By Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman
hen QBS burst onto the Quake scene not all that long ago as one of the rare 'truly original ideas,' that of a program that would check for updates to specific websites. Now, it's expanded to Webdog, including sites from all areas. We decided to sit down with QBS founder Richard Smith for a talk. Richard, being a Scotsman, also earns the distinction of being loonygames' first trans-Atlantic profile (about time we got out of this continent on these things, eh?). Enjoy!
Name/rank/serial number? Richard Smith/Xerox/5
For people who don't know, what is Webdog? The greatest thing ever to hit the Internet :) Webdog basically takes the idea of scanning the plans for updates to the next level and does it with webpages as well. So in around 10 seconds you can find out when 150 webpages have been updated, as well as some 200 plans. It means you don't have to keep hitting webpages just to find they haven't changed.
Where did the idea for it come from? It started because I felt that getting your news posted on some of the big sites was increasingly difficult for those people who worked for months on their maps, models etc - because the amount of news was increasing so much. My idea was to have global news pages which you accessed through the program (which was still QBS) where you could post news etc. Process then suggested that I should track news pages with it instead.
He put me in touch with ronsolo, who was running the stomped finger tracker at the time and we worked out how to alter that to track news pages instead and then output files that QBS could pick up and display. We basically changed the whole direction of the program in one night!
Was initial reaction to it all you'd hoped it would be? I originally expected 100 users if I was lucky - and I would have been perfectly happy with that. At the time, even getting hosted by Stomped was a big thing for me. When we finally released in what I think was March this year and I got invited onto Quakecast, all of a sudden I thought - bloody hell, we might just have something good here. :)
To someone who doesn't know programming (in other words, me), it seems that doing a tracker service like this is a big project...how difficult was writing the initial program? Thankfully, ronsolo already had a strong tracker basis with the Stomped finger service, so that side of it was pretty much sorted. That is the major bit in a project like this, and thankfully ron still takes care of it - because I still don't know how it all works. On the client side, it was difficult because QBS was only my second ever VB program - so I was basically teaching myself VB as I went. If you take a look at the code now, its a mess when I was just learning.
Why the new name/look/domain with Webdog? We'd been thinking for a while about changing the name, because people still thought of QBS2 as the Quake Broadcasting System (which it was called because of the original idea of broadcasting your news to everyone, before it became a tracker) and also felt that we should reinvent ourselves as we were moving into tracking more than just games. I never liked the name QBS anyway and it was really because I couldn't think of anything better at the time.
I've been working tonight on our proper new site design - instead of just a slightly modified QBS2 one. We've decided to concentrate exclusively on being the tracking centre of the Internet, instead of the one stop gaming utility that we were going to turn QBS2 into.
Where do you see the future for Webdog? Expansion. We want to become a generic service that everyone uses, whether you're into games, music, TV, films, sport etc - as we will soon be checking pages in all of these areas. At the moment we're unique, but we know that it won't be long before someone else releases a competing service. We know that we currently have the best .plan tracker available and are also trying to get people to use ours instead of Stomped's or PQ's.
We're going to start concentrating as much on our web-based tracker content as we are on our client program, which is why I'm about to introduce a search engine of our .plan history. Its another tracking service we feel people will appreciate.
Will it become a commercial service? I refuse to ever sell the client program, or make it shareware. Currently the program is donateware (if you like it - send me something if you want to. If you don't want to send me something, then you don't have to) and that's as far as I'm willing to go. We may consider adverts in the program in the future, but I don't know how likely this is. At the moment, I need some way to make money - simply because UK phone charges are so high.
We just haven't worked out the best way to do this yet.
You don't add all pages submitted to Webdog. How do you choose which ones to add? We get so many submissions, that there is often a backlog, so sometimes it may take a while for a page to be added - so sometimes it might appear eventually. We look at each page and look at how often posts are made, what the design is like, how many visitors they've had etc - to see how popular it is. If its had a couple of million visitors the obviously they're readers would benefit it being in Webdog.
We email all the people who we want to add, and they have to add two HTML tags to their page and then tell us what page they would like monitored. Once their added, they must post the Webdog button as well. Sometimes I've had 70 submissions for different pages and emailed them all and only 20 have replied, so only those 20 get added.
