12/29/07

Closing out 2007

I hope that everyone is having a safe and joyful holiday season. I've been more or less unplugged for a few days, eating too much and spending time with family. It's been great.

But now it's time to get back to work.

You may have noticed that we've been featuring some 2007 lists on the home page - I think that we're just scratching the surface on what can be done here. If you have some ideas as to some themes that might make good lists capturing aspects of the year that was 2007, now's the time to push them out into the world. If they're good enough, we'll put them on the home page.

12/20/07

Name this movie

We get tons of feedback messages at RateItAll. TONS. Occasionally, we get requests like this:

You may help me with my search. I am now 63 years old and I saw a movie (drama?) in the second half of the 50´s or all along the 60´s but I do not remenber the name of the movie, the actors etc. The only thing I remember is part of the story. At a certain time of the movie one man is given as dead by a train accident. However the autorities were wrong because this man himself saw in a newspaper his name as the one who died. He did not say anything to the autorities and his family which thought he realy was dead. He never show up again to his family and start being a beggar. Afterwords the christmas season is coming and at the christmas eve he came to his house but did not knock at the door. One of the sons saw him through the window and came out asking to the beggar if he had no family and if he wants to join them inside, without recognize him as his father. This is what I remember from the movie. I understand it is very dificult to help me with only this description but could you try? It is a very emotional movie. I appreciate a lot.

Thank you


Can anybody help this person out? MA Duron?

12/19/07

Widgets and Apps

Most of the RIA regulars know by now that I'm pretty obsessed with widgets and the fragmentation of the web. I even write a blog devoted to widgets. In the world of RIA, this widget obsession means doing whatever I can to make sure that RIA content and functionality can be enjoyed not just on RateItAll.com, but all over the web - on social networking sites like Facebook, on blogs, and on any other site with a social component.

Over the past year or so, we've started putting together the tools to make this happen. I've taken a shot at summarizing all of the different tools available on RateItAll that allow you to enjoy RateItAll on other websites. Check out this summary of RateItAll widgets.

12/18/07

Wrapping Up the Redesign

We're just about done tightening up the redesign. The Google ads have been added back to the profile pages (for all of you participating in the RateItAll Economy), and we've made it through our entire list of tweaks.

The always politically correct GoinDownSlow has nicknamed this redesign the "Queer Eye Makeover" - and I'd have to agree. The Fab 5 themselves couldn't have done a better job.

If anybody else sees anything that's broken, now is the time to bring it up. We're just about to move on to the next big project.

12/17/07

Darker Font, TIghter Design - So Fresh and So Clean

Based on your feedback, we darkened the font, fixed some typos, and generally tightened up the design. I'm pretty happy with it.

Real Time Reviewer Rankings in Three Hour Blocks

One of the things I REALLY like about the new home page is the ability to see which reviewers are hot at any given moment. If you look at the reviewers module, you are seeing a real time ranking during the last three hours of which reviewers have posted the most ratings, scored the most helpful votes, and notched the most funny votes.

The order goes like this:

1 2
3 4
5 6

So in the current snapshot, new user SecondRoad11 is leading the last three hours activity rate. Clicking through to his / her profile shows that they have posted 141 ratings. Want the top spot in real time? Rate more than 141 things.

SecondRoad11 is leading GTH (#2 for this time block), Twansalem, and AngryJed.

And that's just for rating activity. You can also check out helpful and funny leaders for the current time block. Refresh the page and the rankings may be different - again, this module updates in real time.
























A little competition never hurt anybody. The obvious next step here is to blow out everybody's personal stats so that they can get a day by day breakdown of new votes for their reviews.

Font Color Update

I'm hearing your feedback on the link color being a little painful on the eyes. We are going to moving to this shortly:
tomaso

Tighten Up - Tweaking the New Design

Guys,

Here's our tweak list for today. If you see anything else on the site that needs to be fixed and isn't already on the list, please post it in the comments:

Most Urgent
  • Fix the search box - it's not working on any page except for the home page (FIXED)
  • We're going to make the orange links a bit darker site wide (the designer will provide us with the RGB code for the style sheet)
  • Caching on Browse Tags isn't working. The page consistently times out. Let's just hardcode this page as for now
Home Page
  • We need to align the right side of the testimonial exactly with the right side of the gray nav bar.
  • Home Page Typo: News and Tips: should be "Adding Background Images to Display Widgets" (we're missing the "g")
Sub-Home Pages
  • get rid of "trusted recommendations box (and text)" on sub-home pages
  • left align category names (e.g. Computers and Internet) with subject names (e.g. Web Site Directory) (do this for the whole index on this page)
  • "Topic Categories" needs to be height aligned with the top of the first module in the left sidebar
Category Pages
  • left align subject names with topic names (again, do this for the whole page)
  • "Browse Category Name" needs to be height aligned with the top of the first module in the left sidebar and left aligned with the Category intro / description (if there is one)
Subject Pages
  • Let's get rid of the yellow alert box and text that says "get trusted recommendations"
  • Let's height align the top of the Subject Tilte with the top of the first module in the left sidebar
Topic Page
  • Align Topic Titles with Topic Descriptions
  • On the topic page, let's get rid of the yellow box around the "Add this list to your MySpace page" and "Speed Rate" - but let's keep the links. Just get rid of the box.
  • on the topic page, get rid of the space between the bottom of the line of google links (belwo the description), and the line of text where the yellow box was)
  • The icons disappeared in the "actions" box
  • We need to reduce the width of the musestorm widget on the topic page below the list, so that it right aligns with the list
Item Page
  • Yahoo Maps are misaligned (local items)
  • Align Item titles with Item descriptions
  • On the item page, let's right align the review box with the gray description box
  • We need to left align the "reviews of item name" (on the item page) text above the reviews, with the rest of the column's content
  • The ratings breakdown graph is not showing up on the item pages
Multiple Pages
subhome / cat / sub / topic / item: Top Left Google ad module needs another line or two of whitespace after breadcrumb (for logged in users only - not logged in see the RIA intro box)
Recent Comments Page
align content to width of header on recent comments page
Breadcrumb Navigation
I'd like to make the breadcrumb navigation at the top of every page, black
we need a line of whitespace above the breadcrumb navigation below the nav bar
New additions page: right aligment of boxes need to match header
about us: let's get rid of Hottest Topics / Hottest Weblists (i assume this is why the about us page is so slow)

12/15/07

Search is Broken - Except on Home Page

Jose the super intern just noticed that the search box isn't working on pages other than the home pages. This will be our first fix Monday AM.

12/14/07

Rolling in the new design at about 4PM PST

Guys, in the next 15 minutes or so we're going to be dropping in the new home page and adjusting the style sheet for the rest of the pages. Things could be a tad ugly over the weekend. Please send all feedback and things you see that are screwed up to me.

12/13/07

A Sneak Peek at the New Home Page

This page has been a real bear to get to load fast, because it's crunching a lot of data. It tells what lists people are rating, what items people are rating, who is rating the most, who is getting the most helpful and funny votes are... and more. And all in three hour increments, so it's fresh data all the time. It's a real snapshot of what - and who - is hot in the world of RIA at any one time. It's like the recent comments page on steroids (no, not THOSE steroids).

Here's the new home page. We're going to make a few final tweaks tomorrow and hopefully roll it out.

Performance might be a little dicey this morning

Trying to battle through getting the site ready for the new home page.

12/12/07

New Home Page Coming

So we're finally getting close to implementing the new home page we've been working on for a while. The current home page is OK, but it's too stale. That whole big yellow bar at the top never changes.

