Sunday, June 6, 2010

Big Changes

Summer is upon us and MatthewsCalorieCounter will be turning a year old next month! So I thought this would be a good time to update our ever growing community over what is and what’s to come.

We have added a sister site, Diet Combat which has many updated tools and information and works great on most media devices.

I have been so busy with school, family stuff and trying to complete my Senior capstone project ‘’ that I've not had the time I've wanted (needed) for this site. That’s changing. My other project is just about done and then I will be focusing on MatthewsCalorieCounter, and the changes that are going to be made will be radical. The site you see today will not be the same at the end of the summer.

Right now I am two classes from gradating SOU with a CS degree, unfortunately ( on how you see it), I will not be able to take those classes until the fall, which means I get this whole summer off to work on websites, what a blessing! Soon after that I will be starting on my Masters.

I started building this site about two years ago and then officially went public almost one year ago. This site started out very simply, much like my development skills. There never was any real direction; I just added utilities, functions and modules as I came up with them. Because of that, a lot of the back end has been more or less “band aided” together and the overall site flow is somewhat… lacking. Many systems need to be rebuilt, retooled or totally replaced.

This year I spent between $5,000-$7,000 on this site (server costs, development costs, production costs) and too many man hours to count. To date I have only made about $300 back from it, all in Ad Revenue. I somewhat expected this, as I never really expected to commercialize this site. It has been hard to compete with the quality of the other competing Dieting sites, but that should change after this next major rebuild.

Right now this site if run off of Ad Revenue, I am dedicated to NOT have to convert to a Paid Service. The business model of running a site off of Ad Revenue is very risky and you need LOTS of people to make it worth it. Right now it’s just not working, but I am not going to give up! After this next big site update I can finally focus on some real marketing, which should help.

What can you do? Refer this site to friends and family, or better yet, if you have a website or blog, give me a link back. Those will help significantly. The more people that use this site, the more ads will be clicked, and I can keep this site Free to use.

The Plan
For those who like lists and like to see upcoming changes, read on!

In somewhat chronological order:

-Friend System
I am in the design stage of building a friend system. You will be able to request and add others as your friends. This will allow more of a community feel , give and receive support and help with accountability. More on this later.

-Message System
This will allow you to PM others (within your friend and support groups), answer friend request and get site updates. More on this later.

-Total Back End Rebuild
This will be the biggest update; it’s needed and should increase overall performance.

-Total UI Rebuild
The biggest visual change. Say good bye to the nasty side bar, and that claustrophobic feeling. It’s all going bye bye. Much much prettier things are on the way.

-Calorie Counter and Exercise Log Page Rebuild
Those two pages were the first I designed for the site and reflect my then current development skills. How embarrassing ; ). This is the core and heart of the site and should reflect that.

Some of the changes:
-Full Nutritional Tags
-Drag and Drop, no more page Refreshes. These pages will feel more like a desktop application, not a web page
-Total redesign of how you interact and whats displayed in your statistics and data
-For more info please visit: http://www.matthewscalor...need-your-feedback.aspx

-Meal Strategy/Battle Page
I am really excited over this one. This page will display a 30 day calendar that you will allow you to plan out your meals and exercises in advance. This will allow you to see how many pounds you could lose at the end of those 30 days, and better visualize and strategize your diet. This will be ghosted within your main calorie counter food page, which should make adding your days eaten foods as easy as one click.
Intelligence is the key to winning any battle, diets included! More to come.

-Public Food Additions
When you add a food you will have the options of adding it to the public food library.

-New Chart
No longer will you use something that looked like a preschool drawing, but a professional looking chart that you can easily see your Weight, BMR, BMI and other weight loss statistics. If I have time I would also love to have the capability for you to upload pictures when you weigh in. These would combine into a slide show that you can share with friends to display your overall weight loss.

-FaceBook and Twitter Integration, Apps
This is the icing on the cake and cannot wait to start working on this.

That’s about it for now.

If you have additional suggestions, please leave them in this thread:

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer!


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Latest Update - Weight Loss Profiles

The Short and Sweet:

What a whirl wind of development! I was faced with either redesigning the Calorie Counter and Exercise pages or putting together Profile Pages. I am actually right in the middle of developing another site:, of which profiles at this point are logical, so I decided to incorporate that system into this site. And I am VERY happy with the results.

So in addition to rebuilding the existing profile section I decided to add in a couple other systems to help augment the existing ones. Read on!

New Features - Updates - Changes

New Profile Pages:
If you have not yet had a chance to check yours out, you can see mine here:
Matthews Profile

To edit your profile:
Profile SetUp

Editing your profile should be pretty easy and straight forward. You have MANY options to choose from of what to display and what not to. I did my best to migrate everyone’s existing account information (Bio/FavMusic/OtherInfo).

