April 23, 2007 at 1:21 am
If you’re a Magic fan and have never been to one of these – you definitely should go. It was challenging and I built the wrong type of deck, but still managed to pull off a 3-1 record and win 4 extra packs of Future Sight. Some of the new cards are very cool. It was also very interesting to see the strategies people play in sealed. Creature based and beatdown decks are the way to go for sure. 2 colors and 40 card max deck as well. I went red/white and looking at the one deck that beat me and the ones that gave me trouble, if I had to do it over again I’d probably go green/blue based on the cards I got – I almost did at the last minute.
It’s interesting to see cards that I wouldn’t normally see in my playgroup come out and clean up. 3/3 creatures and saproling tokens seemed to rule the boards. I suppose it makes sense – with the limited number of rares available to each player you’re less likely to get game stopping, big nasties. The guy that beat me had a nasty green guy and combo that just pumped everyone and gave them trample. The best I had was a Tarox Bladewing – which did strike fear in a lot of people surprisingly.
This is definitely something I will do next release and I’m considering using some of my extra commons – and maybe even uncommons and rares – to build sealed kits and try this format with my friends. Pretty cool.
April 21, 2007 at 7:51 pm
I’ve done a few SEO posts lately, but I got to thinking of another quasi beginner’s guide – similar to the one I posted awhile back. I think this is a little more clear as I have gained more information, insight and confidence with regards to the subject.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is comprised of 3 basic elements: good site design, site age and trust, and link popularity.
Good site design basically means two things: designing with web standards and utilizing good keywords and content in SEO important tags.
Designing with web standards means using semantic tags – p for content paragraphs, ul/ol for lists, h1-6 for headers and so on. It also means using the least amount of non-semantic tags like divs and spans to provide hooks in order to style your site with CSS. Ideally, you want to have the least amount of tags possible because a large amount of non-semantic tags makes it harder for search engines to “read” your site and find content, as well as the fact that they only index so much of a page, so if a page is too large and your content too far down it might not be seen at all. Many standard tags like headers, p and lists are block level elements anyways and can by styled with borders, padding, margins and background images eliminating the need for extra divs for all but the more complex designs like rounded corners.
Utilizing good keywords and content is a major part of SEO. First, you must decide what your site is about and what you are looking to provide to users. That will determine your content and what searches you should (and can) optimize for. Second, you must place those in SEO important tags. The highest level and most important is the page’s title tag which displays at the top of the browser. For example, in this article (at the time of this writing at least) the title tag of this page reads “The Basics of SEO.” Having relevant, clear, concise and individual title tags is one of the most important parts of SEO. Each page should ideally have a unique title – for example your home page might be “YourSite.com” and your about page might be “About YourSite.com”, etc. Second is a page’s h1 tag(s) which should be, ideally, similar to the title tag but not exactly the same. Some repetition is good but you don’t want to keyword stuff. Finally, at a much lower level, are h2-h3 elements and, on a much broader level, the actual content of the site. While the actual content is not in important tags, this allows search engines to figure out what your page is about, what keywords you really are targeting, and what should be displayed in search result snippets.
Site age and trust are harder to quantify. Site age refers not to how old the domain name is but how long it has been in the search engine’s index. This is why older, popular domains can fetch a decent price at sale and can unfortunately be, at least for a short time, abused to spam search engines for profit. Trust is typically related to Google and deals with link popularity as well. Most assumptions are that trust is derived from the trust of the site plus (or minus) the trust of sites that link to and from them. The biggest factor here is black hat strategies like link rings having a lot of links to you from sites that aren’t trusted can significantly lower your own trust.
Finally, we talk about link popularity. Besides the negative effects I mentioned before this can actually provide significant and quick returns for SEO. One of the simplest things is to institute social bookmarking/networking icons on your site – digg, del.icio.us, reddit, furl, ma.gnolia, blinklist, etc. These sites, especially del.icio.us, are becoming the new search engines of choice. They are gaining trust because actual humans build the indexes and the tags associated with sites as part of the Web 2.0 movement think of them as social search engines. Many of these sites have high level of trusts so links coming from them, especially if many people bookmark you, are highly valuable. Adding these buttons simplifies the process for your users to help you out and can expose you to new users who might be using those sites to search for tags relevant to you.
Providing high quality content in your niche can also boost SEO because search engines give additional value to links to your site from other sites in the same niche. If you are seen as an authority on that subject, you will naturally gain more trust and move up in the rankings.
Sites that rank high typically do because a search engine can trust them. They have been around for awhile, have lots of links from other sites that are relevant to the terms being searched for, have lots of inbound links total, and have content that is designed to be easily understood by search engine spiders. A good analogy is to think of a search engine like word of mouth advertising. If someone asks you for the best pizza place in town you’re going to recommend places you trust. And if some place you usually recommend changes their recipe or gives you a bad experience, they will lose your trust and not be as highly recommended by you. The same with search engines – if you use black hat or spam techniques, you could hurt your trust for a long time and potentially even be banned. However, if you provide good content and are popular for that niche, then they will recommend you more and more.
Random Tidbit: A neat article on how to make a six figure income while blogging.
April 20, 2007 at 9:58 pm
So it looks like I will be traveling to the magic pre-release tournament tomorrow. I’m excited. The last time I was in a magic tournament was around the time Uzra’s Saga came out. I’m actually curious if my DCI number even works anymore.
