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Donations call & situation report – archive 1

(2016-2020 posts)


This page is just an archive of the donation calls and “state of the worg” for the years 2016 to 2020 (inclusive).

The explanations and the more recent messages are on the main Donations call and situation report page.

2016 to 2020 (incl.)

October, 2020

So, let me tell you how the writeups.org (WORG) project is going. No, no I insist.

1/ Tag !

This is the newest months-long death march. Such marches have been chaining since… 2014 or so (with breaks, thankfully) to make sitewide quality improvements.

I made a push early on, so that the tags results do not look like *complete* arse. But after the first 1,000+ entries, I’ve switched to a 20-a-day-on-most-days pace. So it doesn’t eat up the time for other tasks, such as writing.

A bit over ⅓ of the site is now tagged. There’s about seven man-months of tagging left, though in practice it’ll be more. Due to health, mostly.

As a reminder, the “home base” for tags is at https://www.writeups.org/tags/.

Even after going through thousands (okay, two thousands) of entries, I still *like* tags. They allow you to explore the site along specific, intriguing angles you’re interested in. And bring up stuff you might never have thought about.

(There’s also a FAQ about ways of exploring the site, incidentally.)

2/ Traffic

Traffic and donations were a bit rocky in April and May, before mostly leaping back on track.

It would appear that a major pandemic and massive unemployment can distract people for a bit. And that “geez, I wonder how many APs of Growth Kamala Khan had early on ?” isn’t that high a priority in their lives.


3/ Readability

We’re still doing tiny improvements in random entries as the opportunity comes up.

Recurrent themes in recent months have been :

  1. Going for even shorter paragraphs, by breaking up existing paragraphs.
  2. Adding definitional hyperlinks for words, cultural references, etc. that aren’t that common.
  3. Realising that even as recently as 2014, I was still writing some seriously long-arse sentences.

Remember, writeups.org has a global audience. So that’s a lot of readers who do not have the crispest display to see web pages on. And/or for whom English is a second or third language.

4/ MEGS is expensive

We randomly realised that copies of Blood of Heroes: Special Edition  (which are normally much less expensive than DCH 3rd) are now selling on Amazon for about $100.

Traditionally, it could be bought for a much more sensible $20.

(Edit – $80 right as I write this).

In a tiny way it’s good. It means that people have been buying enough of these long-since-out-of-print-TTRPG-books to exhaust stocks.

More practically it’s a problem. Since one of our core goals is to introduce more players to the game. But it’s not one with a practical solution, though I hear there’s a niche retroclone coming up.

5/ On-site search is getting slow

Our in-site search engine has its own server instance. However, the traffic has grown enough that some searches can now take a while.

Basically, you get put in a short queue as the server goes through the search requests.

There isn’t a short-term solution. So it’s more of “yea, I’m aware of that” message.

We *can* scale up, and will. But this :

  1. Needs to be part of a site overhaul.
  2. Would normally mean paying by search request, which is fiscally scary. A more controlled approach would be $250/year, which is a lot for a non-commercial site.
  3. Will mean hiring a specialised developer.

And of course, as the site keeps getting bigger and nicer and more high-traffic, the budgets for the site overhauls grow considerably.

For now I’m still trying to delay a site evolution. In the hope that the WordPress development roadmap starts covering ground we can use. But that I’m not happy with our search page (which never could be finalised) and that it’s getting slow is a pressure against that.

6/ A reminder about WORG resources

I wasn’t going to mention it since it feels like kvetching. But a short reminder that WORG has far fewer resources than it might look.

At most points, manpower is one person on disability and a part-time person who freed up some writing-for-WORG-time. Lately, the latter has mostly been Ethan.

That’s it.

If it feels like there’s more, it’s because the community has been doggedly keeping at it for 25 years.

7/ Let’s talk about SERPs, baby (part 1)

Some people seem interested when I talk about these things… Those who don’t care about webmastering can stop reading now. 😺

So, here’s a SERP CTR graph from Sistrix.fr  .

Sistrix.fr CTR Google curve

Without all the jargon – 34% of folks click on the first result of this example Google search, 17% on the second result, 11% on the third, etc..

This spread isn’t a typical one. Normally it’s closer to 29%/16%/11%. But this is the sort of spread you can expect when it comes to searches that bring up writeups.org pages.

In fact, an earlier study ended up with a 47%/14%/5.6%/etc. spread, which is likely close to the spread for us. Why ?

Because a typical search engine result page (SERP) will go Wikipedia/Fandom/Fandom (the number of Fandom sites varies). Then you start seeing sites like Comicvine and Writeups.org, then smaller-scale sites and blogs.

And of course, the Wikipedia and Fandom brand recognition are zillions of times greater then B-list sites like Comicvine. Never mind C-list Writeups.org, whose marketing/brand development budget is precisely zero.

7.1/ Let’s talk about SERPs, baby (part 2)

Hence an amusing situation. WORG stuff routinely ends in slot #4 or #5 of a Google SERP. Because we been around for 20+ years, and apparently Google considers that most of our articles are “quality” ones.

Whatever that means.

In the commercial Internet world, scoring that well would result in a touchdown dance. But here it’s more of a “well, I guess it’s nice” position. 😺

Mind, that’s the good case. Another case is when a character goes mainstream. Say, Rocket Raccoon. At this point the entire big-budget entertainment commentary industry jumps in, and it’s buh-bye small and medium sites.

So that’s an important reason why you see so many sites sinking money into video, into newsletters, into social media reps, into highly-targeted ads (à la Facebook), into whatever. The good ol’ approach of yesteryear (“write good and they’ll come”) has just decayed too badly.

(There’s also a whole discussion about how Google has become bad at letting you actually find sites, but that one’s real complicated).


June, 2020

So, let me tell you how the writeups.org (worg) project is going. No, no I insist.

1/ Load times re-fixed

Whilst making improvements to the way pages load, I think I *somehow* borked the max-age declarations for Apache.

So this likely means that, on slower connections, the pages — especially large images in profiles that do not get a lot of traffic — ended up loading slower over March and early April.

I can’t be sure, since that wouldn’t be noticeable on my fibre optic uplink. But on smartphones on a so-so network (which means a plurality of readers), a lack of caching would be much more observable. And irritating.

In the end the improvements do work. Frex the Madame Hydra profile (the latest profile as of this writing) can have a standard-testing first-view time as low as 3.1 seconds. And that’s whilst maintaining a picture quality that’s probably too high.

2/ Rock-hard pics

There’s a lot of work going on with the images on writeups.org. But the trick is, this work’s point is to be invisible.

Correcting eye colours – or hair colours. Releveling the black and whites. Making backgrounds vanish. Reconstructing art over word balloons and the like. Blurring unwanted textures (such as the paper’s). Making colours a bit more vibrant. Repainting bleeding/running inks. Etc. etc..

(And this is as a low-skill amateur. I don’t want to think of how much more work would take place if I had any sort of training.)

All of this for images that, on average, get something like two seconds of attention. And look like, yeah, that’s indeed the image that should be here, so movin’ on.

But it’s gotta be done.

3/ Revise the world

Revising entries has continued to be… well, the majority of the work in most updates. Out of five entries, the usual was two full overhauls, plus one entry with added M&M stats (and, usually, improvements).

One update was arguably 100% revisions. If you play on Lo Wang being a rebooted character.

Replacing old/bad entries on the site with radically better ones makes me happy. However :

  1. It also has bottlenecked the publication of wholly new entries. Since only two slots out of five per update are left for those.
  2. It also mechanically means a focus on the 1970s/1980s. Since these are older entries being redone. That’s a concern.

4/ Verizon Licks Goats

Over Q1  2020, there were postings of old things from old archives.

The skinny is :

  • We’re working off Yahoo! Group, a sort of old-fashioned community space. We’ve been there since 2002.
  • It has been evident for years that these were being phased out. As of late 2019 Verizon (the newest Yahoo! owner) scaled Groups back to being e-mailing lists.
  • But that’s okay for us. We were majordomo-based from 1995 to 2002, after all. So our workflows are designed to be asynchronous and rustic.
  • OTOH, Verizon’s phase-out involved deleting files archives.
  • We didn’t use file archives much. But some contributors stored things there rather than in the main workflow. So these texts were about to be destroyed.

