Category Archives: News

Details on rules clarifications (24 Jan 2015)

Hi! In the previous Update post, I mentioned some of our Site Rules had been changed because I thought they were unclear in some cases and a little harsh in others and I wanted to clarify and soften them. To reiterate what I wrote in that post, none of the rules are changing their meaning, I’m just updating them to better reflect what I mean by them.

Below are the rules that have changed, and how and why I changed them.

1a. Do not link anything that is not an askblog or a roleplay account/blog.

Original phrase: For example, if your “OC blog” is 90% reblogs of funny cat pictures, we don’t want it here. No matter how cool cats are.
Updated phrase: For example, if your “OC blog” is 90% reblogs of funny cat pictures, it’s not  really an askblog and thus not really appropriate for The Askblog List. No matter how cool cats are.

When I first wrote this rule, I’d thought the ‘no matter how cool cats are’ part would negate the harshness of the ‘we don’t want it here’ part. Re-reading it, though, I’ve changed my mind – I can easily see how someone can get a bad taste in their mouth from reading that. So, I’ve changed the wording so it’s softer and less harsh.

1b. Don’t try and circumvent the voting system.

Original rule: If you use, say, your own personal botnet to vote up your link and we find out about it, you’ll be banned.
Updated rule: Getting all your friends to vote for your askblog is fine. Hey, we don’t even mind if you vote for your own askblog, or even if you use both your computer and your phone to do it! Voting for your own askblog demonstrates that you’re active, and not willing to give up without a fight. 🙂 But there are limits. If you use, say, your own personal botnet, or pay people to vote up your link, and we find out about it, you’ll be banned.

I thought  it wasn’t clear enough what didn’t count as ‘circumventing the voting system’ – I was worried someone might misinterpret the rule to, for example, not ask friends to vote for them, or not vote for their own askblog – so I decided to add a few sentences at the beginning about what doesn’t count.

3b. Do not add blogs that are mainly or wholly copied from other blogs.

Original rule: No one likes a copycat.
Updated rule: By this we mean actual content, not concepts or ideas. Unlike some people, we don’t mind if you’re the three-thousand-and-twenty-ninth Doctor Whooves blog – you might be able to make yours unique, and if not, at least fun! But taking content from someone else and claiming it as your own is a big no-no. No one likes a copycat.

I was worried ‘no one likes a copycat’ was too easily misinterpreted by itself, so I decided to make it clear that I wasn’t talking about ideas or concepts and instead actual content.


Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next time.

–Mark Kéy-Balchin

Update: Tweaks, fixes, rules clarifications and helpful information

Hi there! Today’s update is all about tweaks – small things that help polish the website off.

New ‘How do I?’ section and tweaks to the front page

faqnewsfontsm

I’ve added a new section to the home page with links to both Help and FAQs (for The Askblog List) and our list of Askblog Resources, Advice and Help (for all askblogs everywhere). I thought the later especially needed linking somewhere on the website, and so now it has a home.

Dates in the News section now use a monospaced font so that all the entries are better aligned.

Finally, the spacing between the headings for Fan Blogs and Original Characters and their subcategories has been tweaked.

Navigation menu links for Help and FAQs (and other documents)

menurulesmenu

Now you can browse Help and FAQs by a handy-dandy menu on the left of the screen.

Menus have also been added to other really long articles on the site (like our Rules page). Conversely, this means both I and others can link directly to a section in these articles.

Lastly, the page headings have been moved into the sidebar as well (so they fit in with other pages on the site.)

Section breaks (all over the place)

I’ve also added section breaks where appropriate for a nice visual touch (and to break up all the whitespace.) Here’s what they look like:

hr

People on older browsers that don’t support the code I’m using will just see this:

hroldbrowsers

Rules clarifications

Speaking of rules, I’ve updated some of the Site Rules to be clearer (and a bit friendlier in tone, too. ^^;)  None of the rules are changing their meaning, I’m just updating them to better reflect what I mean by them.

There are three rules that have been updated, and you can read about the changes in the Rules Clarifications post.

Behind the scenes fix – transparent proxies

Lastly, if you’ve ever gotten a “Sorry! You took too long to vote” error message almost every time you’ve tried to vote (and there should only be a small number of you), it’s because you’re behind a transparent proxy.

