To launch a series of partnerships

Diversification

Just a tad too much sites to handle. Apart from not running out of it, I’ve also had good ones that enjoyed some hay in their day. I’m talking about ideas here, and these, for me, become websites. I’m getting tired of saying “Hey, I thought of that too!” or “If I had just finished what I started…” So now, like all great business owners, I will put to good use the talents of others and reap all the benefits. Just kidding.

The select few (sites) which really have potential will be split in a no-holds-barred 50-50 between me and my partner. Revenue, expenses, work load, everything. In this way, I would have “technically” brought down the number of sites I manage by half, and add 100% more brain.

First to go is bilyar.NET. Did you know that I had owned that domain since college? It’s tough to promote a billiards site without touching base with pool halls, tournaments, events, etc., or offline activities. Glad to say I have found someone already, a well-connected and very much active pinoy pool aficionado whom I also met online.

Next is a spin-off of my music-related sites. Now, instead of continuing some of the already-live sites like Rockstar Bembang!, me and my partner decided to create a brand new idea for branding purposes. She, yes she, unlike he in bilyar.NET, is also very much active in the local music scene as well as online.

All I can say for now is that I’m very excited and I will further discuss the details here in a one post per site manner in the future, once everything has been set in order. I will also probably advertise my need for more partners here, for some of the other sites I’ll continue – mostly local. Remember, to begin with, all hosting costs and domain registration costs are already accounted for. Care to venture with me?

Adding SMF to Coppermine

Bridging; Coppermine comes first, retaining already-registered users.

Here’s one for the webmasters. I recently found myself in a pickle when in one of my sites, I wanted to add a forum to an already-active gallery with registered users. I had installed Coppermine for my gallery simply because it’s what I’ve been using for years now and I like it’s capabilities and flexibility. Coppermine has a built-in bridge manager which allows you to share the users database with that of your forum’s. Normally this would have worked if I had my forum set-up before the gallery, or created them at the same time. When you use the Coppermine bridge manager on an already-active gallery, you adapt the users database of the forum, so the relationships will be lost.

The actual files, user-galleries and database records of your Coppermine installation will not be deleted, but unless your users from the forum and your users from the gallery share the same unique user id, you will have mixed-up user galleries belonging to other users. This is explained very well in Coppermine’s documentation. Assuming you understand how database relationships work and therefore are still with me, let’s now proceed to the next obvious step.

We now know that we need to import the users from Coppermine to your forum software – SMF in this article – and we need to retain their original user’s id. For example – If user admin has a user_id of 1, user star69 has a user_id of 2, we need to retain that in the forum database. There are a couple of ways to do this, and from here it depends on how much database wizardry you know. But, I encountered a problem importing the user passwords to SMF because Coppermine and SMF do not use the same password hash. Coppermine uses MD5 hashing and SMF uses “salted” SHA1 password-hashing. It would have been easy if MD5 could be converted to plain text, but the hash works one-way, and it would take weeks to crack one MD5 hash using brute force.

We now need to find a forum which the same password hashing (MD5) with Coppermine – PhpBB. You can copy and paste the encrypted passwords from Coppermine, add them to PhpBB and let users log-in with the same passwords – all this without exposing the “real” passwords to administrators. Once you have a PhpBB database that has similar users to Coppermine, you now do a fresh install of SMF on a different folder. You then use SMF’s converter for PhpBB which makes it 1-click easy to convert your PhpBB-powered forum to SMF. After that, just use Coppermine’s bridge manager normally.

Really, the only semi-difficult hurdle here is importing your Coppermine database to PhpBB, especially because they don’t share the same (although they are similar) fields. So to make things easier, I created a script that prints (displays) an SQL-written command which import your Coppermine users to PhpBB, and it will retain such fields as user’s email, user’s location, language, apart from their ids, usernames and passwords. You can view the script here. Just copy the content, add your database details (commented in the code), save it to anyfilename.php, upload it to your server, access yoursite.com/anyfilename.php and it will output an SQL code. Copy this SQL code to your phpbb_users’ table – make sure to empty the table first. All of this can be done in PhpMyAdmin if you’re using cPanel. If you have questions, just post a comment here.

See it in action – the Bebot, Bebot! Forum

I did all of this in my site Bebot, Bebot! It’s a babe blog/forum/gallery, but it clearly shows how SMF and Coppermine work together. Clicking “Register” or “Login” from the gallery will direct you to SMF’s login or register page – which is great by the way, because Coppemine is more prone to spambots. By the way, this is also an infomercial for my un-updated babe blog – Bebot, Bebot!

