In part one of this series, I discovered The CerebralRift had gone KABOOM! In part two of this series, I undertook an Extreme Website Cleaning and documented my decision process for updating the reviews on The CerebralRift. This lead to a rant about the instability and negative impacts of using embeds in the reviews on here. In the aftermath of the week-long grind there are a few things that are worth talking about:

  • Finishing the cleanup.
  • Update the state of the website now.
  • Mention a few things that I have started.
  • Drop some information about the future of The CerebralRift and CerebralMix.

Finishing the Cleanup

After the original audit of the site, I realized there would be multiple passes needed to get everything fixed.  After the long grind through all of the articles there were a few more things to resolve:

First thing was to clean up a few remaining plug-ins that were no longer needed.  The main one being the old plug-in that was used for the ratings in the reviews. And, I reconsidered a couple more plug-ins and removed them as well.

The next big task on the list was to clean up the images. I had hoped to find a tool that could help me identify images that weren’t in use at all on the site, but the only one I found was confusing to use, at best.  However, I did find a tool that could clean up all the extra copies of images that the system makes, especially those that were no longer needed for displaying in the current theme.  That tool really helped with the cleanup. I also found another tool that let me see the featured images on my posts so I could determine which ones were missing images.  But, there was no real solution for attaching images other than elbow grease and grinding through the media library.  Fortunately, this wasn’t as time consuming as going through all the articles.

There was still one final issue that had to be resolved, the one that had started this whole process… The remaining broken links.  By this point there was well less than 200 broken links remaining. Of those links, they mostly fell into two categories: (a) links to social media profiles that no longer existed, and (b) links to websites / pages that no longer existed.

The social media links were easy to resolve: just remove the link. While I know a few of them had started new accounts, I felt it wasn’t worth, or necessary, to spend the time to provide new links for comments.  The comments are still in place. The links to websites or pages that no longer existed were a little more complicated… I tried to take the approach of updating the links if possible.  For example, one website had changed addresses, all the content was still available, just the domain extension had changed. In some cases it was possible to find an archived copy of a website or page on The WayBack Machine (this is a wonderful feature built into the linker scanner tool). However, when those things failed, I just had to remove the link.

Another part of dealing with all the links on the website hasn’t even been mentioned up to this point: redirected links. These aren’t broken, but they do impact user experience.  The issue is this: the address of the link points to one location, but you end up at another.  This happens a lot when websites move pages around, or they change their domain name or address. The biggest reason there were a lot of redirected links on The CerebralRift is simply time: most websites added security certificates to their sites a few years ago (known as SSL), The CerebralRift did it too. When this happened website addresses changed from “http://” to “https://”. This really isn’t a big deal, but it does take a tiny bit of time to resolve the address (like literally a fraction of a second) since the address needs to be corrected in order to connect you to the website.   Since I was taking the time to clean up the broken links, I thought the additional cleaning was worthwhile. I like a clean site.

The State of The ‘Rift

At this point I had spent 12 days cleaning the site up. There is still more to do, however I had to turn my attention to a larger job: migrating CerebralAudio and the CerebralMix data to my service provider’s new storage. (And I could tell you that was a massive task!)

After I finished that work, I came back here to see how things were going. I was pleased to see the results: the website is seeing more traffic, and testing with a few tools showed that the site had regained some ground in Google, Bing, etc. And, looking at Google, I found that the update to the articles were being reflected in the index (most importantly, the reviews were displaying star ratings in Google, which means that it understands the reviews now…I don’t think it did understand them before.)

As for the website performance…  Page loads are a lot snappier.  The new layout makes a nice change, and puts the focus back where it should be.

Overall, the best way to summarize things: we’re back from the brink of destruction, and in better shape than ever. I wouldn’t call it perfect, though.  I will talk about some of the things that I have been doing since this deep dive later in the article.

(November addition: I started writing these articles just after I finished cleaning up the site, and didn’t really have any empirical data to measure if things had improved. But a month later I can definitely see improvements: the traffic has quadrupled, bounce rate has come down significantly, and more readers are following through to related websites.  And I haven’t published any new articles as I write – the first article in this series will be published in two days.)

Post Cleanup

With the cleanup completed, I have started working on refining a few things on the site, part of the work on changing the image and focus of the The CerebralRift.  For example, there is a new logo and a refinement of the slogan: “Outsider & Indie Art From The Commons”. It’s designed to be more inclusive, not just about music, and not just about the semi-commercial music and works that I think people came to expect from the site.

I’ve also cleaned up the social media links — quite a few of them were outdated and would lead to errors.  And I started re-writing a lot of the technical / geeky things that need to be included on the site, like the Imprint/Impressum, Terms of Service, Reuse Permissions, etc.  Those are still a work in progress, partially because I am re-aligning things in light of the split between The CerebralRift and CerebralAudio, and partially because of the plans for the future.

Speaking of the future…

The Future

Even before I discovered that the website had all but imploded on itself I was thinking about the future of the CerebralRift. Or, I should say, I was thinking about what I wanted to do with everything: The CerebralRift, CerebralMix and CerebralAudio. I’ve obviously not been doing much (if anything) here for a year.  The truth is, I tried an experiment in putting out some summary type content, but it didn’t work out the way I hoped it would.  The idea was to compile and present a weekly summary of new and interesting material that was coming out on the web.

While the intention was good, the process was flawed. Let’s face it, there’s too much stuff coming out on a daily basis, much less a weekly basis to be able to handle.  But, I think there is still a need.  So, that’s where my newest auxiliary site comes into play: The CerebralRift Compilation, or brain-dump, or bookmarks, whatever you want to call it.

The idea is this:

  1. I post things I find on the web on The CerebralRift Compilation.
  2. You can comment, click like, etc on the content.
  3. I will refer to that content when selecting things to cover.
  4. And finally, you can give me feedback on the things I’ve chosen to cover.

To summarize: the idea is to get a feedback loop going. We build a large pile, and vote on the stuff in the pile, then it gets more coverage.

But (and here’s the biggest hint yet) it’s not just about writing reviews of works on here.  I am planning to revamp The CerebralMix an make it part of the process… But I will explain that portion of the concept in due time. Hopefully, if my plans come together, you will see a soft-launch of the new concept in December, and a complete launch in January…


Posted by George De Bruin