Learn To Internet The R/C Way.

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 l2internet

If you read my introduction, you may recall that I am an IT professional by trade, so I thought I’d pass on some of my tips on ‘doing the internet right’ as an RC hobbyist, to you guys. I also mentioned I moderate at RCU for many years, so I included a few forum tips too.

The best feature of the internet is the free access to all kinds of information. There are search engines, blogs, personal sites, forums, usenets, commercial sites, fan sites, and many other resources available on the web to help you with just about anything you could need.

People think that radio control is a bit of a niche hobby, but really it isn’t, there are millions of us, and as such we have infiltrated the World Wide Web with a vengeance.

I’m not going to write on all the different kinds of information resources, some are almost redundant these days, but I will write a little about the most important ones; search engines (or should I just say ‘Google’) and forums. And by forums, I mean forums hosted by Internet Brands, all the others are rubbish, of course. 😉

 l2google

So, let’s get into a couple of basic Google tips!

Phrasing your search terms as a question. If you phrase your search as a question written in English, Google uses a different logic to handle that. It queries its indices in a different way. You will often find that you get better results if you are looking for instructions on a particular subject if you ask the question in English. For example: ‘How to break in a nitro engine?’ – be sure to include the question mark, versus ‘nitro engine break-in’. In this particular example, the results are very similar, though you will still find that the more ‘how-to’ oriented articles are promoted better when searching with a question, as opposed to more informational results (such as wikis etc) from a simple keyword only search. It’s a subtle difference, but in certain situations, you will get far better results if you are searching for actual instructions rather than generic information.

Don’t limit your results by using unnecessary detail in your search terms. For example, you have bought an OS .18 nitro engine, and again you want to see what the consensus is on breaking it in, do not include the name of the engine (OS 18CV or whatever) in your search terms, or you will limit (or rather heavily prioritize) your results to mostly those that refer to that engine. In many cases you may find the information you need, but you have still limited your results unnecessarily, it would have been better to search simply for ‘how to break-in a nitro engine’. Note that this is just an example; I don’t advocate necessarily ignoring the instructions provided with an engine pertaining to break-in. If you are new or unsure, go with that method.

Conversions – Have you ever been shopping for servos or tools and find that the units provided are in metric when you want imperial, or vice versa? No problem. Google has a really excellent conversion application built into the search engine. Even complex units such as torque measurements (very handy for servos!) can be done in an instant. This service has improved quite a lot over the years. I remember when it was first available, you had to be very careful how you typed the question or it would not trigger the app and would just give you search results instead, for example, if you wanted to convert kg/cm to oz-in you actually had to type “Convert 100 ounce inches to kilogram centimeters” – if you made a spelling mistake you would just get search results. You can easily tell if Google ‘gets’ that you want to do a conversion, as the results will be shown in boxes well above the first search engine results, as shown below, similar to when using Google Translate.

convwin

To perform a conversion, simply type the conversion that you want to do. It is less sensitive than it used to be, both to the syntax or phrasing of the search terms and spelling mistakes, but it’s still better if you get it right the first time. So, as I’ve already used this example (torque), let’s go ahead and do it…in most cases, you can type the conversion in very simple terms. For example for a simple mass/weight conversion, just enter ‘100 kg to lbs’ and it will give you the result, however, this is not the best approach. If you go back to the example above of a torque conversion and you simply type ‘100oz-in to kg/cm’, you will only get search results, not a conversion…why? This is because the common way of writing oz-in with the dash is not actually the correct syntax for the unit, if you want an instant result for the shortest query possible, you must use the correct unit syntax. In this case it is oz/in (note the dash replaced with a slash). So you go back and you type ‘100oz/in to kg/cm’ and you get your result. But wait! It’s wrong! If you type that into google you will get that 100oz/in is 1.116kg/cm, which is not correct.

