Tag Archives: projects

Going Beyond

On May 3rd of last year, I made a critical decision that I never spoke about here: I began a shutdown of VJ Army and Pop’n Navy, the two Bemani community sites that had been the lifeblood of my web presence since 2004. (No, my blog is not called VJ Army.)

The decision was not a hard one: a lack of time/resources for programming had left both sites in a code stasis for over a year. Bugs weren’t getting fixed, and no relief was in sight. Complicating things was a forum community that was mostly interested in sniping and trolling each other. I no longer felt like a member in my own forums, and that weighed heavily on my conscious. It was a deeply painful failure to keep what had once been a civil, “good” corner of the gaming community from turning toxic.
While the sites officially shut down a month later on my birthday (a perverse birthday gift for myself), users were able to export their personal data into a portable XML format until what was supposed to be December 31st, 2009.

IIDX Hardcore For Life

As it turned out, that day I was in Akihabara, playing the very games that I had fallen in love with back in 2003. As my interest in Bemani has waned dramatically over the last few years, it’s not lost on me that as I clicked away and slapped the plastic turntable back and forth, no thoughts passed through my head about recording scores or checking where I was ranked.

The data survived into 2010 until tonight, when I finally pulled the trigger and expunged all the data from my database. So if you hadn’t exported your data yet – I apologize, but you’re too late. I don’t have a copy anymore.

There were countless things I learned from the five years the sites ran: nerdy things about database optimization and PHP’s image libraries; hard fought struggles with moderating communities and building good controls for data review; pointers on staffing a no-profit web site and balancing life versus your projects. Maybe these lessons will surface in other posts over the coming year – maybe they won’t. There is just one on my mind tonight:

The best schools and books and teachers in the world are no comparison to going out and building something that people want to use. Go: dig your hands into the soil (as it were), and create something. Be the president, the support technician, the artist, the lead programmer, the project manager. Take all of the credit and accept all of the blame.
I’ve quoted this before, but I can think of nothing more fitting:

> Don’t be afraid. If you want to do something, just go ahead and do it, but be prepared to take the blame, to feel the fall. Don’t sit around waiting to be asked, to be given permission. Just get out there and do it.

As I said in the original shutdown notice – it was a great five years, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.


Introducing: Couplandish

There are thirty-four days until the US release of Douglas Coupland‘s latest novel, Generation A.

One of my greatest pleasures is finding intersections in aspects of my life. Before he departed the NYC area, it became apparent that my (then-)coworker Zach Szukala shared a love of Coupland’s books, and a particular love for the large-type Helvetica (always Helvetica!) aphorisms they would contain. His first novel, Generation X, embedded these every few pages in the margins, with pearls of wisdom like “YOU MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN PAIN OR DRUDGERY”. His recent attempt to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle that Microserfs had, J-Pod, featured page after page of sentence in this style that bordered on hypnotic, if not subliminal.

After enough exposure to these books, things throughout your life begin to look…Couplandish. Spotting one of these bits can be difficult to the untrained senses: it’s a certain ratio of detachment, nostalgia, history, helplessness, and wordplay. In time, they begin to jump out at you from signs and announcements on loudspeakers.

For months, Zach and I would jokingly speak Couplandish – inventing (sometimes cribbing) phrases and snippets that we felt wouldn’t feel out of place in one of these novels we loved so much. Back in June, we started writing them down. A small amount of programming provided mid-90’s web color clashes against random large-type Helvetica (always Helvetica!) selections from the library, and Couplandish was born as a Web 1.0 application.

I realize single-serving sites are out of style now, but if you’ve ever read a Douglas Coupland book, I hope this will give you a smile.
(This is the second of two side projects that I had intended to announce. A third is now in development.)

Introducing: Wrong Remy

Like so many others, I have found Twitter a simultaneously fantastic and mind-numbing portion of the internet. For every good thing (extremely rapid notifications for breaking news, lots of good links from friends), there’s an equal and opposite bad thing (inane trending topics, spam bots). While most of these are universally shared, there’s one particular quirk that is not common.

Twitter makes it easy to reference other users – sticking an @ symbol in front of their name is considered a “mention” and most clients will flag this as relevant to the interests of those mentioned. This is theoretically good, but in practice a number of things become clear:

  • With characters at a premium, many people can’t be bothered to type out full user names.
  • Because a lot of people are using cell phones to post to Twitter, the habit of heavy SMS users to shorthand text continues here.
  • Because a lot of people don’t understand how mentions work, they tend to throw @ symbols wherever they feel like, or spaces in the middle of user names.

What this adds up to: if you were on the Twitter train early enough to get what could be called a stem username – one that might be used at the beginning of other user names – you may be subjected to mentions not intended for you.

There are a lot of Remy’s on Twitter, and I get a lot of mentions for them. I’ve taken to answering them on a Tumblr blog devoted specifically to such endeavors.

Sighing frustration + helpful cheerfulness + Twitter anthropology = Wrong Remy. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

(This is one of two side projects I’ll be introducing this week.)

Project Moon Language: Prologue

“Let’s never come here again, because it will never be as much fun.”

