Random Internet Discovery of the Week

What’s this? The last RID was on a Friday night/early Saturday morning and now here’s another one on a Monday? Yeah, well, I kinda had a space available for two posts.

Here’s my (very) tentative schedule for the remainder of the week:

  • Tuesday: The State of Webcomics Address and an additional sports post.
  • Wednesday: College Football Coverage Kickoff, with the Week 1 schedule and a brand new defense of a playoff based on one or two websites I discovered earlier this year.
  • Thursday: Why YouTube will be dead before long.
  • Friday: Rethinking TV and whether we should even bother.
  • Sometime between Friday and Monday: Launch of the Morgan Wick Forum.
  • Next week: Hopefully, some more topical posts.

Sign language isn’t just for deaf people!

Sports journalism in an age of transition for all journalism

This is my first blog post to be republished on Bleacher Report. Hi! I’m going to bring some quirks to my writing, which I hope to (re-)introduce you to over the next few days and weeks. I just relaunched my Web site, MorganWick.com, where I talk about a wide variety of topics, including some you might never have heard about, and even the topics that are familiar I often talk about from a unique perspective, because I’m constantly thinking about them. On my site, the motto is “Ideas every day”, and to celebrate the launch of the new site, this is Ideas Every Day week month at MorganWick.com. Because I got the idea for Ideas Every Day week over a month ago, I’m going to start it with some ideas for posts that are not as topical now as they were then.

We are in a period of painful transition in journalism. We are in a period where the Internet is big enough to take a bite out of newspapers but too small to effectively replace them and too young to know what, exactly, will replace them, or how it’ll be paid for. It’s outside the realm of a single blog post for me to proclaim to have all the answers for how to save newspapers or maintain the standards they set in the Internet Age. It covers too much ground, touches on too many aspects of our everyday life. One day I hope to write a book on all the changes the Internet is bringing to society, and maybe I’ll try to find the answers there. Nonetheless this post is on just one symptom, one aspect, of this larger problem, and it unavoidably means talking about the larger problem and thinking about how to fix it.

The second sentence of the preceding paragraph is an important way to describe and look at the situation. For all the trouble that newspapers are in, they still reach many more people than most websites and even most TV news shows. The slow disappearance of newspapers isn’t just about the in-depth journalism that will be lost, which itself is less about the disappearance of newspapers and more about our increasing demands for immediacy. There are still a lot of people, people without any access to the Internet, that are reliant on newspapers (and, admittedly, TV) to know what’s going on in the world. At least in the short term, losing access to newspapers could mean complete disconnection.

The flip side of that is the reality that whatever it is that replaces newspapers, it will exist in a greater number, diversity, and precision than what exists now. The diversity of voices on the Internet has a lot of advantages. But it also has a number of problems.

For many, including me, it’s easy to assume that the future of the Internet and journalism in general will follow the mold set by television, a future largely supported by ads. There are a few problems with this supposition, but one of them is that very, very, very few web sites will have the mass penetration of a leading daily newspaper or TV station. The value of advertising lies primarily in the number of eyeballs you can have seeing your ad; the fewer eyeballs, the less value. While it’s theoretically possible for people to follow more websites than they subscribe to newspapers or watch TV shows, the fact is that there are going to be more voices fighting for a piece of the pie, and there’s a limit as to how big the pie can grow, especially when a lot of the eyeballs are going to be the same people over and over again.

Not all journalistic functions that are going to be changed, and possibly not for the better, by the Internet are time consuming. Some are just expensive, underwritten by less expensive sections of the paper. Something that requires a lot of traveling may attract a significant number of readers and eyeballs, but it’s still going to be harder to pay the bills that go along with it – which in turn, means fewer people are going to be willing to take the plunge. It’s doubly hard when we’re talking about something that requires a lot of traveling yet is still local.

Which brings me to July’s series in the Sports Business Journal on the declining sizes and budgets of newspaper sports sections. Sports sections have reduced staff and page counts, cut travel expenses on beats (especially by not sending writers on the road), and even when they haven’t reduced beat coverage, cut coverage of big events as well.

A one-two punch of the Web and ESPN has put a crimp on local sports sections, and given its frivolity compared to the rest of the paper, I wonder if sports sections will be first to be cut entirely. Hardcore sports fans who once were reliant on the local sports section, or the sports minute on the local newscast, for sports news from anywhere in the country have found ESPN a godsend. A self-reinforcing pattern of people flocking to ESPN for sports coverage in the wake of shrinking coverage in the local paper has started to emerge. There’s now a significant group of people like me who consider themselves general sports fans, rather than necessarily fans of any particular team. The team I have the closest attachment to is the Mariners, and that’s because I’ve been going to a couple of games every year since I was a little kid and feel a sentimental attachment to keep going. I probably couldn’t tell you half the names on the team.

ESPN will tell you when Brett Favre is coming back – they’ll cover the big stars and the big-name teams. That’s why its detractors like to call it the “Eastern Seaboard Programming Network”, despite its willingness to cover LA teams even before opening a studio there. They’ll cover leagues at the macro level, at least to an extent, but as Don Ohlmeyer noted in his first ombudsman column for the boys in Bristol, “programming and commentating for a national audience made up mostly of local interests is a treacherous balancing act.” ESPN itself has suffered from becoming “America’s sports section” in a nation more patriotic about local teams than any other. To get the same level of coverage of individual teams requires a local-level operation whose patrons only expect them to cover two or three teams. There’s less money in those local level operations, so travel expenses have been cut and coverage has suffered.

