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Mark Sanford Fail – White House Hopes and Web Sites go Down

Mark Sanford had a bad day today.

The Governor of South Carolina – a possible Republican Presidential contender for the 2012 election and a married father of four – had been the subject of national speculation and gossip over the last number of days for being completely out of touch with his family and his staff.  His family didn’t know where he was, his cell phone was off, and his staff was unaware of how to get a hold of him. As it turns out, he was in Argentina.  Why Argentina, you ask?  Well, today Sanford let us in on the secret.

In a nationally televised press conference today, Sanford admitted an extra-marital affair with an Argentinian woman, and said he’s resigning from his post as chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, but will remain as Governor.

Upon hearing the news, many folks (A LOT) must have done what I did – perform a web search on his name and then his wife’s name.  So much traffic was sent to www.SCGovernor.com and www.SC.gov that the sites were unavailable, at least intermittently.  SCGovernor.com returned only the message “Server is too busy” after a prolonged load time, while SC.gov appeared to flicker up and down.

If you’re keeping score at home – and I apparently I am – Sanford appears to have derailed his Presidential hopes and taken down his official government web sites at the same time.  One of these outages – the web site – is really not his fault, but South Carolina is clearly not prepared to communicate with their populations and the world via the web during big moments.  SCGovernor.com is not a site which receives much traffic on a regular basis.  Unless the site was taken down on purpose, which seems unlikely, the web host was not prepared for such a heavy influx of traffic.  Doesn’t bode well for usage of electronic communication as part of any emergency preparedness plan in South Carolina.  (A whois search reveals that the domain servers to be ns1.net.state.sc.us and ns2.net.state.sc.us, and the response headers indicate that the web server is a Microsoft IIS 6 server.)

The Alexa Web Information Service reports that SCGovernor.com is not a highly trafficked site, ranking well outside the top 100,00 sites.  I ran a quick comparison between SCGovernor.com and the official sites for two other high-profile Governors, New York’s David Patterson and California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The graphic shown here displays search visits over a one month span on SCGovernor.com, Gov.CA.gov and NY.gov/Governor.  The regular visits from web searches reaching the South Carolina site don’t even appear on the graph.

As he stepped up to the podium today, I doubt Sanford was considering how much traffic his web host could sustain.  What I would guess, is that he was fully aware of how quickly the news of his indiscretion would spread online.  Sanford and his communications staff would have done well to battle the web scandal wildfire which was set ablaze today by being prepared with a web-based firehose of their own.  Put the full version of events up on the web, make the full news conference available on-line, restate the important elements of the story in a clear, concise manner, and react to the speculation about impeachment and resignation or whatever else might require rebuttal.  Sanford lost the ability to amplify his side of the story on his official site, because he doesn’t have one (at the moment).

Folks – if you’re thinking about running for President of the United States, I would suggest getting a good web host.  But – as one person in the WSG offices said today – if the Governor of your state is sleeping around, a low quality web host might be the least of your problems.

This Week’s Favorite Links – June 7, 2009

Information Week: Anti-U.S. Hackers Infiltrate Army Servers

We got into the nation’s cyber war capabilities and challenges on the radio last Thursday.  The story about Turkey-based (basted? lol) hackers M0sted infiltrating US Army web servers very much stuck out in my mind.  Not because hacking into a web server is that unique, or even the military element of it.

Most interesting to me was the very common method used to carry out the attack, namely SQL injection.  As described in a comment by InfoWeek user DigitalGrimm on the article linked in our post here:

These ‘hacks’ are easy enough for any person worth their weight to exploit and happen every days to hundreds of web sites. Most likely, judging by the described defacement, these were 90% automated attacks. Furthermore, if the web server is setup correctly (be it Linux, Windows, MAC, BSD, etc) the most the group would have access to is the web site’s database which should have nothing more then information for dynamic content. As I doubt any company would be foolish enough to actually have an externally accessible server to have access to internal only data.

Sorry, but there will be no ‘kudos’ to the ‘hackers’ on this one.

We have seen many sites fall victim to this method of attack, and that an Army-maintained site was vulnerable just emphasizes what another recent Information Week article details quite well: Cybersecurity Review Finds U.S. Networks ‘Not Secure’.

DumbLittleMan.com

This blog is one of my favorite recent discoveries.  Their tag line is Each week we provide a handful of tips that will save you money, increase your productivity, or simply keep you sane” and it has feel similar to LifeHacker.  With posts like “Mono-Task and Work More Effectively” and “How to: Share iTunes Media With All Your Computers” how can you not like it?

Reuters via the New York Times: Facebook Sells 1.96% Stake for $200 Million

According to the story “the stake, sold to Digital Sky Technologies based in London and Moscow, values the social networking site at $10 billion” which should bother you, even if you love Facebook.

Design and Development with the End in Mind

We have started the process of redesigning both WSG.net and RJGile.com.  Even though we put new versions of each site up last year, we decided to put a different emphasis on our web identity.  For WSG especially, this is quite important, but RJGile.com will surely see the benefits of it as well.

Any web project, including our own, must begin with the end in mind.  At the moment, I’m brainstorming the keywords and ideas that our target audiences are seeking.  Who are they, what are they seeking (through search engines of course), how are they seeking, and what will they want to do once they’ve found what they’re looking for.   This is really the only way to get what you want out of a web site.  Decide up front what your goals are, and gear everything towards that end.

This is just one facet of some different initiatives slated to start coming out of this building in the next few months.  We’re not ready to talk about all of them just yet, but we’re getting close.  In keeping with our plans to take things to the next level around here, you’ll also see a bit of a different tone in this blog.  A more personal, easier, first person perspective on what drives events here in our family of companies.

Domain Name Transfers Gone Wild – ICANN Gets Duped

The headline says it all – Internet addressing agency loses its addresses.  So watch out, readers.  Don’t click on those emails or mail in those offers.  Run them by us first, or you could be in trouble.

Hey Technorati

Technorati wants me to link to my Technorati Profile on their site so I can claim ownership of this blog.

How do you measure your web traffic?

How do you measure the usefulness of your web site?  Do you track and analyze your web stats?  Do you have a tracker on the site, but never look at it?

Just yesterday, when showing a client how to navigate their newly installed web stats, I was reminded of the importance of metrics.  It seems that if someone is aware of search engine optimization metrics and stats are important to them.  No business that I have encountered believes that return on investment is not important, especially on the web.  It seems like more of a blind-spot or just an unawareness of how much data is slipping through their fingers every day by not tracking stats.

If I don’t get to you first, drop me a line so we can talk about how to measure and then improve your web traffic.