Categories
Blog

Introducing the AskSteem Search Engine

This article was originally published on Steemit.com

Asksteem

Over the past month, I’ve been building a new search engine that indexes the steem blockchain. It’s currently live at asksteem.com. The goal of AskSteem is to provide a reliable, powerful, and fast search engine that is optimized for steem. In this post, I’d like to cover some of the features that are available.

Query Syntax

There are many different ways that you can query the AskSteem index. I’ve created a video demonstrating each of them, but you may also read their descriptions and examples below.

Keyword/Phrase Search

Like many other search engines, you can search for general phrases and terms. AskSteem will try its best to find the document that is most relevant to your query based on our ranking algorithm. Example Queries: Tip: Click the example to go to that query on AskSteem How to buy bitcoin What is steem Markdown tutorial

Exact Search

Putting a query into quotes requests that AskSteem only returns documents that have exactly that phrase in that order. Example Queries: "How to buy bitcoin" "What is steem" "Markdown tutorial"

Tag Search

AskSteem allows you to filter posts by tag. Example Queries: tags:life tags:steemit

Author Search

You can filter posts by the author too. Example Queries: author:thekyle author:abit author:steemit

Creation Date Search

AskSteem provides a highly flexible and powerful date search tool for posts. You can search by exact date or by date range. Dates must be in the form of YYYY-MM-DD. Example Queries: Search for all posts posted on June 2, 2017 created:2017-06-02 Search for all posts posted between May 1, 2017, and May 31, 2017 created:[2017-05-01 TO 2017-05-31]

Search by Number of Votes/Comments

Similar to dates AskSteem has another set of robust tools that allow searches based on the number of upvotes or comments a post receives. Example Queries: Posts with 150 votes: net_votes:150 Posts with between 100 and 150 votes net_votes:[100 TO 150] Posts with 50 comments: children:50 Posts with between 40 and 50 comments: children:[40 TO 50] Posts with more than 50 comments: children:>50 or less than 50: children:<50 this also works with votes, less than or equal to 10 votes: net_votes:<=10

Searches with Boosts

You can prioritize certain parts of your query with boosts. These are indicated by placing a ^n at the end of a term, where n is the power you want to boost that part of the query to. Example Queries: Give the term bitcoin a boost of two: I really want posts to have the term bitcoin^2 in them. Give the term mine a boost of two, and term steem a boost of three: How to mine^2 steem^3

Inclusive/Exclusive Search

You can indicate whether you want documents to contain certain terms by placing a + or a - in front of the term. Example Queries: Find documents about mining but not bitcoin: cryptocurrency +mining -bitcoin

Wildcard Search

You can use the wildcard expressions of ? for a single character, or * to match any number of characters. Example Queries: How to mine any cryptocurrency: How to mine *

Boolean Search

AskSteem supports any combination of the previously mentioned search types in a single powerful query. This uses boolean values of AND, OR, and NOT, along with parenthesis to separate statements.
Example Queries: Posts tagged with asksteem by @thekyle: tags:asksteem AND author:thekyle Posts with between 50 and 100 comments that have more than 500 upvotes and that are tagged with ‘bitcoin’ or have the term bitcoin in the document: (bitcoin OR tags:bitcoin) AND (net_votes:>500 AND children:(>50 AND <100)) Posts created on June 2, 2017, with 100 or more upvotes but less than 10 comments: created:2017-06-02 AND net_votes:>=100 AND children:<10

Developers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiqasuhUPXU Because AskSteem integrates directly into the steem blockchain it can read metadata directly from posts and use that data when performing queries and displaying results. We encourage developers to add AskSteem compatible metadata to their posts so that we can show links to your application in our search results. The full documentation can be found at asksteem.com/developers, however, in this post I will summarize the most important tags.

TagDescriptionExample
domainThe domain name or web address that your application is hosted on.example.com
locatorThe path to reach the post on the domain relative to the root./CATEGORY/@AUTHOR/PERMLINK
protocolEither ‘http’ or ‘https’ if not provided then http will be used by defaulthttps

If none of the above metadata is provided then AskSteem will link to steemit.com for all posts by default, however, it is assumed that the platform creating the content will have the best interface for viewing it, so we would rather link there.

The domain and locator tags are required for custom linking to work, however, the protocol tag is optional and will default to http.