While my interest in Japanese culture has existed for nearly as long as I’ve been cognizant of Japan’s existence, I never really considered going there until Lost In Translation was released. I am easily swayed by love letters to cities, treatments that shine warm light on the best and worst parts.

Lost In Translation always struck me as the film most reflective of both how I do travel (bewildered, often eating at the hotel, trying and failing to blend in) and how I would want to travel (see introductory quote). But I am rarely afforded the opportunity to fulfill this wanderlust when out of town; my travels almost always comes with primary motivations like weddings, or conferences, or family gatherings.

The film forces me into a parodox: while it is one of my favorite movies, it is one I cannot bring myself to watch. This is largely out of jealousy – I have been dreaming of going to Japan and wandering the same streets, and never finding a chance to act on it…until now.

At the end of the year, I will be making the trip I’ve been waiting six years for: a visit to Tokyo, and an attempt to cram in as much sightseeing, shopping, eating, and exploring as possible over the week of a major holiday.

First, though, there is the small matter of a language barrier. For despite as many times as I’ve rushed to consume imported media, I know an effective naught of Japanese. Abortive attempts at learning character sets have been made nearly every year, but now I have definite purpose. If I fail to learn Japanese this time, I will find myself in a strange land and being able to communicate only through hand-waving, pantomime, and apologies.

Thus begins a series of posts that I’m dubbing Project Moon Language: my attempts to fight through Rosetta Stone Japanese Levels 1, 2, and 3[1. I’d like to point out that unlike most geeks who use Rosetta Stone, we in fact purchased a legitimate copy through Amazon. This either shows my commitment to taking this seriously, indicates that I am a complete fool, or both.], as well as possible explorations into other methods and cultural oddities[2. Expect a post about mahjong that can only be described as “overkill”.]. As a 29 year old well past the age where learning a new language is natural, this should (if nothing else) be entertainingly frustrating.

The installation is done; the learning begins tomorrow.

Cleaning House

I’m having one of those moments where I’m not terribly happy with every last bit of my blog, so forgive the layout mess as I rebuild.

*Three hours later…*

I think I’m happy again. In some ways, this was a very silly rebuild – I’ve basically redone the same look and feel with a different base stylesheet. But the syntax has been cleaned up considerably, and while I’m sure I’ve missed some styles, the site is more functional than it’s been in years.

I also nuked over 300 entries from my archives, which turns out to be about 20% of the total number in the system. This seems wrong for a site that’s acting as an embodiment of myself, but all the posts that were nuked were from the del.icio.us nightly posting script. After some reflection, I regretted having them in the system, as they mostly just take up space on the archives page and provide minimal value. So out they go. (These links are now autoposting to my Tumblr blog.)

Anyhow, there’s more playing to be done, but for the time being, I’m satisfied. If only I had the motivation to write something substantive. (In the mean time, have you been to The Power Is On lately?)

VJ Army 4.0 Preview

In January of 2004, I launched the first major version of [VJ Army](http://vjarmy.com/iidx/), my Beatmania IIDX score tracking and community site.

Since that time, over 2500 users have registered, inputting nearly 500,000 scores collectively across 10 different game titles. By all traditional means, the site is a smashing success.

However, reality has set in recently: the site has always been rough around the edges, because I am not a designer. Worse, my time to work on the site has been greatly limited as my work obligations continue to grow.

Luckily, there is relief in sight. I am happy to announce VJ Army 4.0, scheduled for release around September 1st of this year. 4.0 represents massive overhauls to both the codebase and the VJ Army coding process. I’ve been really pleased with what’s been accomplished so far, and I’d like to give you a little tour through some of the fantastical newness.

Warning: lots of mind-blowing screenshots ahead.

Continue reading VJ Army 4.0 Preview

Vox Me

I’ve been “blogging” (quotes make it seem like I may have been doing something else!) for over six and a half years. In that time, I’ve had a horrible dilemma to grapple with: what exactly am I blogging about?

Faced with this, I have always chosen the dyslexic path. Political strife one day, geek howtos the next, wacky anecdotes the third day. My lack of a central topic has given more than one person whiplash.

This will never change.

However, there is one form of blogging I’ve been remiss from doing across practically the entire duration: short and informal. I would reckon that this might be called “Livejournal-style”, as it’s terribly popular over there. Memes, polls, one liners, single links – all the sort of stuff you tend not to want to use when trying to reach an audience.

But, still, there is an itch to scratch. And thusly Six Apart has stepped up and created Vox, essentially LiveJournal crossed with TypePad. In terms of use, it seems to be getting a lot of mileage from established long-form bloggers who want to pretend like they’re on LiveJournal with their established long-form blogger friends.

This just happens to be up my street, so I have joined thanks to a friend-of-a-friend invite.
So for those of you who want more spontaneous Dan, who’s mostly going to focus on little events or music reviews or what have you, make sure you go over there and/or subscribe. I’m not ditching this blog by any stretch (and those of you who are reading on LJ, the syndicated account isn’t going anywhere either), I’m just expanding the business.

The business of giving you the business.

EDIT: Those of you on LJ who want to keep up from there should subscribe to remy_vox. Thanks, starcreator!