Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

March 16, 2007

A Simple Mathcha

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 9:35 pm

If you’ve ever visted the home of my text messaging sites, freetext.biz you may have noticed it has a contact form. Lately, I’ve been getting about 100 messages / day on the contact form. The problem with that though, is that only 1-2 of them are from actual humans. The rest are from spam bots sending me URLs.

I’m not sure why a spam bot would want to send me a URL in my email, but that’s their perogative.

Anyway.. you’ll notice now that I added a simple math captcha to the form. Here’s what it looks like:

mathcha form

Why did I choose a mathcha instead of the standard image? It’s because I think that images are sometimes hard to read, and usually annoy visitors. Don’t believe me? Check out this ticketmaster example:

bad ticketmaster captcha

(note: captcha is an acronym for completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart… mathcha is a made up word that really means math captcha)

If you want to do something similiar, here’s how you can do it in just about 10 lines of code:

on your form page:

on your form handler:

There ya go. That's a 30 second mathcha. Feel free to use it however you want. I know it's really simple stuff, but let me know if it actually helps anybody.

March 15, 2007

What’s The Deal With Proxies?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 11:22 am

A while ago, a friend and I decided we wanted to invest in another website. Not knowing what we wanted to invest in, we headed over to the sitepoint marketplace to look for something interesting to buy.

While we didn’t find anything worthwhile, we were amazed at the amount of proxy sites for sale. Doing a search for the word proxy on sitepoint will yield about 6 pages of proxy sites for sale. At 30 sites per page, that’s (checks fingers) 180 proxy sites for sale.

Now I’ve never needed to use a web proxy site in my life, so my question is: have you? Have you ever used a web proxy? Why? What for? A common answer I’ve heard is for accessing stuff like MySpace at school or work, but I can’t see that being too common. Is it?

Most of these sites for sale seem to use some open source scripts. Mainly php proxy and PageForward.

I couldn’t believe there was such a market, so I decided to test it out. I registered the domain name unblockd.com (note: there’s no e in there) and put up my own little proxy. Of course, I didn’t tell anybody about it until now (note: Also today I added a link to it on web search express).

It would seem that there IS a market for proxies. Without doing a damn thing, I started getting traffic. As a matter of fact, that little adsense ad there actually made enough to cover the cost of the domain name.

So my question is, why do you use a proxy if you do? And why do we need so freaking many of them?

March 13, 2007

Why Are Car Dealerships Backwards?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 10:58 am

Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk into a car dealership and say “I want this model, this color, with a hybrid engine, rear wing spoiler, bose sound system, leather seats, no sunroof, no sirius radio, etc.”?

The car dealer would say “ok, we’ll have that for you in 3 weeks. See you then.”

Life would be great.

Instead, we’re left to pick with whatever is left on the lot – and it’s driving me crazy.

I’m trying to buy a Mazda6, in red or black, with a wing spoiler, 6 cyllinder engine, leather seats, bose sound. Unfortunately, I can’t find one that doesn’t include the $400 sirius radio, or the $1000 sunroof options. It just seems silly to me to pay $1400 for options that I don’t want in my car.

In addition, none of these cars seem to have the iPod adapter that mazda offers built in – so I’d have to pay more to have it added after the fact. Does this seem silly to anybody else?

Imagine if your local steak place worked this way:

“Hi, I’d like a filet mignon, medium rare, with wild mushroom ragot and a baked potato.”

“oh, I’m sorry sir. In order to get the wild mushroom ragot sauce you’d have to get the sirloin, and that only comes in well done. If you want the filet though, we have a nice medium rare with barbecue sauce and steak fries.”

Why do we put up with this crap from car dealerships when it obviously wouldn’t fly in other industries?

March 10, 2007

Personal Web Design Degree

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 6:45 pm

My Friend Ryan Doom has a page where he talks about The Personal MBA. Basically, it’s a list of reading material that’s pretty equivalent to what you’d study if you went back for an MBA.

I decided to do something different with this post. Instead of writing about a degree I want, I’m going to write about what I know.

I myself currently only have a computer science degree, however I’ve been working in web development since the mid 90’s. So, here’s my Personal Web Development Degree.

You’ll notice this degree isn’t just about coding. I’ve tried to throw in a robust mix of anything I think somebody working on the web should know. It’s organized by Topic. Here goes:

Programming Languages:

I’ve tried to pick some main programming languages just like most experts at this Web design Manchester company. I’ve based them on popularity and style. Some of you may notice that I’ve left out ASP and .NET and that’s by choice. I really don’t know those languages so I don’t feel qualified to recommend books on them. I don’t, however, feel that knowing ASP is crucial to being a good web developer.

