Today is a good day to code

Adding Machine Learning to Nc3 Bb4 Chess

Posted: September 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: artificial intelligence, chess, JavaScript, nc3bb4, Programming | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

While the garbochess engine is plenty strong used in the Nc3 Bb4 Chromebook chess game, I thought it would be interesting to look at adjusting the weighting mechanism by sucessful and unsuccessful outcomes.

The first thing I had to look at was how garbochess weights potential moves.  This took me into the super interesting world of bitboards.  A quick aside,  I have been working on mapreduce for the past few weeks, so looking at early methods of dealing with big data ( chess has an estimated ~ 10120 ) legal moves, in order to successfully evaluate all of the possible moves for a given position, plus all of the possible counters, weight them and choose the best possible move given criteria certainly qualifies as big data.

Interestingly, the approach wasn’t the hadoop approach, the hardware to use such brute force methods wasn’t available, instead early chess programmers tried to filter out undesirable moves, or obvious bad moves, moves that had no clear advantage, etc… What they ended up with was a pretty manageable set of moves for a circa 2011 computer.

The way garbochess considers moves, it looks at mobility for a given piece, control of the center, if a capture is possible, what the point differential for a trade would be, etc… and assigns a score for each possible legal move, it then runs through it repeatedly re-scoring the set relative to the available moves, removing the lowest scored moves, etc… eventually coming up with the best possible move.  What I wanted it to consider, was given that and the specific weights, mobility vs actual point value for a given piece, to use a markov chain for reinforcement learning to describe the entire process of a game and then rate each move with a weight enhancement upon endgame moves as being more important.  Every time the machine takes an action that leads to a success, the heavier the bias on the scoring for a given action.  Failure doesn’t automatically nullify the learning, but it definitely has an effect.

Where I got was a rudimentary implementation of this, as a bunch of housekeeping chores popped up, for example, as this is JavaScript, and all I really have is HTML5 storage, how do I store all of the moves while keeping the system responsive, no O(nn) or O(n2) lookups, what I wanted was to keep it O(n). Obviously that called for a HashMap of a sort, but the serialization / deserialization plus the key system were a challenge.  I didn’t want for it to cause too much overhead for the map / scoring system, as the bit twiddling is already pretty efficient, so I did the best that I could using the FEN + PGN.  The FEN is the state for the markov chain, since one could have a given PGN in many situations, and the weighting system could never be applied against the gravity of the situation.

I need to do more work on weighting changes based on how in trouble the machine is, whether they have an advantage or not, etc… But for a start with machine learning in chess, I think it works.


Why My Faith in HTML5 Has Been Reinstated ( Or How I Learned *again* to Love JavaScript )

Posted: July 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: CSS, JavaScript, Programming | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Over the long weekend, I was lamenting over how many times I had to write the same routines in different languages… Objective-C, Java, PHP, etc… I realized that I have, and would have wasted tons of time writing native code, and how, really most of the functionality of the application can be handled with various features of HTML 5.  Originally I had been against this, but now that the iPhone has finally caught up and has a reasonable processor, I think that the HTML5 experience can be nearly as good as native.

The funny thing is that much of what is driving my decision is the desire to have my applications have data and interfaces that are available everywhere, mobile, web, desktop, etc… aka, the original promise of the web.  Using local caching, the JavaScript key/value store, and the database will help to allow me to provide a compelling disconnected use experience.  The code that I write will be useful across all of the platforms that I use.  The one caveat that I am making is that I need to focus on one browser, or approach, and for that WebKit based browsers seem to be the logical choice.

Now I realize that not all of my application concepts will be possible with HTML5 and JavaScript, however this recent thought experiment I realized that most of the features that I would have normally insisted needed to be done natively can be done with HTML5.  The biggest issue that I have run across is the 5 MB limit on database sizes in Mobile Safari.  I know it was there in iOS 3.x, I don’t think they have lifted this in the current OS.  The other issue is the forced UTF-16 encoding of characters.  While I understand this technically, it makes it difficult to store data larger than 2.5 MB on a device in the SQLite storage available to JavaScript.  The approach taken in desktop Safari, where you can ask the user to increase the available size if your database creation fails is a much better approach.