With RateItAll cranking out so much useful data in terms of what's hot at any one moment, it seemed a shame not to build this sort of info into a fresh, constantly updated home page.

So here goes - I'm going to share the various components of the new page, and take a shot at explaining what everthing does.






This is the new nav bar. As you can see, we have pretty much all of the key links (recent reviews, tags, topics, local) all spread across the nav. There's no shortcuts on the new nav bar, but pretty much all of the shortcut links are built into the nav itself.






















And here's my favorite part of the new page. Here we have raw data being crunched, with plenty of tabs to take different views. In the "Hot Lists" section, you can check out which RIA and member lists are being rated in real time. The Featured Lists are set by admins, but now allow you to see ten instead of five by toggling the "older." And finally, the Hottest Items section shows which items are getting rated the most at any given time. The tabs let you filter by a couple of categories.

























On the right hand side of the new home page, we've added an ad block (we may replace this with a testimonial - revenue shmevenue). We've also added a local directory module as well. The best part about this feature is that you can customize it to your city by clicking the "not your city?" link.


























And this is my other favorite part of the new page. In this reviewers tab, you can see which reviewers are most active, most helpful, and funniest TODAY. Fresh data. So if you write a bunch of quality reviews and get some helpful votes, this is a way for you to show up on the home page. This module also lets you see the newest reviewers (who have added a pic).




















Finally, at the bottom of the home page, we have a new section called News & Tips. This section feeds headlines in right from the blog so you'll always know if there are new posts without having to go to the blog. There's also a Tips & Resources which display static links to useful sections for newbies.

I'm hoping we're going to be able to push this live by the end of the week. For a little while at least, we'll leave the old home page accessible so people can get used to the new look gradually.

For the moment, none of the other pages will change, except for the new nav bar which will apply to all pages.

More on Making Money with RateItAll

Some of us are starting to make some decent money on RateItAll via the RateItAll Economy Program, just for doing what we were doing anyway - making lists, adding items to other people's lists, and writing reviews. My personal account is now getting a check every couple of months from Google for more than $100.

Yesterday, I posted a series of reviews sharing my tips for how to maximize earnings. These reviews can be found within the Maximizing Revenue list.

From my experience, the two best ways to make money on RateItAll are by 1) Building quality lists; and 2) Adding high profile items to existing lists.

Both in these activities result in a 50% ad rotation share on the pages you contribute.

In terms of lists, it's all about getting Google to notice the list, and send it traffic. Here are the important things in making this happen:

1) Link to your lists from other sites. If you have a blog or MySpace page, make sure to link directly to your lists using the proper keywords in the link itself. For example, if I was promoting the list Dog Food Brands on my blog, I'd want to make sure to link to the list using the appropriate words: in this case: Dog Food Ratings

I wouldn't want to link like this: check out my list about dog food. The words "my list" doesn't describe the page, and make it harder for Google to know when to display your list as a search result.

2) Use the list widgets on your blogs or profile pages. These list widgets send both traffic, and give you links.

3) Write unique content for your list descriptions, and individual item descriptions (with generous use of the list / item's keywords). If you don't write your descriptions, your list will appear to Google to be too similar to every other list page, and not worthy of sending search traffic to.

4) Title your lists and items appropriately. If your list is about country music songs, call it "Best Country Songs of All Time" - don't call it "Stuff You'd Hear at the Farm." If you use colloquial language, Google will have no way to figure out what the page is really about. Try and title your lists and items with words that people are actually searching for.

5) Seed your lists with reviews. This gets to the unique content mentioned in item 3. Also, items with reviews are much more likely to attract more reviews - making it that much more likely that Google will send you traffic.

6) Target niches. The serious web publishers try and target verticals for which there is an ad market.

Remember, lists that duplicate other lists will often be put on "invisible" mode. Be creative, create unique resources, write unique content, and send your pages external links when possible.

12/11/07

This Makes me Happy

I noticed today that our list of current actors has two listings for Christian Bale. The amazing thing? They both have the exact rating of 3.47. There's something to this whole wisdom of the crowd thing.


Adding Music to Weblists

I'd been hearing about this music site called Imeem for a while. It's a site that lets you upload your music and share it with others. They have a massive user base, and by association, a massive library of music.

My understanding is that they have almost as much music as iTunes. While you can't download the tracks, you can stream them (play them). Furthermore, the record labels are on board, so it's totally legal.

Even better, they offer widgets for any of the songs in their database. Just like how YouTube lets you post videos onto your sites, Imeem lets you paste songs - on your RateItAll profile and in your Weblists.

So for all of those Weblists about songs, there is now a reliable way to build songs into Weblists. I've set up a list of some of my favorite songs here.

Of course, on RateItAll, you can also add songs to other people's Weblists by clicking the "add description" link on any item that doesn't already have a description. So we can help each other to build out our lists.

To add Imeem tracks to any weblist, item page, or profile page, here's what you do:

1) Join Imeem.com
2) Search for the band or track you want (filter by "music")
3) Copy the embed code
4) Paste it into 1) a field on your profile page; 2) an item page on your weblist, or 3) an item page on somebody else's list.

Awesome.

So now we have people building cool lists with photos (here and here), cool lists with video (here and here), and cool lists with music.

I love the Internet.
Here's a cool old song called Take a Picture from a band called Filter.

12/10/07

Planetary Gear's Weblists

If you want to see some fantastic weblists, check out Planetary Gear's recent lists: optical illusions, the Works of Rene Magritte, and his Life Cubed list on the paintings of Pablo Picasso.

PG uses HTML to add full sized photos to his pages - talking about making full use of the tool.

12/6/07

Back in Business

Site is back up and functioning normally. All data through 1AM today has been preserved and backed up.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Database Update

.... site will be down for a few minutes.

- OK, step one of two is done. We're still going to have a little more downtime though. Please don't post any reviews until we've finished the last step.

Urgent: Database Backup - Action Required

We are going to be reverting to the RateItAll database that existed as of 1AM this morning. This means that anything posted to the site since 1AM will be permanently deleted.

Please back up anything that you've posted since 1AM that you would like to post.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

11/20/07

Couple of Updates on the Spam Front

Our Russian script kiddie friend has spurred us into adding a few tools we should have had a while ago. We've added a Captcha for new registrations in order to filter out some of the non-humans who have been joining (and spamming) recently, and we've also added a lightweight IP banning tool to our admin site that allows admins to block troublemaker IP addresses from hitting the site (before we had to go directly through our firewall software, which was a pain).

As annoying as our bored little friend was, at least he/she spurred us to build some useful tools.

11/16/07

Under a mild (Russian) spam attack

Someone in Russia has been attacking us the last few nights with a rating script from various IP addresses. We're aware of the issue and are working on it.

Can't we all just be friends?

11/8/07

FB Filter

Guys, the FB filter is live on the recent reviews page. The default is "RateItAll.com" which shows you only reviews posted to RateItAll. Clicking RateItAll network will show you reviews from everywhere - which for now, means RateItAll AND Facebook. We'll be adding other sites over time as well.

11/5/07

Invasion of the FB'ers

The RateItAll Facebook application is starting to get a little traction. The swarm of new members with nicknames starting with "FB" are all using RateItAll for Facebook.

I think what we're seeing is a glimpse of what RateItAll would be like if it were a mainstream site with hundreds of new reviews posted per minute.

If you play this out, it would seem that the ability to filter the recent reviews page by your trusted network would be an important feature.

11/2/07

Time Stamps

It seems that one of hour servers thought the time was an hour ahead of the others, and another was off by 3 minutes or so.

This resulted in the order of reviews on the recent reviews page to be all screwed up, with newer reviews sometimes appearing under older reviews.