For teams that aren’t already being doted on by ESPN, that means they’re threatened with a slip to irrelevance. When ESPN puts and keeps an event in the news, people pay attention. If the amount of coverage a team gets in a local paper is a short wire story on the game on page 36 and the amount of coverage on the local news is less than ten seconds, meaning they’re probably getting more coverage from ESPN than the local media (assuming it’s a Big Three team), the team effectively gets shut out. Unless a blogger can become really popular, they’re not going to be much of an improvement, because they either watch the team on TV, cover only the home games live (just like the beat writers who see travel expenses cut), or fork over a considerable amount of money for travel expenses.

That’s why I think it’s smarter for papers to skimp on coverage of big events. Unless their team is in it, people already get more coverage of the Super Bowl or World Series from ESPN alone than they’d ever need, and there are, by my count, nine national sports websites before you go into single-sport websites like the sports’ official sites, fan-powered websites like Bleacher Report, and blogs like Deadspin – ESPN, CBS, Fox, Yahoo, SI, NBC, USA Today, Sporting News, and depending on whether or not you consider it a blog, Fanhouse. What people want, and need, is maintained coverage of the local teams. And if their team is in the championship, no coverage the major sports organizations can provide can match the coverage provided by someone who has grown intimately familiar with the team over the course of the season. But not all papers have realized this, and for papers with large, somewhat national readerships, like the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post, it poses some tough questions as to which audience to appeal to.

At least in the short term, most of the easy answers are unsavory, involving the dicey concept of teams subsidizing their own coverage, which always raises the specter of conflict of interest. The LA Kings, who saw the Times‘ beat writer stop travelling with them on the road, hired their own freelance writers to write coverage for their own web site.

Now that he’s seen what they can do with editorial content, [Vice President of Broadcasting and Communications Mike] Altieri said he is warming to the idea of hiring a newspaper pro to cover the team both at home and on the road.

They looked into doing it three years ago, but decided against it, mostly because of the expense. The salary of a seasoned professional likely would approach $100,000 in Los Angeles, a difficult expense when he can’t demonstrate that it will lead to more revenue, particularly at a time when the team’s on-ice performance has been shoddy.

If traditional coverage continues to wane and the team improves, it may be worth the money, Altieri said. The debate then will be whether the front office is prepared to occasionally find criticism on its own site. Without it, fans probably won’t view it as credible, and they won’t come back.

The Kings wouldn’t be first: the Dallas Mavericks hired the Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s NBA writer as that paper left Mavs coverage to the Dallas Morning News (merging of beats between competing papers has also become common practice where once that level of collusion would have been unthinkable), and at least six NFL teams have done similarly, led by the Bengals’ Geoff Hobson, who has written for the team site for a decade. In Major League Baseball, where the Advanced Media division runs MLB.com and all 30 club Web sites, 12 online writers have Baseball Hall of Fame votes. The Chicago Bulls, concerned about the loss of legendary Chicago Tribune NBA writer Sam Smith weakening the NBA’s profile in a football- and baseball-crazed market, hired him to continue his work for their site. In their case, they saw the departure (without their intervention) of one writer having a severe impact on their profile. The resulting uptick in traffic suggests other teams may follow the Bulls’ lead in that sense, ignoring the concerns about editorial control and conflict of interest given the larger issues at stake. Major League Baseball seems to have leapt into the future head-on: with no editorial interference from MLB or the clubs, the Advanced Media-run sites are fairly impartial.

Still, given the issues involved, I would suggest a better, less nauseating option, especially in markets without competing papers to share resources, would be to help pay for some of (in the Kings’ case) the Times‘ beat writer’s travel and other expenses – maybe, depending on the comfort level of all parties involved and necessary logistics, even letting him ride on the team plane. That would not only be cheaper than subsidizing all a reporter’s expenses, it would not only lessen (though not eliminate) the appearance of a conflict of interest, it would also restore that broad exposure of coverage. The only people who will find coverage of the Kings on the team’s own site are people who are looking for Kings coverage in the first place – not casual fans, unless they read aggregators, but content providers are very protective of content these days and some of them want to kill aggregators for “stealing” content.

Flamboyant Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has in fact taken this idea one better: he’s proposed that the major sports leagues form a “beat writer’s cooperative,” “hiring reporters who would provide daily content to local newspapers in exchange for guaranteed space in the print edition.” He’s gone on record stating he doesn’t believe a team Web site is the place for objective, unbiased opinions and reporting, but for selling the team. (He does think it’s the place to break news despite the risk that runs of antagonizing papers the team needs more than ever.)

If local teams are concerned about the loss of local beat writers, at least those writers spend half their time at home, and the emphasis on their presence adds up to less concern for the leagues. Take all the pressure faced by each of 30 teams, ratchet it up considerably, and concentrate it in one place and you have the problems facing individual sports – NASCAR and golf most prominently – that are all travel no matter where in the country you are.