I wasn’t enthusiastic about rolling them out. Since a lot of this content hadn’t made the publishing cut in the first place.

It also meant that the average length of articles would drop over that span.

But I ended up preferring publication over ETERNAL COSMIC ANNIHILATION. Mostly because I acknowledge that stuff that I find so-so is going to be somebody somewhere’s favourite.

5/ It’s over 6,000 !

The entries counter for the site has finally inched over 6,000.

It’s not a number I pay much attention to, though. Especially given how much of the work is fully overhauling our oldest entries.

6/ Thinner slices

We continue to pivot toward shorter, more specific articles. Three main reasons :

  1. Most of our readers use a smartphone. This has been the case for years.
    Therefore, longer articles aren’t as suitable as before. Especially since our current definition for “long” is “more than 4,000 words (including stats)”. Whereas in online press it tends to be “more than 1,000 words”.
  2. Articles increasingly have additional explanations, special sections, context notes, etc.. So they’re getting longer even when covering the same mass of material. And we have to compensate for that.
  3. It’s a smarter use of time and energy. Ensuring high quality on a long article becomes increasingly less efficient.

However, that does result in some annoying things. For instance, there are two very specific Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) profiles. And then it just… stops for now.

(Okay, in this case it’s because there’s no digital reissue of her series yet. So it may not be the best example.)

But thinner slices mean such interruptions, whereas two larger writeups would have covered more ground. But not, I believe, in a better way.

7/ More team entries

Over the years we’ve increasingly done “base camp” entries that explain the history of teams and organisations.

The main goal was to avoid repeating that info in the individual profiles of members. It worked pretty well.

We plan to now roll out team profiles even for groups who do not have that much history and/or formal organisation. This is primarily meant to help non-experts navigate the site.

Crusty grognards who need, say, Serpent Squad-related profiles may not need help. But most readers will find a Serpent Squad article, with lists of members and the like, helpful.

It also means that you can just search the site for “Serpent Squad” and find what you need. Rather than a list of articles that mention the Serpent Squad.


There’s also a push to redo illustrations from the original OHOTMU run to much better standards. But there was a homepage post about that last week.

As always, redoing a “mere” 200+ images feels like pissing in a river, due to the site’s sheer size. About 35,450 illustrations as of now.

But heh, what counts is that, for anybody who *does* read the upgraded articles, there’s nicer-looking stuff. And it makes the site look more credible.

(The latter is a paradox since the reason why there are old images is because we’ve been doing this for decades and thus have oodles of experience. Oh, well.)


February, 2020

I’m a bit late since I only just realised that we are, indeed, in February. I kinda missed the first 10 days or so.

I’d love to tell you that it’s because I was on a fabulous brand-sponsored vacation with my young, blond, attractive influencer friends. But no, I was covered in electrodes and other sensors in a hospital.

Oh well, that meant more time to read.

1/ A list of who’s been naughty

The demise of comicbookdb.com (my habitual comic book character appearances list site) has led me to redo from scratch my list-of-entries-wot-need-to-be-done.

The emphasis was on weak/old entries that *need* to be replaced. And stuff whose absence feels off-putting.

As of this writing, the list has 1730+ names. Big laugh ! Of course, that’s not counting the hundreds of writeups that have *already* been remade.

Mostly it’s stuff that needs to be entirely redone. Ironically, most of these were originally done as a perceived “quick win”. Quick wins seldom are long-term wins…

2.1/ Likely consequence

This is going to push back the next evolution of the site.

Especially since WordPress is still chasing the white elephant that is Guttenberg rather than solve speed, bugs and mobile-friendliness issues. I’d prefer to update writeups.org once the underlying tech has tackled those weak points.

But I don’t see it happening in 2020.

Other consequences

You might also have noticed that recent updates had two fully revised entries each. This’ll continue until I run out of juice.

But do note that for chronological series this means that I replace the old, bad entry with the first chronological chapter then *move on* to the next.

With the recent v2s (the Owl, Kate Waynesboro, Cornell Cottonmouth…) I had time to pump out a series of entries.

But this is slower, and I’m ashamed of how bad some of the older entries are, so I need to go faster.

So for instance, when I replace our bad Annihilus notes, it’ll be with a fully redone Annihilus part #1 – 1960s/1970s. But I have yet to work on Annihilus part #2. Because my goal is to crank out good things to replace the bad things I want to get rid of.

Of course, that in turn means too many chronological series that start, and have yet to go anywhere. But at least the article that’s online isn’t embarrassing.

3/ To be found

When this site started, it was the 1990s. Your ways of discovering it included directories (like Yahoo!’s), webrings  and keywords-centered search engines (primarily Altavista).

So discoverability was about content (and less than great).

During the 2000s, your way of discovering writeups.org was primarily Google. In vintage Google logic, to be seen you must be popular. And popularity is produced by people linking to your site.

So discoverability, for niche sites, was about bloggers doing hyperlinks. Big sites weren’t too likely to cover niche sites, so it was an ecosystem of people writing online. Content still mattered, but there had to be popular people writing about your stuff.

During the 2010s, the discoverability engine became social media. Mind, Google is still huge. But by the close of the decade most searches on Google do not result in visits on non-Alphabet websites.

Social media diffusion is different. Many people are reluctant to post stuff that’s unlikely to get enough likes and comments. Most links are shared without actually reading the article. And what gets shared has to complement the image the sharer wishes to project about themselves.

The content doesn’t count that much, except for the title and the picture.

4/ Don’t forget to like and subscribe

Now, writeups.org is built for ultra-low costs and resilience. And anyway, as noted in a previous article, in-depth info such as ours finds about 5% of the audience of clickbait and shitposts. So we don’t need or expect much traffic.

But death spirals still exist. Now, it’s *definitely* not as bad as, say, the sprint-forever-or-die logic of Twitch. But lack a little growth for long enough, and visibility will keep diminishing. Again, the whole system is meant to reward those who are already winning.

So a bit of social media button-pressing by regular readers *does* help. And heh, it marks you as a connoisseur who needs more depth and analysis than in a Fandom page, right ? RIGHT !

(Incidentally, the social media buttons we use are “inert”. That is, they don’t track everything you do on the site, like the standard Facebook buttons do. But once you click on one, it’s no longer inert since you’re now communicating with Facebook.)

(I’ve added these buttons at the bottom of this post, if you wanna have a look.)

5/ I hath yon pagespeed right here, varlets

I’ve also finished some page load optimisation work.

I was previously reluctant to monkey with this. But there are now WordPress semi-idiot-friendly tools  to do this.

So after some deferring, inlining, combining and the like, a typical page on a typical computer on a typical connection snaps to useability within less than 1.5 seconds. However, on a typical phone on a typical connection I’m still a bit above 4.5 seconds, because of the size and quality of the pictures.

Pages with videos also now load significantly faster on slower connections. Which is good, since so many recent entries have a video or a soundtrack.

Diminishing load times isn’t just good for people with slower devices on slower connections. The pagespeed number also determines how much contempt Google has for us.

These fixes further mean that the current version of writeups.org can last longer before we have to crank out a new version. Since it’s now acceptably fast.

6/ Mo’ money, less problems

A few days after I made the status update/donations call of October of 2019, I learned that the Green Ronin forum was down due to an attack. This impacted me since our M&M work normally gets prepublished there. This may have impacted you.

I mention this as an example of *why* we’re paying a small subscription to a security service. To prevent this sort of crap. Especially since historically, writeups.org has been hit by an abnormal number of attacks (none ever worked).

The operational word being “paying”. It’s the sort of expense we need adverts and donations for. If not, well, eventually, you get what happened to GR. Bad hack, and more than a month of downtime. Not many web sites will emerge unscathed from being down for weeks.


