Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

This is one of those days that you aren't sure will ever really come. I'm very happy to announce that the latest version of RateVegas.com is now live and open for business. In April of this year, RateVegas.com turned ten (!) - and I think this is the best version yet.

You can visit the site here: RateVegas.com.

The update features an all new-design that's heavy on photos and designed to be easier to navigate and to read. An enhanced search tool (still being tweaked a little)makes the content more discoverable, especially the thousands of 'Ask the Experts' questions I've answered for folks over the years.

An updated technological foundation sets the stage for several new Vegas Mate features that will be unveiled in the weeks and months to come. I'm keeping those under wraps for now but I'm pretty excited about them - they're so far ahead what the other Vegas apps are doing and I can't wait to share them.

I hope you like the updated Vegas-y goodness and the next time you come home from a trip, maybe spend a few minutes to share your thoughts with the community. Not only are your reviews visible on the Web but also for the many thousands of users of Vegas Mate on the iPhone or iPad.

RateVegas.com (and this blog) continues to be supported through advertising and affiliate revenue generated by hotel bookings via our travel partner, Expedia. Our prices there should be competitive so the next time you book a trip, consider doing it through that mechanism, assuming you can get the rate and terms you're looking for. That, along with engaging our advertisers, is one of the best ways to 'help out' your favorite independent travel sites be it RV, VT or XYZ.

So go on, check out the site... and leave a few reviews. It only takes a few minutes (assuming nothing breaks).

If you're using Vegas Mate, there will be a content update for users of v2.7.1 in the morning that should show up in the app. It matches some of the changes I made here on the site today.

For those that are interested in the technical details, I've written a bit about them after the jump.


By my count, this is the sixth major revision of the RateVegas.com Web site. The first version debuted mid-April 2000. That's a long time. Before I get into the technicals, a few other things I'd like to say, if you'll indulge me.

Self Indulgent Section

Until I realized it had been over ten years, I hadn't really thought about writing anything retrospective. Actually, the ten year mark passed a few months ago and I didn't even notice. That's not a big surprise though, these past few years I've been too busy to remember a lot of this kind of stuff.

Wow. Ten years. I was twenty-one when I fired this thing up for the first time. That seems like an eternity ago. Since then I got married, my dad died and I quit a secure and stable job to start my own business. For me, it literally seems like an age.

This is a good time for me to thank everyone that's been around for awhile - I know some of you have followed my progress literally for years and for that I'm very appreciative. While the Web site has never risen above 'hobby on steroids' for me in financial terms, it's been incredibly rewarding when it comes to building personal relationships and allowing me to expand into mobile apps like Vegas Mate.

I've also been able to reach a ton of people. I often forget that an average blog post here will reach several thousand, a really popular post will hit tens of thousands and that in aggregate the site is seen by close to a million unique people a year. Those analytics never fail to surprise and amaze me - it's humbling so thank you. We still have a hugely disproportionate level of readers to reviewers. That will always be true but I'd like to see if I can engage a few more of you to share your thoughts with others.

What's coming next? That's the hardest question for me to answer. I have what I think are some killer ideas for new Vegas Mate features, some of which tie directly into stuff on the Web, both here and on other friendly sites.

One thing I can say for sure - the next ten years can't just be about me re-posting stories that are reported in the Sun and RJ. That's just not enough for me for it to feel like I'm making a contribution. I want to add more of my own opinion - be that through the Vegas Gang podcast, via written pieces here and yes, also through new features in the apps. I think there's an opportunity to express an opinion through enabling people to do more with technology.

Ok, my soapbox is wearing out... Moving on.

Technical Section

For those that don't know, I make my living as a software developer - a consultant to businesses that need custom apps built, be they on the Web, or more recently, on the Mac, iPhone and iPad. Given that, I've often used the RateVegas.com site as a place to experiment with new technologies that I'm considering using on customer projects. The site is often my tech guinea-pig.

Over the years the site has migrated from being based on PHP, then on to Apple's WebObjects and then for the last several iterations, Ruby on Rails. This time around, the whole site was rebuilt using Rails 3, the latest and greatest version of the framework that introduces some major changes to the way the object-relational modeling works under the hood. It was a great chance to get my hands dirty with Rails 3 on a real world project.

In addition to Rails 3, it was also an excuse to learn more about JQuery, a Javascript toolkit for doing programming right in the browser. On the HTML front, the design lead for the project, David Holtz, did a great job delivering a modern batch of HTML, heavily relying on CSS for all the layouts.

One part of the new infrastructure you won't see is under the hood - all the code that interfaces with folks running Vegas Mate has been heavily re-factored to make things more maintainable and expandable. Until now, there were two separate Web apps serving up Vegas Mate content, a vestige that's now ancient history. That's now changed and everything has been unified under the new RateVegas codebase, both for users of existing versions of Vegas Mate and for the upcoming Vegas Mate 3, something that wouldn't have been possible under the old setup for a myriad of reasons.

I've always preferred PostgreSQL to MySQL and that continues to be true. MySQL's just too flaky, plus the Oracle situation there doesn't really inspire confidence. The site's backend is built on PostgreSQL 9.

The search technology is built on top of Sphinx. I expect to be actively tweaking that for awhile, as I get a better handle on the types of queries that are being done and the quality of results being returned. Sphinx gives me a very powerful set of query metadata that I can assign various weights to. Fiddling with this should be a lot of fun.

