Category Archives: blog thing

MMO Blogesphere Feed – Version 3

This was going to be something for the top section of the month in review, but it ended up being a bit longer than I would like, so I’ll just complain about WordPress.com or something on the 30th.

So over there in the side bar on the right hand side of the blog, there is my latest attempt to create a unified feed for a small corner of the MMO blogesphere.  This is, of course, driven entirely from jealousy at the wonderful blog roll widget that people using Google’s Blogger platform have access to.  WordPress.com will never give us anything like this because, as I have been told by a designated representative of the organization, blog rolls are a thing of the past.

Such is life.

Now, there are any number of ways with a sufficient application of effort, technology, and/or money, I could enable a comparable feature on my own side bar.

Hell, I could just move to the Blogger platform.  Simple and done.  I just happen to like just about everything else about WordPress.com better than Blogger, up to and including the whole not being an insignificant part of Google and thus always in danger of being discarded for some new vision of the future or if Sergey is having a bad day.  WordPress.com and I disagree on any number of things, but being a blogging platform is their thing.  Plus my blog is too big to export at this point, so I am stuck with them unless I want to start again fresh.

Anyway, while I could throw money and ~effort~ at the problem, I am both cheap and lazy.  So I have sought out solutions that were both low effort and low cost through various iterations of the project.  The story so far…

Version 0

My original plan was just to stick the VirginWorlds feed in the side bar.  That was a fine solution back in the day.  Viva Brent!

But since about 2009 or so, when Brent wandered off with other priorities in his life, it has been less and less of an ideal.  The site is still up and running, and its accompanying feed is still in my side bar.  However, the site no longer gets updated with new blogs any more, so the feed itself tends to be dominated by Massively.  Not that I dislike Massively in general, but I want to promote my fellow bloggers and not a commercial site.  So I started looking for a way to add a new, more blogger focused feed.

Version 1

Back before the advent of Google+, Google Reader was a wonderful thing.  It was fast and simple, tied in with your Google account, and generally the standard across the board for online RSS readers.  The only reason not to use it was fear of the monster Google might become.

And among its many features was the ability to flag items from your reading list to be posted to an RSS feed.  And so I used the WordPress RSS feed widget to put that feed in my side bar, flagging new stories for inclusion every day.  This was probably a bit more “hands on” than I wanted… somewhat akin to the early days of VirginWorlds, when each link on the site represented a manual submission… but it worked.

The came Google+.

google-plus-logo-640

Google proceeded to wreck Google Reader in both form and function in a transparent effort to get people to stop using it in favor of Google+.  Amongst the feature casualties was the RSS output.  So while Google was busy kicking me off of Google+ for using a pseudonym (then quietly asking me to return) and generally annoying people by forcing integration with other services (Remember when your YouTube account HAD to be linked to Google+ for about a week? People were pissed.) they managed to alienate just enough Google Reader users to be able to claim the service was in decline and to shut it down.

Google Reader had fallen so low that when they finally turned it off, the resulting diaspora of users literally swamped all of the competing services to the point of making them unusable due to excess load.  I had to swap to Feedly at a too late date when The Old Reader staff threw their hands in the air at the onslaught and walked away. (They later returned, realizing that they could, you know, make money at this, but I had already moved to Feedly.)

Which is to say, it was still pretty damn popular.  Just not popular enough.  That was also the fate of Google+ which, when it did not eclipse Facebook (and dear Lord, Facebook only looks good when compared to Google+, which is simply awful when it comes to usability) was “De-emphasized” in favor of other initiatives.  Like finally closing down Orkut and figuring out exactly where the line is between “evil” and “not evil.”

Version 2

So, even before the end of Google Reader I was out looking for an alternative.  I tinkered with a few things, including Yahoo Pipes.  Pipes actually looked promising, but I could never get it to create output that would work correctly with the WordPress RSS widget.

Eventually I found a site called RSS Mix.

They don't really have a logo...

They don’t really have a logo…

The service was free… so it met that requirement… and was relatively low maintenance.  Basically, you gave it a list of RSS feed URLs and it would mash all those together and give you an output URL for the combined RSS feed.  And it mostly worked.

