Well, I’ve got myself a new project. I am building a web application that helps people keep track of rebates they submit.
I originally started building this out of necessity– I send a lot of rebates, and have to maintain mass amounts of paperwork in order to keep them all straight. It got to be too much trouble, and I decided I needed a better way to track them.
Sure, I could setup a simple spreadsheet and keep track of them just fine, but that is not my style. I need to do it much bigger and much better than a simple little spreadsheet.
I need reminders. I need statistics. I need someone to take my hand and walk me through the process of completing my rebates. I need a webapp.
So, I started the coding on this yesterday. Let me give you a little bit of background on my coding and my coding skills.
I first started coding PHP in July of 2002 as we prepared for the launch of America’s Debate. I had several years worth of basic HTML experience, and PHP was a natural progression for me.
It started simple, with my first hack as simple as taking an IP address (from the online list), and making it a link to the Arin WhoIs search. It was really simple.
I eventually built my skills to the point where AD runs a heavily modified version of IPB. Granted, the core functionality remains the same, but the creature comforts we have at America’s Debate as a staff and as a membership blow the doors off many other web forums.
As Invision versions progressed, so did my PHP skills. I went from making simple hacks to making nearly full-blown webapps. One example of which I am most proud is the America’s Debate Resources Directory. That took me several months to develop, and, in my opinion, blows the doors off the Invison Top Site List.
The InvisionTSL is a good script (judging from a user experience, I haven’t seen the code), but it just isn’t meant for a directory. Sure, it can be used as one, but that is not the original intent of the developer. Why anyone would waste their time coding a top site list, I haven’t a clue. But they did, so I made my own.
The InvisionTSL also seems to be a bit bulky. It takes 7 queries to complete a pageload, quite a bit considering the base Invision Power Board index.php takes only 4 queries. My Resource Directory script doesn’t add a single query to the pageload– it’s all cached. And, even when extra queries are required, they are ultra-optimized (the best I can) and run very, very fast.
The next most proud accomplishment I have made is the API/CMS that we use at AD. I basically made my own API/CMS (Application Programming Interface/Content Management System) to get data out of the forum backend and into the website’s front end. It is a very robust script that takes very little overhead to run. Every detail of the non-forum pages at AD is run through a permission filter, and every page is custom-built for the user based on those permissions. It’s a pretty damn slick setup if you ask me.
So, my PHP abilities have greatly increased. From modifying a simple string of text into a link to development of a full-blown resource script and API/CMS, I would say I have learned a bit, and improved a great deal.
So now, The Rebate Center.
I haven’t decided what to name it yet, nor do I really have any good idead for the name. I have only been able to find one other site doing what I plan on doing, and they have a decent domain: rebate-tracker.com.
Fortunately for me, just having a decent domain doesn’t make you the best at what you do. Their software is horrible. Their design is infantile. Their site is obtrusive. Their motives are not clear. That is why their site seems to be failing.
I, on the other hand, have an Internet history. People know who I am because of AD, and if they don’t, they can easily find out. They know I’m not necessarily in it for the money, although I wouldn’t turn it down, either. They know that I’m not about to send SPAM to my users, nor am I going to sell their information to the highest bidder.
People know me from my blog (well, at least one or two do). They know I am just a regular person, not a corporation looking to score fast money on the backs of unsuspecting visitors. And they know I am “The Deal King.”
I think my service will be a bit more trustworthy and dependable than the other rebate tracking site.
So, without further delay, I present to you several screenshots of my development work in progress:
Feel free to post any questions or comments, domain name suggestions, or random thoughts. I am going to try to document my progress here in this post.
Edit Sep. 11, 2006: Too… Much… Spam…. Comments closed. Sorry.