Another interesting pattern that I see emerging is that of utilizing HTML5 as the UI tier, and establishing the business logic and control structure behind a HTTP server that would expose additional native functionality to the HTML5 app.  The benefit here is that your local server implementation could match the remote server implementation, such that your client APIs could remain consistent.  This seems to me to be the best architecture for minimizing the work involved with porting solutions across platforms.  I absolutely love Cocoa and Objective-C, I enjoy the concepts behind the Android APIs, while despising Java’s syntax, and I think that .net is pretty cool as well, however when it comes to getting applications deployed to the maximum number of users in the leanest manner possible, I think it makes sense to leverage the web heavily up front, and then backfill the native implementations as necessary.


Mides 1.7 New Features and Changes

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, iPhone, JavaScript, mides, PHP, Programming | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I wrote Mides originally to help me to write web applications when I am on the go.  A huge part of web application development is JavaScript.  The iPhone / iPod is an awesome device for heavy client JavaScript apps.  So as a result, I added JSLint in Mides 1.7 to make debugging JavaScript easier.

The main problem with the developer setting in Mobile Safari is that it is inaccessible to other applications.  Since one of the main purposes of Mides is to enable development with either no, or an unreliable internet connection, it wouldn’t be possible for Mides’ internal HTTP server to run and serve the mobile safari application with content.  This is the entire reason I wrote an HTTP server for Mides, so that JavaScript XHRs would work correctly for testing.

What I have done to help out with JavaScript debugging is to modify Douglas Crockford’s JSLint library slightly to make it work on the iPhone.  It helps out with outright errors, but also with many excellent tips for writing safe and readable JavaScript applications.  You can see the errors and optimizations by tapping on the burst and exclamation point icon when it appears over your JavaScript or HTML.  This feature is optional and can be disabled in the iPhone settings.

Another issue I wanted to address with a new feature is that I always forget the argument, or the exact PHP method call that I want to use, especially around MySQL.  I already had the documentation in there, but since it is a full-text search, it tends to take a while.  So I added a new feature that allows you to look up just the method signature, that is the method name and the arguments to the method.  I didn’t want to put a button in there for this, it just didn’t seem right.  I tried for a while to come up with something usable, and I think I have figured out something that works.  You just need to twist the phone to the right ( or left ) to do the code-completion on the method.  If the text before the cursor matches one or more PHP method signatures, then it will add that value in context, in line into your code with the argument types.  If it matches more than one, it will display a modal dialog that will allow you to choose from the top 5 PHP methods that match what you have typed.

One fix that a customer asked for on getsatisfaction.com/mides was that I make tabs parse properly.  I also added that in Mides 1.7, now your tabs will be properly displayed.  To create a tab, just space 5 chars into the document.

I am adding features both at the request of customers on the burgeoning community on getsatisfaction, as well as through my own usage of the product.  I probably won’t implement all of them, but please keep the suggestions coming.  They help tremendously.  Some of them are really tough to implement, but if they make it more usable I’m all for it.

One of the main issues around Mides is moving files onto and off of the phone, Apple hasn’t made it easy, and FTP is not the best solution, it is a nightmare to support, and difficult for users to set up.  I thought about having a small application that you could install on your Mac and PC that would make it much easier to transfer files with, but this didn’t seem like the best solution either.  I am actively thinking through better ways, but nothing so far has really stuck.

At any rate, I am constantly trying to make Mides more useful, I know it has been rough, but I’m glad to see that some of you are starting to get real use out of Mides.  I hope to keep making it better and eventually to rival and in some ways improve upon the desktop coding experience.


Which JavaScript Framework is the Fastest

Posted: April 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: JavaScript, Programming | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I have been wondering for a while which JavaScript framework is the fastest. I was thinking about writing some sort of test to try to determine which one had the best speed, but I have found one that seems to work. Mootools SlickSpeed Test is a good start.

