Google told me to put this blog on a diet

The screen real estate around these words should look a little neater now–not much thanks to my own editing instincts. Instead, I needed a scolding from Google.

That came from its PageSpeed Insights tool, a page you can use to check the performance of your own site or any other. It’s been around for years, but I didn’t think to use it until after I finally connected this site to Google’s Search Console webmaster tool last May (yes, even though I’ve been blogging here since 2011 and am supposed to be a professional tech journalist) and saw a prompt to try PageSpeed Insights in my results.

The results were not flattering: a mobile performance score of 47 out of 100, with desktop performance better but still subpar at 89. Scrolling down revealed a variety of flaws in this blog, some that I could correct with the limited tools of a free WordPress.com account and some that I could not.

I started with the first obviously fixable thing, image sizes. Google suggested that I convert such frequently-downloaded elements as the background image to “next-gen formats” like WebP or JPEG 2000. But instead of switching to files that Apple’s Safari browser can’t display, I opened the original photo for the background (a view of the Blue Ridge from a bike century ride in 2006) in my Mac’s GraphicConverter app and exported it with a lower image-quality setting that cut its size by a third at no visible cost.

That did not impress PageSpeed–my mobile score actually dropped to 44–so I moved on to the third-party code that Google reported had been getting in the way of my own content. It listed Facebook as a major offender, accounting for 207 milliseconds of delay. Removing the Facebook widget that you formerly saw in the right-hand sidebar boosted my mobile score to 53, with the desktop score essentially unchanged at 87.

(PageSpeed Insights scores fluctuate up and down with each test, so don’t get bent out of shape if yours drops by five for no apparent reason, at least not until you run the test again.)

Then I removed the Facebook and Twitter share buttons and elected to toss all of the share buttons except the tool to e-mail a link to the page. That edged the mobile score up to 58 and pushed the desktop score up to 96.

This pruning got me to look again at all the ads you see around here–and think about how low-rent so many of them are. I turned off the three “additional ad placement” options that had been salting each post with extra banners. That may cut into my ad revenue, but it’s already so thin I’d rather that my professional presence online not look quite so janky.

Having spun myself up fully into Marie Kondo mode, I returned to the sidebar and removed the Twitter widget (PageSpeed Insights had blamed Twitter code for 119 ms of delay) and some non-interactive links that only cluttered that part of the page.

The results of all this effort as calculated by PageSpeed Insights just now: scores of 76 on mobile and 99 on desktop. I hope you notice this blog loading a little quicker–and I trust you appreciate how this exercise has also rid my blog of Facebook’s tracking.

Weekly output: Demo, satellite Internet access, page speed

I wrote a lot less this week than last, unless you count all the tweeting I did at the Demo Fall conference from Monday through Wednesday. Which, I suppose, may not count for much in two months, when a query for the #demo2012 hashtag won’t yield anything on Twitter’s own site, although that should still work on an archive like Topsy. Yet I don’t know of a better way to share my notes in real time and get instant feedback from a wide audience–and, most of the time, come away with a bunch of new followers.

(I was too lazy to archive my tweets about the conference here when I wrote Thursday’s post. Should I do that now?)

10/4/2012: Home Automation On The Cheap Wins Demo, Discovery News

As I did after TechCrunch Disrupt, I picked a few of the dozens of presenting companies to spotlight for Discovery. That audience tends to gravitate towards more sci-fi-ish news, so this list favored Demo debuts that made interesting uses of networked sensors instead of those that relied on mere Web services to make existing tasks easier and faster (though I liked a few of those Demo presenters too). This post also features a breathtakingly dorky photo of me.

10/7/2012: Rural options for speedy Internet still tough, USA Today

I got the reader e-mail paraphrased in this column three weeks ago; two weeks ago, I attended a briefing by Dish Network about its new DishNet satellite service; one week ago, the guy I buy cheese from at my farmer’s market complained about his malfunctioning satellite Internet. That was enough for me to write this column, revisiting the limits of rural Internet access–and why satellite, despite the issues I outline here, looks to be the only option out there for a while. The column also suggests using Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to check a site’s responsiveness; if you were curious, it gives this blog a score of 92 out of a possible 100.

Go Nats!