Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Tower Of Google

I got this Site Meter. It tells me how many people come to the blog each day. It tells me how long they stay. It tells me how many pages they view, and how long they view those pages. It’s a neat little gadget, and if I was a really savvy internet whiz, I’d figure some way to crunch all those numbers and squeeze some bucks out of it. Or, if I worked for the government, I’d figure out how to use the info to better surveil you.

Pretty much, all I use it for is to see how many people read the blog this week and to see where they’re from. Where they’re from in broad, general terms, mind you. It doesn’t tell me much beyond what city someone is from. And actually, not even that. It tells me what city their internet provider is from. But that’s usually pretty close to home, so I get a good idea of where most of the hits are coming from.

Like I said, it’s a neat gadget, and I like fiddling with it. One thing I really hate about it, though, is that if a visitor never clicks off the main page to any other pages in my blog, it records their visit length as 0:00. In other words, it doesn’t start counting the time of your visit until you look at something besides the main page. So, I never know if a 0:00 visit was someone who just opened and closed the page, or someone who sat and read all the way down to the bottom of the displayed blog, which right now goes all the way back to the first part of August. That part is frustrating.

The one thing I love about the Site Meter is that same Visit Length column. Especially when I open up the Recent Visits by Visit Details and see that of the twenty most recent visits, four or five people spent anywhere from ten to thirty minutes reading my blog. I gotta confess, that feels good. That makes it all worthwhile. That makes every Sunday morning with my wife standing over my shoulder stamping her foot and waiting for me to take her to brunch while I polish just one more sentence before clicking Publish New Entry worth the risk of enduring the Wrath of Khan over omelets and coffee. I do, of curse, smell the coffee before drinking it. Arsenic smells like garlic, right?

I tend to dwell on those Visit Details where someone spent so much time reading my blog. Like, I want to know, did they really spend all that time reading my blog, or did they just open the window and then get distracted and end up mowing the lawn or something. And I can tell by the Visitor Path whether they did or not. Like if they spent 32 minutes & 33 seconds at the blog (1,953 seconds) and they spent all 1,953 of them on one of the pictures they clicked on, then I pretty much know they got distracted and didn’t really read much. Maybe his wife was stamping her foot, too.

But if the Visitor Path shows that they spent 1224 seconds on one page and 535 on another and 194 on another and then exited to one of the links on the Honor Roll, then I know that they really did read my stuff.

And that makes it all worthwhile.

For example, of the last twenty visits, 6 people made it off the main page, and those six people spent a total of 75 minutes and 45 seconds reading the blog. That’s like 12 and a half minutes each. You know, I have subscriptions to pool industry magazines that I read in less than 12 and a half minutes each month.

In the last 40 visits, one visitor spent an hour and 14 minutes and 14 seconds and viewed 33 pages of my blog. Seeing things like that make what I do here worth every minute that I spend doing it.

So, where do all these people come from, anyway? What surprises me is that 76% of you don’t come from search engines. You got here through word of mouth or you’re a regular. And even of the 24% of you who got here from a search engine, the biggest chunk of you Googlers were Googling The Pool Guy, or The Pool Biz, or The Pool Guy Blog, or something like that. So, still, word of mouth.

Of the 20% of you who were looking for something else – most probably information about salt systems – the next most frequent search term was Lectronator. So, I’m glad I could help you there. After that, it’s Swimpure, then Intex, then Goldline, Aquarite, Zodiac, in that order. Then the search terms start being more specific to problems, like; Stone Coping Salt Damage, or Travertine Coping Salt, or Stray Current In Salt Pool. Then there’s my absolute favorite: Why Does My Salt Swimming Pool Shock Me When I Touch the Handrail? I think it’s neat that people ask Google questions in complete sentences, like it was some kind of Oracle or something.

