Gears of War Review

As many of you know, I just recently got my first XBox 360. (I say my first because it’s probably gonna get red ringed any day now…)

Anysvay when I bought the 360, I spent my entire budget on the system so there wasn’t anything left over for a game.

My boy Steve though wouldn’t let me use this as an excuse and made me rent a game. That game was Gears of War.

Gears of War First Impressions
Just sick. Even though as I write this, I haven’t played another Xbox 360 game, I can’t imagine that there’s a better game to introduce you to the 360. To put in perspective…When you first sit down with the game you feel like when you did when you played Ridge Racer on the original Playstation. You’re kinda sittin’ back in your seat with your mouth gaping just kinda sayin’, “This isn’t really a game infront of me is it? This is INSANE.”


Gears of War Graphics and Sound
If you couldn’t already guess my opinion, the graphics and sound on this game are just amazing. Every level is done really well and when you get to the raining jungle like area, you’ll be amazed at what the 360 is capable of pumping out. Oh and btw, the voice acting is spot on for all the characters. The soldiers look badass, and outside of one guy (Kim) they all have the voices to back it up. Case in point, one of the main characters is voiced by Reebok’s Terry Tate: Office Linebacker. WHOO!

Gears of War Gameplay
It’s hard to say that the gameplay of Gears of War is its biggest shining point because it truly shines on so many different levels but honestly, the gameplay is something astounding. Unlike many FPSs where you basically run around, aim and shoot – This game has you running and gunning. Check this out..


You see an emeny a couple clicks ahead of you. You take off running firing a couple of bursts at him and then you run up, squat and put your back to an overturned pillar. You know he’s close so instead of exposing yourself you fire a couple rounds blindly over your cover. And once you feel safe enough, you pop up from your cover to get a couple targeted shots in before retreating to your safety again.My words here really don’t do the gameplay justice but it’s just like Kill.Switch by Namco (if you’re one of the 5 who played that game) but taken to the extreme. Most of the game finds you fighting through with your teammates, and you’ll really have that paintball like feeling of advancing, covering, flanking and eventually elimination.

Gears of War Story
If there is one thing lacking in Gears of War, it’s the story. And by lacking I mean completely f’ed up. It would be one thing if there was no story or they kept it really basic à la Halo (aliens attack Earth retaliates). But instead the story goes like this, “…The main character is broken out of prison by his old teammate to fight aliens…Sgt thinks he’s a traitor but his trial may be a sham…turns out that the key to the war is a digitized map in a secret lab of this guy’s dad’s mansion…and um, fight some aliens!…” Why in the hell do you interject the story with all these teases and decide to follow up on none of them? Beats me. But I can overlook it.


Final Thoughts on Gears of War
The game is amazing. The online cooperative play is fantastic and on Hardcore difficulty, you have to work with your buddy if you want to make it through because the AI is merciless. They will jump over the barricade you’re hiding behind and kill you dead w/o even thinking anything of it. I’ve yet to play the Insane difficulty, but I can’t wait to give it a try once I have some more time on my hands as well as other online multiplayer modes. What I really hope though is that they make a Gears of War 1.5 that tells the whole story of the game. I mean, is that too much to ask? Put in a few more levels and I’ll definitely get it.

DMOZ Blackmail Scandal

When I first read about this on Pure Blogging, I simply couldn’t believe it.

Naturally, the first thing I did was scramble around the Internet as fast as I could to get some more information on the subject. Frankly, I was surprised that so few people were talking about it on my regular feeds.

But you know what? If you won’t talk about it, I will. Heck, that’s why I get paid the big bucks!

The Background
DMOZ was arguably considered the biggest and best directory on the net. Getting your site in there was a sure fire way to traffic and credibility. And if you didn’t know about Jeremy Schoemaker (otherwise known as ShoeMoney) well, he has one of the biggest sites and certainly one of the biggest blogs on the web. Up until recently, he was in DMOZ.

The Big Story
According to ShoeMoney, he was approached by an editor of DMOZ saying that if he didn’t pay the editor $5,000.00, his site would be removed from the directory. Long story short, he didn’t pay and he was removed.

So What?
I know for a lot of you you’re saying this so let me put it into context. There was a time not too long ago that for web developers, getting into DMOZ was essentially the holy grail. The solid foundation you built your house onto. For us bloggers who care about our rankings for sponsored reviews and advertising, it would be like Alexa coming up and saying, “Pay me a Grand or you’re back to an Alexa Rank of 3,000,000.”

Change What You're About

Lately it seems that all I’ve been doing is talking up Chuck at I Hate Your Job. But don’t think I’ve gone soft, it’s for good reason!

For someone who has been in the blogging game for as short a time as he, Chuck seems to be nailing a lot of stuff right out of the gate.

Well, the other day I took a glance at his about page.

And once again, he nailed it.


What He Did Right

  • Introduces the site – Have you ever been to a new site and find yourself feeling lost because you don’t know what the site is about? Well right up front Chuck tells you what IHYJ is about and in the process even gets a subscription plug in there.
  • Highlights popular posts – What a better way to draw new visitors in then by leading them by the hand to your best work! Introducing your site in this way shows new readers that your site is worth coming to, evident by your past work.
  • Introduces himself – Everyone wants to know who’s behind a site and by introducing yourself to your readers, you let them know that you’re a person, just like them.
  • Provides contact information -You gotta make it easy for readers and advertisers to make contact, so by adding a contact form (or at the very least) listing your contact information on your about page, you bridge that gap.

What He Could Be Doing Better
For all the things that Chuck is doing right, he doesn’t have a picture of himself on his About page! Readers love to see pictures of authors because it obviously makes a site a bit more personable and advertisers like to see author pictures because it gives a signal to them that this blog isn’t just another “blog in the crowd”.

What I Could Be Doing Better
Currently, my about page is a one page bio on myself. This might have been passable at the inception of this blog, but it’s not just gonna fly anymore. I need to highlight the site more, and certainly need to get some contact info up. Thankfully by stumbling onto IHYJ’s about page, I was reminded that I need to make some changes.

How about you? Time to make a change?

AdSense Tracking : More is Better

A little while ago, I seemed to recall Everton saying something to the effect of, “If the CTR on your AdSense ads is less than 1%, you’re doing something wrong”. Well, it’s been about a month since I’ve implemented my ads and obviously, I want to know if I’m doing something wrong.

I figured that with the tracking I setup through AdSense this would be an easy task. I was in for a surprise.

Taking Care of Business
I needed to figure out where the leaks in my CTR were and needed to address those leaks by pulling those ads. You can guess where I went next. Right to my AdSense page!


Now what I’m personally shooting for is an overall CTR of > 1%. Clearly I’m right under that goal so I want to see if there are any places where I’m obviously bringing down my CTR. Well just looking under my “Clicks” column, I see that there’s a big disconnect between my single entry clicks and my main page clicks. Doing some quick calculations, if I removed my ads from the first page, my CTR does in fact change…

3,454 total impressions – 855 front page impressions = 2,599 impressions
32 total clicks – 4 front page clicks = 28 clicks
28 clicks / 2,599 impressions = 1% CTR
The Problem
I wish that it was as simple as just removing my ads from the front page but truth be told, I can’t trust my results 100%. Why? Because I don’t have all my ads tagged with the FrontPage or SingleEntry channel. I don’t know WHY I did this, but after inspecting my code, I realized that my sidebar ad does not have that tracking on it! So I don’t have any idea if it’s getting clicked on the front page or the back. HOWEVER, It looks like the Sidebar ad isn’t really getting clicks ANYWAY, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to remove it. But I really wish I had tagged this one to see exactly how removing it would impact my bottom line. On that note I wish I had tracked the other ads better too to see how individual ones are performing on the front page vs the single page. I mean, I only have 6 ads (3 on front and 3 on back) so how much work would it have been to get the right tracking on these bad boys? (AD#1, AD#2, AD#3, AD#4, AD#5, AD#6)

Conclusion
I wanted to go ahead and test a new design next month to see if would help out my ads, but I feel like if I do some better targeting, I can get some really good and clean data going forward. So, time to retag, sit back for another month and hope for the best.

Have any of you had similar experiences or can you recommend some analytics software to help me out?

Saturday Speedlinkin II

For the second time in two weeks I present to you, Saturday Speedlinkin! I hope that your week has been good, mine was fraught with adversity at work but managed to maintain all the way up ’till my birthday yesterday which turned out to be good times.

I did come to a sad conclusion though…

I think a may go this entire year without eating some crabs. *sigh* Of course the summer isn’t over but crabs are expensive, I can eat them for hours and hours, and I think the little guy is eating into the crab fund.

But I digress. (#):)

Dell to Preinstall Firefox as Default by Aaron – If you’re like me, you love Firefox and you try and spread the good word where you can. Nothing sucks more than having to tell every relative you have about it, and having to point them exactly where to download it. Everything would be simplier if it was just installed by default.

Useful Firefox Extensions for Developers by Ram – Like the comment I left, if you’re a developer without these extensions, you’re just making life harder for yourself.

Search Engine Optimization for Yahoo by Court – If for no other reason than this article reminds you to not forget about Yahoo, bingo bango.

Three Alternative Ways to Increase Your RSS Readers by Rhys – Good marketing is often out of the box thinking. Maybe it’s time you started thinking outside the box to increase your readership.

Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow

Sure the title of this post is borrowed from the ill fated Saved By the Bell: The College Years but hey – Do you ever feel like you’re standing on the edge of tomorrow?

Well, I feel like that right now. With all the stuff I have going on right now (computer wise), I just have a feeling that very soon it’s going to all come together.

Do you agree?

What’s Really Good
You regular readers know that I’m working very hard to get myself out of the rat race. Before I knew about blogs I thought that “traditional” websites were the way to go. But the fact of the matter is (and this is coming from a web developer’s position) blogs make a lot of things a lot easier including traffic, content creation (using a CMS like WordPress), search engine love and ultimately monetization. And something that shouldn’t go unsaid is the fact that I love blogging and connecting with other people.


Other Stuff that’s Good
What most of you don’t know is in addition to the blogging I also offer web design/dev services locally where I live. I’m not making much from it right now, but it’s certainly enough to cover hosting costs and then some.

Edge of Tomorrow
This month has kinda been eh eh. My posts have been ok, I’ve gotten back on track with my frequency but unless the PR update hits soon, I don’t think that I’m going to have anything momentus happen this month. But that’s ok. Next month hopefully I’ll have some PR and that will certainly mean some more revenue on this site, and maybe some on my other site too. Furthermore, if I can get my a$$ in gear, hopefully I can get another client or two for my web design services and will really be able to contribute some nice side money back to the family.

So yeah, even though the ultimate goal is to live off my net doings, if I could accomplish $1000/mo from webdesign + blogging, I would be super super happy. And I just have this feeling that it’s going to happen sooner than I once thought it would. (#):)

coComment Apologizes?

We all know that coComment was once heralded as the blogger’s ultimate schmoozing tool. But since then, excitement has definitely wained as users have experienced disappointment after disappointment.

Execution with coComment has been less than stellar because of the myriad of problems the plugin has produced including comments going unrecorded, and web forms failing to execute.

coComment : “We’re Sorry!”
After Mark’s post Smackdown: co.mments vs coComment, I was thinking that’d he be the first to post this, but maybe I’m the only special one who got this e-mail. *WINK* Here’s what the e-mail said:

Dear coComment User –

Firstly, an apology. The upgrade of coComment to Version 2.0 Beta has been difficult and I know that, as users, you have been inconvenienced. We are sorry and promise not to do it to you again.

As well as the usual teething troubles and unexpected bugs, we experienced a database corruption which made coComment increasingly slow and unresponsive to requests. We believe that we do now have the bugs ironed out and that the service should be faster and more reliable than before the upgrade.
However, if your experience differs please do let us know and we will resolve it for you.

We have also had a lot of feedback on the design and its usability. We have, in response to many comments, reverted conversation display to the old ‘accordion’ style within the MyConversations framework and the client to the previous version. The ‘new’ client, which appears on websites to allow you to control coComment, is now only activated when you use the Sidebar viewing mechanism. We will give you the option as to which client to use, with the default setting being the less ‘intrusive’ version.

This is still a beta product . the final version will be released September 24th . so we are completely open to feedback on usability/functionality/design/look and feel. Please let us have your comments/concerns and we will respond.

Once again, our apologies for the difficulties. We believe very strongly in the future of the comment space and coComment 2.0 is intended to take the state of the art a long way forward. In trying to do so much, in one step, we created problems for you and ourselves. We will not, in future, shy away from developing the product to move it forward BUT we won’t try and do quite so much in one go !

Please feel free to email us personally with your feedback/comments and thank you for your patience and understanding.

Best regards,

Matt (CEO) – matt@cocomment.com
Nicolas (CSO) – nicolas@cocomment.com
Christophe (CTO) – christophe@cocomment.com
Kristina (VP Marketing) – kristina@cocomment.com

Giving it Another Whirl
Now I’m not gonna lie. I’ve had coComment turned off for a while now ’cause I just got sick and tired of its crappy performance. BUT, I applaud coComment for writing this very humbling e-mail and I think it’s going to have me checking out the plugin again. Here goes nothing!

HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray War Intensifies

Boy was I sad when I read this yesterday on Destructoid. It had really seemed that the high definition dvd war was finally approaching an end with Blockbuster choosing to only stock Blu-Ray discs, Blu-Ray outselling HD-DVD 2:1, and 7 out of the 8 major movie studios putting their movies on Blu-Ray.

BUT all that changed with word yesterday that Paramount and Dreamworks were dropping Blu-Ray to sell exclusively on HD-DVD.

What the Devil Happened?
According to the NY Times says Engadget HD, Paramount and Dreamworks were essentially paid off to make the switch. Somewhere in the tune of $150 Million in incentives for 18 months. *ugh*

What this Means for You
If you were waiting to buy DVDs for one system or another (like myself), you may have to wait a little bit longer. And even though the major movie studio support is now about 5:4 for Blu-Ray, it is STILL outselling HD-DVD 2:1, offers MORE capacity on its discs, and seemingly has more support and from the high def industry. Now even though it seems like I’m a super Blu-Ray fanboy, it’s moreso I just want this war to be over with, so us consumers can just start our collection and move on.


Oh hey – I forget what I was exactly searching for yesterday, but I came across this great video from CES 2007 where the reporter asks people on the show floor which format will win. The best part of the video comes when one guy responds, “Well, I’m in front of the HD-DVD guys now so I’ll say HD-DVD”. Then the camera zooms to a Toshiba guy behind him who looks like he’s about to go strangle him. Ha ha. Check out the vid by clicking the picture above.

Am I the only guy who cares about this stuff?

Yoda says: Suffer Your Other Blog it Does

I just wrote a post on my other blog about much I’ve been slacking on it. And that’s really the only way I can say it. In two months, I have 10 posts on it. Not good.

So starting today and hopefully hitting full effect next month, I’m going to rededicate myself to it. But easier said than done right? NO! Here’s how I and you should get busy if you’ve been doin nothing lately but bein’ lazy!


Go Back to Basics
If I just follow what we all learned when we started off blogging, I’ll be fine.

  • Blogging schedule – Right now I just don’t have one. And it’s killing my blog. So starting today, I’m going to do at least three postings a week. 5 would be ideal but I’m not gonna shoot for the stars just yet.
  • Quality content – While I haven’t reviewed the posts I’ve made, I don’t think all of them were of the utmost quality. That is going to change. Especially if I’m not holding myself to posting 5 or 6 times a week…I really don’t have any excuse.
  • Schmooze – No one knows about my other blog because I never go out and find other parent bloggers, and I do ever happen on a parent blog, I certainly haven’t been leaving comments. That’s gotta change too. If I don’t, my blog will toil in obscurity for the rest of my days!

Misc
Besides the above, I gotta just start putting more into that blog. On here I have tweaked things a lot (with the design and code) and still have more to do! On that blog, I have done oh…basically NOTHING and there are certainly things about that design that I don’t like and need to change. So hey, here’s to next month!

Saturday Speedlinkin

This is something new that I’m gonna give a whirl on here. Up until now, I haven’t given my fellow bloggers much credit when it came to the excellent posts they write. But nowadays, I read a lot of posts a week and lots of them are just pure money.

So starting today, if I happen upon a post I really like, you’ll see it here on Saturday’s. And if there’s a post you’re particularly proud of, feel free to let me know about it too!

  • Smackdown: Comments vs Cocomment by Mark- Mark writes a fantastic post about these two head to head, and I’m glad he did so because despite what cocomment SHOULD do, I’ve been under impressed with its actual performance which is really too bad since for a blogger, it should be a killer go to tool.
  • Crap Happens by BBM – Before I became a father, I loved all the zainy things kids do and say. When I became a father, I appreciated them even more. This is one of many posts by BBM that just makes you smile because of what her kids say. (#):)
  • How to Get Rid of Writer’s Block by Casey – We all suffer from writer’s block from time to time and Casey tells us how we can power out of it. My favorite suggestion : “Look at How Much Money You’ve Made”. Ha ha ha!
  • Something Besides Aliens by Mike – Everyone loves Mike and I’m no exception. But besides being one of the friendlier guys you’re gonna meet on the net, he’s also one of the more talented. And though most of us may know him by his Gummy drawings, he does create other art too!
  • PS3 vs XBox 360 Comparison Part 1 by Matt – For a lot of us, PS3 and 360 are pretty expensive. Expensive enough that many of us don’t have both. And if you’re wondering what you’re missing, you should check out this series of articles. If you’re not interested just check out this guy’s design and portfolio. Sometimes I just go to his site to look at it. (#):)