It’s easy to separate the national and local levels in team sports – ESPN and the national outfits cover the biggest games like the playoffs, local outfits focus on the local teams. But that dynamic goes completely out of whack in the NASCAR and PGA tours, where for years local beat writers often spent all their time on the road. Considering the additional expense that entails, it’s no surprise those beats have often been axed entirely. Even national chains (who could conceivably get by with one beat between them) and content-sharing local papers have severely cut back coverage as writers have left for the Web. But that just puts more pressure on the national outfits to put as much resources into covering every event on the tour as local outfits do into covering every game for their local teams. It’s easy to cover the big races like the Daytona 500 and the majors – but the Local Dodge Dealers 400 and the side tournament Tiger’s skipping on some random golf course in Texas somewhere? Other than golf-specific magazines, only the AP, New York Times, and three of the aforementioned sports sites (ESPN, CBS, and USA Today, the latter more as a paper than a Web site) have a regular presence on the PGA tour.

PGA Tour Executive Vice President of Communications and International Affairs Ty Votaw insists that, mostly because of ESPN’s and CBS’s online presences, there’s still more being written about golf than ever… but here we run into that little “transition” problem, and a potential harbinger of problems to come. As with local teams, newspaper beat writers are a more visible place for coverage than a team web site, and unless they take the form of a blog, national sports sites aren’t really much better than the latter. Although Web sites have more space than newspapers, the amount the average fan will see is less. General sports fans can easily look through every page of the sports section, but they can only look at the front page of the Web site before anything they aren’t already interested in falls off the radar in favor of what they already came to look at. (The value of RSS for improving this situation is… iffy.) The result is a far more Darwinian competition for space than that which ever existed in the sports section.

For NASCAR, it seems like the universe has it in for them. NASCAR devoted so many resources to encouraging newspapers to covering their circuit in the late 90s as they made a push to be accepted as one of the modern four major sports… only to see their efforts wasted in the face of the juggernaut destroying the business they courted, and in a position to be first to go. Many papers haven’t ended NASCAR coverage entirely but switched to running abridged AP copy. NASCAR has attempted to adjust by removing the travel from its coverage – running weekly streaming press conferences with e-mailed questions from around the country – and, like local teams, has begun credentialing bloggers and other Web-based operations.

There is a silver lining in this for teams and leagues: as newspapers die, sports coverage may slither to the Web easier than you may think. Smith’s example suggests that sportswriters with large – even if strictly local – followings may be in the best shape of anyone threatened by the decline of newspapers; they have a ready-made audience to follow them to the Web in the form of a blog or just a series of columns for another web site. Unlike most journalism, sportswriting lends itself well to a conversion to blog format. Several sportswriters – especially those let go by ailing newspapers – have found new homes at a league or team web site, one of the national sports sites (ESPN seems especially popular), or even starting their own blog or web site.

Which approach is best for the sport or team varies. The best approach to reach a general audience is probably the national sports sites for the sports in general, especially the big individual ones. For local teams, the future for reaching a general audience may be dicier, at least until more local Web-based sites spring up and become popular. For their part, ESPN is trying to broaden and focus their mandate; earlier this year they launched ESPNChicago.com, a site dedicated to coverage of Chicago-area teams. The site quickly attracted more eyeballs than the Chicago Tribune‘s online sports section, and ESPN will soon launch similar sites for New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. All four cities are places where ESPN owns a radio station (Pittsburgh being the only other), but few doubt that they’ll eventually expand beyond that zone into markets like Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington DC.

If what’s wanted is coverage, regardless of whether that coverage only reaches the people that are looking for it, a blog may be the best approach to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, at least for the writer looking for creative freedom, and for the sport or team that’s looking for a diversity of voices. But that sends the writer plunging headlong into the issue plaguing so much else of the Internet: the question of money. (SBJ’s profile of Racin’ Today, started by four laid-off motorsports writers, encapsulates many of the issues involved.)

Over the seven or so years that it’s run, ESPN’s Around the Horn has almost been emblematic of the changes coming over journalism. It started as a show for banter between four newspaper sportswriters. From west to east, the current lineup of writers includes: Bill Plaschke (Los Angeles Times); J.A. Adande (formerly L.A. Times, now ESPN.com); Woody Paige (Denver Post, excepting about a year working double duty as co-host of Cold Pizza-turned-First Take‘s 1st and 10 segment); Tim Cowlishaw (Dallas Morning News); Jay Mariotti (formerly Chicago Sun-Times, now Fanhouse, though probably moving to the Chicago Tribune); Kevin Blackistone (formerly Dallas Morning News, now Fanhouse after a lengthy unemployment); Bob Ryan; and Jackie MacMullan (both Boston Globe). Only five out of eight regular panelists still work for newspapers, and because Mariotti shows up almost every day, it’s a rare sight to see nothing but newspaper writers on one show. Occasional panelist Gene Wojcehowski moved from the Sun-Times to ESPN.com; Michael Smith became an occasional panelist (after being a regular for a while) after moving from the Globe to ESPN.com. On ATH‘s “big brother” show, Pardon the Interruption, Tony Kornheiser no longer works for the Washington Post.

There’s one other noteworthy thing about ATH: almost always, the youngest person on the show is host Tony Reali. Perhaps more disturbing, the youngest of the panelists still at a newspaper is Cowlishaw, who seems to be in his 40s if not 50s, and the only regular panelist I’d even suspect not to be in his 40s or above is Adande. It takes a long time for a sportswriter to build a reputation and following, but there haven’t been a lot of writers to get their start this decade. Newspaper sports sections are being further crunched by the fact most people who once might have been aspiring sportswriters are getting a head start on the future and starting out on the web and firing up their own blogs, free of editorial control and deadlines. Bill Simmons once aspired to be the next Ryan, but instead found enough of a following with his “Boston Sports Guy” web site he was picked up by ESPN.com and is now one of the site’s major attractions. Until recently he even had a regular column in ESPN the Magazine – akin to being a regular writer for Sports Illustrated.

