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2010-08-05 Why Blog

Over on the RSS blog Once More Unto The Breach! the author asks: why did you start your blogs? I answered:

I got myself a website when I started running a play by email game back in 1994 or 1995. That was before Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Netscape: Mosaic was the browser and Geocities was the web service provider people used. I started the site because I wanted to build trust between myself and my players. Much later I discovered wikis and started writing on Meatball Wiki. Again, the question of trusting people, real names versus weirdo nicknames, etc. came up. We derided blogs as the inferior solution to wikis. Some of us started maintaining a “diary page” on which we posted stuff that didn’t belong onto a real wiki page. I moved my own homepage from Geocities to a real wiki. And as I kept updating my diary page I started realizing that what I was in fact doing was keeping a blog. I finally decided to go all the way and do “real” blogging on my wiki. The main point has remained the same: build trust between myself and the people I want to interact with online, whether it is Free Software I am contributing to, people I game with, family I want to keep in touch with, or ideas I wanted to write down for my future self.

There’s a bit more information on the AlexSchroeder page. :)

I guess if the point is building trust, then a mix of all sorts of topics is appropriate. It shows that I am a real person. The drawback is that people only interested in a single topic can’t just subscribe to the entire feed. They need to focus on a tag or category.

I hope it works as intended. :)


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2010-04-23 Blog, Wiki, Bliki

At the moment Wikipedia says that Oddmuse can be used as a Bliki. That’s what this site is: A wiki, used like a blog. If you look at my SiteMap, you’ll see a lot of pages that are of no use anymore. Slowly, this site has lost the wiki nature and turned into a blog.

  • I feel free to make lots of minor edits to existing blog pages.
  • I have access to the history of a page (and to the text of old revisions if changed within the last two weeks).
  • Internal linking is easy using wiki syntax.
  • Wiki markup is easier than writing HTML.
  • I guess that by now I wouldn’t feel bad about using a WYSIWYG editor on the wiki as long as it still allows me to use wiki links. Except that most of them take a long time to load. That sucks.
  • I still find Oddmuse to be very easy to hack.
  • Comment pages still don’t work like they do on other blogs.
  • But on the plus side, everybody can edit their comments and remove old stuff.
  • But I have a module that does email notification. Let me know if you’ve tried it and hated it!

I think I’m still happy with things as they are.


Comments on 2010-04-23 Blog, Wiki, Bliki

Given the choice, I’d rather use Oddmuse than a pure blogging engine like Wordpress. Using wiki markup is second nature and much easier than messing with a GUI text box or CTRL key combinations, and I really miss a wiki’s proper version control. Add in the easy interlinking of pages, and….. well, I’m preaching to the converted, I know.

On the downside, Wordpress meets a blog reader’s expectations, whereas a wiki is more intimidating to the casual user. People know what to expect from a Wordpress blog and that translates to more comments and more pageviews. Add in Akismet’s rock-solid antispam mechanism, and it’s hard to fault.

And that’s why I use Wordpress to blog, and Oddmuse for my private projects. I have the best of both worlds :D

greywulf 2010-04-23 11:51 UTC

I really should do some usability testing to discover what the actual expectations are. :)

AlexSchroeder 2010-04-23 15:33 UTC

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2010-04-09 Looking for Old School Blogs

A while ago Rob Conley assembled a collection of Old School Renaissance Sites. He mentioned the Old School RPG Planet I’m running.

When I look at the list of blogs on that Planet’s sidebar, I can’t help myself but think “OMG, it’s full of blogs!” – 112 of them to be exact, at the moment.

The list of blogs has a very cool feature: At the end of the list you’ll find a link to the OPML file. You can use this file to mass-subscribe to all blogs at once if you “import” it into your feed reader (Google Reader, Bloglines, or any other site or application).

112 blogs and counting is a bit much for one person. It’s a cool place to start, but eventually readers will have to tune out of some of these blogs. It’s a lot to read. But it’s still a nice page to click every now and then and look for inspiration.

