Preserving Armchair Arcade: Town Meeting!

Matt Barton's picture

Armchair Arcade is dying and needs your help to survive.

As most of you have no doubt realized, we're been suffering from all kinds of technical problems here at Armchair Arcade. The biggest of these is a surge of "max connections reached" problems with our database. We've been working very closely with our host, Modhost, to resolve these problems. To put it simply, Modhost has been (in the past) very gentle with us when our website went over the limits imposed on database usage, but not any longer. Now, whenever we get too many people using the site at once, we get that nasty database error. According to our stats, we had 3,699 fewer unique visitors last month than the one before, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why. This problem is killing Armchair Arcade.

There are a few possible solutions to the dilemma. One is that we could move to a dedicated server. However, this costs $165 a month, which is simply impossible for us to fund ourselves. Unless one of you guys (or a few of you guys) are willing to bankroll us on this, dedicated hosting isn't really an option. The second possibility is moving to a simpler CMS, like Movable Type. Modhost assures us that Movable Type would consume less database resources, but we'd lose some of the features of Drupal. In any case, we're about to have to undertake some pretty drastic measures to salvage the site.

Finally, there is some concern that our readership has been steadily declining, and that folks just don't care about this site anymore. Besides a few friends like Oldschoolgamer, most of our posts go uncommented, which is the only way we have of really, 100% knowing that people are reading and enjoying our stuff. Likewise, we are generating much less buzz on other websites than we used to--again, besides a few fantastic folks like SimonC of GameSetWatch, the rest of the world seems to be content to ignore us completely. As for the various tools we have to help publicize the site (the little buttons for digg, del.icio.us., and so on)--well, nobody is using them. Obviously, it does take a little bit of work to click these buttons and help us get some buzz going, and we can't pay you for this work, but I'd like to think a few of you cared enough about the site to chip in just a little bit. After all, Bill, Mark, and I put in hours (probably 20+ hours a week!) working on this site for free. It doesn't seem like too much to ask that a few of you click some buttons and leave some nice comments for us every once and awhile!

The way I see it, the future of Armchair Arcade is really in your hands, now. We're exhausted, and not even sure that what we do really matters anymore. If anyone out there actually enjoys this site and wants to see it prosper, you'd better start speaking up now. Otherwise, pretty soon you'll click the ol' familiar link to Armchair Arcade and get nothing but a "PAGE NOT FOUND" screen.

Speak up and let us know you still care about us! We love this site and all of our readers, but this isn't a one-way street. The time has come for YOU to step up to the plate and offer your support. Please, we need you.

Sincerely,

Matt Barton

Comments

forcefield58
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Joined: 05/19/2006
More Thoughts...

I wanted to add a few more thoughts to my post from yesterday.

First, it brings back memories of old to see all you guys posting that have been away for awhile, or just monitoring every once in awhile.

I'm in this for the Forums's and the personal exchange with you all first and foremost. I do like the articles as well, but if you ask me where I spend most of my time, it's in the Forums.

I only problem I have with the Forum section is the "reply to" part. It doesn't appear to work, or I'm not doing it right. I guess I could cut/paste somebody elses comments and then add my reply, but it appeared to be easier on the old site. This is a minor thing, I know.

I'm not much of a web person and I really hope the issues with the site and the hosting company can be worked out. It would certainly be a void in my daily life it AA were to go away.

Cheers

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forcefield58
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Joined: 05/19/2006
Hmmm

Could the problem be one where folks aren't logging out when they're finished in the site, but simply pressing their browser home button to get back to where they started? I saw in one of the replys here that there could be a ton of open connections and was wondering if could be because of not logging out. I know I'm guilty of this.

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Spin
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Joined: 05/23/2006
Hope for the best

So I have read the loss of participation and I too am guilty.
I will only tell of my own reasons.
Armchair arcade is a great site and has a strong history for what you started to become.
What I think slows the debates down is the blog style.
I remember big articles that set forth much debate and talk about many things.
Sadly I read the blog and think of posting. Often I don’t and I come back to see a different article.
The contiguous new article kills my looking back to follow through.
Maybe I am alone in my actions but I think that armchair arcade made a bigger lasting impression and created more debate with the issues not the (Like everyone else web site) blog style.

Please don’t take this criticism the wrong way I greatly respect all the founders and contributors.
This is just my story and why I don’t post like I used too.
I will make it a habit to put forth my clicks.
It is not my wish to see another good retro resource gone.
Best wishes
Spin

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Some Thoughts to all the Posts!

Well, it's really good to see all of these AA regulars coming out of the woodwork and becoming active again on the site. I do agree that for whatever reason (probably mostly cosmetic, I'm thinking), this site doesn't seem to welcome commenting as much as it should. I'm not sure what it could be giving this impression. To me, the comment structure here is easier to read than on most sites, particularly on Slashdot, which always confused me (I also think the whole "modding up" thing is a bit off-putting). I'm not sure what I think of these two examples of comment blocks. See what you think:

Joystiq
GameSetWatch. Both of these sites have healthy comment sections, but it doesn't seem any easier to post a comment there than here, nor easier to see the comments. The only thing is that the sites seem to minimize the comments quite a bit, getting right to the text without a big header with a title and author info up top. Perhaps the big header portions and big spaces between the comments here is making them harder to read. When I start designing a new theme next week, I'll definitely take this into consideration. Perhaps lowering the profile of the comments might actually make people more comfortable posting them. I'm wondering also if the ability to show the little pictures is really helpful (my guess is that if we allow them, they should be very small).

As for logging out, I don't know why that would have any impact on the site. Then again, I'm no expert. The only time the database is used is when people (or bots) click through the site, causing Drupal to pull up the necessary page components from the database or cache. I suppose that could mean a great many sudden database calls (text, images, author info, links, etc.) It definitely seems to make sense to try to make as few as calls as possible. I think over the next week I'm going to start dismantling every "frill" that we don't absolutely need in an effort to get this database situation under control.

