Archives for August 2005


I use Bloglines all the time. Here’s what I love about Bloglines:

  • It’s an easy way to keep an eye on the blogosphere, or at least the parts of the blogosphere that I care about.
  • I can access it from anywhere and it saves my state. My browser knows the password, so it’s one-click from work/home/laptop to start reading Battelle, the Spam Huntress, Mapping Hacks, martinibuster, or even the wet/burnt dog hair guy at Yahoo, and I can always pick up where I left off.
  • I can choose whether to read a lightweight comic feed or tackle the voluminous-but-useful set of posts that is the Search Engine Watch blog.
  • I don’t have to worry about funky spelling, capitalization, or a name that sounds close to “Google” (pet peeve of mine). If the name were BloogleLyNes, I’d probably like it less. TiVo gets a pass on capitalization because they rock so hard, but I wish more sites chose easy, memorable spellings. I’m looking at you, kuro5hin and The Cap’n’s Log 😉
  • Bloglines’ favicon is clean, distinctive, and memorable. Easy to pick out from my personal toolbar folder.

Here is what I wish Bloglines would change:

  • As far as I can tell, you can only accumulate 200 posts from a feed before posts start dropping on the floor. Mark Fletcher, can you boost that to 400 or 500? I don’t want to have to check ThreadWatch that often; sometimes it puts me in a foul mood, so I’d rather save it up for a while and then read it all at once. 😉
  • Sometimes posts appear as unread more than once. I know that usually it’s because of an update to the post, but sometimes it doesn’t look like the post has changed. Maybe a different color instead of bold/black for updated posts?
  • When something has to go down for an upgrade, you see the [bloglines plumber]. Less plumber time is always good. 🙂

Dashes vs. underscores

I often get asked whether I’d recommend dashes or underscores for words in urls. For urls in Google, I would recommend using dashes. Why? To find out, let’s take a trip in the Google Time Machine. Set the dial for 1999, the year Matt first discovered Google. Matt was using, I dunno, maybe HotBot at that point? The curtain rises:

Matt: Hmm, this search for [FTP_BINARY] didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I got a couple scuzzy looking urls, and the other documents just have the words “FTP” and “BINARY” but the term “FTP_BINARY” doesn’t actually appear. (Note: Matt was a bit of a nerd, as you can tell.)
Some Random Person That I Don’t Remember: Have you tried Google?
Matt: What’s that?
SROTIDR: It’s a search engine written by nerds for nerds! They index numbers! Sometimes they even index punctuation, like “C++”. Try your underscore search there.
Matt: Okay, here goes. Whoa! They actually return pages with the literal string “FTP_BINARY”! That’s wicked cool! (Did I mention Matt was a nerd? Big-time nerd.)
SROTIDR: Yeah. The wild thing is that they wrote a paper about how they crawl the web and rank pages.
Matt: Well, now that’s just silly. I wonder why they didn’t keep it a secret? I bet those papers will make great reading for my information retrieval class.

I’ve stylized the conversation quite a bit, but I remember how impressed I was that Google indexed numbers and some punctuation (come to think of it, search engines have come a long way in five years). With underscores, Google’s programmer roots are showing. Lots of computer programming languages have stuff like _MAXINT, which may be different than MAXINT. So if you have a url like word1_word2, Google will only return that page if the user searches for word1_word2 (which almost never happens). If you have a url like word1-word2, that page can be returned for the searches word1, word2, and even “word1 word2”.

That’s why I would always choose dashes instead of underscores. To answer a common question, Google doesn’t algorithmically penalize for dashes in the url. Of course I can only speak for Google, not other search engines. And bear in mind that if your domain looks like, that may still attract attention for other reasons. 🙂