Some ISPs use transparent proxies to cache data so they don’t have to send and receive as much data – but as a result, the IP address the website gets will be the one of whatever proxy server is handling your computer at the time, which is usually different each time you load a page. This messes with how The Askblog List’s voting system works.

With this update, I’ve changed how the website talks to ISP servers so that it tells them to not use cache servers when dealing with the website. This should fix the problem for anyone whose ISP respects those signals.


Barring any emergency fixes, the next update will introduce at least one feature I’m really excited about. Until then!

–Mark Kéy-Balchin


Changelog for 24th Jan 2015 update:

[+] Added “How do I?” section to the front page with links to Help and FAQs and the
[+] Added navigation panel to Help and FAQs, Terms of Service, House Rules and Privacy Policy pages. Users can now link directly to a specific heading in these pages.
[*] Changed rules 1a, 1b, and 3b so they are clearer and more friendly.
[*] Changed HTTP headers so that pages tell ISPs to avoid using transparent cache proxies when visiting this website.
[*] Added section break lines (with pretty fading effect) to home page, Help and FAQs, Terms of Service, House Rules and Privacy Policy pages.
[*] Moved headings for Help and FAQs, Terms of Service, House Rules and Privacy Policy to the sidebar.

 

Update: Vote page shortcuts and News section

Hi thar askbloggers! Hope you guys had a great holiday! Today’s update is relativity small, but I hope you’ll find the changes helpful.

Shortcuts to Favourites and Edit Askblog on vote page

voteaddtofavs

I’ve added a link to the vote page which will add the askblog you have voted for to your favourites when you click on it. If the page is already on your favourites list, it will be replaced with a “View other favourites” link.

votededitlink

Additionally, if the askblog is one of your own (:p), it will show an Edit Askblog link.

New News section on the home page

Until now, the only way to keep up with changes in The Askblog List was if you clicked on the tiny link in the footer reading “Blog” or if you stumbled across our Tumblr page.

No more! Now the front page has a News section, containing links to the last three blog posts, as well as a link to The Askblog List’s Tumblr page.

To facilitate this change, I’ve changed the layout of the front page somewhat so the Category links are closer together – this gives me enough room to add the News section without pushing down any of the other content – and the About section is flush with the left side of the page – this means that it won’t look out of place with the other sections with differing indentation.

I’ve also edited the text in the About section somewhat to improve the clarity of instructions there, and added in direct links to the Request Invite page where appropriate (nudge nudge!)

A huge thank you to everyone who’s signed up so far. I’ve got some neat things planned for 2015, so until then!

–Mark Kéy-Balchin


Changelog for 20th Jan 2015 update:

[+] Added “Add to favourites”/”View other favourites” link to the vote page for logged in users.
[+] Added “Edit askblog” link to the vote page for askblogs owned by the logged in user.
[+] Added News section to front page.
[*] Improved wording of About section, added links to Request Invite page where appropriate.
[*] Made spacing between category links smaller to fit News section on page.
[*] Aligned About section so that it’s flush with the rest of the page, so that it doesn’t look out of place with the News section.

Update: Hidden askblogs, crouching breadcrumbs, and other things

Hiya! The Askblog List was just updated – here’s what’s new:

Hide this askblog

hiddencheckboxhiddenaskblog

You can now hide askblogs from the listings! This could be useful if you haven’t ‘officially’ launched an askblog, if you are going on a small hiatus, or if you’re in the process of retooling your askblog and you don’t want anyone stumbling in on it for the time being.

Breadcrumb bar

breadcrumb2

Askblog vote pages now have a breadcrumb bar showing the categories and subcategories the askblog is listed under. This serves two purposes:

  • as a poke to explore more categories for people who came to your vote page via an external link, and
  • to act as a kind of universal ‘back’ button (because someone could have come from any of those categories, as your askblog will be listed in all of them.

Speed improvements

I’ve further improved the way Category pages get askblogs in subcategories of the current one, so the page should load faster than before, and a bunch of forms also went through some minor optimisations.

\’Bug fixes\’

Due to some recent sign-ups, I discovered two issues which together caused a slash build-up to occur when people added or edited askblogs with apostrophes in their text. One was caused by a deprecated feature our server provider enabled by default, and one (which occurred only if the form displayed an error) was caused by where a certain piece of code was placed. Both problems have been fixed, and affected askblogs have been corrected manually.