The things that you folks are searching for has been the biggest indicator that what I’m doing here has value. I mean, when I see that there’s lots of folks looking for information about why their limestone or travertine coping and deck is dissolving under their feet, then I know I’m on the right track by shining a light on a pretty sleazy corner of our industry. Even still, when you go to any of the manufacturer’s websites, you won’t find a single word about the problems that people are encountering with salt systems. It’s left up to people like me to try to get the information out there. Because if you take a hard look at it, the pool industry has been horribly lax in self governing the problems with salt systems out of existence. Everybody’s afraid of stepping on the other guy’s toes. Afraid of making an enemy. To me, it’s sort of like holding the door for the bank robbers when they’re fleeing the scene because you want them to like you later.

But hey, I’m a Pessimist, right? And all of my rants are just a bunch of Hyperbole. Isn’t that what a lot of you say? And the Glass is really Half Full and Not Half Empty like I always say. Right? Sure, there’s some truth to what The Pool Guy says, but it’s really not as bad as all that. Right? I mean, these Salt Guys, they didn’t screw the Pool Owning Public on purpose. If Only They Had Known… Right?

Okay, fine. Then Get a Load of This:

“Straight Talk About Safe Swimming Pools

As a fund diligence expert of some existence I am constantly amazed at the misinformation and outright fraud perpetrated by inventors, manufacturers and cheat artists on fund owners. tidy fund water is an absolute requisite for any fund and promoting pseudo-smurder under the outfit of shelter or ecological concerns is no pretext for bad and potentially damaging information.”

That came off a Google Blog Alert for “Chlorine Generator”

You see, the term chlorine generator is buried further down in this gobble-de-goop of text, so that it pops up on a Google Blog Alert Search, thereby diluting the effectiveness of being able to set an Alert and keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s being said about Chlorine Generators, whether you’re a Hyperbolist like me, or a Consumer looking for the opinion of other’s before making a purchasing decision, or a Salt Pool Owner looking for help with any of the myriad problems that come along with owning one of these Albatrosses.

Oh? You think this is just more hyperbole?

Then Go Here to this Google Blog Search Results for Chlorine Generator:

Look at all of those pages and pages of bogus returns. Read the excerpted text:

“... generator briggs and stratton stand by generator gnerator spa king ozone generator baldor generators stepped-tone generator salt chlorine generator swimming pool list old wartsila generator sets d&d name generator military generator …”

“…Aqua Rite® Chlorine Generator - Cheap Pool Products chlorine generator,pool chlorine generator,electronic chlorine generator,swimming pool chlorinator,aquarite chlorine … Also check out the Aqua Logic ® … Click for Installation Manual. ...”

“…There it breathes a lot of knowledge on Haywards Aquarite Electronic Pool Chlorine Generator in the large resource. This is a homepage with synthetic link on raw exposure gas. If you next change from Haywards Aquarite Electronic Pool ...”

“... parts intex chlorinator intex chlorine intex chlorine generator intex chlorine generator and filter pump combo intex chlorine generator chlorinator intex chlorine generator information intex chlorine generator stltwaterpool system ...”

When you click on any of those blogs, you find that Google has locked them up for violations of the Terms of Service, as well they should. But the Search Engine is still affected. They still show up in the Search Results and dilute your effort to get at The Truth.

But then, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? This, ladies and gentlemen, is The Other Side of The Argument. They couldn’t dispute what people like me were saying, so they just started throwing crap on the walls, seeing what the Search Engines will let stick.

They’ve even found a way to get around the blogs being locked up for the violation of the Terms of Service. If you scroll to page 7 of those Blog Search Results, you’ll see this:

By: atlantis chlorine generator
Nice site. Thanks. Chlorine generator handbook. comments –

What they did there was to go out and find blogs with unrestricted Comments Sections and place a little “chlorine generator” flag. You see, that way the WordBots will still tag this entry as applicable to any searches for chlorine generators, even though is a guy’s blog, a guy who rails against many of the injustices of the world, one of which is that most advertising is spam.