It seems to focus on DOM manipulation / access / iteration speed, rather than testing the functionality built into the frameworks. I suppose that it would be tough since each framework offers different things. When I ran the test, Prototype 1.6.0.2 was the slowest, YUI 2.5.2 was the next slowest, MooTools 1.2 was next up from the bottom, JQuery 1.2.6 was the second fastest, and Dojo 1.1.1 was the fastest by a wide margin in Safari 4 beta, albeit with some errors.

In Google chrome 2.n beta, the results were as follows:

  1. JQuery 1.2.6
  2. MooTools 1.2
  3. Dojo 1.1.1
  4. YUI 2.5.2
  5. Prototype 1.6.0.2

In Firefox 3.0.6

  1. MooTools 1.2
  2. JQuery 1.2.6
  3. Prototype 1.6.0.2
  4. Dojo 1.1.1
  5. YUI 2.5.2

In IE 8 ( Wow IE 8 is slow )

  1. Dojo 1.1.1 ( many errors disqualified )
  2. JQuery 1.2.6
  3. YUI 2.5.2 ( a few errors )
  4. MooTools 1.2
  5. Prototype 1.6.0.2

iPhone Safari ( DNF / Could not run / Simulator)

  1. JQuery 1.2.6
  2. MooTools 1.2
  3. Dojo 1.1.1
  4. Prototype 1.6.0.2
  5. YUI 2.5.2

Android Browser

  1. JQuery 1.2.6
  2. MooTools 1.2
  3. Dojo 1.1.1
  4. Prototype 1.6.0.2
  5. YUI 2.5.2 ( Big Suprise )

What is interesting about these tests is that in general it seems that you should use JQuery if your development pattern involves heavy selector use. I still prefer Prototype because of the programming features that I get with it, even if the selector part is slow. IE 8 breaks a lot of the frameworks. Prototype and JQuery hold up the best it seems. I haven’t really looked at MooTools however.

On mobile devices, you should think long and hard about using any framework that involves added overhead since the devices are really slow. It seems that Dojo supports the built in Safari functions for dom navigation or something. It was wicked fast in Safari 4, but had a few errors. Overall JQuery is probably the best. I guess I’ll have to take a look at it, though reluctantly. I still need to write a test to check iterator performance though.


Safari 4 – Worker Threads… JavaScript Domination

Posted: February 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Companies, Google, JavaScript, Microsoft, Programming | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I do hope you will pardon the hyperbole a bit, but If someone had told me a few months ago that we would have JavaScript threading, which I have been begging for for years, built into the HTML standard.  I would have thought they were crazy.  Now we have a situation where Safari 4, Firefox 3.1, Chrome ( Gears ), and IE 8 ( all in beta ) support it.

Lets look into my crystal ball for a minute.  We have a situation where browser based apps are becoming more and more capable all the time.  Where arguably the most efficient method for developing against mobile devices is to use web technologies, and where we have an insanely awesome JavaScript engine available for general use in any programming system in Chrome.  Looking down the line, I can see that JavaScript will be the primary development language once we start seeing implementations for HTML 5 Web Sockets.  It may be there, I just haven’t checked yet…

If you have Safari 4, or the webkit nightlies, you’ve got to check out this link:

JavaScript Ray Tracer

The speed of JavaScript as an interpreted language is up there with any of the others, in fact, Firefox 3.1, Chrome, and Safari 4 are wicked fast.  Soon, we may not need desktop apps at all, and Microsoft’s bungled ActiveX dream may just come to pass.  What an exciting time to be a developer!


I Finally Found a Real-World Use For AJAX

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: JavaScript, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

I Finally Found a Real-World Use For AJAX

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperI'm working on this project now that makes heavy use of standard javascript, Flash, ColdFusion, and HTML. The project is using the TCallFrame javascript function to control the flash movie. Because of the nature of the project, the timing between the movie refresh calls makes using a refreshing iFrame not possible for the text information that I need to display. Likewise, the text needs to be displayed using complicated styles and colors, controlled by ColdFusion components that Flash can't handle easily.

So I was faced with a dilemma. I couldn't refresh an iFrame without throwing the timing of the TCallFrame request, combined with some javascript cookie writing, I didn't write the original application, and Flash remoting calls. Basically, nothing should happen until the cookie is written, which it doesn't, most of the time.