The RPG Bloggers is a similar site. They have a Legacy D&D category, but authors have to apply in order to be accepted. Maybe we’ll have rules later, if required. I’d prefer not to. ;)

In the very beginning, as I was looking for blogs to read, I carefully studied all the blogrolls in our little corner of the blogosphere. I can’t keep up anymore. Help me by adding them to the list of feeds. At the bottom of that page you’ll find a link saying Edit this page. Click it and follow the examples.

The format is really simple – the feed URL in square brackets, and the blog name on the next line:

name = Grognardia

Make sure you don’t supply the blog address!

http://grognardia.blogspot.com/ → blog address for humans → bad! >{ sucks
http://grognardia.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default → feed address for computers → good! :D ok


Comments on 2010-04-09 Looking for Old School Blogs

Nice list. I see that I was already on it, so I don’t have to do anything.

BeRKA 2010-04-10 09:03 UTC

Thanks. :)

AlexSchroeder 2010-04-10 15:29 UTC

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2009-10-30 RPG Blog Categories

I’m trying to figure out what tags to map to the various RPG Bloggers’ Planet’s categories. I used a little Perl script to extract and count the categories people used for their blog posts. As you can see, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of common tags in the last 100 entries:

1	,
1	10th Doctor
1	3e
1	40k
1	AP
1	About e
1	Adventure Hook
1	Adventure-Prep
1	Arcana
1	Ask the GMs
1	At-The-Table
1	Beginners
1	Behind-The-Screen
1	Board
1	Board Games
1	Bureau 13
1	Call of Cthulhu
1	Campaign Creation
1	Campaign Management
1	Campaign Notes
1	Campaign-Admin
1	Campaign-Setting
1	Character creation
1	Class Discussions
1	Collateral
1	Critical hit
1	Cthulhu
1	D&D 4e
1	D&D Blog
1	D&D/Pathfinder
1	DM
1	DM Advice
1	DM Resources
1	DM tools
1	DM-Advice
1	Design
1	Design Diary
1	DnD
1	Dr Who
1	Dragon Magazine
1	Dungeon Master Resource
1	Dungeon Mastering Techniques
1	Electronic Games
1	Elements of Design
1	Encounters
1	Equipment
1	Essen
1	Events
1	Fantasy
1	Fantasy Craft
1	Fast Food and Snack Foods
1	Featured
1	Funny Games
1	Game News
1	Game design
1	Game mechanic
1	Game-Mastery
1	Gamer Life
1	Gameroom
1	Games
1	Games & Hobbies
1	Games Workshop
1	Gaming
1	Geek Life
1	Geek Stuff
1	General Musings
1	Google Wave
1	H. P. Lovecraft
1	Hex map
1	Hippy Game
1	Hobbies
1	Hobby
1	Homebrew
1	Houserules
1	Humour
1	Ideas & Inspiration
1	InSpectres
1	Incidents Involving Me
1	Inspiration
1	Johnn
1	K9
1	Legal Villainy
1	Lich
1	Lisbon
1	Lords of Tyr Podcast
1	Lovecraft
1	Map
1	Maps
1	Meta
1	Mike
1	Miniatures
1	Monster
1	Monsters
1	Necromancer
1	News / Reviews / Culture
1	Non-RPG
1	ODnD
1	Opinion
1	Other
1	Other Games
1	PC
1	PCs
1	Paizo
1	Philosophy
1	Planescape: Torment
1	Planning & Preparation
1	Plausibility
1	Players
1	Playtesting
1	Politics
1	Portugal
1	Prep
1	RPG tools
1	RPGBlog
1	Read through
1	Robin Hood
1	Robin Laws
1	Role-Playing
1	Role-playing game
1	Roleplaying
1	Roleplaying Games
1	Rom
1	Scenario-Creation
1	Science Fiction & Fantasy
1	Settings
1	Skill Challenge
1	Skill Challenges
1	Space Marine
1	Spain
1	Spirits Of Eden
1	Sports
1	Star Trek
1	Swords and Wizardry general
1	TV
1	Tabletop Games
1	Teerna
1	Television
1	Thundarr
1	TnT
1	Travel and Tourism
1	Treasure
1	Tumblelog
1	Ultimate Sandbox
1	Uncategorized
1	Undead
1	Urban
1	Video
1	Villains
1	Warhammer 40k
1	Warhammer Fantasy
1	Weekend Rants
1	Wizards of the Coast
1	World Design
1	accents
1	actual play
1	adventure ideas
1	advice
1	alpha omega
1	army
1	astrology
1	bemci
1	bestiary
1	blogging
1	book
1	buffy
1	call of cthulhu
1	campaign log
1	campaigns
1	character
1	clothing
1	d and d
1	d20
1	dating
1	dating profile help
1	discussion
1	dnd classic
1	dvd
1	eberron
1	elemental
1	fluff/inspiration
1	foxy friday
1	freshen up
1	frontpage
1	game
1	game analysis
1	gamer life
1	geek dating
1	geek matchmaking
1	geekdom
1	google wave
1	houserules
1	land of 2 rivers
1	links
1	magic items
1	megan fox
1	miniatures
1	miscellaneous
1	modern,
1	monsters
1	moria
1	old school
1	phylactery
1	play
1	playtest
1	podcasting
1	potluck
1	preview
1	random
1	random tables
1	rant
1	red flags
1	religion
1	review
1	rituals
1	role-playing,
1	rpg,
1	rpgs
1	sci-fi genre
1	setting design
1	skill checks
1	soapbox
1	swords and wizardry
1	tabletop
1	tunnels and trolls
1	vampire
1	vampirella week
1	virgin DM
1	warhammer
1	writing
1	zombie apocalypse
1	zombie attack
1	zombies
2	4E
2	Adventures
2	Card Games
2	Classic Board Games
2	Comics
2	Culture
2	Emerald City Game Feast
2	Essay
2	Game Mastering
2	Gamemastering
2	Geek Love
2	Humor
2	Menagerie
2	Mutant Future
2	NPCs
2	News
2	News, Reviews & Culture
2	Nick
2	Other Systems
2	Pathfinder
2	Play
2	Player Resources
2	Review
2	Stuff
2	babe
2	board game
2	campaign
2	dnd
2	games
2	halloween
2	item
2	online dating
2	plugging
2	rpg
2	tv
3	Advice/Tools
3	Campaigns
3	Dungeon's Master
3	Fluff/Inspiration
3	Legacy DnD
3	Modern Board Games
3	Podcasts
3	RPG Hub
3	horror
4	Advice
4	Dungeons and Dragons
4	Game Design
4	RPGs
5	Dungeons & Dragons
6	D&D
8	4e
10	RPG