A few hot new cards that I can’t wait to get my hands on:
- Pact of negation – a showstopper right here. There’s been a few times when I’ve had a killer combo ready, my cousin is in “dead man’s hand” and somehow he pulls the one spell that can mess me up. No more. Early prediction – next tournament champion is fielding 4 of these.
- Judge Unworthy – so I get to stack my deck and wipe our your creature? For 2 mana? Sold.
- Glittering Wish – another wish card and you can pull any multi-color card you want for 2 mana. Being green/white that can grab some powerful stuff.
- Magus of the Vineyard – cheap mana acceleration and green. Enough said.
- Heartwood Storyteller – lets go stompy on the annoying control deck. Now, I love a good control deck – but stompy is fun. This card will be headhunted.
So hopefully I do well – I’ve never done this type of tournament – and I get some cool new cards.
Random Tidbit: With the iPhone and all the clones of that coming out, be careful disposing of your old phone. It could come back to bite you.
April 19, 2007 at 9:51 pm
Good web design is about reaching the widest possible audience. To reach the widest possible audience you must design with two thoughts in mind web standards and accessibility.
Accessible designs allow users to resize text even non-compliant browsers like Internet Explorer 6. They provide alt tags for images, in case someone is using a text browser, and those alt tags are descriptive of the images so that those users can gain value from them. They offer a design in which the user can skip navigation and get right to the content both for ease of use and for someone using a text browser. Many people don’t realize when they’re designing a site that the source code is how text browsers will read their site so if you have the header, navigation ads and all other non-content related items before the content in the source code than people using those browsers will have to navigate through that on each and every page. Offering them an alternative to that is one of the keys to accessibility.
What many people don’t realize is that is also how search engines read their sites. So by making your site more accessible you are making it easier for search engines to decipher what exactly is important on your site increasing your rankings and making it easier for them to understand the keywords that your site should rank for.
Web standard based designs function in much the same manner. Designing with web standards means separating content from appearance. Anything that does not deal directly with the content or present some semantic value to your site should be relocated to the CSS. You place all your non-semantic images backgrounds, bullets, etc, colors, font sizes and faces into the CSS. Then your (X)HTML contains only the relevant markup in semantically correct tags H elements for headers, strong for important text, p for paragraphs, em for text you want emphasized, ul/ol for lists, li for list items, dd/dl for definition lists and items, etc. You can then use additional classes and ids on those elements to style your site and match almost any design you can come up with typically with additional div and span tags used sparingly to help provide additional hooks for your CSS.
Designing with web standards also allows you to optimize your site for search engines since you are now declaring to them what your header elements are including hierarchy, what the title of each individual page should be using the title tag, one of the highest ranking SEO tags; and laying out the content with semantic tags so it is able to electronically “read” your content and make keyword associations like the human eyes does naturally.
So by practicing good design you are not only naturally increasing your audience by allowing the largest number of users to view your site but also helping to improve your rankings in search engines for terms relevant to your content. In addition, by separating content from appearance you can easily update the look of your site by changing the CSS and potentially adding a few more hooks cutting redesign time drastically.
In conclusion, good design means using accessible designs and standards compliant code. This brings you the largest possible audience, the lowest possible redesign time for future updates, lower bandwidth (because CSS is cached), and search engine optimized code.
Random Tidbit: The Google maps flight sim is pretty cool. Though I wish they had more cities.
April 13, 2007 at 1:37 am
Today will be six months to the day when I lost my last ferret Mugsy. Sometimes, I find it hard to even realize that she is gone. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized being sad will not honor the memory of my furry friend. Ferrets are a misunderstood pet and many people are misinformed about them. So I decided to post the top 5 reasons why you should welcome ferrets into your life.
5. No other pet will be more loyal or make you laugh more. I’ve had dogs. I had a very good dog. But my ferrets were the best. They knew me by name and face. They were always happy to see me. I was the best thing in their eyes. Their antics and the stories I have still bring a smile to my face.
4. They are always happy. When I let them out of their cage it was like I was giving them the greatest gift in the world. When I chased them, they only liked it more. My only regret is that I thought I would have more time and didn’t do more of either.
3. The only thing more fun that one ferret is two. Or three. Or four. I had only planned on getting 3 ferrets and ended up taking a fourth one in. He proved more work than the other 3 combined. But he was awesome.
2. You can’t help but smile when ferrets get going. I have so many stories of them tackling each other, of the smallest dragging the largest by the scruff after he tackled her, of them getting so agitated by my sister putting their toys away that they’d actually come over and dook (scold) me, and of them teaming up on my cat that I can’t even go into detail on them. I still smile whenever I think about it.
1. You can’t say you’ve lived a complete life until you’ve seen a “weasel war dance.” When a ferret gets extremely happy and/or excited they hop around, tossing their head and expending energy frenetically. It’s extremely hard to explain the weasel war dance. But I dare anyone but the most cold hearted among us to see this in action and not want a ferret in their life.
I cannot get more ferrets at this time. But after much thought I’ve decided that when I do get my own place, I think I will get more “carpet sharks.” I’ll never be able to replace my original foursome, but that’s not really the point. I hope after reading this you give ferrets a chance. They’re not stinky rodents – it’s more like having a kitten that never grows up, but many times more energetic.
Random Tidbit: A collection of weasel war dances found on YouTube: one two three
My ferrets in a happier time: