Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Much Time?

It is a question that I have been asked or alluded to often. How much time does it take to keep EMRR up?

Short answer: About an hour a day.

Long answer: It really depends (oh, I guess that was short as well).

Helpers:

See the “Help Along the Way” Historical entry. Really without these helpers, EMRR would not be maintained as well as it is (hopefully not being too presumptuous here).

Time Consumption:

Here is a rough breakdown of the most time consuming areas of EMRR:

Reviews: Each review can take between 15 to 30 minutes to read, edit, add pictures, and format. With 50 to 100 reviews added per quarter… well, you do the math then thank Lance Alligood, who has carried the brunt of that work-load since 2004. (see also the other helpers from the past in the above referenced “Help Along the Way”, as well as Anthony Jackman who has started to share the format load with Lance this year)

Databases: RockSIM, Recommended Motors, CP, and now SpaceCAD databases require very little time to maintain, however, the set-up, initial population, and end-of-year changes can be tedious. Dick Stafford has been handling these databases since 2001. Thank him as well, because this allows me to focus on other areas of the site.

Contests: Each contest has its own load. The estimate for each contest is about 6 hours to get set-up and get prizes. Then depending on the contest, there could be 30 minutes per entry to maintain it. At the end another couple of hours to manage prizes and such. We always appreciate the help and there have been a number of hosts, especially for virtual contests. Presently, I can assure you, the Box O’ Parts contest would not be happening if it were not for Todd Mullin. In addition, this year we’ve asked James Gartrell to handle a lot of the PR and prize management of the contests and the site. This, too, leaves me to focus in on other aspects of the site.

Site Updates: Each site update takes an average of 2 hours. First, we flip the formatted reviews/articles into the DAT files and load them into the flat-text database. Next, input has to be checked to ensure the opinions, tips, stories, and specific tips are not from casinos, medicine, or porn sites and then they are placed into their respective databases. Then all the various other pages (e.g. index, history, eList, etc.) need to be updated. Finally, all the files need to be uploaded.

Script Writing: This has been left out of my estimated time because when I get into a script writing mode, I could, literally, spend an entire day. Those days are gone as the scripts really only need a tweak here and there now. For new items, scripts can take up a considerable amount of time. For example, the new Who’s Who in Rocketry Registry. The initial database took about 6 hours to start. First, the HTML form had to be created. Then the script to accept the data into the form and place the input into a database. Next, the script that reads the database and places the results up on the screen for you had to be generated, tested, and tested. At that time, EMRR announced the database. The Edit feature took another 4 hours (after our botched first attempt which took about 6 hours). Just the other day, the script was tweaked which took just a few minutes. This was to sort the WHO’S NEW feature in the newest-new to oldest-new order.

Reducing the Time:

We have always been looking for ways to fine tune and reduce the admin time while protecting the family-friendly content. Many inputs are now pre-formatted as much as possible. When you use the forms that is a big help. That being said, we do accept input in other formats. For instance this week’s update includes the scratch-build Level 3 rocket “Temporary Insanity”. That came on a CD because it was about 30 Megs of information. That specific review took me about 1.25 hours to format.

We have implemented filters to get rid of most of the spam (casinos, medicine, and porn sites) input. This has helped a lot.

Some have suggested going to a Content Management System (CMS) software. RocketryPlanet and TRF are examples. EMRR is very tightly integrated and most pages are dynamically built via the Perl scripts. I'm convinced it would be the end of EMRR as you know it, if we attempted such a conversion. So, no thanks.


Summary:

EMRR recognizes that it takes a lot of your time, as well, to put together a good review or article. We’d like to THANK YOU and encourage you to do more!

Next Up: Favorite Moments

Box O' Parts and Odd-Rocs!

Gentlemen and Ladies… start your rockets! That's right, the first ever Box O' Parts contest is fully underway. Todd Mullin has done a tremendous job getting the boxes put together and sent out. Can't wait to see what the outcome in going to be. And on top of that, today, we have introduced our first photo contest for the year: Odd-Rocs 2008…

… be sure to check it out. It has been 5 years (can you believe it) since our last Odd-Rocs contest.

I'm off on vacation tomorrow, so I rushed through a few reviews/articles and formatted them myself. I may have missed or messed something up, so look over your submissions and make sure they don't have typos and such. Let me know of any changes (any time).

Also don't forget to check out the latest Super Hit List Releases including:
Semroc Astronautics Golden Scout
Madcow Rocketry Screech
Semroc Astronautics Aroebee-Hi
Semroc Astronautics Centaur
Semroc Astronautics Arcon Hi

Lastly, just a continued reminder to get your Who's Who in Rocketry entry completed.

Regards, Nick

Monday, March 17, 2008

Contests

Rocket Give-Aways:

Back in April 1998, EMRR started the Quarterly Rocket Give-Away drawing to support the site. The concept was simple; submit reviews (and later other content) and get entered into the drawing. We have now complete 40 Rocket Give-Away drawings for the last 10 years. Who was the very first winner? Patrick Wright was the first randomly drawn winner. Sadly, Patrick only has a single review on EMRR.

You may wonder how we do this random drawing. Each time a review, feedback, story, tip, or anything else that qualifies is submitted to EMRR, the entries are entered into a text file. At the end of the period this file is loaded into an Excel file where I use the random generator in Excel to pick a number between one and the number of entries. And there it is.

I then check the e-mail address against the eList Announcement file and if there is a match I contact the winner. If no match, I go back to the Excel file until I get a match. Let me tell you, as simple as it is, many have not won because they do not subscribe to the eList.



The “Lost” Contests:

It looks like the first contest EMRR held was tied to Public Missiles. I can not determine when it started, however, the winner was announced on 3/15/99. The winner, Brett Keller, won a Public Missiles' AMRAAM 2" and wrote a review of his prize.

The next contest EMRR held was tied to Apogee Components. I started the contest on 3/15/99 and the winner, John C. Coles, won an Apogee Delta III and later did a review of his win.

A third contest was tied to The Launch Pad. I started that contest on 5/15/99 and the winner, Paul Staires, won a Launch Pad Matra "Magic" R.550. He never came back to review it on EMRR (big gasp from the audience please).

The last contest for 1999 was a Survey contest for RocketVision. The idea was that people were supposed to fill out a survey on various questions about kits and motors and be entered into a drawing. There were two winners, Jim McRea and
Terry Moore-Read. They both won a RocketVision Mach-Buster kit. Terry wrote a review and (more gasps of despair) Jim did not.

These are lost, because I was doing “special” pages back then and would over-write them for the next special item. Archive.org does not take me back far enough to ever find out what the contest was so I imagine they will remain “Lost”!

Other Contests:

Starting in 2000, I began making special pages for contests. The first was a Scale Photo Contest. From there the contests have grown in participation and in prize packages. It has been great!

EMRR has hosted 16 Photo Contests, 13 Virtual Rocket Contests, 5 Design Contests, 4 EMRR Challenges, and 9 other contests.

There are three contests that deserve some special note:

Virtual Rocket Contests:

This contest was an EMRR original. When I got the idea, I started bumping the idea off of Tim at Apogee. I recall the primary concern was that we end up with the rockets all looking the same. Well, I worked on the criteria and the contest requirements and voila’ we had a contest… and the 19 rockets entered all look different. This contest has been a hit and we look forward to starting the next one (14th contest).



The EMRR Challenge:

Another idea out of the skunk works of EMRR. This idea came after reading the NARTREK program in a Sport Rocketry. I liked the idea of a self-paced program that allowed rocketeers to grow in their knowledge of the hobby. So, the EMRR Challenge came into place. Those that are participating in the EMRR challenges have worked on comparing rockets, building from paper, clusters, plastic model conversion, kitbashing, retro-look, garbage rockets, gliders, and scale rockets. We believe it is working based on the number of comments that we receive. And the prizes are GREAT!



