BAMX.com – Free Web Arcade with a Smart Twist

BAMX.com is a web arcade, a collection of flash and html5 games playable in your browser, and is one of my hobby projects these days. When I initially launched the site I didn’t give much thought to game quality or organization but recently the site has undergone a complete overhaul. Here’s a look a the site and I’ll explain the site below…

BAMX.com

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How do you tag your media?

One of the big deals in web 2.0, as everyone knows, is tagging your media. We’ve resorted to tagging media because it more succinctly defines the content compared to a search engine defining content by pulling out keywords. I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a while now and I’m still not quite sure how to tag. Here are some of my principles of tagging that I use and the reason I feel it’s beneficial.

One of the big deals in web 2.0, as everyone knows, is tagging your media. We’ve resorted to tagging media because it more succinctly defines the content compared to a search engine defining content by pulling out keywords. I’ve been doing this blogging thing for a while now and I’m still not quite sure how to tag. Here are some of my principles of tagging that I use and the reason I feel it’s beneficial.

  • Root Words
    • Search algorithms can be more easily optimized to accept many variations of a word and then go looking for the root word in your tags and content.
    • For example, use surf instead of surfing, movie instead of movies, run instead of running, etc.
  • Basic Words
    • For the same reason that I use root words I use the simpler word where there is a choice between a simple and a complex word.
    • People are more apt to use the simpler word as well when searching
    • For example, domain instead of top level domain, internet or net instead of world wide web, etc.
  • Tag Phrases as Word
    • Say I post about my favourite band, brave saint saturn, I’ll tag each individual word: brave, saint, saturn
    • Why? Because computers can figure out more combinations and more quickly than humans can
    • Say a visitor searches for international business and you have one post about IBM (which stands for International Business Machines), some people would prefer if the IBM post came up in the search result.
  • Acronyms
    • Don’t be afraid of using acronyms
    • Acronyms used in every day language have a specificity all their own. They can indicate time, location, subject, age, etc.
    • It’s also a good idea to tag each individual word in the acronym
  • Slang, C0lloquialisms, Jargon, Vernacular
    • Go crazy on these too
    • These types of words also have a value unique to them which make them great for searching
    • Like acronyms, they carry connotations with them that can help indicate the topic of your media sometimes better than other dictionary words
  • Variations
    • Eat your heart out! If there is more than one apt word for a topic, tag them all!
    • For example, blog, post, article, essay, etc.,
    • This is increase the chances that a visitor choosing a word at random related to the topic will find your post

The basic idea is to make your tagging as easy as possible for your visitors to search and as easy as possible for services to index your content, like Google.

The other idea behind all of these principles is the underlying assumption that all most people will find your content by a computer algorithm. Computer algorithms handle the basic cases (ie. the most simple cases) and the expand out into other cases that might introduce fuzziness and reduce the accuracy of finding the content the user wanted. So we try to make it as simple as possible for algorithm to find out content

Not only that, but we assume that algorithms will also be improved. So, we attempt to give algorithms basic, raw, individual pieces of data (ie. international, business, machines instead of international business machines). By breaking it up like this, you allow future algorithms to mix and match your data more easily and so build better relations between content. This is a future-proofing mechanism.

Remember KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And search engines and your visitors will love you for it.

So, what are your tips for tagging media?

Farewell RedRival (New Year’s Day 2010)

Some might know but many do not know that I’ve been the guy behind RedRival Internet Services. RedRival is closing its doors after twelve years of existence. We were on the market in the twentieth century. How many can say that? There has only ever been myself operating RedRival but I do owe many thanks to people who have helpd me over the years.

Some might know but many do not know that I’ve been the guy behind RedRival Internet Services. RedRival is closing its doors after twelve years of existence. We were on the market in the twentieth century. How many can say that? There has only ever been myself operating RedRival but I do owe many thanks to people who have helped me over the years.

