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Archive for October, 2006


Reducing the amount of deaths on Irish roads for dummies

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Recently the number of deaths on Irish roads so far this year has topped the 300 figure. It was a government target that the total amount of deaths this year would be less than 300, so not even halloween yet and already that figure is surpassed. What can be done about this then? Well the RSA (Road Safety Authority) is in the process of putting together it’s Road Safety Strategy for 2007 – 2011. It wants everyone including Joe Soaps to get involved and submit ideas and suggestions about what can be done to improve our roads.

Councillor Damien Blake of Letterkenny Town Council is taking a particularly proactive approach with his ‘Stop the Carnage’ campaign which attempts to use what’s known as the Irish Blogsphere (basically the Irish blogging community) to raise awareness of the problem in general and raise awareness of the fact that the RSA are listening and do want your views. He encourages blog owners to post their suggestions on their blogs and encourages others to leave their suggestions as comments on the various blogs which post about the campaign. Councillor Blake will then draw up a report based on the suggestions and forward it to the Minister for Transport, Taoiseach, Road Safety Authority, Insurance Federation and every member of the Oireachtas.

As far as my own suggestions are concerned, well I’m not a driver myself but some of my thoughts are outlined below.

Provisional Licenses. People who fail full driving tests should not be allowed to drive on their provisional licences without having tackled the reasons why they failed.

At the moment pretty much anyone can drive a car via the provisional license system, often people take their time and do 15-20 lessons before applying for this license, but other times only 3 or 4 lessons might have been conducted. This amount of lessons is not enough, I think before being allowed to apply for a provisional license a certified instructor will have to have signed off that MR. Smith (or whoever) has successfully conducted at least X amount of lessons. I would certainly make the theory test harder and possibly invest in some simulation systems to test peoples ability in various real driving scenarios.

Not sure if this is law already (think it is but it’s not enforced) but there should be a maximum amount of people allowed in the car of a provisional holder. A lot of young men get very ‘cocky’ when all their mates are in the car with them, it is this feeling of cockyness and the desire to ’show off’ that often results in a fatal road accident.

Again this might already be the case but I think provisional drivers should only need say 5 or 6 points on their licence to be taken off the road and not a whole 12 as is the case for full licence holders. This is the way it is in France and they have cut a third off their road death figure over the past four years, of course they have implemented lots of other ‘tactics’ too to reduce road deaths and thus this plays only a small part.

Insurance based rewards for good driving. If we really want people to slow down we have to give them an incentive to do it. Unfortunately the whole ’slow down and save lifes’ approach alone does not work. I recommend giving rewards in the form of lower insurance premiums to people who stay within speed limits and who drive safely and or people who make an effort to improve their driving skills. I believe the scheme run by Hibernian and promoted by ‘Duffer called Ignition is an outstanding idea. It is mostly young people that get hit with huge insurance premiums and here is a scheme that promises to reduce premiums by at least 20% if one successfully passes a one day course designed to improve your driving skills, I really don’t understand why more insurance companies (possibly backed by the government) haven’t designed similar offerings.

Wasn’t there also talk of a speed monitor device being fitted to cars? This device would submit data back to some insurance company which can later analyse how many times the driver of the car was outside the allowed speed limit and raise or lower that drivers insurance premiums accordingly and thus drivers would be encouraged to stay within the speed limit as although they mightn’t think that it (it being death or paralyzation due to a car crash) would ever happen to them they will know that going over the limit will increase the likelihood that they will have to pay more for their insurance next year.

I think the goverments and of course the insurance companies should push for more speeding reduction schemes perhaps like the above because let’s not fool ourselfs here folks, IT IS SPEED WHICH KILLS, stray deer are not responsible for the over 300 deaths on our roads so far this year.

Drink Driving. Actually I think on this issue progress is being made particularly with the recent changes in the law which allow for random breath testing by the Guards. It has to continue though, there is no use in something being enforced for a couple of months only for things to then go back to the way they were.

Communication. I think a useful area of exploration which might enable better communication of safe driving practices to Ireland’s young people is to make use of the Internets many ‘cool’ sites such as Youtube, Bebo and MySpace. Young people respect these sites and are much more likely to listen to them than say the 6 o clock news which talks about the latest road safety guidelines.

OK enough jibber jabber from me, nearly time to sign off I think. In closing then I would like to ask you to please support Damien Blakes campaign and post your own suggestions for improved road safety either here or on his blog, alternatively if you own your own blog (Richard, Ken, Janine I’m looking at you) help spread the word by writing a small post about the subject, remember the more suggestions that come in the more likely the RSA will find one suggestion or indeed multiple suggestions that will really make a difference to the safety of Irish roads.


