Rebate Helper Update #7

The RebateHelper.com domain is now registered, and a temporary page has been put in place.

You can find a link to RebateHelper.com on the right side of the page under “My Sites.”

Please feel free to sign up to be notified when RebateHelper.com officially opens!

Photo Gallery Link

I have added a link to my photo gallery on the right side of my blog. You can find it below AD’s listing under “My Sites.”

I take mostly landscapes and nature shots. As of right now, they are all from in and around the Savannah area. There are lots of downtown shots, lots of Tybee Island pictures, a whole bunch of pictures from the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, and a lot more.

I am definitely an amateur photographer. A lot of the pictures are pretty good, but some probably are not so good. I have fun with it, though. That’s all that really matters anyway.

So, take a peek around (there are 500 images 36 galleries spanning 4 pages) and let me know what you think.

Oh yeah, and please ask first if you plan on using the images in any of your projects. I will almost certainly say it is okay to use them, and I will even be able to provide you with a larger, higher quality version.

Enjoy, and please let me know what you think of them (good AND bad)!

Mike

Rebate Center Update #6– Introducing RebateHelper.com

Well, four months and no updates on my rebate center. I’m sure most of you have no idea what I am talking about. Well, here you go. Have a read of these:

http://mikesblog.americasdebate.com/index.php?s=rebate+center

So, here we are, four months later. Here is the news:

– I have registered a domain. RebateHelper.com had not yet been taken for some reason. I snatched it up.

– I have given up on MyTopix. It is a good script with a lot of potential, but the development process is simply not moving. It is stuck in Beta with no future release in sight. I’m done waiting.

– I have decided to go with Invision Power Board. I am very familiar with it from AD, and so I will be comfortable in extending it. The module I wrote for MyTopix should be easily ported to IPB, and so my prior work will not have been a waste of time. IPB is seemingly always in heavy development, with Betas out now, Pre-releases in a few weeks, and a new final version in a few months.

– I need hosting. I don’t have money for hosting. This could be a problem.

– I need an IPB license. That is either $70 or $185. This could also be a problem.

– I have made a mock-up of a design that I am about 50% satisfied with. See it here: http://www.americasdebate.com/rebatehelper.com.png

So, with that being said, all I can do now is wait. I want to build this using the newest version of IPB, and I’m not going to code it for a Beta now just to recode it for a final version in a few weeks/months. I will post another update when I pickup working on the project again.

America’s Debate – Past, Present, and Future

Well, I initially wanted to post this during the week of AD’s third anniversary, but my time has been cut short lately with site problems, houseguests, etc. I’ve got about an hour now, so let’s see how far we get.

About three years ago, Jaime and I started America’s Debate. I have an unlinked page at America’s Debate that details our history. It is a bit out of date right now because I haven’t updated it since the election, but the majority of it still holds true. Here is the link: History of America’s Debate.

When we started AD, we had no idea where it would take us. We started it mainly as a free-time hobby. We had nothing to do, and were sick of debating each other (Jaime is a tough opponent, especially when she is right). We figured that we would have a lot more fun if we could debate other people. Unable to find somewhere that we thought was suitable, we started our AD.

We started out slow, which was no surprise. There were already tons of political forums out there. It was the middle of what we now recognize is the “summer lull,” and so growth was slow at first. It was so slow, in fact, that we didn’t even have a set of rules for the first few months after we started AD!

From that time until now is just a blur. AD has kept growing and growing and growing. We have been having fun, and so time has been flying.

When we hit the election, we kept on growing even faster. As public interest in politics increased, so did our member and post count. Our guest traffic continued to climb through the roof. We hosted increasingly popular election themed chats focused around the presidential debates (if you can call them debates). At one point, we had something like 60 people in the chat room at once!

The election came and went, and we saw a leveling off of AD’s growth. All of the quadrennial armchair politicos retreated back to their shelters, and AD was left with several months of stagnation. Some senior members took a break from the wear and tear that embodies online political debate. New members kept rolling in, and that is always a good thing. Guest traffic dropped significantly, which was expected.

Now, we are at the tail end of the summer for most people. While we still have a few months of summer weather ahead of us here in Savannah, the kids are starting to return to school. It is now time for the growth to pickup.

AD is on target this month to hit our record number of pageviews ever: 968,161. That is a huge number.

See, about a year and a few months ago, I completely redid the site. Invision Power Services released the 2.0 version of their software, and so it was time to upgrade our site. I had learned quite a bit in terms of PHP coding, and I exercised that new knowledge in recoding the AD website. We now use a custom Content Management System that I have written. The CMS makes the numbers in my statistical reports much more accurate.