  • The domain tag should be the domain name that your web-based steem application is hosted on and is subdomain sensitive (so if your hosting on www subdomain then put that).
  • The locator should be the permalink to that particular post in your applications URL structure, also notice the leading forward slash, this is required.

The final URL that we point to will be generated by concatenating the domain and locator together with the protocol at the beginning which will be http unless otherwise specified.

Additionally, if you are building an application on the steem blockchain and need a search API please email us at contact@asksteem.com, we are able to query custom metadata and make various other customizations to the ranking algorithm to support your use case.

Funding

The harsh reality is that search engines are expensive to run and that adding new features and improving performance are difficult if the basic funding needs of the project are not covered. AskSteem currently costs me about $100/month to run, and that number will, of course, continue to increase as steem grows and the index size increases.

Ideally, my goal is the have those costs covered through upvotes from the steem community and to use any extra money for adding new features and scaling the search infrastructure to meet demand. If this works then AskSteem will be the first search engine in the world to use a cryptocurrency based revenue model, instead of selling advertising.

Thank you for your time, and happy searching!

Categories
Blog

How to Make Phone Calls on an iPod

The New iPod Touch from Apple is a great way of getting an iOS 8/9 experience without having to pay the hefty price of the iPhone. However while cheaper than the iPhone it does come with a few drawbacks, one of which is that it cannot be used to make Phone calls or send text messages (by default). However, with today’s technologies, it’s pretty easy for even the most non-technical people to start making phone calls from their new iPod.

Step #1 – Create a Google Account

If you’ve already got a Google account this can be skipped however the service will be using is owned by Google and requires a free Google account to start using it. You can register here.

Step #2 – Get Google Voice

Next in your browser while signed into your Google account visit voice.google.com and run through the basic setup process.

 Google Voice Setup:

  1. Choose I want a New Number from the Initial Setup or if you prefer you can use your current number.
  2. Add any of your current phones as a Forwarding phone. (What Phone You Choose doesn’t matter for this tutorial)
  3. Enter Your Zipcode, or a Keyword to search for available numbers to choose from, then a list should appear and you can pick a number that you like.

Step #3 – Edit Basic Settings (Optional)

Once you set up your Google Voice account and select your number you can change specific settings such as your voicemail and pins by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right corner of the user interface and selecting settings.

Step #4 – Install Google Voice App

Next, you just have to install the Google Voice App on your iPod and connect it to your Google Account. Once you complete the Application setup your ready to send and receive text messages, and phone calls from your iPod for free. The number that you give to people to call you is the same number you choose when you set up Google Voice. If you forgot your number then you can find it easily by logging into Google Voice and finding the listed phone number in the left column.

Categories
Blog

Top 5 Dedicated Hosting Providers

1. Gigapros Web Hosting

While Gigapros do have Shared and VPS hosting, where they really shine is in their Dedicated Servers. They have a very different way of operating that differentiates them for many other web-hosts and puts them as number one on this list. The main one being how they allow you to pick exactly the specs you need for your server, including RAM, CPU, and any Operating System from CentOS to Windows. On top of that, you can add, some extremely competitive pricing such as a 64 GB of RAM, and 3.8 GHz Processor server coming in at just 119 USD a month.

2. BlueHost

I like to think of Bluehost as the Apple of the web hosting world. While they do shine in some areas the main that I find really unique are support and simplicity. To address the first one, in all the times I’ve ever had an Issue with any of my Bluehost servers I never had to wait for more than 5 minutes before getting into their real-time chat with someone who can actually help me, instead of some low-level salesperson. The simplicity part is not necessarily as big of a deal with the Pro web-designers and Entrepreneurs as with the newbies, but its always nice to have everything you need available in one place (such as Domains, Hosting, etc.). Another quick side note is that for some reason I’ve never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a domain I purchased through Bluehost to propagate for their servers.

3. DreamHost

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Dreamhost based on my first experiences with them, however as of the time I’m writing this review I’m glad to say that they’ve really become one of the more competitive web-hosts. While they really don’t offer any of the simplicity of Bluehost or the low prices of Gigapros if you’re looking for a good mix between Price, Support, and Reliability then Dreamhost is defiantly a good candidate to look into.