Really, though, what's really important (and always the most important) is the community. It doesn't matter how kick butt a website may be, nor how flashy the graphics are, etc., if the community isn't there. On the other hand, you could have the world's crappiest looking website that was cumbersome and hard to use, yet if you really liked the people there, you'd put up with it. The fact that so many of you guys have stepped forward and become active members again really says something about what we have here at AA.

I sympathize to what Spin is saying--with new posts regularly, it's a bit hard to keep up sometimes--but remember, just because something isn't on the frontpage anymore doesn't mean you can't continue to talk about it. The comments will show up in the "recent comments" block if you have that turned on. We do need to find an easier way to let people know where the latest discussions are happening though. I actually think disabling the forums might help, since then you wouldn't have conversations happening in multiple locations.

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Spin
Offline
Joined: 05/23/2006
Where are the links?

Been thinking about the loss of AA.
That would hurt! Too much knowledge around here to dry up.
I do remember that the issues were to put into a real format and printed.
Were you guys not set to do that then sell the product?
Perhaps someone is in the printing industry and could help out.
A stray thought that came to me.

Spin
Also on the links, I only see the PC100 link.
If there are more please advise.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
"Merchandise and Special

"Merchandise and Special Offers" contains some stuff available for purchase, but only if you're interested, otherwise the only thing that works minimally just by clicking is "Sponsored Links".

Some thoughts - it sounds to me like everyone still wants a robust forum engine, despite our best efforts to redirect that energy to blogging. IT SEEMS TO ME ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS FROM A USER SIDE WITH OUR CURRENT SETUP IS THE INABILITY TO AUTOMATICALLY QUOTE OTHER POSTS.

Does the phpbb solution - which I also think is the best forum software - enable one to craft an entire Website? Minimally we'd want an engine that would enable us to create stand-alone pages, such as "About Us" and "Games", have a robust commenting engine WITH quoting, and the ability to generate an RSS feed. What would be neat is if the RSS feed could be generated from a flagged forum topic. Also, it is absolutely imperative that the system have a robust image management system, where it's trivial to insert images into posts/articles, search on previously uploaded images, and delete/manage previously uploaded images.

It sounds like the community would most respond to proper forums and it sounds like you'd all want to actively post and help us grow in that case. Is that true? I'd hate to put focus back on forums and that have it not be active. Of course we absolutely are internally sold on the blog format, but we could just restrict that to Matt, Mark and myself, and, ideally, have it automatically cross-populate the forums or simply be integrated in that and shown on the front page.

It's my opinion that right now the issue with the current Website is not one of aesthetics - really, who cares about that - it's more about addressing database issues and minimally being able to automatically quote other posts. On the internal side, it's the desire for a better image management system, as the one right now is barely functional for us.

As for print issues, we were going to go with print on demand (POD), Spin. We just haven't had the time to devote to it. The good news is that the book that has been taking well over a year of my time and recently a few months of Matt's, is nearing the finish line, with only a few months more of work before it goes to production and gets a release date. That means I'll have much more time to devote to finally generate all type of content again.

We will have issues. We will have print issues (though we'll be lucky to make $1 - $2 per copy sold). The big concern now is getting a Website pulled together that's ready for primetime well before the book hits the stores. It is important to me to build our audience before then, so we can help the publisher promote the book and have many fruitful discussions about the content and future volumes in the series.

Please keep the suggestions/thoughts coming.

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

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Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Bill Loguidice wrote:IT
Bill Loguidice wrote:

IT SEEMS TO ME ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS FROM A USER SIDE WITH OUR CURRENT SETUP IS THE INABILITY TO AUTOMATICALLY QUOTE OTHER POSTS.

Done. Now you can use the "QUOTE" button instead of "REPLY" for this purpose.

Note: I also changed img_assist back to filter tags instead of HTML. I don't think it made a darn bit of difference, and the tags are much easier.

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forcefield58
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Joined: 05/19/2006
Bill, you mentioned this in

Bill, you mentioned this in your post:

"Some thoughts - it sounds to me like everyone still wants a robust forum engine, despite our best efforts to redirect that energy to blogging."

I assume you're talking about posting on the home page of the site. This has always been confusing to me (I'm dumb, I know!!!). If one comments on a home page article the comments end up in the Forum section, so, I automatically go there to do all my browsing and posting based on what interests me. I do read alot more than I post, which I'm assuming is the case for most folks.

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
forcefield58 wrote: I assume
forcefield58 wrote:

I assume you're talking about posting on the home page of the site. This has always been confusing to me (I'm dumb, I know!!!). If one comments on a home page article the comments end up in the Forum section, so, I automatically go there to do all my browsing and posting based on what interests me. I do read alot more than I post, which I'm assuming is the case for most folks.

The comments don't end up in the forum section, they become attached to the original blog post, just like they are here now. Each blog post has its own "mini-forum". The "Forums" are entirely separate from the "Blogs".

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

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forcefield58
Offline
Joined: 05/19/2006
Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice wrote:
forcefield58 wrote:

I assume you're talking about posting on the home page of the site. This has always been confusing to me (I'm dumb, I know!!!). If one comments on a home page article the comments end up in the Forum section, so, I automatically go there to do all my browsing and posting based on what interests me. I do read alot more than I post, which I'm assuming is the case for most folks.

The comments don't end up in the forum section, they become attached to the original blog post, just like they are here now. Each blog post has its own "mini-forum". The "Forums" are entirely separate from the "Blogs".

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

Ahhh, didn't realize that. Will check out the blog comments area. Tks for the tip. Cheers

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