It makes you wonder who pays for all that. Doesn’t it? I mean, the flow of all this garbage into the Blogosphere has to be coming from someone, or some group of someone’s, for some reason. There must be a buck in it somehow. It would be interesting to know whose buck it was in the beginning.

Could it have been yours? You know, from the bank robbery… I mean, from the purchase of your salt system.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that salt manufacturers are the only people scummy enough to have sunk this low as to flood the internet with false information to hide their misdeeds. This is probably just the Tip of the Iceberg. Which reminds me. I have to get another expression for that because soon enough people will respond by asking, “What’s an Iceberg?” But the Good News is that when all the Icebergs are Gone, the Glass won’t be Half Empty anymore. It will be Overfilled.

It sure would be nice, though, to know who’s destroying your ability to find The Truth and replacing Google with another Tower of Babble.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

There Is No Free Lunch

I received an e-mail this week. I thought I would share it and my response with you. I changed his name for reasons of privacy.

You seem extremely knowledgeable and have extensive experience with pools. I’m building a pool here in Austin (bad soils – I’m nuts!) and I’d like to talk to you for 5 minutes if you could please make the time. I’ve narrowed my selection to two bids. One with Salt Water and one with Ozone (Delzone) and chlorine. I’d like to discuss your experience with salt water and get some feedback on Sand Versus Cartridge filters. I have a lot of trees in my yard and I’ll be hammered with leaves and debris. I love the idea of cartridge but everyone says I need DE or sand. Thoughts…

FYI: I’ve owned a pool before, I hate DE, I love the salt water concept but I keep hearing the horror stories, the salt water guy has installed 30+ salt water pools and swears that by selecting the right materials (no limestone) and properly sealing those materials I should be fine (His customers love him – hard to argue) and I have no idea which filter I should choose. I think I love Jandy but I’m not sure. I’ve owned a Polaris but this Hayward Phantom looks interesting. Is it any good? Trying to decide the Jandy PDA is worth the expense…

Sorry to ramble but I’ve spent the past 6 hours researching pool stuff and I’m about to have a brain freeze. I found it interesting that your blog had more data than any of the previous 50+ sites I visited before I reached yours. NICE! At the end of the day, NO ONE knows more about stuff than the people who service and maintain that stuff.

Lastly I’d like to get some feedback on what you think about the expansive soils in Dallas. I’m building in the same crappy Del Rio clay that you guys suffer in North and Central Dallas. Do you have any advice? Pray…

Would you be open to a quick phone call?

Thanks in advance for ANY and ALL help!!!!!!!! Your website alone is a great service!!!!

John from Austin!


Thanks for the Kudos. I like you already. Your e-mail touched on so many of my favorite subjects, I couldn’t wait to sit down and write back to you.

First and foremost, I’d like to point out that a guy who’s installed “30+” salt pools isn’t a guy who’s installed A LOT of salt pools. Granted, one is too many, but with the average custom builder building anywhere from 30 to 150 pools a year and still being able to work out of his home – if he prefers – and given that salt’s been selling like hotcakes for the last five or so years, then this guy’s only selling about six salt pools a year, or he’s only been building pools for a couple of years. Neither situation is a rousing endorsement for salt. Either he’s not really seeing enough salt pools (six a year) for his phone to be ringing off the hook with disgruntled customers complaining about their pool deterioration issues in the harsh salt environment, or if it’s the latter and he’s only been out there on his own for a few years, then it hasn’t been long enough for his customers to be calling with the salt related complaints that start about midway through year two. You see, he’s avoiding the use of limestone and he probably learned not to sell diving boards with his salt pools, so the complaints typical of the first six months to a year aren’t happening to him. You need to factor in, too, that those customers he’s introduced you to who “just love him” may not represent 100% of his customer base. I know of builders who pay people to call their customers, pretending to be a prospective client, to hear what kind of referrals his customers give. The Good Ones go on the Referral List. The Not So Good Ones never see the light of day. It is, after all, Sales & Marketing.