I’ve also fixed a bug where, if you delete your account, all your askblog links stay behind (code I forgot to update from the alpha before askblogs and users were linked up. ^^;) Thankfully no-one’s deleted their account so far, but if they choose to do so, now their askblog links get deleted too, without me having to do so manually.

Finally, I’ve fixed a bug where the Add Askblog page goes all wonky if you try to add an askblog with the same name or URL as an already existing one.

Behind the scenes

The admin Askblog Moderation tool now lists usernames beside askblogs in the main view, and an admin/moderator can now opt to send an email explaining the reason for an askblog-related moderator action.

A new section has been created in the admin control panel for viewing votes for the last day and their IP addresses, with the option to delete individual votes, all votes from a certain IP address, and all votes from the last day for a certain blog.

Finally, there are now tools for manually resetting both the daily vote records and the monthly vote counter (again, a lot easier than diving into the database just to truncate the tables.)

Cheers, and happy holidays!

–Mark Kéy-Balchin


Changelog for 23rd Nov 2014 update:

[+] New feature: Hide askblog from list
[+] New navigational breadcrumb bars on vote pages
[*] Category pages and forms now only load specific columns when needed, which should speed up loading of those pages.
[*] Moved sanitation of form inputs for database so they only execute where and when they are needed.
[*] Delete Account page now also deletes askblog records associated with the account.
[-] Disabled magic quotes ‘feature’ in PHP
[-] Fixed bug where the wrong variable was used for checking if the askblog URL was already in the database on the Add Askblog page.

Admin tools

[+] New Manage Votes section allows for the viewing of recent votes with their IP addresses, and the ability to remove specific votes, all votes from a blog made within the last day, and all votes from a certain IP address made in the last day.
[+] Added ‘reset daily vote records’ and ‘reset monthly vote count’ tools.
[+] Admins/moderators can now specify a reason for a change to the details of an askblog, which will be sent to the user’s email address.
[*] Usernames are now shown alongside askblog entries in the Manage Askblogs section.

Update 17 Sep 2014: Humble Pie Edition

Oooch.

Thanks to a diligent tipster, I’ve been informed that the Select Category dialog for the Validation Sign Up form has been borked since the last update.

While the image below on the right might look like a statement of, ahem, “stark minimalist design”, it’s really a bug that caused the categories to not be displayed in the Select Category dialog on the Validation Sign Up page. (On the left is the same dialog in Askblog Settings – in other words, how it’s supposed to look.)

Select Categories dialog as it should look... addaskblogcat2

The good news is, the bug has now been squashed, and the dialog should be working properly now!

A reminder, you can send in bug reports by shooting an email to feedback@askbloglist.com, or sending an ask to our Tumblr page at http://askbloglist.tumblr.com/. It’s stuff like this that not only makes the website better, but sends some humble pie my way, and helps maintain the masquerade of me not being a silly dunderhead to boot. :p


If you’re interested in the cause, it’s because when I replicated the code from the Select Category dialog in Askblog Settings to the one in the Validation Sign Up form, I forgot to exclude the check for a logged-in user, meaning the categories would only appear to someone who was already logged in (i.e. no-one who was using the Validation form). Eheh. ^^;

Anyway! Below, as usual, is the changelog. Later days!

–Mark Kéy-Balchin


Changelog for 17th Sep 2014 update:

[-] Fixed bug where categories in Select Category box in Validation Sign Up page would only display if a user was logged in.

 

Update: Favourites! (plus some minor things)

The Askblog List has just been updated! Here’s what’s changed:

New feature: Favourites

Signed-in users are now able to add askblogs to their Favourites list!

TestMcTestson

You can do that by just clicking on the [Add to favourites] button beside the Vote button.

The Favourites list is accessible by clicking on your username at the top-right and clicking on Favourites (or going to http://askbloglist.com/settings/favs/.)

FavMcFaveston

It provides an easy way to visit and vote on specific askblogs that you really enjoy (provided they’re on the List, of course).

It’s also a good way to check on askblogs you want to keep up to date on, if your Tumblr dashboards are as messy and noisy as mine is. ^^;

This isn’t all that’s planned for the Favourites feature, but I’ll talk more on that when it’s done.

‘Back to parent category’ links for subcategories

Also in this update, askblog categories now have links to their parent category at the top, so you don’t have to click the home page link and track back through the various categories again.

‘Help and FAQ’ update

The Help and FAQ page have been updated with new questions and answers about Favourites (of course).