October, 2019

Let me tell you how the writeups.org (worg) project is going. No, no I insist.

1/ Big Sweep’s done

I made a big push during the Summer, and it’s *finally* over. 😺

So now everything on the dang site has a Context section, proper hyperlinks, checked layout, no/few overlong sentences and paragraphs, fewer typos, and so on and so forth.

These are the set of minimal features that started getting deployed in mid-2016.

That doesn’t mean all entries are to our target quality standards. If I could I’d redo about 75% of everything from scratch so it’s a good as it can be.

(I can’t *believe* just how many additions and improvements I end up doing when re-reading some of my stuff, even though it received a complete review but one or two years ago. I’ve learned a fair bit in three years.)

This also means I can take a breather. And that now my WORG work time can be more creative and less drudgetastic… Except of course for the small matter of the thousands of illustrations that need to be redone from digital.

2/ The bottom of the barrel

The Big Sweep was done from most read to least read entries. So the last leg of the work was dealing with the bottom 2% of the site.

Some of these are good articles. It’s just people can’t tell before reading them, since they’re original creations – or about truly obscure characters. Few if any people are going to spontaneously search for them.

Some, well, they actually are the bottom 2% of the site, quality-wise. Something has to be. Say, cliché and under-textured characters created by teenagers 20 years ago. So I sometimes wonder if I should delete some entries that I consider complete dead weight.

But heh, I’ve repeatedly seen people think that what I consider crap is excellent. Any entry I delete might be someone’s favourite. So let’s not. There are many other, better ways to improve site quality.

3/ PHP

Our version of PHP is finally up to date. The pages load markedly faster since mid-August.

It’s yet another factor that allows us to handle a growing traffic without having to get a markedly more expensive server. Faster PHP requests mean a much more fluid requests queue.

Loading faster is also good for Google visibility. But as previously discussed it’s not that beneficial. With every year clicks are more concentrated on the top three or four search results, and in our case these inevitably will be Wikpedia and Wikia/Fandom pages.

And even *these* are getting pushed way down the screen under paid results, site snippets, the “people ask” box, video results, image results or whichever. Nowadays, a (small) majority of Google searches *doesn’t* lead to visiting anything outside of Google’s pages or sites.

(Which also means that social media buzz becomes even more critical, but that’s another subject.)

4/ Please form an orderly queue

Over the last 12 months, we’ve done a bit more than one million different visitors (“uniques”, in jargon). Actually it’s been the case since late 2018, but I hadn’t checked the stats.

This too doesn’t mean that much. Since we don’t sell anything and have minimal ads (please whitelist us in your adsblocker).

5/ HD illustrations

As hinted in 1/, I have resumed redoing images in HD format – that is, from digital reissues of comics. It’s something I haven’t had the time for in months.

Mind, since we currently have more than 35,000 illustrations on the site, any work on that front is a drop in the ocean. And most readers will only look at most illustrations for fractions of a second (especially on mobile, where our layout isn’t fully optimised yet).

So there’s no business cases for spending so much time crafting better pictures. But since we’re not a business, who cares.

As always, this work gets reposted on our Pinterest board  (or its Weheartit  equivalent if you prefer). Not every redone image does, by far. At a glance you can see the sort of pic that does.

6/ Layout glitch

There’s a layout glitch on WORG. To my knowledge it only affects people with an up-to-date Chrome and who use a zoom level of 110% or more. It is limited to having the title for the game stats float down or up a bit.

I don’t think it’s fixable on my end. Since it’s likely Google having changed the way they support some aspect of our responsive design code.

7/ WORG 2021 ?

Now that the format that began deployment in 2016 is *mostly* there, it’s time to shift sights onto the next one.

It’s the main point of donations – the more time passes, the more technical the requirements get, and the more I need to hire pros. Wot are expensive.

It’s not going to be super-fast. In good part because I’ll need to move my disabled arse to go meet contractors and the like. A WORG 2021 would need fairly specific talent, so it may not actually occur in 2021.

Furthermore, waiting for Google’s AMP efforts (and speed-focused partnership with WordPress) to mature is the safer, less expensive option.

The broad lines would be :

  • Go mobile-first. That means that the pages are designed to be comfortable to read on a smartphone, and also work fine on tablets, laptops, desktops, etc.. That’s different from the current responsive approach, which is designed for desktops then scales down to smaller displays.
    Our traffic has been majority-mobile-devices for a while now.
  • Improve speed. Our basics are okay, but I added some stuff since 2016 that isn’t as tightly optimised as what Jacques (the 2016 contractor) did. I could adjust the PHP loading orders, but I’m not confident enough in my non-skills to do that.
    There’s also various considerations about AMP, fonts, the WordPress optimisation roadmap, etc..
  • Search engine shift. We got a *huge* amount of mileage from Open Search Server, and saved a tonne of money.
    But now ElasticSearch is mature and affordable enough, and our advertisement income regular enough, that shifting to a new engine and adding polish to the current rough presentation is viable.
    Still, even a very cheap monthly subscription is a significant cost given the shoestring budget.
  • Small tweaks to the visual design.

I’m not considering strong changes to the visual identity at this stage. What we’ve got works fine, it’s clean, and it aged well. Mobile-first means pages that are less dense (one column rather than two), but since our layout is already fairly sparse…

8/ Donations

So anyway, donations are welcome to keep the servers, the caches, the firewalls, the Photoshop™ subscription, etc. running. So we can keep developing and embettering this site.


June, 2019

The good news is, writeups.org still exists. And there’s no bad news, which is nice. But the continued life of the site was in question for a while.

I’ve been slowly gravitating out of geek subcultures for a while. But it wasn’t significant, and compensated by the increasing quality of comics, games, etc. over the years.

However the last 6 or 7 years have seen a loud, dedicated and fairly successful movement to make these subcultures even more misogynistic, racist, queerphobic, entitled, xenophobic, authoritarian, ableist, callous, paranoid, juvenile and so on and so forth.

As the stink seeped, it has markedly diminished my enjoyment of comics, rpgs, video games…

But… still around. Writeups.org will not pivot to Latverian political news, tampon reviews, or artistic chainsaw carving video tutorials. If only because I’m lacking key qualifications for most of those.

1/ Publication

I also was immobilised for a good while by bad kidney pain. This didn’t impact publication. Well, I was late by one day (twice !), but otherwise we’re good.

I had written a bunch of articles at the close of 2018 to serve as a buffer. Though I didn’t expect to be that sick for that long, and that soon.

Our contributor Ethan also started wrapping up his big Masters Of The Universe series, and a few others pitched contributions in. So the line held.

1.1/Big Sweep

On the other hand, it did considerably delay the Big Sweep. A bit less than a sixth of the site still need to be brought to the current set of feature. And this delays continues, since now I need to write articles to refill the buffer for the next time I’m down.

The Big Sweep is a years-long grind that has had to pause for months on several occasions. But it does produce clear results as to the median quality of the site’s articles.

Recent Big Sweep upgrades have made me realise that these quality gains have been more continuous that I realised. Even when I go over an article that was revised but one year ago, I make a number of improvements based on what I learned since.

But of course, this sort of slow and painstaking improvement work usually has zero effect on growth. Good thing we’re non-commercial, I guess.

2/ Video games

Playing a bunch of Warframe sure helped when I could barely move from my chair. Which led to articles. To have #content to keep the site going, I have to write about almost everything I play, watch or read.

Now, the problem with Warframe is that there’s a *lot* of stuff. It’s a game-as-a-service thing. And a good percentage warrants a short writeup. So I could basically churn Warframe entries forever.

Therefore, by the end of June I will drop my Warframe schedule to log-in-plus-two-missions, so as to be able to work on other video games. This’ll allow for variety in the video game articles. But the downside is, like with XCOM, that we have half-finished writeups arcs.

2.1/ Video games too

Incidentally, video games still are lower-priority content, kept under a proportion of 20% of new and revised articles.

These articles also do a bit less immediate traffic – which is unsurprising since comic books are what is core to our #brand #content #valueproposition #identity #topofmind.