I’m a bit at a loss, here. I’m no longer convinced this is a good system of categorizing blog posts! I guess most people will use tags to differentiate particular posts from the rest of their own posts. That’s why I never use tags such as “D&D” or “3e” – because that’s the default I’m assuming, I guess. But that’s no longer true when looking at my blog posts in comparison with everbody else. Many of them ought to be tagged “D&D” and “3e”.

Clearly, I underestimated the problem of translating tags into categories!

Proposed Category Tags
4e 4e, D&D 4e
3e 3e, D&D/Pathfinder
Old School old school, becmi (even though the tag used was “bemci”), swords and wizardry, Swords and Wizardry general (?), Mutant Future, TnT, Thundarr, tunnels and trolls, ODnD
Advice any tag containing “Advice”, Ask the GMs, advice, Game Mastering, Gamemastering, Campaign Management
Review any tag containing “Review”,


Any other ideas out there?


Comments on 2009-10-30 RPG Blog Categories

I think trying to convert tags into categories is a mistake. There are too many varied blogs out there, and everyone has tags they like to use. A tag cloud approach, with sized tags based on frequency might work, but rarely used tags probably vanish, and you end up with hundreds of tags. RPG.net’s tag cloud is a good example of tags run amok. http://forum.rpg.net/tags.php

mthomas768 2009-10-31 00:18 UTC

I’ve always used tags as a way to call out keywords that summarize the article. Categories represent broad themes that my posts would fall under.

