Archive for the ‘Website Development’ Category

How I have been using Facebook to advertise Ongoing Worlds

January 4, 2011 2 comments

Ongoingworlds facebook pageSo I’ve created this website called Ongoing Worlds. I think it’s pretty cool but I got to the point after I’ve put it live to the internet where I realised it’s missing something. Members! So I had to go about getting people to use the thing, quite nervously biting my nails because I’ve put so much effort into building that site that I really don’t want it all to be wasted if nobody likes it.

With Facebook dominating the news lately as the most popular social network in the world, I had to at least consider it as a way to promote the website. I’m a keen user of Facebook anyway to chat to my friends, but I didn’t really have a lot of friends on there that were roleplayers.

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Website Update – Post Summary and Formatting options

September 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve added two great new features to the Ongoing Worlds website this week, as well as fixing a few bugs that were causing problems.

Post Summary

This was something which was inspired by the Yahoo Groups page that I’ve been running my Blue Dwarf game on for over 10 years. A table allows you to see how many posts were submitted each month, and different years will appear on different rows underneath. It’s a great way to see at a glance how long a game has been running for, and how popular it’s been.

If you’re worried that a game might be too involved for you, and has hundreds of posts per month, then you’ll be able to see on this table. Or the opposite, if a game seems to be struggling with only a few posts per month and you want a faster paced experience, you’ll be able to tell by looking at this table.

Post summary

The post summary, showing posts per month since the game started

This table will show on your game’s homepage, and will only show if you game has more than 20 posts.

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OngoingWorlds website has been updated

September 4, 2010 Leave a comment

The latest upgrade of the OngoingWorlds website is really to fix some bugs, and tidy up a few things which were a bit rough around the edges the first time round.

Here’s a list of what’s been changed:

View postsPosts changed to “View Posts”

Not a massive change, but one which I thought was important. When testing the site when I wanted to view the posts that have already been posted, my eyes were scanning the menu down the left for the keyword “view”, but it wasn’t included because I’d tried to be as concise as possible when coming up with names for pages. I’ve decided to change it now to “View Posts” which I think is a lot more intuitive.

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Categories: Website Development Tags: ,

New feature: Character tagging in posts

July 17, 2010 2 comments

I want to let you know about a new update to the OngoingWorlds website that I’m quite excited about! Now, when you write your post, you can select which characters are in the post. This will show the characters names and thumbnail photos down the right-hand side of the page when you’re reading the post.

I’ve been talking about this feature for months on Twitter and to any interested people who I’ve talked to directly. I even did a blog post back in December, about why this feature is so cool. It’s part of what I want the site to be about, making it easier to see information at a glance. Being able to see a quick snapshot of the characters involved, you’ll quicker be able to see what the post is about.

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You can now add character photos

April 26, 2010 20 comments

The OngoingWorlds website has now been updated so that you can add photos to your character profiles. The photos will show when you view the individual character pages, as well as on the “Characters” page for each game.

All games have been upgraded, and any new games which are created will have this functionality as standard.

Add a photo for your character

To add a photo for your character, view the character’s profile, and click “Edit Character” (note: you can only edit characters that you own, or if you’re a Moderator in the game you can edit all characters in your game).

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Should story posts be private?

April 9, 2010 3 comments
Private sign

Some PBP/PBEM games can be set to private so that you can't see their messages but what have they got to hide? There are some disadvantages of a private game

Play-by-email and play-by-post games have in the past been either private or public, and in this article we’re going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each, and see why people might want their games to be public or private.

What is public or private?

Traditional play-by-email games (PBEM) were stories told by users who sent emails to each other, always keeping every member in the group cc’d into the email, or every member was part of a “newsgroup”, where emailing one email address distributed the email to all members of the group. Doing this meant that the posts that you sent to each other were only ever seen by other members of the group.

Games played on a public forum, or Yahoo groups are often public. This means they can be seen by anyone who has navigated to the website, and doesn’t have to be a member to view all posts in the story so far. In both forums and a Yahoo group, you have the option to make all posts private if you need to. This means that only members will be able to see the posts, retaining your privacy.

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Promoting the site

March 31, 2010 3 comments
man crashing bike

This week the OngoingWorlds website kept crashing

Server Crashes

After going live two weeks ago, we’ve had a few problems with the web hosting this week which means that the site kept going down at certain times of the day. This caused a really nasty “Internal server error” screen replacing the lovely graphics of the website.

