With Much Grinding and Changing of Gears

Unusual warning: This is a pretty long entry!

Shamefully, I simply don’t spend a whole lot of time playing in the MMORPG, or even “serious gaming” spaces these days. I also feel pretty circumspect about discussing casual and social gaming too closely — I’m just paranoid like that when it could possibly cross goals with my livelihood. Unfortunately, that’s kind of left me without much to say on my traditional topics. (Well, other than the fact that I’m now so paranoid about EVE’s Hulkageddon IV that I don’t dare undock my poor, defenseless freighter.)

However, I’ve realized that I have a bit to say on a different topic. Over my last couple of jobs, I’ve moved from the role of a contributor into management, and I’ve found that it’s a rocky path from this point onwards to… wherever it is that such a path leads.

Middle and Up logoI’m not going to discuss that topic on WorldIV. This is a place of games, nerdery, and techno-joy. What I am going to do is talk about the nerdery and techno-joy of this new project, titled Middle and Up, because I’ve sure learned a bunch over the last few weeks, and I’m restricting technical meta-talk from those articles. (So if you like that other topic, go harass me over there!)

The project all got kicked off for me, really, when I read a tweet from someone I’ve followed since the old Metaplace alpha test days. It seems that the meteoric rise of Kindle sales has fueled a new frontier for the hacker-artist set; self publishing is the new blogging. Look, there’s a technology out there that can put your writing in the hands of readers — and even enable a possible bit of profit, if you’re of that mindset. No agents. No hassle. And if it flops… Well, if a blog falls in the woods and nobody’s reading, did it get pwnt? Who cares when the barrier to entry is so small that it’s practically nonexistent?

But it’s not my style to fort up, crank out an interesting project, and put it in the hands of the masses waiting with bated breath. No, it isn’t because the masses aren’t really waiting (boo!), but it’s because I suck at finishing projects. As I’ve mentioned before, putting something out in front of eyeballs is one way that I’ve tried to keep myself honest in the past, with varying degrees of success. (Look at this blog — we’ve written as many as SEVERAL ARTICLES IN A WEEK before! Please ignore the example set by this last year or two, thanks – the Management). So great, I want to put this project out in front of people, and of course, I’ve been doing some of this light “social media” stuff for a while. Also, I’ve been inspired by some books over the last year (such as the excellent Rework by the 37signals folks) that clearly show their roots in blog posts and discussion. Finally, I had a selfish, capitalistic pig-dog goal. Despite having worked in technology since the late 1990s, I’ve never attempted to monetize a product via a web site of my own. Surely, these days, it can’t be that hard!

Goals, then! Conveniently listed in reverse order.

  • Write and distribute an eBook about a topic I’m deeply interested in. This is the end-goal of my project. From a “how to do it” standpoint, this is actually pretty simple — generate a bunch of text content in HTML format. Tutorials and guides on this abound. This is a long-term project; after I’ve drafted and shared a bunch of ideas, there’s going to be research and editing…
  • Practice first by editing content into a free teaser PDF-style eBook. I have no illusions here – only geeks and nerds read eBooks in PDF format. It’s cool. I need the practice anyway.
  • Build a site with an end-goal of monetization. In reality, I’ll consider this goal met if I can so much as meet any threshold that requires tax reporting, and I’m not counting on it.
  • Utilize what I know in social media to get feedback early. This is the “startup” mentality – what’s my Minimum Viable Product? How quickly can I get it in front of people and start getting feedback? After all, this is my first stab at a project like this, and my assumptions are probably all wrong. Anyway, what I know is WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter. And hopefully how to write coherently.

So thus far, what’s been cool? WordPress themes and plugins, that’s what! I haven’t delved deeply into what’s available since setting up the current WorldIV theme in (OH MY GOD THREE YEARS AGO) December of 2007. I began the setup process with a quick, clean, shiny WordPress installation. I then immediately corrected a mistake I’ve always regretted with WorldIV, and syndicated the blog’s RSS feed through FeedBurner. I downloaded a free theme that I liked (EvoLve) — one with rounded corners, pretty icons, fixed-width content, and deeply-ingrained social media support. Armed with my look and feel, I moved on to set up a Facebook application and Twitter account. Moving on towards Facebook and easy cross-posting to Twitter, I learned that the heavy lifting has already been done for me! A couple of quick plugins gave me support for OpenGraph/Facebook Connect (Simple Facebook Connect) and Twitter (Twitter Tools). Of course, I’d be lost without Google Analytics support (via Google Analytics for WordPress). And (he says with slightly downcast eyes), I even scraped up a plugin for my first dabbling with AdWords (Advertising Manager). So to summarize, we have moderately-tight integration with Facebook/OpenGraph, easy and automatic crossposting to Twitter, analytics, and advertising set up in a blog — and I managed it without a single line of code. (Honesty compels me to admit that I was forced to add a pair of <br />’s in one widget’s setup, but it was done through a configuration UI, so it’s not code at all!)

The most interesting discovery in this whole process came up during the OpenGraph integration. Compliance with Facebook application policy requires setting up a Privacy Policy and Terms of Service link. Legalese? OH NOES! A bit of delving revealed that Automattic, the company behind WordPress, released its own Privacy Policy and ToS under a Creative Commons Sharealike / Remix license — meaning they’re available for use, even modified, so long as the reused versions are also shared in the same fashion. Wow! Total setup time, including research? About 6 hours. Total out-of-pocket cost? $0 (thanks to a free domain registration I had lingering in a hosting plan). Thank you, Google and the Rest of the Internet(tm)! What strange and wonderful times we live in. (Dear “everyone whose free technology I am taking advantage of:” Given any success of this project at all, your Paypal donation cups shall runneth… maybe not over, but there will be something dropped in!)

Postscript: I’m going to “preserve the purity” of this site for game rants and filthy language here. I won’t pimp my other project often, except to crow occasionally if and when I hit major milestones.

About Tachevert

A cofounder of www.WorldIV.com and full-time geek, Tachevert writes about whatever strikes his fancy. Despite the inherent contradiction, he can often be found videogaming or attempting to run.
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