Two Content Columns, No Sidebar

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there is no sidebar on this site. (The closest we come are the widget space in the footer.) Instead, we’ve got an extra wide window, with two columns of content. This was something that grew out of sitting in the Post Formats session at WordCamp Portland 2011 (liveblog transcript found here and here). Basically, post formats allow you to format different types of posts in different ways (similar to how Tumblr works).

If you are already sorting content by type, why not take it a step further and sort content within the page layout as well? For me, it made the most sense to sort my content into long-form and short-form sections. That way, no matter how many links or tweets I post, longer articles still get the time and attention I’d like to afford them, despite being more infrequent.

The process of doing this wasn’t too bad in execution, though I did end up spending a long time exploring the WP_Query entry on the WordPress Codex, since I’ve not done much query tweaking in the past. Basically, I tweaked the CSS of the page to be wider tweaked, the div this template wraps the sidebar in to be wider, then commented out the sidebar itself. Then I made two queries, one for each column. The second column simply searches for the last 20 posts in either the “aside” format, the “status” format, or the “link” format (basically all posts that should never be more than, say, a short paragraph). The first column searches for the last 10 posts that AREN’T in “aside”, “status”, or “link”. This was necessary because “standard” posts have no searchable post-format slug to query against. Simple, eh?

Twitter Archiving on WordPress

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Yahoo Pipes.

There are a few different backup services that allow for backing up your twitter feed. You may or may not be aware, but it’s actually rather difficult to back up and archive your tweets, if you have passed a certain threshold in number and age (the magic number currently being 3200 tweets). If by some miracle, you manage to get a more complete archive (I signed up with BackupMyTweets a while back, and they managed to go all the way back as near as I can tell), there is then the task of figuring out what to DO with those archives.

Personally, I wanted to put them into a WordPress install, and then use a plugin to keep it up to date going forward, because I’m a fan of a consolidated media identity (come to one place, which I manage, and get all the data you want or need). The problem was that while BackupMyTweets had all my tweets backed up, their download options left something to be desired (PDF, CSV, XML, and JSON, none of which in formats that could be easily imported into WP). I could have used a different service, like TweetBackup, but they were limited by the 3200 tweet cap, and thus it wouldn’t be all of my tweets. If I was going to bother doing this consolidation, I wanted to do it ONCE, and I wanted it to be as complete as possible.

I spent some time doing research into this problem, and wasn’t really happy with any of the solutions. I’m not really a programmer, and so the notion of writing a perl or python script to parse the archive xml format into what wordpress needs seemed daunting and unreasonable. Ultimately, I discovered a really simple and easy solution: Yahoo Pipes. If you haven’t played with this service before, I highly recommend it — it’s not really doing anything a good programmer (or even scripter) couldn’t do, but it takes a lot of the pain out of that process and gives you a visual method to track all the transformations and parsing you might be applying. Case in point, I’ve put together a CSV to RSS converter that takes the Twitter CSV archive from BackupMyTweets, and parses it into an RSS feed that I could then import into WordPress. The end result: a blog with ~4200 one-line posts.

A few caveats:

  • If you are going to use this method, be sure to set the default category to “tweets” (or wherever else you plan to put them) BEFORE you run the importer.
  • You may need to break your RSS feed into multiple files, as there is a database timeout that you might run into otherwise.
  • Titles on tweets are kind of silly. I recommend using a theme that supports the “status” post format and removes the titles for status posts.

If you want to check out the pipe I made, it can be found here. It’s pretty simple: pull from a csv file stashed on a site, map the columns to the correct fields in a “Create RSS” widget, do something to solve the “what should the title be on a tweet” question (I did a truncated version of the tweet), output the result.

"Icky Speech"

Neil Gaiman expounds quite clearly on why even “icky” speech needs to be protected. This is in response to a comment regarding the Handley case, where a Manga collector is being prosecuted for owning obscene materials. Something I would add to the dialogue personally is a favorite H.L. Mencken quote:

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all. (H.L. Mencken)

Links for the Moment

A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods, discovered via Chris Pelsor’s snogblog. For those of you who dig on this sort of stuff, it’s totally a good find, lots of good information.