As well as that, I’ve also added answers to other sections. Two clarifying the role of the ‘Fan blogs’ and ‘Original characters’ section (reminder: the latter’s for purely original characters not attached to a fanbase – fan OCs go in the ‘Fan blogs’ section), one on how to use the Select Category dialog box, one covering the inability to select multiple categories, and one on what to do if you have problems signing up.

Lastly, I corrected the question about signing up to The Askblog List, which was left over from an earlier private version of the site.

Minor things

Category pages should now load faster, as I’ve done some optimisation in how the website gets askblogs in subcategories of the current one.

I’ve also removed the “x blogs” description under category links from the Select Category box when adding or editing askblog links. Because it only listed blogs directly in that category, it was pretty useless as an indicator for how many blogs that category represented (especially for categories with subcategories, as those don’t directly contain any askblogs).

Behind the (admin) scenes, I’ve added in moderation tools for askblogs (so I don’t have to go in the database and manually do things) as well as substantially improved the Edit User moderation tool when dealing with changing only one of the user attributes.

Below you can find the changelog. As always, you can submit bugs or feedback to feedback@askbloglist.com, or via the Feedback tab on the side of the page.

–Mark Kéy-Balchin


Changelog for 11th Aug 2014 update:

[+] New feature: favourites lists.
[+] Added “Back to parent” links for categories.
[*] Optimised how categories retrieve askblogs from subcategories.
[-] Removed ‘number of blogs’ indicator in Select Category box.

Documentation:
[+] Added section in ‘Help and FAQs’ on favourites.
[+] Added questions dealing with the main two sections of the site.
[+] Added question dealing with the operation of the Select Category dialog box.
[+] Added question dealing with problems registering an account.
[*] Modified the “So, you’re a… list of… askblogs?” and “Why would I want to create an account?” questions to include the favourites feature.
[*] Corrected “Alright, how do I create an account?” question that erroneously referred to a “Sign up” button, and added description of the invite process.

Admin tools:
[+] Askblog moderation tools added: manual add, edit and remove.
[*] Edit User moderation tool now automatically fills in user name and email into form text boxes.
[*] Edit User moderation tool now assumes blank password box means ‘don’t change password’.
[-] Fixed bug with Edit User moderation tool where it didn’t exclude the original user name and email address when checking if those values were unique.

Beta launch is go!

Hiya, Mark here!

You may have noticed (by the change to the front page) that we’ve gone ahead and flipped the switch on the beta version of The Askblog List! We’ve got it to a point where we feel it’s usable, for the most part, so we wanted to get it out there ASAP.

If all has gone well, you should be seeing quite a few categories on the homepage. I’ll talk about that tomorrow, but for now I’ll say that the categories represent what we feel is a good balance for popular askblogging fandoms and genres.

By the way, those who signed up for invites should be getting their emails soon, so hang tight! (And right now anyone signing up now won’t have long to wait either – it’s kind of a short list right now. ^^;)

We really want to hear feedback from you guys and girls, so please send it in! You can contact us by clicking on the Feedback tab to the left of the main page, by leaving a comment on this blog post, or by sending an email to feedback@askbloglist.com.

Also, please note that during the beta test URLs may change significantly as we try different things out, so if you do link to your vote page in the sidebar of your askblog, please at least keep an eye out for if the URL does change. And, as noted before in a previous post, while we will try to make sure nothing goes wrong, something might, so we can’t guarantee any information you give us will survive the beta test either. We’ll try to prevent that from happening, though!

Lastly, I’d also like to draw attention to our list of questions and answers that we imagined you might have. (If there’s any more you can think of, please, ask away!)

Have fun!

Mark Kéy-Balchin

Oh, and just a note – the Favourites system I talked about earlier hasn’t yet been implemented – it’ll be coming in the next version, so if you were waiting for that it’ll be here a bit longer than planned. Ciao!

 

Invite registration is now open!

Hiya, Mark here! Hope you guys are having a fantastic holiday!

In my last post I said we’d be opening up registration for invites sometime in the future. Well, the future is now! *

That’s right, the invite registration page is now open!  You can register for an invite at http://askbloglist.com/invite/ (or just click on the big button that’s appeared on the front page. ^^ )

While you don’t have to have an askblog to sign up for an invite, as I mentioned previously we will be prioritising those who do have askblogs over those who don’t. (And no pretending you own someone elses’ askblog just to jump the queue – we will be checking on that, we can promise you!)