Ultimately, the content of sports journalism will come out intact and possibly even expanded. It’s just an open question how much it’ll change in the process.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week, and preparation for making up for lost time

Oh geez, have you guys not heard from me all WEEK?!? What a time for me to become incredibly distracted by TV Tropes and then become sick, when I still had a lot of work on the web site to do AND catch up on feeds… at this point, “Ideas Every Day” week may become “Ideas Every Day” MONTH, or just a revival of my old trend of posting at least once a day every weekday, as I already have enough ideas to span nearly two weeks.

I have been doing some productive work on the site, though. One thing the site relaunch allows me to do is push specific subsections of the site onto other services; as I’ve said in the past, despite potentially splintering the audience such services are still useful for popularizing Da Blog’s content. But Da Blog is way too “general-purpose” for most of them, and on Blogger there wasn’t enough of the sense I wanted of Da Blog as a collection of sub-blogs. That’s all different now, though.

So effective immediately, and just in time for “Ideas Every Day” week or month or whatever it is, all sports posts will be republished on Bleacher Report, and all webcomics posts will be republished on Comixtalk. (The former in particular would not have been possible at all before the relaunch!) The timing’s a little off on Comixtalk, as they’ve been undergoing some problems to the effect I effectively had to lean on the site’s proprietor to get my account set up.

I also entirely expect to have the forum up and running on Monday.

So because all the TV Tropes stuff made my computer so slow, I didn’t actually do this myself

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

This week was supposed to be Ideas Every Day week on Da Blog. But it’s taking me slower than expected to set up various services. That, plus other concerns, is taking up more of my time than writing anything, or catching up on feeds. The State of Webcomics Address should be coming tomorrow, along with another announcement related to the site relaunch.

Ooh, pretty pictures!

Did I just fall into the Twilight Zone?

One minute I’m thinking Jay Glazer’s report/opinion piece predicting a Favre comeback merely reflected disgruntled Vikings who didn’t like their quarterback situation and maybe didn’t quite understand the circumstances and reasons why Favre wasn’t already there, didn’t quite understand that Favre wasn’t any ordinary free agent. I wondered if ESPN’s obsessing over the story was related to its willingness to give Glazer credit for it instead of saying “ESPN’s Michael Smith reports…” and whether ESPN was setting up Glazer to get maximum egg on his face when the report proved spurious.

The next, Favre not only signs a contract with the Vikings, he shows up at training camp and is going to start the next preseason game like he was always there?

I mean, within 24 hours, we went from Favre being retired and in Hattiesburg, to being at training camp and the No. 1 QB on the depth chart without even throwing a practice pass.

Did history somehow retroactively change on everybody?

The most important day in the history of the Morgan Wick Online Universe since the launch of Da Blog, and a day never to be matched in importance again.

The day has arrived that I knew would come ever since I launched the web site.

I have moved the web site from morganwick.freehostia.com to morganwick.com.

Morganwick.com will be the new home for all aspects of the Morgan Wick Online Universe, from the seemingly-stalled comic strip Sandsday to the 100 Greatest Movies Project to the street sign gallery to my sports projects. That includes Da Blog. Effective immediately, all blog posts will be hosted at morganwick.com, and the Blogspot account will stop updating. (Some dummy posts may start appearing next year.) Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds to point to morganwick.com.

I’ve made my frustration with Blogger and Freehostia clear over the past several months. Blogger was clunky and prone to problems. Freehostia had a clunky file manager in IE, a frustrating FTP, and only one MySQL database on the free plan. Both of them, however, should be commended for getting me a head start in building the content that will now make the move to Morganwick.com. In fact, the problems with Freehostia have been sufficiently mitigated that I might be tempted to continue housing the new web site on Freehostia, especially since my ads pay for my domain but not my hosting.

However, that’s only possible in the short term, and it’s not really possible. I’m only allowed one MySQL database on Freehostia and it pretty much has to be used by my blogging platform; while the blogging platform is robust enough to handle a lot, I kinda need to at least have the freedom to create a second database for certain purposes. And as long as I’m moving to my own domain and moving up to paying for the hosting, I should get the best domain, hosting, and blogging services there are out there, and get the most bang for the buck for them.

For me, and for those particular fields, that means moving to Namecheap, Hostmonster, and WordPress.

For most people, GoDaddy is the only domain registrar they’ve ever heard of. I decided very early on in the process of finding a domain registrar that I would not use GoDaddy. By all accounts, they’re all T&A (literally), no substance (or customer service), and possibly the worst domain registrar on the Internet, used only by amateurs who watch TV to find an Internet domain registrar and don’t really know what they’re doing. Namecheap was one of the most commonly cited and praised names that came up in a search for good domain registrars. I found Hostmonster the same way I found Freehostia – by looking at sites that would compare hosting services side-by-side for me based on other people’s reviews. Hostmonster came out on top on multiple such comparison sites despite some tight competition, especially since WordPress didn’t include a link to Hostmonster that I could use to support WordPress, but did contain a link to Hostmonster’s sister service Bluehost.

