6162 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Donations call and situation report — June, 2020

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/ 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.

Donation page.

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 a 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.

Donation page.

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.)

Donation page.


By Sébastien Andrivet.

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