Posting for the dot

My last couple weeks have been pretty crazy. Lots of unexpected stuff popping up. I’ve been trying to sort it all together to even figure out what I’m doing, much less make a post about it. Anyway, here’s some news you can use.

Tweetboard

If you looked on the left side of the site you’ll see I’ve added this nice little tool called Tweetboard that takes twitter and turns it into something of a threaded forum. What’s the point of this when I already have the Community and my twitter posts in the right sidebar? Well I figured it might be a more interesting way to display twitter and interact with you folks out there who use it, too. The Community is a great place to have more complex discussions but Tweetboard is a nice way to replace comments – which, let’s be honest, I can’t turn on because of horrible horrible spam. It’s an experiment I’ll work on even more as I find more time to post on the site.

The Comic

I’m going to update it in batches, maybe subchapters at time, as I finish them. I have no idea how regular they’ll be but they’ll be more frequent that way than if I tried posting a page at a time. I want to start posting my concept and development sketches in the blog, I’m just concerned with how much will actually find it’s way into the story and I don’t want to spoil anything. And speaking of story, that’s evolving as I’m figuring out the world in which it takes place. I’m working out the backstory and history of 2071 and I keep coming up with different things to add like 3 chapters in. But that’s the way it works. I’m letting the ideas flesh themselves out and then going back to the opening and making it as exciting as I can based on what’s developing.

The Blog

The home page here is going to host my expanded thoughts and comments on the day as well as the latest chapters of the story as they come out. I’ll have a sub-page dedicated just to the comic but this will be more of where I tell you what’s going on and show you drawing board stuff. Don’t be surprised if characters or story segments are completely different when they reach the final page from the stuff I show in blog posts.

Back to the daily grind

I’ve been doing research/design work lately and it feels like I could plug away at that forever and not really get anywhere. I should really move onto actual pages. So starting tomorrow I’m going to be doing just that. And even if I go to bed at 3 in the morning again tonight I’m getting up to draw. Half the time I’m up because people I’m talking to keep me up and the other half I just can’t make myself go to bed because I’ve been up late too many times in a row. I’m not going to chew myself up over it. It’s normal for people my age to be up late at night and have trouble getting up early. I sometimes pop over to ustream.tv and watch other webcartoonists. It’s like going to Denny’s or IHOP. Everybody else is there and it reminds me that I’m not the only night owl.

I’m figuring I’ll draw a prologue and post that before I start regularly posting updates. I’m still not sure what the schedule’s going to be yet as I need to get a feel for how the story reads and how long it takes me to draw. Ideally I’d be posting something every day and strips on weekdays. I’m a little concerned that the story may move to where one page at a time isn’t doing it justice. Nobody wants to read an update that just moves the story forward but doesn’t go anywhere in and of itself. In that case I’d post several pages at a time. But I hate dumping a whole bunch at once if the traffic isn’t there yet. I’ll sort it out as I come to it.

Be on an episode of the No-Rights Podcast! Watch free movies! #mne

I know I’ve mentioned it in the Community but I figured I should post it here, too. Tonight at 9pm EST I’m gonna be hosting a show on tinychat.com (Specifically tinychat.com/norights) and you’re all invited to come! We’ll discuss 4 movies I’ve been meaning to review and then watch some public domain films together, critiquing them MST3K style as they play. You can just tune in and watch, participate in the chat, or even use your webcam and join in the discussion! It’s gonna be a fun time for all and I’ll be recording the audio for the next episode of the No-Rights Podcast. See you there 🙂

Twitter apps

I use twitter a lot because it’s flexible and an easy way to keep track of/contact a lot of people. I use it to update my Facebook status and it’s great for finding useful links. The home page is nice and useful but you don’t always want your browser open. So I’ve downloaded an assortment of different apps and I’m going to show you the ones I keep going back to.

Twitterrific sits in the menubar. You can click the icon to bring out a Heads Up Display to view the timeline of who you’re following and to post your own tweets. You can set growl alerts to show new tweets as they come in at your own discretion. It’s lightweight in the good way. It stays out of sight until you need it and the growls let you know if anybody’s saying anything you want to check out in the full timeline. My problem is I follow a lot of people and would like the ability to limit growls to just the group of folks I really want to hear from without having to look at everybody.

TweetDeck is the beastly do-everything app that uses Adobe Air to run across different operating systems. This is nice but it doesn’t make use of Mac-specific features like growls and it eats up space in the dock. I’m sure for a power twitter user it’d be awesome but it’s overkill for me and I’d rather use an app more native to my OS.

Tweetie is native as hell on the Mac and very sexy. It has a menubar icon that shows and hides it, though it still keeps an icon in the dock for some reason. Downside is it doesn’t use growl or groups. It’d be very nice for posting but not so much on the following.