It eventually dawned on me, not only that the application needed to be strengthened with some type of cookie listener at the very least, and a small-scale rewrite at the most, but that I only really needed the application to think that there was no iFrame refresh, but an AJAX call using an invisible iFrame could work.

So I began working on it and it evolved into a two-part system. On one hand, the div that contained the text to be returned from the ColdFusion components needed to be continuously refreshed, which I found out after struggling with another timing issue. Eventually I realized that the variable that needed to be set in my parent window was empty at the time of the screen refresh because the iFrame hadn't finished loading yet.

So what I had to have happen was for the iFrame to make a javascript function call to the parent once the variable was written. Once I had that accomplished it was easy to have the checkboxes that called the TCallFrame javascript call the function to refresh the iFrame. It worked wonderfully, but unfortunately it still caused a timing issue with the main movie. It delayed the writing of the cookie by a hair. Still it was cool to see, that I had an actual use for AJAX.

I have actually found other uses for it, but none as clear cut as that. Flash just wasn't flexible enough. I'm not reversing myself, I still think that Flash should be most developers' first choice when it comes to remoting, but in a pinch AJAX is allright!


Why Flash is Still Oh, So Wrong for So Many

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: JavaScript, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Why Flash is Still Oh, So Wrong for So Many

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperI have recently come under some minor pressure from various factions about why, while knowing Flash fairly well, I am always reluctant to design and build a flash site featuring the technology. My history with Flash is pretty much the same as most other developers. My first versions of this very site three or four years ago were made entirely in Flash, as were many of my customers sites. Flash seemed like the way to go. It rendered the same in every browser, fonts weren't an issue, and it allowed an incredible amount of freedom to create.

So why then were my sites so problematic. The first issue was one of bandwidth. I had music and lots of motion on these sites. They were extremely interactive and eye catching. The problems came up when users had to come to my site using dial-up. When they hit the site and saw the loading bar, the first thing they did was to click back and go on to another site. My webtrends illuminated this for me. My next step was to go more minimal, which is my favorite thing to do, but then I wondered why I was using Flash at all, because now the motion was mostly gone, and so was the majority of the interactivity. I was using flash simply for the z-index, and I was finding that I could do this with CSS. So, not to be deterred, I did another redesign that kept the motion and interactivity, but minimized the huge bitmap graphics that were giving me the long download times. Instead, I used vector graphics. These were much smaller, but now I had a new problem. If my clients didn't have at least a Pentium 4 running at greater than 2 GHz, my site ran slowly, so slowly that it was almost unusable.

The next issue was that in all the time I had my site, I could never find it using search engines. I discovered that search engines couldn't index my site because they couldn't see through the Flash. To the spider, my site looked like a huge gif in a HTML file with some meta-tags. In other words, it looked like nothing. I tried alt tags, no script tags, etc… but nothing helped. Finally, I decided to design an alternate site for dial-up users using good ol' XHTML and CSS. I found that as soon as I uploaded the file, the search engines had me, and no one ever visited my Flash site anymore.

Suffice it to say that I took my Flash site down. Later, I would redisign my site again so that it would adhere to web standards and could render even faster for all users. That site is this one, and it is the first that I am happy with. I am enjoying some minor success with getting listed on search engines and blog aggregators, and life is good.

I don't hate Flash any more than I hate Allen wrenches or crowbars. It is a tool, and typically you try to use the right tool for the job. It seems to me that many web developers, however are trying to use a sledgehammer to staple two pages together. It just doesn't work. In some cases Flash is OK. In corporate settings, Flash is an excellent tool for presentations, product demonstrations, promotional materials delivered through the company intranet, or from the presenter's local hard drive, as long as it doesn't have to be delivered over the web.

There are a few cases where it is perfectly reasonable for designer / developers to build flash-only web sites for people. Art sites, such as photography showcases can benefit from Flash and its fantastic bitmap compression. Flash photography sites can often download faster than their HTML / CSS counterparts due to smaller image sizes. Some product demonstrations can benefit from Flash and its interactivity. Many cellular phone providers have used Flash to great effect in this regard. Simple branding banners contained within standard HTML / CSS pages with limited motion and interactivity can be excellent, as long as the text of the page is available for the user to read while the Flash is loading.