This should be fixed now.

(we'll put this one in the "only if you're REALLY paying attention category.)

11/1/07

Behind the Scenes Stuff

Over the last ten days we've made a couple of important changes to the backend of the site. The result is that RIA pages are loading as fast as I've ever seen them load.

I hired the best database guy I knew to come in and optimize our 1) topic pages; 2) profile pages; 3) item pages; and 4) recent comment pages.

Previously, large user profile pages (no offense GTH) and long topic pages were taking a long time to load. Now they're popping up in under three seconds (and much faster than that on the server side).

Also, we've finally fixed our mail server so that submitting a review doesn't hang while it waits to send out any related alerts.

The site is humming right now - I hope you guys notice :)

10/31/07

Our Facebook Promo


Back up to 4 DB Processors

OK, our fan fix went smoothly. We're back up and running, and things should be humming again.

Downtime at 11AM PST

We're dropping in the new DB fans at 11AM California time. We should be back up no later than 11:30.

Running on Half Power

Last night, two of the cooling fans on our quad DB crapped out. The overheated CPUs caused the database server to shut down.

As a short term fix, we disabled the two processors that correlated to the broken fans until we could find some replacement fans.

Currently, RIA's DB is running on only 2 of its 4 processors. This could result in some slowness, especially during peak hours.

The good news is that we've found some replacement fans and will be dropping them into the DB later today, which will allow us to bring all four processors back up. There will be about 20 minutes of scheduled downtime while we make this happen.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

10/30/07

Having DB issues

We're working on it...

10/24/07

Any Facebook Members out There?

Hey all, any of you on Facebook? We're testing out the new RateItAll reviews app for Facebook. It's basically a stripped down version of RIA that lets you share your reviews with your network of Facebook friends.

Here's a couple of key things you should know:

- Helpful, Funny, Agree votes accumulated on Facebook count towards your RIA totals
- On Facebook, you get a notification when somebody else on Facebook votes your review helpful. This means you can know WHO your helpfuls are coming from.
- Stuff you post on Facebook RIA will also post on RIA. Write once, post many.
- Make sure to merge your accounts once you add the app - this will ensure that all helpful votes you get on Facebook go towards your RIA tally

Want to try it out? Click here (if you're not a Facebook member, you'll have to join first.) Also, stay tuned for a RateItAll group on FB - I'll set one up shortly.

I'm actually doing most of my RIA posting on Facebook now. I've found it's faster and easier to post, and I can better response in terms of votes and feedback.

This Facebook version of RIA also explains the recent search of posts coming from people with names starting with "FB" (these are Facebook members who don't yet have a RateItAll Account)

10/16/07

Profile Pages

Guys, we fixed a bottleneck in how the profile pages were loading. I think you'll find that some of the heavier profile pages of folks with lots of data are now loading much faster.

10/8/07

A Sneak Peek

The recent helpful, funny, agree changes to reviews also have corresponding display implications.

I haven't been crazy about the home page for a while. There's too much static content, and too much of an emphasis on telling people what the site does. I want a page that shows what the site does.

Here's a sneak peek of a portion of a revised home page we're working on. Note the reviewer module on the bottom right that highlights the daily most active, most helpful, most agreed with, and funniest reviewer. I think it's going to be cool.

10/7/07

Helpful, Funny, Agree is Now Live

We've added helpful, funny, and agree buttons for every review on the site. Each person's profile page is now tabulating votes in each of these categories.

The way it's set up, you can only choose one vote per review - for example, you can't vote a review helpful AND funny.

Please be on the lookout for things that aren't working properly with this new feature.

10/1/07

Deleting Weblists

I've been getting a ton of feedback that when a reviewer leaves, they shouldn't be able to delete their Weblists. Why? Because deleting a list means deleting all of the reviews that were posted under that list.

Folks (so far) have universally felt that this is unfair. That if a Weblist is pushed out to the public domain, it's creator shouldn't have the power to delete it.

I can see the arguments on both sides of this one. Anyone care to comment?

9/25/07

We're Working on a Couple of Things

Here are the projects that we are currently working on:

Helfpul Vote Changes

Based on a lot of excellent feedback, we are making some important, structural changes to how we manage helpful votes.

One of the issues that I currently see with the helpful vote system is that there is only one tool to acknowledge a review. A review is posted by your friend, and your only option to indicate that you appreciate the review is to mark it "helpful."

In the world of RateItAll, "helpful" has come to mean all sorts of things. It has come to mean "I agree," it has come to mean "lol," it has come to mean "I love you man," and it has come to be a simple acknowledgement of "I read your review."

In other words, "helpful" has lost its meaning.

So, one of the things that are we are working on is to make it so there are three acknowledgement options for any review:

Helpful
Funny
Agree

This will give vote givers a way to be more precise in what their review acknowledgement means, and will give vote receivers a way to get more specific feedback. It should also start to put meaning back in the word "helpful."

Of course, the lack of tools has not been the only issue involved in the abuse of the helpful button. Some folks have flat out abused it - giving helpfuls to their friends, regardless of the content of the review, and not giving helpfuls to folks that aren't their friends, regardless of the content of the review.

So, unfortunately, we are also working on adding a tool that will let us remove vote giving priviliges for those that abuse the tool. This tool will be used sparingly, and only with the goal of ensuring that folks act in good faith in awarding helpful votes.

Finally, we are getting rid of the not helpful votes. I have long resisted getting rid of the not helpful button, as I felt that it was necessary to retain a why to indicate disapproval of a review. I know that there are some of you that still feel this way now.

However, there IS a tool to express disapproval - the commenting tool. If a review rubs you the wrong way enough to make you want to take action, you are more than welcome to comment on the review and indicate exactly why. No longer will there be anonymous "trolls" dropping unhelfpuls with no explanation or reason given. We're going to try it this way and see how it goes.

Home Page

The second major project that we're working on is a revamping of the home page. I don't know about you guys, but the big yellow block of real estate on the home page sort of bugs me. We're making too much of an effort to explain what the site is about, as opposed to SHOW what the site is about.

In the coming weeks, you're going to see some changes to the home page with an emphasis on providing all sorts of fresh content that shows what's hot on the site at any given time - most active raters, hottest lists by category, hottest items, etc. I think it's going to be pretty cool.

Stay tuned.

9/23/07

Debrief

It’s been an awful week for our site.

In the past week alone, RateItAll has lost four excellent reviewers: IJR, StarkTruth, Ridgewalker, and Wiseguy. Each has chosen to leave the site, and exercised their rights as RateItAll members to permanently delete their accounts.

As I’ve seen a lot of rumors floating around as to the circumstances regarding their departures, I thought it was important that I clear the air and present the facts as I understand them.

As a rule, I try not to discuss site disciplinary matters publicly – these have historically been left between the admin and the member. But as these are extraordinary circumstances, I’m going to be as transparent as possible in order to present the most accurate picture of what transpired.

Those involved are welcome to comment on this blog if they feel that I got anything wrong.


IJR


As we all know, IJR was a longtime reviewer who was very popular. He was prolific, he was funny, and he was pretty unique. At the time of his departure, he was third ranked in the list of Most Helpful Reviewers.

About four weeks ago, I noticed a series of very odd sounding reviews from him. They were not written in his style, and had an oddly formal tone to them. I ran one of the reviews through Google, and found it be copied directly from another site. There was no citation given to the author of the review.

I messaged IJR, pointed him to the site rule about plagiarism, and asked him not do it again.

The following day it happened again, so I warned him again.

The following day it happened again, so I warned him again, and said that if this continued to happen, I’d have no choice but to suspend his account for two weeks.