That might be the last time I mention either service. You don’t need to know who I paid for the domain or who’s hosting the site. It’s my very own domain now. I mention them in case I ever have problems with either service, or in case I ever move from either and have to shut down the site while the move processes. If there’s a quibble with Hostmonster, it’s that they’ve been known to shut down sites without warning for violations of Terms of Service, which basically comes down to backing up the site and not getting the domain and hosting from the same place lest you become unable to leave.

Chances are if you’ve ever heard of any of the three services, you’ve heard of WordPress. Even in the unlikely scenario you haven’t heard of it, you’ve seen it. Adherents to Movable Type would proclaim its superiority, but by many accounts WordPress is the best blogging platform on the Internet, and certainly the best free one. It’s fitting that there are three major blogging platforms and they all appeal to different people. Blogger is the quickest, dirtiest way to start a blog if you don’t want to pay any money and don’t know anything about the Internet, especially if you want to start building something big. (Both WordPress and Movable Type have hosting services using their infrastructure but WordPress’ functionality is extremely limited – ads aren’t even allowed. Typepad is a pay service, which makes me wonder why anyone who could afford it wouldn’t just start their own Movable Type site.)

Wordpress is the best service if you have your own hosting and don’t want to pay, and Movable Type is best if you believe “you get what you pay for” and can afford to pay the price to get better than a volunteer effort – though depending on your philosophy on the Internet and your exact needs, WordPress may still be best. (No less than the government of Great Britain uses WordPress to host its site.) It may be ideal to take the path I took – build an audience on Blogger and take it to a self-hosted WordPress site when it gets big enough.

Honestly, not only did I grow frustrated with Blogger over the years, I’ve started to distrust it a little; use of Blogger has started to throw up a red flag of amateurism for me, especially the use of variants of the default Minima template, which is used by some of my favorite blogs. The effect is mitigated with the use of templates that at least look original, and when people have their own domain it reminds me less that it’s a Blogspot blog, but there’s still that niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I can’t shake while reading something like Awful Announcing: why aren’t they at least using WordPress?

I saw why WordPress is so beloved shortly after starting experimenting with it. It was loaded with so many features that I could use. It wasn’t so clunky as to eat the code I tried to feed into it (see: my first attempt at Da Countdown). Some of the problems surrounding draft posts, such as the matter of finding them if I stopped working on them and wanted to come back to them later (something that led me to start scheduling unfinished posts), as well as some of the patches Blogger tried to put on, such as the inaccurate post time for all unscheduled posts that led Blogger to tweak the posting settings, as well as some of the quirks of scheduled posts, aren’t an issue with WordPress, which has a “last saved draft” field allowing you to schedule a post without making it leave draft mode. And WordPress’ “pages” allows me to create my own, custom, “about me” page.

More important to you, WordPress doesn’t make it complicated to post a comment – you won’t be tempted to post as “Anonymous” anymore when you wouldn’t normally do so. Just fill out your name, e-mail, and if you have a web site a link to it, and you’re all set. And because of the Akismet spam protection system you don’t have to fill out a CAPTCHA anymore either, which is really more trouble than it’s worth since it only protects against automated, not human, spam, and automated systems can easily crack it. (If your comment doesn’t show up, don’t panic; wait 24 hours to see if it shows up. After that, contact me with a copy of your comment; there is some anecdotal evidence of Akismet eating comments without the capability of accessing them, but if so it’s so rare that on the thread I looked at, WordPress couldn’t even reproduce it.) Tomorrow I’ll launch the new MorganWick.com forums to complement the site and the comments, which I’ll have more detail on then.

And perhaps most of all, WordPress has a robust system of “categories”, including the ability to make subcategories. WordPress also has “tags” and my initial instinct was to make all of my labels tags, since that was what they seemed to resemble, and only make those labels that bore the most resemblance to subsites into categories, so I was a bit frustrated when WordPress wanted to convert them all to categories by default without giving me a choice. But after reading up on the distinction between the two (it seeems tags are mostly a search engine helper) I decided that the way I use labels, it made the most sense to convert all labels into categories.

Because of my various interests, I always intended to create various subsites once I moved to morganwick.com to house my various projects in various fields. Because of that, because of the presence of subcategories, because of the decision to make Da Blog the front page of morganwick.com, and because of the intricities of the move itself, I have made several changes to the category structure, with virtually all categories affected:

  • All categories are now properly capitalized.
  • The “100 Greatest Movies Project” label is now a subcategory of “movies”.
  • “About Me” remains as-is but may, in the future, be split into multiple categories.
  • “Advertising” is now a subcategory of “Web Site News”. As I’ve said before, most important information about ads will now come via Twitter.
  • “Astronomy” is now a subcategory of “Science”.
  • “Blog News” is now a subcategory of “Web Site News”. The exact role of both “Blog News” and “Web Site News” given the merger of the two, the further splitting of the blog into subsites, and the role of Twitter, is undetermined at this point.
  • Because not all formatting was preserved when importing all the old posts from Da Blog, and because comments will not be associated with any other comments you make going forward, the “Classic Da Blog” category will be extended to include all posts before last week, and will no longer be just a quick way to get Technorati to update correctly. (By the way, 5vjhdtuzmg I forgot how much I hated Technorati Profile.)
  • “College Football Lineal Title”, “College Football Schedule”, and “College Football Rankings” are all now subcategories of “College Football”.
  • The just-launched new category “Constitution” is now a subcategory of “Politics”, as are both the Democratic and Republican Platform Reviews.
  • “Election 2008” is also now a subcategory of “Politics”, and “Election 2008 Live Blog” is in turn a subcategory of “Election 2008”.
  • “Education Policy”, “Foreign Affairs”, and “Health Care”, all categories used solely in the platform reviews, are now subcategories of “Politics”.
  • “General TV Business” is now just “TV Business”. See below.
  • “Human Nature” is now a subcategory of “Philosophy”, two categories neither of which with very many posts.
  • There is a new “Random Internet Discovery” subcategory of “Internet Adventures”.
  • “IRL” and “NASCAR” are now subcategories of “Auto racing”.
  • “Microsoft” is now a subcategory of “Computer geekery”, two categories that may never be used again.
  • “MLS” is now a subcategory of “Soccer”.
  • “News You Can Use” is now a subcategory of “My Comments on the News”; both its posts were members of that category already.
  • “NFL Lineal Title” is now a subcategory of “NFL”. “NFL Superpower Rankings” has been deleted, and all the posts it contained moved to “Superpower Rankings” which has been made a subcategory of “NFL”.
  • “Non-UFC MMA” has been renamed “MMA” and “UFC” has been made a subcategory of it.
  • “Fantasy Football” is now a subcategory of “NFL”.
  • “Simulated CFB Playoff” is now “Golden Bowl Simulated CFB Playoff” and a subcategory of “College Football”.
  • “SNF Flex Scheduling Watch” is now a subcategory of “NFL”.
  • “Sports in general” is now simply “Sports” and all sports categories have been made subcategories of it, as have “Sports TV Business”, “Sports TV Graphics” and “Sports Watcher”. “NFL” and “College football” are now subcategories of a new “Football” category, and “NBA”, “College basketball” and “WNBA” are now subcategories of a new “Basketball” category. All my sports posts are available at sports.morganwick.com, as are the old Morgan Wick Sports features.
  • “TV Upfronts” is now a subcategory of “TV Business”.
  • “Webcomic news” is now “Sandsday”, a subcategory of itself, and a subcategory of “Web site news”. (To clarify: “Web site news” now contains a subcategory “Webcomic news”, which contains a subcategory “Sandsday”, which contains all the old “Webcomic news” posts.)
  • “Webcomics” is now hosted at webcomics.morganwick.com and is loaded with new features, including an index to reviews, tags for each webcomic mentioned in a post, new categories for full-fledged reviews and reviews of webcomics blogs, a new “Webcomics’ Identity Crisis” category for both the series itself and the ongoing blog thereof, and an index to said series, with potentially more features to come. (Note: The review index and index to “Webcomics’ Identity Crisis” are not linkable at this time. I’ll tweet and remove this note when they are.)

In addition, all web site features have new addresses, and may not be immediately accessible:

  • morganwick.freehostia.com/greatestmovies (the Greatest Movies Project) is now at greatestmovies.morganwick.com.
  • morganwick.freehostia.com/sports (Morgan Wick Sports) is now at sports.morganwick.com. It may be a while before this section of the site returns to full functionality, and when it does everything will be at a new URL. Watch the Twitter feed to find out when everything is restored, and where to find it.
  • morganwick.freehostia.com/streetsigns (the Street Sign Gallery) is now at www.morganwick.com/streetsigns.
  • morganwick.freehostia.com/webcomic (Sandsday) is now at sandsday.morganwick.com. I’m still trying to translate the PHP from PHP 4 to PHP 5, so it won’t be linked to there until then.

For the time being, the Premier ad is being shut down, as it doesn’t translate easily to the new site. I’ll continue working out the kinks throughout the week morganwick.blogspot.com and morganwick.freehostia.com will remain up, but not maintained; in a year my Freehostia account will lapse and that site will no longer work.

It’s a new day on MorganWick.com. Let’s go boldly forward into the future.

OOTS 672: Not a montage, but the next best thing.

oots672thumb(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized metaplanets. Despite the title, this is part of the “monthly” OOTS post series.)

I already had only a vague idea where OOTS would go entering the next book.

The one thing that seemed certain was that the OOTS was headed for its next showdown with Team Evil at Girard’s Gate, and the OOTS is certainly headed there. Team Evil is busy at the moment tracking down Xykon’s phylactery, and opinions are divided as to whether it’s to hasten their departure (as suggested by Xykon’s “as soon as we find it we’re leaving!” rhetoric), or delay it (as suggested by the fact that from Team Evil’s perspective, the phylactery could be “who the hell knows where!”). I’m in the “hasten” camp (though I don’t have that many allies on the forums), especially since the OOTS is already ahead of Team Evil on the road to Girard’s Gate by a good margin, and would only get further ahead by any delays to Team Evil. For Team Evil to need to be delayed, we’d need the OOTS to be delayed as well.

If anything delays the OOTS it’s dramatic considerations: it makes the most sense for the showdown for Girard’s Gate to be the big climactic showdown at the end of the book. That means any other adventures the OOTS might have on the Western continent – presumably, ones performed en route to Girard’s Gate – must in any case occur before reaching the gate (unless getting off the Western continent in the book after next is an issue… more on that later). Clearly something is likely to happen to delay the OOTS, and even if they spend some siesta time in Sandsedge (and Books 2 and 3 have both opened with slow periods in towns, and Book 4 opened with a slow period in Heaven) that’s not likely to actually be very long in in-comic time. That means one of two things: something happens to them in the desert that delays them, probably substantially, like more bandits, or something happens to sidetrack them entirely, something that at least seems more important than outracing Team Evil to Girard’s Gate.

