Saturday, September 29, 2007

Atlas Quest.... is... alive!

Atlas Quest was born June 24, 2004. It's my baby, and it continues to grow. Not just in the number of people who are using the site, but it continues to mature, fleshing out features I didn't put much effort into the first time I went through and implemented version 1.0.

If there was ever an update to Atlas Quest that deserved the name 2.0, this is the one. For you tech folks out there, that has nothing to do with "Web 2.0" which I think is so overused (not to mentioned misused). Ultimately, my goal is to create a very simple, clean website without AJAX, Flash animations, and such.

The reason I think of this update as AQ 2.0 is because the original feature I developed--the first major feature (and the only major feature when the site went live)--the city based search.... is no more. I have retired it. Today, something even better has come along, which I call the location-based search.

You'll notice the old search box for city, state, and country are now gone, replaced with a single text box that just says "location." What does that mean? It means a lot of things.

It means you can still search by city. Try typing "Seattle, WA", and you'll get a search for boxes in and around Seattle, Washington.

But you can also type "98116"--the zip code of my PO Box there--and you'll get a search based on that zip code.

Or type in "Admiral Way at California Ave, Seattle, WA," and you'll get a search based on the corner of SW Admiral Way and SW California Avenue.

Or type in "Lincoln Park, Seattle, WA," and it'll return with the results of all boxes nearest Lincoln Park.

Or type in "Mount Rushmore." You don't even need to mention a city--it's not like there's THAT many Mount Rusymores out there.

Or type in "French Hospital, San Luis Obispo, CA."

Or type in an airport code, such as SBP.

To tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure what all that little box supports. It's hooked up to the Google geocoder, and it's actually Google that processes what you type then sends the latitude and longitude coordinates back to Atlas Quest, and Atlas Quest runs the search on those coordinates. If it's something that Google can handle, it's something that Atlas Quest can handle.

Additionally, their geocoder also supports the countries of Canada, Germany, Italy, and Brazil. (Yes, Brazil. No, I don't know why.) So addresses in those countries should also work! I tried some Australia locations and got some decent results out of that as well, so I know there's at least some support for Australia. As Google adds support for more countries, Atlas Quest will automatically start supporting them as well.

What about the rest of those countries out there? Alas, there is still no address support for you folks (but I'm sure Google is working hard on fixing that as I type!), but Atlas Quest still knows all the cities it always knew before, so if Google comes up empty handed, then Atlas Quest will try to parse the data and find the city you searched for. The same state and country abbreviations are still used for this purpose. So if you need to search for boxes on Dartmoor, you'll want to search for "Dartmoor, ENG." You can try an address if you want, but it probably won't work. (I did get the address for "10 Downing St, London" to work, but most of the addresses I tried failed miserably.)

If you were wondering what took this update so long to get out the door, it was this feature. Freakishly tricky to get just right. =) Heck, it might still have problems, but it seems pretty solid at this point.

You'll find a number of other changes as well. There's now a contact list. All types of boxes can now support attributes, and most of them have new attributes. (Especially those virtual boxes! If you have virtual boxes, you might want to go back and update the attributes on them.)

I plan to be around for most of the day fixing bugs that crop up. This is a massive, massive update, and I have little doubt there are bugs that need fixing. If you have questions or problems, post to the message boards. There's not much documentation for all the new features--I still need to do that. =) I will get to it eventually, though. *nodding*

There's also one small change you may or may not notice, but I want to point out. When I started Atlas Quest, it was a website. It wasn't even apparent it was a letterboxing website just from the name, so I added a small subtitle at the top that read "A Letterboxing Website" so people know the site was, in fact, about letterboxing.

With this update, though, I felt that should change. Atlas Quest isn't "just" a website anymore. It's a community. It's a community that posted over 10,000 messages to the boards this month! So I changed that subtitle to read "A Letterboxing Community." I think it fits better. =)

1 comment:

ipsquibibble said...

WOW. I can't believe you the site down for such a short time, Ryan- and I'm excited to dig in and see what all your lil' brain has come up with. Thanks for doing what you do! (do be do be dooo....)