Design this Spaceship Contest:

I had been collecting some pictures of fantasy rocketships from the web that I thought I would try to build one day. Those kept getting pushed to the back-burner. I decided it would be cool to see if anyone else could build them and so I created another EMRR original contest. I look back at the first contest and I still can’t believe Drake “Doc” Damerau's Annulus. Wow!



10 Years of Prizes:

Thousands of dollars have been “given away” through EMRR. EMRR has been the biggest self-promotor in providing prizes, however, here are all the manufacturers and vendors that have provided prizes to EMRR (in alphabetical order).

[NOTE: These are prizes that have already been given. We have sponsors for current contests that are not listed below. To see those great prizes, click on Contests.]

AerotechDG&A RocketryNordic RocketryScale Kits
Apogee ComponentsDiscount RocketryPemberton TechnologySemroc
ARA PressEdmondsPratt HobbiesShadow Composites
ARCFat Cat RocketsPublic MissilesShockcords.com
Art ApplewhiteFlisKitsQModelingSirius Rocketry
ASPFlisKits RocketsQuest AerospaceSpaceCAD
Binder DesignsGuestQuickBurstSquirrel Works
Blackhawk RDG-Wiz PartnersRebar RocketsSunward Aerospace
BlueSkyJonRockets.comRed Arrow HobbiesT & M Embroidary
Booster VisionJP ParachutesRed River RocketsThe Launch Pad
BoRocketsLawnDartRocket VisionThrustline
BRS HobbiesLOCRocketFliteTotal Thrust
California PublishingMadcow RocketsRocketGutsTrue Modeler
Caveman RocketryMicroClassicsRocketheadU.S. Rockets
Countdown HobbiesModel Rocket ShopRocketman Ent.UnderDog Rockets
Cowboy RocketryNano RocketryRocketSiloWestern Space Technology
Cycline3Newton's 3rd RocketryRowes RetainersXavien



So, the message here is… you must participate to win!

Next Up: How Much Time?

Winners Announced (Maybe)

Calling Jon Chrisman and Geoffrey Kerbel! If you respond within 3 days with your eList e-mail address and snail-mail address, Jon will have won the Super Hit List $114 Shopping Spree and Geoffrey will have won our standard Quarterly Rocket Give-Away...

Wow, check out the new reviews and articles. 19 new ones.

EMRR Challengers... let's do a check in. Please reply to this note and confirm that your score is accurate or that you need me to update something. Remember the goal is (3) flight logs for each entry. Also, I don't give the points for Flight Logs until the end of the year.

Enjoy the site.

Thanks,

Regards, Nick

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My First NARCON - Sort of

Well, I was excited to go to my first NARCON this weekend in Rochester, MN. I was there for business and stayed an extra night.

General Impressions

First, it is a bit unfair of me to give an overall impression because I was there so short of a time (Friday from the 3:30pm opening until 10:00pm). Unfortunately, that was all I could stay for and had to catch a flight out in the morning (which I thought was later than it was and so didn't get to take in any of Saturday's sessions).

Okay, now my general impression. Worthwhile indeed, just from the sample time I had. First I enjoyed walking through the vendors section and looking at some of the new kits. There was also a nice display of older rocket "stuff" including rocket kits, motors, catalogs and magazines.

Next, I enjoyed the talk "Building a Winning Bowling Ball Rocket using Advanced Composite Construction Techniques" done by Richard Hagensick. He kept my attention for the entire hour and demonstrated some really unique (to me) building techniques with carbon fiber. Well done.

Dinner was fun. I sat at the table with Vern and Gleda Estes and enjoyed conversation with folks at the table. Thank you, Bob for arranging it. My meal was excellent, but I ate too much.

I was able to get my picture with Vern and Gleda, but since I forgot my digital I'll have to develop my FujiFilm disposable and hope for the best.

The introduction and vendor's forum was fun. It was touching hearing from Carl of Semroc introduce the Golden Scout in honor of Vern and Gleda Estes. Please consider buying one and fly it in July!

