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Supporting The Site

This is a personal blog and it’s almost entirely a hobby so it makes sense that I never ask for donations or show banner ads. That being said, it’s not free. I added an link to the right hand side of the page. If you are planning to buy something at Amazon, consider clicking that link to start your browsing session. I’ll get a small portion of the sale for referring you. Thanks!

CascadeSkier Telemetry

As I ponder moving all of my web stuff from GoDaddy to Azure, one of the big pieces is the backend infrastructure for the CascadeSkier line of apps. There is the Windows 7 gadget, Windows 8 modern app, and Windows Phone app, each with slightly different but mostly similar requirements.

Moving the code over is actually pretty simple, and this is a good opportunity to clean up a lot of things. However, one major difference is that GoDaddy gave me free unlimited bandwidth but I’ll have to pay for it on Azure. So how much data was I using from GoDaddy for these apps?

I finally set up a bit of telemetry for my apps on the server side, logging every request that comes in. That gives me a bunch of interesting stats:

  • The most popular resorts that people subscribe to are unsurprisingly Crystal, Stevens and Snoqualmie. Those are the resorts that are closest to the main urban areas.
  • Almost nobody cares about the Oregon resorts that I have in my app. If I was out to make money, targeted advertising in those areas would probably pay off.
  • Only about 30 people are still using the old desktop gadget.
  • While I’ve sold a few thousand copies of these apps, it looks like only about 400-500 of them are in regular use right now. Then again, given that it’s still summer time, maybe that’s more impressive than it looks. I wonder how these numbers will change in the winter?
  • Right now I’m using about 150MB of data per day to service these applications. Azure gives you the first 5GB of traffic for free so that would just fit under the cap. I expect it to increase in the winter but I’m not going to be blowing through terabytes of data or anything like that.

If/when I do move the service over to Azure, I’ll probably take the opportunity to update all the apps and add even more telemetry so I can see which features people are using, etc. My job at work now focuses heavily on our telemetry pipeline so it has me asking lots of questions that I can’t answer about my own application.

Windows Azure

Now that my job at work is 100% focused on running a product in the cloud, I’ve been spending some time at home playing around with Azure (Microsoft’s cloud offering) and wow is it impressive! I remember looking at it a couple years ago and just seeing a garbled mess that was impossible to decipher, but now it’s gotten ridiculously easy.

The biggest change is that you don’t need a credit card to get started. You can sign up for a free account and get a surprising amount of learning and experimenting done without paying a dime. This approach is much more effective than having a big barrier to entry.

Secondly, each of the Azure pieces has gotten super easy to use. Want to set up a WordPress blog? I went from not even having an Azure account to having a functioning WordPress site in well under 5 minutes. That’s just one of the many project templates they have all set up and ready to install.

You can choose exactly how much detail you want to manager. I saw one blog post that described Azure as giving you the choice between building your own house and living in a hotel. If you want to control everything, they’ll give you a barebones virtual machine in the cloud. If you want to have it “just work”, they’ll set up a web application host for you and you can just publish your code to them. They’ll take care of everything from there.

I’m so impressed that I’m thinking about moving off of my ancient Community Server blog code hosted on GoDaddy and switching over to WordPress. That part is easy, but if I’m going to do this then I need to move EVERYTHING off of GoDaddy and that includes a bunch of the back end service code for CascadeSkier. It looks like that won’t be too hard but it will require a few changes and upgrades (which were long overdue anyway.)

Don’t expect any big changes right away. I’ll be picking away at this as I have free time.

Website Traffic

I used our nifty new Power Query tool to connect to the database that contains all of the information for this blog to see what I could learn from the piles of data. I found a table that showed how many visitors I had each day for the last few years. Sure this is available from Google Analytics but this is the raw data straight from my blog management program so it should be about as accurate as you can get. It looks like traffic was growing for a while and then fairly abruptly dropped to a pretty constant level near the end of 2011. I’m not sure what that change represents, but the overall chart does reflect my expectations. This is never going to be a blockbuster site. It’s for friends and family to catch up on some of my ramblings and that’s about it.

Oh and don’t think that 500-1000 people are reading my site every day. This counts everything that hits my page so a lot of it is explained by spam bots and search engine crawlers.

11 Years of Blogging

This website started 16 years ago and 5 years after that I started writing at least one blog post per week day. The site has never grown huge but it’s a fun way to communicate with friends and family and it’s cool to have a fairly detailed account of my life over this time. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if any of my ancestors had done something like this. Will Elijah or later descendants read through this mess of posts?

To celebrate this anniversary, I have a small giveaway. Two randomly selected readers will get coupons for a free on-demand movie from Comcast. I know, wild and crazy huge prizes, right? Send me an email or use the contact form with the subject “FREE STUFF” and be sure to include your email address so I know how to contact you. Good luck!

Contest ends 8/2/2012 11:59PM Pacific Time. Full contest rules are available at this link.