Happy to answer any technical questions that anyone might have.


Comments

Read archived comments (18 so far)
November 22, 2010 10:03 PM Posted by Kerry

Awesome job, dude! Looks great and appreciate the sharing of behind the scenes details!

Can't believe it's been 10 years already.... I feel a flashback coming on.........

(fades to the Caribe Cafe, in the year 2000) ....

November 22, 2010 10:04 PM Posted by Hunter

Thanks buddy. Oh, I miss the Caribe.

November 22, 2010 10:06 PM Posted by Hunter

Nice photo BTW. Geez.

November 22, 2010 11:33 PM Posted by mungroo

Congratulations on 10 years, Hunter. I have enjoyed visiting your site for about 5 years now.

I like to check out the TWHT blog, so I sometimes forget the whole "rate" aspect of ratevegas.com. I just added a couple of restaurant reviews and I will try to add some more.

Have you thought of adding a "Casino" feature to the ratings so we could post reviews featuring our gambling experiences? I could rant about the d-bag MB pit boss who 86'ed me for "extreme profanity", the dragon lady at the Venetian who liberated me of $400 in 14 minutes, and many more fun times.

November 23, 2010 12:04 AM Posted by Benjy

Been checking out the site and it looks great. Amazing achievement to be around 10 years. Well done!

November 23, 2010 7:48 AM Posted by Hunter

Thanks!

I actually used to have far more specific review categories but it was a little overwhelming for people to have to rate them all individually, thus I collapsed them into general, per item reviews.

Feel free to leave casino reviews in with the hotels that stand on top of them.

November 23, 2010 8:37 AM Posted by atdleft

Wow! The new site looks so spiffy. Great job, Hunter. And congrats on 10 years of Rate Vegas!

Here's to 10 more...

And if you ever need more restaurant reviews, you know who to email. ;-)

November 23, 2010 8:50 AM Posted by Hunter

You did a great job covering Un'corked for us but there's no reason to wait for an invite - review away - there are tons of great restaurants here where you can submit your thoughts.

November 23, 2010 10:15 AM Posted by atdleft

I was half-kidding, Hunter. The new page looks quite inviting, and I intend to add my thoughts on the grub. So how many restaurants are now included in the new Vegas Mate? Btw, how much off Strip is included?

November 23, 2010 10:30 AM Posted by Tim W

Congrats on ten years! Wish you many, many more! I’m still patiently waiting for Vegas Mate to come over to Android as well.

November 23, 2010 3:39 PM Posted by Hunter

There are about 500 restaurants in Vegas Mate. About 1/3 of them are in Off-Strip locations.

November 23, 2010 6:22 PM Posted by Ronald LaRue

Seems to be a pretty cool site.
I have a couple of comments concerning Las Vegas and their recovery. I do believe Las Vegas will recover just fine. However, what is the measure of recovery?
The boom that has been the past two decades is bound to level off, it must as all the economy is. Perhaps the boom gone but the Vegas experience will go one to the end of time. For we all need a place to get a little wild, and Vegas allows for that.
That being said, take it from one who knows, do not get into trouble in Las Vegas. I had a legal issue that was the most unique and comical (if it had not been me) courtroom experience, well worthy of reality TV. It was 15 years ago, but still Las Vegas is it's own state, and then the rest of Nevada. So, have a blast but not too much fun, as I was guilty of having.
Vegas is going to taper off on the building. It has to stop, none of us have anymore money to lose to perpetuate it.

November 24, 2010 8:13 AM Posted by atdleft

Ronald-

I don't want to go too O/T here, but I'll try to answer your question as quickly and concisely as I can.

At this point, it really does look like Vegas has turned the corner. Unemployment is finally going down, the casino operators don't look like they're constantly on the verge of bankruptcy, and more tourists are coming back.

However, don't expect a sudden leap back to 2006 any time soon. While tourists are coming back, many aren't spending as much as they used to. (The stories one hears of people bringing coolers when checking into Bellagio have some truth.) And yes, don't mess with Metro. They're a little eaiser on Strip tourists, but out in the 'hoods, and even in the 'burbs, they just shoot first and face county inquiries later.

OK, back to the subject on hand...

I've been perusing Rate Vegas, and I'm quite impressed with the redo. If there's just one quibble I have, it's perhaps that I don't see any non-casino restaurants listed in the dining section. But then again, since most tourists like to stay in the casino zones, perhaps this is for a reason.

Otherwise, the site looks great and I look forward to doing more over there.

November 24, 2010 10:47 AM Posted by Hunter

Both RateVegas.com and Vegas Mate are designed to be resources for tourists / visitors and thus reflect the fact that upwards of 90% of resort corridor tourists don't leave The Strip or Downtown.

November 24, 2010 3:29 PM Posted by motoman

Holy cow, ten years...!
Were you even legal then? ;-)

November 24, 2010 8:09 PM Posted by Hunter

I turned 21 a few months after I started the site.

November 26, 2010 5:16 AM Posted by BigHoss

Congratulations, Hunter, and here's to another interesting 10 years!

December 5, 2010 10:16 AM Posted by Natalie Loopbaanadvies

10 years? Wow. What a great achievement.

RateVegas.com and Vegas Mate are really useful tools, especially to tourists like me. I would like to visit Vegas in the future and the aforementioned would really help me a lot in deciding where I should stay or go. Looking at the site and the app makes me so excited to visit Vegas.