (the users) there's no way to disable/change this behavior. Whereas if links default to the same window, you CAN change that behavior by middle-clicking a link with a multi-button mouse, or shift/control-clicking a link, both of which open any link in a new tab or a new window, depending on the browser you're using.

The only reasonable action was to add a preference to do this, but implementing the logic in our actual codebase to make links open in a new window based on a user preference was going to be irritating. But I finally needed to get around to this because we have a number of white label customers who are implementing our stats system into their own site with an iframe. The problem with this is that when you click an external link in an iframe, the entire iframe goes to the new site, and since iframes don't have a "back" button, there was no way to get back to Clicky without reloading the entire page again. This is obviously undesirable behavior.

Rather than having to add in logic to the 5-10 places in our code that output these links as clickable, which certainly isn't hard, but is mundane, repetitive and annoying (and adds bloat too), I thought jQuery could probably make this a lot easier, and of course it did (it always does). The entire thing took less than 10 minutes. I only had to add logic to ONE place in our codebase to check whether or not we're in "iframe" mode, and if so, it outputs the following javascript:

$("a[@href^='http']").attr('target','_blank');

That's it! Now of course this is wrapped in a function so I can call it easily in a few different places without having to write it out every time (it needs to be re-called everytime a dashboard tab is clicked for example, to update the new links in that module), but that code is ALL it takes to make all external links on Clicky (or any web site) open in a new window.

I also added a preference for each site so that people could turn this on if they want it, rather than only having it available for iframed pages. This took a bit longer since I had to add a field to the database to store this preference and what not, but it was still a very quick process. If you want to enable this feature for your site, go to your site preference and click the "edit site" sub-tab, and it is a new checkbox on that page. It defaults to "off".

I can't stress enough how amazing jQuery is. If you're stuck on Prototype, drop it like the disease that it is and learn jQuery - it will change your life. It is the best thing to happen to web development in a LONG time, perhaps ever. All the magic of the Clicky interface (dashboard, spy, etc) is thanks to this library, and we would be nothing without it. Take a peak at our interface code and spy code and you'll see that the vast majority of it is all in jQuery-speak.
8 comments |   Apr 10 2008 10:52am

Say hello to Clicky



These nine 1U servers represent Clicky, Freewebs Clicky, and pMetrics. This pic is slightly outdated, we have since added 2 additional servers, but you get the point.

PS: See that Linksys switch at the bottom? Do yourself and your business a favor and DON'T BUY ONE.
11 comments |   Apr 07 2008 9:26am

Help translate Clicky into your language

The number one requested feature we get is to localize our service, and I'm just pleased as punch to announce that as of today, our localization framework is in place.

We have witnessed the success of other services who used a crowd-sourcing model to localize their web sites (Netvibes and Facebook, for example). We recognize the power of this model and have taken the same approach. Anyone with a Clicky account can submit their own translations for any language we offer (8 of them to start off with), or vote upon the translations submitted by others.

If you want to help translate Clicky into your language, click here to get started now. We are offering eight languages to begin with - Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. More will be on the way soon if all goes well, but these initial eight will cover almost 90% of you so we think it's a good start.

We'll be rewarding the top contributors with free Pro accounts, or something else nice if you already have one.

It will be at least a week before any language goes "live", because we are still implementing the translation system throughout all the pages on our site, and we will be verifying all winning entries - both of these steps take a while. So please be patient. Just know that we're as anxious as you are to have you using Clicky in your native language!

Hey, maybe TechCrunch will even finally write us up! After all, Michael Arrington has written four posts about Facebook being localized. Four flipping seperate posts. Apparently one wasn't enough, so I guess localizing is a hot topic! Oh, wait. I forgot... TechCrunch going for just one day without writing about Facebook would be nothing short of a miracle. I guess I won't get my hopes up :P
29 comments |   Apr 03 2008 4:19pm

Our never-ending quest for a good ad network continues. Will BuySellAds.com be our savior?