4. HostGator

HostGator is another company similar to BlueHost as in they put customer satisfaction, and support before anything else. While neither their VPS or Dedicated servers give you as much bang for your buck as Gigapros, they still offer very powerful Dedicated servers. While you shouldn’t expect to go starting your own social network on HostGator, you can certainly get some really large WordPress or other basic CMS sites going. HostGator also similar to Gigapros offers both Linux and Windows server hosting.

5. GoDaddy

I’d be amiss not to at least talk about GoDaddy in this list considering they are probably the most popular web hosting company. Although to be Frank nearly every experience I’ve had with actually hosting with GoDaddy has been just terrible, and I can’t recommend you buy anything but Domain Names from them.

Categories
Blog

Top 8 Best AdSense Alternatives

So you’re doing good for yourself and making decent earnings off AdSense. But then one day you get that email in your inbox with the subject “AdSense Account Disabled” and everything changes. You suddenly realize that any other respectable Ad Networks either have low CPM or are just pure scams. So here I’ve compiled a list of all the other Advertising Networks I tried before I got my AdSense Account back.

8. Amazon Associates

While I am aware that Amazon Associates is technically an affiliate network I wanted to include it on this list simply because it’s a great source of extra revenue if you’ve got a site with a heavy and loyal following or a high conversion rate. It pays out similar to any other Affiliate program (based on sales) however since Amazon has such a large variety of products its easier to find relevant products than with other affiliate sites.

7. Chitika

Chitika pays via PayPal and allows you to customize your ads to better suit your websites like AdSense. The Downside to Chitika is its search-driven meaning the ads shown, are based on what Search Terms were used to get to your site not the keywords on your site.

6. InfoLinks

This is ad network creates blue underlined words like hyperlinks in your content automatically, and only shows ads when the links are hovered over by the user. Currently, InfoLinks doesn’t support any type of banner ads however they do have lower requirements so if your site is just starting up it might be worth a try.

5. ProjectWonderful

Despite having a rather strange name ProjectWonderful has a very unique model based on advertisers renting time on your site. The best part being that the system works on a bidding system so you usually end up making more money than you would with CPM or PPC Ads.

4. BuySellAds

Similar to ProjectWonderful, BuySellAds allows advertisers to pay for Ad space on your websites based on how much they are willing to pay or how much your minimum advertising cost is.

3. Advertising.com

Advertising.com is AOL’s solution to advertising (yes AOL) and has become a very large and respectable ad network online, although they do have rather high requirements compared to some of the others listed above.

2. Tribal Fusion

This Ad Network is by far the king of the CPM Networks and requires about 500,000 Impressions per month. Although it has a high need it pays off well with some of the highest CPM Rates on the internet, even when compared to AdSense.

1. Media.net

Media.net is part of the Yahoo | Bing Ad Network, and so is basically Microsoft’s equivalent of AdSense. While the exact requirements are unknown its very difficult to get invited into this ad network is so far we’ve only seen sites with millions of monthly users using.

Bad Eggs

During my time looking for Google Adsense alternatives, I also found a few spammy/scam Advertising networks that look legit but will end up not paying you or showing fewer clicks/impressions then your ads actually get.

RevenueHits

While this site would convince anyone that it’s a legit ad-network I found that all of there ads were spammy download buttons, and sometimes opened up popups or tried to download malicious software to the visitor’s computer. I have also heard stories of people getting their entire sites blacklisted from Google as being malicious because of RevenueHits Ads.

AdHexa

While Adhexa will indeed pay you and has better quality ads then RevenueHits they often seem to only count a fraction of the impressions your actually getting which may simply be a software glitch on their servers but still stay away until they become more reputable.

Categories
Blog

DuckDuckGo VS Google

If you haven’t been following it then you might be surprised that a young start-up by the name of ‘DuckDuckGo’ is challenging the mighty search giant Google. But on February 19, 2008, the new privacy-focused search engine emerged and was incorporated. The main difference between DuckDuckGo and Google is that DuckDuckGo claims not to track your searches, and not to customize search results based on your previous searches. DuckDuckGo also offers many features that Google does not such as a Clean modern interface, Automatically Searching a site, and many more. However, it should be noted that most of the features that DuckDuckGo has that Google doesn’t aren’t really all that useful in your everyday searching experience. DuckDuckGo also does not rely heavily on a Web crawler, but instead API’s from other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and smaller specialty search engines such as Sound Cloud.

