Earth Notes: On Website Technicals (2020-04)

Updated 2020-05-10 17:12 GMT.
Tech updates: Blue Yeti, reduced media preload, download means download, 48kHz podcast, Zencastr, mono marker, GSC soft 404s, stats.
April has been about improving presentation and performance of several aspects of the site, incuding dark mode support and podcast audio.

2020-04-29: Site Stats

Covid-19 doesn't seem to have hurt EOU site impressions in Google Search Console stats. In fact they are probably as high as they have ever been. Clicks (possibly including some serviced by the AMP cache that don't touch the site itself) are down a bit since Christmas, but not much. Some of the latter may be from Google showing decent informative snippets directly in the SERPs so no clickthrough is needed. I know some site owners really resent that, but if it makes EOU information more easily available to searchers, I'm all in favour.

2020-04-28: GSC Soft 404s

I got a little whinge in again on Twitter: I'd much rather that GSC didn't track or show legit non-HTML data objects (.csv, .dat, etc) at all if necessary rather than flag them (infuriatingly and perversely) as 'soft 404's! which I batted over to John "I like cheese" Müller of Google for comment.

He said My feeling is if a site has a lot of soft-404s, then it might be that it's linking to those resources internally in a way that suggests they may be web pages. It's usually not critical, but it's kinda suboptimal (for users & bots).

I asked how I might make things better: Generally in a page about datasets I'll have a direct a href link to the files in question for examp[l]e. Would adding the "download" attribute help? None has text/html MIME type.

John said: Yeah, that sounds tough -- probably hard to avoid in a case like that. You could add an x-robots-tag http header with noindex, which might make it a bit clearer that you know about the URLs but don't want them indexed (assuming that's the case).

I countered: On the data files? But I would like some entities to be able to index their content, even if it isn't G! Wouldn't want to put noindex on the pages with the Dataset schema.org in. GSC shouldn't be complaining that a non-HTML file isn't HTML...

2020-04-26: Mono/Stereo Marker

In case people want to know for sure before downloading, there is now a 'stereo' or 'mono' marker in each downloadable link of AUDIO tracks.

Listeners may wish to know because they want to download a mono version that they can listen with just one earbud in without missing anything, the better to pay attention to their surroundings, eg when cycling.

Yes, it seems that this is a thing.

2020-04-25: Zencastr Interview Test

Yesterday I tested Zencastr to make decent podcast interviews. The free tier is unlimited during the coronavirus outbreak, Zencastr seems to work nicely, and so I'm keen to try getting a few simple short ones done.

Your browser doesn’t support HTML5 audio.
"test 2 recording mixdown" Uploaded . Duration 33 seconds. Download stereo MP3 clip 680kB (may not be available in data-saver/lite mode), download low-bandwidth mono MP3 clip 175kB.

2020-04-19: Postcast 48kHz Sampling

I've moved podcast audio sampling up a notch, to be nominally good for shipping straight to BBC Radio for example!

I've increased the sampling from 44.1kHz (44.1ksps) to 48kHz.

I've also created a standard intro and outro, though I suspect that I will be recording new versions of them soon!

2020-04-12: Audio/Video Download

I have now added the download attribute to all the links under the audio and video players.

I'm hoping that this makes it marginally easier for some users to download podcasts to listen to later, without needing some kind of 'app'.

2020-04-10: Light/Dark Mode color-scheme

Both Safari and Chrome currently seem to support (but Firefox 75 not):

<meta name="color-scheme" content="light dark">

which should handle basic dark/light mode switching nicely, including more subtle details such as link colours.

Putting this early in the header should help ensure no restyling flashes as the page loads, though a pure CSS version inlined may be fine too, and more compact.

For the moment I shall leave the desktop-only CSS in place:

@media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) { body { background-color: #000; color: #ccc; } }

That seems not to hurt on Safari and Chrome when using the meta tag also, and gets the very basics right for Firefox 75. I may be able to remove it in due course.

Tomasz sai: ... the website does correctly recognise dark mode while using Firefox 24.1 (17574) on an iPhone 7 running iOS 13.3.1. Switched back and forth a couple of times and everything works perfectly.

2020-04-07: Trimmed Video and Audio Preload

I have turned off all preloading (ie even of metadata) for video and audio that is well below the fold, to avoid some large pointless data munching.

This should not affect the first (main) video or audio of a podcast, which should always be right at top of the main text of the page.

Now at most one audio or video item on a page should have anything preloaded, and then only if above the fold and on a desktop page.

This means that about ten fewer pages will now preload any such media metadata.

2020-04-05: Blue Yeti

A few people have said nice things about the podcast. Others have suggested that I could make some production improvements. For example, applying a "de-essing" filter to remove some sibilance, possibly caused by using the (otherwise not bad) MacBook Air internal mic.

Anyway, I'm a fool for flattery, and reading guides such as Best Computer Microphones (For PC & Mac) suggested the Logitech Blue Yeti USB Microphone. The idea was not instantly poo-poo-ed by audio-aware friends...

I also ordered a Jabra Evolve 40 Stereo Headset to help with the extensive work-related conference calling that coronavirus lockdown brings with it.

2010-04-10: I've given them both a whirl.

2010-04-19: I'm working on moving new podcast episodes to 48kHz sampling...