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The Lighter Side of Sysadm | Ranting & Raving | Pete's Back Yard


On being a webmistress

by Celeste Stokely, Stokely Consulting

The joy: I'm the webmistress of, and 90% of the time, it's a wonderful job. (In Stokely Consulting, I'm also a consultant, a CFO, and a business co-owner, but that's a different story.)

Our readers send me wonderful thank-you notes, URIs of useful information, and corrections to our site. They sometimes tell me how I saved their job/hair/life/marriage/sanity by providing the information they need, and that makes it all worthwhile for me. Some even send cookies or autographed pictures of their sysadm team, and that's always nice (especially when I fix their modem problems over the phone for free).

The pain: But then, there is the other 10% of the job. Sheesh, what a pain! I get to deal with broken links, down servers, slow servers, bad referral links, DNS gone nuts in foreign lands, public servers that require authentication (hello? want my business?), vendors who try to buy our recommended Recommended: icon for their listing (they can't), and readers who think I'm vendor tech support just because I have a link to the vendor's site.

And, let's talk about broken links, okay? I have spent a lot of time getting the URI to point to the specific place in a vendor's site with the specific information a Unix Sysadm needs. And then, the vendor reorganizes the site. Then they do it again. Then, their search engine returns only Spanish/German/Japanese pages so I can never find the information again.

Or, some idiot decides to implement the site in frames, so I can never hope to access the useful info-bit directly, ever again. From here on, I'll add links only to the site's main page. I'm sick and tired of rummaging through quickly-changing sites. Feh.

I get the pain of corporate mergers. gets bought by and becomes Do they ever tell me? Nooooo..... I'm supposed to be merger-clairvoyant. I also get the sorrows of corporate extinction, those web sites of companies who have met the 404 of doom in that big bankruptcy court in the sky.

Now, let's talk about Web Administration tools. In The Beginning, all you needed were simple command-line tools written in Perl to check your links and your HTML. Simple bit-editors were good enough for graphics. Good search engines were free. The best web servers were free, too.

Well, the best web server is still free. (Thank you, Apache!) But, the free html-checkers aren't staying current with all the HTML revisions, the browser folks add all their own "standards" and I will stay fully open-systems compliant, free link-checkers are slow and unwieldy, search engines have to be expensive to be good or else your ISP doesn't support them (we hotel our site, not run our own web server), and our simple graphics look crude compared to today's snazzy standards.

Have you priced commercial Web tools lately? They're $250-$1000 a pop, and usually run just on Microsoft platforms. I've bitten the bullet and bought a few, but I still use vi and make to edit the site. Hey, I have a very tiny budget for Web site maintenance. I love free tools.

So, I'll hang tough and remain a webmistress. I'll try to produce the best web site possible for someone without a $10,000/year and 40 hour/week web site budget. Thank heavens for the wonderful folks who drop by our site (about 5000/day of you!) and a special thanks to those who say thank you or give me good URIs to add. I do this to make the world safer and saner for Unix System Administrators, folks who have one of the toughest and most wonderful jobs in the world.

Thanks for being one of our loyal readers, and thanks for letting me blow off this steam. I'm feeling better now, Dave. :-)

..Celeste Stokely, July 1998, Webmistress


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Email: Celeste Stokely | Peter Stokely
163 14th Trail, Unit B, Cotopaxi CO 81223, (719) 942-3621
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