Before, each pageload on the forum used to actually trigger 3, 4, 5, or even up to 10 or more pageviews in our logs. It caused our numbers to be wildly inaccurate. They were probably 50% higher than the actual numbers, if not more. The new numbers are much more accurate. Instead of each content block on the website homepage requiring a pageview, the whole page now requires only one pageview.

That is why 968,161 pageviews for August 2005 is such a huge number. It represents an 82.5 percent increase in traffic over September 2004– an eleven-month period. Compared to our election high, we will be 27.3 percent higher this month– a slow month– over November 2004. Those are some great numbers!

With school coming back, I expect our numbers to continue to grow. I expect we will have our first million-pageview month by the end of the year, and then million-pageview months will become the norm.

So, what does the future for AD hold? Lots.

We’ve got AD Radio coming up soon. It is going to be a live streamed broadcast where members can call in and be placed on the air, just like a regular radio program.

I setup the second phone line yesterday, and so now we can accept two calls at once, and put them both on the air. That means that we can have a featured guest, and take phone calls from listeners. Or, we can have two listeners call up at once, and put them both on the air for live debate. It is really a large technical accomplishment to have the capabilities to do this, considering how little we have spent on equipment in comparison to what an actual radio station would spend.

AD Radio should launch sometime in the next 12 weeks, and– fingers crossed– will be successful. It would be really great if the members embraced AD Radio as they have done the forum, and made it a great show.

I have a good feeling. This year is *the* year. This is the year where AD will be transformed from a serious hobby for Jaime and I and into a job. We have always contended that we would love to run AD as our jobs so we could dedicate our full time to the site.

Imagine how great it would be! I could spend all of my time coding upgrades and enhancements to the current site. AD Radio would just be the beginning! We could have a setup where people could use an AD email address to contact their representatives without leaving the site, and they could share and discuss their letters and responses, if they wish.

We could setup a system for rating and reviewing politicians. Wouldn’t that be fun? Reviews make sites great. Look at Amazon or NewEgg. People shop there just as much for the products as they do for the community that is built around reviewing the products. We could let people review and rate politicians, and share those reviews with others. Heck, we could give out awards to politicians. “Mr. SoAndSo, you have been selected as ‘Mr. Pork 2006′ by the people of America’s Debate!”

Jaime could spend all of her time moderating, reviewing, and streamlining the way the site functions. She is incredibly talented, and I know that, given enough time and the right tools, she could elevate AD up to the next level. She works incredibly hard at both her real job and at AD, and she deserves to have AD as her full time job. It is her true passion, as it is mine, and there is nothing I would like more than to help her do what she loves.

So, how the hell can we do this? Well, I have one idea, and only one idea. Some people say, “Get a grant.” Yeah, yeah. Grants are nice, but not if you are as strict of a conservative as me. If the feds wanted to give me a grant, I would probably not take the money. Others say, “Charge people.” Yeah, right. That’s not happening. AD is free, always has been, always will be. We don’t ever plan on changing that.

My idea involves sponsorship. I think that, for the right company, AD could be an incredible advertising vehicle. Our members seem to be in the key demographic for most companies these days– 16 to 35 year old males. Yes, we have some women (thankfully), but we are overwhelmingly a male site it seems. Judging by our stats, males outnumber females 4:1.

You read about it all the time. Sites like The Smoking Gun have gained massive corporate sponsorships (I know, TSG sold their site to CourtTV. AD is NOT for sale). Those sponsorships pay their bills, and pay their salaries.

I don’t see why a major news company looking for a substantial amount of traffic would be opposed to sponsoring AD. A dream figure for us– about $100,000 a year– is a drop in the bucket to them. It is one advertising buy for one company for one week. It is nothing. To us, though, a hundred grand would be amazing. We could salary ourselves each at about $30,000 a year (we’re not looking to make a killing, just live comfortably), and have $40,000 to run AD.

That would mean a dedicated server. It would mean a fully stocked webstore. It would mean an annual AD convention. It would mean a salary for Moderators, and a stipend for Committee Members. It would mean Year in Review awards that were actually awards. It would mean a professionally designed template for the site. It would mean an exponential overall increase in the quality of AD.

It is my dream. This is our year. I hope everyone comes along for the ride.

So, there we go. Ten minutes to spare, and my AD write-up is done. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Mike

Another Company To Avoid

Edit: I received my stuff. See comments. Surpluscomputers.com is back on my “ok” list. ;)

Well, it seems that one of my favorite companies for cheap computer parts has gone to crap.