Kameron 2009-10-31 00:19 UTC

Hehe, I think you’re exactly right, Mark. Looking at the weird mix of tags, each one appearing just once – this is no fun. Specially since the most popular tag is also the most useless one: 16 tags are RPG, RPGs, or rpg! It might work if there are either a thousand tagged objects like there are on Flickr, or if users can edit the tag map, declaring one tag to be an alias for another tag. I think NearbyGamers does this really well.

In the mean time I have to concur: Using tags to derive categories will not work unless we produce some sort of guide post or group pressure that guides authors in the right direction.

I remember being unwilling to tag my posts as Legacy D&D on the RPG Bloggers Network – I must therefore assume that other people will be just as unwilling to change their ways. :) And as Kameron illustrates, everybody uses tags in different ways. They are only powerful when they come in large numbers, or within a single site.

Nevertheless I know some people are interested in D&D 4E posts only, and others are interested in Old School posts only. I guess the solution is to pick different feeds for the various categories and have the people interested in a particular category pick the feeds they want to have. And then we just assume that authors will more or less stick to the category they’ve been filed under.

Sounds like a can of worms. ;)

AlexSchroeder 2009-10-31 12:43 UTC

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2009-09-09 Session Mood

I usually skip the discussions on blogs. Sometimes I’ll read the handful of comments already there before adding my own. I usually subscribe to email notifications and that’s that. Interesting discussions are rare, however.

Recently I’ve found two:

I’ve written a post about my preferred campaign style yesterday, I’ve written about various my DM profile, and at the last con I was, I talked to other people about play styles. As you can tell from my previous posts, I’m very interested in all sorts of typification. But I never considered the session mood.

At that last con, I was surprised. See, I recently joined a Rolemaster group where the game master is really laid back. When we meet on Saturdays, there’s talk about new harddrives, the prices of ink cardriges, what food to cook, when to eat, stuff we did – where as I’m used to after work games. 3½ hours is all we have! So go, go, go!

I remember at one point they were talking on and on, and I started preparing for my Monday D&D game instead of wasting time. I was disappointed!

But at this last con I mentioned, I met people who just liked to get into character. They told me that when they game, it’s all candle light, medieval music, fresh fruit served in pewter dishes, traditional saussages, and talking in character. The mind boggled.

So now I’m curious. I want to see how other people slow down, relax, and play. No action, just flow. We’ll see whether that works for me. I don’t want to be a one trick pony!


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2009-06-12 Referrers

I wrote a little Perl script that parses Apache log files and counts referrers. It’s pretty specific for this site, since it tries to determine for both site and referrer whether the log entry is about Emacs Wiki, my blog, Oddmuse, etc.

The numbers for my blog in yesterday’s 24h period: 75307, which is 5% of the total number of hits in the log file. Of these, 50276 hits had no referrer information, 13196 came from my own site.

Now, to understand this, one needs to understand that most of the traffic on the web is caused by search engines. At least for my site!

aschroeder@thinkmo:~$ egrep 'GET /(cgi-bin/)?alex' logs/access.log.1 | wc -l
aschroeder@thinkmo:~$ egrep 'GET /(cgi-bin/)?alex.*google' logs/access.log.1 | wc -l

Fully 24% of all my traffic is Google related!

But now, some numbers: I still have 75307-50276-13196=11835 hits to explain! :)

