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Website Development

Photographer Programmer Kona Earth can be thought of as two distinct businesses.  The first is the farm which includes growing, harvesting and processing the coffee and macadamia nuts.  Historically, that's where most farmers stop, selling their crops to a local wholesaler.  Now, thanks to the Internet and air mail, it is possible for consumers to purchase coffee directly from the farmer.  Purchasing directly from the farm allows consumers to know exactly where the product comes from.  It can also mean faster shipping and fresher coffee.  The problem with cutting out the wholesaler is that now we, the farmer, have to worry about packaging, marketing, billing and shipping.  That is our second business.

Caring for the farm consumes the bulk of my daylight hours.  When the weather is bad (not often here in Hawaii) or I'm feeling tired or lazy (a little too often) then I'll sit inside and work on the computer.  Building and maintaining a website can really suck up the hours.  Having spent time at Cisco and Electronic Arts as a network programmer helps me with the more technical aspects of website development but it still takes lots of time.  I typically spend two or three hours a day sitting behind the computer, usually in the evenings after dinner.

PHP Code
PHP code
Often times when I see an interesting feature on another website I can look at their HTML code then adapt it for my own website.  Try it yourself.  In your browser open the View menu then select Source.  It will show you all the HTML source code for this page.  HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, it tells your browser where to put the text, pictures, buttons, etc.  Basically, HTML describes what the page should look like using a generic format so it can be displayed on any computer, Windows, Macintosh or Unix.

Most of the Kona Earth website is written in PHP.  PHP is a server-side language.  That means it runs on the server computer instead of your computer.  The server reads the PHP code which in turn tells it how to build the HTML code which is sent to the client computer (you) which then displays the page.  The advantage of PHP is that I can write HTML pages that change.  For example, on the home page, there is a picture in the center box that changes every time the page is loaded.  Hit the Refresh button several times to watch the picture change.  Likewise, the Weekly Update picture in the bottom box also changes automatically.  Rather than having to write new HTML code every time any of the pictures change I wrote PHP code which selects the proper pictures then generates the appropriate HTML code.

PHP has another very important capability, it can interface with MySQL which is the database that contains all the product, user and order information.  PHP and MySQL are required for things like the shopping cart and user registration.  Since PHP and MySQL are both server-side, they exist only on the server where they can be kept away from curious users or malicious hackers.  I am the only one that can access any of the PHP code or MySQL database information.

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RSS   What is RSS?
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to Google
In addition to writing code, I spend a lot of my time researching new features for the website.  For example, I recently added RSS to the website.  What is RSS?  I describe it in more detail here.  Basically, it allows all you repeat visitors to add a list of recent Kona Earth postings, such as this one, to your favorite home page.  Add to My Yahoo!   Add to Google   Any time you visit your home page, you'll be able to easily see if there is anything new here at Kona Earth.  Hopefully features like RSS will eventually help the website's popularity enough to justify the weeks I spent working on it.

Icon I'm always looking for ways to improve the website.  The other day I happened to notice that some of the websites I have bookmarked in my browser have little icons next to them.  Kona Earth did not.  Of course I had to drop everything I was doing and figure out how to make an icon for Kona Earth.  Being an ex-game programmer actually helped me with this task.  To see Kona Earth's icon, simply bookmark this site in your browser.  If you already have this site bookmarked you may have to remove the old bookmark and create a new one.  Some older browsers don't support bookmark icons but Internet Explorer does.

Another thing I've added fairly recently, as you've probably noticed, is advertisements.  Any time anybody clicks on one of the Google ads (bottom of the page), I get a small kickback.  For the Amazon ads (such as the PHP book to the left) I get a kickback only if someone actually purchases the item.  None of the ads generate enough money to get excited about but every little bit helps.  The Google ads are clicked on fairly often but so far nobody has purchased anything from any of the Amazon ads.

On the Visit page I added links to other Kona coffee farms.  In exchange, those websites have agreed to list Kona Earth.  Link exchanges such as this are common because they help a website's standing with Google and other search engines.  At least that's the concept.  When you ask Google to search for "Kona Coffee" it will find about two million matches.  How does Google rank all those results?  They're not telling.  A big part of a site's ranking is determined by how many other sites point to it.  The concept being that if it's important enough for another site to point to it then it's probably important enough to be listed in the Google results.  So if you have a website, I'd be happy to put a link to your site in exchange for you linking to my site.

Google Being listed in the top ten search results is the goal of every commercial website.  With over two million matches to "Kona coffee", Kona Earth may never make it to the top ten.  It would be nice if a search for "Kona Earth" (with the space, no quotes) would rank us in the top ten.  Ask Yahoo! or MSN for "Kona Earth" and we'll be listed as the number one result.  For some unknown reason, Google has decided that they don't like us and has given our site a ranking of zero.  A ranking of zero forces a site to the bottom of the listings, rendering it basically invisible.

I've spent many hours trying to figure out what Google doesn't like about Kona Earth.  I've changed the Kona Earth HTML code many times trying to fix whatever the problem might be.  Unfortunately the Google search engine is fully automated and there is no customer support.  Google keeps their exact ranking criteria secret to prevent people from abusing the system.  For example, ask Google for "miserable failure" and the number one result is the official biography of George W. Bush.  This was done by people that knew how to trick Google.  I wish I were that smart, I'd trick Google into listing Kona Earth any time someone searched for the word "sex".  On second thought, maybe it's a good thing I'm not that smart.

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