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Your Questions Answered: Part One

This post has been archived. It's probably out of date or shameful in some other way.

I'm working on some interesting personal projects at the moment, including a piece of tracking software that's been in the works now for about 2 years. Every time I start up work on it again though, someone else comes along and releases something that does what I want and my little app is shelved again. First it was Mint, and then Metrics from Performancing, and when that was closed I resumed work. And then more recently came the exquisite Reinvigorate.

However, one of the features I implemented (inspired by the clever thinking from the guys at 103 Bees) was a pane to view questions people typed into search engines in order to find my site. This really is a great idea - you can see what (a small percentage of) people are looking for from your site. And you can tailor content accordingly, as the questions you'll find in your referral traffic are great inspiration for articles.

Inevitably, not all questions lead on to full blown articles. Some only require short answers, and it's those I'm interested in today. Without further preamble, here are some of the answers you apparently seek.

which are you?

The most popular individual question, by far, used to find this site is simply "which are you?", a question that will land you in the middle of the World's Worst Quiz. Unfortunately, this is a question I simply can't answer for you - the nature of human consciousness is beyond the scope of this site.

how to cheat on/at/in world of warcraft

While the previous question is the most popular single question asked that leads to this site, traffic from variations on the "how to cheat in world of warcraft" theme simply dwarfs everything else. There are, of course, ways to cheat in WoW, as with every other game. However, these questions will lead you, on this site, to the World of Warcraft Cheat Sheet only - a disappointment, I fear, to many visitors in search of automated levelling tools and hacks.


Not all questions are created equal - some provide more information to go on than others. At the risk of being horribly wrong, and assuming the people asking this succintly put question are looking for an introduction to Cascading Style Sheets rather than Counter-Strike Source, I highly recommend the W3Schools Introduction to CSS.

is php secure?

how secure is php

PHP Security is something I've written about before, because it is an interesting and important topic for PHP developers. The security of PHP applications, as with any other language, is dependant primarily on the skill and awareness of the developers writing in it, and in that sense PHP is as secure as any other language. PHP does have a reputation for insecurity though, and that is because PHP makes it very very easy for someone with no development experience to write a basic application. Many scripts and sites are built by people with no idea of the potential security issues they face.

what is a white hat

That might not be quite the right question to ask. The answer is that a white hat is a commonly used term to describe search engine optimisers (SEOs) who use techniques deemed ok by the search engines. The opposite is "black hat", a term used to describe SEOs that use techniques deemed bad by the search engines. In practice, most competent SEOs are actually somewhere in the middle ("grey hats"). Each website, and customer, is different, and to obey the search engines' every wish is not always in the best interests of a client.

I said that "what is a white hat" might not be the right question to ask - a better one might be "why should I care about white and black hats?". And the answer to that question is that you probably shouldn't. There are people that obsess about hats and SEO techniques, but in the real world success is a matter of picking the right techniques and balancing risk with reward.

what is css "faux columns"?

what is faux column

Faux Columns is a technique published by Dan Cederholm to overcome a shortcoming in CSS. The basic principle is that two unequal columns can be made to appear the same height through the use of a background image, that gives the illusion of equal height columns in fixed-width sites. In June 2004 I wrote about achieving the same effect for liquid layouts in Liquid Faux Columns.

are cookies dangerous?

Not the web kind. You can choke on the tasty kind though if you're not careful.

meta tags useless?

More often than not, yes. For a breakdown of which ones are useful and which ones are not, check out my article on Meta Tags.

how to go back in time

I know, I know. This site is about web stuff. But time travel is interesting. [Incidentally, it was this post about the design switching gizmo that our wannabe temporal tourist found.] If time travel is in fact possible (and causality may have something to say about that), the likelihood is that it will be achieved using wormholes or black holes. According to Wikipedia, travelling faster than the speed of light or harnessing the power of cosmic strings may also provide the key to travelling back in time.

But why would you want to travel back in time? You could end up in a place before the internet existed or, worse, when IE4 was the best web browser on Earth! Dark times indeed.