Besides sulking, ranting, and pacing restlessly while my site was down, I spent the last several days updating bits of the site that have been neglected for ages. Most of this is probably only interesting or useful for new readers, but just in case you’re curious what I did:
There’s a new front page. Yeah. When was the last time anyone looked at that thing? I don’t even know.
Also, I updated the favicon for the site. I liked the old one because it was a blue die, but it looked terrible when mashed down to 16×16, which seems to be the norm these days. The new one isn’t as cool, but it’s more visually clear.
I’ve revamped the System Shock novel. Some PHP updates broke it ages ago, but now it should work as intended. Also I got rid of the archaic IFRAME-based design.
Heads up, you’re not at the end of the post. The next thing after the jump is an image of the thing we usually see below a post, which makes this feel like the end. But keep scrolling.
The Promo Display
Promo is what I call the little boxes that suggest other content when you get to the end of a post. If you’re a regular then I’m sure you’ve long since been desensitized to it by now and your eyes automatically skip over it. You’ve probably seen every possible promo box dozens of times now and you’ve long since learned that there’s nothing for you there. That’s fine. The promo is mostly designed for newcomers.
See, one thing I noticed from reading clickbait-ish sites is that these sorts of suggestions can be really powerful. You get to the end of some content, and see more content. And when you’re done with that, you’re offered more. Out of the handful of articles on offer, one is bound to capture your curiosity. The problem with clickbait sites is that you eventually learn it’s all empty promises. Looking for interesting content on these sites is like panning for gold in your bathtub. The headlines might tantalize you with an intriguing question, but then when you see the articles it’s a giant unrelated image and two paragraphs of fluff that don’t really answer the question, surrounded by two dozen advertisements.
But the promo thing is my attempt to make a similar system, except designed to be fulfilling. I have no way of knowing how well it works because I don’t have any fancy site metrics to track that sort of thing. (And I probably wouldn’t bother to read them if I did.) But I’m sort of assuming that if it works for me then it might work for other people. I know Joel Spolsky had a text-based version of this on his blog, and that’s how I found a lot of his best stuff. (Sadly, the feature has vanished now that he’s moved to WordPress.)
The trick with this promo thing is that I need strike the right balance. If I have too few articles available, then you’ll see the same few dozen suggestions appear again and again. If I’m too greedy about putting things in there, then it lowers the overall quality. It’s no longer my “best stuff” but just “more stuff”, turning it into a really inefficient way of exploring the archives.
Believe it or not, there were actually over 100 items in the list. I know after a few months of repetition it felt like there were just a dozen, but it really was that many. I’ve added another 30 or so, which might help break up the monotony. I suppose the other way to help would be if I just wrote more great content worthy of being featured, but to be honest that’s a lot of work.
If you want to see all 130 at once for some reason, you can do so on the front page I mentioned earlier. That’s basically all it is. “Hi. I’m Shamus Young! (Dumps promo database on you.)”
To my embarrassment, all of the promo entries were being pulled out of text file, like some shameful ad-hoc database. Last week I used the downtime to put it all in a proper database, and wrote some PHP scripts to help me maintain it.
I also fussed with the site theme a little. Not much. I’m actually pretty happy with how the site is right now. If you’ve ever been cooped up in the house for so long that you feel compelled to rearrange the furniture for no particular reason, then you get why I felt the need to mess with the theme.
Another note is that some of the character encoding got borked during the database migration. The accented é was replaced with à©, which screwed up post titles to be something like Dà©nouement 2017: The Best Stuff. Yuck. It seemed to impact posts at random. Quotation marks would be screwed up for one post in a series but not the rest. Sometimes apostrophes were replaced with junk and sometimes they were left alone. I fixed as many as I could find, but if you spot more garbled encodings please leave a comment on the affected post.
I have to fix these using global, can’t-be-undone SQL commands like this:
UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE (post_content, 'à©', 'é');
I do a backup beforehand, but it’s still terrifying.
One last note is the comment editing plugin. There are two major plugins for this. One is simple with no options and only allows editing for 5 minutes. The other has tons of bells and whistles but allows me to set an arbitrary edit window. (I’m a fan of 15 minutes myself.) I’m still trying to decide which one is the best fit.
So that’s the new stuff. Hopefully it all works for you. Let me know if anything is broken.
A Star is Born
Remember the superhero MMO from 2009? Neither does anyone else. It was dumb. So dumb I was compelled to write this.
This Game is Too Videogame-y
What's wrong with a game being "too videogameish"?
So what happens when a SOFTWARE engineer tries to review hardware? This. This happens.
Quakecon 2012 Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.
Top 64 Videogames
Lists of 'best games ever' are dumb and annoying. But like a self-loathing hipster I made one anyway.