How To Be Friends With Your Ex is a good read, kind of relevant to me personally. There’s a lot to the whole notion of staying friends with an ex. My own personal philosophy stems from the idea that just because a relationship is ending, it doesn’t mean you suddenly stop loving someone. I still love all my exes, there’s no doubt in my mind about that. My opinion is that it’s a heck of a lot easier to process the loss of the relationship if you’re not trying to also suddenly “un-love” someone. Acknowledge that you still love them, and that they still love you, but that the relationship wasn’t working out. Something to consider is that you started dating this person because you felt they were good people. I won’t say that there aren’t some wolves masquerading as sheep so to speak, but generally, if you trust your judge of character elsewhere, you should trust it in this as well. If you trust your judge of character and believe that they’re good people, then why should that abruptly change because they’ve decided the relationship wasn’t working out? If you can accept that they’re still good people, but simply couldn’t remain in the relationship (for any number of reasons), then it becomes a LOT easier to become friends again a hell of a lot sooner. It’s a lot better in the long run, in my opinion, to change the nature of your love (from more eros to an agape-centric love), than to try and kill all feelings for someone and then maybe become friends at some distant future point.

There’s a lot more to all that than I’m really writing down, but for now that will have to do. It’s already a kind of cluttered explanation, but until I sit down and let it percolate for a while, I don’t think I’m going to do better.

My Bibliography for the Upcoming Semester

  • Bartle, Richard. Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders Games, 2003.
  • Bates, Bob. Game Design: The Art and Business of Creating Games. Muska & Lipman, 2002.
  • Crawford, Chris. Chris Crawford On Game Design. New Riders Games, 2003.
  • DeMaria, Rusel; Wilson, Johnny L. High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2003.
  • Freeman, David. Creating Emotion in Games: The Craft and Art of Emotioneering. New Riders Publishing, 2003.
  • Friedl, Markus. Online Game Interactivity Theory. Charles River Media, 2002.
  • Glassner, Andrew. Interactive Storytelling: Techniques for 21st Century Fiction. AK Peters, Ltd., 2004.
  • Graham, Paul. Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age. O’Reilly, 2004.
  • Herz, J.C. Joystick Nation: How Videogames Ate Our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired Our Minds. Little Brown & Co., 1997.
  • Koster, Raph. Theory of Fun for Game Design. Paraglyph, 2004.
  • Laramee, Francois Dominic. Game Design Perspectives. Charles River Media, 2002.
  • Miller, Carolyn Handler. Digital Storytelling: A Creator’s Guide to Interactive Entertainment. Focal Press, 2004.
  • Mulligan, Jessica; Patrovsky, Bridgette. Developing Online Games: An Insider’s Guide. New Riders Games, 2003.
  • Poole, Steven. Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution. Arcade Publishing, 2004.
  • Ray, Sheri Graner. Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market. Charles River Media, 2003.
  • Rollings, Andrew; Adams, Ernest. Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams On Game Design. New Riders Publishing, 2003
  • Rollings, Andrew; Morris, Dave. Game Architecture and Design: A New Edition. New Riders Games, 2003.
  • Sheldon, Lee. Character Development and Storytelling for Games. Muska & Lipman, 2004.
  • Tufte, Edward R. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Graphics Press, 1997.
  • Tufte, Edward R. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Graphics Press, 2001.
  • Zimmerman, Eric; Salen, Katie. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. The MIT Press, 2003.

I’m also planning to subscribe to The Journal of Game Development and Game Developer’s Magazine.
It’s going to be an awesome semester. Hard, but awesome. It’s an exciting time to be getting into games, as anyone who has been following the GDC proceedings will attest. I can’t wait.

Travel Music

America, by Simon and Garfunkel.
Road Trippin’, by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Take Me With You, by Morphine
Sleep Alone, by Moby
Thela Hun Ginjeet, by King Crimson
Life is a Long Song, by Jethro Tull
Postcard Day, Ian Anderson
Ride Across the River, by Dire Straits
Space Oddity, by David Bowie
Five Years, by David Bowie
#34, by Dave Matthews Band
Where Do I Begin, by The Chemical Brothers
No Distance Left to Run, by Blur

Please, add your favorite “travel music” to the list. Feel free to argue some of my choices, too.

Copyright Wake-up Call

I just had an interesting conversation with some folks on IRC. (I know, shocking, eh?) While reaffirming that it IS in fact a vast wasteland, it was interesting to see what sort of misconceptions are out there about copyright law.

First off, everyone hates the RIAA, myself included. Their behavior is reminiscient of the Gestapo of Nazi Germany, and they need to be stopped. Their reactionary behavior simply feeds the fire, and exacerbates the problem.

Next, many of these “pirates” believe themselves to be safe by being in another country. To quote some, “Thats why I love living in Canada. Downloading music here is legal … see in canada we pay a tax on all music anyway … and the RIAA has no jurasdiction here” and “[copyright] can be international only if the country accepts it, and very few do. Thats why they can’t do shit to people in canada denmark finland and the like.”

Let’s not forget this concept that the RIAA is snooping everyone’s computers, so if you don’t keep pirated music on it, they can’t see it. “If I burn my mp3s to a cd, they can’t trace it!”
Continue reading “Copyright Wake-up Call”