Review App

Internet Entrepreneurs Blog

Domain Builder Tool & Review App Software Package

June 27th, 2011

We’ve been busy cranking out Review App sites for ourselves and a few select clients and one of the challenges we’ve found is picking a good domain name. These days all the obvious domain names are taken and while we’ve had success getting creative, it’s time consuming to think about and try all the possible word combinations that exist. So we built a tool to make the process a whole lot easier.

Just plug in the primary word (or words) you’d like in your URL into our free domain name builder and we’ll spit out a few dozen choice domain names. For example, the word “snow” becomes snow411.com, snowapp.com, etc. Neat.

Speaking of neat stuff, since we haven’t been able to take on new Review App clients we decided to package up our scripts into a tidy software package you can install and configure on your own server. Once we get the documentation cleaned up we’ll offer downloads starting at $249 for a single domain license (design professionals, ask us about bulk licensing options).

We’ve already set up a demo site you can play around with – just get the details by clicking the “Demo” tab at the top of this page. If you like what you see, stay tuned right here and we’ll let you know when the software goes on sale.

Charging for Online Content?

May 7th, 2009

I read a fascinating article today about Rupert Murdoch’s plans to charge for content on News Corp. websites within a year in a move that could start a much larger trend. Or it could totally backfire. Who knows.

A few choice quotes from the CNN.com article:

We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning.

Agreed, though these malfunctions aren’t for the reason you might assume (the death of print).

The people who are placing a low value on online content aren’t the readers – clearly they value content because they spend time consuming it – it’s actually the advertisers. If online ad revenues can’t support decent web content, it’s because advertisers haven’t recognized that’s where the eyeballs are. For years people said newspaper subscription sales just barely covered actual printing costs while ad sales covered everything else (paying reporters, etc.). By that logic, if print costs go to zero (online), shouldn’t subscriptions be free? Bottom line: major advertisers need to shift their budgets online and pay reasonable rates for display ads.

The current days of the Internet will soon be over.

Wow, that’s a bold statement but that’s what makes him Rupert Murdoch. The internet landscape is constantly shifting – who would have predicted that social networking would have stayed so hot for so long…

(Murdoch) said 360,000 people had downloaded an iPhone WSJ application in three weeks. Users would soon be made to pay “handsomely” for accessing WSJ content, he added.

Yikes, paying “handsomely” sounds a little evil. Then again, News Corp. is simply playing by the internet rules established thus far: entice a huge user base with free stuff, then (try to) start charging once they’re hooked. WSJ is a pretty big franchise with valuable content so I suspect they will be successful in monetizing mobile content. MySpace (another News Corp. brand), on the other hand, will probably have a difficult time convincing users to pay for content. Ever.

Only time will tell if “the current days of the internet days will soon be over”… stay tuned!

DVD Player FAIL vs. VCR

April 24th, 2009

dvd-player

Let me start this off by saying I’m no neo-Luddite – I like to think I embrace the latest technology just as quickly as the next person (though I’m more of a rev. 2 kinda guy for practical reasons). Anyway, I can’t be the only person that gets annoyed by the lack of control DVD players give consumers.

Remember the old days when you popped in a VHS tape from Blockbuster to watch a movie and you’d hit play then fast forward to skip past the FBI warning, previews, and credits? Annoying, yes, but not as annoying as popping in a DVD and hitting menu only to see a “Not permitted” message flash on your television while you are forced to sit through the FBI warning, the “commentary expresses the views of the actors and not the studios…” message, and these days, the beginning of the previews. DVD manufacturers have taken freedom away from consumers and as a freedom-loving American this pisses me off.

Yep, the studios must be quite satisfied with DVD technology since it allows them to control every aspect of the home viewing experience. What’s next – the inability to fast forward through slow parts of the films themselves? Eject button stops working during the credits? No pausing?

I read commentary recently where one writer noted the irony of the FBI warning on DVDs these days. Pirated copies don’t have this warning (obviously) so studios are really just wasting the time of honest, paying customers and not getting the message out to those who need to see it.

As soon as movie companies stop treating their paying customers like a captive audience of criminals I’m convinced good things will happen. Power back to the people!