In order to take the guesswork out of this, I almost always include the full unit names, as well as the word ‘convert’ beforehand (gives google the general idea that you want to perform a conversion before it even looks at your units). So personally, I would have written the query as: ‘convert 100 ounce inches to kilogram centimeters’. Sure enough, when you do this, you will get the correct result, 7.2kg/cm. I do not know what is responsible for the specific error when using shorter search terms for the same conversion, I can only imagine that there is some scientific unit which isn’t widely known that is also called oz/in or kg/cm, and that google is assuming that this is the conversion we want to do. In any case, spelling it out for google guarantees the correct result (yes, even high technology needs to have it spelled out sometimes lol).

convbetter

 Site Search. This is the big one, my favorite google tip…How to search only within specific sites to filter out all the worthless results (and avoiding tragic internal site search engines). This has been available as a service from Google for many years, yet still precious few internet users are aware of it, and it is my single biggest tip for searching the internet. I own a BMW and I often need to search for how-tos and information to help me avoid getting fleeced by the BMW stealership. Since there are a lot of results available for all kinds of BMWs, I want to make sure I get only results that are relevant to me. How can I do that…? Well, I have an E92 chassis code, and I know that the big BMW forums, Bimmerpost, are segregated by chassis code, E46, E9x, Fxx, etc. The right bimmerpost sub forum for me is called e90post.com. If I had an M3, I might also try M3post.com, etc., etc. So I can either use the search engine in the forum itself (anyone who has used a forum search engine knows they are pretty much universally tragic), or, I can simply use google to search only those forums. There is no longer any need to complain about bad search engines within forums, let google find what you need! Quick disclaimer, nobody’s blaming the forums or sites for their search engines not being as good as google, google has incredible technology, I’m simply showing how to put that technology to use.

rcusearch


…it’s ok, but…

This is accomplished again by specifying your search term in a specific way: including the syntax ‘site: x.com’, so my full search query might read ‘how to install xi downpipes site:e90post.com’, and sure enough, all my results will be from the e90post forums, without exception, as I have told google to only give me results from that site. This can be done on any and all websites; searching for something on RCtech? Simply type your query followed by ‘ site:rctech.net’ and you will only get RCtech results. Go ahead and play around with this, it is by far my most powerful tip for effective search engine usage, and can even be used to search shops faster than using their internal search engines. Got a Traxxas part number you want to find? Instead of going to tower hobbies, logging in, hitting the search, scouring the results, just type the search from google and use the ‘site:towerhobbies.com’ syntax. You can be sure that Google will search the shop more intelligently than Tower’s search engine (Google’s indexing is second to none) and you may even find the part you want in the bargain bin or scratch and dent, that might otherwise not have been apparent from the shop’s own search. 😉

sitesearch

l2forum

Right, so forums, wow, what a resource! As a senior moderator on RCUniverse for like, ever (getting on for ten years), I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to good and bad forum usage. Here are a few tips for being a productive member of the community.

Screen names. Starting with the basics…your forum name! How many times have you seen a forum member with a name like ‘Ruckusisthebest’, or ‘Savage4eva’, or similar? Quite a few I’ll wager. How about when they get bored of their Ruckus or Savage? Save yourself the trouble of requesting a name change down the line and keep your name related to you, rather than your latest kit. Additionally, and while this is painfully obvious to many I still see it all the time, don’t use your email address as your forum name. Think about it…by giving out your email address on a public forum, you have most likely given away half your credentials for any other internet based site that you use (your username). Not only that, but by allowing your email address to appear in indexed search results (all forums allow google indexing unless they are very badly programmed), the spambots which crawl the web will add you to their databases pretty quickly and you can find yourself the victim of untold amounts of spam in no time at all. Keep usernames relevant to you and reasonable for the site to which you are registering (for example if the site has a family oriented content policy, it’s best not to get people’s backs up by using profanity in your name, however hilarious it may be).

Search, search, search. Yeh, I know this is said far too often ‘search you noob!’, or ‘this has been discussed hundreds of times, L2search, noob!’, and while these replies can be discouraging and occasionally offensive, they are borne of natural frustration and it’s hard to be critical of them, if not only for the style in which they are posted. There really is no excuse for not conducting at least a cursory search before posting a new thread. It takes no time at all and especially when combined with tip number 4 of the Google tips above, is pretty much foolproof. Ah, I hear some of you saying “What’s the problem? Let people post a new topic, it doesn’t cost you anything…” well actually, it does, and it costs you too.

The first thing it costs me is time (and that’s not even the time that I will take to write a similar reply for the hundredth time). When I do a search for something specific, if I conducted that search correctly, I am likely to see a lot of results for the same thing. This is because people preferred to create a new topic than go looking for the existing ones. So by doing this you are reducing the search results that someone else will find and therefore the time it will take them to find the answer. It also clutters the forum, especially in the case of frequently asked questions. I remember recently  I logged into a well-known RC site and the General Discussion had 6 threads on the same subject on the first page. That’s just laziness and dare I say it, stupidity. They didn’t even need to search to see the same thing being discussed right there on the first page of the forum. No excuse for that. Once again if you are having trouble searching efficiently, try tip 4 above and avoid the internal search engines which mostly suck.