While all this sounds great, Google still has the advantage over DuckDuckGo when it comes to actually finding you what you want. Because DuckDuckGo won’t track you, and won’t give you personalized results, you also won’t be getting as relevant results as you would by using Google. Another thing is that even with its many API’s and Search Sources DuckDuckGo has a much smaller Index than Google so when you search you will find far less relevant results simply because there is less diversity. Overall it comes down to Privacy VS Better Results, as DuckDuckGo offers Privacy, but Google offers better results.

Categories
Blog

Understanding Robots.txt

Almost every site on the web has a robots.txt file located at Example.com/robots.txt which tells web crawlers or bots what they are allowed to visit and what they are not allowed to visit. This can be helpful for blocking off admin areas or backend files that you do not need or want crawled or giving bots information like the URL(s) to your sitemap(s).

So what actually is a robots.txt? Well, it’s just a simple text file made in notepad or any other word processor that has several tags that web crawlers understand. The Following are some examples of common elements that you might see in a Robots.txt file.

# Basic Robots.txt allowing bots to visit your whole site
User-agent: *
Disallow:
# Robots file telling bots not to crawl any part of the site
User-agent: *
Disallow:/
# Robots file telling bots not to crawl any files in the admin directory (backend)
User-agent: *
Disallow: /admin/

You can also use tags such as the Sitemap tag to tell bots where to find your XML sitemap or RSS feeds to increase crawl rates.

There are a few drawbacks to using a robots.txt file though, mainly being that it is public to anyone who wants it so if you are trying to hide an exposed backend directory or an admin area with the Disallow tag anybody can view your robots, and it does not stop regular users from visiting those pages. Another thing is that not all bots obey the Robots.txt file, these are mainly malicious bots that are trying to spam post comments or upload malware to your web servers. These bots may use your Robots file against you by visiting you disallow links in an attempt to crack your admin accounts.

In most cases the benefits of having an up to day robots.txt file out weight the drawbacks because of the increased search engine crawling from spiders like GoogleBot or BingBot. It also helps to give information about your site to smaller search engines that might not have a “webmaster tools” section like DuckDuckGo or AskClash about where your sitemaps are located.

Overall it’s up to you how much time you want to spend designing your robots.txt file and how you want to deal with the possible threats too using one.

Categories
Blog

DoFollow VS NoFollow

I feel that there is a lot of confusion as too exactly what DoFollow and NoFollow links do and don’t do. A common misconception is that if something is marked NoFollow then search engines won’t follow the link at all. This, however, is not true at all, because web crawlers simply aren’t going to pass up a potentially content rich page because its NoFollow. However, this doesn’t mean that search engines don’t treat the NoFollow links different than Dofollow.

Hey I'm the GoogleBot
Google Bot visiting a NoFollow Link

The real thing that the two types of links determine is the transfer of Page Rank or commonly referred to as “PR”. Page rank is how search engines determine how important a website is by counting the number of backlinks to the site. The idea behind this is that if your website has lots of other website linking too it then your website must have good and quality content, so it should be ranked higher in the search results. The higher number of backlinks you have to your site the higher Page Rank you will have.

NoFollow links are basically links that search engines don’t count as a backlink. This is a common practice on High PageRank sites because the higher the PageRank of the site linking to your the more it will affect your PageRank.

DoFollow tells the search engines to count the link as a backlink to the site and thus gives the site being linked to a higher PageRank based on the PR of the site linking to it.

Many sites on the web now use NoFollow links because of automated bots designed to browse the web and post links as an attempt to build backlinks to a certain domain, usually of questionable content.

Categories
Blog

Backlinks Explained

What is a Backlink? Well, its very simple actually, a Backlink is just a DoFollow link pointing to a website. I’t’s useful to have a collection of Backlinks pointing to your website because they are used by most major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! to determine the trust level of your website.

The basic concept is that the more links you have going to your site the better quality the content on the site is and thus it should be ranked higher in search engines. Backlinks also transfer page rank from site to site based on a variety of factors. The major factor is the PageRank of the site who is linking to another site. PageRank is the quantifiable way for search engines to express how much they trust your website ranging from PR1 to PR 9.

