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Fight Opinion 2.0

By Zach Arnold | December 8, 2007

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When I started this web site during the Christmas season of 2005, little did I realize what a monster this would turn into.

Over the two years of this web site’s existence, we’ve covered some of the biggest stories in the MMA industry. The plain site format that we used was easy to read and served everyone well.

When Fight Opinion first launched, there were very few MMA-related blogs and fewer MMA-related podcasts. Outside of veterans like Eddie Goldman and Caleb, there was a stunning lack of MMA-related coverage online.

However, the scene today is changing and I am happy to see more and more sites popping up. Because the amount of sites is increasing, I turned my site’s focus more towards promoting other sites rather than writing columns on a regular basis.

The upgrading process

In June of 2007, I decided that the site needed to be upgraded. I was spending 1-2 hours each morning/afternoon finding the latest news links for daily updates. It was taking time away from me being able to do other site-related tasks. With little PHP experience, I took on the task of learning how to tweak and upgrade the posting system I’m currently using. With mixed results, I was able to at least create a vision of what I wanted the end product to be.

Along the way, a couple of people helped me out with the technical aspects of what I was trying to implement. John Griffin and Andy Griffiths, two of the nicest people I’ve met online in MMA circles, helped me out with PHP-related issues in pulling in RSS headlines from the top MMA web sites. Over a time span of about two months, these two men and their sage knowledge of PHP helped create a blueprint of exactly what I wanted to accomplish.

What I wanted to accomplish was a portal-style format that would allow Fight Opinion readers to look at the latest headlines on the top MMA sites. To do this, I used some WordPress-style RSS options (such as the Fetch command) to pull in headlines from sites like Bloody Elbow and Five Ounces of Pain.

At first, things were going great. I no longer needed to use an RSS reader for MMA-related items, as I had everything available on the web site theme. The problem? The more feeds you added, the longer the load time. The fetching of RSS feeds was putting some stress on our server and the end result was a good product with a really long wait time.

Refining the upgrading process

I managed to find the right theme that I wanted to modify for the web site: a three-column theme that was easy to navigate and clean to use. Call it compartmentalized, call it boring, call it what you want… it’s effective and it gets the job done in a clinical fashion.

After finding the right theme, I was having trouble getting the theme to be compatible with all sorts of web browsers. I had beta testers from our web site check out the new design and see how it functioned for them. After two rounds of beta testing with very good suggestions, I ended up heeding the suggestions of one Dr. J of MMA HQ fame.

I had been a reader of Doc’s web site for a while, but I didn’t really know him well outside of his MMA coverage. After months of working on the new site design, I have come away with so much respect for the man in terms of his ability to design web sites and handle PHP-related activities. Doc was able to help fix the site theme so that it was compatible on multiple web browsers. The next step was figuring out how to speed the loading time of the RSS feeds. Eventually, Doc came up with the idea to cache the feeds so that it would process the RSS feeds on certain time intervals and store the results in files. The end result is that the RSS headlines from the major MMA sites processed on the new site design with no delays in the loading speed of the web site.

For the past two months, Doc and I have been trading a couple hundred e-mails to each other trying to perfect the process. To say that Doc has the patience of a librarian is an understatement.

The end product that you are looking at today is made possible thanks to the help of John, Andy, and Dr. J. I had a vision of what I wanted to do with the web site, but these men were able to help me create the end-product to deliver that vision. I cannot thank these outstanding individuals enough for what they have done for me both on a personal and professional level. They are incredibly talented people.

Here is the contact information for each person (if you would like to support them):

John Griffin
Paypal address: johnog@gmail.com
Business web site: http://www.johng.co.uk
Focus: Building web applications

Andy Griffiths
Paypal address: design@gambituk.com
Business web site: http://www.gambituk.com/design
Focus: Web design, PHP help

Dr. J
Paypal address: craigpj@comcast.net
Business web site: http://www.drjenterprises.net
Focus: Web site development, hardware & software support

The product you are looking at

It’s not aesthetically perfect, but it certainly is an upgrade over the old design in terms of functionality and being able to package links in a more compact format. If you use RSS, there’s no excuse now not to subscribe to our RSS feeds for both the site and the radio show.

The new theme will also allow us to implement advertising in the near future. I want to implement ads that are not intrusive to the readers. I am not sure what kind of focus there will be in terms of what kind of advertising there will be on the site, but we will make sure to integrate ads in a way that does not majorly disrupt your reading experience on the web site.

Obviously, the first thing that enters into your mind seeing the new site design is just how many links there are to content on external sites. Yes, I understand, the term information overload might pop into your brain. However, I wanted to create a web site theme that allowed people a sneak peek inside my brain as far as what MMA sites I look at, how I gather coverage, and what stories I think are important for you to take a look at.There’s a lot of MMA writing talent that is being developed right now. I want to help get as much exposure to as many writers as I possibly can.

As for the process of how I chose the site headlines that currently exist… well, these are the sites that I generally tend to read first. I will admit that I can and might use the list of RSS headlines the same way that Standards and Poors uses the S & P 500. In other words, I may demote some feeds and bring new feeds along occasionally if I think some of the sites linked are not adding enough content online.

I wanted to create a site design that would update itself and be self-reliant. I truly believe that the new design will encourage more readers to make this site their new home page in their web browsers. Right now (as we speak), the time interval for headlines being updated is every 15 minutes. I may slow it down to every 20 minutes in the future, but right now every 15 minutes seems to work out pretty well.

The future direction of Fight Opinion

In many ways, this web site has changed my life. As silly as it might sound, the site is more than just a hobby. It’s an extension of who I am as a person and how I look at the fight industry. I am always looking for ways to make this site a better and more entertaining experience for the readers. I can’t offer the multimedia necessarily that the other big boy sites offer, but I do believe that the new site theme will allow me to create a better picture of what the MMA media landscape truly looks like.

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