One of those people is Hugh Buchanan who managed the hardware in RedRival’s early life. I owe Hugh much for the trouble I caused him and I can’t thank him enough. He started me out on shared hosting and then moved to a dedicated server when RedRival exploded. It was on a Celeron 366mhz that we transferred our first terabyte of data in a single month. That was the first and only time we ever did that.

RedRival has gone through a few designs over the years. You can check them out at Archive.org (alternate index). As far as the interesting ones:

That was a walk down memory lane for me. The portal homepage was the funniest of them all. Talk about your bandwagons.

RedRival was big at one time. Alexa tracks website’s traffic and is a decent place to find out how you compare to others. Their data no longer goes back very far for RedRival but at one time we were in the top 10,000 websites online by reach. RedRival was definitely big. We had 30,000 members around 2000/01. Unfortunately I accidentally lost our entire user database at one point. RedRival never really hit that peak ever again. I think by the end of 2009 we were somewhere around 15,000 members.

Of course, fads come and go. In the beginning, RedRival was a response to Geocities‘s shoddy free hosting. Nobody liked it. Crosswinds.net was the only other ad-free, free hosting service at that time. They had their issues too with scaling. So RedRival entered the market to take on Crosswinds. To her credit, RedRival remained as the last major free web host before making the switch to an ad-supported model. Not only that, but we also were the last major free web host to implement popups. We held out as long as possible.

We definitely held out as long as possible. I didn’t like forcing ads on anybody’s pages. I tried so many different methods. There were text ads, banner ads, footer ads, side-bar ads, framed pages, popups, popunders, etc.

In the end, what really killed RedRival was the inability to get any serious money making advertising. It was all CPC mostly and didn’t pay nearly what would constitute a decent revenue stream. RedRival never really paid her bills. RivalPro, her sister providing pay hosting services, covered the bills of both for a long time. When I say covered, I mean paid the hosting bills and nothing more. I never made much money at all.

Speaking of advertising, in the wild west days of the internet, advertising networks were willy nilly and anyone could start one. I forget the name now but I got onto one and earned quite a bit of money. When it came time to pay they canceled the account and claimed fraud. Over a period of months I harassed them on forums and warned anybody away from them. One of their guys frequented the same forums I did. Eventually they showed me proof of fraud…a list of 50 IP addresses with no other information. It was lame. So, they eventually agreed to paying most of it back.

RedRival was a labour of love. The last few years of her life saw a largely ad-free existence for anyone actually still using the service (which wasn’t many, but I still had a lot of visitors). I paid out of my own pocket. I liked having a hobby to work with technologies so I paid the bills out of pocket for a long time. Eventually, though, having more work to do after your full time job gets old. I play on the computer far too much anyway.

I’m really glad to be able to shutdown RedRival and not have to manage it or support its users. My users and clients were some of the best, most gracious people I’ve met. RedRival closing its doors is not a reflection of my end-users. It’s just simply the circle of life.

I’m also really glad to be able to free up some time for hobby projects online. I always have all these crazy ideas and it frustrates me to no end that I can think of a million things that could be a success but I don’t have the drive to get them done. Maybe I’ll be able to relax a little more anyway.

It has really been a tremendous experience and journey for me to have done RedRival for this long. It got me into RivalPro, iDotter and NewsX, and has given me the skills to excel in college and given me a leg up on the competition when looking for jobs. All of that work continues to be of value to me and my employers as I go forward. It was trial by fire but it was a great learning experience.

So, I’ve spoken a lot and there’s really only one thing left to say.

So long and farewell, RedRival!

Update: I would like to thank many more people. My family, my father, my mother, for putting up with me for so long on this project. My sister and brother for encouraging me with it. My extended family who made use of my services and that helped me to keep going. Andrew Elford who setup inconceivable.tj in 1997 or so on a beast of an old machine on a dead slow cable modem. That didn’t last but he helped launched the dream that became RedRival!

