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Tuesday, 13 October 2020

First do no harm


A rare bit of housekeeping this time. Blogger, the platform I use for the FL blog, has recently changed its interface. How best to describe it... You know how if you buy a music gizmo for a baby it will have just a few big plastic buttons in primary colours so that the toddler can play do-re-mi? And then when he or she grows up, if the music bug has bitten then a synth and a mixing desk and all the proper kit can replace that? Well, Blogger used to be the grown-up mixing desk and now it's turned into the toddler's toy.

The idea, presumably, is to make it easier to post from a mobile device. You can snap that cat picture, add a quick note in textese, and you're done. But if you want a longer blog post, with formatted images and videos and so on -- sorry, you're bang out of luck. Google (they own Blogger) have decided to chase the mobile blog market and forget about the desktop dinosaurs like me.

Unfortunately in changing the interface they also broke it. The loss of features like being able to drill down into stats was presumably deliberate, but they've also made it almost impossible to place images where you want them to go. Yesterday I spent twenty minutes formatting a post, a task that used to take a minute or two with the old interface. Half the time you don't even know how to do what you want because some bright spark has decided to switch over to a purely icon-driven interface. You know, like Ikea.

I suspect all this is designed to make people give up on Blogger so that Google can drop it in a year's time without anyone kicking up a fuss. By the time it dies we'll all be glad to see it go.

But what does all this mean for the future of the FL blog? I am looking at migrating over to another platform like Wordpress. Alternatively, once I've got Jewelspider out into the world I could turn my Patreon page into the new home for FL. I'm afraid it would mean paying at least a dollar a month, but the occasional scenarios alone are worth that much, don't you think?

There'll be no immediate change, other than that I'll be checking on and replying to comments less frequently because it's so painful to have to cope with the new interface. And we have a whole stack of posts that I had the foresight to format before the old interface stopped working, so the blog will continue to look okay (if you call this okay) for months yet.

The other upside is that I've been thinking for a while now of doing some best-of books, taking the most popular posts and organizing them into topics - roleplaying, gamebooks, scenarios, and so on. Blogger buggering up its interface might be the spur I needed.

30 comments:

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    1. I do use Facebook now and again, but I have to hold my nose. It doesn't have the collegiate feel of discussions here on the blog, somehow.

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  2. Patreon's not a bad shout, Dave. I don't think anyone would begrudge paying a dollar (although the 20 cents VAT may stick in the craw!). Contributions could then be raised or lowered based on current wealth levels and/or projects that you're running. That said, Patreon isn't the most user-friendly either. It took me half an hour the other day to work out how to change an expired debit card. I also like the thought of Trolls having to pay a dollar to be able to dispense their political bile!

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    1. You're right about the interface, Andy. Putting a post up on Patreon is nowhere near as smooth a process as Blogger used to be. I'm still undecided as I'm experimenting with Wordpress and so far they still have an option to use the "classic" (ie desktop) interface, but they too are designing everything to be handled on a mobile while watching TV and/or clubbing.

      And talking of the new interface I find this post (the first I put together using it) doesn't display properly on my own mobile devices. Maybe the Blogger coders should retrain as ballerinas?

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  3. These best-of-books you're thinking of, Dave, were you considering PDF only or POD as well?

    Asking, because, ahead of Jewelspider, Cursed King, and Brymstone, wouldn't it be nice to have a DW related piece on my bookshelf.

    (Selfish me, trading on the slow death of Blogger for the profit of my shelves.)

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    1. Oh, most definitely print, Simon. After all, if anybody just wants the digital version they can find all the articles right here.

      The only problem is cover art...

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    2. Perhaps you could run a competition? Surely there’s scores of talented but starving artists who would jump at the chance to do a Morris cover and thereby get some great exposure?

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    3. Nothing gets me gritting my teeth more than people who ask artists and writers to work for the exposure, Nigel. A few years ago an artist offered to do me a cover painting ultra-cheap, and I actually insisted on paying him double his initial quote -- just so as not to become the kind of greedy capitalist parasite I've always had to deal with!