Take care, and have a merry holiday!

Mark Kéy-Balchin

* Well, at least, that part of the future. There are other parts of the  future that are still in the future, and yet more parts of the future that have already transitioned into the past. But, you know what I mean, right?

The road to launch

Hey guys, Mark here! As promised, in this blog I’m going to tell you the phases we’re planning for launch, so you can get an idea of what we’re going to be doing.

1. Development stage

This is the phase that we’re currently in. This is basically where we’re pinning down our basic ideas, systems and visual styles for The Askblog List and getting them ready for public consumption. We’re also testing our systems to make sure nothing breaks! ^^;

2. Invite stage

At some point in the near future we’ll open up registration for Beta invites for people with askblogs, so we know who to create accounts for when the Beta commences. You won’t need an account to vote during the Beta phase, so we ask you only sign up for an invite if you have an askblog.

3. Beta stage

The Beta stage allows us to fix any problems that we might have missed in development. During Beta, the voting side of things will be opened up to the public.

When the Beta stage launches, the initial round of invites will be sent out, and those who receive an invite will be able to sign up for an account. Only a certain number of people will get invites at first. You don’t need an account to vote, so don’t panic if you don’t get an invite initially! We also plan to open up registrations to more users over time.

Due to the nature of the Beta (someone might try to, say, do a Bobby Tables on us – heck, we encourage that kind of thing, the beta is precisely for worming those kinds of bugs out!), we can’t guarantee that any data entered during the Beta will be preserved. We’re going to really try to keep the data through to launch, but there’s no promises!

4. Launch

Once we’re satisfied that most of the unusual ways for our website to die are wormed out, we’ll open registration to everybody and declare ourselves launched!

Hopefully this post has given everyone some insight into what we’ll be doing.  Until next time!

Mark Kéy-Balchin

What is this place, anyway?

Hiya! My name is Mark Kéy-Balchin, the main developer here at The Usual Spot, and I’m writing this to give you guys a sense of what this website is going to be about.

Origins

Now, webcomics have been a thing since basically the beginnings of the Internet. They were, after all, a natural extension of print comics. But being online meant they could take advantage of many things traditional comics couldn’t – for example, near instant feedback, which means webcomic writers could change or improve their story much faster than once a month.

Naturally, this lead to webcomics that took this formula and ran with it.

Askblogs are webcomics or blogs that have a constant “fourth wall mail slot” with their fans, where the characters react directly to fan questions and comments. These may be used merely to add flavour, or they may steer the course of the plot themselves, or there might not even be a plot and the characters are just fielding questions. But the important part is the interactivity between reader and character.

So… why does this site exist?

Basically, this site exists because I saw a niche that wasn’t being filled and decided to fill it. ^^

So, obviously “The Askblog List” is a list of askblogs. It splits up askblogs into different categories, so people can drill down to the ones they want – but each level shows all blogs for the levels under it, so people just looking for a general view are catered for as well.

The Askblog List is about three things:

No. 1: Visibility and Discoverablity

Tumblr has no directory, and it’s pure luck whether or not anyone will be searching for “ask blog” when you post your latest update. There are lists, but they tend to be hard to find as well. And as much as we like our friends at sites like Top Web Comics, the culture there is more aimed towards traditional webcomics, and askblogs, as numerous as they may be, are still a niche.

So, first and foremost, The Askblog List is about askblogs getting the attention they deserve.

 No. 2: Organisation

Even if you have a unique idea for an askblog, or you’re the only one in your fandom playing as the character of your choice, you might not get any attention if we did things as a pure list format. The more popular fandoms would drown out the unpopular ones, and the most popular blogs would drown out practically everyone else. People not into those things would give up in frustration.

That is why the second tenet of The Askblog List is providing the ability to drill down to the bits that they like.

No. 3: Popularity

(<insert song here> because I can’t resist. ^^;)

Of course, we want to surface stuff that people like! The Askblog List will work primarily with votes – one vote per IP address, once every 24 hours.

I do hope to introduce some other methods of gauging both popularity and quality after the site is launched, but for now I think that’ll do.

Wrapping up

So, I hope you’ve gotten a good sense of what this site is all about. Next post I’ll talk about the road to launch. Toodles!

-Mark Kéy-Balchin