This has now been fixed and I haven’t noticed any errors since.

Promoting the site

This server downtime especially annoying this week as I’ve been working hard to promote the website as much as possible. I’ve added the website to some web-directories, as the more websites that point to us the better, this improves our ranking in Google. I’ve obviously made sure that I’m posting it in the correct places, as spamming forums would just have the opposite effect to our google ranking and might actually get OngoingWorlds blacklisted from Google!

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Categories: Website Development

OngoingWorlds site Beta version is launched

March 21, 2010 1 comment

The OngoingWorlds website has now gone into public Beta! This means that the site is on a live URL (not ongoingworlds/alpha as before), and is ready for people to start signing up and using it as it was intended, and not just testing.

How to use the site

Find games page on OngoingWorlds

This is the “Find Games” page on OngoingWorlds, if you create a game it will appear here.

I’ve tried to make OngoingWorlds as easy as possible to understand. If you want to create a new game click “Create Game” and if you want to find an existing game to join, click “Find Games”. You’ll be able to browse through all of the games that are currently available. Most of these currently listed are example games I’ve created for testing purposes, which you are welcome to join – but aren’t necessarily going anywhere! (unless you want to make it your own and continue the game on).

Click a game you like the look of, and you will see the game’s homepage, which will show you the full description of the game, as well as summaries of the four latest posts.

You can join a game by the “Click here to join” link on the left. This is where you will have to create a character profile for the character you want to play in the game. You will then have to wait for a moderator to review your character, and either approve you or deny you from joining the game.

Options for Game owners and Moderators

As a game owner, you can allow members to become moderators of your game, which means they can edit and delete posts, as well as approve users and also unsubscribe users.

The join-a-game page for OngoingWorlds

When joining a game youy must supply a character profile. The Moderator of the game decides what questions should be asked

As a moderator you can also have control over the fields on players character profiles. You can change the names of these fields so that you’re collecting information which is relevant to you and your game.At the moment this is basic, you’re able to have a maximum of 10 custom fields, which are all free text – but soon that should change to a much higher maximum number and allow different types of fields.

You can also set character groups, so for example a Star Trek game can group characters up into Departments like Command, Security, Medical etc.

Things to come

There are still a few major features which haven’t been included into the website yet, this is because they are still being worked on, and need some testing before they go live. The most important feature and one that I am most enthusiastic about is the character tagging, where you can tag a character in an post, so that you’ll be able to instantly see who is involved in this post by a series of thumbnails of the character’s photo down the right hand side. One of the reasons for this not working just yet is that you can’t actually upload an image for your character just yet. Uploading images is a security minefield, so I’m making sure I’m doing it the correct way before adding it as a feature.

Please give feedback!

There is a Contact Us page on the site, with a form to send a message directly to me. This site will improve greatly with your feedback, if you have any problems or suggestions please let me know about them.

The “Membership Options” screen

March 14, 2010 2 comments
the Membership options page

The “Membership Options” page for a game

I wanted to highlight the “Membership Options” page (see screenshot). Because I want some input on the options it presents to the member of a game.

In Ongoing Worlds, when you join an existing game, you can see all of the game posts, and will by default you will receive email notification every time there is a new post. For many users this will no doubt be annoying, especially if the game is really active and has many posts per day – meaning that your inbox will soon be overcrowded with emails from your game.

But on the other hand it could be extremely useful to know when someone has posted in your game, as you might not be checking back to the site very often to notice it. This means someone might post, and nobody will notice until they come back to the site.

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The “one-long-paragraph” problem

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment
Long Paragraph

The post all shows in one long paragraph

split into paragraphs

How the post should look, split into paragraphs

I’ve just fixed a problem which has plagued OngoingWorlds for a week or two (actually, that’s a total overreaction – it has always been a problem but was never noticed until last week!). Mike brought this to my attention last week, just after I’d mentioned that you should always write your post into a separate text editor and paste it into the form on the “Post” page when finished, something happened which completely contradicted me.

Mike rewrote the infamous post which he lost the first time (apparently this rewrite is almost as awesome but not quite) in notepad, and copied the text into the form on the Post page. It all looked great, so he pressed “Post”. Viewing the post afterwards however showed the post slightly different, without any sort of spacing between paragraphs.