  • HTML – HTML is a must for anyone. There’s no need to get a book, just visit htmlprimer.com and get started.
  • CSS – The web is trending toward standards compliant design. Start off right with Jefferey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards
  • JavaScript – If you want the hardcore javascript experience, you have to get the Wrox Professional Javascript. If you need a quick primer or a basic introduction, try the Visual Quickstart book.
  • AJAX – Ok, it’s not really a language but it’s still something you really should know. Try Head Rush Ajax for a unique approach to learning.
  • PHP – A great resource for php is the offical website: php.net but if you’re like me and need a physical book in front of you, check out the Wrox Beginning PHP
  • MySQL – The Wrox PHP book covers the basics of MySQL, but for the advanced stuff check out Jeremy Zawodny’s High Performance MySQL
  • Python – You pretty much can’t get a job at Google without knowing Python (at least that’s what I was told in my interview.) If you want to learn the basics quick, check out Dive Into Python. If you want to save money, it’s also available free online.
  • Ruby On Rails – It’s also a good idea to learn some sort of framework – if only to familiarize yourself with what a framework is and how they work. Sure you could use the php prado framework, but then you wouldn’t be expanding yourself into multiple languages. With Rails, you get to learn Ruby as well. Don’t worry about needing an intrd to Ruby book, Agile Web Development With Rails has a great appendix that will get you up to speed.


You can’t have a web page without content. The following classes deal with the non code side of a website. Here you’ll learn about things like copywriting, usability, and SEO.

  • Net Words should be the bible of copywriting. It’s a bit older, but everything it says still holds true today.
  • Of course you can’t have a website that doesn’t look good. Sum up everything that a design degree would entail with the new SitePoint book Principles of Beautiful Web Design
  • Anybody who deals with any part of a website should be familiar with search engine optimization. Sadly, not many web professionals even know what SEO stands for. While there’s tons of great books out there on the subject, I’d suggest looking online at places like Matt Cutts Blog. If you want a great overview of the field, try SEO for Dummies.
  • Usability is another topic that everybody thinks they know but really have no idea what they’re talking about. Nobody does usability better than Steve Krug in his book Don’t Make Me Think
  • There’s a lot of crappy news articles on the web. Don’t produce crappy articles, pick up an Ap Style Guide and learn to write like a professional journalist. As a bonus, the current edition also contains a primer on media law – another important topic.

Other Topics

The following books all add to the robustness of the degree. They don’t really fit a category, but they’re very useful nonetheless. Their topics range all over the place but that’s essential into getting a rounded education.

  • Software testing is just as important as development. Unfortunately, they don’t teach testing well in college. Mike Andrews has given talks on testing at various companies (Google included) and his book How To Break Web Software is short, concise, and a great reference. In addition to his book, Mike has a great lecture online that covers a lot of the book’s topics.
  • Business on the internet is no different than business in the real world – it’s still business. For that reason, it’s important that all web professionals are familiar with common marketing terms and philosophies. Dummies books are great for getting a basic overview of a topic, and Marketing For Dummies is no different.
  • The AP style Guide’s media law primer is great, but it’s not as full as it should be. Ethics are different than laws in that some legal actions may not always be good actions. Readings in CyberEthics is a collection of essays about various topics in cyber ethics.
  • I could do a whole blog post about John Battelle’s The Search but instead I’ll just tell you that it’s a must read book about Google, building an internet business, and what the future of the internet holds in store.
  • Speaknig of search, I’m amazed by how many professionals aren’t that good at it. Google Hacking For Penetration Testers will not only teach you how to get the most out of your searches, but it’s an invaluable tool for exposing web vulnerabilities as well.

Magazine Subscriptions

Subscriptions to the following magazines will also be required for this course:

In a few days, this post will be available from the main menu of dotCULT.com. In addition, I may update or add new books or classes as I see fit. If you have any reccomendations, suggestions, or comments please leave them below.

March 8, 2007

Degree Opinion Wanted

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 10:59 am

My company is moving next month (to a place that’s a 41 mile drive from my house.. but that’s another story) and the new building is right across the street from Oakland University.

Since I’ve always wanted a masters degree, I’ve decided that this might be a good time to go back. Classes would be very close to work (I could walk from work to class), and I’d have the time.

But what degree should I get?

It’s currently between the Engineering Management and the Software Engineering degree. I just can’t decide.

My bachelors is in computer science (from Michigan.) I’m leaning toward the management degree right now because it looks like the software engineering degree would repeat a lot of classes that I had at Michigan.

Any opinions? I’d appreciate them. Thanks.

March 7, 2007

Where’s The MP3 Version Of YouTube?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:18 pm

The idea behind YouTube was simple: Users upload videos, other watch and comment on them. It was so simple that it quickly grew it’s own massive social network aspect. Aside from that it was useful. It allowed users to view and upload their videos easily. It just worked and it caught on.

My question is this: Why did we start with video? Where’s the audio version? If I’m a band wanting to host music files, where do I go?

I know bands are using myspace now, but don’t you think there would be a huge promotional value to an audio type site like YouTube? It’d be a great way to find new artists CDs to buy.

