From Fluid Dynamics
AXS Visitor Tracking
Please note that the xav.com website is no longer hosting Zoltan's scripts
Sharpnet has long been an active user of software provided by the Fluid Dynamics Software Corporation. More particularly, the AXS Visitor Tracking Perl program which "records visits to your web page and processes those records into meaningful graphs and database listings. The scripts tell you where visitors are coming from, charts their flow through your site, and tells you which links they follow when leaving. In addition, the scripts record visitors' server name, IP address, type of web browser, and time of visit"
More about it's creator
We have had the privilege to be granted an interview with Zoltan Milosevic, the creator of AXS.
Zoltan Milosevic: "xav.com" was chosen in January 1997 because I wanted a three-letter *.com domain name, and they were almost all gone even then. It doesn't stand for anything. Changing to a better, more brand-able domain name is on the to-do list, but little progress has been made because there are so few short, meaningful domain names to choose from. The product name "AXS" has similar problems -- it means nothing, is often confused with "Access" or "Axis" by pronunciation, and is often confused with the domain name XAV due to similar characters. For AXS version 3, I've tentatively decided to rename it "Visitor Flow Web Traffic Analysis" and to host it on visitorflow.com, which I've reserved.
What sparked the publication of axs?
Z.M.: AXS was published in ~ February 1997 after being developed throughout 1996. I'd developed AXS, Start Page, and Genesis while moonlighting for a start-up web development company. The company had fallen apart and wages weren't paid, so I retained my intellectual property and went my own way. At the time, I was working a dull minimum-wage retail sales job, and not being very successful at it, and my web development venture had just failed. That was depressing because I'd just graduated in 1995 with a degree in physics; I was used to always being respected for my intellect. Failed retail salespeople don't get much respect from anyone. :) So, I had a bit of an identity crisis. Publishing AXS as freeware, and getting attention for it, helped keep me going.
Roughly how many sites use axs?
Z.M.: I have no idea of how many sites use AXS. I would guess between 200 and 2000.
Zoltan. Your name is not very english, where are you from originally? Are you related to Slobodan?
Z.M.: There's actually a "zoltan FAQ" already which addresses several of these points; it might be useful as background info:
My name is ethnically Serbian -- or Hungarian, I've been told -- but my family has lived in the United States for several generations. Apparently I don't even pronounce it right. I always say it with an "-ick" ending but it should be "-ich". I should probably change my name due to the notoriety of Slobodan -- it makes it difficult for me to travel in Europe. In American nobody seems to know what is going on. I can think of only one or two Americans who've ever asked about a possible connection to Slobodan.
Has the Internet played a major part in your life or is it just a hobby?
Z.M.: The Internet has certainly defined who I am. :)
Perl is clearly you preferred language; why do you particularly like to develop your web applications with it?
Z.M.: I do prefer Perl, I guess because I learned it first. Sometimes I get a bit frustrated with it, mainly due to the inconsistent "standard" libraries and Perl versions that are found all across the Internet. That makes it very difficult to write platform-independent, distributed applications. You have to code to the absolute lowest common denominator. Also, for many years Perl has kept doing things in ways that don't make much sense, but they have just kept doing it to maintain reverse compatibility. That is an understandable trade-off, and it's not so bad once you learn how things are done. But now with Perl6 and Parrot they're going to the far opposite extreme, dropping reverse compatibility to try to create the new perfect programming language which is all things to all people. Many people have tried that; no one has succeeded; and some of those who've tried have had 100 times more resources and backing than the Perl community. There's a risk that Perl6 is too big and unbounded, and will never be finished. That would leave us with Perl 5.x which isn't so bad, but they may burn out all of their good contributors in the push for Perl6, leaving Perl 5.x unmaintained. So, Perl will probably be the best language ever in 5-10 years, or it won't exist at all.
You mention Intellectual property. With the Open Source movement and Perl being almost one, what are your views on this?
Z.M.: As for open source, I believe in creating viable, sustainable solutions. In some cases, an open source approach might be best -- Apache and Perl have done pretty well -- but for the most part a software project needs good cashflow to keep it going. That usually means having copyrighted, patented, enforced intellectual property and having a price tag on your software. The original dev work is fun but you won't have a well-rounded product if you have all developers and no support staff. People need to be paid to do the drudge tasks of tech support, testing, and documenting. There are a lot of free open source scripts out there that companies have developed dependencies on, but the scripts are no longer maintained and have growing lists of known bugs. In the final analysis I think those scripts have done more harm than good to those who depend on them.
What OS are you working on?
Z.M.: I use Windows 2000 Server for everything in my office, but I host of FreeBSD.
You must be flooded with messages of all sorts. What lessons have you learned from your on-line venture and your "customers" expectations
Z.M.: I'm still learning from my on-line venture. There are no solid lessons yet.
Thank you for your time, Zoltan
Z.M.: Thanks for giving me a chance to talk about myself. :) It's fun to answer questions like this once in a while, and it is actually quite rare that anyone asks them.