Mac Lounge had an interesting beta, but that’s apparently between versions at the moment and you can’t use a version that’s expired. Apparently they believe giving you a screenshot is more useful than a less-than-perfect but usable release. (I thought that’s what a beta was?)

Nambu is interesting in that you can configure it in a lot of ways like Twiterrific. It supports groups, (and has a nice system for managing them visually using avatars) does growls, has a retweet button which boggles my mind that other apps don’t have, hides by clicking the menubar icon, even leaves the dock if you want it to. However there are a number of issues keeping me from using it as my main app. For example, whenever you remove the dock icon, you can edit preferences, but you can’t quit the app. The only way to do that is by restarting your machine entirely. And there’s no “load at login” option, either. Also whenever you click on a tweet for any reason whenever the timeline updates it stays on that one tweet, forcing you to scroll up. The only way to get around this is by clicking the top tweet, but that just starts the same problem all over again when new messages arrive. And although it has the best way to manage groups it gets very tedious when you follow a lot of people. Having to click their avatar, then right click, the going down in the group listing to find the specific group they belong to and selecting it, that wears you down. And if you don’t know you’re doing it wrong you can go through your entire list before realizing you haven’t changed anything. Then there’s the fact that, if you use Spaces, the window always reopens in the same Space, even if you’re on another one, and you get forced back. But the biggest problem with me is still simple growl notification. So I can make different user lists of people’s updates but I can only get growl updates for everybody. Why is this such a difficult feature that nobody’s been able to implement yet?

I know it sounds like I’m nit-picking here, but these are checkbox settings for an app I’d use all the time. Imagine if your IM client played an annoying sound every time somebody sent you a message and you couldn’t turn it off. It would get on your nerves pretty quickly. Since most of these are still beta-ish I’m hoping they’ll improve down the line so at least one will do everything I need. New apps and features come out all the time so eventually a solution’s bound to show up. I just thought I’d share some of the interesting ones I’ve stumbled across since there’s a boatload of ’em out there.

Goin’ to see Reel Big Fish tonight :)

Busy week ahead. Tonight I’m going to see Reel Big Fish. Then Kyle and I will be watching some movies and recording reviews for the podcast. Fun times will surely be had by all.

It feels a little weird, after spending so much time tinkering with the site, to have most of it done. There’s only a few things left to do now and some of them can’t even be done until later anyways. For example, now that I’ve been folding all the other domains under this one, I should move Lil’ Reaper Books over. That’s going to be the shop site where I list all the books and other things I have for sale. However, I can’t really put a page together until I decide what to put there. I’ve got some stuff on Lulu I need to take down (It’s not practical, designs are outdated, yadda yadda) and I’ve got 2 items on Comixpress I’d like to eventually stock and ship myself. But really I’m looking to take everything I have up already down so I can start fresh. I’ve found several interesting shopping cart systems I can try, I just need to actually have the items before putting a shop up.

I’m also going to organize a thorough About page with bio/contact info and details on the comics and other projects. I’ve got a pretty clear direction of where I’ll be headed for awhile and I’ll be posting here with updates and links as I work. It’s nice to have a main hub I can focus my energy on for now. I really spread myself out over those other sites when really I should be focusing on the work itself.

Come join the community!

Comunity’s Open!

The No-Rights Community is now up and running. Come get your free account and join in the fun. I’m looking forward to posting movie reviews and discussing all sorts of things. Cartoons, comics, bands… you name it. Gonna be a good time 🙂

Reviews of forum packages

I tried a handful of different forums trying to decide on one. Here’s a quick rundown of each

Simple:Press Forum

This plugin for WordPress is very easy to install, integrates into pre-existing themes fairly well, and users don’t have to register for a different system in order to log in. In the end I decided a standalone forum would probably be less of a resources strain.

phpBB

Arguably the most popular free option out there, it’s got a lot of features and my webhost offers it as a one-click install. Of course, when something’s popular it’s also more likely to come under attack. phpBB3 is a step up in security and anti-spam, but I was looking for something a little more lightweight. Also I have a bit of a philosophical difference of opinion when it comes to displaying posts. phpBB likes to organize everything into different forums you then have to click and open to look through. I can understand this if there’s a large user base with plenty of discussion categories established. Personally I’d rather see that people are actually posting discussions right up front.

