Posted in Blogging

Pillowfort Launches Free Open Beta

Pillowfort is a blogging platform with a blend of social media features woven within it. Think of the old LiveJournal days of yore – if you happened to have one – with a smattering of Twitter and some Tumblr functionality meshed within it. The UI even has a lot of LiveJournal sensibilities to it (though word is, we’re getting a UI overhaul this year).

Pillowfort has just gone into open beta as of yesterday. I’ve had my original Pillowfort account for quite a while now, and have been actively supporting the platform for way over a two years. While a lot of features are still in the works, it does things that I appreciate and hope to see further developed.

For one, I feel as if I have much more control over my own privacy, filtered content and over what happens with my content. Don’t want someone reblogging something you post? You can turn that off. Don’t want comments on a post you make? You can turn that off, too. Don’t want messages at all? Turn that off.

I also love the concept of Communities within Pillowfort. I don’t know if it’s super obvious to a new user, but Communities really make up the heart of the platform. You can find a community on just about anything you’re interested in — and if you can’t, you can make and run your own.

An example of my community list

If you want your content out there in front of people on Pillowfort, joining and reblogging to a community is how to extend your post’s reach. While you can build a follower list, I find that reblogging to communities is really where my content gets the most traction.

But a community is more than just that. Each one has its own message board, for example, where the members can chat amongst themselves. Each community also should have a moderator who oversees the content and overall community environment.

Another nice thing about communities is if one starts getting a little loud or out of hand, you can Unwatch it (rather than leave it). This mutes the community in your feed without you having to leave it, and gives you a little room to breathe. Once you feel caught up, you can always Watch it again and jump right back in to the content.

Keep in mind that this platform has been fairly closed to new members, only allowing accounts made by purchase or by invite from someone who already has an account. So now, having opened the gates to everyone, Pillowfort is hoping for an influx of new users.

I know that the UI seems a little behind the times. However, another thing I really do like is that you can completely customize your sidebar, adding images and links as well as text. If you’re a creative type, you can go ham with that and have a lot of fun designing your own!

Pillowfort also handles most embeds to other social media and blogging platforms well — uploading a link to one of my blog posts here, for example, always turns out nice looking. I like that there’s a nice big area for posting things like screenshots and artwork – I can really see this as being a place for online artists to group together and share their work.

Anyhow, if you’re interested in trying it out, it’s free to sign up and poke around at it. I’m always looking for friends to follow on my Aywren account there (it’s my newer account). So if you launch a Fort, drop me a follow and I’ll follow back!

Posted in Geek Stuff, Internet

Neocities – My New Retro Website Project

Check out the Neocities restoration of my old FFIV Fan site!

I started my journey on the web back in the Geocities days. I taught myself how to code in HTML and quickly started putting together my own retro-style websites as were the trend in the day. While I didn’t do the flashing text (I may have done scrolling text), I was guilty of animated gifs, bold tiled backgrounds and probably auto-playing midis.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about the “old days” of the net lately. In fact, I’ve been reminiscing of those days – thinking about webrings and link exchanges and fun personal sites with visitor counters and guestbooks. Funny enough, I ran across a tweet that was talking about much the same thing, and in a comment, someone brought attention to the net community at Neocities.

Somehow I’d never heard of this place before, but when I went to look, it was fairly much like stepping into a time portal. Completely coded by the users (there’s even an HTML tutorial section!), many of them actually strive to recreate the awful old 1998 Geocities vibe.

But you know what… I actually adore it!

There are just plain neat sites like:

Almost immediately, I knew what I had to do.

I dragged out my old external hard drive, poked through the Wayback Machine, and started digging through my old FFIV fansite backups.

While I don’t have anything saved from the Geocities days – I did find a capture of that page on the Wayback Machine before I moved it to a different host back in 1999! – I do have backups from when I started moving to other hosts, and backups I saved through the years.

Starting with the year 2000.

Yes, I’m a pack rat. But you know what? In this case, it’s going to make for a fun and amazing restoration project!

The HTML and images are mostly all in-tact, but need some cleanup here and there. I looked through all of the files and decided I liked the year 2004 layout and design best for the front page. The rest is still up in the air, though.