But the point about the salt is that it will eventually damage all stone and concrete. Sooner or later. It’s just science. Higher chloride levels in the water result in supersaturation of the stone or cementious material and eventually the re-crystallization of the salt inside the stone will cause accelerated deterioration. People who argue that that’s not true are just Fast Buck Artists who want to ignore science so they can screw you out of the money you’re going to spend on their salt system. You can get into the loop of sealing and resealing your stone and concrete to try to prevent this from occurring, but why spend that money?

You also have all the metals to think about. Every metal in your pool that touches the electrolyte that you’ve turned your pool water into will deteriorate faster than it would if the salt weren’t present. Once again, it’s just science. To argue otherwise is just to argue for the sake of making a sale. Your heater, the metal parts of your auto cleaner – which should be a Polaris, by the way. The only thing intriguing about the Phantom is that there are still people who buy it - are all going to deteriorate on a much faster track than if your water had much, much lower choride levels (i.e., no salt). Period. It’s not a topic that needs further discussion. It Is Simply The Way Things Are.

You see, what you have to do is take a step back from the whole situation and take another perspective. And here is that perspective that’s vitally important that you see. About five or so years ago, the Manufacturer Reps came to the builders and told them, “I’ve got a New Gadget for your Sales Wheel. It’s going to put anywhere from $500 to an extra $1,000 in your pocket – that’s net, mind you, on the $1,500 to $2,000 Salt System sale – on every pool you build. And that’s going to boost your annual sales with us and you’re going to get even more money back at the end of the year because you spent an extra $1,000 with us on each pool you built. You’re going to love it.”

And they did, until the complaints started rolling in. So, now, they’re backing away from salt because they’re tired of paying for all that stone and concrete work. But they got used to that extra spot on the Sales Wheel, and without Salt, it’s empty. So, up jumps Ozone to fill the void. Why? Because the builders got used to the extra $1,000 a pool. If a guy’s doing a hundred pools a year, that’s a lot of profit to just walk away from.

So now, everybody’s selling Ozone. One little problem. In the Friday, September 28th issue of the Los Angeles Times, Section B, page B1, there was this little headline that read, “State bans home Ozone air purifiers”. The first paragraph of the article says, “The California Air Resources Board on Thursday banned popular in-home ozone air-purifiers, saying studies have found that they can worsen conditions such as asthma that marketers claim they help to prevent.”

Now, when I read that, it occurred to me how many times I’ve had my breath taken away when I popped the lid off a portable spa that was on and filtering and had an ozone generator – usually a UV ozonator. I had always attributed it to the chlorine or bromine. But California’s action here in dealing a blow to the Air Purifier industry makes me wonder if Ozonators for pools and especially for spas isn’t going to be next. I bring this up to point out that if you’re building a pool/spa combo, you’re going to be sitting in your spa with the ozonator running at max output, breathing the ozone (O3) that bubbles to the surface of the water. Don’t get me wrong; ozone is a great sanitizer. It is also an air pollutant. With the in-home air purifiers that California is banning, there “are reports of ozone being generated in someone’s living room… at levels equivalent to having a stage one smog alert right in your own house” (from the LA Times article) How is the ozone that bubbles up and is concentrated at the surface of your spa any different?

Google ozone and asthma and see how many and what quality of hits you get.

Like this:

Or this:

Now, those links represent the EPA and the Mayo Clinic, who both say that ozone exacerbates asthma, but I’m sure your pool builder will tell you “don’t worry, I’m sure they’re wrong”. That’s what they said about salt.

The bottom line is they were just looking for something to plug into the sales wheel where salt used to be, and ozone was standing there looking harmless and without any of the damaging structural side effects of salt, and so they’ve started selling it. They would no more take five minutes to Google any potential health risks associated with ozone exposure than they would fly to the moon.

So, once you’ve ungadgetized their bids, what you have left is running your pool on chlorine. Which will be just fine. We’ve been doing it for centuries. And granted, even chlorine comes with baggage. Google trihalomethanes and read up on their now proven link to cancer.