I also increased the size of your Profile Picture. To get the new size you will have to upload your profile picture again.

I wanted to talk about some of the design decisions I had to make when building this new feature.

Some of the issues were:
*Privacy Settings. How they would work and how many settings to have
*Deciding on what can be displayed, initially and for existing accounts
*Whether to include an option to display your latest Daily Journal Entry.
*Allowing posted comments on people’s profiles

Privacy Settings:
You have three options:

1. Public: Displays anything that is either enabled or filled out.

2. Private: Sets everything except your Name and Picture to private.
Depending on what is enabled and filled out, your profile will still be viewable by YOU but private to everyone else

3. Support Group Only: Your profile will only be viewable by your Support Group and yourself. Everyone else will see your profile as private

Modules Options:
These options are either enabled by check a box or by entering text. So if your “My Story” is left blank, it will not be show in your profile. The same goes for any text box you see in your “Profile Setup” page.

Currently you have the option of enabling or disabling eight different modules. Those options include:
• Recent Forum Posts
• Recent Comments
• Weight Loss Chart
• Profile Comments
• Personal Information
• Your Daily Journal
• Weight Loss Ticker
• Recent Foods & Exercises

Now trying to figure out what modules to have enabled when creating a new account and migrating existing accounts took some thinking. I decided on setting everyone’s profile to Public *modified.
This means all the more personal modules will not be enabled (Weight Loss Chart, Personal Information, Daily Journal, Profile Comments) while the less personal and very blank items will be enabled.

The Daily Journal Module:
Yes this is now available to be displayed if you choose to. When I first created this feature it was meant to be something personal, something just for you. But the problem is that no one used this feature. Things like this in the development world are usually thrown out and not supported. But I decided to rework it. I really wanted to build a Blog module, but that in its self would be a huge undertaking. Maybe one day.

So now your Daily Journal is a way for you to share your latest thoughts and experiences with the community. Unfortunately with the new system I had to wipe all existing journal entries from the Database.

Profile Comments:
Not to be confused with ‘My Recent Comments’, profile comments allow other registered users to post comments in your profile. This feature comes disabled, so to use it you will have to enable it.

About moderation. I have been around long enough to know there are some real mean people out there, with nothing better to do but cause trouble. I call these people trolls. So to help combat these trolls, every user in their own profile will have the option of deleting comments. This is to help with moderation. Expect more moderation tools in the near future.

Other Features Upgraded and Rebuilt
These profiles were a much larger project than I ever imagined, and really pushed my skills to the limit. I had to rebuild and rework many existing systems. One we talked about already was the Daily Journal System, here are a few others:

I use an open source forum software called YAF. It has worked great so far, but the problem is that because I received it as a whole package it is hard to modify. The problem is that this forum package acts like a mini web site in its own right, including its own version of a Profile Page. How confusing is that?!?! So I was able to get into the guts of this thing and modify it so that when you click on someone’s name it will now take you to that persons Calorie Counter profile and not a forum profile.

Weight Loss Chart:
Because the chart is a little smaller on your profile page, and for users that have been dieting for a while, I reworked the way it is built. These new rules apply to the chart on your Weigh In Page.

The chart format will now change based on how many times you have weighed in:
o If more than 10, Dates will be displayed vertically
o If more than 30, Dates on the X-Axis will shrink
o If more than 30 entries are detected, beginning with your Diet Start date, every other weigh in date in addition to your last weigh in will be displayed, essentially cutting the chart in half.

We have been online for about six months now and we actually have had members dieting that long. With six months worth of weigh ins the chart starts to really get cluttered. I’ll keep an eye on this as I am sure some of our more dedicated members are really going to push this chart to its limit and if that happens Ill expand it again.

Going Further with Profiles...
Support Group and Friend System/Expansion
This is just the beginning and depending on popularity I will expand this system even further. There were many systems I wanted to implement with this profile system but just did not have time. I want to add a “Friends” Module, in addition for a way to ask to be invited into a Support Group.

Those are really important and usually come standard with any website today that incorporates any kind of social networking or profile system.

But those modules mean we have to have to have some kind of private messaging system, which is a whole other beast in itself.
-How to control spam?
-How exactly does someone ask to be invited to a support group, how to answer that request and who in the support group gets the final say?
-Spam requests for friends

I have played around with MySpace and the one thing that always annoyed me were the obscene friend requests I was always getting. I never ever want to build a system that replicates that. Ever.

So depending on existing and future popularity I may or may not add these functions.

Privacy Changes:
Because of the New Profile Pages, and the new Account Deletion tool I had to update our existing Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy

Account Deletions:
A few users have asked if I could delete their accounts since they decided to move on. I am totally fine with this, but thought I should make it so that Users can delete their own accounts.