  • rpgbloggers.com: 5962 – RPG Bloggers results in a lot of hits. That’s pretty amazing. Not many people comment. Either my articles are so perfect (haha), or so full of it (although that has never stopped trolls from commenting elsewhere), or just plain not interesting. I guess I rarely hit the mainstream when it comes to RPG blogging.
  • emacswiki.org: 2329 – Emacs Wiki remains my best known project and has a lot of visitors. As a link to my homepage can be found on my profile, I guess that’s how they find it. But I haven’t checked this.
  • google: 888 – various Google sites from all over the world. I’m surprised that so many people find me via Google. I’ll have to check whehter these entries are from the Google Bot or from actual people. If so, I’d also learn something about the queries used to find the blog.
  • odd74.proboards.com: 567 – this must be based on the small number of messages I posted on the Fight On Forum.
  • communitywiki.org: 467 – Community Wiki is a dormant project of mine. Still a lot of referrals!
  • jrients.blogspot.com: 147 – Jeff Rients’ blog? I left a few comments there, and it is in fact a very cool blog. I didn’t know that so many people clicked through to my blog. Here, too, it would be worth while trying to figure out whether there is one comment in particular that’s at the source of this.
  • chattydm.net: 122 – Chatty DM is a blog that I rarely comment on. I guess the reason for the current referrals is my participation in the One Page Dungeon Contest 2009; strictly speaking that would be yet another hypothesis to test, however.
  • tiddlywiki.com: 134 – I haven’t used TiddlyWiki in ages, but years ago I wrote a little hypertext dream using it. I think it got linked from the main site, so that would explain the big number.
  • poietic-aggregator.com: 63 – I think the Poietic Aggregator is a project by some wiki people. It’s a weird RSS visualizer. I never got the hang of it.
  • orientalisch.info: 60 – Claudia’s website. I’m surprised that so many people click through. This must be something else. I should investigate this.
  • blo.gs: 59 – I’m not sure whether I’m still pinging the site. Right now the site seems to be inbetween owners. Always a bad sign. I wonder how they manage to refer to my blog anyway.
  • finch.ploogy.net: 54 – the first real surprise. A website that “makes slow Internet bearable, by stripping away the fat of web pages, leaving just the content. It takes out CSS, images, flash, metadata, iframes and more, meaning less for your computer to load.” What a cool idea. I hope that Finch doesn’t really find much stuff to strip from my web pages. When I check them with YSlow I get an A grade for everything but “use a content delivery network” (not big enough) and “compress components with gzip” (I thought about this but this requires me to know the size of the content before serving headers, and I prefer to server as quickly as possible).
  • campaignwiki.org: 52 – not many people are using Campaign Wiki, a project of mine offering a very simple wiki without ads for gamers.
  • bloglines.com: 44 – a blog aggregator like google reader. Interesting.
  • wandersite.ch: 39 – a hike or two of mine are linked from that site.
  • rsp-blogs.de: 35 – the German version of rpgbloggers.com!
  • bing.com: 35 – search engine
  • oddmuse: 23 – another software project of mine
  • bitethebulette.blogspot.com: 22 – a enw blog that I’ve discovered recently

And many other small hits.

Tags: RSS

Comments on 2009-06-12 Referrers

I am probably responsible for some of the Bloglines.com stuff, as I use that particular feed aggregator.

– Adrian 2009-06-14 19:24 UTC

Ah! :) I switched from Bloglines to Google Reader a few weeks ago and was surprised other people still use it.

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-14 22:26 UTC

Yeah, I am slow with the technology. Google Reader does make some sense, though, since I am already using Gmail and Google Calendar…

– Adrian 2009-06-16 13:19 UTC

This is interesting. Thanks.

I’m surprised how much syndication directs traffic. I actually thought search engines would be the big draw to your site. Although this confirms that if you write a good blog and even if it has the syndication technology – a feed – doesn’t mean the visitors will find you. You can only get traffic if you advertise your blog by adding it to to a collective feed (an aggregator called a “planet”) or by commenting on other blogs.

AaronHawley 2009-06-17 16:24 UTC

Plus it makes me wonder whether 25% of all the hits and more for search engines is worth the price since I’m getting relatively few referrers. One would have to figure out a “conversion rate” for visitors from Google. My guess that I should introduce some sort of rate-limit for bots. What do you think?

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-17 22:24 UTC

I am always spellbound how little time it takes Google to find a new page and have it show up in search results. In my mind, I imagine that Google’s bot cluster is crawling all of the Web all of the time. With the development of blogging and their news media interface, I predict they are constantly pinging pages to find changes and new pages.

