Downloading PDF Documentation for ReadTheDocs Projects

Every Python developer is familiar with Read The Docs‘ beautiful HTML documentation for numerous open source projects. However, few developers know that Read the Docs hosts PDF versions of every project’s documentation.

Here, for example, is the url to Django-Tastypie’s PDF docs:


You can replace django-tastypie with the slug for any Read the Docs project.


Hide Google Plus Notifications on Google and Gmail

Tired of Google aggressively pushing Google Plus? Don’t want to share your search results with friends?  Not feeling social while you read your email?

I wrote a tiny userstyle to hide Google Plus notifications on Google and Gmail. I’ll update it as necessary.


Goodbye Planet GNOME

I have been a Planet GNOME blogger for almost three years now. Every post has been a pleasure. I learned some truly odd and interesting things, like how to strangely pass parameter in C and how the kernel reads shebangs.

For over two years PGO has put up with my oddities, like buying AskJeevesMom.com. I never received warnings to stay on topic. The GNOME community is the most friendly and welcoming online community I know. #gnome-hackers was my home as a teenager and I don’t think I heard a dirty word once. The GNOME community simply rocks.

Knowing that my posts end up on PGO has always made blogging seem like a bold and glorious undertaking, though I felt a midget among giants. My posts end up on the same page where HP blogs and Mark Shuttleworth announces.

Tonight I’m saying goodbye because in three weeks my blog will be removed from PGO and I support that decision.

You see, my blog was once about GNOME and Linux. When I was added to PGO in 2009, I was a new and passionate GNOME user who blogged about Zeitgeist. Today I use OS X and occasionally GNOME 2. I used to be passionate about FOSS, but nowadays I’m a student and I’m just happy if I eat two meals a day, preferably with a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice, assuming that isn’t over-budget, but of course it always is.

It has been a pleasure. If you want to follow me, subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed, follow @aantn or plus me - or even just email me. Do people still use RSS? I still use email.

So long and thanks for all the fish.


Politician Market – Post Launch Writeup on Conversions, AppEngine, and Launching

On Tuesday, I released Politician Market, a satirical, fake, marketplace for buying US politician votes. I brought it online, posted to Hacker News, and went to take a shower. 15 minutes later, I’m wearing a towel when I notice that Politician Market is #1 on HN and the server is melting. 12 requests per second. Gosh. I spent the next hour coding in underpants only. My roommate walked in with family members in the middle. He just pointed, said something with the word “roommate”, and walked out.

I wanted Politician Market to be entirely static site, so I used JotForm for signups. There were so many sign-ups that I crashed JotForm’s servers after only 10 minutes and had to move the sign-up form to Google Docs.

Signups and Conversions

Conversion tip: If you want to optimize sign-ups, don’t use  an external service. Sign-ups stopped almost entirely after moving to Google Docs. (I received only 40 signups after the move.) If you want to gain feedback, do place a feedback form on the homepage and you’ll get plenty of feedback.

12,000 uniques and 4 hours later, Politician Market mysteriously disappeared from the homepage and traffic started to subside. Some time before then, I had to disable the contact form entirely because I was about to overrun my JotForm quota. Despite disabling the form, people kept submitting it, often blank. (A browser bug?) At that point, I changed the form’s action to “#” and added an overlay (see below), but people kept submitting the damn form. My brother told me that he wrote me a long message in the contact form, because he was convinced that it really did get sent after all. What must you do for people to believe you?

Another conversion tip: Adding social sharing buttons seems to matter. There were 12,000 hits while we were on HN for four hours. After pg killed the submission, the long tail brought (and is still bringing) another 2k. If you add sharing buttons, make sure to include Google Plus. The break down was 259 shares on Twitter, 40 on Google Plus, and a bunch on Facebook. (For an unknown reason, Facebook wont show me the stats anymore.)

I didn’t have time to A/B test, but conversion rates seemed to rocket when I placed annoying sharing links so far up that they pushed content below the fold. I hated that, so I soon reverted the changes. (Startup idea: I wish I could run automatic A/B tests by including a javascript file that would hash the page, check with a 3rd party server to see if it changed, and provide conversion data when I’m cowboy coding. Create that and I will pay a one time $10 fee for the service.)

For absolutely no reason, I asked for phone numbers in the signup form. About 30% of all sign-ups included them.

Avoid AppEngine Like the Plague

I originally wanted to host on S3, but it wouldn’t accept my credit card so I used AppEngine and static-app-engine-hoster. Don’t do that. There is no caching and you lose all the benefits of a static site. I wasn’t expecting so many hits, so I didn’t think this through.

More on AppEngine: Deployment is easy, but payment sucks. AppEngine makes you pay per-week, so if you want to use $10 a day, you have to deposite at least $70. (Slimeballs.) AppEngine has absolutely no support for paying customers. I sent two emails about urgent issues and never heard back. Avoid AppEngine like the plague.


I tried publicizing Politician Market on Reddit, Slashdot, and Digg. It almost took off on Reddit, but Slashdot ignored it despite votes on the Firehose submission and Digg was a laughable waste of time. (What they say about Digg is correct: If you aren’t part of the oligarchy you might as well submit the link to /dev/null.) I emailed a few tech and political bloggers. Most of them ignored me, but some had incredibly kind words and published a link. Do have the chutzpa to email bloggers.

This is the second launch I have done. Third time ice cream. Does anyone know where that weird Israeli saying comes from?


Away from home? Hack some good for the holidays

Happy holidays, everyone!

I’m off for Hanukah and I want to donate a few holiday hours to a charitable project. Do you know of a good cause that could use a C hacker or independent Python web developer? Let me know and I’ll donate four hours tomorrow night, with the goal of continuing to help out during the new year.

Are you a coder yourself? Can you pledge the same? Send me an email and we will code for good tomorrow.

Update: Join us in #holidayhack on Freenode!

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