Still, designers and developers need to ask themselves, what exactly am I trying to do, and who is my target customer? I have had a very hard time making a solid business case for Flash on most of my ecommerce and business sites. Flash, like ColdFusion and Chess, takes only a minute to learn, and can take a lifetime to master. There is a lot to Flash, and a good designer knows how and when to use it to make a site look more professional, or to enhance content that may otherwise appear to be bland. However, beginners seem to tend to develop only in Flash because it addresses many of the apparent problems with XHTML / CSS. Those of browser incompatability, having to learn JavaScript, etc. Someone with limited knowledge of ActionScript and no knowledge of HTML is able to open Flash MX 2004 and create a website. Many designers use Flash exclusively, for this reason.

It seems that XHTML / CSS / JavaScript is having a renaissance. With the proliferation of blog sites, and better browser support of web standards many Flash sites are starting to look tired, and compared with the relative quick response of the HTML sites, many users are deciding to click away from the loading screens in favor of a site with similar content, or products, that is designed in standards compliant XHTML. Not because they love web standards, but because to the user the XHTML site works better and they don't have to wait. I have actually heard designers say that they don't care if dial-up users can't access the site, it has to be beautiful. This thinking is bankrupt, probably 80% of the country is still using dial-up. BroadBand is still frequently ridiculously expensive, and until this changes Flash will be limited to design and car sites mostly, while the bulk of the web is built using XHTML.

I'd actually like to see that change. I'd like to see 3 Mbps synchronous connections standard in every home across the country, and Flash sites loading instantly, but the reality is that it won't happen within the next 5 to 10 years. At least not until garbage cable company decides to charge reasonable rates, and build better fiber backbones, and adequate DNS resources.

In the meantime, I'm quite happy with CSS / XHTML. It does everything I used to do with Flash, but it does it faster and is more accessible. Hopefully more designers will build standards compliant sites, and will realize they can be every bit as beautiful as Flash sites. Check out csszengarden.com to see other great CSS designs.


Microsoft IE Developer Toolbar

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: JavaScript, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Microsoft IE Developer Toolbar

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperI didn't even know about this and it has been out for about a month. Microsoft has heard the cries from web developers used to using Firefox's developer toolbar extension. While it is often pretty easy to validate your pages using Firefox, see how your block level elements are behaving, and look at the DOM of your page using the Firefox extension, it has been almost impossible with the awful lack of tools for Internet Explorer. They have finally addressed this.

The new IE Developer Toolbar has almost everything that its Firefox adversary has, except for the strong javascript debugger. This is very upsetting especially considering the lame debugging that is built into IE today, but with the relative dearth of tools for internet explorer, anything is welcome.

I have found the toolbar to be extremely useful. The DOM inspector is wonderful in that it highlights the selected item if visible to indicate for which item you are viewing properties. If you have to build applications or websites using Internet Explorer at work, I hope you are designing for Firefox at home, no… I guess you always have to design for Internet Explorer, then you will love the new toolbar. I'd suggest that you download it and install it right away.

IE Developer Toolbar


Adobe ColdFusion MX?

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: JavaScript, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Adobe ColdFusion MX?

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperNow, I am almost never one to stand in the way of business progress, however this doesn't seem to be a good day for application developers. There are those who believe that with more capital, everything gets better, but this developer is not one of those people. Does Adobe have better marketing than Macromedia? Arguably, no they don't. Has Macromedia done a great job of marketing ColdFusion? No, they haven't. Will a combined Macromedia and Adobe do a better job than an unacquired Macromedia? Probably not. I don't think that Adobe will put the resources that are needed behind future ColdFusion development. It is just too far away from their core business competency. So just where will ColdFusion go?