I placed an order 2 weeks ago today. I have emailed, left two messages, and spoken with one person. NOBODY knows the status of my order.

Between being told lies about their system (“sorry sir, our system is down”) and lies about the ship date (“your order shipped August 1, even though we don’t know the address we shipped it, the method of shipping, or the tracking number”), I have had enough.

I can no longer recommend the following company:

Surplus Computers
http://www.surpluscomputers.com
408-327-0420

Here is the last email I sent them. If I do not hear back today, I will be contesting the charges for this order on Monday:

Hello.

On July 29th, I placed SO Number 374422 – Web Ref 134674 with your company.

As of today, August 12, 2005, it has been two weeks since I placed my order.

After leaving two unreturned telephone messages, I finally contacted someone yesterday named Mike or Michael who stated that my order shipped on August 1. He was unable to tell me if the order shipped via UPS or USPS, he was unable to tell me to what address the order was shipped, and he was unable to provide any tracking information further than, “If the order was less than two pounds, it would probably go USPS, otherwise, it would go UPS.”

At this point, I am quite frustrated.

I sent an inquiry regarding my order on July 29 via email. I never received a reply. Very unprofessional.

I called on August 8 and left a message on the voicemail in your shipping department. My message was never returned. Very unprofessional.

I called on August 9 and spoke with a man who claimed your “system was down,” and said he would ask the shipping department to contact me regarding my order. My message was never returned. Very unprofessional.

I called on August 11 and left a message with your shipping department. As stated above, I was informed that the order shipped, but the person with whom I spoke was unable to provide the shipping address or the shipping method or tracking number. Again, very unprofessional.

At this point, I am very disappointed.

Please update me on the status of my order once and for all. I am tired of waiting for an item that I ordered 14 days ago. If it has not shipped, please ship it overnight at your expense for arrival at the earliest possible time.

Thank you,

Mike < >

So, let’s hope they get their act together and get me my order. The product is for AD Radio, and is holding us up.

Bad company—– bad, bad company! No money for you!

Mike

Telemarketer Fun

I hate telemarketers, I really do.

I just received two telemarketer calls within a very short period. One was 6:19PM, and the other was 6:38PM.

The 6:19PM was received at my Skype number.
The 6:38PM was received at my Home distinctive ring number.

The 6:19PM call originated from 206-415-8739.
The 6:38PM call originated from 206-278-9390.

The 6:19PM call left a message telling me that I had been selected as part of their “Jacksonville Area Marketing Study” to attend some scam cruise leaving from Miami.
The 6:38PM call left a message telling me that I had been selected as part of their “Jacksonville Area Marketing Study” to qualify for some scam satellite tv promotion.

Wrong city, wrong state, nice try.

Since I really dislike telemarketers, I think I am going to change my current approach– it could be called the “overwhelm them with legaleeze and shuffle papers while you ‘take down their information’ approach– with a new approach. Maybe we can call it the, “appear like a business who is legitimately interested in their services and string them along as much as humanly possible.”

I can come up with a fake corporate telephone announcement to really get them interested.

It could start something like:

Thank you for calling MikeCo Hotels Executive Office. MikeCo Hotels now provides 28 free cable channels for all guests in the Jacksonville Area. Please hold while we transfer you to the executive secretary. Please note that this call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance.

Then, after a moment of music and a few blips and bleeps, I can answer, recording the call, and see how much of these people’s time I can waste.

I would be the dream sale! A hotel owner who is proud to be offering a crappy 28 cable channels in their rooms, conveniently located in Jacksonville, where they seem to be targeting!

What do you think?

Edit: For anyone interested in listening to the original call (do you enjoy torturing yourself?), you can listen to an MP3 of the message here: http://mikesblog.americasdebate.com/uploads/telemarketer.mp3

National Night Out

Can we just call it what it is: Safety in numbers for a night.

What a load of crap the “National Night Out” is! What good does it do to allow people to go out one night a year when they sure as hell wouldn’t go out the rest of the year? Sure, you may be able to stroll through Forsyth Park at 11PM for one night, but you know damn well that the rest of the year you would be walking at break-neck speed with whatever shank or stick or key or rock or whatever weapon you were able to fashion, ready to defend yourself against the less than desirable folks you see in the park after dark.

The National Night Out occurs when citizens band together in numbers great enough to divert the criminal element of their community for 0.27% of the year. On leap years, it is even less effective!