Note: it’s almost unheard of for me to give three separate warnings, in rapid succession, for the same, fairly serious, violation. IJR was given this courtesy only because of his standing with the site.

A day or two later, it predictably happened again, so I suspended his account.

When the two week suspension was up, I reactivated his account. Within 24 hours or so, IJR had sent messages to a few folks (myself included), complaining of an old boys’ network, and deleted his account.

I feel that my hands were tied in this particular situation. The violations were so blatant and so defiant, that my choices were either to say, “screw it, the rules don’t apply to IJR.” Or to take action. I guess I could have asked him if there was something else that was bothering him.

Looking back, I wish I had.

My personal opinion is that IJR was intent, bordering on obsessed, with becoming the reviewer with the most helpful votes. When he started to feel like it wasn’t going to happen, he prepared himself to self destruct by flaunting the rules. I wouldn’t be surprised if he felt that the odds were unfairly stacked against him, hence the “old boys network” (which I take to mean cronyism) accusations.


StarkTruth and Ridgewalker

As most of you probably know, StarkTruth and Ridgewalker are a couple. Whip smart, Stark is an excellent writer who made a pretty significant impact on the site with both her reviews and her lists. From an admin perspective, I considered Stark to be very much a “tough cookie.” While she didn’t start fights, she had a history of coming in pretty hard when she felt that she was slighted. I had a bit of an admin run in with her shortly after she joined, when she began messaging a number of regular reviewers with the false information that I was planning on selling the site. A heads up was given to me by several regulars. I’m not sure why she thought this (I’ve never actively tried to sell the site), or why she felt the need to try and start a panic.

Despite her impressive contributions, I never got the feeling she particularly liked (or trusted) the site (or me).

And then there’s Ridge. In the history of RateItAll, I can’t remember anybody who has been more universally liked and admired than Ridgewalker. Besides writing the best reviews and making the best lists (and helping others with their lists), he was also the first to welcome new users and the first to try and talk overheated reviewers down. He was a giant on RateItAll, and somebody who I personally admire a great deal. When he fell ill, I sent him a care package – in the site’s nearly 8 years online, this is the only time I’ve done this.

About two months ago, Ridgewalker brought it to my attention that a certain RateItAll reviewer was accumulating helpfuls at an unnatural rate – something like 2,000 in a 24 hour period. I investigated the matter and found this to indeed be the case.

What was strange is that the helpfuls were coming from a user that was not logged in, who was at the same IP address of reviewer in question. In other words, somebody seemed to be logging out, and giving helpfuls to themself.

As far as I knew, this was an impossible scenario. You can’t give helpful votes if you’re not logged in, and you certainly can’t give helpful votes to yourself while logged in.

This was happening at around the same time that RateItAll was going to a multi server configuration. A known bug at this time is that folks were getting logged out in mid browse, as they bounced back and forth between servers. In other words, some members found themselves in a weird limbo status where they were logged in at one moment, and logged out the next. Then logged in again.

In this weird limbo status, it was apparently possible to give your own reviews helpful votes.

This is important, because it gets to intent. This was not a situation in which the member had gone out of their way to set up a duplicate account with the sole purpose of giving themselves helpful votes. My understanding is that this was a situation when a member was browsing the site, and suddenly realized that they had the ability to give themselves helpful votes.

So, I suspended the user’s account for 3-4 days while I sorted out the technical glitch that enabled this, and deleted the bogus helpful votes.

Amazingly, we discovered that at that moment, it was not possible to subtract helpful votes in our system, as explained here. I felt that it was important enough to get this particular user’s bogus helpfuls off the books, that I commissioned the development work to fix this. When this was fixed, not only did the offending user lose their bogus helpful votes, but everybody’s tallies were recalibrated to reflect subtracted helpful votes (primarily from folks who had left the site).

I also formally warned the user, and expressed my disappointment at the bad judgment.

So why didn’t I ban this person? For a couple of reasons. First, the person is a regular, and regulars nearly always get the benefit of the doubt. Secondly, there have been at least 7 other cases of members in the top 100 who have been discovered showing bad judgment in regards to manipulating the system (specifically, setting up dupe accounts) in order to pad their own tallies. All of these reviewers were warned, and given a second chance. None of them have broken the rules again in regards to dupe accounts.

Finally, given that the vote getting was enabled by a technical glitch, and not premeditated, I don’t see how it would have been appropriate to jump the warning and suspension stages of discipline, and go right to ban. Just as there’s a difference between “stealing” a bag of money that falls out of the back of a truck and robbing a bank, there’s a difference between creating a false ID to give yourself helpfuls, and suddenly realizing that you have the power to give yourself helpfuls.

There was bad judgment displayed here, but it simply was not a ban worthy violation. If anything, it was less severe than stuff that I had let go with a warning previously. Banning this user would have been utterly inconsistent with how I’ve managed similar situations in the past.

So here’s where things get murky.

At exactly the same time as this helpful vote situation, Ridge told me that he and the member described above, had been emailing with each other. Allegedly, there was some inappropriate stuff emailed (not messaged through RIA) to Ridge. This allegedly inappropriate stuff came to Stark’s attention, who understandably, was not happy about the situation.

Stark posted an angry personal attack against the reviewer who had been emailing with Ridge on RateItAll (though without actually naming the person), and the reviewer responded with a threatening message. Unfortunately, both of these posts were not immediately noticed, and stayed on the site for longer than I would have liked.

Eventually, the two posts were deleted, and both reviewers were warned. No disciplinary action was taken against Stark (as it was an extenuating circumstance) or the other reviewer (as it was a response to an attack.)

And of course, it is not within RateItAll’s domain to discipline RIA members for what (allegedly) happens on their own time, via their own personal email servers. From the perspective of site discipline, any email or real world correspondence that happens between RIA members is simply not relevant.

I did make at least one critical mistake in my handling of this situation – I discussed some of the details of the bogus vote getting with Ridge. Over the years, I discussed A LOT of site issues with Ridge. Both strategic, and tactical. In a lot of ways, Ridge was one of my most trusted advisors on things related to RIA. He was probably the most respected member of the RIA community, he had the site’s best interest in mind, and he is an incredibly smart, mature, and insightful guy. Of course I’d want to tap his wisdom.

So why was it a mistake to discuss the bogus helpfuls with Ridge? Because of the timing, and his relationship with Stark.

I can imagine Stark’s outrage when she found out that not only was a RateItAll member emailing inappropriate stuff to her man, but that same member was accumulating bogus helpful votes.

Flash forward to last Friday. Stark again posted a personal attack on the reviewer (without specifically naming the person). I removed it. Stark immediately posted it again. I removed it and suspended her account to try and talk things with Stark via Ridge.

There was no way that I was going to allow a public, nasty, personal shootout on the site.

In messaging with Ridge, it became pretty clear that Stark (and probably Ridge) expected the reviewer to be banned, and saw my decision not to ban the user as a slap in the face. I responded that it was not within my domain to ban somebody for something that happened away from RateItAll. Ridge responded that he understood that, but what about the bogus helpfuls? I responded that the user had already gone through a suspension, and based on how I’ve moderated the site in the past, I could not justify going right to a ban for that particular violation.

So we were stuck. Stark was furious that an RIA member could get away with inflating their helpfuls and crossing the line with her boyfriend, and she wasn’t even given the opportunity to respond on the site. Ridge, already concerned about what he perceived as a growing problem with RIA’s culture (more on this to follow), was also in the awkward situation in which his continued participation on RIA might be seen as disrespectful to Stark (my speculation).

What a mess, what a mess, what a mess.