Such articles are a way to expand the readership a bit. But “a bit” is the operational word here. There’s a jillion tonnes of video game content out there. And much of it is in video form, requiring less effort than reading.

So our video-games-related articles tend not to surface well on Google, whereas our comic book articles have a good amount of Google authority.

But anything that helps younger folks discover tabletop RPGs is good. And though the video game articles get fewer views from regular readers, over time they get more readers from search engines.

3/ For the ‘gram

I have stopped doing Instagram posts  for now. I have a hard time using a smartphone, and the small hack to post from a PC is something of a pain in the keister.

Products with a deliberately degraded accessibility are shite.

4/ About “splitter” overhauls

In April of 2019 there was a notable Kotaku article about Bioware video games  by Jason Schreier.

The article itself isn’t important here. I’m mentioning it here because this good piece of investigative journalism clocked at about 11,000 words, due to all the quotes and context-providing.

Many readers had difficulties dealing with the length. Including *journalists*, who are expected to read a lot of information and whose job is writing. And even though to many people who read the piece, Bioware games (like Mass Effect or Dragon Age) are an important matter.

So, seeing these reactions means that our splitting of overlong articles shall continue. Editing lengthy articles for style, concision and so that they split somewhat gracefully takes time, but it is increasingly necessary.

(Incidentally, while you *are* being trained to mostly deal with shorter texts, reading longer texts is an important “muscle” to keep trained. Not doing so makes you, essentially, dafter.)

5/ Incidentally…

Have you noticed how many of the comic books and RPG sites of the 1990s, 2000s and early 2010s are dead ?

How many ended with a “it was a great ride, but this isn’t sustainable/takes way too much time” farewell post ?

How many were sold to a bigger site (the latest would be comicbookdb.com) ?

6/ Twentieth birthday

The earliest traces of writeups.org I have are from March, 1999. So we sailed past our 20th birthday since the last State Of The WORG message.

No special announcement, since I a/ don’t see the point and b/ we’re critically low on resources, and can’t crank out something extra.

But one of our FAQ pages is about the history of writeups.org, if you’re curious about a 20-years-old website.

7/ Donations

So anyway, donations are welcome to keep the servers, the caches, the firewalls, the Photoshop™ subscription, etc. running. So we can keep developing and embettering this site.


February, 2019

Let me tell you how the writeups.org (worg) project is going. No, no I insist.

1/ Publicatishing (new word)

We’re still holding at 5 entries every 10-ish days. The backlog got perilously short circa November of 2018, but that bounced back. Mostly because I had some success with health management stuff, such as being able to breathe. Breathing is good.

The month-to-month variations in traffic remain significant for no visible reason. But it *seems* that 95K-ish unique visitors/month is now our average – somehow.

Normally it’d worry me in terms of server load. But using our increased advertisements income — from positioning them better — to move security and some caching on another server did work out.

2/ A few more thoughts about volume

In past “State of the WORG” pontificating, I’ve mentioned that we’re not after volume. Yes, I often note the high traffic. But it’s so people know they’re not writing and/or reading some obscure hole-in-the-wall site.

Previously I’ve mentioned that a reason for this were server loads issues. We can’t afford enterprise-class hosting. But I don’t think I’ve mentioned an online publishing rule-of-thumb – the 5% ratio.

An in-depth analysis online article will *generally* make 5% of the traffic as facile clickbait. So, deep dive WORG character profile – 5 readers. “TOP TEN SUPERHEROINES WITH THE SEXIEST BUTT!!” – 100 readers.

Which also means that a good chunk of our traffic is people looking for pictures, usually via Google Image Search or Pinterest. Personally I’d prefer if they’d also read the texts but heh, our illustrations are pretty nice too.

(There’s this bon mot in French publishing I’m fond of. “If you sell more than 5,000 copies of any given book, then there’s some kind of misunderstanding going on.”)

3/ Big Sweep

This is bringing entries to the 2016 minimal set of features (Context section, shorter paragraphs, hyperlinks, etc.). Still slow, but it has picked up a bit in recent months as I’m not as badly burned out on that as before.

As of this writing there are slightly less than 1,000 profiles left to upgrade. They’re all in the bottom third of the site. Every other entry within the bottom third is done, essentially.

So there still are months of work, but psychologically, knowing that i’m now dealing with a three-figures number makes me feel better.

You keep hearing about this Big Sweep stuff quarter after quarter. And it’s been going on for actual years. But I must insist that a profile that has been through it read much better. Few will notice because it’s how it should have read in the first place… but it’s a result.

4/ Technical bits and bolts

None ! There has been some technical stuff – but it’s about doodling what writeups.org might look like in 2021 or so.

It needs to be even more mobile-friendly, and I’m sure we can gain about two more seconds on delay-to-readable page loading times.

5/ 1985 Who’s Who in the DC Universe

There have been digital reissues for these venerable sourcebooks . Meaning dramatically improved illustrations in some entries.

Now, a lot of these entries are the oldest ones. Many are from a 1990s push to re-publish Mayfair stats that were in sourcebooks most had a hard time finding. Amazon wasn’t all that yet, so it was RPG bookstores or nothing. Therefore, it’s not our best #content.

But heh, at least these look better now. And it’s a further incentive to redo them.

These illustrations also mostly end up on our Pinterest board  .

6/ Profiles

As you may have noticed, some more recent DC Comics stuff is getting published on writeups.org. There’ll be more high-profile and substantive such arcs in coming months. They’ll cover 2010s material.

We don’t do a lot of characters from recent comics. Profiling requires a good amount of material, and things to be “settled” for a bit. Or if you prefer, it’s best to have some level of hindsight about the character. So the exceptions, like the Ironheart two-parter some months back, are notable.

This is even more marked for DC, whose continuity during the 2010s has been peculiar. But as it turns out, doing *narrow* slices, often just a specific writer/artist run, more or less works. Except for the many runs that lasted but one year, which are usually too thin.

7/ Donations

So anyway, donations are welcome to keep the servers, the caches, the firewalls, the Photoshop™ subscription, etc. running. So we can keep developing and embettering this site.


October, 2018

The publication of new articles has kept steady – 5 every 10 days. It used to be a bit more, but the low manpower means this has been our cruise speed for a while.

Over the last few months, the content was, mmm… diverse ? I’d almost say “random”, but it’s a bit of everything that readers mentioned they like. 1940s comics, older Francophone comics, obscure oddities that work well in a superhero RPG, good LGBT characters…

But even when we try to play up our strengths, it looks adventitious. I’ll give you that. 🙂

Big Sweep and HD pictures

The Big Sweep (bringing all profiles to certain standards in terms of features and phrasing) continues to nibble past the “⅔ of the entries done” threshold. Like a determined arthritic mole.

It doesn’t progress too fast since it’s the same time budget as redoing illustrations in HD, usually from digital reissues of comic books. Redoing illustrations makes the site prettier, and draws traffic from search engine images searches and images collection services.

However, it also takes quite a while. Especially since so many images see significant rework to erase the background, correct small colouring issues, reconstruct art over the tail of word balloons and the like, etc.. The images that see the most editing work are reposted on Pinterest  .

Redoing old stuff

A fair chunk of the time that could go to the Big Sweep is also eaten by redoing older profiles. Some are redone from a tabula rasa, some instead go through a process of rewriting, updating, upgrading the illustration and (often) adding M&M stats.

This can chiefly be seen on the site’s homepage. With all the articles that include a mention such as “as of July of 2018, this profile was redone blah blah blah”. There were a *lot* of overhauls during the Summer.

This efficiently raises the average quality of profiles, since it both remove an old and less-good one and adds a new and better one.

One side effect is that it mechanically means doubling down on the same publishers and eras. WORG already has, say, a lot of 1970s Marvel material. So redoing stuff that already exists is good, but it means even more time spent on 1970s Marvel material. See the issue ?

The more material one has, the harder it is to move into new and fresh territory. Unless you can simply forget about your older material, but this isn’t our case. It’s an encyclopaedic site, not a news site. The article do not become less relevant.