It was a bit of a pain to maintain.  Every time I wanted to update the list of blog feeds to draw from I had to submit the whole list again for a new RSS feed, which meant keeping revisions on hand locally.

It also wasn’t terribly reliable.  About half the time I would hit the blog, the feed to fail to load.  That was irksome, but when it did load it did the job.  The service just wasn’t meant to be polled every time somebody showed up at the site, and the WordPress.com widget doesn’t keep a cached version or anything.  So a lot of the time people just saw this:

FeedDown

Then a few people began to note that something about the whole thing was causing ping-backs on Blogger based blogs, including one serious “stop doing that!” complaint, at which point I pulled the widget and started looking for a new solution.

Version 3

I played around with some different options.  Mail Chimp offers a free RSS consolidation feature.  However, it appears to be completely static.  It takes the URLs you hand it, makes a feed, and then never updates it.  Not terribly useful, but it was free so what do you expect.

Feedly sent out an update about a site called Zapier.  If you were a Feedly Pro subscribe, and I am, you could take advantage of the data integration tools that Zapier offered.  This included some RSS feed tools.  I got that to work, but to have more than a couple blogs in the feed I would have to subscribe to Zapier as well, which wanted monthly fee in the subscription MMO range.  That failed the cheapskate test.

Eventually I stumbled onto a site called IFTTT, which is short for “If This Then That.”  This was mentioned at one point as a service that could access Feedly Pro features.  It could take output from Feedly and turn it into something else, I just wasn’t sure what.

I signed up for an account, which was free and thus right in my price range, and started tinkering with it.  I couldn’t get it to output directly to anything in WordPress that seemed useful, at least not for a side bar widget, but I found that,  among the things it could output to, was a site called Pinboard.

Pinboard is described as a “social bookmarking” site, akin to what Delicious was at one time.  I had never used Delicious, but reading through the descriptions at Pinboard, it could take bookmark input and would turn it into an RSS feed output.  That sounded like the ticket.  However, in order to keep spam and such down, Pinboard charges an up front, one time fee to join the service.  It is based on how many people use the service already, basically you have to pay a penny for everybody who got there ahead of you.  My total to join was $10.46, which was well within the cheapskate budget if it worked out. (I suspect that they would change that pricing policy if a lot of people started showing up.  I think a $10 barrier to entry is fine, but if it had been $35 or $50, I might have walked on by.)

Between the three services, I was able to create a rule that takes updates from my MMO Blogs category in Feedly (making me glad I set up categories when I started using the service) and posts them to my Pinboard account.

FeedlyPinboard

And it basically worked.  Items showed up in Pinboard and they were tagged correctly so I could pull them from an RSS feed associated with that tag.  All I had to do was get the data being passed to work with the WordPress RSS widget.  That turned out to be the tricky bit.  It took a bit of trial and error to see what worked and what did not, something that went a bit slowly because I had to wait until somebody posted something new before the feed would update and pass along my changes.  Ideally I wanted something similar to what the Blogger side bar widget offered, with Blog Name, Post Name, and how long ago it was published.  Eventually, paring down the data being passed to the bare minimum, I got the WordPress widget to display what I wanted.

The IFTTT Recipe

The IFTTT Recipe

And I ended up with something that is mostly what I want.

It doesn’t put a nice little icon next to each blog title, the format or title and blog name differs depending on which service is being used, and the the published time is displayed as an absolute in Pacific Time rather than a friendly “2 hours ago” sort of way.  But it mostly works and, now that the one time expense is out of the way, it is both cheap and easy to maintain.

Furthermore, it is flexible.  I can sort our who goes into the feed easily, by just moving things around in Feedly categories.  I moved some of the blogs that are in the VirginWorlds feed to a special “no feed” category, since I still have that feed in my side bar as well.  Trying to limit double exposure there, which mostly affects Syp and Tobold at this point.  I can create additional RSS feeds from my Feedly account.  I am looking into making one for EVE Online blogs for my other site and another for official game company feeds to put somewhere on the sidebar here. (There is currently an experimental version down at the very bottom of the side bar, if you scroll way down.)

So, mission accomplished!

Yeah, But Why Bother?