So far, I’ve got the main page up and working. But I’ve got a LOT to do in terms of fiddling with design and choosing which year I want the other parts of the page to reflect.

I’ve had a LOT of fun brushing up on my bad HTML practices of the past (what are standards for anyhow?) – I was a table and iframe-using fiend in those days!

This is going to be just a side project that I work on casually and have fun with. It brings back the feel of the old Geocities days when you made sites just because you could and got excited when you saw that site counter go up!

You can check my site out here, but I encourage you to check out the community as well. There is a backend to Neocities that allows you to follow, comment and like on other creator’s creations. So it does have some modern net sensibilities wrapped up in there, too.

Posted in Gaming, Geek Stuff, Internet

The Internet’s Wasteful Things

wasteful-thingsBanner created with Make it Stranger. Thanks to Xaa for bringing its existence to my attention.

The Internet is full of wasteful things and folks who are caught up in acts of virtual hoarding… myself included.

It’s easy to do because the things we hoard aren’t physical. They don’t take up tangible space that we can see, so it slips by. We purchase another Steam Humble Bundle or add another free ebook to the ever-growing backlog. And then, one day, we wonder why these digital creations have so little worth and how it got so far out of hand.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for having a variety of cool stuff to pick from at a low cost. I love me some Steam sales. There’s some kind of momentary euphoria gained when you find something on sale or for free and you drop it in your backlog… be it a game, an app, digital music or an ebook.

But on the flip side, it’s easy to forget that there were people… creators, artists, coders, musicians… who put their heart and soul into these bits and bites. They spent untold hours pouring everything they had into creating that game, book, app or song.

And what do I do with it? I plop it in the backlog and forget about it.

As a creator myself, this makes me feel bad. I’m so… so… so… guilty.

steamgamesMy Steam library. This doesn’t include my GoG backlog. Or what I have on Origins. Or the multitude of MMOs I have installed…

Because as a creator, I know how it feels. I know how it is to put hours of my own free time into writing and art each week only to feel like that work is drown out by the endless cacophony that each person on the Internet is subjected to in an almost constant stream. There’s just so much vying for every inch of our attention, and it’s not humanly possible to give that attention to everything.

We learn how to selectively block things out. We become less sensitive and assign things less attention-worth because we have to. But what’s the results of this?

Loss of Passionate Creation

I think it hits the creators hardest. Yesterday, I read this post called When Everyone Is Special, No One Is. It focuses on this issue from a novelist’s point of view, but the same can be said for game designers or any kind of creator who wants their works to have some worth to the world. Even this writer has fallen to the ways of an overgrown book backlog.

Now days, anyone with the right tools can toss an ebook up on Amazon to sell it (spoken from experience). Or code a game and somehow get the concept passed into Early Access on Steam. There’s no one culling these things or checking them for quality, and just so many more appear day after day. And granted, not all of them are good or worthy of the price tag placed on it (sorry creators).

But the biggest problem is that with so many titles constantly flowing in, a small talented beginner, someone worthy of attention and money, may find it almost impossible to get noticed. You could have the most awesome idea ever embodied in type or code, but unless you get the right breaks, or somehow manage to go viral, who is going to hear about it?

watch_this_by_pattyd
Pattyd

Then you start seeing the desperate free book weekends on Amazon or Steam sales and huge game bundle sites… which probably don’t generate much more attention (unless you get really lucky).  It just lowers the worth of the product overall.

Maybe a consumer picks up the book or the game, only to toss it over their shoulder into the backlog and never look at it again. There’s no worth to that item… it’s just one of many already accumulated. This is the consequence of the Internet’s wasteful things.

Eventually, sensitive creators and would-be hopefuls start to get discouraged. Why should they bother putting their time and effort into something that it feels like no one cares about? There’s already so many games/books/apps/blogs/art out there, what’s the point in making another?

Bummer… but I understand that feeling too well.

Sadly, I don’t have an answer for it. I just know I feel guilty when I don’t give a game the appropriate time and attention that it probably deserves. There’s only so many hours of free time in a day.

Still, I can’t help but think about the creators.