As journalists say, they’re evergreens. So we can’t abandon them in a ditch and move on.

Still, I’m glad I was *finally* able to work on redoing some favourites, such as Colleen Wing and Misty Knight, or the Pfeiffer version of Catwoman. I’d been wanting to do that for many years.

HTTPS, y’all

In late June, the entire site was switched to HTTPS + SSL. This is unnecessary since we don’t buy or sell anything, don’t store personal data, have no user profiles or login, etc..

But Google and the like have been really insistent about it. So the main benefit for writeups.org is to avoid the increasingly visible “NOT SECURE” messages in browsers, which people routinely misunderstand.

This meant some routing issue over the month of July, particularly for people attempting to access the site without the “www” prefix. This took a while to fix since it was… weird.

Running a website sure is more involved than it was 20 years ago… WHO KNEW ?

Security ramped up

Our improved ads income (stemming from better positioning the same 0-3 ads per profile), and additional donations, were used to purchase a cloud-based security solution in late June.

As previously mentioned, writeups.org gets a strangely elevated number of attacks. Having a paid security solution lowers risks.

More importantly, having it run by a servers farm means our own server no longer has to assess every request for security risks, bad bots, fake crawlers, penny-ante injection attempts, etc.

FWIW, even after hundreds of thousands of attacks writeups.org was still 100% uncompromised. So all of you we feared that their credit card number may have been compromised by the attacks on writeups.org take heart. If only because nobody never gave us no credit card number. We don’t sell anything.

Improved caching

As of early July, a greater percentage of the content is served over HTTP/2, and writeups.org is now cached by a CDN.

The goal is to serve pages server, by duplicating them in a web of servers strategically placed worldwide. However, this web seems to have holes, and the site got noticeably *slower* for some regions, particularly Western Europe.

I haven’t had much time to fix that, but I’ll get to it when feasible.

Traffic ranking

We were briefly among the top 55,000 web sites in the US since the last donations call. Which is pretty silly for a web site about a long-since-out-of-print 1980s super-hero tabletop role-playing game. But heh, what can you do.

The traffic has since calmed down. Especially since the new firewall blocks hostile “visitors” upstream. But this high water mark might be an indication of what writeups.org can achieve in the medium term.

Still, I’m wary about it. Once you have a popularity number, a common instinct is to want to make the number bigger. Which would avail us to… very little.

We still act as evangelists of sorts for tabletop superhero-ish role-playing, but it has become clear that YouTube and Twitch are far better at this. So a big reach is less important nowadays.

(Incidentally, if there are groups who stream/vlog/whatever M&M, DCH or FASERIP, game sessions and want writeups.org support just let me know. I can almost guarantee I won’t rip your femoral artery out with my teeth.)


We have a basic social media presence (Twitter  , Facebook  , Tumblr  , Google Plus  , with the more useful one likely being Twitter). But there’s no genuine #promotion, #engagement, etc.. It’s just there for convenience, as an information feed.

On the images-centric social networking front, Pinterest  (and the smaller WeHeartIt  ) have been good for us. That is, it interests a fair few people without any serious work on my end.

As a consequence, I’ve been considering using Instagram for a while. But their interface makes things complicated. Especially since it’s physically difficult for me to use a smartphone.

However, the Marvunapp.com colleagues launching theirs (https://www.instagram.com/themarvelappendix/  ) gave me the last bit of impetus I needed, so you can follow https://www.instagram.com/writeupsdotorg/  if you’re on Insta. As you can imagine, it’s almost 100% pictures of characters with a WORG profile.

Hopefully I can post every other day, using a few hacks and a script to post from a PC and process the images.


I finally remembered to enable the “rich pin” functionality on Pinterest. I guess I spaced out and forgot last time.

This just means that when somebody pins a picture from writeups.org, the pin imports context data from WORG. Nothing huge, but it gives that Big Site Energy aura to those pins.

Sharing buttons

Since we’re talking about social media stuff, the sharing buttons were overhauled. Now there are more services (Tumblr, Pocket, Reddit…), and it’s updated.

But it’s the same principle as before – a simple, inert link that takes you to a separate page. So there’s nothing on writeups.org that identifies you until you click on these buttons (since they need to know what your account is so you can post).

The tech’s called Shariff  .

Links to previous “state of the WORG” posts

I’ve added tiny posts to my Patreon page  with the links to the old site updates & donations messages.

These are public posts, accessible to all. So if somebody wants to read through the site’s evolution… The pre-WORG-2016-overhaul history is expounded upon in the FAQ – History of this site article.


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 :

  1. Pays the site’s bills and keeps stuff running, especially now that we’re adding security expenses.
  2. Gets saved for big site overhaul. Since the site is non-commercial, saving enough to do these takes years.
  3. 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.


June, 2018

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.

Lazy loading

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.

Donation logistics

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, with “no reason lol” being a clear #1.)

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.

Tablet mode

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 :

  1. Pays the site’s bills and keeps stuff running, especially now that we’re adding security expenses.
  2. Gets saved for big site overhaul. Since the site is non-commercial, saving enough to do these takes years.
  3. 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  !


February, 2018

Let me tell you how the writeups.org (worg) project is going. No, no I insist.

1/ The Big Sweep

Bringing old entries to better standards (hyperlinks, Context section, semantic/meta data, cleft sentences and paragraphs, clarity, grammar, etc.) continues slowly.

It’s slow in part because I’m increasingly thorough about the changes. Which means in turn that profiles that were upgraded early during the sweep would now benefit from another pass… that never stops.

That means that a lot of entries don’t have their ads yet (no Big Sweep review = no ads). Which the donations are meant to partially compensate for.

2/ Traffic and server

We had accelerated growth for more than a year after the shift to the new site format. Now growth is back to normal. Which is a *good* thing. Since we’re on the cusp of needing *business* hosting we can’t afford, rather than a low-cost SMB package.

In late December the site migrated to a new server farm our hosting service set up. It goes faster, because the new servers are painted red, with flame decals on the side. This allows us to keep fitting on our current hosting package for longer.

OTOH the search queries remain slower than I’d like, but still workable.

Also, I had a celebratory piece of chocolate some weeks back as we reached the 100,000th attempt at forcing the login of the new version of the site. Well actually there were more than that since the security has several, heterogeneous layers. But that was a symbolic number anyway.

The site also finally got lazy loading implemented on the sixth of February. Hurray.

3/ Publication pace

We are maintaining the 5-profiles-3-times-a month pace. So, y’know, one article every other day.

But this is now done by fudging. Entries that would have previously been thrown in as extras (say, because we “simply” added M&M stats) now count as one of the five slots.

This reflect our continuously dwindling manpower. Life events get in the way, people move on, etc.. Nothing new here – it’ll continue along the same slope unless we get new blood. As of this writing, only two new articles in the site’s publication backlog were written by somebody who’s not me.

That also means I increasingly favour overhauling older entries, where the bulk of the research, modelisation, etc. is already done. So I can keep the pace. And because that removes a below-average entry in the process, which is valuable.

4/ Newsletter

I’ve ended experimentation with newsletters. Nowadays a newsletter requires far too much work to make the cut.

Everything that isn’t *exactly right* gets slain as spam, and corporate newsletters have established standard we don’t have the resources to match.

Or rather we could do it, but that’d mean less content for the site. Which’d make no sense.

5/ Humble partnership

It looks like we can keep those at 2 or 3 announcements per month, which seems reasonable.

These generate about $10/month. Just mentioning that since some people have… utterly fantastic notions about what niche, non-commercial web publication earns. This is nowhere near the income of a real Internet-based job, such as pretending to be scared by video games for the delight of a billion 12-year olds.

This micro-income is meant to compensate for the perpetually-decreasing programmatic ads revenue. Frex, from November to December we displayed 3% more Google ads (in part due to the Big Sweep), yet their income fell by 25%. Throwing Humble into the mix allows for maintaining our bills-paying ability.