So all of that work… and all of those words… later, you might well ask why I deemed this important enough to pursue at all.

Yes, there was a certain amount of envy that Blogger based blogs had a feature that WordPress.com hosted bloggers lacked.  But that envy was based on the empirical observations that such a dynamic side bar widget actually attracts clicks.  Both the stats related to who sends traffic here and where people here click out to, a dynamic side bar widget attracts attention.  People will click on something that is both identified and visibly new or updated.

I can see from my own outbound traffic that almost nobody clicks on the static blogroll on a daily basis.  But with the new feed up in the side bar, I can see multiple clicks going to specific posts that have popped up and been displayed.

I did it because it is an effective way to send people to other blogs in our little community.

Eight Years of Link Rot

Years ago, back when we thought the World Wide Web was new and cool and we actually called it the World Wide Web and you had to have “www” in front of a web address because otherwise somebody might think you wanted Gopher access to their site for Christ’s sake, back then I read an interview with Douglas Engelbart.  Or maybe it was somebody else.  It could have been Ted Nelson.  Or maybe it was a dream.  I have learned that memory is unreliable which is why, in part, I write this blog.  Anyway, Douglas Engelbart is the guy who invented or bundled together the idea of just about everything you take for granted in computing today, only those ideas never quite came across as envisioned.  Basically, we messed it all up along the way.  It is what we do best.

And in this interview, some young reporter, gushing to be interviewing the person who came up with the very idea of Hypertext, asked him if this whole shiny new World Wide Web thing was the wonderful rainbow-streaked living embodiment of all he had foreseen.  Wasn’t this just what he beheld all those years back when he was given a nearly divine vision of the future?

And the response, from whoever it was… and I am paraphrasing here, because I cannot remember his actual withering retort… was approximately “Jesus Fuck No!”

And his objection didn’t even reference GeoCities.

No, he was pissed off that he had envisioned a vast interlinking of information systems that would allow the user to find all he needed smoothly and seamlessly, and what we had created was a mess of hand typed static URIs that would fail to connect the moment something in the path moved or changed.  We had taken his vision of Hypertext and created from it a living hell of link rot.  I don’t think he used the actual term “link rot,” though he might have.

And this was, as I said, during an earlier era of the web, before link rot was a really big deal.  Visionary that he was, he foresaw this as he foresaw so much else.  He could see the linkpocalypse coming.  Actually, it probably was Ted Nelson.  He literally hates HTML.  But it doesn’t matter, we’re still screwed, having been left with this sort of thing now.

The World Wide Web, as it turns out, is a place where we mostly used to be able to find stuff, but it keeps disappearing.  Often, the happiest result is getting the dread 404 errors, which have become common enough that we have taken to making them cute or pretty or different, so as to make the failure of one link or another more pleasant.

The EVE Online 404 error page

The EVE Online 404 error page

And 404 is good compared to the alternatives.  You are just as likely to get somebody cybersquatting on a URL with ads and malware.  This seems to be the common end for self-hosted blogs.  People stop updating, then stop paying the bill, and then the domain expires and the next day there is a spam page sitting there dispensing shit where once there was something of value.

Some days I hate the internet.

If it were not for the Internet Archive I am sure I would think myself crazy, remembering so many virtual things that have, for one reason or another, shed even their virtual existence and disappeared.

Basically, I am eight years down the road on the whole blogging thing today, and I can really see how annoying the whole link rot thing can be.  I can channel Engelbart’s rage… or whoever that was in the interview I cannot find… because internet.

I go back and look at old posts at least once a month, thanks to my month in review posts, and I end up running into more and more old posts with dead links.  I have always frowned upon posts with supporting arguments available only as links (the awful “go read this and come back” posts), but I am becoming more convinced that I need to quote as much as possible in blog posts, so as to make each post as self-contained as possible, that it might make sense five years down the road when the link to the source material has gone bad.  But I cannot copy things wholesale, as I do not want to steal the works of others.  So there is this middle ground of trying to include enough to support what I am saying, knowing whatever links I include may go away (as an example, SOE has a habit of just changing their web site hierarchy every two years because “fuck the web” I guess, so the data is generally still there, it just has a different URI), without actually stealing the works of other and actually encouraging people to visit other sites.  Community, yo.