We just had a rash of shootings and murders here in Savannah. If I recall correctly, we had 9 shootings in as many days, with four or five being fatal. My numbers may be a bit off, but when you hear about so many shootings in such a small city, you lose track.

I wonder how many thugs are at home sulking right now because they have to postpone their planned August 2nd murder to August 3rd, else they won’t be able to attend the National Night Out.

Oh yeah, and, word to the wise: When you go out for the National Night Out, lock your doors. You are more likely to get robbed when you are not at home. ;)

I’ve had enough

OK, I’ve had enough with these moron tourists coming to our city and not understanding the rules of the road. Driving in Savannah is simple, and, luckily, very low-speed. It is important to stay aware of where you are and where you are going. Here are some basic rules to help:

First rule: No parking on the actual roadway. I know, it may seem odd that people need a reminder for something so logical. But, we have an abundance of idiot men and their fat wives who want to eat at Lady and Sons, and park on Whittaker Street to spare their fat wives the opportunity for a bit of pre-meal caloric burning. Here’s a tip to you idiot men and your fat wives: park your freaking car and walk. There is no need to force people to shift lanes on a 35mph road in a heavy pedestrian traffic area just to spare your wife the minimal physical activity required to hoof it from a parking spot to the restaurant.

Second rule: No waiting for parkers. If someone is parked in the square, and they are backing out, do not– I repeat– do not wait for them. When you do, traffic backs up in all directions very fast. It makes you look like a moron, and makes the traffic behind you fully aware of this fact.

Third rule: Hotdog stands are for pedestrians. They are not drive-thrus. Do not– again I repeat– do not park your car in front of the hotdog stand. If you do, I can only hope that the hotdog gods show you no mercy.

Fourth rule: If you are a delivery driver, do not park on our sidewalks. It is bad enough that we are forced to look at your bright bright bright drop-off boxes littering our whole city. There is no need for you to park on our sidewalks that are older than all of your delivery companies combined. We have alleys behind every street– use them. Park your damn truck in the alley, and walk around the building. If you don’t like walking around the building, look for a new job.

Fifth rule: Yield for pedestrians in the crosswalk, not impatient looking pedestrians on the side of the road who look like they are ready to jump in front of your car. If you consistently stop for pedestrians who do not have the right of way, then the only way these pedestrians will learn that cars actually have the right of way is for me to hit them. Please don’t make me hit pedestrians because you find it necessary to cede your right of way to people who do not have the right of way. Only exception: Waiting for pedestrians when it is raining out. After all, do you enjoy standing in the rain waiting to cross the street while person after person drives by in their environmentally isolated pod?

Sixth rule: Pass the horses. It seems to be obvious to me. If you are in a car (80+ horsepower) and you are behind a carriage (2 horsepower– literally), you have the upper hand in terms of acceleration, top speed, and maneuverability. You should use that to your advantage and demonstrate that your IQ is higher than your gas mileage by passing the slow-moving horses. If you are unsure whether or not your car will fit in the gap that is almost certainly big enough to hold your car, please simply pull over into a parking spot, turn off your engine, place your hands on your steering wheel, and wait for a member of Savannah’s opportunistic youth to come rob you or shoot you.

Seventh rule: For pedestrians– do not use your dogs or your children to secure your right of way as a pedestrian. If you want to cross the street, then cross the street. Do not let your dog take a large lead on your retractable leash and enter the roadway, and do not push your stroller into traffic with the impression that traffic will stop before hitting your baby. Nobody wants to hit your kids or your pets, but when you march them into traffic, they become targets. Some people try to avoid them; some people try to hit them. Some people are so stupid they don’t even see them. Why risk it? Just stand your lazy ass on the corner and take in the beauty of our city.

Lastly, not a rule, but a rule of thumb: Florida drivers are the worst in the world, especially those from Volusia county. They suck more than an Orrick Excel. They are dumber than a Greenzap member (geek joke alert!). They are slower than Wal-Mart employees… on a hot day… on the weekend…. in the South… after the sweet tea has run dry. Come on global warming, rising ocean levels, wildfires, and hurricanes! Come on mother nature, show people what you’re really made of and return Georgia’s southern coast to its former glory!

I’ve got a lot more to say on this. I am currently in the process of assembling a “How to drive in Savannah” guide for all the idiot tourists who come down here and have a hard time connecting two thoughts together. Yeah, I know, it’s freaking hot down here. If you don’t like it or it makes it so you are unable to function at an intelligible level, I suggest you pick a different vacation spot.