Review App Is Off The Market

April 21st, 2009

* Updated 4/23/09 *

Well, it’s been about 3 weeks since we announced that Review App is free but as of today we’re pulling the plug on the free downloads. It turns out we’re not really set up to be in the software business…

So far only a handful of people have downloaded Review App and these are the patterns that are emerging:

  • Requests are coming from China where we’re afraid our licensing agreement will be ignored
  • Non-technical users need too much installation support (we honestly don’t have time)
  • Spammers: Review App is pretty powerful and could be used to set up spammy websites with thousands of search engine indexed pages. Obviously we don’t want the software to be used this way.

We may still implement review sites for select clients using the Review App base so if you’re serious about your online review project, go ahead and contact us.

iTunes DJ is no Genius

April 6th, 2009

itunes

iTunes has been the best MP3 software for PC and Mac for years now but there are some things Apple still hasn’t gotten right. Most notably, the DJ feature which has been included for years now, is really nothing more than a modified “shuffle” interface. Sure, it randomly picks songs and plays a constant stream of tunes while allowing you to nix upcoming songs and see previously played tracks – but it could do sooo much more.

FIrst of all, DJ should automatically skip audiobooks, musicals, and any other genres that are associated with spoken word or need to be played in order. There’s no better way to end a party early than to break into Charlton Heston reading Genesis on the hi-fi. The same goes for the voicemail messages I’ve downloaded from my online service that end up stored in iTunes (my default Quicktime player.) Not party.

iTunes DJ also doesn’t understand length conventions when it comes to song selections. If a song is less than a minute long it’s probably not a real song – more of an interlude or skit – and it should be skipped. On the other hand, if a song is more than 6 minutes long or so it’s probably not a good party choice either – Americans like variety and we have short attention spans so skip the ballads Mr. DJ.

Finally, when it comes to parties iTunes DJ should skip the comedy tracks. Now I love Wierd Al songs as much as the next guy but I’d rather not show off my collection while the ladies are bumping and grinding. Jerry Seinfeld is funny too but he’s not easy to dance to.

All of these shortfalls are simple enough to fix and it’s not as if iTunes needs to develop any sort of artificial intelligence to filter out the junk. This DJ just needs some simple rules to rock the party (or the coding session).

Conditional Formatting

March 31st, 2009

cond-formatcond-format-action

Sometimes you want to make certain listings stand out more than others on category pages and with conditional formatting Review App makes it happen. Just choose the CSS style you’d like to apply to “special” listings, choose the field that will determine “specialness,” and the value that makes a listing special. It’s that easy.

Here’s a practical example. On our camping website we offer campground owners the opportunity to purchase a “sponsored listing” for their business. We created a hidden input/output field called “promotion” and for sponsored campgrounds we set the value of promotion to 1. On the “Category Appearance” page for our campground section we set conditional formatting to use CSS class “highlight1″ for any listing where promotion = 1. You can see the results in the right image above.

Conditional formatting is just one more way Review App helps you monetize you online business. Stay tuned for more BIG news…

Pending and Deferred Posts

March 24th, 2009

After using Review App ourselves for over a year we realized that the available review statuses – pending and active – weren’t enough. If you administer a website you know that sometimes you don’t want something posted online but you also don’t want to delete it forever – and it’s not really “pending” either because you already made a decision about what to do with it. Now Review App allows you to mark any item – a listing, review, or photo – as “inactive.”

So how does this work in practice? Here’s a real world example: On our camping website we’re only set up for campground reviews in the US but every now and then a member tries to submit a Canadian campground. Instead of deleting the campground forever, we mark the listing as “inactive” so it doesn’t appear on the site OR in our pending queue. If, one day, we decide to add a category for Canadian campgrounds we can simply activate the appropriate inactive listings – nothing is lost!

We also enjoy keeping funny (to us anyway) reviews or listings like this one:

how do Igetthere fromdayton,ohio

Seriously, though it’s helpful to keep reviews like this to track usability issues. Perhaps your site is confusing to users and several folks make the same mistake thinking your review form is a contact form, for example.

Inactive listings are super helpful for managing high volume, user-generated content websites – just one more way Review App allows you to rock your online business!