BBPress

Automattic, the folks behind WordPress, have their own forum solution. It integrates with WP and puts posts above the categories in it’s display. It’s fairly lightweight, requiring plugins to provide extended features. The problem I had was with compatibility. If I want to integrate WP 2.8 with BBPress I need to use version 1.0 that recently had it’s official release. And with that I find plugins don’t work. I understand this is mostly a transitional thing and from what I’ve seen BBPress gets the short end of the stick whenever WP decides to change something in an upgrade. I could try the .9 series as a standalone but I’d really rather give 1.0 a couple months to a year to sort itself out and see how it shines. In the mean time I went with another option. (I liken this to my recent switch from ComicPress to Webcomic & Inkblot. Both are great solutions and whichever one fits my needs best at the time is the one I’m going to use.)

Vanilla

Lussumo have developed this simple forum framework that functions similarly to BBPress and I must say I was on the fence about which one I wanted to use for awhile. I figure WordPress integration isn’t the biggest deal-breaker as the community itself can sport the features it needs with plugins. (And Vanilla has some plugins going back to 2006 that still function fine.) Vanilla2 is still in heavy beta but 1.1.8 is so solid I’ll use it for the time being.

Industry! Science and Technology! (Turning Things and Adjusting Them!)

What’s the status of things right now? Well, if you’ve been watching this page lately you’ve noticed I’m tinkering with the theme. An issue that’s bugged me for awhile is needing multiple installs of WordPress to power my comic sites as well as this blog and the Lil’ Reaper Books page. It’s inefficient from a resources standpoint and annoying from a practical perspective. If I’m logging into different accounts for different things nothing gets done. It needs to be simpler.

Now I’ve used ComicPress with the ComicPress Manager Plugin for some time, which is pretty awesome, but it doesn’t really support multiple comics yet. Enter Webcomic and Inkblot. They take the angle of using the plugin to power the comic so you can drop tags to display everything into any WP template. I like this approach. I’m still resolving issues with pointing the comics’ domains at the proper indexes, something I’m trying to work out between this WP Subdomain Plugin and the theme itself. If I can’t get it working I’ll just redirect to the page standing in for the index.

When I first started posting comics in 2002 it was on Keenspace, (Yes, back when it was still officially Keenspace) and things ran smoothly for about 3 days until I deleted some all-important file. This was way back before the server melt down and nobody could be bothered to fix my problem or show me how to fix it at the time. Striking out on my own I moved to a dinky free website and updated using AOLpress and Blogger. Eventually I registered Towniescomics.com and decided at some point to move the archives to a php script solution to make it easier to change things on every strip’s page. That’s when I started using the Walrus script. Some time later I learned my way around MySQL, too, and moved to ATP Autosite. That got a little long in the tooth when web standards started getting brandied about. If you’ve tried looking for webcomic update scripts you know they have a habit of going undeveloped as time rolls on. Tyler Martin did us all a favor by rolling out the previously mentioned CP. That brings us right around to today.

WC & IB sort of remind me of the earlier days, back before WP got involved. The code’s relatively simple and easy to customize. I might go back and forth between it and CP as time moves on. They’re both good systems being developed concurrently. A little competition is good for developers. It keeps them on their toes. And at the moment it’s not too complicated to switch between the two, either. Right now I’m just focused on which will get my archives looking like I want with the least amount of fuss. After that I should probably decide on a shopping cart system to replace the LRB site. Then I need to customize the theme on the new Community. This is important because I want it to just feel like another part of the site instead of just a forum slapped on. I was trying to integrate it with comment posting member registration but that’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth. I’d really rather just have you sign up and log in for one thing so I’m gonna see what I can do about tying it into the comment system another way. I just really need to get all this technology out of the way and get back to creating comics and posting about them, all the other stuff will happen in time.

WordPress 2.8

I updated all my sites to WordPress 2.8 once the built in updater recognized it was available. Things went smoothly on all of them except for this one. (Which I expected since I was running a lot of plugins in my attempts to fold all the other sites under this install.) I removed everything from the plugins directory besides what comes standard and that got rid of the error message. It also got rid of everything else. So I just decided to do an entirely fresh install since I’d been meaning to for some time, anyway. I’m pretty much back to where I was before the update, excluding the new features of the latest version, except one of my plugins needs to be fixed before I can use it.

I’m hoping I can get a replacement for whichever one is causing the problem or it gets upgraded soon. I’m not going to consider any one plugin critical to the changes I’m making because then I’d be in pretty big trouble every time there’s a new version out. However I’d rather rely on activating a few instead of having to dig into code and add functionality that way, both because that’s more complicated to do and it’s a lot easier to break with every upgrade.

On the top of my To Do list right now is decide on a unified theme, at least something of a unified header design so the pages and different sections look the same. I tried incorporating the blog theme on all the sites but really dropped the ball when it came to styling the ComicPress theme to look like the others. It didn’t help that I was unfamiliar with the new CP coding and that the headers are very different by design. I really need to go in and tweak the default to something I’m comfortable with, something I can then use on all the other sections of the site as I activate them.