(There are three writeups.org donation drives a year – February, June, October.)
Let me tell you how the writeups.org (worg) project is going. No, no I insist.
State of the WORG
The bulk of the last three months has been about slow and none-too-spectacular improvements. So I :
- Continue the Big Sweep when I can stomach it. A bit more than ⅔ of the site is now to the WORG 2016 features standard.
- Continue overhauling older entries and/or illustrations when I have the time. The notable illustrations stuff continues to be posted on Pinterest .
- Continue adding M&M stats to somewhat random profiles.
Readership continues increasing at a fair clip. We’ve just breached the 100K visitors/month (default Google Analytics count) threshold.
*Apparently* we’ve been in the top 75,000 sites in the US for some months. Which I find silly considering there are 1.5 billion websites out there. And that writeup.org exists to allow for calculations about how far Batman can throw Aunt May if they’re both wearing power armour from Mass Effect.
Still about as low as it can get. We’re now lowering our publication rate by another notch.
Like the previous round of sails-lowering it won’t be *that* noticeable. Updates that previously have been considered “freebies” now count in our 5-every-10-days publication pace. But at some point we’ll have to settle for 4 every 10.
Large illustrations lightbox display
I’ve converted to lightboxing all the instances on WORG where you had a “click here to open a bigger version of the image in a new page”. These weren’t the most riveting hours of my life, but it’s done. This sort of things is part of what people expect from a website these days, I think.
(Actually it’s “most instances”, not “all instances”, because there’s a LESS hack used around the main illustration of each entry to simplify the code. It’s part of the things I’m saving donations for to have a code review/overhaul. The guy who did WORG 2016 did a great job for a low price — I mean it — but he always was clear that he wasn’t a Big Damn Coder, more of a UX designer).
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, mmm, what’s the most recent one… check the Orfenn Natrix profile until you see a “click here for a larger version” caption under an image.
Note how it appears in a new space to be as big as it can. And how you can zoom in and use the pointer to move around the image of your screen ain’t big enough to display it at is native size. The latter is important on smaller screens.
The images that aren’t at or near the beginning of entries are no longer all loaded when the entry is opened. They get loaded as the reader scrolls down and approaches the point where the image will get displayed.
This allows our server to handle the increases in traffic.
This is also good for smaller devices without much bandwidth, such as many smartphones. Though they are efficiently compressed, the images on writeups.org tend to be neither small nor low-def. So loading-as-needed should make things smoother on such devices.
OTOH, if you’re scrolling down too quickly, this tech might creates glitches and delays when it comes to loading images. Which is true on many, many sites since lazy loading is common nowadays.
Splitting long entries
I’m continuing to slowly split entries that are too long for most people to read in one sitting. ”Slowly” meaning about three per month, lobbing one in with each batch or so. When possible, I’m making small improvements such as HD illustrations, and a style and typos text review.
For now our “read in one sitting” threshold is 4,500 words. Which is unusually high even by longform article conventions. I wouldn’t be amazed if I ended up lowering it in the future to 4,000 or even 3,500 words. The latter would be about 15 minutes for an average reader.
And I’ll admit that I like the idea of thus having “reruns” for longer writeups, which are often the ones that required the most work and are the most interesting. That gives them another chance at catching readers, beyond the Random button and coming up in Google and internal searches.
It also helps paper over the fact that we’ve had to reduce our publication pace for lack of manpower.
I’ve added Ko-Fi to the list of payment options on the donations page. As far as I can tell this is layer of skin over Paypal to make it look (vaguely) hipper and younger. But a lot of Tumblr and fan fiction people seem to use it. So hey, if people feel comfortable with this approach… more power to them.
I’ve also looked at the Brave browser thing for payments, but it requires HTTPS (logically enough). Switching to HTTPS *will* have to be done at some point. But going through the whole rigmarole requires more energy than I can reliably summon these days. And I ain’t sure Brave is going somewhere.