Finally stopped phpBB spam

Finally

My most-hated fight with phpBB (forum/community software) has come to an end. Spam and phpBB is synonymous with each other. My experience with running and maintaining forums has taught me one major lesson – stay away from phpBB. Unfortunately, phpBB has been my most-familiarized forum software, and there was really a time when phpBB was worth it. It’s open-source, 100% free, easy to modify, supported by thousands of users and developers, and has tons of free ready-made themes. Everything still holds true for the software, but spammers have taken control.

One of the main reasons phpBB attracts so much spam is it’s popularity. Spammers weigh the ratio of how much work they’ll devote (creating spam scripts) over the number of available sites to spam. In one of my forums – bilyar.NET – it came to a worst-case scenario 30 bot registrations and 35 spam posts per day. I’ve invited a number of people to moderate the forums, but human brute force is nothing compared to automated spamming. Believe it or not, I’ve met people who’ve said “Ay bilyar.NET? Puro viagra naman dun eh.” Ouch.

The solution

There are a number of different third-party mods to fight phpBB spam. I’ve tried a few, but I’ve never really raved as much as I have over this. The mod is called RAC or Registration Auth Code. By the way, forget about Visual Confirmation (Captcha) in phpBB, spambots get around those easily. The mod adds a random admin-generated code that is linked somewhere within the site. See it in action here, look at the field “Authorization Code:” Once a spambot figures out a way around the code, I simply add a new code and change the link where the code is located. The mod installs in about 3 minutes. See the official link to the mod here. So far since installing this mod, number of spambot registrations = 0.

MPinoy3.com

www.mpinoy3.com

A new project. Here’s what’s cooking – my first purely technology site – surprised it’s not adult? Digital Media is the name of the game. Portable media players such as the iPod (yes, I know there is already a Pinoy iPod community, 2 actually), but we’re not focusing on the iPod (I don’t even have an iPod). The forum will focus on portable media players primarily, and will also discuss set-ups of such – using portables for home entertainment, car entertainment, hardware needed, and discussions on file formats, ripping, music, video and more.

The inspiration came from my quest for headphones, and a portable player. I went around a lot of non-local forums for portables, headphones, audio, and wanted to harness the same energy that drives their members in a local (Philippine) setting. There might be that much interest in digital media, locally, to spark up a community.

The site

The inspiration for the domain came from the #mpinoy3 IRC channel of old. I’m not sure if it’s still online. It was a channel that offered downloads of music and video files, operated of course by Pinoys. It was one of my more frequented IRC channels and this site is sort of a tribute to that.

I chose XMB (Extreme Message Board) Forum as the engine of the site. There’s just something with it’s super simple layout that enticed me. Plus, it’s known to have the lowest CPU load usage. I just modified the colors a little bit. I hope it works well.

The site is purely forum-type. There are no up-front blogs, news portion, gallery, none of that stuff. I have no time to create and edit new content. Forums only need moderation, and the occasional software upgrade and database fixes.

Plans

I’ll be using paid advertising to boost the popularity of the site. I’ll allocate a monthly budget for it and see if it picks up. I already have a couple of blogs (technology) lined-up where I’ll purchase either text links or banners. I know there are a lot of good local tech blogs so I have to figure out and experiment which ones are the most cost-effective.

A call

If you are interested in digital media, please give the forum a visit. I can’t start my advertising campaign unless there’s a significant amount of activity in the forum. I’m also looking for possible moderators. If you are interested, drop me a line. Also, if it’s not too much, I’ll appreciate any form of advertising/exposure that you can give the site for free. Maybe post something about it in your own blog/site or by word of mouth. Thank you.

Rockstar Bembang! now powered by WordPress

The ultimate test for WordPress’ SEO capabilities. Rockstar Bembang!, which I launched nearly 3 months ago has now been fully migrated to WordPress. I’m not at all pleased with the site’s Search Engine rankings for the individual pages and thought that the obsolete Gallery software might have something to do with it. Plus, the url’s from the previous site structure can still be used – www.rockstarbembang.com/nameofband, by creating pages in WordPress instead of posts.

The site averaged 150 uniques, with 800 pageviews per day. Let’s see in a couple of weeks if the figures improve. I might have to add a separate Coppermine install to make uploading pictures easier.

Restructuring bilyar.NET

History

Launched April of 2006, I originally installed the forum software on the root folder of www.bilyar.net. It was sort of a trial and error thing. People registered but I have been unable to get new and unfamiliar users to participate in the forums. “Unfamiliar” being people who are not already registered in other billiards forums. The forum is quite active, but spam is more abundant. But, along the way I have met new friends and fellow pool addicts. Which is good. 

Now part of Bembang! Blogs

Most of the stuff I talk about in this blog anyway is about billiards. In the beginning I blogged mostly about personal billiards experiences but lately, I’ve found myself blogging about current events. Like reporting, not blogging. Now, bilyar.NET has an articles portion. And since I’ve fallen in love with WordPress’ simplicty and power, I didn’t even give other CMS’s a look. I moved the forum, installed WordPress in the root, etc. in less than 2 hours. And well, for leverage I added bilyar.NET to Bembang! Blogs as a “bilyar blog.” So now I have two blogs, billiards topics will be lessened here but not removed.