All of which is something of an odd intro into my 8 year anniversary post (trivia: Blog created at 17:04 UTC on September 12, 2006), but here we are, eight years in and I am feeling the pain of being on the internet.  For those with more free time than sense, you can go back and look at past anniversary blog posts to see how I have held up over the years.

I had originally thought of going with Self-Portrait at Eight Years Old Wearing a Helm with Giant Horns as a post title, but I thought maybe I might be getting into references too obscure for mere mortals.  Plus I couldn’t come up with an decent image to go with that title, while images of 404 messages are legion.

Anyway, it is at this point I start trotting out various and sundry statistics and other bits of trivia, with some sort of forward looking message at the end.  If you are interested in that sort of thing, you will find it after the cut.  If not, well… there are plenty of happy destinations in the side bar.  And most of those links are still good!

Continue reading

What is the “Go To” Site for Your Game?

I often mention, and link to, Feldon and his site EQ2 Wire when writing about EverQuest II.

EQ2WireLogo

For me, that is the “go to” site for information and analysis of what is going on with the game.  And that is all the site focuses on, so there is nothing else there to get in the way.

As a site, because of its focus, it helps me keep in touch with a game that I might otherwise have drifted well away from.  Not that drifting away would be a bad thing, and sometimes I think I ought to just let it go as the songs says.  But I remain an interested observer for a game that was once my main focus.

I like having such a site available, all the more so when it focuses on a game I play.  Back in the day Allakhazam used to be the “go to” site for EverQuest, though once it became a commercial site (owned by gold sellers at one point) it lost some of its edge and relevance, so today it is barely good for press releases.

And with World of Warcraft there is always WoW Insider.  Its main problem is that, as another commercial site, it has to publish daily, even if there is nothing to say.  They can’t just say, “no news today.”  And they also live in the shadow of Blizzard itself, which does a good job of putting information out on its own site, such that if you follow the official feed something like WoW Insider can feel redundant.

But for most MMOs I don’t really have a “go to” site that I know and trust.  I can always get the press release over at Massively.  If I want to know about NCsoft’s financials or the latest updates for Runescape, MMO Fallout has me covered.  And I suppose I have double coverage for EVE Online with TMC and EN24, though I don’t feel that either site covers the game as well as they could for various political/editorial reasons.  TMC covers a lot of other stuff these days, while EN24 spends a lot of time regurgitating blog posts. (Including my own for a while, because ISK.)

But for dedicated coverage for Rift or GuildWars 2 or EverQuest, or any number of other MMOs, I don’t really have a place to go aside from the official sites, which can be very hit an miss, or sites that cover a lot of games, in which case things often get lost in the blur.

So today I am wondering what site you go to for coverage of your chosen MMO.  What sites will that niche for the various games?

They see me bloggin’, they syndic-hatin’

Google is out there giving me the Luigi Death Stare on yet another front.

He means business...

He means business…

It is interesting to see how much Google affects traffic at my site, and how much changes they make at their end can cause that traffic to ebb and flow.  They change their rankings of results, they decide to cache images for Google image search rather than going to your site, they shut down things like Google Reader, all of that has had a noticeable impact on the number of page views here at The Ancient Gaming Noob.

Currently, the big variable in daily traffic is search engine related.  Unless somebody links in me a post on their own blog, the rest of my daily visitors are pretty regular, a lot of them coming from the much coveted (by those of us using WordPress) blogroll side bar widget that Blogger offers.

I love that feature.  It works.

While the static blogroll in my own side bar barely generates any traffic for other sites, that Blogger widget that shows you who has a fresh post up, that actually gets clicks.

So I was a little bemused when that wonderful widget stopped working last week.

It didn’t go away or completely break, it just seemed to stop picking up new post for me.

If you went to one of the sites that uses that sidebar widget… Blessing of Kings, Player Versus Developer, Greedy Goblin, Herding Cats… right now, as I am writing this on Saturday, August 2nd, it would tell you that my current post is the one from Wednesday, July 30th.

PvD_Sidebar

Basically, nothing new to see at TAGN, don’t bother clicking!  And that actually has an impact on page views.  The sites I mentioned actually send me some regular daily traffic.