William X. Walsh (wish I had a url) who helped me in many things (too bad we don’t see you around anymore!). Ryan Brown, of TBNS.net, whose friendly and fiery competition always kept me interested in improving my service to compete with him! All of the people from dalnet and hypanet irc channels #vr-oasis, etc. That group of people has remained for 12 years migrating to a new network and moving from channel to channel.

My users and clients, some of the best, most gracious, most passionate people I’ve been blessed to work with. The MyRival.com team, which consisted entirely of RedRival members. Apologies to the rest but I can only recall Phzzz right now. Thank you to all who worked on it. MyRival.com was something special.

God, for blesssing me to even be here and to have the opportunity to try all this out, and who blessed me with it for all this time, through the highs and the lows. Thank you.

Where’s the command-line web? (turn back that revolution a few degrees)

Where’s the command-line web?

As all *nix enthusiasts, programmers, syadmins and hobbyists have come to know, our command-line utilities are a best and most constant ally. Any job that comes along we make easier with pipes, redirection, shell scripts and regular expressions. But sometimes you don’t have access to your favourite tools. Sometimes you just can’t get a really nifty tool on your own. So where’s the command-line web?

Where’s that ping command I can wget and see if my server’s available from another network? Where’s traceroute I can send in arguments and switches to, just as I do on the command-line, simply via the query string? Where’s the html encoding application I can pipe data into via http post and receive encoded data back safe for embedding in an html document?

There have been some great apps out there that would benefit from this treatment. One I remember is a DNS check. It runs all kinds of checks against your zones to make sure it’s all valid, correct and optimized. Another great app is one that checks for an open relay on an smtp server. For various reasons, these checks all seem to disappear after a while. The most famous example is that dns site that went to a pay model to use their tools. That sucked.

Wouldn’t it be great to have all these tools out there, free, and accessible via a command-line like interface. I think it’d be brilliant. It’d be a new paradigm in the web’s evolution. For years we’ve talked about soap and web services and xml data transfer formats but that will never be the end-game because we’ve already disovered the most convenient, the most pragmatic and most efficient way to communicate over disparate platforms: text – usually straight-up, or with a little agreed upon formatting (like csv). These simple techniques allow for an infinite range of possibilities.

Think about why all the unix-like platforms are so powerful, so flexible, and so poised to take on new challenges. It lies in the philosopohies of treating almost everything as files, allowing one app to do one thing and do it well, and the piping and redirection of files between these apps.

We’ve all been clamoring for interoperability between offline apps and online apps for decades. We want our office xml formats, our plugin binary APIs opened, our web services soap enabled, our data from disparate apps sync’d with other disparate apps, etc., etc.

The answer is not some strict, spec’d to the nines, validated, schema’d xml, xslt, dtd monstrosity.

The answer has been with us all along. Common-sense, pragmatic, simplified, open protocols and text-based data formats.

Read up on The Unix Philosophy: A Brief Introduction.

The problem is the Unix Philosophy was never extended to the interaction of users on the http protocol. Certainly CGI mimicks command-line, with arguments as query string and STDIN as post data, but somehow we missed the boat completely. We made a mess of taking post data and accepting url parameters. We further made a monstrosity by coming up with all means of pretty structuring and formatting of the traditional key=value data in things like xml.

Just imagine if all the utilities you enjoy on linux where available via simple apps on all platforms all calling out to webified command-line utilities on the web using the same arguments and input as you would right at the console.

Google Wave

Take a look at Google Wave. It looks interesting and it could be game-changing.

Take a look at Google Wave. My gist is it’s a conglomerate of existing apps and tech to really bring together collaborative work.

Wiki was a real step up but it looks like google wave’s ideas are the next level. Putting “wiki” and “google wave” in the same thought is doing it an injustice. It really is a hyper-active, hybrid of all the disparate apps you use right now.

Anyway, it looks interesting and it could be game-changing.

There’s a video out there that is very long. But here’s an abridged version: