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Web Developers, You’re Not Alone

Web developers who plan to work alone, or are already doing so have a lot of obstacles to overcome.  One of which is being isolated and having no like-minded professionals to turn to for advice and feedback.   I know this one all too well and have been working alone  for the past 5+ years on various projects.  My current project, FantasySP, has been extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time.  Reinventing how people manage their fantasy sports teams can be quite a challenge.

Smashing magazine wrote a great article detailing why you should not be working alone.  However, some of us have no choice but to work alone. It could be that you are doing a solo project that no one believes in, or you simply do not have enough funding to get anyone else on board.  Fear not, this article will show you where to go to get some helpful feedback.

  1. Stack Overflow
    This is my personal favorite for websites to turn to when you are stuck in a bind.  As a developer on your own you will eventually run into programming problems that you need to get some outside advice on.  Whether it be a MySQL scalability issue or how to parse JSON in PHP.  You are free to post about whatever problem you are having, even newbie questions are often given great responses.  Questions are mostly geared towards programing, but can occasionally touch on server configuration or just plain old HTML questions.

    Best part about the site?  The community is friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and eager to help.  I’ve asked questions on that site that directly and indirectly led to answers.  I can’t say enough good things about this site and suggest anyone who is involved in coding to sign up and participate.   You’ll feel compelled to help others and try to be the first one to get selected as “Best Answer” to rack up points.

  2. Forrst
    Forrst is a site that can be used for networking with like-minded individuals and provide a spot to ask a wide range of questions that usually don’t pop up on Stack Overflow.  This site isn’t specifically limited to questions.  You have the option to post code snippets, screenshots of projects, to gain feedback.  You can even post useful links that you think can be beneficial to others.  Your posts can be private or made public, it’s completely up to you.

    If you are looking for feedback on a blog layout, design mockups, or coding then Forrst can be a great spot to check out.  I do not have much experience here, but from what I’ve seen thus far the community seems helpful and eager to help.  Getting started on Forrst you may feel a bit isolated, since it has a social aspect to it.  The site requires you to apply for it, but after waiting a week or so then you will recieve your invite code in your mail.  However, if you are helpful and engaged in the site then you should gain quite a few followers and get the feedback your looking for.

  3. Dribbble
    Dribbble’s sole focus is to post your designs and try to gain feedback from it’s userbase.  The site is invite only and is fairly difficult to become a member of without getting lucky or knowing someone already on the site.  I am not a member of Dribbble, but a designer friend is and told me the site is less about feedback and more about showing off your awesomeness.  Egos abound.

    So should Dribbble be on this list of helpful sites?  Yes and no. It’s still a great spot to post your designs and get feedback, but if you aren’t up to par then expect to hear about it.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you are a pro, but amateurs beware.

  4. Web Hosting Talk
    Here we have a throwback site that you probably heard of.  Unlike the other sites mention, this is a forum and is geared towards web hosting questions.  Being a developer on your own means making web hosting decisions as well, so this site is a must to learn which places to avoid.

    It may not look the best, but the forum is loaded with people who have lots of experience with multiple web hosts and it even has employees from dozens of hosting companies.  Ask your questions about domain registrars, VPS’s, cPanel, or Plesk and you’ll get lots of great feedback

  5. Webmasterworld

    Another blast from the past, webmasterworld is the place to go for questions related to your server and SEO.  This is a fantastic place to go to learn about harmful webbots that should be blocked and the latest rumors/news about search engines.  Users on this site are anonymous, and for good reason.

    This site is about  asking questions that you probably wouldn’t ask elsewhere.  For example, if you plan to partake in questionable practices such as cloaking content for Googlebot.  The community is helpful and there is a large mix of newbies and experts on the topic of SEO.

    This list is far from perfect and I have a feeling I’ve missed quite a few useful sites.  Be sure and leave comments to other helpful websites to go to for feedback.


Google’s Soft 404’s are Inaccurate and Often Times, Outdated

Google has announced that they have implemented Soft 404’s as a way to indicate pages that appear to be 404 (page not found) but come up as 200 (Good Response).   My initial reaction was that’s great news and should help me out when I forgot to include a 404 header response.  So then I went to webmaster tools to have a look.

One example of a Soft 404, according to Google, is this news page about A.J. Burnett of the Yankees.  This is interesting for two reasons, 1) This page is 683 days old, 2) It is definitely NOT a 404 page and has relevant content.  I have about 50 or so of these pages that I think are incorrectly identified as Soft 404’s.

Though, perhaps I didn’t have enough content on the page about Burnett and need a bit more information for Google.  How about a page that shows all the news collected for Joseph Addai in September 2009?  This too is an example of a Soft 404.

Does Google not like the fact that I show/hide content and only list the first few items by default?  Even if they didn’t like how it’s displayed, why would it be listed as a Soft 404?

I am sure many of you have similar situations popping up on your sites as well.  At first glance Soft 404’s sounded great, but in actuality they need a LOT of work in the accuracy department.