Monday, May 26, 2008

colnect's new clothes - slicker design


colnect's design had been too long neglected. It's not that I was unaware of the implications of a better looking website but I've delayed handling it since my skills as a graphic designer are not the ones I'm most proud of.
Since today, the site looks much better than before. Some CSS magic could do wonders on a website. There are still many enhancements to be done but they'll have to wait for the new version's launch.
An annoying issue that has to be dealt with over and over again is browser compatibility. It seems different browsers must interpret the standards differently. Personally, I suffice with testing every page on FireFox and IE. IMHO, FireFox is a much better browser and too many sites support only IE properly. The other browsers don't have such a big crowd yet and their crowd probably doesn't use them without resorting to either FireFox or IE occasionally.
Javascript can help with cool things (like these menus) but browser compatibility becomes an even harsher issue and it seems Javascript is a language that must always be tested per browser to ensure that whatever it is that you wrote actually works.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

colnect.com - the new logo

Say hello to the new logo of colnect.com. The magnifying glass is commonly used by collectors when they inspect the quality and finer details of their collectibles.



The website still carries the old Islands Phonecards Database logo but this will soon become history.

Collectible phone cards on Islands Phonecards Database

And this last logo was a candidate but never made it to the finals :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

My visit to WSC ISRAEL 2008



My interest in visiting the world stamp championship exhibition might have been a bit different than that of most visitors. As stamps are the next collectible to be added to colnect, I wanted to get better feeling of the hobby and meet some people with whom some future business cooperation would be achieved.

My experience was enriching as stamps, unlike phone cards, have existed for ~170 years and so have more stories and are more established as collectibles. It's a complete world to discover.

Meeting representatives of a few postal authorities went very well. I tried to interest them about the benefits colnect could bring them. Most of the people I spoke with were excited about the ideas presented and so I hope that the enthusiasm would continue to real actions.

The attached pictures show boards containing some of the world's rarest stamps presented in the exhibition.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The other PR (Public Relations)

Just appropriate that following a post about PageRank, there'll be something with a more positive note.

TheMarker, a popular Israeli newspaper concerning economics, have published an article (in Hebrew) about phone cards collectors and colnect.

The Islands Phonecards Database story now has a Russian version (originally posted in English).

colnect.com has also been mentioned in Telecartofilistas and Dia de Folga, Brazilian blogs in Portuguese.

Monday, May 12, 2008

PR0

Forgive me Google for I have sinned. I don't know the nature of my sin yet but I'll probably eventually figure out what has happened and how come my website, full of original content (it's the world's most extensive resource for collectible phone cards information), has a PageRank of 0, aka PR0.

Seems like the lovely WWW is made of a myriad of rules that dynamically change and are quite hard to obey, even if you're one of the good guys. Unlike the real world where you usually know what's good and what's bad, here you have to figure it out slowly, understanding that causality isn't as evident.

PR0 is considered a punishment but since Google work in mysterious ways (and keep their algorithms confidential), not even a prayer could work here. One has to search deep in his heart (and on the Internet) what it is that was wrongfully done.

So here's my guess
At the end of March, I've moved to a new hosting service and decided to also move to the new domain and so http://telecards.islands.co.il became http://telecards.colnect.com

Since colnect.com (the project which will soon accommodate many different types of collectibles) is still under development I've made redirects from http://colnect.com, http://colnect.org, http://colnect.info and http://colnect.net, as well as from the old http://telecards.islands.co.il

And so, it's possible that this is considered a domain Spam (when one has a few domain that link to each other to get better search engines ranking) although no bad intentions were involved nor any trickery.

But the site's still on top of the results
Strangely enough, although my website was seemingly punished, it's still on top on the results page when Googling for telecards.

There will be more posts on SEO, SERP, Google. Meanwhile you can check out these tools for measuring your website.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Google's AdSense for an international website


This is a technical post explaining how to use Google's AdSense on a multiple languages website.

The problem: having a dynamic website that is available in many languages is great but there has to be a way to let AdSense know which languages the user is currently using so relevant ads would appear in that user's language.

Solution: as I've researched the issue for colnect.com (available in 25 languages), it seems the only way to let AdSense know the page's language is by using different URIs for each language. There's currently no way to pass the language as a parameter to the JavaScript responsible for showing the ads.

The following pictures show the same page in different languages. Note that the AdSense ads match the language of the page.



On colnect.com, each link is now prefixed by two letters which signal which language is used. Thus:

http://telecards.colnect.com/fr/browse.php

Refers to a French-language (fr) page while:

http://telecards.colnect.com/es/browse.php

refers to a Spanish-language (es) page.

Calling the relevant PHP script and converting the language prefix to a parameter is easily done using Apache's mod_rewrite.

An important issue I had to address is what happens when one user sends a link or publishes a link. Let's say I know both Spanish and English and prefer to view colnect.com in Spanish. However, perhaps some of my contacts know Hebrew and English but not Spanish. Thus if I send a Spanish-language link to a Hebrew-speaking user, it would be a shame if the site would show up in Spanish and confuse the other person.

