At first, I wasn't going to do a Reflection on Month 3. My real life schedule only cleared up at the last week of March, and I wasn't expecting to get very much done. But during the past week I got several things done that needed to be done, so here's your monthly Reflection.
Episode 3 of The Mansion had been drafted a month before, and I finally had the time to get the edits done so the episode could be published. As many of you realized while reading, this episode was very much a reflection of my mental state working on Sparkbomb over the past three months. It incorporated a part of that first week (the exhaustion I felt after two full days of getting everything up and running as well as the exhaustion since), the frustration of the spambots (a relevant fact during those first two days), and the hosting issues of the first two weeks. I'm a bit disappointed that Marcus' (Coaster's) cameo came across so casually. I had hoped to pay proper homage to him, and the feedback I've gotten is that his brief appearance made a weak impression. I suppose that's how it goes sometimes.
The other thing worth saying about Episode 3 is that it was an episode brought about by feedback. In my original notes, I had planned to skip over the basement scene and simply pick up with Rift heading up to the Staff Room. The spambots would have been incarcerated off-screen, Sparkbot would be off bumbling around somewhere, and Rift would have been doing something adminy for the entire episode. The conversation with Coaster likely would have been extended. All in all, the original idea would have been the wrong one, and the episode as it reads was definitely the right approach.
I think I had originally hoped to have the Staff Team reassembled in early February. It had been clear for some weeks that I was late about getting some moderation powers out, and it was a pressing need that wasn't met a moment too soon.
There aren't many of us left who are able to be active. Code's caught up in real life. Lixyl's been caught up in real life for a while. Yoshi, while active in the discussions just before the software update, disappeared after reregistering. That left Rex, Stratus, Nebiros, and me. (Nebiros schedule will hopefully be freeing up again soon.) It's a bit bare bones, and I expect to be opening Staff applications in the near future.
The part that took me a while to figure out was how to handle Code and Lixyl. Both have offered invaluable thoughts and insights over the years, and the single most valuable aspect of any Staff member to an Administrator is found in the thoughts and feedback of a Staff Team. During the past three months I've tried to keep every discussion public, and I've tried to involve as many members as possible. Even today, there's not much going on in the Staff Room. (All you guys are missing out on is a discussion about the Warning system and discipline.) Code and Lixyl aren't missing much, and I knew that it was inappropriate to keep inactive members on the Staff. Suddenly, I had the thought of the Staff Emeritus usergroup. I spent an evening reflecting with Rex upon nearly a decade of Sparkbomb, particularly reminiscing about old faces (some of whom we had forgotten were Staff at some point). I knew that each of them had played their part over the years, and I wanted to remind everyone just how rich Sparkbomb's history is. The Staff Emeritus usergroup seemed like a spiffy way to give our former Staff some respect.
It's been quite a month for the home page. I can barely remember how it looked a week ago, let alone how it looked a month ago. On the 5th I realized that I had easy access to the left-hand column, so I moved Recent Entries and Recent Articles over there, drastically improving the balance of the page and putting both the blog entries and SparkWiki articles into noticeable view. If not for the thought weeks later of putting the Current Werewolf Game on the home page, I would have let it be. If there's one thing the Internet has made clear, it's the fact that “content is king,” and a serviceable layout wins. A serviceable layout that looks good is great, but it's not necessary.
But I did have the though of adding the Current Werewolf Game. And then I realized just how ugly Recent Topics was looking, especially because it drug the page down so far. (Another site I've been visiting recently is having a similar problem by letting content force the page to scroll down much farther than it needs to.) So I compressed it to match Recent Posts. Then, because Current Werewolf Game seemed to definitely be the right choice, I added the Newest Episode of The Mansion. At the same time, I shifted Posts/Topics to the left and blog Entries to the right while dropping Recent Articles entirely. This was the point where the home page went from serviceable to good. But it needed a little something more, so I added the Newest SparkWiki Article to complete the center of the page. The balance was there, and all was happy on the home page. Rather than go to sleep for the night like I should have, however, I kept playing around with things to see what else the feeds were capable of generating. While screwing around with a section similar to Recent Topics, I realized that it was loading slightly different topics. Clucky had been requesting from the very beginning that Recent Topics and Recent Posts be merged, a thought I've wholeheartedly agreed with, and I thought the possibility had been overlooked in the programming. Well, it had been overlooked: by me. Recent Topics/Posts fused to become Active Topics, and Recent Entries was balanced to maintain the symmetry of the home page. I knew there was still a little bit of work to be done with the Newest SparkWiki Article, and while lying in bed I remembered that it was possible to pull a random entry. For a brief moment, we had a random SparkWiki article every time the home page was loaded. It was quickly tweaked to became our Article of the Day.
Normally I detest the grunt work necessary for something like this. I'm a dev guy, after all, not a graphics guy. But our home page looks good, I'm proud of it, and I had fun making each of these tweaks. It still needs some graphics to balance out the center of the page, and it's going to look great once it has those.
Meanwhile, outside of Sparkbomb, this was a month for reading. I reread Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Xenocide for the first time in over ten years. (I listened to an audiobook of Ender's Game late last summer.) I went into this with the plan to pay attention to Card's writing style (having How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy insights rattling around in my head), but it's so easy to just read Card's work. Speaker was still excellent. Xenocide was much better than I had remembered. The philosophical aspects were just so good. The strange thing is, I don't remember Children of the Mind. At all. The scant details I remembered about the end of the series all happen in Xenocide. So I look forward with some giddy anticipation to Children. (On the other hand, I'm a tad burnt out from reading, so I might not be getting around to it as soon as I'd like.)
I played through Beyond: Two Souls at the beginning of the month. I hadn't played a movie-style game before, and I was quite impressed with the storytelling that's possible in such a game. Beyond's plot was strong, and I enjoyed the adventure with Jodie and Aiden. Jumping around in the timeline was a little bouncy at times, but it was probably necessary for pacing. All in all, I'm glad the movie-game genre exists, but it's probably not something I'll purchase ever again. Watching a playthrough on YouTube will be sufficient, as there's not really replay value there.
Near the end of the month, I found out about the free Pokemon X/Y download for anyone who registered a 3DS and a Nintendo title (that sadly excluded A Link Between Worlds). I was able to pick up Mario Kart 7 five bucks off (and would have picked up Mario 3D Land otherwise), and so Mario Kart goodness accompanied nearly all of the work on the home page. You're welcome to reread my ramble about the home page updates, and when you do, also picture me taking a break between each update to play some Mario Kart. Or a little more frequently than each update, more like also between small tweaks and looking for buttons in the ACP and such.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to play some more Mario Kart.