Rejiggering AdSense ads
The number of AdSense ads has been slightly reduced, and they are now placed differently on the page. It’s still 0-to-3 Adsense ads per page, hand-placed, on entries that are to the WORG 2016 standard. The changes are chiefly :
- Because they were less than useless when the site displayed on a smartphone or other tiny screen. Which is of course an increasingly large readership.
- So tourist-type visitors who only glance at a picture or two, torpidly scroll down and read next to nothing will have a chance to see an ad before they leave. Thus, they can help keep WORG running, to the benefit of the more engaged readers.
Doing this delayed other grinds, such as the Big Sweep. Both because it took a few weeks, and because it further damaged my tolerance for grinds. It has been nearly four years of heavy grinding to upgrades thousands of elements as part of the 2016 overhaul, and I ain’t got much energy left for this.
However, so far it seems successful at generating higher income from the same number of ads. Perhaps as much as two additional dollars per day sitewide ! In some rare cases ! Oh wow !
Which takes us to the next bit…
The additional income was meant to go into the war chest for long-term improvements. Yes, it’s a pathetic trickle. But over years it adds up.
On the other hand, for years we’ve had a significant issue with an abnormal number of attacks against the site. *Well* above the usual 50-ish attacks/day. For WORG, days with thousands of attacks aren’t exceptional.
It’s not working, since we have okay-ish security. But it certainly creates server load. And heh, at some point somebody will get lucky or learn of a zero-day.
(I’ve no special idea why we’re on one or more shitlists. Best guess is that it’s political, but here “best guess” means something like 25% odds. With the remaining 75% being… every other reason under the sun, and “no reason lol”.)
So the increased revenue from better-placed AdSense adverts will likely get poured into improved security. We have several options in the $100/200 p.a. range, with the more expensive ones running on external servers.
The latter means further lightening our requests load, and considerably prolonging our ability to operate using a nearly-entry-level, affordable-by-a-non-commercial-site hosting package.
OTOH, the cost of operating of WORG has already risen with the cheapest Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Yes, there are tiny sums, but the site isn’t built to generate income. Much hinges on donations.
We don’t do significant marketing or PR, since that takes money and time we don’t have. Nor can we really afford too strong a rise in traffic. Also I don’t have a background in that, though of course I could learn.
*However*, I’ve been experimenting in recent weeks with a greater use of hashtags, especially on Twitter and Pinterest. This is quick and simple and free to do, after all.
It’s also working fairly well, given our scale. And it is reaching people who are actually interested in our #engaging #content.
We’ve also had an embarrassingly good review on makeuseof.com , a high-traffic website.
I’ve finally used the site in tablet mode, at length, and in a common use case (reading in bed). The site has been auto-adapting to display on tablets since 2016. But I had just briefly tested that it worked, and moved on.
It’s pretty neat ! Love the big vertical pictures.
Not really. Mostly I’m clenching my rear end until the Big Sweep is done (2019 ?) and that weight’s off me shoulders. Of course, then I’ll have to deploy tags…
I could ramble, but the non-roadmap amounts to “lots of entries getting improved and overhauled, plus new content, but it looks really random and scattered unless you’re wading hip-deep in the logistics behind writeups.org.”
So, anyway, you can donate here. Yes, *I know*, people researching and writing and extracting illustrations and running a website and so on is less exciting than a blond YouTube man tasing rats or something. But it still carries costs.
As usual, the money :
- Pays the site’s bills and keeps stuff running, especially now that we’re adding security expenses.
- Gets saved for big site overhaul. Since the site is non-commercial, saving enough to do these takes years.
- Helps with me morale as I slave away on some damn grind or the other so the site doesn’t look like a pigsty mating with a MySpace page.
And heh, the new security expenses can make donators feel like the good guys if that’s their thing. You’re helping erect defences around a cool website that’s under constant attack by, errr, people (well, probably) due to, mmm, reasons. Kinda like in Pacific Rim !