(That can also help for those of y’all wondering why, say, The Awl  shut down).

(Also: ads blockers. That is all.)

6/ Low tech armour & weapons articles

Yep, it’s done. Not everything is published as of this writing, but it’s written. As usual you can use the Guide To Weapons Locker Articles page as your base camp, to see what’s already online.

That huge amount of work greatly simplifies writing up low-tech characters. It’s coherent stats we can just plug into our Dragon Age stuff, the Baldur’s Gate stuff, etc..

I’m not going to make a specific sweep for upgrades, but older writeups with such gear will be brought in line with the new stats when the occasion presents itself.

7/ Long-term perspective

Generally, these aren’t looking good for this sort of website.

The continuing shift from desktop to mobile is good for, say, YouTube influencer drama clashes or 300-words news articles. Less so for long text articles with lots of pictures and fancy technical bits at the end.

So is, obviously, the continuing shift from text + pictures to video. This evolution is exemplified by, say, the autorunning, sticks-to-your-screen video on Wookiepedia and other big wikis.

Net neutrality
Catastrophic FCC decisions last year stand a chance of resulting in tiered Internet access. Which would screw the non-commercial (or thin margins), small publishers.

The continuing shift from the open Internet toward Facebook doesn’t help, though it seems to be slowing down.

Fandom wikia sites
The “fandom” wikias are now entrenched, and many have become nicely polished. Even those who aren’t generally meet the all-important “good enough” threshold, which is what 80%+ of people need.

Other information sources thus become extraneous, unless they’re backed by a powerful #brand with excellent #SEO.

Other big genre wikis (such as TV Tropes or Comic Vine) contribute to this.

Noise around movies
The barrage of super-hero movies continues to result in millions of online #content pieces. On Google, this buries articles from less moneyed sources using super-hero-related keywords.

Essentially, this puts us in Google competition with *every* entertainment website if we, say, are talking about Black Panther. And as it happens IGN, the IMDB or The Hollywood Reporter have a bit more reach than a tabletop RPG site. 🙂

7.1/ That said

That said we’re still growing in terms of readership, in terms of Google authority, in terms of content, in terms of quality (so many old articles getting overhauled), etc.. And the 2016+ version of the site was a big, big step forward.

Google also tells me that, on average, we’re result #8 in Google searches relevant to our content. Which can be considered quite an achievement for a tiny, zero-budget community about a long-since-out-of-print tabletop RPG. It might even be seen as badass.

It is. Howbeit, it’s not that useful 🙂 .

The Internet is a winner-takes-it-all affair. Traditionally, the top 3 results take ⅔ of the traffic, and I’m confident that it’s higher nowadays. By the time you reach position #8, you can easily get down to 0.5% of the traffic. Especially since Google results seem to be evolving toward 7 results per page (because smartphone screens are, as kids say, smol).

A #brand with good #topofmind being result number 8 could probably pull 2% of the traffic. But not writeups.org, whose marketing budget won’t buy you a single Post-It™.


Thus you have a situation where looking for, say, a Marvel Comics character, will routinely result in 4 or 5 Wikipedia and Fandom Wikia links, plus Marvel.com, plus Comicvine.gamespot.com.

Which means that #8 is the *highest* Google position we could possibly achieve in this configuration. Unless we buy Marvel or Gamespot, of course. But let me tell you – that’s a LOT of readers’ donations.

8/ Interlude: dance of capitalist superiority

Some weeks back I was glancing at a RPG forum and read a comment about a pair of books .

“It’s expensive — more than $100 RSP — but there are more than 600 character writeups”, somebody said.

So I suppose that people should make donations of about $955 for WORG. Sounds like good logic, yes ?

9/ Donations

That the site is increasingly a one-man show as the contributors base erodes is an obvious issue. But of course it means that every bit of help — comments, social media propagation, suggestions, contributions, copy-editing support, questions, vibes, donations, Patreonage… — becomes increasingly meaningful.

Therefore, donate. Please and thank you.


October, 2017

Let me tell you how the writeups.org (worg) project is going. No, no I insist.

We’re holding the line !

I was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to keep up the “5+ articles every 10 days” pace. But somehow we keep making it. “Somehow we keep making it” should be our motto, really.

Various contributors have been able to set some time aside to release bursts of material. Such as with Bryan’s Transformers Marvel stuff, Nicolas’ New Warriors (and more) material, Ethan’s out-of-the-left-field movie stuff (most of which remains to be published), Pawsplay’s M&M stats, etc.

A lot of the output during the Summer has been revised entries, which both removes substandard material and adds new material to the site.

We *just* reached 5,700 entries. But it’s not that important, since a slight majority of the work goes into fixing weak points rather than embiggening the headcount.

Even me !

I haven’t been able to do as much creative writing as I hoped. This is typical of the Summer – hot nights disagree with me craptastic health.

Still, the big Valérian arc was fully published (pity that the movie tanked), and I’m happy about it. There was also a lot of important DC Heroes rules work, some of which remains to be published.

The rule stuff is primarily useful for low-powered characters using body armour, shields and melee weaponry. This chiefly corresponds to my video game writeups.

I remain concerned that the various sample Player Characters from video games to present the setting, the plot, the powers, etc. might come across as a tad fan-fictionish. But these seems well received, and it’s not like I can conduct surveys or customer panels.


We are now trying a different monthly newsletter format, since the bulk e-mail provider we were using didn’t work out. That also means I could remove a WordPress plugin, helping the server cope with the constant increase in traffic. I haven’t had 500s or 503s  recently.

I thought I’d shift the site to our hosting service’s  newer, better data centre last week. But that date was for *another* type of hosting. Ooops. We’re still scheduled to switch before the end of the year, without further precision yet.

The Big Sweep has resumed, albeit at a slow pace. Which, on top of having had to practically stop it for nearly five months, means I’m horribly behind schedule.

On one hand, having finally dealt with most of the new rules work does free me to pick up the Big Sweep pace. On the other, rewriting entries is more tempting.


We now offer both Patreon and Paypal. So that’s big-brand, standard online payment solutions that support both one-off and recurring donations in a few clicks.

The donation pages also include a bit more material about donations themselves. You totally should check it out.

We are highly dependent on donations to keep this site up. Everything is optimised to run on a shoestring budget, but it still adds up. And we have an unusual amount of traffic for such a small-time, niche site.


June, 2017

For indeed, time marches on.

1/ The Big Sweep

I burned out on that in March/April. Which is a bit annoying since I was so close to the halfway mark.

So, currently a bit less than half the articles have had their review for features (such as hyperlinks, videos where useful, meta-data, Context intro section…) and readability.

Which also means that only half the articles have their Adsense adverts added. Since the policy remains not to have Adsense stuff if the entry hasn’t been reviewed. That does cut into the income.

As always, if you approve of our policies (hand-picked Amazon products about the same stuff as the profile, hand-placed AdSense ads on reviewed articles, no Facebook cookies, no ads from anything less reputable than Google Adsense, no tracking beyond default Google Analytics volume data, etc.) you can donate.

To help compensate for the money we don’t make by not plastering the site with RevContent and OutBrain inserts and auto-playing videos.

2/ The updates

The “three batches of 5+ entries per month” pace is still holding. I’m unsure of how long it can hold though, since we’ve eaten through a lot of our publishing backlog.

As a result part of the workload is shifting toward overhauling small, old entries. This allows for some progress in improving articles while The Big Sweep through the site is on hold. It also ensures that we have enough new and revised content.

Lastly, that should also lower the density of video game articles. These were a result of the gaming breaks I was taking as I was burning out on the The Big Sweep.

The only downside is for those who *just* happen to have read that entry, out of 5650+, right before it was overhauled.

3/ Server

I found an angle to consolidate the “Related Articles on Writeups.Org” sections, remove parasitically ponderous plugin processes, and have the semantic computations take place on other servers.

There still are shorts bursts where our server share is overwhelmed by the traffic, but it seems *far* less common.

So it’s a solid win. Feel free to play Moon Ray’s Comanchero very loudly as a victory hymn.