Other Unique Opportunities

I met Bob Cox and went over to his secret lair (it is blood red) and learned many, many secrets regarding the man behind the mask (or was that a monkey?). Some great work on some rockets he had on display ar NARCON.

I met Chan Stevens who will no doubt pass me by in number of rockets reviewed. He did the display Adfecta for FlisKits and it looks great. Amazing to see all his micromaxx stuff and his award winning glider!

I met Tater Schuld who shared in enthusiastic discussion and was hospitable. I imagine he will be flying remote controlled rocket gliders soon enough!

I also got to say hi (again) to many of our suppliers that help support EMRR prizes including Jim (FlisKits), Dave (Sirius), John (Red River Rocketry), Gary (Aerotech), and Carl (Semroc). Hope I didn’t forget anyone.

I also met Boe from ‘Chutes by Boe and bought a “mushroom” parachute.

(Note: I would have bought more things but I didn’t have the space since I flew out on Saturday).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What Do YOU Have to Say?


From the very beginning, I wanted EMRR to be interactive in the sense that guests would have input. This was first implemented with guest opinion/feedback input that was accessible from every review by May 1998. Shortly after that Guest Stories were added and in November 1998, EMRR added the Tips section.

In March 2002, we then added Rocket Specific tips to ensure that tips folks had for individual rockets were displayed at the bottom of the reviews. This has been a very nice add (my opinion).

Back in 1999, in an interview for RocketryOnline, I highlighted the desire to have people's input:

NE: "One of the main purposes for a guest to submit a review to Essence's Model Rocketry Reviews is to allow their experiences to be shared with others. No doubt, everyone can think of a time when this would have been beneficial for themselves."

"We also want to remind all that individuals can have different experiences with the same products based on their experience level, expectations or variations in the kits. So use the reviews for informational purposes, but consider your experience level when purchasing a product."

Getting Input From the Guests:

My first Guest User Survey took place in November 1998. It was an attempt to see what people liked/disliked and used or didn’t use on EMRR. I repeated this survey in 1999 and then stopped. I didn’t get [much] useful input from this.

On the hand, when asking in general forums or e-mail, how can we improve EMRR, we’ve received and implemented many, many guest suggestions. Various contests were guest suggestions, including the one we’re running now: Box o’ Parts Contest.

There are many features that came from guest suggestions, so never be afraid to ask.

Why Not Add a Forum?:

Some have wondered why EMRR hasn’t set up a forum. EMRR has tried to maintain it niche in the online rocket community, so it tries to tie everything to its core in some way or other. In addition, we have tried to avoid encroaching on other websites. So we avoided being a Rocketry News site (like RocketryPlanet and Rocketry Online), or a Forum (like The Rocketry Forum and Ye Old Rocket Forum), or a Plans site like (JimZ or Ye Old Rocket Shoppe) or finally a rocket nostalgia site (like Ninfinger).

What’s the Next Interactive Feature for EMRR?

We just kicked off the Who’s Who in Rocketry Registry and hope to see continued growth in that database. We also started the SpaceCAD file library last month. Beyond that, though, we turn our attention to you and ask, “What’s the next interactive feature for EMRR?".

Next Up: Contests.

EMRR: General Update and Blog Updated

Outstanding new reviews and articles uploaded today. Wow, check out some of the scratch builds and the review of the re-released Estes Interceptor...

Also, have you been following along with the History of EMRR on this Blog?

A couple new products were released to take note of:

1) Semroc is honored and privileged to announce the Golden Scout model rocket kit in honor of Vern and Gleda Estes.

2) Madcow Rocketry is proud to announce a new 38mm minimum diameter rocket called Screech.

Also, finally got the EDIT feature for the Who's Who in Rocketry Registry (WWRR) working. Add yours today, edit it tomorrow :).

Enjoy the site and let me know of any mistakes.

Thanks,

Regards, Nick

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Help Along the Way

EMRR has always meant to be an interactive site. The development of the site, too, has allowed for input and interaction. Therefore, EMRR developed with a lot of help.