When you delete your account, your account is actually set inactive. The reasoning is to help resolve disputes, enforce our user agreements, and due to technical and legal requirements and constraints related to the security, integrity and operation of this site. Your pictures and tickers will be erased. All forum posts, added content and comments will remain. Your profile pictures and tickers being replaced with generic pictures and tickers.

And just to be extra clear, once your account has been deleted, there is no going back. Your old user name can never be used again on this site.

The Future:

With the new profile addition, the screen is getting cluttered with links. The problem is that the site has grown so fast, I have had no where to place them. This is leading to the next big site addition/revisions.

This will result in some major site design changes, one which will include taking out the left hand side bar and finding a home for those links. This also means every page will have to be redesigned to fit into the new format. This will also be a great time to redesign the layout and functionality of the Exercise and Calorie Counter pages, something I have wanted to do from launch. My Chief Art Directory, my wife ; ) is working on some nice looking tabs to replace the upper nav bar.

On my short list:
- Rebuild Site Pages
- Rebuild Calorie Counter and Exercise Log Pages
- Implement Private Messaging System
- Friends Module

If you were able to get through that wall of text and have any ideas I would love to hear them!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Moving to a new server!

Were moving to a new server platform!!

This move will:
-Increased Performance
-Scaling Options

It is currently scheduled to happen in and around 2/8/2010.

We don't anticipate any major problems, but for now we are going to disable registrations until the move is complete. There may be some down time, but hopefully it will be short.

Existing users should be unaffected.

Eekers! Well it turns out that its going to take a lot longer than I had hoped. The people I host this website with are expanding, which includes moving all there websites to a new server platform. This new technology is clashing with existing technology, everytime they try to ghost this site on the new tech it Fails, thats problem 1.

Problem 2 is that thier new support team is now in India which makes it impossible to talk with them and get any quality support. The truth, most of this is out of my hands. Its like trying to gett cable and them telling you they will come between Tuesday and Thursday, but not giving you an exact time. grrrr.

Sooo, I am thinking of just jumping ship to a whole new service (cough cough Amazon cough). Ill keep you updated

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Patch Day 1/30/2010! Woot!

I apologize, it's been a while since I have last updated the site. Been so busy with school, family and life ; ).

Beta has been going great, been logging all those wonderful errors and been spending the last week fixing all I could get to.

So for those that like lists, here ya go!

New Features

*Added a new weight loss ticker skin - Tropical Beach - Thank you Emily!

*New "Email Friend Feature"
-This link can be found in the upper right hand corner of the navigation bar labeled "Send To Friend"
-If you like the site, please share it with your friends!


*Changed a few things around on the home page, still looks a little too messy, will get it right one day.

*Rewrote some of the back end code, should see a performance boost for older, more data intense accounts.

*Current Weight in 'Diet Settings' now reflects proper usage

*Numerous formatting issues

*If you get an error when inputting an exercise or food, you will now be properly notified and not kept in the dark.

*You can now visit the Support Group Join/Create page without being kicked for not being logged in (for those un-registered curious types)

*Work Groups are now Support Groups, which sounds MUCH better
-Please update your favorites link

*Visiting the Weight Loss Ticker page and selecting 'Customize' will now function properly and send you to the right place

*I had to sit down and talk with FireFox explaining that it's ok if there are double spaces in food/exercise names and not freak out
-You should not get errors adding foods and exercises anymore. Just love those browser compatibility issues.

*And many many many little tweaks here and there.

Known Issues
*There are issues with older browsers crashing when trying to register (I'm looking at you IE6!)
-We are looking into this now. It is very intermittent problem and very hard to reproduce. In the mean time, please upgrade your browsers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Weight Loss Free Tool Section

We are adding tools that you can use in your own websites or personal blogs.

Free Food Search:

Powered By: - Free Calorie Counter

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Your Profile Page is changing!

We have added Profile Pictures and Screen Names. This is in preparation of our next big update, Personal Blog Pages!

In the next coming updates, your current Profile will be merged into a Blog page, which will be set to Private, Friends Only or Public. Blog pages will display your Screen Name, Profile Image, A little bit about you and of course your diet blog. People can visit your blog page, leave comments or read your latest thoughts. Your Blog page will be separate from your Journal page. Your Journal will always be kept private and for your eyes only.

This next addition will allow people to feel more part of a community, and be able to take part in that community.

Coming Soon!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lots of updates coming up!!

Busy is an understatement. There has been a lot of activity behind the scenes here at Matthews Calorie Counter.

We have given the Registration Page a facelift. Should make for an easier registration process. We have tweaked alot of the site, brought the Site Tour up to date and added a few more articles.

We have added something called Work Groups, and Weight Loss Tickers. Expect full blogs about those later. Our Team is finishing up the last few tid bits of the Weight Lost Ticker Builder system. Should go live soon!