The Lull

Woops, I need to remind myself to blog on a daily basis… there’s lots to talk about and it doesn’t take long, I’ve just gotten out of the habit of writing to a blog! Actually, I stopped writing a personal blog exactly a year ago on Monday… I’ll have to get back into the routine again after a year off! Just a reminder, as there are two of us now, you’ll see a name from who’s writing the posts, but I’d just assume it’s me (Russ) as this is something I just sort of do naturally.

The past few days have been mostly bug fixing and taking a step back now that I know that my single server isn’t going to crash hard under the strain of all the network traffic going in and out. I re-arranged the menus a bit, and tried to figure out WHAT to do about what I call the The Freaking Encoding Problem (which aren’t my exact words, but I’ll keep this blog PG for now). Seni and I have started working on an internal administrative section so that we can edit the database tables and keep up with what’s going on in the traffic, and started trying to figure out the best way to introduce the “publishers” section - for the documentation, examples, forms and code that will enable web publishers to use Mowser as their mobile publishing platform. Though I sort of explained the functionality early on in the blog and in the screencast, it’s not really being grokked by many people yet. Also, I’ve gotten some emails from people wanting their mobile site included in the directory, so we need to throw together a submission form as well.

I hate to pre-announce stuff as you never know what’s going to happen, but the plan right now is to open up much of the data we’re getting to everyone via the publishers section. I think there’s a real lack of general understanding in the blog world in terms of what phones are popular, which countries are using the mobile web, what sites mobile web users are viewing, etc. so we’re goin to start throwing all that data out there for people to see. It won’t be the most important feature by any means, but I know how interesting it was to see the Digg Spy back when it was launched and I think the equivalent sort of mobile info will be interesting as well.

Oh, back to the Freakin’ Encoding Problem. Man… Thanks to all the users who’ve suffered through semi-legible sites so far. What’s happening is that even though the markup I’m getting back from curl is “clean”, as soon as I pass any of that markup to various functions and tools, it starts to really munge the text badly. The worst part is when I can get one part of a page to look great, and then another part of the page gets cruddy - a lot of people are using Mowser to view for some reason, and though most of the page comes through okay, the title’s seem to always get messed up because of an embedded em-dash… So frustrating! I’m probably going to have to hunker down and *really* learn what’s going on with all the various encodings out there, and write an explicit script that goes through every character manually. Stay tuned as I continue to work on that.

Also, I started looking into using the WURFL project to calculate more exact page sizes for the phones - so that phones that could handle longer pages would receive them. However the data for the “max_deck_size” is so random as to be almost completely useless, so I’m still doing a general guesses… This will definitely be in the publisher’s section as well so that users of Mowser can help tell us how their phones are working or not.

I’ve got a laundry list of other stuff that needs to be done yesterday of course, but these are the big things so far. One example of something else is better processing of style info - I tried out Newsvine’s new home page via the adapter and I couldn’t *believe* what I saw! They’ve completely given up on any hint of semantic markup on the home page - there’s just divs filled with raw data, hidden with style tags and used in an Ajaxy way for the sections on the front page. This of course makes it quite hard to adapt the page since there’s almost no normal html markup… it might as well be written in Flash! That said, the goal of Mowser is to be a virtual browser on the server, being able to consume that sort of page and produce at least something legible to send to the mobile phone - i.e. not barfing back raw data at the user - so it’s still a good site for me to use for testing. Better processing of the style info on the server is going to help towards that end a lot.

Alright, so we’re closing in on 100k mobile page views since I put the counter up last Wednesday. It’s hard to say exactly what I was hoping for - since 100k seems on the low side to me, but the server seems busy and these aren’t “hits” (which are much higher), but actual page views that are only counted when a mobile phone views a page on the site. But since my last job was at Yahoo! I think I got a little spoiled… :-) It’s a good benchmark though, let’s see what the number is like over the next few weeks…


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