The Internet Was Supposed to Save Us from the Middlemen

March 20th, 2009

Remember the late 1990s? It was such a magical time for the internet with big promises of using the web to slash prices on everything from pet food to real estate to airline fares by “cutting out the middle man.” Yes, the late 1990s were a trying time for the middle man but it seems like in the era of Web 2.0 he’s been able to get back on his feet.

I’m particularly disappointed to see the middle man butting his way into the online ad sales market. You see I’m an online publisher who makes a living building great websites for niche communities (like mountain biking) and online ads are a major revenue stream for me. Advertisers like REI and Sierra Trading Post place their ads on my websites and I get paid every time someone either views or clicks on an ad (depending on the arrangement). Seems simple and fair, huh? It isn’t.

Instead of working with me directly, REI and Sierra Trading Post end up buying ads across multiple websites using services like Google Adwords or the increasingly ubiquitous “ad network.” For those who don’t know, an ad network aggregates publishers within a particular niche (say outdoor sports) and then bundles pageviews across all those small and medium-sized websites into a neat package for advertisers. The ad network does the “hard work” of tracking down the advertisers and convincing them to purchase online ads and for that, they are rewarded half (50%) of the ad revenues generated via their publishers’ pageviews. Fifty percent is a pretty steep commission for a middle man.

As a publisher I look at it this way: I work hard getting people to visit my website (branding, marketing, coding, writing, etc.) but at the end of the day I give half of my money to someone else who sold my ad inventory for less than it’s worth. Why did they sell it for less than it’s worth? Because to them any sale is worth more than no sale at all (as a publisher there are always alternative ways to monetize pageviews). Ad networks are classic middle men – they don’t allow buyers and sellers to speak directly to work out a deal that makes sense for both parties.

I could go on about why the online ad industry is horribly inefficient and unfair to publishers but I’ll close this post with an idea: Why not use the internet to match ad buyers and sellers? It’s a novel concept I know (sarcasm) but consider that when financial stocks are bought and sold the middle men (traders) take just pennies per share for matching buyers and sellers (less than one percent of the transaction value). A fifty percent cut, on the other hand, is simply an embarassment of riches that economics tells us will be competed away in the future (sooner rather than later I hope). A NASDAQ for online ad sales? I can only dream.

Additional User Sign Up Fields

March 15th, 2009

From the beginning we’ve worked hard to keep Review App simple but in some cases we made things a little too simple. For example: in order to make it easy for users to sign up for an account on a Review App site we kept the questions to the bare minimum – email address and user name. Many of you, however, wanted to find out more about new members upon sign up and we support your right to choose (though our own sites still keep it old school).

To add a user data field to your new member sign up form, simply mark “yes” to the question, “Ask on sign up?” and it will be a part of the sign up process. We recommend you keep the fields asked on sign up to a minimum – maybe add short questions like gender and zip code – to keep the new member registrations flowing. Remember, even if you’re offering free accounts no one wants to fill out a long form just to access your site features!

New features: De-dupe tool & improved notifications

March 11th, 2009

Just wanted to talk about two new features we added to Review App recently:

De-dupe tool

If you run a medium or large size review site you know that from time to time you’ll end up with duplicate user-submitted listings. Sometimes these “dupes” can go undetected for months until you realize you have two listings for the same place, each with its own reviews, photos, etc. What to do?

With the de-dupe tool, just enter the duplicate listing ID and the original listing ID and presto! Review App handles the rest. All the duplicate listing reviews, photos, tags, and list entries will be moved to the original listing and the duplicate listing will become inactive. Sweet, huh? That feature has already saved us countless hours on the sites we manage so we know you’ll appreciate it too.

Improved notifications

With Review App you can choose to be notified via email when new listings, reviews, or photos are added and we’ve given you even more flexibility in setting notification rules. Only want to be notified for guest reviews but not for registered user reviews? No problem. Want to auto-approve registered members’ reviews but moderate guest reviews? Review App makes it easy.

Other stuff

We’re also working on behind-the-scenes stuff that makes Review App easier to upgrade and customize while improving speed as well (although it’s already lightning fast). We’ll keep you updated right here via the blog…