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    4. Well I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective. For some it might be a labour of love. But I do get your point. Asking people to work for free could be quite insulting and exploitative

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    5. I'm always wary of it myself (perhaps too much) from having been on the receiving end. One example: my wife was asked to edit an ebook by a very famous (and rich) author. She asked her about payment. It turned out the famous author thought she should be willing to do it just to get a credit on her CV. Amazing -- I simply wouldn't have the gall to ask somebody to do that. Btw it wasn't J K Rowling, in case you're wondering :)

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    6. Okay that’s rudeness and arrogance of the highest order!

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  4. Huzzah!

    Not many ideas on cover art. Maybe do a callout. I'm sure there's some talented fans out there..

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    1. I'm thinking that I might just render a Mandelbrot set to get an arty-looking abstract cover. I know it's cheating...

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    2. You know, I think that's an absolutely brilliant idea! I can see it resulting in a classic cover for a highly collectable book.

      Not cheating at all, especially if you don't have the cash on hand to pay an artist properly.

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    3. As we know, if done properly that can result in a memorable cover that is not only atmospheric but also serves as un hommage to the classic Dr Who title sequence. In my hands I expect it to provoke scratched heads and remarks like, "Did he swipe that off Wikipedia?"

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    4. But of course, in its previous use it was not abstract, but a literal depiction of one of the possible events of the books; namely the activation of the Heart.

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    5. Perhaps the most appropriate cover for this new blog posts book, given the conditions leading to its genesis, would be a depiction of a migraine aura!

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    6. So you could make it a typographic cover: Aaaarrrrgh! in loads of different fonts.

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    7. "Did he swipe that off Wikipedia?" is a blooming good title.

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    8. Paul: I did think the cover could be a screen grab of Blogger's new interface. I could add a migraine aura to that but it risks overegging the pudding. The interface alone is horror enough.

      Simon: it's that or "Bugger Blogger" -- but didn't George V say something along those lines?

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    9. It would be apt if you could swing the launch party to be in Bognor, Dave. It's quite the up and coming place, I'm told.

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  5. You could always write your own platform. It's a doddle. Well, assuming you don't follow my example of spending 15+ years trying to create a website from scratch, but still don't end up with what you want or with everything working. And then you could think about creating a _second_ and more ambitious website, only for that to turn out even less well than your first website, so then you return to trying to fix that and end up with both sites in such a mess you'd think a bunch of angry raccoons wrote all your code.

    But that's OK, because you can than take everything you've learned from those two projects and work on a _third_ website, which should be easy now you've got so much experience in how not to write HTML/CSS/PHP. Except that what I should probably have taken from that experience is that experience doesn't make things as easy as you'd think experience would make them.

    So... Yeah... Don't do any of that...

    But I'd do it all again in a heartbeat if it meant I don't have to cede control of my sites to Google :D.

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    1. I'm just glad you blazed that trail, Lee, so I didn't have to. Now... if you want to write a set of tools and turn it into a website builder then we're cooking with gas!

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  6. What website/blog platform features are essential for what u need? Surely amongst the plethora of readers/fans who are tech gurus they could shortlist software off the shelf that could do 90%+ of requirements and leave u more “creative” time?

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    1. If they could whip up Blogger's old interface that'd do me fine, Nigel. In fact, maybe if they did then they could sell it to all us desktop-using dinosaurs who don't want to make blogs on our phones.

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  7. Hey, I know this off topic, but I'm not sure how to contact you.

    I am designing a pen-and-paper rpg, and I love the simplicity of Fabled Lands combat and weapon buying for bonus mechanics. I was wondering if I could us tham as inspiration for my system?
    Really just stripping them down to their basic principle.

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    1. Yes indeed, and very flattered I am too. Good luck -- and let me know how it goes?

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    2. Thank you sooo much! I will definitely will let you know.

      I've been wanting to design this since high school, but didn't even know where to start. Now I do, and having fun!

      The concept is simplicity with room for expansion, natritive focus, with some guidance, and using old and new ideas.

      I love learning from the past, because there is invaluable wisdom that can help in the present.

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  8. FWIW Wordpress has also recently changed its long-standing design and decided to force users into writing in "blocks" as though it's a Mailchimp email, to the point that I'm quite ready to give on my blog of 10+ years.

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    1. My wife has been using Wordpress for years and tells me she found a workaround by first setting up a new blank post, then going to the editor and selecting "classic interface". But what a hassle when all we want to do is write a post, eh? I'm sure you and I can't be the only bloggers thinking of chucking it in.

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