Finding your real competition on Google

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Seems to me that doing a simple query on Google and then having a glance at the amount of results returned isn’t really the best way to gauge how competitive a keyword or keyphrase is. This figure represents all the pages in Google’s index which are even only a small bit relevant for the query, it does not give a fair indication of the amount of naturally relevant pages or the pages which have been specifically optimised to appear for the searched upon query.

A better way is to use a combination of Google’s advanced queries to run a much stricter search to filter out all the pages which are ‘accidently relevant’. Examples of these advanced queries include ‘allintitle:’, ‘allinurl:’ and ‘allinanchor:’

A search with ‘allintitle:’ before it on Google will only return pages that have all the words following ‘allintitle:’ in their HTML title tags. An example is ‘allintitle:football tickets’ which returns 376,000 results, all of which have the words ‘football’ and ‘tickets’ anywhere (regardless of position) in their titles. A further restriction on this would be ‘allintitle:”football tickets”‘ which only returns 226,000 results. Notice the double quotes around the search phrase, this basically means that football and tickets have to be A) in the correct order and B) one after another. I think you’ll agree that these figures are a lot more useful than the figure returned for a basic search for ‘football tickets’ which currently returns over 55 million results, a figure which is dominated by pages which are accidently relevant and thus don’t provide real competition. 

Allinurl: is basically the same kind of idea except it looks in the URL of pages and not the title. Using the football tickets phrase in conjunction with allinurl to run ‘allinurl:football tickets’ and ‘allinurl:”football tickets”‘ against Google.com returns 116,000 and 65,000 results respectively. Again these figures are both massively less than the 55 million results returned for the basic search. Pages with keywords in their URLs are very likely to be your real competiton and tough enough competition too.

A final advanced query and perhaps the most useful one is allinanchor. I know some people have been experiencing ‘issues’ with this type of search but it appears to be working for me at the moment and thus deserves inclusion. Using allinanchor: before keywords/phrases in a search forces Google to return only those pages that have all those keywords and phrases present in at least one of their backlinks, these backlinks can be internal or external. Search Engine Optimisation consultants know the power of keyword rich backlinks thus it is likely that many of the top results for an allinanchor search have had their sites/pages optimized and thus are going to be hard enough to outrank. For instance AKAMarketing.com is currently #1 for a ‘allinanchor:search engine optimisation ireland’ search, this basically means that I have loads (well more than the competition) of valuable links to my site which use the words the four words ’search’, ‘engine’, ‘optimisation’ and ‘ireland’ scattered about the text which links to me. Due to this #1 ranking you can bet your bottom dollar that my site is going to be a ‘tough competitor’ on the normal ’search engine optimisation ireland’ results, and hey what do you know I’m #1 on those normal results too. If the figure returned by an allinanchor search is in the millions get prepared for a long 15 rounder slugfest because there are lots of real competitors.  

Of course the figure Google returns for any search basic or advanced is not 100% accurate but is only indicative, a good way to find a more exact number of competitors is to run one of the advanced queries and keep on skipping by 10 results pages until Google shows you the following:

In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the XXX already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.

XXX will / should be a fair indication of the task you have ahead of you in terms of competing sites and pages. Please share you thoughts and comments on these issues.


Is developing a relationship with competitors good or bad?

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Strange kind of issue today I know folks, but it’s something I want to gauge my visitors views on in light of the fact that in the past few months I have through my own networking and indeed through this site come in touch with people and companies which strictly speaking can be considered as my competition. Many of these people and companies have expressed desires to meet up with me informally over a beer or a coffee and have a chat.

Now generally speaking, I love chatting about the businessy (not actually a word I know - but should be) side of the web such as SEO, Internet marketing, ecommerce in general, takeovers, stocks etc. and not the technicial side of it, this is despite the fact that I have a first class honours degree in Computer Science and work as a PHP/.NET developer (or ‘code monkey’ as my boss calls it) during the day but one has to wonder about the merits of meeting up and getting to know the competition.

What good can come of it I wonder? Does it enable us to learn more about the competition in order for us to make ourselves better than them or even to enable us to put them out of business? Or does it put in place a type of ‘friendly competition’ which can be useful when either side gets bogged down with too much work and is looking for someone to send that excess work to perhaps even in return for an ever so slight commission?

Is it possible for two competitors to meet without ulterior motives on either side? These days even the smallest bit of business information could potentially be worth thousands and thousands of hard earned currency, so are meetings like these basically an exercise in information extraction in which the most tactful side will ‘win’? Or is there enough business out there for both sides and is an exchange of tips, thoughts and approaches beneficial to both parties for use against the rest of the markets’ competitors? These are the questions I pose, your thoughts and opinions are as always much appreciated.

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