What would be more important than making it to Girard’s Gate as fast as possible? A visit to the Western continent means a potential trek through Elven lands, so Vaarsuvius might want to catch back up with his people, but there is no evidence that V wants to return there, that she’d be accepted there, or that the plot would have any reason for her to return there. (Unless Pompey is waiting there…) If anything of that sort happens, it might be during the march off the continent in the next book.

More likely would be Haley’s quest to free her father, floating in the background of her character since we first learned of his capture (134?) This book has seen confirmation of the fact that Ian Starshine’s captor is indeed on the Western continent, and while the greedy side of Haley’s character had already been weakened by her Resistance experience, Celia’s “deal” with the Thieves Guild would completely ruin any hope she might normally have of collecting enough money to free her father. What’s more, Haley just told Elan the whole story. Plots for one book are usually well-laid-down in the background of the previous book; even in Book 3, which mostly tied up most of the plots from all the previous books, there was still plenty of foreshadowing of the Kubota subplot, if not for its larger irrelevance. Haley terminated Celia’s deal on her way out of the Thieves Guild HQ, but as it had paid off absolutely zilch at that point, if you don’t think it’s coming back to haunt her later you haven’t been reading stories very long (or at least you don’t visit TV Tropes). A likely scenario would involve the Thieves Guild tracking down Haley in the desert and battling the OOTS, which could leave Haley with a problem only she and Elan can solve.

That problem, though, could really stress-test their relationship (and not just their joint one with the OOTS). It’s almost taken as given on the OOTS forums that “Lord Tyrinar”, the man holding Haley’s father captive, is in fact himself the tyrannical father of Elan and Nale (watch that crest!). What sorts of hilarity might ensue from the complex interplay between Haley, Ian, Tyrinar, Elan, and Nale? One suggestion comes in this comic, which seems to imply that Elan did not exactly tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Therkla to Haley. We do know Haley knows that there was a “ninja chick who had a crush on him, then died”, but it’s clear that Elan didn’t entirely hold to his commitment to honesty he gives in flashback in the same strip. Did Haley not quite succeed in making sure Elan didn’t “hate” her for her secret backstory (parts of which are, it’s clear to me, being hidden from us for a reason), or had Elan already decided to go ahead and set up future “entertaining dramatic conflict”, only in a sneaky way? (These two are perfect for each other!)

(It’s only on later re-reading that I realize Elan could have just as easily been referring to Crystal, not Therkla. That could STILL lead to dramatic tension later, though, as it’s not clear exactly how relevant Haley found the personal aspect of her rivalry with Crystal, meaning it could be Elan’s turn to learn an incomplete version for dramatic purposes.)

Team Evil is more likely to be delayed by Hinjo’s elven allies than by Xykon’s phylactery. Xykon and Redcloak are under attack seemingly on all fronts: there’s the unified Resistance Haley left behind, there’s the elves that are meeting with them, and there’s the prisoners O-Chul inspired. Between that and Xykon’s demand to leave the instant his phylactery is recovered, Redcloak’s planned goblin state is teetering on the edge of the abyss. And yet there’s also plenty of potential for conflict between these various groups and with the Sapphire Guard once they make their return. In the absence of Team Evil there may only be a power vacuum and civil war in Azure City. And what if Xykon, kept in town by the phylactery, is forced to leave prematurely by the forces allied against him, meaning the elves made the situation worse instead of better?

Which brings us to what will happen at the gate itself. Roy is doing a lot of on-panel plotting here of exactly how the battle is going to go, and anyone with an understanding of dramatic conventions must realize those plans are almost bound to get thrown out the window the instant the battle begins. Xykon will already be at the gate, or something else will happen to muck up the waterworks in a way that renders Roy’s planning almost null and void. Not that we won’t see his disrupting attack he learned from his grandfather, but we probably won’t even see much of an opportunity for pre-battle preparations, and Belkar’s much-prophesied demise will happen in a much different way than Roy envisions.

The most likely candidate for that to happen would come from the IFCC, and their various designs on the gate. Although it’s intentionally vague, the IFCC seem to be setting the Linear Guild in position ahead of everyone else at the gate itself, beating both the OOTS and Team Evil there in the process. That seems to jive with Nale’s original plan, but that would mean Nale would miss out on the whole Tyrinar business, implying maybe there’s not a familial relation involved there after all. Unless the Tyrinar business comes after the battle for Girard’s Gate, in the sixth book before the OOTS leaves the Western continent… But the IFCC also want “conflict. Destructive unnecessary conflict”, and they could decide that “moving their pawns into position” means creating conflict that prevents the OOTS from reaching Girard’s Gate too soon, and that could mean an alliance with Nale’s father. Besides, the IFCC’s real focal point for their plotting as far as the gate is concerned, it’s fairly heavily implied, centers on V, and the 45 minutes of V’s soul they have.

