Web 2.0 Expo NY: Cal Henderson (Scalability) and Smith/Patel (SEO)

16 09 2008

I attended the first 30 minutes of Cal Henderson’s talk about Scalable Web Architectures. He’s among the very select club of technical speakers who manage to be funny and deeply knowledgeable, speaking in terms that non-geeks can actually understand. I worked several years as a Performance Engineer, so I admire people who can talk about non-functional requirements and make it interesting. Performance & Capacity talks tend to be some of the most boring in the IT industry, so that’s not a small feat.

I left the session midway just because I felt that the content was not the right fit for me. In my current role as an emerging technologies consultant I don’t typically have to deal with capacity assessment and planning, so I decided to attend the SEO session instead, presented by Chris Smith and Neil Pattel. I would have stayed till the end if I could attend the SEO session another time. Some conferences have 2 time slots for each session. I like that model better, as I often find myself having to choose between two topics I’m deeply interested at, and speakers are sometimes in a sunk cost situation: the travel and the time commitment has already been done, so adding one more session has only a marginal cost.

Smith & Pattel’s session is very good, but the slides are self-explanatory, so I don’t think I’ll be adding much value here by describing the content. The overall message is: there’s a lot of money left on the table by websites from companies large and small by just not leveraging totally ethical Search Engine Optimization techniques. This session presentation can be used a comprehensive checklist for you to assess your site’s ability to maximize its potential to be found.

My personal take from the SEO session is that the whole list of SEO things you should do seems to be very “automatable” to me, like those scripts for Java performance analysis that can scan your code and highlight areas for improvement. You still need the human component for the high-level assessment, but by automating more mechanical tasks you can hopefully focus on the real thing that is the ultimate driver of traffic: having good, relevant content.

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