When asking for help, try to include as much relevant information as possible, it’s only common sense. Personally, I no longer respond to one sentence threads that say simply ‘my engine won’t start, any help?’ Maybe I’m getting old and stuck in my ways, but I simply expect that I will be unable to help someone who hasn’t even realized that this is not enough information to go on, and therefore I assume that the rest of the discussion will be equally painful. For example, I might say ‘have you changed the needle settings’, and get the reply ‘what needles?’. Read the manual of the item you are having trouble with first. If you bought it second hand and don’t have a manual, then try to find one online, it’s very rare that I want a manual I can’t find, even for discontinued products, this information tends to hang around for many years.

On the other hand, I look forward to answering questions posed intelligently and including all the relevant information, however nooby they may be. Critical info includes but is not limited to; how old the model is, has the engine ever run ‘right’, have the fuel mixture (needle) settings been changed, has the glow plug been changed, and potentially other things it would be useful to know, but more importantly show that you understand what you are asking. My reward to you for ‘doing it right’ will be a detailed and considered response, and many other experienced hobbyists will feel the same way.

Help and/or encourage a newbie once for each visit to the forum. I know it can be frustrating trawling the same questions over and over, but cast a thought back to when you were new and pressing refresh on your thread every 10 minutes hoping that someone had replied or taken an interest in your project or problem. Share an encouraging word when someone posts the same stock photos of their unmodified car that we’ve all seen a hundred times before, they will appreciate it, and will likely get a warm fuzzy feeling inside about the forum, making them a loyal member. You never know if today’s newbie is tomorrow’s Lamberto Collari. Build relationships today, profit tomorrow. Comments like ‘jeez dude, another stock stampede…er, awesome.’ Will have the opposite effect, and just takes away from the community as a whole. As the old saying goes; if you don’t have anything positive to say, it’s probably best not to say anything at all.

Take good photos and learn how to manipulate them! There are only two really important things when it comes to taking a photo. Stand with the light source behind you (but not such that you cast a shadow over the subject, obviously!) and hold the camera still. That’s it. Even a cellphone these days can take a decent picture under the right basic circumstances. If you have trouble holding the camera still, drink less coffee and Monster, or rest it on something like a nearby fence or rock. Once you have your pictures, you most likely need to resize them. Even a middle of the road smartphone or a cheapest-of-the-cheap digital camera will take pictures over 5 megapixels. This is way too big for internet usage and unnecessary. Use a free graphics program (Irfanview springs to mind, you certainly don’t need Photoshop) to first of all resize the images (1024 horizontal pixels is a good size), and then save them in a sensible format. JPG is a good format for the internet with high compression (if asked for a quality level, around 60% is a perfect tradeoff between quality and final size). Saving a BMP as a JPG in most cases reduces the data by 25 times without even resizing! Lastly, use a good and reliable site to host them for you. Personally I use Photobucket, but there are many, they are all pretty much the same and cost nothing. Photobucket will even give you a link format that works for most forums, under each of your pictures, making picture posting very simple. Often they will optimise and resize automatically as well.

This last one is for comedy value… Have you just seen a question posted for the hundredth time in a month, when all they had to do was do a little search? Is there steam coming out of your ears? Do you just want to give that fool a piece of your mind? Well, there’s no longer any need to get banned, or even be rude to get your message across. Now you can let the internet do that for you. Head over to lmgtfy.com (Let Me Google That For You), and get a link that will show that person what they should have done. You guys will figure it out. When you’re doing this, once again bear in mind point 4 from the Google tips above; limit their results to those from the forum. Gotta love the last line after the animation has finished…”There, that wasn’t so hard now, was it?”

Foxy out…

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About Author

I am a Brit living in Greece, bringing 30 years of playing with toy cars to the arena. I was never a serious racer though I do have some club level experience. I’m in the hobby for the engineering and the modeling as much as the actual driving. Having been moderating and doing the occasional review for RCU for nearly 10 years I hope to share an interesting insight or two as well as give you my opinions on any models that come my way. I also dabble in photography, modifying real cars and used to be a very serious gamer, BK (Before Kids lol). But that’s enough about me… Keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up! ;)

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