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Your Home Office - Adventures in running your own FFA page

Your Home Office - Adventures in running your own FFA page
by Brad Trupp

Several months ago, I wrote a "How-to" article on posting to FFA or "Free for All" links sites and had set up a FFA submission page on my site. As promised, here is what I discovered in my adventures with running my own FFA links page.

Now that my submission page has been alive for several months, let's take a look at the actual usage according to my site's log files. Last month there were 47,473 links added to my FFA page and there my actual FFA links page was viewed 631 times. This means that at least 46,842 or 98.6% of all these submissions were done by automated submission tools and services. What this also means is that each day only 20 or so visitors came to the actual page. Hopefully 1 or 2 were enticed to visit other sections of 4hb.com before leaving.

FFA pages also allow you to collect e-mail addresses of your posters in order to send them an e-mail information later but I would discourage setting up your page to send this "solicited spam" mail. More on this particular thought later in the article.

One -- Setting up your page.

There are literally dozens of free scripts available to set up a FFA links page on your own site. The only requirement is that you are allowed to run your own "Perl" scripts. You can find some listed at http://www.cgi-resources.com/. There are also dozens of services that will set up and host your own page for minimal fees.

I chose the popular "FFA Blaster" script for this experiment since a friend's site was already using this script successfully. Most of the scripts freely available come with easy to follow installation instructions.

Two -- the fixes begin.

Being a programmer by profession, I took a look at scripts before I installed them.

One flaw I found in many scripts is that when they simplified the installation process they opened up some interesting security risks. One common example of what I found was that, on other people's FFA links pages, I could access the e-mail addresses that they had collected to date by simply knowing the default installation rules and hence knowing where to look. Needless to say, I made several changes to the FFA scripts before installing them at 4hb.com.

Three -- running the page.

When I started running the page, I had selected the options to send a introductory e-mail to each poster when they added their link and to collect all the e-mail addresses. After a few weeks, the number of new e-mail addresses slowed down considerably since there were a lot of repeat posters.

I also got two requests to my FFA confirmation e-mail address to stop sending them e-mail since, as I discovered, some malicious people use other peoples e-mail addresses for posting and expose others to receiving hundreds and thousands of unsolicited e-mails.

So after a few weeks, I stopped sending out confirmation e-mails and stopped collecting all e-mail addresses. It wasn't worth the effort to police it.

Four - a few more things I learned.

After a while I noticed that several of the links posted had special fonts and colors. Some automatic posting software was tricky enough to pass extra HTML to the FFA links page when posting and this fancy stuff was added to my page. Eventually, once again putting on my programmer hat, I modified the FFA links script to disallow fancy HTML postings. I also added a lot of new words to my dirty words filter to prevent objectionable postings.

Another experiment I did was to remove the FFA links page and scripts completely for one week. This did very little to stop automated posters who merrily hammer away at FFA sites and apparently rarely check for the success of their postings.

After about three month I rewrote the FFA links script to disregard all automated posting and only allow postings from live visitors who called up the FFA links page and who entered their own link manually.

Finally --Will I keep this feature going?

It is up and running at 4hb.com so it will stay up and running forever unless I find a compelling reason to completely shut it down. By skipping automated postings, the scripts are no longer very resource intensive and do not cause much of a load on our web server. On the other hand, you will never find its existence advertised internally on 4hb.com. It is an advertising tool that brings an occasional new visitor to our site but is not a useful resource for someone already at our site.

Would I do this on any other sites of mine? Not likely! The benefits seem too little for the results gained.

Got any questions? Please visit the Entrepreneur's "For Home Business" Information Web site at http://www.4hb.com/. Celebrate your home-based and home-office small businesses and get resources for your continuing success

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You may publish this article on your web site or e-mail newsletter, as long the above resource box is included and an active link back to 4hb.com is provided. Please contact me for permission to use in print publications.

Copyright © 2000 Brad Trupp

Tags: E-commerce and Internet


 

 

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