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Introducing Psionium

Surprise! Well, for most of you, at least. Anyone who has bothered to stick around after many, many months of inactivity has just gotten a reward for his or her perseverance. Not just a new look, but new features, some of which are a bit in the planning stages, and some will start showing up in the next few days. A new look which reflects an almost complete rewrite of the original code that drives psidonia.org and builds on the database structure that I first began designing almost a year ago.

Time is the fire in which we all burn and each month has smoldered away from my calendar. With so much to do, each day's demands have taken a cumulative toll on my availability and desire to work on my site. But in the past month, I've redoubled my efforts, spurred by some new "goodies" and the desire to put them to use and to surprise my friends when I eventually restart my Star Trek role playing campaign.

And before any of that could be done, I needed to finish one important element: the ability to track users. With that, the implementation of a "monetary system" was only a few lines of code away. And that leads to other neat things, as well.

I decided I'd name the program code that drives my site, "Psionium", after a fictional material that is particularly malleable by psychically gifted characters of some of the role-playing games in which I play. Even before that, this site sported a "Pure Psionium" banner that was inspired by the "Pure Turbonium" ads that Volkswagen was running at the time. So when I started to examine the list of features I wanted the software to possess and considered the "Psion" theme that runs across all these pages, it should have been obvious to a nine-year-old what to call the software.

And it took me until about two weeks ago. Damned know-it-all kids.

Psionium runs under PHP4 on the Apache Web Server and requires MySQL and GD extensions. At the moment, it displays only a few improvements over the old system, but by cleaning up the legacy software and tweaking the database, it is much easier now to drop in new features. As of this version, only registered users are allowed to add comments to articles. Each comment will add five Quatloos to the contributor's account. Quatloos are the monetary system in place at psidonia.org, and although they aren't useful for much right now, they will give citizens a common currency to use for various games that will be installed. Once a week, a lottery system will reward or tax a few citizens and add a bit of uncertainty to the exact amount of money available for online activities.

The new "Graffiti" tool allows a registered citizen to post a message that appears briefly in the side column of every page, allowing anyone to post non-permanent messages for all to see. A handy, refrigerator-magnet message system.

In the next few weeks, I'll add two important utilities to Psionium: the ability to contribute articles and the ability to edit posted comments. This gives Psionium some features that make it competitive with several pre-packaged bulletin-board systems. I'll also add a set of preferences that give each registered citizen the ability to choose which features to display.

A variety of pre-designated topics and icons will be added for all the various features, and "avatars" will be added that citizens may pick to represent them in discussions and online games. With any luck, citizens will be able to upload their own images for use as an avatar. And the list of icons associated with posted comments will be expanded to include various emotions (anger, sadness, laughter, embarrassment, etc.), a few comic-book themes, and some other symbols pertinent to our civilization and culture.

And then there are the promised games, "Titan Tug" will be first, as it should be the easiest to implement. "GladioBots" should build on what I learn from "Titan Tug." Both will generate thumbnails that can be viewed on the cover page or linked on other sites. (More refrigerator magnets!)

My focus will be on entertainment and drawing a crowd of citizens who are eager to express themselves and contribute to discussions on the human condition and matters of art, information, and science.

Stay tuned...

Psion on 2001-12-06 22:30:00


I Have a Question
 

So I can't do this then...

...oh, I guess I can.

Ichiban on 2001-12-06 23:48:55


Hey!
 

Why that's a might perty web-saht ya got here Psion

Very nice graphics and..could it be!? Quatloos! I might just have to take tomorrow off and celebrate. Hmmm...that gives me an idea.

Me: "Hi..ummm Boss, I have to take off today. I got Quatloos last night."

Boss: "Damnit Rob, I told you to stay away from those cheap Mexican places! Is it contagious? Nevermind, just stay the hell home."

Me: "*Cough* Right, see ya Monday"

...and that boys and girls is just one of the ways Quatloos can improve your world. Better living through Psionium!

Ichiban on 2001-12-07 00:30:26



 

And so... It begins. Again.

(And I might have known that the indominatable Ichiban would be among the very first to invade...er CONTRIBUTE to the sanctity and enthusiasm of the "new improved" Psidonia.)

Well done, thus far. I'm sure everyone will appreciate the thought and effort evident in this revision.

And then there's Quatloos...

mofro on 2001-12-07 09:10:55


I Have a Question
 

Quatloos?

They sound like something you can have fun with...How do I get more?

TammyP on 2001-12-07 10:43:57


I Have a Question
 

More Quatloos

Right now, there are only two ways to get more Quatloos, TammyP:

  • Post comments to articles - that'll net you an additional 5 Quatloos.
  • Wait for the weekly lottery, where random forces might give you more. Or take some away. Or not do anything.