Before the end of the year, we’ll switch a new infrastructure within the same hosting provider. This will help absorb the rising traffic.

4/ Arcs

A big arc had begun about classic AD&D-based game Baldur’s Gate. But it ran into longstanding issues about modelling gear such as melee weapons, body armour, etc. in a more rigorous and comprehensive manner.

Though that greatly delays the arc, it has meant a spurt in technical work about the Evasion Skill, equipment adding to the operator’s APs, the use of shields in combat, recovering APs of Damage Capacity, etc..

Some is already published, more is coming.

As always, we are direly short on manpower. Feel free to join the community to help with rules discussion and/or playtesting.

There are also various arcs on hold (such as early Iron Man and early Spider-Woman). This is a mix of logistics, and a wish to focus more on overhauling 15+ years old articles that didn’t age well. Having so many of the latter still around is annoying.

5/ Donations

We now offer both Patreon and Paypal. So that’s big-brand, standard online payment solutions that support both one-off and recurring donations in a few clicks.

The donation pages also include a bit more material about donations themselves. You totally should check it out.

We are highly dependent on donations to keep this site up. Everything is optimised to run on a shoestring budget, but it still adds up.


February, 2017

Ever since June-ish 2016, the activity reports on writeups.org tend to be repetitive. They are endlessly dominated by the current quality/feature sweep through the entire content.

1/ The Big Sweep

Said sweep makes it so that every writeups.org profile features :

  • A Context section to welcome and orient readers.
  • Short paragraphs, not-too-long sentences, frequent subsection breaks and other ways to make reading easier and more pleasant.
  • Hyperlinks to other writeups.org articles and to outside content for people who want to understand what is being referenced (including our glossary).
  • Video sequence if applicable/useful.
  • Fixing typos, grammar issues, clarity issues, particularly in the oldest profiles on the site.
  • Various backstage semantic declarations for SEO.

Right now a third of the site — the most frequently read third — has been swept, which took a bit more than 6 months. I’m currently taking a vacation from that, but we can reasonably expect two more 6-month blocks and thus the entirety of 2017.

Of course, the Big Sweep (it’s a joke  ) takes place on the heels of the previous grinds that led to the new version of writeups.org last year. I’m not sure since how long I’ve been in full-time grind mode, it all blurs together at this point. 2014 or 2013, I guess.

2/ The updates

I’ve settled for packs of at least five new or revised articles every ten days (around the 10th, 20th and 30th of every month, though sometimes they’re a day late. The next one will be on the 13th of February, frex). So far it’s been a good, workable pace.

As of this writing our publication backlog is still dealing with articles that were discussed by the community in late August. It’s slowly catching up, though.

There’s still a higher-than-usual density of video game material, reflecting my video game breaks during the never-ending grind.

There’s still an emphasis on rewriting the articles that no longer meet our quality standards. You may have noticed that such reworks have been a strong percentage of the updates in recent months.

The “pure rules” content for DC Heroes has finally reached its target organisation, which also made it possible to recreate a chunk of content that used to be in the old site’s FAQ.

The rest of the old FAQ will continue to be brought back, but some bits will be entirely redone as articles that’ll take quite a while to redo.

3/ Server

No real issue on this front, though there are occasional stretches where a search fails and needs to be refreshed to display properly. This is caused by load, which has two causes :

  • A persistent erroneous call in a plugin, that regularly creates zombie queries that clutter the queue until they time out.
  • The number of attacks on the server, that has been unusually high for years. All servers get attacked a fair bit, but we get more than the usual share.

For 2017 I hope to fix the first, as well as implement various improvements in the display of search results. This is currently the least finished part of the site, and it can be made to look better. However, as with almost everything on writeups.org that hinges on the free time and energy of a *very* busy volunteer.

4/ Other improvements

There’s plenty planned, but they do not make sense as long as the Big Sweep isn’t done.

For instance, having our profiles properly link to one another (say, the first time Titania is mentioned in an article, her name is clickable) is a bare minimum. Working on making the site more explorable when this bare minimum isn’t in place would be odd.

I’ll add a few more “Top Ten” lists in the right-hand column of the homepage for variety’s sake, though. Such a list appears randomly whenever the homepage is displayed. And some of you may have noticed the site’s footer has a new selection by another contributor.

5/ Donations

We now offer both Patreon and Paypal. So that’s big-brand, standard online payment solutions that support both one-off and recurring donations in a few clicks.

The donation pages also include a bit more material about donations themselves. You totally should check it out. We are highly dependent on donations to keep this site up.


October, 2016

With my nose to the grindstone every day, it often feels that progress on Worg is glacial. But given the resources at hand, it’s sailing onward fairly well.

Thus, dear people who are undoubtedly about to donate great riches from far-off lands, here’s what’s been up since the last donations drive four months ago.


The 2016 version of the site seems about stable and is getting high ratings on the web site optimization benchmark sites.

Well, actually it was already stable back during the late Summer. But during parts of September we ran into load issues that seem tied to Jetpack security scans. Those seem OK for now… but I’ve believed that the issue had been licked once before.

We probably will have to move the server back to Europe for 2017 (currently it’s in Baltimore) then move back to the US when feasible. I don’t think the impact will be observable in most conditions, though.

2016-2018 sweep, part 1

That’s the big project/workload eating up much of the resources and time, and there’s about two more years of it. This sweep makes sure that all entries have improvements such as:

  • Context section.
  • Cleft sentences and paragraphs and sections to ensure that none are overlong.
  • Internal and external hyperlinks, glossary links.
  • Video sequence if applicable.
  • Various semantic/SEO aspects to be more referenceable.
  • Typos fixes, clarifications, layout improvements, hand-placed adverts, etc..

More than a thousand entries (so, about a fifth of the site) have been processed so far. With a systematic focus on the ones attracting the largest readership.

It makes the site more approachable and easier to read. That’s part of our general work to be more welcoming to the broader public.

2016-2018 sweep, part 2

A side effect of these improvements is an increased number of video-game-based entries. It’s not a change of direction for the site. It just reflects the video game breaks I take to stay sane despite the interminable grind these improvements represent. And the interminable grinds in previous years.

We’re also continuing to redo profiles that didn’t age well, especially for popular characters. Recent-ish examples have been very early Iron Man and very early Spider-Woman.

However, each of these is a major endeavour with lots of research. They also come with an armada of ancillary writeups (such as villains and supporting cast). So it moves slowly.

And lastly the FAQ is being recreated as more modern articles, bit by bit.

2017 roadmap

For now the goal is to keep these improvements rolling, and to keep the current 15+ new/revised entries per month pace. The combination of the two is quite sufficient to eat up the available resources.

Hopefully, but without any guarantee, it’ll be possible to cram in 2017 the rest of the planned search engine functionalities. Images in the results, fixing an elusive bug that makes specific search strings come up empty, adding auto-completion… these things.

Adding tags will also be a big improvement to the explorability of the site, but I don’t think those can pop up before 2018. We’ll be able to work on these when the 2016-2018 sweep is done or almost done, basically. And clickable affiliations might have to come first for technical reasons.


Still horribly low with too few contributors having an ever-dwindling amount of free time to handle profiles, and the complexity of those continuing to rise.

So we still need more volunteers.

In the hope to facilitate this there’ll soon be a FAQ article about ways to contribute.

Writeups.org traffic

It has been strongly rising in recent weeks, but a longer window of observation is necessary.

I was expecting a dip during the Summer after the site was entirely reorganized (which impacts Google ranks), but that didn’t occur.


It was spent on the 2016 version of writeups.org. Less than $300 remain (so, maybe a single day of contract work) since a planned expense wasn’t realised – the contractor vanished into the aether (and thus never got paid, obvs).

As donations refill the warchest over the years we’ll look into :

  • Adjustments to the “skin” of the site. I think the design is excellent, but some tweaks are doable. For instance the categories, subcategories and other attributes at the beginning of entries seem too easily ignorable. The site may also not display quite right on some atypical devices/resolutions.
  • Having an actual developer look at how the site is built, since the stark budget constraints mean that a lot of it run based on my thoroughly unqualified code and administration.