Like this:

Read the definition and then click on “3 Water Pollutants” in the Contents box.

Moving On… You should love DE. It’s the best filter media. But if you’re not willing to give DE another shot, then go with the cartridge filter. Get a big one, over 500 square feet. You’ll be cleaning it less often. And the cartridges are probably down around 20 microns, although they claim that they’ll filter down to 10 microns. For comparison, a DE is as low as 5 microns when properly coated. A sand filter is a waste of money. A properly laid sand bed is about a 30 to 50 micron filter. Algae particles can be a lot smaller than that and blow right through a sand filter.

Another problem with sand; to keep up with summer water temps and debris here in Texas, you pretty much have to run a sand filter 24 hours a day. Cartridges and DE, about half that much time or even less. That's at least a 50% energy savings on running that filter pump, which if it's a single speed, high horsepower pump to filter the water AND run those spa jets, is probably costing you about $120.00 a month with DE or cartridge filters. Double that for sand. Every month. Forever. If you bring this up with your builder, he'll take that opportunity to sell you on the new variable speed pumps that are out. They're brand new. The only thing I know after twenty-five years in the Pool Biz is; Never Be The Guinea Pig. You buy it, you own it, whether it works out or not.

All of the current crop of cartridge filters have their drawbacks. Jandy is famous for cracked manifolds and flaky, special order – read expensive - air relief assemblies. Lots of Haywards blow through the little equalization screen attached to the manifold and blow debris back into the pool. And you need to wear long sleeves when dealing with a Pentair tank after the first couple of years. It seems to decompose a bit and flake off fiberglass – or whatever it is – all over you. And their drain plugs tend to crack and weep, too.

I don’t know a lot about the Jandy PDA’s. I like wireless better than wired, but I don’t see the installation savings in not having to wire all the way from the equipment pad to the house and to the spa side being passed on to the homeowner. They just tend to charge more for the wireless systems, which honestly cost more, but they make even more with the reduced installation costs.

As far as the soil… Just try to keep the ground around your pool irrigated so that it doesn’t have a chance to dry out and contract away from the structure. Water more often during droughts and less often when it rains, and choose a builder who guarantees his structure against leaking for as long as you own the pool. That’s pretty standard stuff.

As far as the Horns, most of my friends are Horns fans, so I’m happy to see them happy when the Horns win. But me, I'm an NFL guy. A Raider Fan lost in Cowboy Country. It's a vile habit I picked up when I lived Out West, harder to kick than black tar heroin, but RIGHT NOW and until the end of the day Sunday, the Raiders are in first place in their Division, which is so NOT what all the experts predicted just a few short weeks ago, now is it? If you remember, it was supposed to be the Chargers. Objectively speaking, the Chargers had a good team and they had Marty Schottenheimer, who has very few shortcomings and was getting them closer and closer. But they fired him and hired Norv Turner, who is 59 and 85 as a head coach. He's had four winning seasons in his 9 going on 10 years of coaching, and 3 of those 4 were nothing more than one or two games above .500 ball. His worst seasons have been split equally among the Redskins and the Raiders, posting records like 3 & 13 and 4 & 12. And the guy the Chargers fired, Marty, was 14 & 2 last year with a 200 & 126 lifetime coaching record. Hell, even Art Shell has a better record than Norv Turner (56 & 52).God-That-Was-Such-A-Stupid-Move-I-Cant-Believe-It...

But what’s that got to do with pools, huh? Last but not least, if after all my heartfelt advise to STAY AWAY FROM SALT, you choose it anyway, make sure you bank every penny you’re supposedly saving on chlorine, because three years of running your pump like you’re going to run it to keep up with all those leaves and debris, you’re going to be popping for a new Salt Cell, which can cost as much as $600.

Because no matter what They say, There Is No Free Lunch.

Good Luck With Your Pool.