To address this issue the language information is saved in the session and the user is redirected to the appropriate link according to his session language. If no session information is found, the language referred to in the link is used. The language is also saved in the user's account so if one logs in using a page in any language, upon a successful log in the language is changed to the previously chosen one

Here's the example (the two letters note the language: es = Spanish, en = English):

If you're visiting the site for the first time, this link will show a Spanish page:

http://telecards.colnect.com/es/browsecoll.php?filter_country=y

Now, if you change the language to English (on the bottom of the side menu - there's a combo-box), you will be redirected to:

http://telecards.colnect.com/en/browsecoll.php?filter_country=y

So now, if you try a Spanish link such as:

http://telecards.colnect.com/es/browsecoll.php?filter_country=y&country=105

You'll automatically be redirected to:

http://telecards.colnect.com/en/browsecoll.php?filter_country=y&country=105

You can change into any of the 25 supported languages and you'll see the AdSense ads now appear in the correct language:

| English | العربية | Български | 汉字 | Hrvatski | Česky | Nederlands | Suomi | Français | Deutsch | Ελληνικά | עברית | Magyar | Italiano | 우리말 | Polski | Português BR | Português PT | Română | Русский | Slovenščina | Español | Svenska | ภาษาไทย | Türkçe |

Hopefully this post gave a sufficient outline to a working solution.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Collectible phone cards database passed 90,000 listed cards today

A few months ago, I've decided that it's too hard for one person to gather all the requested information about collectibles that needs to be out there for the collectors to use. Even worse, I'm not a collector myself thus can easily do some embarrassing mistakes.

So the decision was made to let the collectors on the site help with what's most important for them on the site - information about their collectibles.

At the time, Islands Phonecards Database (later renamed colnect.com) had ~30,000 listed collectible phone cards. The amount of listed phone cards have been growing quite rapidly and as of today over 90,000 cards (from 172 countries) are listed! Collectors managing their personal collection on the site have ~2.5 million physical collectible phone cards!

Who deserves kudos for this achievement? Not me, I was just providing the technology that allowed the collectors to place the content they wanted. Many collectors have become contributors and editors and I'd like to thank them all.

Most importantly, Vadym Sulimenko has been coordinating the contributions and supporting collectors who wanted to help but needed guidance.
These are the collectors who have recieved 3 contribution stars on our site which mean they were working long and hard on making the site as good as it is: Brocky Godzilla harmesse Hugo2 iflvico mozistv nzexchange Paolo73 thorsten.

My inspiration for the catalog building process is taken from WikiPedia though I prefer to give editing rights slowly. Random visitors cannot update any information. Registered collectors can comment and upload photos on the site or contribute new card information which will be reviewed by more experienced contributors.

Internationalizing the site


colnect.com is available in 25 languages:
English | العربية | Български | 汉字 | Hrvatski | Česky | Nederlands | Suomi | Français | Deutsch | Ελληνικά | עברית | Magyar | Italiano | 우리말 | Polski | Português BR | Português PT | Română | Русский | Slovenščina | Español | Svenska | ภาษาไทย | Türkçe |

Personally, I can communicate well in only 3 languages, fake some conversation in a few more and use some phrases to amuse an audience in a party. That still doesn't amount to 25 languages with their different scripts.

How was this done? The answer is simple: when your users love your project and enjoy its services, the nicer ones are keen to help when asked nicely.

The technology behind translations is quite straight-forward although different approaches exist. The important thing is to provide the translators with an easy interface they can understand. Handing out a text file full of expressions needing translations is a bad call for two reasons: it's boring for the translators and the translations may be out of context.

On the side of this post you can see the way translators (collectors) on colnect.com - Islands Phonecards Database are helping out. As they use the site, small "translate" icons appear next to expressions that haven't been translated yet. Clicking one such icon pops out a window that allows submitting the translation. When translated, the "translate" icon is gone. It can later be restored to correct the translation - that's why you see so many of them in the picture attached.

There are most issues about creating a multi-lingual collectors website but I prefer to keep my posts short.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Islands Phonecards Database story

To learn a bit about colnect.com and its history you're welcomed to read this post made by a collector.

Statrup 2.0 competition

colnect.com is participating in a competition called “startup 2.0“.

The reason to go on this competition is to get some exposure but I’m wondering how votes would actually be cast when 141 companies (as of now) participate. Will any person actually review ALL THESE COMPANIES? I doubt it. My assumption is that lobbying is the name of the game and perhaps social networking would provide a useful tool. “Come along and vote for me” campaigns or “get me some 10,000 people from a third world country to vote for me” are most likely to get the companies to the final stage where the judges will have their say.

So, since my limited budget cannot afford 10,000 third-world country votes, I pledge thee “come along and vote for me” :)

colnect.com now blogs

The main reason for starting this blog is promoting my project - colnect.com

The main reason for you to possibly read it would be that perhaps my insights as an entrepreneur of a cool web2.0 project currently under development would be of some service.

I’ll try to keep it interesting.

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