All posts by Szymon Nowicki

Next step

Feedback is crucial

AgentSlug.com is getting more and more feedback from our first users.  Most of it is positive and that makes me happy, but what’s more important to me is that some of it is really constructive and learning.

As a developer who has decided to make a tool based on “scratching own itch” problem, I can’t be sure what are others’ needs and why they are actually using the app.  Feedback is crucial. Many thanks to everyone for their effort.

Next step

From the first deployment date we are tuning the uptime monitoring module to make it better and more optimized. However, we are about to go further than that.

AgentSlug.com is an uptime monitoring tool for now, but we want to build on it a complementary automatic webmaster tool focused on website monitoring in many dimensions:

  • full content monitoring
    • dead links detection
    • html validation
    • spell checker
    • WAI problems detection within the content (like no [alt] attributes on images)
  • anomalies detection – if your homepage suddenly grows or shrinks it might be hacked (defaced)
  • real users’ load time
  • resources load time testing

That’s just a shortlist of the ideas that we are fully agreed are important for every webmaster or website owner.

How machines talk to each other

A guide for human beings – HTTP codes

AgentSlug.com is meant to be so simple that anyone can use it without any trouble.

However, there are some kind of technical terms you should actually know to understand what’s going on with your website.

This article is not for technical people, it simplifies many complicated issues.

How does it work and why it matters?

Imagine you are looking for some company document. You know it probably exists, but you don’t really know where exactly.  You just know its name.  Let’s say it’s a Holiday Funding Request Form*

First thing you do is you call your colleague who works here longer than you and knows everyone. He tells you that you should call a guy from HR department. The HR guy redirects you to Finances. You go there, and you are told to be back in couple of minutes, because they are doing some maintenance and can’t serve you now.

After a couple of minutes you go back and get the proper form.

Machines works almost the same way. URLs are something like names.  Unified names with whole addresses.

When you type an URL and hit the enter key, your browser sends a request to a DNS server. DNS is you friend who knows everyone or knows people who know people. DNS routes your browser to a proper server by resolving the domain name to a related IP number.  Sometimes the first DNS knows the name and knows the IP. Sometimes it has to ask other DNS .

Then your request is routed to a proper server by the IP address. If the server is up and responding, it should send some response to your browser.

When the URL matches any document on server, response should contain HTTP 200 “OK” code. It means “everything is fine, here’s what you are looking for”.

If the server is down for maintenance, it should send you an HTTP 503 response. Translation of this code to the human language is “sorry, we have some issue over here, come back later”.

If the server can’t find the document, but knows where you should go to find it, it will redirect you (your browser) by sending an HTTP 301 code which means “there’s nothing here, the resources were moved to another location, you should go somewhere else”.

So, why does it matter?

Machines communicate in a human-like way. They were made by humans and they are similar to humans in many dimensions.

scuba_maintenance_modeYour server should respond properly. Imagine you are asking the finance guy for a Holiday Form. He tells you “OK, here you go” and doesn’t give it to you. It would be weird, right?

The same story is when machines speak to each other.  We noticed that some websites in the maintenance mode, send HTTP 200 code with a nice “be right back” landing page. If one of the Google indexing crawlers came there during this pseudo-maintenance mode, it would identify the landing page as a regular page and switch the indexed page with the maintenance notice.

Learn more about http codes and their meanings.

* In many EU countries, companies can participate in employees’ vacation.

How it started

Ad hoc script

The AgentSlug.com idea went out after we were unable to use one of the biggest uptime monitoring service. I decided that I’d write my own simple ad hoc script, hooked to cron jobs. It worked quite well, and then, as you’ve probably guessed, I thought that we can extend it to a service with nice interface and some additional useful functionalities.

The very first script did just the uptime monitoring.  There was no configuration workflow. Everything was hard-coded directly on the server.

On that foundation, during the last half year, we’ve made a nice and simple uptime monitoring service.  Now we’re trying to make it even more simple.

Because uptime monitoring service seems not to be enough, we want to go further and extend the AgentSlug.com to a complementary website monitoring service. With content monitoring and other useful stuff. We’ve got some plans, but we are still gathering some feedback from our very first users.

Here is a request for you, dear visitor.  If you use or will use AgentSlug.com, don’t hesitate to contact us and tell what you think. Any opinion, any idea is really important for us and we’d love to hear it.

Let’s say hi

Hi, I’m Simon*.

I’m the founder and main developer of AgentSlug.com service. If you contact us via live chat or email, you’ll probably contact me personally.  I’m also available on twitter,  and google+.

Beside AgentSlug.com, I run a small web agency – Eskalacja.com. We work for couple of clients, other web agencies and technology companies on monthly basis.  We have lots of work.

Since January 2014 we took off the AgentSlug.com service. Now we share our time between websites we develop and the service we truly believe will be the best – complementary tool for webmasters around the globe.

* (actually it’s Szymon, but you probably won’t pronounce it right)