Not that page views are the most important thing in the world.  But I like people to know I’m active at least!

Normally I would just blame this sort of thing on WordPress.  They like to break things, giving me a supply of site related fodder for my month in review posts.  Most people use the default RSS feed that WordPress provides.

Only I was not having a similar problem with Feedly and other, non-Blogger sites, like EVE Bloggers seemed to be having no problem at all picking up my latest posts.  And the feed itself looked okay.  So it was time to experiment.

I was able to enlist Bhagpuss and the blogroll at Inventory Full for this.

I have two RSS feeds for this site.  One is the default WordPress feed and another goes through FeedBurner, yet another Google company.  I was wondering if Google might be more inclined to find my updates if they were coming from FeedBurner.

And it looks like they are.  Go to Bhagpuss’ site and it shows my current post.  Probably this one at the moment.  All of which is double strange, since the FeedBurner feed is actually generated from the default WordPress feed.  But Google seems to like it when FeedBurner sends them updates.

So here is my plea to my fellow bloggers using that blogroll side bar widget:

Can you swap over and use my FeedBurner feed?  It is linked there and at the top of my side bar.

Thanks!

PS Occasionally somebody mentions that something is wrong with my feed, the it suddenly spew out a bunch of recent posts flagged as new again.  While WordPress controls that feed (so I cannot do much) you might try the FeedBurner feed as well to see if the problem goes away.

PPS I don’t have to explain the whole syndicating/syndic-hatin’, Rollin’ Dirty, Luigi death stare thing, do I?

 

 

Hot Blaugust Nights

August is in the wings, waiting to bring with it the usual end of summer ennui on the gaming front.

Nothing new ships.  Very little gets announced.  The releases we are looking forward to are generally somewhere off in autumn.  At times it feels like you should join half of France and just take August off.

Over at Tales of the Aggronaut, Belgahst has proposed something to help bloggers get through August.

He calls it Blaugust.

Blagust_No_BR

The basic idea is simple: Put up a post a day on your blog during the month of August.

There are of course rules as to what counts, but to sweeten the deal there is also a community cross-linking thing going on, some potential prizes, and some topic suggestions that you can use or ignore at your pleasure.

Belghast explains it all in The Gospel of Blaugust, including the whole Anook aspect of things, which I am still pondering.  Go check it out.

Now, I suspect the immediate reaction from some will be that more posts are not necessarily better.

True enough.

But over the long term… just about eight years at this point… I have often found that longer “thinking” posts sometimes get overtaken by events and look horribly naive or just uninformed even a year later.  (Granted, that might just be me or just the things I write.)

On the other hand, some things that I have hesitated even to post, things like a game launched, an expansion shipped, some numbers were announced, or the ever amusing quote of the day, turn out to be nuggets of information I fall back on later.  Nothing like having a library of past Smed quotes when he is off on his latest bout of enthusiasm.

Basically, never stop posting.

Anyway, we shall see.  I come pretty close to posting once a day as it is, and Belghast looks like he’ll give us a pass if we get in 31 posts during the month, so I might actually be able to play video games on the weekends still rather than writing about them!

TAGN Theme Test

I was playing around with WordPress themes last night and came up with this one… which happens to be the same one I use for my other blog, Piano Black, with some different colors.

What do you think?

 

I’ve kept the old theme for nearly eight years.  Is it time for a change?

Addendum: For reference, you can see the old theme layout here.

Newbie Blogger Initiative Class of 2014

The Newbie Blogger Initiative has run its month of new blogger recruiting this year.

NBI_Logo_450

While I haven’t contributed anything to this year’s event, aside from pointing at it briefly a month back, I thought I would take a moment to list out all of the new blogs that have joined the ranks of the insane over worked those who came before.  It looks like a total of 35 45 new blogs participated in the event. (Did I miss anybody?)  Please take a little time to check out our new neighbors in the blogesphere.

Past history says that only 25-30% of this group will still be blogging a year from now.  Who looks like they will make it for the long haul?

Too soon?

Addendum: I missed a few blogs, only finding the definitive list long after I wrote this post.