Launch Pressure

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Rather than wait until my website is perfect I am going to launch it half-complete, and fill in the blanks as I go along. And then add extra features.

A few friends are getting antsy, and I think that I’ve had plenty of time to develop a beta testing version of it.


Dunning–Kruger Effect

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

It takes years of practice to be truly brilliant at anything, and websites are no exception. If you want to make an original website that hits it off, it’ll take you more than a few days to put together. I’ve been working on my website for months, and whilst I believe in taking risks, making things happen and learning from mistakes, sometimes I can’t help but wonder if I am in some way suffering from the Dunning–Kruger effect.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is an effect that makes people who do not know a lot about a subject think they know more than they actually know. It also makes people who do know a lot about a subject think that they know less.

In other words, am I a skilled web designer, or do I just live on mount stupid? When I look at my website, sometimes I think “this is a real masterpiece”. Other times I wonder if, like many other projects I have worked on, it will merely be a blip, or fail to achieve critical mass. Will posting a link to Reddit be enough to get my site on the map? Would boingboing post a link to its main page? Should I (in desperation, one would assume) post to Digg? Will my Facebook friends tell their Facebook friends until it gains momentum? How can I hire somebody to promote my site? And what if they too suffer from the Dunning–Kruger Effect and are, in fact a total marketing bozo?

In the end I’ll just have to launch it and see.

Programming Polyglot

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Asking which programming language is best is a good way to start a debate among novice programmers. Like many I started to learn with Visual Basic, Then I progressed to using Java, which gave me mental breakdowns every time I tied using it. Then I progressed to Javascript, where my piece de resistance was a pretty crappy, but functional chess game.

Then I went to university and we were taught mainly in Java. So the Java came in useful, and around this time, I thought of javascript as a dying technology, just used for spam. But the Internet was still young. I knew nothing of AJAX. Three years of Java later, I was getting pretty good, but what was I going to do, spend all day building desktop applications? It just didn’t feel right. I took a few years out, then started building a compiler for LOLCODE in C, using Flex and Bison. Turns out that Facebooks PHP accelerator hiphop uses the same tools. Then I started working with Ruby and PHP, and dabbled with a tiny bit of Lisp.

Perl, PHP Python and Ruby, those are currently my languages of choice. What’s yours?

Preparations for the Launch

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

For a little while last week I was starting to think that my social network was starting to get stuck in development hell, constantly writing and re-writing the code, in a never ending spiral. One thing I have noticed is that it has been getting better and better, so there is at least that.

But last weekend I had a marathon coding session, and for some reason the site started coming together. Every time I say “it’s going to be another month” it seems to take more time, but I think that I am on course to launch sometime early July. In preparation for this momentous event I have created this Facebook group.

Its main function is to just let people know when the site lanches. It’s currently open, so anyone can post there, but be nice! Here is the link, for anyone who is interested in being one of the first to join:

Glitch City

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Glitches are fun, glitches are cool. I never told anyone this, but it is my opinion that one of the marks of a truly fine piece of software are when the bugs and glitches are not annoying but fun.

I loved exploiting the bugs in GTA Vice City a few years back. And the glitches in the early Pokemon games are the things of legends.

Truly a mark of software sophistication. So imagine my delight, when during development of my site, the following glitch was created.

As time goes on and my site is developed, I expect a higher and higher class of bugs.

Lots of Little Things

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

There are literally hundreds of tiny little things you need to do to make a micro blogging service good. Checking an email address is valid here. Encrypting passwords there. Checking inputs everywhere else. Making sure the site is easy to use and understand for people that have never used it before.

Registering the domain name, creating publicity for it. Optimising the code so that should the site become successful it wont crash straight away, or slow down so much that it becomes unusable. Finding and removing bugs. Tweaking the UI. Making that pages look interesting and feel ‘right’.

Making the site do what it was meant to do in the first place. It’s the fun little things that you don’t often notice at first that make a website worth using. I’ve been working on PJs.Cat for a long time, and it’s very slowly coming together.

Piece by piece I’m going to build the best microblogging service that I can. It’s one of the biggest projects I’ve ever worked on and I couldn’t be happier with it so far. The image below is a screenshot of how it looks at the moment. This is a very early version, and will be revised before the site launches.

Made By Just a Couple of Guys

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The interesting part about Google and Facebook is that these super giants didn’t even exist a couple of decades ago. Google was created by two guys from their university dorm room, and Facebook started in basically the same way. Just take a look at this screenshot of Facebook from 2005 (7 years ago):

and Google from 1999 (13 years ago):

These sites, employ thousands of people (33,000 employees currently work at Google and 3,000 for Facebook) and get billions of hits from users. For me the amazing thing is that beneath the hood, the code which makes up the core of their functionality is really just a tweaked and improved upon version of what Zuckerberg, Brin and Page came up with in their free time.

404: Blog Post Not Found

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

What’s a 404 error message?

It’s the message you get when you navigate to a webpage which is not there, for example:

A lot of tip top websites spend millions on making sure their sites are the bee’s knees. Yet when it comes to 404’s, they often forget. Check out Facebooks lackluster attempt:

I checked out a lot of the bigshot sites, and Google, Tumblr, Stack Overflow, MLKSHK and Github have some of the best custom 404 pages.

It’s not too hard to set up your own 404 page, but beginners may find it confusing. Now I’ve set up the .htaccess file in my local copy of PJs.Cat to redirect to an “error.php” file, but there’s nothing special there yet. In the meantime check this out:

Massive props to whoever put the “!!1” in Googles 404:

Massive props to Github for embracing their Geekiness:

And finally Propus Maximus to MLKSHK for making it’s own 404 mascot:

Cute! ᵔᵜᵔ

Great Britain is Lagging America

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Think about where the most popular websites on the Internet come from for a second.

Ebay. Yahoo. Amazon. Google. Facebook. Twitter. Linkedin. MLKSHK. Youtube. Wikipedia. WordPress. Blogspot. Bing (yuck). Tumblr. Craigslist. Flickr. 4chan. Stack Overflow.

Even Duckduckgo!

American, American , American , American , American!

Great Britain, my country of residence, has been left behind in the dust and we are not close to catching up. Perhaps we lack the entrepreneurial spirit fulled by a Randian, laissez-faire, pro-capitalist worldview, compared to our cousins from across the pond, but we have really dropped the ball this time.

Aside from the BBC (which is cheating really) and Wolfram Alpha, we haven’t really yet made our mark on the 21st century.

Somebody has got to do it. May as well be me. Only when PJs.Cat is a real success will I then rest.


Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Something which we believe in, here at PJs.Cat HQ, is giving users accurate, attractive feedback on the Posts that they create. I decided on creating a graph to let people know how often other users were saving their Posts but after trying a lot of different graph-creating software, found that the free stuff doesn’t look good enough, and I am committed to using open source software as much as possible when building this site.

I was willing to make an exception for the Google API, which I though made pretty good graphs, however I have not used it in the main site, because the look and feel just didn’t fit in with the rest of the page. I think I might create an Awsome-O-Meter for the catistics page (which I have yet to create and will show things like site traffic, total number of users and Posts per day).

After being unable to find what I wanted, I ended up creating my own bar chart, showing users how much their Posts had been saved in the previous week.

It made sense to display it when you are looking at Posts you have saved, and makes the process of using our micro blog a little more interactive.