I’ve been chipping away slowly at various side projects, including pursing an interest in vocal acting but also updating some business cards for myself and the network. I’ve had cards in the past as part of a promotional thing from Moo and Klout that were a bit odd, and were more about advertising Klout and Moo than what I had intended.
Given that business cards remain the stock and trade at the increasing number of conferences and meet ups I’ve going to (and am planning to go to this week in Houston) I thought it was time to get some new ones. Whilst I remain somewhat ambivalent about 2D barcodes (QR codes) on the whole they remain popular with a lot of people and for those that don’t, I wanted some really short URLs on a system that I controlled. This way a very short URL would mean a very small and potentially unobtrusive 2D bar code OR at least a very short URL.
YourLS (Your Link-shortner) is an open source project that’s been around for many years and it’s a well trodden path to try. It presents a relatively low overhead on a VPS and I aleady had a few VPS’s lying around so threw it up on one. The installation and set up took an hour or so, and I actually spent far more time picking a domain name than I did actually setting up YourLS.
So far as the domain went, the goal of choosing had to fit two criteria: 1) must be less than $10AUD for 2 years, and 2) must be no longer than a public alternative like bit.ly (5 characters excluding the dot). This proved to be a somewhat problematic set of criteria to simultaneously achieve but after considerable digging I found the affordable ‘cro.pw’ which is short (in my head at least) for “Crop(ed) W(ebsite)” which to be honest is unlikely to make sense to anyone other than me but oh well. It works.
To pick the domain I tried several websites but landed using TLD List and NameMesh in conjunction with some Scrabble word list sites to help with ideas. There are a lot of domain-search sites to pick from but the usefulness of the ones I used after much trial and error was in the bulk search and refineable search criteria they afforded.
The domain cost me $8.88AUD total for 2 years and my time to set it up. Of course hosting your own thing always comes with all the same caveats:
- Once you start using or linking to that domain or system, you’re on the hook to maintain it or it will die a digital death
- You will need to update the OS, the Application and ALL of the frameworks from time to time as necessary or risk it falling over
- You’re in control! Yes, but now YOU’RE ON THE HOOK
Irrespective the Yourls system can link to third party apps to create links like ShortFox for iOS, or you can just log in to the web interface and create your own. It’s also supported in Tweetbot, using the “Custom” Link Shortener using these instructions. There’s WordPress plugins and a bunch of other frameworks for Python and PHP and more too.
Once you have those links you can track them to see when they were opened with the extremely rudimentary traffic analytics, though admittedly that wasn’t what I was doing this exercise for. That said, I’d rather shorten URLs using my own shortener than let Twitter scrape more data from me than they already do if possible.
As with so many of these Open Source software tools they’re fun to play with, and serve a purpose for some of us. Not saying for one second that it will serve a purpose for you, also not saying I’m the first to use it (clearly not), but it might be of interest someday for you (who can say?)