2021 Year in Review

- by Robert Giordano | Blog Index

For many of us, 2021 was a rough year. While it wasn't as bad as 2020, it was still a struggle. I certainly thought I was going to be a lot further along with the development and public re-launch of Linkatopia. But it just didn't happen.

I was off to a good start, developing a gibberish detector as part of a series of "intelligent" algorithms that will be used to help moderators on Linkatopia. I spent the entire month writing and testing this code, and you can see the results here.

My company, Design215, has a number of corporate clients. We produce their product / advertising photography, and we maintain their web sites. We built a complete online ordering system for restaurants and we made a number of improvements to it in 2020. This year, I had to focus on security because hackers and scammers had become a huge problem for everyone. Credit card companies were tightening their security protocols and I had to do a number of updates to my ordering system. I was working on these updates all month and into the next.

On March 10, I released v2.5.4 of my web site management software and updated all of our client web sites. There was still a LOT more to do for full compliance with the credit card companies so I didn't have much time for Linkatopia yet.

While working on updates for 80,000+ lines of code, some of our clients were complaining about the volume of spam coming from the contact forms or registration forms on their web sites. Google CAPTCHA and other methods weren't working. I decided to investigate this and add it to my list. Once I started running some tests, I was amazed at how much spam comes through web forms!

The first week of April was spent resolving a credit card issue with our online ordering system. Unlike most other systems, when you pay for an order on our system, the money goes directly to that restaurant's bank account and NOT to a third party vendor!! I just had to ensure the orders were getting to the store along a secure path. Some restaurants were still using Windows 7 and we had to get them updated to Windows 10.

The last 2 weeks of April and all of May were spent building a new module to fight "Contact Form Spam". Another 170,000 lines of code later, I'm proud to say my module blocks 99.9% of all contact form spam WITHOUT any annoying "I'm not a robot" tests. I hate those damn things. My code is literally blocking hundreds of spam messages per month on each client's site, while allowing 100% of valid messages through!! The module has a bunch of configurable options, including custom keyword filters, automatic IP blocking over a set threshold, and a ton of other stuff. I've seen many claims but I've found no other product that works as well, and works on ANY existing web site form, not just contact forms.

While I wasn't exactly working on Linkatopia, ALL OF THIS CODE will be used there!! And, I was keeping the lights on in our office.

On June 1, I released v2.5.5 of my web site management software and updated all of our client web sites. It had a number new security updates and the latest version of the Contact Form Manager.

The rest of June was an adventure. A family friend had died over a year ago and I was tasked with taking the ashes to their family cemetery plot in Savannah, GA. COVID had prevented the trip until now. Without going into a lot of detail, it was a bit somber, but it was a good trip. I explored Savannah for a few days then attended a small service at the cemetery. On the way back, I explored Cumberland Island.

Once I returned, I spent the rest of the month looking for a new dedicated server host.

As I explained in this blog post, I purchased new servers for Linkatopia, as well as our client sites and the Design215 site. What I didn't mention in that post is HOW LONG it took to move all of our client web sites. Some clients use GoDaddy, some use Register.com, some use NetworkSolutions, some HAVE NO IDEA. ***OMG*** It took all month to set up the new servers, install all of the software, and get everyone moved. The new servers are really nice though!!

Sometimes life happens. My mom fell and was badly hurt. She needed an operation and had no use of her right arm for the next 2 months. She lives alone. I packed my things and moved to mom's house. In the beginning, I had to help dress her, feed her, and get her in and out of bed. I cleaned, took care of her dogs, did all the shopping, made meals. At the end of the day I was exhausted. Everything else was on hold.

I'm still living at mom's house. She's getting better little by little. I took her to physical therapy 3 times a week. Once I finished with the chores, I struggled to get internet speeds better than dial-up. Finally, I just bought a new modem and router. That gave me a somewhat stable connection.

Near the end of the month I did a little work on Linkatopia but I also had to catch up with clients.

I'm still living at mom's house. She can dress herself but she won't be able to drive for at least another 30 days. I'm trying to get caught up with clients and work on v2.5.6 of my site management software. One of my clients needed a new server and I was able to help them remotely. Most of my clients have been with me for 10 years or more and they understand what I've been dealing with. Everyone is very happy with the latest versions of my software.

On October 29, I made some updates to the Linkatopia homepage and posted about it.

I'm still living at mom's house. She's doing well and can do most things on her own, except drive. I've had a little more time to get back to Linkatopia and I've been optimizing the site for speed. My own page on Linkatopia has over 3000 links so I've been using it as a benchmark. I was able to get some pretty good results and I made this post about it.

On November 17, I moved back home. Mom is doing well.

Well I obviously didn't get Linkatopia ready for public launch this year. But I wanted to detail these past months so you can see why. I DID accomplish a lot. I wrote hundreds of thousands of lines of new code! I've been adapting that code for Linkatopia all this month.

I just pushed out some major updates and I'll be continuing to do that over the next few weeks. Starting Monday, January 3, I will be devoting full time hours (40 hours a week, or more) to Linkatopia! Design215 will be maintaining its current clients but we will not be taking on new clients for the next 3 to 6 months. That being said, if you are a potential client, I am always happy to talk to you!! You can contact me here.


Robert Giordano


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