Soon after, I received a note from Ridge requesting that I reactivate Stark’s account so that she could self delete. I complied. Stark deleted her account. Soon after, Ridge deleted his account. This was a devastating surprise, though looking back, he probably felt himself with no other options.

At a micro level, I feel that my only mistake was discussing the details of the bogus votes with Ridge – you don’t tell something to one half of a couple, and expect it not to get to the other half. That’s not fair. This information, which was incomplete and should have been confidential, only inflamed the situation even more.

I stand by my decision not to ban the other reviewer, and not to let my respect and admiration for Ridge make me moderate the site in an unfair manner.

But at a macro level, I failed miserably. The site lost its best reviewer and list maker and friend in Ridge. Worse, I don’t really think he wanted to leave (I could be wrong about that).

My gut tells me that Stark was going to take off regardless, but perhaps more skilled diplomacy by me could have salvaged her RIA career as well.

Wiseguy

This brings us to Saturday.

Wiseguy was a respected and passionate member of RateItAll. His main interest was politics, which meant that he got into it from time to time with folks (including me), but I think that there was a lot of respect for him on both sides of the political aisle. He’s a guy that I know cared deeply about the site, and when he said something regarding site management issues, I listened.

Saturday morning, Wiseguy posted the following video to YouTube expressing concern about the recent loss of talent from RateItAll. He also suggested that “if it had been him, he’d be gone” (I’m assuming that he meant the bogus helpfuls) and that I needed to get a handle on some of the shenanigans that certain reviewers were getting away with. Finally, he suggested that I work harder to keep the talent from leaving.



His departure came as a shock to me. I had sensed some growing frustration from him over recent months – specifically, that he felt that liberals were treated better on RIA than conservatives. But still, I didn’t expect him to leave, and am pretty bummed out about it.

Two things in particular make me sad about Guy’s departure; 1) that it wasn’t his fight; and 2) he was given bad / incomplete information. The rumor that was floating around was that a reviewer had hacked into RateItAll and given themselves thousands of helpful votes, and was allowed to stay. This is very different scenario than what really happened – a technical glitch on RateItAll allowed a reviewer to give themself helpful votes.

So no Guy. You would not have been banned if it were you. Nobody would have, except perhaps somebody on final warning status. And you’re more than welcome to come back – we’d be thrilled to have you.


Moving Forward

So where are we at? Well, we’re bending, but hopefully not breaking. I’m heartened by some of the level headed things that folks are saying here. There’s a lot of talent, and humor, and class left on RateItAll, and although we’ve taken a terrible hit this week and lost some great, great people, I’m hopeful that we can get things moving in the right direction again.

One of the things that I’d like to address in the next few days is this issue of “culture.” I’m prioritizing community things over all else for now – step one is going to be getting rid of that damn not helpful button. No need for the negativity. I also have some other ideas for some tools with which we can recognize our friends, but without over dependence on the helpful button. Finally, given that helpful votes have become the de facto currency of the site, I believe that we are in need of better regulation around abusing the helpful button, so that we can make excessive cronyism unprofitable so to speak. Stay tuned.

9/7/07

RateItAll Has An Intern!

I'd like everyone to extend a warm welcome to Jose. Jose is a grad student at UC Hayward focused on e-business. He's an exchange student from Granada, Spain.

His primary role with RIA is going to be making sure that we have coverage on the site for things that are hot in the news. He's also going to be helping with responding to user feedback, and rolling out our new feedback widget. He may also blog occasionally.

I met Jose on the basketball court - he's the best European player that I've ever played with / against, and was at one point, getting paid to play hoops.

So please be nice to our new intern, and if you get a chance, shoot him a note to say hi.

9/6/07

New Mail Server Online

Wow. So far, it seems like the new mail server is having a substantial impact on overall site performance, specifically in terms of:

- Leaving a review (page is no longer hanging as email alerts are sent out)
- Sending a personal message
- Inviting others to rate / join

I knew our old mail server was crappy, but I didn't know it was THAT crappy.

9/5/07

Search Engine Just Got A Lot Better

We just made a small but important tweak to our search engine.

As you know, the site is partitioned into three primary channels: RIA, Weblists, and Local. Until just a few minutes ago, our general search results were prioritized in that order. So if you did a search for George W. Bush, you would see results from RIA before you saw results from Weblists - we did this because we could vouch for the quality of the listing on RIA, whereas the quality of the listings on Weblists run the gamut from excellent to weak.

The problem with the way things were set up, is that we didn't have control over the weighting involved in driving the results. So the search engine would display ALL results from RIA regarding George W. Bush, even if it was just a casual mention of the word "Bush" in passing in a review, ahead of any listing from Weblists - even ahead of a listing that was specifically about George W. Bush. This was really annoying, and it made it really hard to find, say, where Barry Bonds ranked in the Biggest Jerks in Sports list.

This is no longer the case. We now have control over the weighting for the three partitions for the site. Currently, a search for George W. Bush will still show results from RIA first, but a Weblist listing for George W. Bush will now outrank a passing reference of "Bush" in a review in the RIA channel.

This is a small tweak, but I think you'll find it improves the quality of the search engine dramatically.

9/4/07

I Love Rate-O-Matic

Rate-O-Matic is one of my favorite RIA features to come down the pipe in a long time. I especially like the "speed rate" option for specific lists.

There's a few things I really like about this feature:

- It helps you find stuff that you wouldn't have otherwise rated
- Your rating is not biased by what other people have said
- It's a quick and easy way to blast through a list
- It's a quick and easy way to blast through your own new weblist, to announce its presence to the site

According to our stats package, in just a few short days, the Rate-O-Matic page has become the second most popular page on the site (after Recent Comments).

It seems that I'm not the only person enjoying this feature, and over the next few days you'll see more integration points where you can hook into this service.

Email Alerts Turned Off

RateItAll's mail server is a piece of garbage. It's always crapping out on us, and worse, it slows down the reviewing process on the site - here's why:

When somebody sets up an email alert on an item or for a reviewer, when a review is posted, the site waits for the email alert to be generated before loading the page. Because the mail server is so crappy, this sometimes takes a few seconds (sometimes more than a few), meaning the page hangs until that connection is made with the mail server.

Well the server has been getting progressively worse. Today, it was taking so long to post a review, that I've decided to just turn email alerts off until we can get a new mail server in place.

So, we're shelling out the $600 for a new server, which should be up sometime tomorrow. Until then, there will be no email alerts (new messages, new ratings, etc.) sent from RateItAll.

The good news is that the reviewing process is super fast now.

8/29/07

RateItAll Under Attack

RIA is currently under a mild DDOS (Dedicated Denial of Service Attack) from somewhere in China. Basically what this means is that zombie computers are being directed to tie up as much of our bandwidth as possible, in an attempt to cripple the site.

I think we have things under control, as there appears to have been only a handful of IP addresses involved. We're filtering these out as they pop up, and things seem to be stabilizing.

8/27/07

New Tool

Hi all, in case you missed it, there's now a new tool live on the site that lets you delete the comments that you post under a specific review.

This is consistent with RIA's core philosophy to give its members complete control over the opinions and content that they post to the site. I'm not aware of another site that provides tools so that members can post their content on other sites, shares ad revenue, and allows its members full deletion functionality.

8/24/07

Couple of Profile Page Tweaks

You may have noticed a small change to the profile page:

We've moved the member's historical site activity up on the page, so it's the first thing you see after the person's "About Me" section. I'm finding it nice to not have to scroll way the heck down to read someone's review history.

Also, we're experimenting with caching some of the live stats on the profile page, so that they update once a day. This is to try and speed up the load time - I'm still not happy with the speed of these pages.