Of course, you may be quick to mention that as soon as somebody tries this they’ll be sued out of oblivion by the RIAA. It doesn’t take much to see that users will quickly upload all of their illegal mp3 files to the site to share.

But does that mean the site is responsible for them?

If we look at the YouTube to mp3 scenario the courts have consistently ruled that YouTube is not responsible for what its users do with its service. That is to say if I record a TV show and post it on YouTube, I’m liable for that; not YouTube.

Of course the same law says that if a copyright holder files a DMCA request, that the site must remove the infringing videos. Sounds fair to me.

So again, why isn’t there an audio version of youtube for aspiring (and even commercial) bands to upload their music to? I’m sure college professors could even upload lectures. I’d use it.

Also, why is there the double standard? Why would any music site doing this be shut down immediately while the same laws let its video counterpart succeed?

Snakes On A Plane

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 11:34 am

I just watched Snakes On A Plane the other nite. It was actually a pretty decent movie. I can’t understand why people are complaining about it. If anything, it was brutally honest. It gave you just what it promised. Snakes. Plane. Samuel L Jackson saying things like “motherfucking snakes” and “motherfucking plane.” What more could you ask for?

Snakes on a Plan delievers exactly what it promises: snakes… on a plane.

Sure, there were some factual errors. If you’re an animal buff you’ll notice where some snakes are digital and that the real snakes are all non-poisonous look-alikes, but that doesn’t really detract from the movie. I thought it was worth the rental fee.

March 6, 2007

I’m Sick

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 3:01 pm

I have Bronchitis and it’s not fun. According to the breathing test the doctor gave me, I’m about 2/3 of the breathing capacity that I should be.

I also have a nose that won’t quit running, a wheeze when I breathe, a fever, a nasty cough, and diahreah (although I suspect that’s due to my pizza and whiskey diet.)

I’ve also been tired as hell lately (again, playing hockey twice a week while sick isn’t helping) ((although I did score 5 points last game while hungover and sick)) ((( is there such a thing as double or triple parenthesis?))) ((((I feel like a LISP programmer))))

Anyway.. I’m on a steroid inhaler and some vicodin cough syrup. If anybody ever has trouble sleeping, try vicodin cough syrup.

On a side now, the bronchitis wikipedia article is a good indication of why not to trust wikipedia. That article lists smoking as the cause, but I’m not a smoker.

According to my doctor, acute bronchitis (which I have) is viral. Chronic bronchitis is caused by smoking or pollution.

Bad Beats – A Poker Story

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 10:38 am

For as much as I play poker, you’d think that I would mention it on my blog more often eh? Apparantley not. Anyway, I played in a roughly 100 person tournament this weekend (I’m not sure of the total entrants.. it was between 70 and 100). It was a charity game ran by the Axemen – they’re a professional firefighter motorcycle club that basically does a ton of charity work.

Anyway, I ended up taking 17th position (my friend Bryan took 20th or so).

Here’s how I lost:

I was in the big blind, and there was a small raise pre flop. Everybody else folded so I called the discounted price to see with some pretty crappy cards. I usually like heads up chances because I’m confident that I can outplay people after the flop – this was no exception.

The flop came up with an ace and a flush draw, I caught nothing. He checked to me and I checked to see a free card. The turn card was a 9 – that gave me a really low pair but also made a flush possible. Action was on the original raiser who came out firing with an “all – in.” Something didn’t seem right. This guy had been talking for hours about how he never bluffs (and he wasn’t forced to show one all night), but he’d gone all-in a lot recently and won a few pots with it to invest and win even more paying at ?? ???.

I asked for a chip count.

Calling his all in would have left me with exactly 1 big blind. I thought for a second, then announced “you’re bluffing, I call” and turned over my crappy pair of nines. His smile faded as he turned over his K-10. No straight draw, no flush draw, no pair – nothing. I was right!

Then the river – 10. Owell, at least the event had free food and beer. I made sure I got my $65 worth of that!

March 3, 2007

Kitten Videos Part 2

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 3:06 pm

To those of you who read this for other reaons, I appologize. My family has requested more cat updates of Who Dey, so I’m providing.

On the technical side, I just bought a $20 AirLink 101 USB video capture adapter, and it seems to have worked pretty well. The quality isn’t that great but I think it’s due to the fact that my camcorder is about 5 years old. I’m not much of a video guy.

Anyway… You might ask why the videos are being hosted on Google Video and it’s because I tried YouTube and I like Google Video better. After veryifying my email on YouTube, it still asked me to verify my email – so I was stuck waiting. Anyway, Google video’s interface seems better too, but that’s another post. On to the videos:

Here’s a good one of Who Dey Playing fetch:

She also likes to jump. Here’s a couple of her jumping… Before you complain though, it’s hard to play with the cat while holding a video camera.

here’s another:

That’s it for now. By the way, why doesn’t Google video have a category pre made for cat videos? They should!

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