Let me tell you about web development and fishing, my two great passions. Here’s a fishing story. When I was a kid, i fished off the long piers in the Black Sea. I did not catch all that much, and I mostly thought that was because of my lack of skill and resources: I though if I could cast further, have a better fishing rod, or be able to go out on a boat, maybe I could catch more. Then I noticed that one fisherman was catching huge quantities of fish.

He had an interesting technique. Instead of using a single rod and switching from a place to a place, he’s bring ten. Each one was cheap and simple bamboo rod. He’d bait them, and drop the hook in shallow water in clear water, where the sea floor was covered with concrete blocks with holes used to stabilize the sand. I tried fishing near those holes before, but never caught anything. He’d set up his ten rods, and then just wait. An interesting thing happened: after about an hour the fish started biting, and were mostly just catching themselves: all he had to do was walk from rod to a rod and take off the fish. Sometimes just a single hole would be producing, then he would take that rod and catch fish after fish from the same place.

This technique is called deadsticking: you leave the bait motionless, and thus exposed to the fish for much longer periods of time. Most fish grab the bait and run: you don’t even need to set the hook, the fish catches itself. When on the boat the same technique often works. Having a number of rods fishing all the time gives you two benefits: it shows you the hot spots and exposes your hooks to more fish.

I see this again and again: a company redesigns a website, changes the core technology used to build it, spends a lot of money, and then the traffic and search rankings fall, and thus revenues fall.

I am pretty sure I know the cause of this: broken links. Any redesign of a website of just about any complexity, especially when technology changes breaks a lot of links. Search engines are like fish: they do not like things moving from a place to a place in an unnatural manner. A fisherman once told me: hey, do you think a Tautog (a kind of fish) ever seen a dead fiddler crab jump three feet up and down? Fish do like movement, jiggling the bait often entices them to bite. But the important thing is, the jiggling can’t be too vigorous and take the bait out of the view! Google likes to see changing content, but if the location of the content darts around – you betcha boots you are going to see your Pagerank take a hit.

The best thing to do when faced with with less traffic from Google is not to redesign the site again, but to dead stick: fix all the broken links, keep the site stable, and better yet, bring in more rods – build more sites.

In my time I’ve seen a large number of websites and careers that were set back by CMS switches and redesigns.

Further reading: The Russian Tea Room Syndrome and Deadprogrammer’s Hierarchy of Web Needs.

What, Again With The Fishing Rods?

If you’ve been reading my journal, you probably know that I like nice things. Consumerism is not foreign to me at all. Some of you are probably are sickened by my consumerism and are just sticking around for pretty pictures of New York that I take. In any case, I am going to brag a bit about my fishing rods.

Mind you, custom fishing rods that I like so much do not help me catch more fish. In fact, for some reason, the biggest fish that I ever caught were taken on the crappiest rental rods.

What does it mean for a rod to be custom made, you ask? Well, fishing rod industry is somewhat similar to the PC industry. You can either buy a pre-assembled rod, or buy all the same ingredients and put it together yourself. Of course, it takes much more skill and know-how to put together a fishing rod. A rod made by an artisan will be much better than a factory assembled one. The master will find the optimal bend of the blank and affix the guides so that you can cast a bit further, the balance will be a touch better, there will be a bit more sensitivity (all compared to a factory assembled rod made from the same ingredients).

But one thing that the custom rod will have that will instantly set it apart is the butt wrap. Butt is the bottom part of the rod of course. :)

What is a butt wrap? It’s a pattern made with tightly woven threads. These patterns are defined by hundreds or thousands of overlapping threads, often wound one at a time. Designs can be simple that take an hour or two or super complex ones that take days of concentrated work.

There is a book about this and even software called VisualWrap for making the designs. No, it’s not a part of Visual Studio :)

Some designs, like this dolphin fish , work kind of like pixel graphics.

Others are complex geometric shapes.

The three nice rods that I own are not really custom, although high quality. Buy I’ve had them custom wrapped, although with rather simple patterns. I’ll take pictures sometimes, but right now I can’t figure how to minimize glare from the transparent epoxy that covers the pattern.

I am about to buy two real custom rods, and I already picked a pattern for the wrap. The first pattern is going to look like :

Take a look at the rest of this guy’s examples here.

And a second one is going to be a simple solid diamond wrap modeled after Samurai Jack’s sword.