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I'm Nick, aka jacksonj04, and I used to be a volunteer staff member here at ModDB. I was active on ModDB way back at the beginning, and did (at one point) actually mod. Outside gaming I have a degree in Computing and Cybernetics from the University of Lincoln, which is just as cool as it sounds.

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Clever News

jacksonj04 Blog

Quite often we get mods showing off every single model they've built to try and bolster some awareness amongst the players who love the eye-candy. Of course there is nothing wrong with this, but recently a few mods and games have started posting some more technical information in their news posts.

Since Mod DB has a healthy community of developers as well as players, it might be worth considering posting up something about any clever technical stuff you've done. Smarter AI, faster visual processing, new and improved workflows and so on all can help make other developers go "ooooh".

I'd like to point out the profile for a game called Overgrowth, which looks absolutely amazing. Of similar note are the news posts made for the game.

For the curious, this is done using images crafted to fit exactly and some absolute positioning using CSS. If you want to replicate it I'd recommend just looking at the HTML and reverse engineering it - it's not too difficult.

You may also be interested in how to do the full-width images on the bottom of news posts (and other things), complete with handy guide.

It's Voting Time!

jacksonj04 Blog

Yes, it's that time of year again. MOTY 2008 is here and looking for you to vote for your favourite mod or indie game. There are over $8000 worth of prizes up for grabs, so mods and games wanting to win need to get themselves promoted.

If you're wanting to vote for your favourites to win the community choice awards it's easy - just get yourself to the mod or game's profile and click the big shiny vote button. You've got until the 16th to make your initial vote before we narrow the choices to the top 100, so make it count!

As one of the more senior staff members here at Mod DB, I'm on the receiving end of any messages sent to us through our contact page on the basis that whichever of the senior staff is there first can handle any problems. We get all kinds of stuff through our contact page, most of which are genuinely issues which we have to handle or help with such as broken permissions (We still get them from the v4 changeover where people haven't updated the profile in ages), people asking sensible questions about things, people needing hand-holding through various site processes and so on.

Occasionally we get people trying to skip the auth queues with messages like "i click ok on my news but its not on front page y?", and they are politely told to go back and wait and we'll get around to their content in turn. We can put up with this because it's a simple response within the remit of what we do.

Now there seems to be the occasional new type of contact to contend with - people seeking tech support for a mod. We don't provide tech support for mods, because although we are amazing we cannot know everything about every mod we get asked to support and people usually choose really obscure ones. You may say "Just tell them you don't do tech support", which we do quite happily. The trouble is that all the staff are helpful people who not only say "We don't do tech support" but also say "However, the mod team which you can contact at [link] will do". Since we don't know how to contact every support team off the top of our heads, it takes time to look up the mod in our index, visit their website and find out how to get in touch with them.

Finally, there's the worst kind of message which usually runs along the lines of "i don't know how 2 install ur mod can u help plz thx". We can't do anything with that other than write a reply patiently explaining that we don't make mods, we don't know which mod they're talking about and we can't help them at all without a bit more information.

Please, help our sanity by not using the contact page to ask for mod-specific support. Anything to do with the site we're more than happy to deal with as it stops the monotony of cleaning stuff up around the site, but we just can't do mod specific support!

I've had a couple of people ask how you do the cool images which stretch across the whole width of the content, as seen on news posts such as this one by the Infinity team (Used very well in that case). The answer is simple, providing that you understand at least the basic principles of HTML.

First of all, you need an image. It needs to be 620px wide, and we recommend no more than about 250px high or they become irritating, although any height will work. Sometimes smaller images have more effect or are more subtle, so bear that in mind.

Once that's done, you need hosting for the image. This can either be your own servers or you can head off and add it to your mod's image gallery. Either way you must know the URL for the full image, thumbnails will just look silly. If you're hosting your image on Mod DB you can get this URL by looking at an image in your gallery, then clicking "(view original)" by the title.

Finally, you need to enter HTML mode when you're editing your article and add a little bit of code to the bottom, replacing the src="" attribute with the URL, altering the alt="" attribute to be more descriptive, and tweaking height="" to actually be the correct height in pixels.

[center]<img pro=527083965https" src="https://your.image/address.jpg" alt="Descriptive Text" width="620" height="250" />[/center]

That's it. Note that your image won't appear perfectly in the editor - don't panic about the gap around the left and bottom of your image, it won't appear on the final page.

So that's how you add the funky full-width images to your news posts. Told you it was easy.

Mod DB Community

Level 12 Admin

jacksonj04 Blog

I was struggling to find something to blog about since it's about time for a new one from me. I had almost given up and was going to resort to a crash course on some of the advanced options for mod and game teams (It's coming in my next blog so I can have an even more in-depth look at some of them) when Scott gave us our two big new toys; high quality video and the new levels system.

High quality video is exactly as the name suggests. The video is now encoded with the frankly awesome H.264 codec instead of the somewhat ageing H.263, making for videos with sharper lines, better colour and all-round niceness. All conversion and switching between the new and old formats is handled entirely by our team of server monkeys, but there is still a little bit of fine tuning going on so if you spot any video glitches just let us know and we'll prod the settings so everything is excellent.

It's not quite HD yet, but it's something we're looking at for future expansion. Stay tuned.

Next up are our excellent replacement for Karma, something we've been promising to improve for a long time. After the combined efforts of several staff members couldn't find a decent set of equations for calculating karma without unfairly penalising some or rewarding others, we replaced it with a much more gaming-oriented and decidedly more fun system - levels.

Instead of a boring number telling you how good or bad some arbitrary maths somewhere thinks you are, your level is an indicator of your 'usefully-activeness', a phrase I've never heard before and should probably never use again. Instead of trying to base it around how many people say they like or dislike what you did - comment voting was a huge part of the old karma system - your levels are based on how much you do around the site that is then used by someone else.

Writing a tutorial is good and earns you activity, but if it's viewed by 5,000 people then you get even more activity from it. On the flip side, if your tutorial is so poor that it's not authed (or worse still deleted) by the staff then you're likely to get very little activity, or even have some removed. Activity points go towards increasing your levels from 1 to 70, each of which has a specific gaming/modding related rank name.

Don't get too excited about your level, it doesn't change anything around the site although in future we may choose to only let people above a certain level take part in things like feature betas or vote in contests. All in all it's just a bit of fun.

This blog is short and simple, and just answers the question "how do we delete things". The answer is we don't. Mod DB makes use of non-destructive deleting. Put simply, once something is on the site it is never truly deleted from our database.

The Mod DB Deleting Machine
The Mod DB Deleting Machine
It's all to make our lives easier. At one point our delete buttons did exactly as you'd expect and completely eradicated stuff from the database with no hope of retrieval short of going and digging around the backups, something nobody on the admin team wants to waste time doing since it's more of a pain to re-integrate the old content with the site than it is to just recreate it.

We then noticed that sometimes there were idiots within the community who maliciously deleted content from mods they were leaving (or more often were kicked out of), or mod leaders who deleted negative comments from their mods purely to help their PR image. We even had some moderators go on a power trip at one point and delete threads or content that wasn't supposed to be, and even for the pure of heart in both the community and the staff there's always the dreaded "oh dammit, I didn't mean to press that button!" which often leads to someone's hard-created content vanishing in a puff of digital smoke. So we started making the delete button only soft-delete things, mark them as 'deleted' in the database but still leave them intact so they could be retrieved later if we needed to.

v2 was the first version to implement the beginnings of this with an undelete feature for forum threads. v3 improved by making mods undeleteable, and now v4 has pretty much everything completely undeleteable even by high level staff without resorting to going and prodding the database manually (which nobody wants to do because the gerbils turning the wheels tend to bite). If something is 'deleted' we can always get it back again.

Told you it was simple.

A couple of observant people have asked why we don't process our news articles in a strictly chronological order - ie sometimes we authorise newer news posts before older ones. There isn't a huge conspiracy and we haven't perfected our time travel device yet, it's purely a matter of balancing what's coming in at one end (the submissions) with what goes out the other end (the front page news) whilst keeping a good mix of interesting stuff.

We get lots of news coming through the system every day, and obviously can't put all of it on the front page or people would get fed up of news vanishing within mere hours, sometimes only to be replaced with total rubbish. As a result we have our editing queue and try to keep a steady flow of articles without overburdening you, and this means we can't always give a yes/no decision on an article straight away. Let me explain further.

Stack of Magazines
Our editing queue.
Excellent news articles are authed for front page display immediately, no questions asked. They then appear on the front page straight away (There's some complex buffering and caching going on here, but it's usually pretty quick). At the other end of the scale are the posts that don't deserve front page exposure, the "looking for a coder" and "we've just started" posts. These are relegated to profiles only. Then there are those in the middle which are good enough for the front page, but don't leap out and grab your attention.

On a really good news day, we have loads of excellent articles and so we don't need many of the good-enough articles to keep a steady flow. Conversely, on a bad day we're often forced to lower the barrier to entry in order to keep the front page content fresh. More commonly we have a mix of the excellent and the good-enough, carefully blended to make sure you're not swamped with model renders or too much text (And you thought we just did it all at random). As a result of trying to keep this mix our editors often leave some of the good-enough articles in the queue so that they can be picked up later if we have a drop in excellent submissions, or need something to break the monotony. Since the news articles are sorted by date, sometimes you'll see a 'new' article appear under one you've seen before or see an article posted after yours make it out of the editing queue first.

We aim for pieces of news to spend no longer than six hours in the queue even if they're in the good-enough category, and try to get as much news as possible on the front page.

I hope that's cleared up another point of how Mod DB works behind the scenes and how we make sure we're the best site for mod news.

As some of you may have spotted, I haven't been as vocal as I used to around the site over the past 6 months or so. This is because - as some of you may know - I've headed off to university to study Computing and Cybernetics. I have now finished my first year, and can devote my time to managing bits of Mod DB again.

Unfortunately I seemed to come back to somewhat of a mess with regards to the community I am meant to be managing. I acknowledge this is a lot down to my absence, but also a lot down to a quirk of the human mind which is expressed as something called Dunbar's Number - the maximum number of stable inter-personal relationships which a person can manage in a given scenario or social group. It's about 150 people, past which point relationships start to become strained and stricter rules are required to keep growing communities in check since they lose the self-policing attitude of smaller groups.

Unlike in earlier versions where the regular members of the site all new each other and regularly communicated via the forums, Mod DB has now reached the point where there are so many people engaging in regular social activity on the site that the 'common community' feeling is starting to crack in places. This may not be an entirely bad thing; for starters it shows that the site is growing up. It encourages people to find things which appeal to their personal tastes and expertise rather than just being thrown into the melting pot. v4's groups feature helps this along by providing a stronger sense of community for the groups of a few tens or hundreds than the site of a few hundred thousand whilst still keeping them plugged into the community as a whole.

Groups
The green ones are off!
On the downside, it means you're more likely to be dragged out of your comfort zone and into a group that you are unfamiliar with. As I write, Mod DB has 248,390 registered members and although not all of them are active it's still a big pond to be thrown into as a new member, or even as an old member who's been left outside of one of the newly forming cliques. I used to know the first names all the 'regular' members of Mod DB, where they lived, how their families were and so on. Now I struggle to remember which member I'm talking to or to keep tabs on how peoples reputations are doing, which is a bad sign for a Community Manager. I'm hoping to improve it with an increased presence now I've regained my life, but it serves to highlight that this site has definitely grown out of its own comfort zone and is now starting the inevitable break up into smaller, more specialised social groups within the Mod DB framework.

It's up to not just me and the rest of the staff to keep up, but you as well. We're not standing still, and we can't stay the small close-knit community we once were.

In recent days I've seen a few people around the site having a moan about their comments being buried due to downvoting. In some cases this has been a justified moaning, but in the vast majority it seems to be a case of people throwing a wobbler because their comment was - for want of a better word suitable for a family audience - rubbish, and the community picked up on this.

I'll start by addressing the concerns of those who had justifiable moaning. We know the Karma system for comment promotion/burying isn't quite perfect, and it is undergoing tuning on our development version of the site (We had all kinds of weird numbers coming out of it when Scott broke some of the maths). When it's working properly, people who persistently vote against the grain, or only vote down will have their 'weight' reduced accordingly, whereas the more useful voters will become worth more. At the moment the only thing stopping these idiots are the community, who seem to respond well to people saying their comment has been unfairly squashed and restoring it to a sensible place. This will also be taken into account in the final Karma system, working as a second check against rogue down-voters whereby people whose votes are persistently undone will lose weight.

As a final word of advice however, remember that until we implement this system in the public site your Karma scores are nothing more than the product of a bit of maths and have no affect on your rights around the site, your social status, or your needs to buy enhancements from those spam emails you keep getting. And yes, when we do implement it we will probably retroactively re-process the entirety of Karma issued so far to get it working right.

To the people who just post bad comments and then complain when they're buried. The system in these cases is working exactly as it's designed and although you may think your comment was amazing everybody else didn't. If you find your comments being constantly buried then I recommend taking a look at other highly voted comments and looking for differences between them and your own. People generally don't vote opinions down (We do check these things) unless they're wrapped in an overall bad comment. Look at things like length, spelling, your use of English, and how useful the comment is. "I agree" isn't going to win any points.

Finally, I'd like to thank everybody (You know who you are) who has helped us in our fine-tuning by reporting silly scores or obvious malicious voting. There are hundreds of comments around the site daily and we can't keep tabs on all the activity but with you pointing out places it's gone wrong it's much easier for us to get our algorithms absolutely right. As usual we're still looking for instances of bad scoring, so if you spot any please give me a PM.

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