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A tragedy occurs in Ongoing Worlds!

February 23, 2010 11 comments
The hindenburg


Disaster strikes in Ongoing Worlds’ first play-by-post to be created. The game, which was created just a few days ago has had three posts so far, two by the creator; Mike, and one by me, testing out my new character which I created for the game.

Mike spent an hour and a half writing a story post which he claims was awesome. It was a work of literary genius. But unfortunately he spent all that time writing this amazing post in the browser, typing away inside the textfield on the “post” page of his game. When he was finally finished with this piece of artwork, he reached for the submit button… and pressed it.

That was where things went wrong. He’d expected the next page he saw was to say “Your post has been submitted successfully”, but unfortunately what was actually shown was a login prompt saying “You need to be logged in to access this page”.

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The first game is created

February 22, 2010 3 comments
Wizards Inc, office building

The office building for "Wizards Inc"

The Ongoing Worlds website gets it’s first (proper) play-by-post game! Mike, (who I know from the Blue Dwarf game I run) has setup a game called “Wizards Inc” about a magical society set in the modern world. The game is silly, which suits Mike’s sense of humour, and I’ve already joined and submitted a character.

I’ll let you know about how the game goes. If you’d like to join or want more details about the game please have a look here:

Obviously this isn’t the first time games have been created on the website, I’ve created many games to test the functionality of the site, and also I’ve tasked my friends with creating games just to make sure that the interface I’ve created is usable to people not just myself. But this is the first time a game has been created with the intention of playing seriously.

OngoingWorlds website goes into alpha

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been working very hard lately on the OngoingWorlds website, and have relised I need quite a lot of help testing the damed thing! I’m too close to it now that I can’t see clearly (a bit like snow-blindness).

Screenshot of the Ongoing Worlds homepage

Screenshot of the Ongoing Worlds homepage (taken 11th Feb 2010)

I’ve shown it to some of the guys at work, and had some great feedback. Most important was a very serious security flaw which I’d not noticed. Tim created a test game (based on Babylon 5) and a character called Londo Mollari, but started inserting HTML into some of the character fields – like the <marquee> tag. Anyone who knows about the <marquee> tag is that it’s such bad taste that it should never appear on a website ever. It makes the worde move across the page and reminds me of websites from the 1990’s which were full of distracting nonsesne like that.

However, Tim was able to insert the code which creates a <marquee> tag into a character field, and then when you save and view the character, it displays his name scrolling across the page. This is embarassing for now, but could lead to some dangerous problems later if users realise they can insert HTML into my site without it being stripped out. I’ve had a site get hacked before by a Turkish hacker group  just by inserting HTML and replacing my homepage for a large image of their own.

I have no idea why people do this. But if they can, they will.

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Categories: Website Development

Why I’m not going to implement “personal messages”

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

For this article, I recorded an additional audio clip:

On many forums and websites, you can send a personal messages to other members. This saves a message in the website’s database ready for the other user to see when they next login. The user might not login straight away, and so the personal message could sit there for weeks and weeks until the user logs in to see the message. That is why they are normally sent out an email straight away, alerting the user and letting them know that they have to login to the website to see their personal message.

Facebook does this, when a member receives a personal message, they are immediately emailed with the content of the message. So the user checks their email, and sees the content of the personal message within their email. Then they have to login to the website to reply to the message.

Email Icon

What's wrong with email?

This process seems all a bit too cumbersome for me, all it seems like is that websites are duplicating the functionality of email, but still using email to alert people to the email!

I therefore think that adding a way to send and receive personal messages through the OngoingWorlds site is necessary. What I’ll do instead is allow users to send an email from the site which will be sent directly to the user’s email address. The user sending the message will see a form within the website, the same as if they were sending a personal message – but it would submit the email directly to the respondent’s email address.

Please let me know what you think about not adding in functionality for “Personal Messages”. Is it a feature that you wouldn’t miss? Or do you think I’m wrong/stupid to leave it out? Please comment below!

Help needed to test the OngoingWorlds website

January 24, 2010 2 comments

Last week I launched the very first version of my website onto the internet. It’s definitely not ready to go public, and is currently in a hidden location on my server so that people don’t visit the site and think it’s a live site. I have put it live really just to test that the main site functionality works, and also to get some friends to test the site for anything that is broken which I might not have thought to check.

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