6179 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Donations call and situation report — February, 2021

Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

(There are three writeups.org donation drives a year – February, June, October.)

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

Donation page.

1/ Multipart articles (part 1, fittingly)

Back when this site started, character profiles with just the basics were fine. Wikipedia didn’t exist yet. The gold standard was the 1980s Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

Things have changed.

However, there’s a tension betwixt… yes, I like saying “betwixt”, it sounds sexy… betwixt :

  1. Publishing deep dive articles.
  2. Most people not being comfortable with long articles.

So our long articles get split into more digestible parts.

If it all were on a single page, the number of people reading to the end would be negligible. There are depressing usability  studies about that.

2/ Multipart articles (part 2)

This approach works. But.

An example of the “but” would be the revised Darkstar (Layna Petrovna) profile. The recommended path is three articles about the teams she was on, *then* a two-parter character profile.

So that’s five articles to navigate through.

Disambiguation pages offer a more attractive way to navigate through a series of connected articles. But in some cases that’d make no sense. For Darkstar, it’d just add a sixth article to click.

Donation page.

3/ Multipart articles (part 3)

OTOH, with multi-part articles I no longer feel that I *have* to cut paragraphs and sections from articles to keep them at a reasonable length.

Yes, the article with everything will be — say — 4,800 words long. But presented as two 2,400 words articles it’s a much more reasonable ask.

Wot means text that isn’t as dry. More mini-paragraphs in italics explaining context. More detailed design notes after the stats. Stuff like that.

4/ Tagging

About 63% of the articles are tagged. We passed the 50% bar a while back, but then I lost more than a month to sickness.

The tagging will continue to take up significant time all through 2021. Since it comes on top of writing, editing, publishing, researching, health-related delays, etc..

But it’s progressing.

(If you haven’t tried our tags yet, go to the tags article and give it a whirl. It’s great.)

Donation page.

5/ Images edition

Still happy about the work to remove extraneous details from images (fragments of blurbs or word balloons, UI elements in videogames, etc.).

Which was one of the reasons to buy a Photoshop subscription. And ditch my old CS6 copy that, in retrospect, may or may not have been entirely legal.

Now, of course, the whole point is that readers *don’t* see that work has taken place. But it did, and all sorts of images are clearer, less cluttered for it.

6/ V2s

“V2s” (that is, fully redoing older and clumsier articles as a “version #2”) remain a high priority, but it may not be as visible.

For most v2s, there’s a number of obscure characters that also get writeups, “base camp” articles get written, etc.. That’s all-new content that isn’t that visibly tied to the redone content.

Frex, some current v2 work also resulted in in-depth articles about Inhuman history, and new profiles for the original Metal Master, a 1961 giant alien, a 1980s New Mutants enemy, and a Skrull. Plus other stuff.

It’s a “they pop up in my current research so I might as well give them profiles now since they’re no major project on their own” thing.

Donation page.

7/ Site overhaul

We may do overhauls to the web site in 2022. It greatly depends on the pandemic, contractor prices and availability, my health, etc.. But a design document now exists, which is a key step.

The intent isn’t to change much. It’s to tweak, repair, maintain, consolidate. Because there’s a fair few things that we didn’t have the budget to finish in 2016. Frex, parts of the site still are terrible code I cobbled together since I couldn’t hire a coder.

Key features include :

  • Pages that are even more legible (especially on smartphones, where it most counts).
  • Finally finishing the search engine results page.

So it’s more of a “finish and polish the 2016 design” project. Nothing spectacular, but still a lot of work and expenses.

(Ideally the overhauls would be every five years. But here I need the current tagging grind to be out of the way first. Since the overhaul will also result in another “death march” grind to manually switch articles to a modified layout. *Then* there’ll be the second tagging grind.)

8/ Text-to-speech

One of the genuinely new features under consideration is a button that reads the article aloud. Using high-end TTS tech.

That’s useful in a number of situations. Such as exercising or doing cleaning chores.

But FWIW, a loooong WORG article — say, 3500 words — takes about 27mn to read aloud announcer-style.

That will require much testing. Especially when it comes to file size and their hosting. Plus some costs, since there are many million words on the site.

So it could turn out to be unworkable. Even with a nearly free tech.

(The costs are that low since the megacorporation offering this is more interested in free data to train their model than in making money right away.)

9/ Costs

The hopefully-in-2022 rework will be a hit in the war chest. It will eat years of donations and micro-revenue from ads. Typical rates for the contractors we need are €400/day. So every such day eats months of revenue.

Upgrading the search engine will also mean a new chunk of recurrent costs (about $250 pa). For five years we’ve been running on a complimentary server instance, but we have to go commercial if we’re to evolve.

So that piles up with the hosting costs, plus the security/caching subscription. Plus minor costs. Even the €10/month Photoshop subscription is a big deal in our shoestring budget.

Donation page.