It makes sense for Adobe to sell off ColdFusion and Flex, kill Freehand, GoLive, and ImageReady, and roll Dreamweaver and Fireworks into their Creative Suite in their place. It also makes sense for them to continue Breeze development as that is well within their abilities. Flash will probably thrive under the combined company as should RoboHelp, etc…

I think that if Microsoft is paying attention, and I believe they are, it makes sense for them to acquire ColdFusion from Adobe and combine it, Flex, and XAML into one ubiquitous language. It wouldn't be too hard to map ColdFusion to XAML and vice-versa. The benefit to Microsoft is that they could phase out ASP altogether and embrace the tag-based ColdFusion as their web development language of choice. After all it is in line with their corporate vision which is apparently to let web developers make desktop applications as easily as they currently build web applications.

While I don't particularly relish the idea of Microsoft owning my current development lanugage of choice, they do know a thing or two about marketing code, and it wouldn't be difficult to have it run on top of the .net framework and Java so that it could be portable. It would of course be a little faster on the .net framework. Besides, Microsoft ColdFusion just sounds better than Adobe ColdFusion. Having used the VisualStudio beta for C#. I really like it. I could get used to this being my development environment for ColdFusion. It would also be nice for Microsoft to release a VisualWebStudio for Mac and PC centering around ColdFusion. While we are speculating, it would also be nice to have a .net framework for Mac and Linux, but this could take a while.

So, lets assume that Adobe has a clue of what they have in ColdFusion. They could begin to use it to develop their own desktop application language around Flex and the standalone Flash player. This is why Redmond's ears will be perked up today, and for the next couple of years. Adobe has interest in delivering 3D over the web, and Flash makes a good vehicle for this. It would be possible to either expand the Flash player into a Flash runtime and use ColdFusion as the language to create all sorts of juicy applications that spanned the web and the desktop. They would then be in a position to deliver a rapid development environment for desktop applications and would compete squarely with Java and Microsoft in this space, albeit with a much better interface aestetic.

I hope the latter is what will happen. I belive that competition in all aspects of technology are good for consumers and the overall business. Still, either way ColdFusion has either a very bright future, or a very convoluted future. I find it interesting that none of the analysts looking at this acquisition are looking at ColdFusion. I guess that is because it isn't the primary business driver for Macromedia, and Adobe is all about graphics, which is my primary concern.

There is a third option, and one which looks really good to me. It is possible that Adobe will simply allow ColdFusion to languish and eventually the product in that form will atrophy and die. This would be bad, but there is an open source movement for an OSS version of ColdFusion. It would be sweet to see this because it would become more robust, more object oriented, and a lot faster. It would also be more secure because of all the eyes on the code. ColdFusion could become an underground hit, much the way that PHP has been getting a lot of attention recently.

Enter Apple. Has anyone been paying attention to the Apple Widgets in the new Tiger? Does anyone get how important this is? Web developers can create really sexy looking desktop applications as widgets using JavaScript and CSS. This has massive implications as there is already a significant installed base of JavaScript developers, and many of them happen to be pretty good at CSS. JavaScript has been seeing a revival of late and I expect that it will continue. Soon delivering cool applications over the web to Mac users will be easier than it is to learn C# and do it for Microsoft users. Enterprises will feel good about building enterprise applications that use these widgets to communicate with Java applications on the back end. Many people are switching to the Macintosh because they feel more secure running Linux than they do Windows, and this is another reason for businesses to embrace the Mac, although many of them don't realize it yet.

All of this will marginalize the need for PC users to upgrade to Longhorn. Microsoft already is going to have a tough sell to businesses based on the stagnation of hardware sales and the poor business case for upgrading. Most large organizations are still running Windows 2000, and they are going to tell them that they have to upgrade every system company wide in order to run this? If they can get away with it, I'd expect most organizations to upgrade to Macintoshes because of their lighter IT demands and more granular controls over user access.