Server Help:

After we grew beyond the initial size and capability of my provided ISP and then a XOOM service, Andrew Bronfein provided space for EMRR. Andrew was the originator of Blackhawk Rockets before those designs were sold to Aardvark Rockets (and that’s a whole ‘nother story I don’t want to talk about!). Andrew had begun managing the M.O.P.S. (Modifications, OOP, Plans and Scratch) section of EMRR back in October 1998. In March 1999, we started using Andrew’s server. This was great because I started implementing many, many Perl scripts at that time.

We ran into server functionality problems in February 2000 and by February 2001 EMRR needed a new ride. In stepped Darrell Mobley at uHostMe. Darrell, as most know, was the originator of Rocketry Online and now Rocketry Planet. Darrell helped me fully utilize my domain name and also helped be debug a couple of critical PERL scripts.

In January 2003, EMRR got a fantastic new server ride from Greg Deeter of Boomspeed. Greg, when highly active, flew some very cool high-power rockets down in Texas. Boomspeed has been a solid server and we have enjoyed the performance and support from Boomspeed’s William Devine (who best that I know does not fly rockets) who has helped us over many hurtles. Greg also provided space for the RMR Descon when I got that restarted, Model Minutes US for my short lived paper –rocket adventure, and CRMRC our Vermont NAR club (which has since moved to another server).

We are still going strong with Boomspeed.


HTML Help:

There have been many folks that have contributed tid-bits on site design, however, I’d like to mention two individuals. First, Chris Taylor, who got EMRR functioning with a very early buttons look. Chris also runs the NARAM Live site. This was back in 1998 when I was just getting going. I wish I saved some of the old screen shots of this look. It didn’t last long before I moved on to as less-button intense design.

NOTE: On Chris’ NARAMLive, you can see me here with my son (green hat), our friend (blue shirt) and me in the sun glasses checking in on Tuesday of NARAM-49 in Michigan. You can also see my BSD Diablo here right next to our friend’s Estes Scissor Wing.

The next big renovation of EMRR came in 2001 with the help of Andrew MacMillen of HawkFeather Web Design who gave me guidance on making the site more visually appealing and consistent. Andrew went on to really make a significant impact to EMRR with the basic template and title graphics for the critical 2003 site overhaul. That design for the most part lasted until the present look that I generated for 2007 based off of Andrew’s 2003 design. Andrew also designed the FlyRockets Website in connection with Discovery Channel’s documentary on model/high-power rockets.

2000 Look


2002 Look



2003 - 2006 Look



2007 - present Look




Site Help:

A lot of help in database management and formatting has been provided over the years. I’m sure I’ll miss somebody, so I apologize in advance. I see that I received help from Andrew Bronfein (M.O.P.S.), Andrew McMillen (Descon formatting for archives on EMRR), Mike Kent (1st Tips database), and then Andy Tate, Fred Dick, Scott Turnbull, Tim Burger, Peter Chestna, Kevin Timmins, and Dan Westley (all with formatting reviews).

Presently, Dick Stafford who, as mentioned earlier, has been the longest partner of EMRR (since 2001) and responsible for key databases including RockSIM, Recommended Motors, and Center of Pressure and Lance Alligood who has become the review formatting king and has out-lasted any/all others (since 2004). In addition, we added James Gartrell to be the new PR (front man) to help promote the site and manage sponsor and prize communication, Anthony Jackman to help with the formatting load, and Al Gloer is helping get the motor database up to date. (Note: you might enjoy this (http://www.rocketreviews.com/site2008.shtml).


What’s the net of all this:

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Next Up: What do YOU have to say?

EMRR: Blog and Site Updated

Did another EMRR History update to the Essence's of Essence Model Rocketry Review Blog. Check out this series of articles about EMRR's development. Oh, yes and also...

...we have just provided an update to the site. Things are rocketing and rolling!

Note: I was in a rush, so be kind and let me know about errors, typo's or anything else you find wrong.

Thanks,

Regards, Nick