In the next week or so, you'll get the ability to add your own articles (in addition to merely commenting on the ones I post), and you'll get something like 10 quatloos for each article, or .05 Quatloos for every word. Something like that. And eventually, I'll get games going which will give you the chance to get oodles of Quatloos.

You'll also want to keep an eye out for a "Balance Sheet" that will keep you apprised of every Quatloo added or subtracted from your account...along with an explanation.

Psion on 2001-12-07 11:06:19



 

Psidonia...

... a realm where the citizens are paid to prattle incessantly about nothing in particular?

Who'd have thought?

Umbriel on 2001-12-07 13:09:57


Hey!
 

And Furthermore...

Ahhhhhh... more quatloos...

Kind of like my real job...

Umbriel on 2001-12-07 13:11:18


Hey!
 

Psionium

Ahh, yes. Perhaps I too will one day enjoy life on Psidonia.org, and use my own little dollup of Psionium!

rebada on 2001-12-07 20:16:50


I Have a Question
 

Capitalism is King

Despite my anarchist tendencies, I love cash. Quatloos! Ka-ching!

Plantpixie on 2001-12-08 15:06:35


Hey!
 

A warning about potential social unrest

A fine new community you've got developing here. But I feel compelled to give you a warning about potential social unrest. For centuries Americans have recognised a rallying cry of "No Taxation Without Representation" and have had no truck with taxes applied in any fashion other than universally. As I understand the plan, the Administrator plans to randomly remove hard earned quatloos from individual accounts without respect to fairness or actual operating costs.

Now I don't mind paying my fair share taxes in return for public services, but I suspect this arbitrary plan of deductions would fail an independent accounting firm's analysis. Although I am first to squawk, I suspect others will join me in an electronic Tea Party as their counts decline if this plans is carried out.

How about it fellow users? Am I a lone voice out here crying for equity in spurious currency or is there unity in the community?

Galax on 2001-12-10 12:49:01



 

More constructive notes

A repeat of the password in the registration password would be a good idea.
A way to access your password prompt would be a good idea.
Having the preferences prompt be active would be a good idea.

PS What costs a quatloo anyway?

Galax on 2001-12-10 13:03:09


I Have a Question
 

Random Taxation

This does not seem to be a good way to gather a large group of voluntary citizens. Reward us, baby! That's the capitalists way to keep us coming around.

TammyP on 2001-12-10 13:04:50


I Have a Question
 

Why...

do you ask for a gentle reminder password question, when there appears to be no way to use said gentle reminder?


Apparently I should never sign up for anything on a Friday preceding an evening of drinking rum and dancing, because by Monday all I could remember was that I'd been here.

TammyP on 2001-12-10 13:09:54


I Have a Question
 

So, El Aparador Has Sympathizers, Eh?

Patience, gentle citizens! The whole password system is undergoing review. As it is now, Psionium stores an encrypted version of your passwords in the system database -- not even I can view them as anything other than strings of gibberish. I can't even tell how long your passwords are.


Originally, I was going to have a system where a memory jog would be displayed if you couldn't remember your password. If that still wasn't enough, then the password could be sent as clear text to the email account the user had registered. However, the encryption function is so good, that even I don't have any way to decrypt passwords. In order to check passwords on login, my system encrypts the password you submit and compares that encrypted submission to the version on file, so I have no meaningful data to send you if you run into trouble.


I also noticed that some of the early "memory jogs" were almost obvious, and if I allowed any visitor attempting to log in to see those jogs, they'd have a very easy time of hacking into the site under some of the accounts.


The best remedy to these two problems is to send jogs via email, and that will probably be incorporated into Phase 1.04.00. If the jogs are still not sufficient, I will have to adopt a general policy of forcing knuckleheads who forget their passwords so completely to create new accounts. Alternatively, I could start tracking passwords in a clear-text column that could be emailed to users -- at the cost of somewhat compromising security. I resist that because I know some of you might have "master key" passwords that you use elsewhere, and I want to minimize any doubts you might have about the safety of the information you leave with me.


To address Galax's question about repeating the password on registration, you'll notice that you type in your chosen password in clear text. Double entries are usually used on systems that hide text under a string of asterisks. I've always hated that…if I'm registering, there's nothing that prevents me from looking left and right to make sure no one sees what I've typed. The method I've chosen is an attempt to make the registration process a little easier.


The software (as of this writing) is at Phase 1.02.nn, with Phase 1.03.nn nearing completion. The new version is dedicated to setting preferences, such as almost all of the information set during registration, plus personal logos, feature switches, and article switches. After that, I'll write the code that emails memory jogs and include that as part of Phase 1.04.nn (which will probably hit the site sometime this coming weekend). Note that at this stage, Psionium is growing rapidly, so new features should come in fast for a few weeks.