Which brings us to the absolute bombshell towards the end of this strip that pretty much completely destroys any ideas the people on the forum had regarding the future course of the entire rest of the strip. It turns out that no one – not Redcloak, not Xykon, not the IFCC, not the Linear Guild, not the OOTS, not the Sapphire Guard – may have any idea what the gates are really protecting, that there are some things that the gods may have held back even from the Order of the Scribble (or, alternately, that they held back), things that, at this point, only Vaarsuvius knows. Once again, I preface this by saying I haven’t read the prequel books and whatever implications they may have on all this, but it’s possible that, if the whole notion of the Snarl is so completely different from what we have been led to believe, Redcloak’s plan is horribly flawed at its core (and it’s entirely possible for it to be a complete success as far as what he and the Dark One need to do, and still totally backfire) and virtually the entirety of the main plot of OOTS is, as the IFCC would put it, “destructive unnecessary conflict”, this time semi-unintentionally engineered by the gods. And what is this planet within the planet, anyway? Please don’t spring a Planet of the Apes ending on us and tell us “it’s our earth!”

(It’s doubtful the Order of the Scribble didn’t know this, incidentally, because they would have had at least as much contact with the rifts as Blackwing did, and at the very least, if they never did know it leaves open the question of what exactly happened to Mijung. In fact this could be fodder for another entire OOTS post in itself, reinterpreting the Crayons of Time series and pretty much everything I wrote in my post on the non-interference clause, which may have been adopted for very different reasons than we’d been led to believe. And suddenly the “MitD is an aspect of the Snarl” theory becomes a lot more plausible… because it doesn’t become incompatible with any other theories. Also note that I’ve only offered one theory; others include the notion that the Snarl has somehow “de-snarled”, that the Snarl didn’t destroy everything it touched as suggested but instead incorporated it into this new world, that the gates actually changed the Snarl’s nature, and even that the world Blackwing saw was the OOTS world itself. Considering the popularity of these, not even V may fully grasp the implications, but what will it mean when the IFCC cashes in?)

Congratulations, Rich Burlew. You’ve done what, when it came to your strip, might have seemed impossible. You’ve rendered us totally clueless. We may need this three-week break between books as much as you do. And given how many other groups are in different situations at the end of this book, it’s either telling of how tight-lipped you’re getting about future plot turns, or just surprising, that you didn’t end this book with a full-scale montage like the others.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week and a prelude to a series of posts a year away

See, now, this was the sort of thing I had in mind when StumbleUpon allowed me to bring more specific criteria to the RID! I may have to refer back to this when it comes time to run a related series next year. And that series is hinted at in the new label.

Important notice: Any comments left between now and the launch of the new site will not survive the launch of the new site. We are that close to launching the new site.

How LeBron salvaged Kobe’s reputation

I was originally saving this post for the big relaunch of the site, when I would have a week of exciting, interesting posts. Various factors have been continually pushing that back much further than I ever intended. But the relaunch should go through next weekend, sometime between the 15th and 17th, as I’m very close to taking care of both those factors and the last few tweaks needed before relaunching the site.

In the interim, in our 24/7, hypermedia world, we’ve already forgotten and moved on from the LeBron dunk story. The word came out that Nike suppressed the tape of LeBron being dunked on by a college journeyman, we all laid shame on Nike and LeBron, crappy, Zapruder-like tape came out and we all ridiculed Nike and LeBron some more, saying we would have seen the footage and forgotten about it if LeBron had just let the tape go… and then we forgot about it.

But I think that, in the big picture, LeBron James, in the space of a few months, has done more to salvage the reputation of Kobe Bryant than anything Bryant himself could have ever done.

LeBron was supposed to be the good guy. He was supposed to be the guy who helped his teammates, didn’t get into legal trouble, came from Akron and helped the local small-market team to an NBA title. He was supposed to be everything big-market, me-me-me Kobe wasn’t. Kobe was a petulant individualist who was accused of sexual assault in Colorado and was poison to team chemistry, ultimately driving out Shaq and demanding to have the Lakers to himself, to carry a team on his own shoulders. The hopes of NBA purists rested on LeBron to give Kobe what for.

But three things have happened to completely reverse the roles. In reverse order: One, the LeBron dunk controversy. Two, Kobe DID carry a championship team by himself. And three, LeBron’s reaction to losing the Eastern Conference Finals, refusing to shake hands or address the media.

Bracketing Kobe’s title win were two events that create a new narrative of LeBron James. The dunk controversy in particular makes LeBron come off as a carefully crafted persona, too perfect, a fake, a creation of Nike. (After a shorter career with fewer titles, LeBron is more visible in Nike ad campaigns than Kobe.) Getting dunked on may have seemed harmless, but it didn’t fit the Nike storyline of perfection, so Nike tried to erase it from the narrative and in the process exposed the true LeBron. Kobe Bryant, by contrast, is human, and (unlike LeBron) lets his human foibles come through. Kobe is one of us, what we would be like if we had Kobe’s talent. According to this narrative, LeBron couldn’t handle losing the Eastern Conference Finals because it didn’t fit into The Plan as laid out by Nike, which says that LeBron must always find success.

We may end up seeing Kobe’s career from 2004 to 2008 very differently than we did at the time. We may see it as the struggles of a tortured man to find his individuality and find fulfillment, struggling to balance the demands of NBA stardom with his own needs and desires. Finally he managed to find the magical combination that could lead him to the title he could claim as his own. As for LeBron, probably the only way he can even hope to kill the narrative, the only way he can go back to being Michael Jordan instead of Tim Tebow, is to stay in Cleveland, or at least move to another mid-sized market. If he moves to New York, the Clippers, or even Portland (capital of the Nike empire), all moves that would be driven by Nike’s marketability needs more than anything else, I’m going to start calling him LeNike or LeSwoosh.