8/23/07

Changing Your Profile Image

Some of you have reported an error message when trying to switch your profile image. This is now fixed.

8/20/07

Image Syncing Now Live

We now have images synchronized across all of our web servers. No more "now you see it, now you don't."

Please let me know if you see anything screwy when adding images to profile pages, weblists, or item pages.

Now it's on to the fun stuff! Rate-O-Matic comes next :)

8/19/07

New Web Server Online

Our new web server is now online - this means we now have three web servers and a db server sharing the site's traffic load.

I don't expect the new server to make the site faster, but I do expect it to help significantly in making sure that big traffic surges don't cripple the site. In sum, RateItAll is now better equipped to handle significant traffic bursts.

So, in the past week, we have:

- optimized the Recent Comments page
- optimized the profile pages
- added a new web server

This is pretty boring stuff, but critically important.

We're also very, very close to rolling in the image server fix. Stay tuned.

8/17/07

Profile Pages

OK, we made some optimizations to the profile pages and we now have the heaviest profile pages (with lots of widgets, rating history, etc) down to about 5-6 seconds, from (gulp) 15 seconds plus.

This is a big improvement, but still not fast enough. We'll keep plugging away.

8/16/07

Just Bought Another Server

We'll hopefully have it in the mix some time next week. We're also, very close to putting in that image fix so that images are synced across all servers. I'm also hopeful that we will have the profile pages optimized shortly for faster page loads.

This is stuff is boring from a development perspective, but a fast site makes the RIA experience much better IMHO.

8/14/07

Record Traffic Day

Yesterday was an all time record traffic day for us. Depending on what stats package you believe, we did anywhere from 41K to 49K total visits.

For the most part, the site held up, though it got a little bit sluggish from time to time.

For the moment, we have prioritized site performance issues over everything else - some cool features have been put on the backburner until we can get some problem pages (e.g. profiles) loading fast.

I've also requested a quote for another web server.

8/13/07

Recent Comments Page Breakthrough

Guys, I think we've solved the chronic slow loading of the recent comments page from a logged in state. The solution has been right front of our eyes - divide the load into small chunks. Enjoy. Now I can go back to hitting that page about 700 times per day.

Weekly Goals

Our goals for the week:

1) Fix the image syncing issue
2) Speed up the recent comments page for logged in users
3) Speed up the profile pages

8/9/07

Images

Some of you may have noticed strange stuff going on with profile and item images. Sometimes they're there, sometimes they're not.

This has to do with when we went to a mulitple web server configuration a few weeks ago. Because the images are saved locally on either one server or the other, you will see or them or not see them depending on what server you're hitting.

We have a fix in the works that will sync all images across all servers - this should be up some time next week.

8/7/07

Couple of Small Fixes Went Live

We pushed a few very minor fixes live last night:

- The default display in the "Reviews from Trusted Network" display went from two degrees away, to one degree away. In other words, you'll now only see reviews from folks in your immediate trusted network on your profile page.

- We changed the Overall Rating display on each item page from stars to numbers. I was getting tired of accidentally clicking the cumulative rating stars when I was trying to post my rating.

- We fixed it so clicking on the "comments" link associated with any review will automatically scroll you down the page to where the comments begin.

8/6/07

RateItAll on the BBC

Over the weekend, the BBC included RateItAll in a segment called "The New Wave of Silicon Valley Start-Ups." If you watch the video clip, RateItAll's mention is about 8 minutes in. It's a brief mention, but very positive nonetheless.

7/27/07

Helpful Votes Updated

OK, the new tallies are up. Also, those of you who were waiting for "Top XX" tags now have them.

The shake-up was not as big as I thought it would be - we ALL lost helpful votes.

You May Want to Sit Down for This One

OK, how about a post about everybody's favorite topic... helpful votes.

There is going to be a big shake up in the rankings.

For a long time, the display used to track the top helpful vote getters has only taken into account positive helpful votes. What this display has failed to capture is what happens when users delete their accounts, when users are banned, or when generally bogus accounts are deleted. In all of these instances, the helpful vote tally for each user should go down.

This has not happened to date. The tallies could go up, but they could never go down to reflect helpful votes that are taken away with the deletion of a user or an account.

Momentarily we will be recalculating the helpful votes of all site members to reflect their true value. I'm expecting some pretty radical shake ups.

7/24/07

Anonymous Ratings?

Historically on RateItAll, a rating without a review has been as good as an anonymous rating. If I wanted to drop a five star rating on the new Britney Spears anthology, I could do so without fear of reprisal.

This may no longer be the case.

One of the unanticipated features of the new rating widget is the ability to see all of the raters of a given item. Let's take for example, the RateItAll Reviewers list. By building a rating widget for Magellan, you can now see all of the folks who have rated Magellan - whether or not they posted a review. To do this, just play around with the icons at the bottom of the widget.

While this may result in some awkward moments ("I can't believe so and so gave me a one star rating!!"), I do think that more transparency is generally a good thing.

However, now might be a good time to get your house in order in terms of being able to back up your ratings :)

7/19/07

Let People Rate Your Blog - From Your Blog

Do you remember all that testing that was going on a while back? Well, what we were testing is this cool new widget that lets you rate stuff on RateItAll without ever going to RateItAll.

We're trying this concept out as a Blog Feedback Widget. So, if you have a blog, and would like to let people rate it right from your Blog, click here.

The widget does all sorts of other cool stuff to - like show thumbnail pics of recent reviewers, and let you scroll through the most recent reviews.

Server Update

We now have two quad webservers, fully load blanced, up and talking to each other. Those annoying login problems should be a thing of the past.

I am hopeful that we can now get back to rolling out cool stuff with the fear that our servers will be overwhelmed.

7/18/07

Need some testing help!

We're testing some changes that should fix this login status problem that we've been having, and that will also make it easier to add more servers as we grow.

Can you please try surfing around demo3.rateitall.com as you would on RIA? Try rating stuff, logging in and out, messaging - in other words, anything that you would be doing anyway.

Look for things that don't work right, and that seem strange.

Demo3 is hooked up to the live database, so anything that you post will post to the regular site.

Thanks!

7/15/07

Login Status

I'm hearing more reports of reviewers who are getting logged out on the fly as they browse RateItAll. We know what is causing this issue and will be working on it today and tomorrow.

7/12/07

Cross Your Fingers

I *think* we have site performance under control now. We now have a total of four servers up and running (2 web, 1 db, 1 mail), and they all seem to be talking to each other.

The good news is that the way the site is set up now, it will be easy to add new servers as traffic grows.

Rate On.

I Love Google (and burgers)

Is this an attractive ad or what?

Sit Tight

If you're on the site at this moment, you may see some screwed up things. We have set up a server farm configuration with multiple webservers acting as one, but we're losing login state if you bounce from page to page.

I'm calling it the "birth pangs of a multi-server RIA."

Things should be resolved shortly as we figure out how to maintain login status between all servers..

7/11/07

Update

We have the new server built and configured, and will be working today on putting it online. Site speed will be a little spotty until it goes live.

7/9/07

Dropping a New Server Online

We'll be dropping another high powered web server online tomorrow to complement our existing servers. This should speed the site back up again.

7/6/07

Having some performance issues

The site seems to be struggling right now... we're doing a big clean up of old sub-domains, and something seems to have broken.

We're aware of the issue and are working on it.

7/5/07

Email Invite Tool

We've just added a very neat tool to all the "Invite a Friend to Rate" pages that lets you add folks in bulk straight from your address book.

This should make it a lot easier to invite friends to rate your stuff, and should eliminate the typo problem when dealing with long email addresses.