Summary of this really long post

  • Project Wonderful was interesting but only netted us $96 over 2 months
  • Unless you enjoy not getting paid, we still highly un-recommend Rubicon Project
  • We are now using BuySellAds.com to manage our ads
  • Click here to purchase an ad on getclicky.com
  • Click here to purchase an ad on freewebs.getclicky.com
  • ???
  • Profit!

As of yesterday we dropped Project Wonderful and are now using a new ad service called BuySellAds.com. I want to share our experience with PW, but first I want to talk about BSA. Todd (the owner) was a Clicky sponsor way back when we were selling our own ads directly. He recently got back in contact with me after reading some of our other posts here describing our dissatisfaction with other ad networks. I told him that I was just about to switch back to selling our own ads because that's the only thing that ever brought in decent income, but he convinced me to try his just-launched product first. I'm glad I did because everything so far has been great and we've already sold 5 spots in 24 hours, which translates to $250/month already - not bad.

Using BSA is similar to selling ads yourself - you choose the ad sizes, how many you want, and the price you want to sell for. But they automate the monthly billing, and can take credit cards directly - neither of which we were able to do before. Once you have signed up and put the typical few lines of javascript on your site, you don't have to do anything, and you will start making money (supposing people want to advertise on your site of course). I already have enough crap to deal with on a daily basis, this saves me a lot of time and is completely worth the reasonable 25% commission that BSA charges. 25% is about as low as you'll find anywhere.

There's also another great feature that makes BSA rather unique: You can cash out at any time you want. Very few networks offer this functionality, and after our experience with Rubicon (they still owe us over $200, and we stopped using them over 2 months ago), we're relieved to see it. The customer service has also been great, granted they are very small scale right now, but every feature/change I have requested has been implemented, and quickly.

I hadn't really expected to sell any ads until I wrote this blog post and put a link to it on our dashboard. But when I woke up this morning we had already sold 4 spots, which we're offering for $49/month each. We have 10 slots available for getclicky.com (click here), and 10 slots available for freewebs.getclicky.com (click here). So if you're interested in advertising with us, click those links and off you go.

Overall I'm very pleased with the service and expect to stick with it, as long as it remains reliable. It is running on Amazon's web services so I expect it to do just fine.


So what about Project Wonderful?

After we dropped Rubicon, we decided to try out Project Wonderful based on recommendations from some of you. PW is an interesting and unique service, but it wasn't making us much. After nearly 2 months, we only earned $96 total (after their 25% commission). Some sites on there are earning thousands per month, but they get 500K+ page views per day, and they're in the "web comic" niche, which for some reason is extremely popular on this service. Perhaps if we had started a comic about web analytics, we would have fit in better - but somehow I have trouble seeing anyone reading it.

The biggest problem with PW is that all ads are forced to have an expiration date. This causes the money you're making to fluctuate wildly, typically in a bad way. We were running a 3x1 set of half-banner ads (234x60) during the entire 2 month period. Sometimes I'd check our account and each ad would be as high as $1.50 per day (everything on PW is "per day"). I'd come back an hour later and they'd all have dropped to $0.05. This happened when the highest bidding ad had just expired. If none of the remaining ads had bid very high, or if there were only 3 ads left to compete for 3 slots (in other words, zero competition amongst themselves), they all drop to the minimum bid. That sucks. Being able to set an expiration date is definitely a good thing for an advertiser, but I think that all ads should, by default, never expire. This would keep the prices up and the publishers happy. Instead, this type of price fluctuation is a daily and frustrating experience.

Project Wonderful had some of the same features that I really like about BSA - low commission (25%) and being able to cash out at any time. But the unreliable pricing of ours ads forced us to move on. Overall it's a decent service and obviously works really well for some sites. Just not ours.
4 comments |   Apr 01 2008 2:24pm

Some bugs are so stupid

Note to self: The hour from 2am to 3am is a BAD time for a critical cron job, because this hour doesn't exist on the day Daylight Savings kicks in. Doh :(
10 comments |   Mar 10 2008 9:11am

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