So its not us that doesn't want to add the page, its the webmaster of the site that has ignored us.
In the light of the recent arguments about 'elitism' in the community, do you feel that by only adding selected pages you're promoting that view? We only add pages that we think people are going to be interested in - which is basically because we can't track every page on the Internet - simply for logistical reasons. But a lot of it has got to do with webmasters not replying when we talk to them about getting their sites added and that probably accounts for a lot of the ones we miss out. This is probably because there are still people who haven't heard of our service.
We'd love to add all these pages, but we need the webmasters co-operation to do so. I've tried in the past to get people like PQ to setup secondary tracking servers and have them track other pages (imagine them tracking every page on the PQ network) and then have that information pumped through the Webdog client as well, but they aren't interested because they're working on their own system.
Everybody would rather do their own thing, then create what is best for the people. PQ won't even post our button because they think they'll be promoting us and then will have a problem promoting their own.
Who are you in real life? I'm a web designer/programmer and technical person for a small computer company in local East Kilbride. I've recently been offered a job at Mucky Foot Productions in Guildford as their webdesigner/technical/playtester dude and am waiting for their publishing deal with Eidos to be sorted out before I start. Anyone who has not heard of Mucky Foot should have. :)
What games are they working on? (and congrats on the new job!)
They're working on Urban Chaos - which is a fantastic third perspective action game with some fantastic animation and graphics. They're also starting a game called "Space Station" which I can't talk about. :)
Urban Chaos was previewed at http://www.gagames.com/games/previews/urbanchaos.html
What are your favorite games to play? I don't have time to play! :)
Seriously though - Quake 2 of course, much better than Quake was. Unreal sucks big time, I can't understand why so many people thought it was good. I bought Starcraft three months ago and haven't even played it yet.
I have an N64 and Mario64 IS the best game of all time and Banjo-Kazooie is great as well. From the past, Lotus 2, Speedball 2 and Sensible Soccer on the Amiga were all great. I've been playing games for 10 years, so I've seen too many great games to mention.
I LOVE Mario64! :) It is brilliant, a strict lesson in game design and better than every other game ever by so much.
I'm a silly when it comes to that...I have him run around in circles, listening to the "woohoo", stuff like that. :) It's just plain fun, simple, when so much else is extremely elaborate. Yea, my friend Alexis (who sculpted the QBS2 blue-dude) borrowed the game from me for 10 months, simply because she liked the sound of his feet running along.
Exactly :) What are your favorite websites? Fav webpages... well Webdog is my bookmark list. :) Blue's of course, need my daily dose and it is the first place I go. I go to lots of other pages as well on Webdog, but that's only because they're in front of me waiting to be clicked on and not necessarily because I need to read them. I get reminded of loonygames every week when Blue has his Monday rundown if that week's features and have to go for a visit there too.
But other than that.. I tend to just pop along to websites when I am reminded of them, there aren't any I MUST visit. Apart from AP2 of course....
AP2? Its a website written by the ex-writers of the magazine Amiga Power (which was canceled a few years ago as the Amiga went down). The magazine always had a cult following and they were hated throughout the Amiga industry because they always told the truth about how bad games were, or how good games were. They were even sued for giving bad reviews at one point by Team 17. The magazine was continually hilarious but maybe that's because I've read the magazine. (http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/ap2/) It'll probably just confuse everyone, but it has the most original site layout you'll ever see. The four cyclists of the apocalypse on the front page are a good indication of how strange the magazine was. The four of them used to do yearly joystick reviews.
"I, Doctor Herbert Lengths, comb my handsome moustaches."
Mad as a brush, and it'll take you hours and hours to navigate the whole site
I like the guestbook page :)
One final question, just because I"m silly, and I can't resist :) What do Scotsmen really wear under their kilts? :) Something you would be glad to hang your towels on.
And you can quote me on that :)
I intend to :) Thanks!!! Check out the site at http://www.webdog.org.
- Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman is an associate editor for loonygames.
Credits: Community Profile logo illustrated by and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Community Profile is © 1998 Stephanie Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is just a bad idea. We have lawyers.