Here's a screenshot:

























To try it out, look for the little "Add From My Address Book" icon on any of the invite raters pages.

7/3/07

Rebooting DB

Guys, we did a remote reboot of the site, but unfortunately it didn't work. Our hosting company is on its way to do a manual reboot, but it's going to be another 30 minutes or so.

Things always go wrong heading into holidays....

7/2/07

Baseball Players

Hi All, we've updated our best baseball players list to include the latest MLB all-stars.

Zuchinibut also has a complete list of the 2007 MLB all-stars.

6/25/07

Doodleblog

I know that some of you have been wondering about all of the bogus ratings and reviews that have been coming through about the blog "Doodleblog."

We're testing a new feature and the output just happens to be showing up on that page. We're almost done testing - all of the bogus ratings will deleted at that time.

Please forgive the annoyance.

6/24/07

Radio Silence

Sorry for the light posting recently. I've been buried in a few other projects, which are hopefully wrapping up soon.

Here's a couple of things that we're looking into:

- Making a fairly significant tweak to the Helfpful / Unhelpful voting system
- A cool new rating game called Rate-O-Matic!
- Empowering RIA moderators with more tools, and the ability to guest post on this blog
- (Finally) launching this distributed rating widget that will allow stuff to be rated from any site without the rater ever having to come to RIA

Stay tuned...

5/23/07

Wine

With some help from SilverFox, we are revamping our wine sections. We're expanding what was once just two lists - red and white - into lists for each of the primary varietals. You can now browse things like Cabernet Sauvignon reviews, Merlot Reviews, Chardonnay Reviews, Sauvignon Blanc Reviews, and more... feel free to add your favorites to our new wine reviews channel.

5/22/07

New List - Community Colleges

We've just added a section for Best Community Colleges. If you are familiar with any Community Colleges, please add them to the list!

5/14/07

Swapping Columns

You may have noticed that on the list and item pages, the columns are reversed. This is intentional - we're just doing a little a/b testing to see what happens.

5/9/07

RateItAll Bloggers.... You Are Invited

Any RateItAll member who is also a blogger and would like to participate in the closed beta of our new blog feedback / community widget, shoot me a note.

I'll hook you up.

4/27/07

Feedback Badges

*To request an invitation to participate in the RateItAll blog feedback / community widget, click HERE.*

So the big project that we've been working on for the last six weeks or so, and the source of all of those odd test ratings on things like Yoda and the Dell computer page, is finally out of the bag.

We've just launched a distributed rating badge / widget that will allow rating and reviewing of stuff that is on RateItAll to take place on sites other than RateItAll. For an example, check out the badge in the right hand corner of this blog - this badge links back to the listing for the RateItAll Blog that sits on RateItAll. Ratings and reviews can be posted about this blog right here, without the reviewer ever having to go to RateItAll. So now, people reading the blog, can rate it right here. In flow. Without having to go to RIA and find the right page. I think this is a big deal.

Clicking on the tabs at the bottom of the badge will also show you photos of folks who have left recent reviews, and let you scroll through the various reviews.

As a starting point, we're planning to roll this out to blogs in the RateItAll Blog Directory as a way for them to get feedback from their readers, and add an element of community to their blog. I'll be opening this feature up to some RIA bloggers over the next week or so.... stay tuned.

I'm hopeful that blogs will be just the start. Another example of how something like this might be used can be seen on Magellan's profile page. You can now rate Magellan right from his profile page, without having to go through the hassle of finding his listing on the RateItAll reviewers list. All ratings and reviews posted via the badge on his profile page, will also show up on the RateItAll reviewers list. Those of you familiar with the scope of RateItAll's coverage can probably think of some other applications as well :)

4/26/07

We Will Recode the Recent Comments Page

Guys, I apologize for the performance issues on the recent reviews page for logged in users - it's unacceptable.

I'm trying to get something out the door that I am demo'ing tonight at 7PM, but once that's over, we will get to rebuilding this page.

A short term fix for this problem? Log out. If you're logged out, the page loads fast as lightning.

4/25/07

More Recent Comments Page Problems

It looks like we're having that problem again in which the recent reviews page hangs for logged in users. This is a real pain, as it's the freshest page of the site, and trouble with this page slows down the flow of feedback on our reviews.

We're working on it.

4/22/07

RateItAll Survey

I'm hoping you can help me out with something. I'm trying to get a better understanding of who we are - who are the users of RateItAll, what do we do when we're on the site, and what stuff do we like / dislike.

If you have a few minutes, I'd really appreciate it if you could take this short survey.

The survey is entirely anonymous - you can enter in your email address if you want to participate in the raffle, but you don't have to.

4/13/07

New Channel - Medical Treatments

Guys, we've launched a new channel for rating lists of medical treatments by condition. Let me know if you have any requests as we build out this section.

4/9/07

Take Your RateItAll Reviews With You

Guys, we're VERY close to launching a widget that will let you display your most recent 15 RIA reviews and RIA profile on other sites like your blog or your MySpace page.

Thanks to Ridge, aWiseguy, Kamylienne, GTH, Numbah, Randyman, and HKK for their help in testing this thing (if I forgot somebody, please remind me).

For an example of what it looks like, check out the right sidebar of this blog below the t-shirt display.

There's still a few funky things that I'm trying to solve before I make this available to everybody. Stay tuned... it shouldn't be long now.

4/4/07

The Impact of RateItAll's New Quad Web Server

Reviews posted in:

January - 16,233
February - 16,523
March - 31,351

4/3/07

Upon Further Review...

... The slow loading recent comments page is only happening for logged in members, and is the return of a bug we've seen before. It has something to do with how the system "remembers" which reviews have been marked helpful / not helpful by each member.

We had this bug before. We fixed this bug before. We now just have to remember what we did to fix it. Stay tuned, and sorry for the slowness of this critical page.

Looking for a few good testers

We are perhaps only a few days from launching a very cool new feature. I'm looking for a few brave souls to test this thing out before it goes live.

If you are interested in seeing RIA's latest and greatest, please shoot me a note (or comment to this post). I'll probably only be accepting RIA regulars for this particular release.

Recent Comments Page Tweak

The recent comments page has historically pulled all of the new reviews within the most recent 24 hour period. With traffic and review volume up, the recent comments page has been dragging. This morning I was seeing 6-8 second load times.

For the site's most important page, this is unacceptable.

So what we've done is to cap this page at the most recent 250 reviews. I think you'll agree that performance is much faster.

4/2/07

Time Stamp Bug Fixed

Is it just me or was the daylight savings switch more of a hassle then usual this year? My phone showed the wrong time for about 2 weeks, and now two of our various servers were displaying different time stamps.

Anyway, this bug should be fixed now.

4/1/07

Return of the Time Stamp Issue

I've noticed that the time stamp issue is back. Reviews posted from the item page are showing up as one hour older on the recent comments page than they should.

We should have this issue taken care of by tomorrow.

All Time Record Traffic Month

RateItAll is officially into uncharted territory in terms of the number of folks using the site. We did almost 1.1M visits in March, narrowly beating our top traffic month of all time.

Folks are also looking at more pages per visit, and a higher percentage of visits are repeat visits.

Happily, this is not an April Fool's joke.

3/30/07

How to add a photo to a review

1) Go to www.imageshack.us

2) Upload your photo file and click "Host It" (don't enter in your email, or check any of the other options)

3) Copy the url called "Hotlink for Websits" (it's the third one from the bottom)

4) Paste this url into the body of your review.

This only works for reviews posted from the item page (the one with the formatting tools like bold, italics, etc.). It will not work from the Rate It! pop up window on the list pages.