If you are linked to by a site with very low PageRank (PR) that is considered a Low-Quality Backlink because it’s not coming from a reliable source and is thought of by web spiders as a spam backlink. There are also High-Quality Backlinks which give search engines a much better impression of your site because they usually come from PR6 to PR9 Websites that are already trusted by search engines. These Backlinks are also weighted more heavily than Low-Quality ones because they are coming from a source that is known not to spam links to low-quality sites.

There are a few exceptions to the Low and High-quality backlink rules though. The major one is Social Networking sites like Facebook that have high Pageranks but only give low-quality backlinks. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple, search engines give backlinks from these sites less value because they are usually mass posted, and can easily be posted by the website owner. This is not a bad thing though as if Backlinks from Social Media sites were worth PR9 status then a link in a Tweet would be the same as being mentioned in a post on Forbes.com or NYTimes.com.

The last factor that search engines look at is the mixture of High and Low-quality backlinks. What this means is if a site only has Low-Quality backlinks then chances are that site has been spamming small blogs and social media site. But if a site has a Mix of High and Low-Quality backlinks then it tells Google that your site is linked to being trustworthy sites and shared allot by its users and thus it must have super great content.

Categories
Blog

Microsofts New “HoloLens”

Today while I was watching YouTube I found an ad for the new Microsoft “HoloLens” and was instantly prompted to click the ad for more information. After some debate in various forums around the web, I determined that Microsoft has not yet released a Prototype of the device yet. Most of what we saw in the ad that Microsoft is airing was most likely simply computer-generated effects mixed with real world footage. Although I was of course intrigued by this new concept of synchronizing the real-world with the virtual one I cannot say that it would all be for the best. As of right now only with Smart Phones, and Google Glasses about 95% of all car accidents are caused by people distracted by technology. If this new technology were to become reality it would be best used while sitting down or working indoors in a non-hazardous environment.

With today’s modern technology I doubt that Microsoft will have the capabilities to build something like this for at least the next decade or two, but it’s a good innovative thought. I find that in its current stage the HoloLens is more relatable to something found in a Science Fiction movie than a real-world piece of technology.

We also must consider that Microsoft is currently struggling with software piracy and losing billions of dollars each and every day. Could this simply be the last attempt by a dying mega-corporation to survive the onslaught of piracy and harsh criticism from the media and public with their latest release of Windows 8?

Categories
Blog

Geenheart Games Solution to Piracy

Just a few days ago I read a startling post by Patrick from Greenheart Games stating some startling statistics from their latest game release “Game Dev Tycoon”. In the article, Patrick explains an experiment that Greenheart conducted on the day of the PC ported release of the game involving baiting pirates to illegally download a purposely leaked version of the game containing a slight change in the story and a tracking code sending anonymous data to Greenheart servers. After the first day, the results were simply jaw-dropping, with 93.6% of all copies of the game being cracked and only 6.4% having actually purchased the game. This was especially surprising because of the extremely cheap price of the game on stores like Steam and the Windows Store of only $8 USD.

In late 2014 the CEO of Ubisoft games gave an interview to Gamespot regarding a similar study with Ubisoft games which gave remarkably similar results. A grand total of 95% of all Ubisoft games being played have been cracked versus purchased through legal stores and marketplaces. The list goes on, and on through nearly all major game and software companies like Adobe, EA Games, and many more.

So what does this mean for the software industry? Well, there are two very different stories here when we’re talking about companies trying to stay afloat. Smaller companies made up of no more than 5-10 members could very easily go bankrupt after their first or second release. Bigger companies with well-established products are a whole different story because they have access to major server banks and all the latest encryption. While smaller companies cannot afford to make massively multiplayer games, bigger companies have the resources available to make software online and thus not able to be pirated.

Here are some example of Online VS Locally run Softwares

Can be Pirated (Locally Run)Cannot be Pirated (Run Online)
GamesMinecraftBattlefield
General SoftwareMicrosoft OfficeGoogle Docs

Because the user must have a valid copy of the game these online games seem to be the perfect solution to the piracy problem, Right? Well, like I said earlier servers are expensive and small startups can’t possibly afford to produce games of the scale and complexity required to have an online setup. Meaning that this makes it extremely difficult for small game developers to be successful.

In the end, while piracy may be convenient now, it will sooner or later come back to haunt us when even the Major corporations still struggle to break even with the costs of producing such technological marvels.

What to see what the Secret Change in the Cracked version of Game Dev Tycoon? Watch this video or read this article.