(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.
There were multi-hours site outages in mid-October.
We were trying a *finally* nail a particularly elusive SSL dysfunction. Basically everything was taken apart and put back together, we cleaned the barrel and chamber and… and we still have no idea what’s up with erroneous SSL handshakes.
I am increasingly considering a hosting service change in mid-2022. I have ties with our current hosting service, but I’ll have to eventually admit that they are now outpaced by the likes of Bluehost.
(Or Kinsta, but a Kinsta hosting for the volume of visitors we get is $200+ per month so, errr, no).
Tagging the entries was finished on the 5th of October.
This is nice, since tags are a great way to explore our huge site along specific angles. This wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Another nice aspect is that tagging ate many, many hours. Even with long breaks from tagging, that’s a lot of time I couldn’t use for research, writing and statting.
One not-so-nice aspect is that the process ended with a stroll through the oldest, most obsolete, oft-jankiest articles on the whole dang site. For the second time – I had already done a loonng sweep through the site to align all entries with the 2016 changes.
2/ Writeups.org version 2021
The objective is to refresh or overhaul the site every 5 years or so, to keep up with the times.
For a while, it seemed that with the pandemic, such an overhaul would be pushed back to 2022. But I’m not certain we’ll still have our complimentary search engine instance after April of 2022.
So as of this writing, the work has (music swells to a heroic pitch) THE WORK HAS JUST STARTED.
The main goals are :
- Display better on smartphones.
- Switch to a new search tech, and finally finish the search results page.
- Go through a laundry list of small fixes and improvements. No, not “small foxes” as I first typed. Stupid fingers.
It’s about the same scope as the 2016 evolution. But we’re not going for strong visual changes, the basics of the current visual identity are fine.
3/ Aftershock (financial)
This website overhaul will annihilate our warchest. That’s why we only do it, at most, every five years. It takes years for donations and extra income from ads to become a workable amount of money.
There’s even a risk I have to spot money for this iteration, if the search engine work runs into trouble. Which is funny because I live on about $500/month.
The new search solution on WORG will also be an additional monthly cost. That’s part of the reason why I’m considering switching to a more competitive hosting package for mid-2022.
3’/ Aftershock (labour)
Once the late 2021 site overhaul work is done, there will be a multi-years grind for me to soldier through.
This’ll be similar to the 2016-2018 grind. For a long while, older-format articles coexisted with newer-format articles, as I manually migrated them.
Such a grind will involve :
- Manually reshuffling layouts, and particularly the images currently in the right-hand column (on desktop displays). I’ll also get rid of the lowest-quality images. And of one advertisement in the vast majority of entries.
- Deploying the second set of tags.
- Doing a quality pass. Too many entries need improvements, updates, better pictures, edits, redone images, etc..
- Stopping with some regularity to fully redo an entry that’s just too old and I can’t suffer for it to live anymore aaarrgh.
The last two would immensely extend the duration of this grind, so I’ll have to see how far I take this.
Even sticking to the first two could easily take five years. Since obviously that’s on top of the normal research, editing, writing, illustrating, etc. that goes into the site about 355 days a year.
And since there’s now more than 6,000 entries to manage… I’ll have to see what approach works best, but in any case the changes will have to be gradual.
4/An invaluable absence
You *do* realise that this website doesn’t do the thing of writing deliberately bad, contrarian and dismissive articles to earn a small but sorely needed windfall from hate-clicks and irate #engagement ?
That alone is worth a donation, mate.
5/ Critical Blow (+2CS OV)
We ain’t a review site.
- There are already way too many people giving their opinions.
- Proper critique requires a whole body of fine-arse skills (then credibility-building) we don’t really have.
- We’re already busy deploying another approach.
*But*. Some people are gonna read a profile and go “wow that’s so my jam” and buy the book or game or novel or movie or whatever.
(I don’t usually write “problematic”, for the sake of people who have been conditioned to think that those who say “problematic” are The Enemy. But right now it’s 6:30 AM and my social graces are at least two coffees away.)
Unless it’s just catastrophic (say, 1940s turbo-racist war propaganda), we can’t devote a large word count to this. It’s not our goal, and there’s a fair few people who do a better job of it anyway.
So I — as the writer and/or editor — often end up fiddling numerous times with the exact formulation of brief notes. Usually to the effect of “yes, this is crap, moving on” or “this was considered the norm back then, moving on”.
Or my new favourite — “this story fumbles the ball about such and such, but you can fix this when the character appears in *your* story.”
6/ Critical Blow (-3 CS RV)
“We’re already busy deploying another approach”, sez the subsection above. Let’s explain.
The core goal here is to use these characters in tabletop role-playing game sessions. Where, ideally, one is fully immersed in the imaginary world, taking decisions there, living there.
Now, every story has weak points. But if you’ve decided to live in the story during game sessions, you have to deal with those constructively. You can’t just point, laugh a deep-fried laugh and go “AW AW THESE LAZY IDIOTS CAN’T WRITE PLOT HOLE I’M SO INTELLIGENT”.
Our approach is to find ways around the issue and *protect* suspension of disbelief. Such as :
- Possible explanations (“No-Prize Hypotheses”).
- Suggestions to paper over the issue in your version of the story.
- Not dwelling on it too much if it’s a niggling detail.
In a way, it’s the opposite of a review. If a story is confusing, our goal isn’t to point that out. It’s to explain it as clearly as we can.
Furthermore, of something works oddly, then our job is to model how that thing works *in the story*. Not how we think it *should* work.
Again, the job is to facilitate excursions into an imaginary world. Not rate it from 1 to 5 stars. Or get ballistically irate because Well Actually Zombies Don’t Work That Way.
7/ Style, baby. Style.
Over the decades, the writing style used on writeups.org has gotten less formal.
This in part reflects a general evolution online. Back in the days, #content was mostly done in a journalistic or academic form. Since those were the previous norms.
Nowadays, #content is increasingly comparable to the #authentic #relatable #content that makes #money. Such as Twitch or YouTube.
In our specific case, it is also important that the text not read like a Wiki article. We seek to be more engaging, more readable than Wikipedia or Fandom.
My sense is that writing more conversationally is a good thing – until you step into a trapdoor. Just a little less formality, and suddenly the tone becomes a hindrance.
This has been notable lately. Over at commercial sites, the pandemic crushed income from advertisements. Which required fewer people to pump out #content faster. Even if nothing much was happening, due to said pandemic.
Until recently, this led to a lot of #content that is barely distinguishable from shitposting with better spelling. That’s falling down the trapdoor.
So we keep an eye out for that.
8/ So I was thinking…
… but it’s getting a bit long, so we’ll talk about that in the next sitch report.