Yeah, if only you could rate-limit a bot with the ratio of traffic their search engine brings you? :)

AaronHawley 2009-06-18 17:36 UTC

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2009-01-29 Google Reader

Yesterday I decided to try the switch from BlogLines to GoogleReader, again. I find the interface quite confusing. I expected my subscriptions to be at the center of things, bit as I keep using the site I find that the items my “friends” are sharing dominating my reading experience. I did not find an easy way to exclude them. Even if there is a way, I am astonished at how hard it is to find. I also note how tricky unsubscribing seems to be. I apparently I need to do that in my settings. I’ll try for a while longer, but for now I wonder whether the Gmail user interface engineer would do the same. Or if it is the same guy, what his thoughts were. I don’t doubt that the Reader is a software masterwork with all the asynchronous stuff going on. But the user interface takes some getting used to. Plus: I use the mobile interface for Gmail and Google Reader in addition to the usual web interface. Both need to be useful.


Comments on 2009-01-29 Google Reader

I found that most of my frustration was due to the fact that I was starting looking at all “all items” instead of the gaming category. I’m much happier now.

Unfortunately I discovered that the Reader likes to crash the Safari web browser on my iPhone several times a day. No other website manages to do that.

– Alex 2009-01-29 23:11 UTC

And now I also found the unsubscribe link: Click the Feed Settings button and pick the third entry on the menu. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-01-30 23:41 UTC

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2009-01-14 Planet Venus XSLT

I’m happy with my RPG Planet. I don’t use it much, since I’ve subscribed to all these blogs via BlogLines, too. But it might turn out to be an interesting resource for people just getting into the entire blog reading experience. It’s a sort of filtered RPG Bloggers.

I am, however, still struggling with XSLT. Not because I don’t understand how it works, or how XPath works – but because I don’t really get to see the intermediary format that the style sheet is acting on. I will have to investigate the cache directory some more.

Right now, for example, the subscription list has links containing a title attribute. That title attribute doesn’t refer to the linked blog, however, but to the planet’s title (and is therefore the same for all blogs). That needs to be fixed.


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2009-01-09 Planet Venus

The guys from RPG Bloggers seem to have some site issues [1] [2] In the first post talking about it, Dave says they’ll “probably have to accept advertising” in order to develop some code. I mentioned I’d rather have fewer features and less ads and pointed to Planet Emacsen which runs Planet Venus, but apparently “it’s a matter of needing custom code to handle the specific demands of the network”. Oh well.

Just to figure out how difficult it would be to setup up Planet Venus I spent some time investigating it. One of my sites is hosted by HCoop which uses the Andrew File System. I lost quite some time trying to figure out why my planet was not being published until I found a workaround leading to http://planet.campaignwiki.org filled with some sample blogs. After all, it’s just a proof of concept.

Ok, I’m also procrastinating because I ought to be translating Labyrinth Lord from English to German. :)

Anyway, so now I have convinced myself that I could do it. I also like how Planet Venus lets me produce custom output using XSLT and other stuff I have used very rarely.

Here are some things I’m thinking about:

  1. Should I just use my own preferences when choosing the feeds? After all, as long as RPG Bloggers is working just fine there’s no need for me set up a similar service. As you can tell from the sample blogs, I prefer that old school vibe. :)
  2. In a similar vein, assuming I keep building on it: The current code doesn’t categorize posts. Such a thing would be interesting to add, but to be honest, I never use the various categories provided by RPG Bloggers (and my own category tags don’t seem to work).
  3. I would like to have a public source for feeds – a wiki page or something similar. Anybody should be able add or remove blogs from the list. I miss Grognardia on RPG Bloggers, for example.
  4. Alternatively, we could use a list of OPML files and automatically generate a planet based on the reading lists of a smaller number of people.
  5. I’m not sure what sort of load issues the existing RPG Bloggers network is running into. Should I just try adding tons of blogs to my RPG Planet and see how load develops?

It has been an interesting technical challenge and I appreciate the work that went into Planet Emacsen and the RPG Bloggers a lot more, now. (Those are the only two blog aggregations I read.)


Comments on 2009-01-09 Planet Venus

It turns out that it was really easy to tell Planet Venus to read a config file from a wiki. So now we have the list of feeds on a wiki page. Anybody can edit it.

AlexSchroeder 2009-01-10 23:55 UTC

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2008-12-15 Kurz

Viel Blog Artikel könnten deutlich kürzer sein.

Tags: RSS

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