I think that images can be especially helpful for travel reviews personally, but it will be neat to see how folks choose to use this feature.

Back from Vacation

Hi All, I'm back from my mini vacation and am working my way through a few hundred site feedback messages. If you sent in feedback over the last few days, I should get to it shortly.

3/29/07

Site Search is Down

I'm getting reports that searching on RIA is down and returning errors. The search provider has been alerted, and hopefully this will be resolved shortly.

3/18/07

Widgets with Images

Here's another neat thing you can do with the new RIA list widgets - you can add a background image. Here's an example:



To do this, just select the middle widget design, and then enter in the url for the image. The best way to generate an image url is to use imageshack.us, upload your image, and choose the "Direct Link to Image" option. It's free and there's no registration required.

3/17/07

Put Any RateItAll Rating List on Your Page / Site

OK, RateItAll lists are now totally mobile. You can put them on your MySpace page, on your blog, and even on your RateItAll profile page. There's three cool designs to choose from, and each design is totally customizable in terms of color and size.

GTH has embedded a list of anti war songs on his profile page. Numbah has put a list of Star Wars characters on his MySpace page, Randyman has added a list of classic fights to his blog, and Kamylienne has embedded a list of hot sauces in her blog.

I'm pretty excited about this. I feel like we've just set all of our lists free. To try it out for yourself, click on the third link in the "Actions" box on any list page.

Another test

3/14/07

Home Page Tweak

Guys, you can now start making a new rating list right from the home page - check out the middle panel of the yellow section. No need to dig down through your profile page.

3/13/07

Time Stamp Bug - Fixed

New reviews posted via the item pages are no longer getting buried deep in the recent comments page.

Time Stamp Problem

A number of folks have reported a problem with the time stamping of reviews submitted via the new HTML editor. These reviews are showing up with an older time stamp than they should, pushing them down the recent comments page.

We're aware of the issue and are working on it.

3/9/07

RateItAll To Go

Testing a new toy that we hope to roll out soon.


3/4/07

View and Manage Reviews Within Your Weblists

OK, we've turned on a feature that lets you view all recent reviews that have been posted to your Weblists. You can view all, or using the drop down filter, isolate the reviews for specific Weblists.

We've also included the ability for you to delete specific reviews that have been posted to their lists. I encourage you to use this feature only in extreme instances. To delete a review, click the scissors icon next to the review.

To access this feature, click the link under your profile image that says "Create / Edit / Manage Weblists."

Here are some screenshots:


















And here's a view of the actual display and delete icon:

3/1/07

Top Ten Ranked RateItAll Members

  1. MADuron
  2. Vudija
  3. Jamie McBain
  4. Indierocker
  5. Ridgewalker
  6. Numbah16tdhaha
  7. VirileVagabond
  8. GenghisTheHun
  9. Magellan
  10. Jed1000

What are these rankings for you ask? These are the top ten contributors of new item suggestions (you have to use the sort tool at the bottom of the page) - folks that are helping to make existing lists better.

If you've published a weblist before on RateItAll, there's a good chance that one, if not more, of these folks have suggested new items for your list.

In my opinion, this is one of the unsung activities of the site. Cooperation makes for better lists, and as someone who's made more than a few lists myself, it is a huge help to the publisher.

And don't forget - if you suggest a new item for a list that gets approved, you get "credit" for that page for the purposes of the RateItAll Economy Program. What does that mean? It means that you share ad revenue on that page for as long as the program continues.

February Traffic Growth

RateItAll has just posted its sixth straight month of solid growth. February is a short month, but visits per day were up 6% over January, which is all the more impressive considering we had two days in which the site was all but unreachable due to server overload. Here are monthly visits for the last six months:

February (extrapolated to 31 days) - 1002K
January - 942K
December - 851K
November - 802K
October - 794K
September - 699K

I'm not going to count this as a million visit month because of the extrapolation involved, but I'm pretty pleased nonetheless. I'm hopeful that March is going to blow the roof off.

Item Relocation Tool

Good news - we just fixed our tool that lets us relocate items from list to list. For example, we can now start paring back our Current Release Movies list into something a little more current.

So if you see an item that is miscategorized, please feel free to drop me a line.

We're also working on turning the feature back on that allows Weblist publishers to view and manage all the reviews that are coming through their Weblists. Old timers will remember that we used to offer this, but it got lost in last year's redesign.

2/26/07

Photo Editing Problems

*Update: This Should be Fixed Now*

Some folks are reporting errors when they try and change their profile photo. We're aware of the issue and are working on it.

Thanks to HKK and aWiseguy for bringing this to my attention.

Do you like the new formatting tools?

Now that we've had a few days to mess around with the new review formatting tools (links, bold, italics, etc.), I'd like to get some feedback.

You can let me know how you feel here.

2/20/07

Email Alerts Fixed

I'd say that the installation of the new quad core server went incredibly smoothly. There was limited downtime, and as of yet, no serious bugs that arose.

The only moderately impactful glitch that I'm aware of was the inability of the new Web server to talk to the email server. This meant that stuff like email alerts when someone sent you a message wasn't working.

I'm happy to say that we've resolved this, and that all email alerts should be working again.

2/17/07

HTML Editor

So, we're trying to add an html editor to the item pages that would let folks easily add links to their reviews, or use bold and italics.

We're running into two problems:

1) The editor loads very slowly in IE
2) The editor doesn't allow folks using Firefox to leave new reviews from an item page (though they can edit existing reviews)

Unfortunately, if we can't get these two bugs sorted out soon, I'm may have to table this feature for now.

Fast Enough For You?

The new server is up, and the site is screamingly fast for me right now. Holy smokes - what a difference.

There's an issue with profile pages that we're working on. Hopefully we'll have this fixed shortly.

2/16/07

Update

So we're not flipping the switch on the new server today. It's taken longer than expected to get the new server configured, so it looks like it's going to be tomorrow.

We've also finished development on some very cool publishing features. I think you'll find that these new features will allow for better self expression, as well place RateItAll posts more directly in the conversation that takes place in the blogosphere.

More on this to follow, and we expect to turn these new features on tomorrow as well.

Cutting Over to the New Server Soon

We may have up to 30 minutes of downtime starting very soon.

2/15/07

Scheduled Downtime - New Server Going In

Guys, it looks like there's going to be some scheduled downtime today when we put the new quad core online. I'll let you know when I have a definitive time.

2/14/07

Big Day Tomorrow

Two big things happening tomorrow:

- We're putting the new quad core web server online
- We're turning on some cool new publishing features (I think you'll like them)

2/13/07

Most Helpful Reviewers

For the first time in a long time, things are getting awfully tight at the top of the most helpful reviewers list.

Is it time to introduce a "#1 Reviewer Tag?"

Besides IG and the jedi in training that is Numbah, who else has a shot for the top spot? It seems that GTH has plenty left in the tank (though currently he is putting in some serious work on the RateItAll Wikipedia entry), and CanadaSucks has been slowly and steadily rising, despite, I presume, not much support from RateItAll's Canadian reviewers. IJR seems hampered by a late night schedule, but still is in striking distance, despite (or perhaps because of?) the fact that he now only refers to himself in the third person. Castlebee has slowed down a bit, but she's certainly not to be counted out.

Sadly, despite visiting RateItAll just about every day for seven years, Magellan would appear dead in the water.

2/12/07

Server Update

That new, rocket-fast, quad core web server will be arriving this afternoon. We should be able to have it up and running by tomorrow or Wednesday. I can't wait.

2/9/07

Pets Mashup - Take 2

So here's another version of that Yahoo Pipes / RIA Pets mash up:




And here's the Pet List itself:

Apture