We now offer both Patreon and Paypal. So that’s big-brand, standard online payment solutions that support both one-off and recurring donations in a few clicks.

The donation pages also include a bit more material about donations themselves. You totally should check it out, aye.


Mid-2016 articles

These had a different posting schedule, since massive changes were still taking place with the WORG 2016+ deployment.

14th of August, 2016

More like scattered notes, really. And yes, I’m going to turn off the unnecessary bits in the news posts (such as the “jump to the game stats” button), but since there’s only been 3 news posts so far it’s not a high priority.

The 2016-2018 quality sweep

That remains the big thing. For now about 11% of the site has been brought to this standard. It’s not huge, but :

  1. As Groot would certainly point out, it’s better than 10%. Thanks, Groot. You get it.
  2. The entries in question are the ones receiving the most views, so that’s more than 11% in terms of reader experience.

This remains about adding Context sections, hyperlinks in the text, meta-data, cleft paragraphs and sentences to facilitate reading, embedded videos where appropriate (meaning films, TV series and some video games), occasional typos and grammar and style issues, glossary links, subsections in lengthy sections…

That appreciably improves the site. The main issue, really, is that I have to do it 5,500+ times. Even the current pace (6-ish profiles per day) it takes hours per day, 7 days/week.

My main hope is that the profiles getting the most traffic tend to be the longer ones. So as I progress this quality sweep should get easier and faster.

Video games entries

You might have noticed an increase in the proportion of profiles based on video games.

This is almost solely a result of the 2014-2016 grind toward the new version of writeups.org, and of the 2016-2018 ongoing quality grind.

These are only endurable by taking breaks, and video game breaks are both convenient and a source of further writeups. Therefore, higher proportion of VG stuff in recent months and for months to come.

Plus, heh, it might attract more readers and, who knows, get them interested in the comic books and role-playing material on the site.

Publication schedule

For now I’m experimenting with packs of 5 or 6 profiles (new or with a large amount of new and revised material) published around the 10th, 20th and 30th of the month. So a bit more than a profile every other day.

We’ll see how it works out in the long run.


One of the UX aspect we didn’t get quite right is the breadcrumb very near the beginning of the entries, going for instance Comics > Other Universes > Mage (Watt Magner Comics). I mean, it works fine but I’m now suspecting that’s its not visible enough and that readers tend to skip it.

So, yes – everything’s clickable, which is rather useful if you’d like to see more profiles in a given category (for instance a list of profiles in the “Mage (Watt Wagner Comics)” category).

Unknown legend

It seems to be a semi-common comment lately in the wilds of the Internet that writeups.org is “criminally underrated” or an “unsung hero” or otherwise overlooked. Well, I entirely agree. 🙂

I can occasionally cram in some networking and PR work, but it’s not high-priority. And the roadmap is not looking good for the networking/PR thing. Especially since I’ll confess that my patience with many large online communities doesn’t improve with age.

We’ve crossed a big milestone in terms of site improvement, but there are still too many profiles that are too old and weak (since we’ve been writing for 20 years). I find those personally embarrassing, so overhauling them is both a priority and a huge drain in term of time and efforts. That means no time for PR work, and that PR work would be half-hearted anyway.

And though there are constant visibility efforts going on, it’s continuing to fix some basic SEO aspects. That’s efficient, but low-flash and backstage.

Therefore, for those readers who feel that writeups.org should be more famous, you’re the ones who can do something about it on social media and other venues. 🙂


7th of May, 2016

Our current situation :

1/ We are the lowest ebb ever in terms of manpower. We currently have but a small handful of people willing and able to contribute articles. The site will keep calm and carry on, but in terms of community that’s a bother.

2/ Yahoo! hasn’t exploded yet, so that’s good for us since that’s where we live.

3/ The new version of writeups.org was rolled out on the 30th of April, with several new articles. A lot of May was spent stabilizing technical thingamabobs, but some more content was rolled out. Right now we only have one internal issue left (an orphaned XML request in a plugin).

On the other hand our search server has been dying on us since the middle of May. Once we can replace the server we can resume bulletproofing the search engine. No ETA on the replacement yet, which is bad.

4/ In terms of work on the site, there are 4 big sets left :

  1. Finish various bits that are part of the 2016 upgrades. Thumbnail pictures in the search engine, variant pictures of the WORG Guy mascot for articles without an illustration, template changes for the news posts, autoposts to G+, Twitter and Facebook [done on the 5thof May, as it happens], adding non-intrusive social networks sharing, etc.
  2. A big sweep through the entire site for small-but-neat upgrades to the profiles (Context sections, hyperlinks within the text, cleft sentences and paragraphs when these are too long, adding videos to some articles, hand-placing AdSense ads, rewrites for style and brevity… housekeeping and reader comfort duties, essentially).
    At the current pace this is expected to take, mmm, 3 years.
  3. A focus on redoing our oldest entries about major characters, starting with Iron Man (Tony Stark) and Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew). The reasoning is that profiles for major characters are a common point of first contact with the site, and thus should be good.
    This too is going to take forever, due to the “scorched earth” ethos of not putting a book back in storage until almost everything in it has been written up. These profiles will mostly use the “emergent history” methodology.
  4. Later on there are various projects, which are mostly about adding functionalities to the site (clickable affiliations, tags, clickable authors, much improved “related articles” box…), completing some big but unfinished writeups arcs so we can move on, more video games characters and monsters, redoing old but minor entries… We’re probably talking 2017 and beyond here, though.

5/ I mentioned placing the AdSense adverts as part of a multi-years process. This means that the bulk of pages on the site will go without these adverts for many months, since texts and pictures always have priority over ads.

However this means that we’re rolling with a drastically diminished adverts load. As in, 95+% of the pages right now do not have any AdSense ads. And these small things (between 0 and 3 per page, hand-placed not to disrupt reading) do pay for our hosting costs.

So if people could pitch in for a bit while I slave away on the upgrades discussed in 4.2 and thus put back the little ads, that’d be much appreciated. Otherwise, it means I shouldn’t have gone for quality but for volume, which is the default situation on Internet.

In summary – https://www.writeups.org/donate/ . 🙂


8th of May, 2016

The bulk of the teething issues for the server seem done. It’s not ideal yet – during yesterday’s peak traffic window we had about 30mn where some requests failed. But I’m continuing to make progress – for instance there’s a plugin that still spits out PHP errors, which I hope to solve this week.

As you *probably* noticed, the site relaunched with some new profiles. The entries are listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first) on the homepage – note the pagination at the bottom. This is also the case on the search page if you just click on the orange “Search” button without entering any text.

Right now the bulk of the work is to spruce up our most popular entries with new features – Context sections at the beginning, text hyperlinks toward additional content, shorter sentences and paragraphs, layout and typos reviews, occasionally fixing a mediocre illustration, etc. This is chiefly aimed at newcomers to the site.

Once I’m fed up with said full-time sprucing up, we’ll resume throwing in new content. We do have a bit of backlog, and the bulk of the FAQ still needs to make its return.

The sprucing up process will continue flowing down from the most-viewed profiles to the least-viewed profiles. It is going to take many months, though. The amount of content on the site is colossal.

We’re also shading and finalizing our little “Worg Guy” mascot on the homepage, before making several variants for the news post, the FAQ pages, the profiles without an illustration, etc..

If you only occasionally come check writeups.org, note that you can subscribe to our newsletter (in the footer of every page). It’s a bare-bones monthly affair that just lists what’s new. Useless for our hardcore readers, but convenient for more casual readers.

If you have an adblocker, have a glance at some writeups.org profiles without it. I think it works better that way. No, I ain’t kidding. See it for yourselves.

As always, this is a community site. Here’s our secret volcano base remains on Yahoo! Groups (deprecated hyper link deleted), at least as long as Yahoo!’s around.

— Sébastien, your friendly neighbourhood Worgmeister.