You may have heard of the slashdot effect
(or the digg effect), where traffic increases dramatically after being mentioned on one of the top sites on the web. Well, DonationCoder has experienced the tsunami of visitors associated with being on the digg homepage, but we've never experienced anything quite like what i will now hereafter call "The Gizmo Effect
Ian "Gizmo" Richards runs the website techsupportalert.com
and puts out a newsletter of the same name. He's probably best know for his "List of the 46 best-ever free utility programs
" which is one of the best top freeware lists you can find, but he has a lot of other guides and he puts out an excellent newsletter each month [There is a free version of his newsletter and a premium version which is $10/year]. I've talked to gizmo in the past and he happens to be one of those nice, generous, and genuine people on the internet that can sometimes seem increasingly rare).
This month gizmo wrote a really generous piece on one of the programs I've written on DonationCoder.com called ProcessTamer
(read about what he wrote here
6.1 A Free Utility That Stops Programs From Hogging Your PC
It was driving me mad. My laptop would sporadically run at 100% CPU utilization and lock up. It defied all attempts at analysis as the PC was seized and I couldn't do anything. Only a hard reboot was possible, but on rebooting the problem was gone.
Eventually I solved it with a superb little utility called Process Tamer, written by "Mouser" over at Donation Coder. Process Tamer is a monitor that watches the CPU utilization of all running processes. Once the usage of a single process gets above a certain level (by default 70%) Process Tamer reduces the usage by lowering the process priority.
It's a simple idea and Process Tamer implements it immaculately. With Process Tamer installed, the next time the problem occurred on my laptop it didn't totally lock up but rather just ran very slowly. This allowed me to do a quick diagnosis. The problem turned out to be simple but non-obvious. Two programs, Diskeeper and X1, had been accidentally scheduled to start at the same time and were getting into an embrace of death. It was unexpected, as these two normally peacefully co-exist. Simply re-scheduling the programs to start at different times solved the problem.
I couldn't have solved the problem as easily without Process Tamer. However Process Tamer has much broader application than just this kind of problem.
It's a great tool for preventing any one program from hogging your processor. Every user has experienced the situation where their PC has been slowed down to the point of being unusable, by a background program such as a desktop search program, that starts and takes all the resources. Process Tamer will stop that from ever happening again.
For the same reason it can also help speed up your Windows Startup. Make sure though, that you enable Process Tamer to start automatically with Windows. By default it does not, but it's easily changed from within the program's options.
Yet another use for Process Tamer is intra-server load balancing. It's near ideal for this task.
If you actually want a program to able to use all available resources, such as a digital editing program, you can set the program to be excluded from Process Tamer's watchful eye.
I was so impressed with Process Tamer that I've permanently installed it on my laptop. It takes only around 6MB of memory space and its own CPU usage is so low I could barely measure it.
Process Tamer is available for free from the Donation Coder site. They use a novel licensing system: you have to register to get a free license key which allows you to download any number of programs on the site. This key lasts six months after which you must return to the site to download another free license key. After a year you are given a permanent license. Alternatively, you can make a once-up donation of any size and get a permanent key straight away. It's a clever and ethical way to encourage users to recognize the work done by freeware authors and I support it fully. I donated generously and I hope you do too.
Donationware, Windows 2K, XP, 2.23MB
We sometimes have a hard time explaining how we do things here with respect to our license keys and how we try to ask for donations but don't require them (see my long article here
), and it can be frustrating/confusing for people at times; Gizmo's wrote a really nice statement saying how he supported our approach and encouraged others too as well.
As I told Gizmo, we're just a small site trying to figure out how to survive in this vast internet ocean filled with big sharks and startup companies with venture capital millionaires and big advertising budgets, and sometimes it sure can feel like an uphill swim (hey and the sharks seem to have lasers beam weapons also!), and when someone respected writes something approving about what we are trying to do, it means the world to us.
What I didn't expect however was what happened after gizmo's newsletter went out. Sure our traffic increased, but something much more dramatic happened. When we made it to the digg front page, the traffic increased, but it was shallow traffic -- people visiting and left. After the tech support alert newsletter, we had several hundred more people actually sign up at our forum, and we had the largest # of donators in one day that we have ever had on the site in by far.
Also, when people donate i always send then a welcome email and ask how they discovered us; most people who donate never reply to that email (not sure why), but gizmo's readers mostly did, and proudly. I think that tells you something about the kinds of people who sign up to newsletters in general, and the tech support alert newsletter in particular.
The gizmo effect has resulted in a great influx of new supporting members on our site, and hopefully some new active forum members who will participate in discussions -- which is the life blood of our site, and what makes this whole thing fun.
For what it's worth, it seems to me that from past experience with our software being mentioned on big sites, blogs, newsletters, etc., that being mentioned on a big popular site can really increase traffic for a short period, but there are a lot of people out there who are willing to support what seems like a good cause, if someone they respect and trust let's them know that it's worth supporting. Or perhaps it's more a matter of being careful/cautious in this age of scams, that people simply want someone they trust to let them know that participating/contributing to a project is safe.
It seems to me that the group of people who sign up to email newsletters (and i'm one of them!) also represents a small subset of users who are more interested in being part of a kind of team or family, who appreciate the value of having someone they trust evaluating stuff and giving at least an initial seal of approval or disapproval about stuff that's out there. And they are also people who are willing to get involved and support deserving projects as a group.
Not to put too much pressure on people like gizmo, but i do think that newsletter writers have a really important role to play in bringing attention to small sites and developers that would otherwise not get any attention or support. I hope gizmo keeps looking for small sites and projects that his users might want to check out and support. If more people are willing to support small projects with small donations, this approach can be more viable for the little guys who just can't compete with the advertising budgets and pr connections that the other companies have. More power to gizmo and those like him.
ps. do you know of more newsletters for software lovers, please post about them!