The links

New forum location – http://forum.bilyar.net. WordPress location (root) – http://www.bilyar.net. Bembang! Blogs – http://www.bembangblogs.com.  

A new look for Ang Lyrics Natin

I just wanted the whole of the site to include all links to the artist pages to stress on the importance of deep-linking. It turns out I needed a 3-column layout to achieve this since there is already about 150 artists, I needed a whole column dedicated to it. Thanks to my barebones-brute-force coding, changing the template was really simple. The site is not purely 100% text. Bigger font as well and some more tweaks for SEO. And, it’s pinkish! I won’t mess with the colors for now, it came with the template and it’s already color-matched. Plus, I take about at least a day to decide on looks alone. Check the site out.

Losing Diana Zubiri

I Wish

In Google. Anyway, make a search for Diana Zubiri in Google. For the longest time, I’ve had the top position for Diana Zubiri, it reflects the Diana Zubiri page @ Bembang! Girls. She is still a very coveted search phrase, and I’m down to number three. Thanks to that ladiesgallery.net and Wikipedia. I don’t care much about Wikipedia, I don’t consider that competition, but that ladiesgallery.net is not really informative.

Have to make some updates now, add some links, whatever it takes. On another note, Angel Locsin is still the most searched celebrity in the Philippines and my Angel Locsin page has dropped to the sixth. Thanks to the Starmometer empire. Notice that everyhing above Angel Locsin @ Bembang! Girls in a Google search (except of course for Wikipedia), is owned by Starmometer.

Losing the lyrics battle

New lyrics sites sprout like mushrooms on a rainy season. I see new local lyrics sites every so often. However, my fellow lyrics webmasters might have felt the same when I launched mine. It’s farily easy to do and update, no real thinking is involved, just an awareness of trends in music. If you know a little about creating sites, all it takes is to set-up a blog software and publish. Most popular local lyrics sites use WordPress; like this blog.

In the beginning

I was surprised how fast my lyrics site grew. In 2004, after only about two months I reached 1,000 unique visitors per day. This came from a top search result for a song that was really big back then. I believe it was “Nobela” by Join The Club. The next month I lost half of those hits.

I figured

I always have to be aware of what songs are currently popular. Hope that no one has the lyrics to it yet, then boom. Being that I am a musician of sorts and always out in the band scene, I figured I have some sort of advantage. Only thing is, the cycle gets tiring and exhausting.

Lyrics in the Philippines

The biggest is lyrics.rebelpixel.com. Based from it’s AdBrite statistics, the site gets around 5,000 uniques per day. Once that site picks up the lyrics for a particular song, consider it in the top search results. Another new and a very strong player is songmag.ralphotskie.com. I believe the owner is also a musician and seems to know a lot about the trends; I guess he figured what I also figured. Surprisingly, both of them use WordPress.

I think I’m still in the game since I sometimes score top searches for some songs. If the songs are already in the international sites, I simply forget about it. I did not use WordPress so I can add functions that help me automate the site more. I run ads on the site but it’s not that rewarding. I’ve rotated the ads in all places but the CPM only plays at around .50 – .60 maximum. That’s only around $1.00 per 1,500 page views. A little more SEO for this project I guess, but well, this site will surely stay, depriving other webmasters of whatever music-related search terms they might think of.

Rockstar Bembang! – the site

www.rockstarbembang.com

Rockstar Bembang! used to be an article category on the now still-on-it’s-longest-hiatus Bembang!. Originally, I wanted to regularly interview local bands; until now I have only done three namely Sugarfree, Imago and Urbandub. Over the past couple of days I’ve been creating a site that complements that portion in Bembang!, sort of like how Bembang! Girls is to the main celebrity interviews at Bembang!.

It has it’s own domain at www.rockstarbembang.com and uses the same software as Bembang! Girls. I would have just opted to make it a subdomain like rockstar.bembang.com, but the whole of www.bembang.com is banned from Google AdSense because of adult content. Since it will just be bands, and therefore no possibilities of nudity (although I might have to rethink that), I’ll see if AdSense works with it.

The site will have a page for each rockstar (band), registered users can upload photos for each album, each band will have a short biography, discography, gig schedule and links. Still planning to embed videos and songs via YouTube and Imeem but that would be a lot of work just to keep updated.

Yes I know it’s another one of my redundant ideas. But I guess it’s better than being stagnant and well, it’s easy to do, needs little money to accomplish and is supplemental to my other sites like the lyrics one, the directory and that new blog from the new blog network.