Category: Web Tools

Using Certain

November 11th, 2015 — 4:45pm

I have been working quite intensely with the event registration platform offered by  Here I’ll offer a few insights about the experience.

First, the platform is very robust and stable.  It allows an event manager to control all aspects of online registration for an event, be it a course, expo, or full blown conference.  I am working mostly with the event / form building tools, which is powerful enough to create rather complex logic in the form flow.  Most screens and templates are customizable, and what can’t be done directly in the platform, can often be done by inserting some javascript or css code.  There is also an API which is very useful for extracting data to another platform.

There is also a robust report generation system, which allows for logic of its own, as well as “Mass actions” you can perform on many records at once.

The main drawbacks here are endemic to hosted platforms – since the code is not under your control, you need to live within the limits of what the programmers have given you.  Certain does release new updates regularly, and does take suggestions on new product features.

There’s not much of a user community, but the support and help documents are fairly good.

As a programmer, I’m noticing a trend here.  For a long time, the knock on “pre-packaged” software / platforms was just what I mentioned above.  You are limited to what is offered by the programmers.  However, as these platforms get more robust, the amount of customization allowed grows quickly.  So the need for custom programming is diminishing for more businesses out there.  I’ve seen this in other areas, such as ecommerce platforms, CRM’s, etc.

However, people with programming / logic skills still are usually required to really make use of the advanced features offered by these platforms.  There is essentially another “language”, ie. the language of “Certain”, or “zoho”, or “shopify”, etc. which takes a reasonably technical person to really get humming.

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Single solution for web analytics and monitoring

December 10th, 2013 — 9:04am

Many websites these days are using google analytics for tracking their web visitors.  While Google is the “king” of analytics, there are some drawbacks I have noticed.  For instance, there is so much data there, clients often have trouble analyzing and digesting it.  Also there are data / privacy issues – you are voluntarily giving your site data to Google, which has a financial stake in using that data (in some cases, to show your competitors’ ads to your visitors).  Also, google doesn’t offer any site monitoring / warnings when your site is down.

Enter – this service has a free version, but the real power is in the pay services.  I stumbled upon this service while looking for a way to monitor client sites for “uptime” (make sure they are working), but was also getting requests for SEO / keyword analysis and related services.  This offers help on both counts, for a reasonable price.  I’ve been using this for about a month now, and here are the features I like best:

  1. Site monitoring – You can set up various services to monitor, and get emailed if there are any outages.  This can identify a slow hosting provider, or one that is down frequently.  If your site is down, that’s obviously something you need to know.
  2. Realtime – these stats update on the fly – so you can see what people are doing right now, and traffic to the site.
  3. Keywords / searches – See a quick report on how people are finding your site.  Also see where you rank for those keywords in various search engines.
  4. Goals / Events – get notified when someone performs a specific action on your site.  This can be a purchase, or just adding something to their cart.  I haven’t used these very much yet, but it’s easy to set up and get reports.
  5. Big Screen – if you have a spare monitor, or mobile device (it’s responsive design), the “Big Screen” view is pretty nice – providing realtime data for the site.  This is a cool way to keep tabs on your site’s health and vibrance – here’s a screenshot:
    Big screen analytics from Clicky

These are a few of the highlights of Clicky, but there are many more.   I plan to keep using this for my sites, and also for client sites.  I hope they keep expanding on the uptime monitoring, maybe adding “response time” and historical reports in that area.  Also, if they added a “chat” feature to engage with specific site visitors, that would be killer.  Overall, this is a great solution that combines many services into one spot.

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Ajax search type ahead

January 23rd, 2013 — 5:06pm

I’ve worked a lot with jquery (a popular javascript library) over the past few years, and I recently added a nice bit of ajax functionality to a site.

The function is a simple “type-ahead” lookup for a searchbox – just start typing, and results will show up, filtering out as you go.  Here’s the site:

The search box is in the upper right under the social icons.  Note this site also uses ajax on this page:

These features are becoming more commonplace, and more expected on websites.  Almost all browsers can support them now, even mobile browsers, so there’s no reason not to use them anymore.

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New Probe Blocker

April 26th, 2012 — 2:34pm

Just released – my new probe blocker. Automatically block IP addresses of probes that are scanning your site, looking for vulnerabilities, spamming your forms, etc. Nasty robots are probing websites all the time, looking for security holes, hidden content, and forms that they can spam.

This software installs on your website and blocks any IP’s that hit specific traps that are set up. At this point those robots are banned from your site, and can do no more harm. If they come back from another IP, they will be blocked as soon as they hit a trap. You get emailed immediately when a trap is tripped.

See more here!

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Content filtering for your home or office.

February 10th, 2012 — 3:29pm

In the early days of the web (ca. 1996-1999), one big concern new users had regarded filtering web content.  Parents were worried about their kids seeing inappropriate content, etc.  The Internet was new territory for them, and they approached it cautiously.  In general, their concerns were well founded – “adult” and gambling sites abounded, and it wasn’t unusual to get spam that included graphic images right in the message.

Fast forward to today.  The web is ubiquitous – many families have wireless broadband networks in their house, and multiple devices accessing the internet.  It has become a utility of sorts – always there.

However, the concern over content filtering seems to have dissipated.  Today’s parents are so used to the internet, that they don’t seem to think twice about filtering content for their children.  Maybe because we are adept at navigating the the web, and “block out” links or sites that will take us to the wrong spot, we assume our children won’t get to any sites they shouldn’t be seeing (by accident or purposely).  As a parent of young children, I see their friends using iPads, iPhones, etc. without a whole lot of supervision.  But I hear little (no) talk of filtering or even the need to filter it (at least from the parents, anyway).

Well, I went looking for a solution, and settled on this one:

This is actually a free solution (though I pay $20 / year for the advanced options) and works through your router.  So all the computers on your network can be protected using this solution.  (Note: smartphones that use WIFI networks will not be filtered.)  It essentially re-routes your DNS lookups to opendns servers, which can determine if the site violates any preset rules.

Technically, this isn’t foolproof, but it’s a great step forward in filtering the junk out of your home.  If you think you need filtering for your house, give it a whirl.

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