Microsoft has to get XAML right, and it makes sense for them to buy their only real competition which is ColdFusion, especially now that it is owned by an ally who is almost incapable of understanding it, or its fanatical developer base (of which I am proud to be a part). They would probably let Microsoft have it for a song, and ultimately ColdFusion would be a more robust language with wider appeal. This would be a good thing. But Microsoft really needs to get their act together today if they hope to sell even one copy of Longhorn Server. If CF were bundled in the IIS package with this, I would most certainly upgrade to it. I think that most developers who don't have an irrational hatred of Microsoft would too, if it were a serious effort to make both CF and IIS better. My major gripe with Microsoft is that they make consistently boneheaded business decisions, missing the boat entirely in some places, and jumping out with an idea that is ten years ahead of its time in others. I don't hate them for obscure philosophical reasons, in fact I don't hate them at all, I just think they aren't getting the best out of their products or their developer community, and aren't offering their customers what they want.


Dirty Tricks in Web Advertising

Posted: December 31st, 1969 | Author: | Filed under: JavaScript, Programming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Dirty Tricks in Web Advertising

Picture of Irv Owens Web DeveloperContrary to what most people believe, web advertising is in its infancy. Many companies are still trying to figure out what works, and what doesn't. Their experiments are understandable, they are trying to figure out an audience that spans all known geographic, ethnic, social, economic, racial, religious, ideological, and moral boundaries, phew! That was a mouthful. There are still even newer marketing demographics and sub-demographics being created while they are trying to figure out how to target the old ones. How on Earth is a marketing / web development studio supposed to get a grip on all of it. The answer is elusive, but first I will say what won't get the job done, then we'll explore some ways to get it done.

The way advertisers won't get a grip on web niches is by utilizing dirty tricks in advertising. This includes, but is not limited to, pop-ups, pop-unders, javascript pop-ups, unwanted javascript redirections, flash pop-ups, spam email, and tacky, poorly designed banner ads. Let's look at these one at a time. There has never been a time in the history of the internet where unsolicited pop-up advertisements have been a good thing. As indicated above, this was forgivable because the internet was new, and this was a new way to reach people. Once, however, people began to hate this method of advertising, and demonstrate it by installing software to prevent pop-ups it should have stopped, right. Wrong, instead web marketers began to circuimvent users' defences and use pop-under ads, or advertisements that would come up and hide behind your top browser window, waiting until you closed your browser. Great idea right?!!? Wrong, that is like letting that one advertising exec with the awful ideas in the office get a shot at a limted run of ads. For example, he comes up with A new cola bottle with an overweight child pouring a bag of sugar with the cola label into his mouth, with a moniker reading cola making a big America even bigger. This runs in limited fashion despite the passionate pleas of every focus group it is exposed to. Cola sees a radical drop in its sales numbers, but instead promotes this guy to creative director, thereby putting the ads on billboard all over the country. Eventually Cola goes out of business, a smouldering ruin of its former greatness.

That should never happen in real life. That is the absurdity of trying to irritate users into adopting your product, it just doesn't make sense, and will end up making a company bankrupt. But it didn't stop there, the anti-pop up software got smarter, and was better able to block pop-under, and javascript pop-up windows. Now, there are always going to be an element of shadyness associated with some companies. That is as true in reality as it is on the web, hence unwanted redirections. But there were and are legitimate companies that have used, and are still using these tactics. Surely by now these companies have gotten the message that users don't want a bunch of pop-ups littering their desktops; and they have. The problem now is that in an effort to be less invasive, they have adopted CSS and Flash pop-ups. Talk about dense! People don't want to wait to get to their content. These are barriers, just like splash pages. People will click away.

Spam email is probably the most reviled thing the internet has ever produced, however companies continue to do it, and they put their (click here to remove yourelf from our list) in like 6pt. font at the bottom of their email surrounded by disclaimer information. Most users at this point aren't even looking at the garbage that comes across in their email. They either delete it immediately, or they look at the ad, remember the vendor so that they can never ever buy anything from them again.

Tacky banner ads are the least of the evils described in this article, but they can be just as distracting as pop-ups. Flashing, excessively moving or audible banner ads are no-nos. If you want people to be able to view your website at work without their bosses going nuts, you should make it look professional so that it blends in with the rest of their applications. Not draw attention to it so that they get a repromand for spending too much time on the net.

So, now that we have explored how not to advertise on the net, let's see how to advertise. When I go to Froogle