Phase 1.04.nn should also see the implementation of a random event system that will affect some people's Quatloos. This will require a new set of functions that will be built upon for later, more interesting games. For now, the event system will be the only way any of you can lose Quatloos, so don't worry too much. Just be willing to contribute once in a while, and you should be able to keep ahead of the fluctuating state of the newborn Psidonian economy -- shouldn't that assuage the capitalist in you, TammyP?


Psion on 2001-12-10 15:57:16


Hey!
 

Phase 1.03.00

It isn't as complete yet as I wanted, but you now have the ability to make some preference settings. I'm continuing to work on the personal logos and other graphics. Expect more features by the end of the week.

Psion on 2001-12-12 00:06:23


Hey!
 

For goodness' sake, be careful!

I suppose even in a community where the only "work" is time spent and ideas "expressed", something can be said for fair and judicious disposition of funds. It's compelling to think we are contributing work product to the structure and nature of the community.

But I think what we're forgetting that, while Psion would like to promulgate Psidonia as a community, he has no more obligation to his "citizens" than he chooses to. This is not really a nation! And if he prefers to ascribe to a governmental description at all it is, if anything, an Autocracy!

So with all this talk about taxation of "duly earned" currency, we better remember that the Quatloos flow from the High Psiodian at his sufferance! Rabble-rousers might find more than their Quatloos revoked! And with that password scheme, I worry that even he couldn't reinstate a revoked account! Good lord, people! Be careful!!

mofro on 2001-12-26 14:01:32



 

Oh yeah...

Ka-ching.

mofro on 2001-12-26 14:02:11


Hey!
 

Phase 1.03.03

Several changes have been made to the site to make it more compatible with older browsers, specifically Netscape v 4.72. Most of the changes are transparent and shouldn't have any impact on your experiences here, but I did have to change the way article and comment-related images are handled due to a bug in the older NS rendering engine. The site is still fairly ugly under an old browser, but it should now be functional.

Further improvements of this nature will be made, but my primary focus will be new features. I highly recommend upgrading your browser now and then. The web is a far richer experience when you get beyond stone knives and bearskins.

Oh, and enjoy the "brief-message jackpot" while you can. In a few days, I'm going to levy a "communications fee" of approximately 1-5 Quatloos to help defray...administrative costs. This will be balanced by a .05 Quatloo payment for each word in your comment. "Ka-Chings" will soon work to my advantage!

And yes, you will be allowed to have a negative account balance for posting, at least for the moment. Of course, there will be a weekly finance charge for having a negative balance, so you're going to want to avoid that as best you can.

Psion on 2001-12-27 04:40:18


I Have a Question
 

Ah, and so it begins....

Don't say I didn't warn you all! All those lovely Quatloos, like low finance charges on your shiny new credit card, eventually come with a price.

If I understand it correctly, It would almost pay to NOT post, at this point. With the random levy, a posting tax, and a pittence of a posting reawrd, I'm thinking of sitting on the points I have! With his community being the size it is (and fickle; Re: Kurt's Psidonia Tea Party) I'm tempted to sit back and wait for the lottery to award me some 'Loos.

...That being said, I also think that it will work out that the people who have the patience to be extraordinarily longwinded "by nature" will have a sweet deal in the Quatloo department. The questions remain: will this become a place for discussion and thoughtful discourse, or a posting match? Will people want to have to worry about an "economy", no matter how inventive?

What does everyone else think?

mofro on 2001-12-29 11:46:02


Hey!
 

Oh yeah!

And because I still can... Ka-ching! *wink*

mofro on 2001-12-29 11:46:54


Hey!
 

Any System Can Be Hacked

Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked Any System Can Be Hacked

Tyranny encourages criminality, which encourages tyranny, and so on, until the whole mess comes crashing down.

Look on Psion's Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair.

Ka-Ching

umbriel on 2001-12-29 15:45:23


Hey!
 

Wow.

Such a mighty and noble intellect, now rotting in the insanity of his own bitter delusions. Do not look away in horror, fellow Psidonians, but look on with mercy and compassion. In time, if the demons of his own jealousies and outdated web browsers are ever forgotten, perhaps our outstretched hands will be the only beacon guiding him back from the mouth of madness.

Oh yeah, and *ka-chunk* -- the sound of a five Quatloo penalty for even suggesting Psionium should be hacked.

Heh heh. Always remember, no matter how sophisticated the algorithms, there's always a super-human intellect with his finger on the Quatloo button. Tyranny is impossible without absolute power.

Come back from the edge, Umbriel! Take hold of your sanity and rejoin us in the happy utopia of Psidonia! All you have to do is conform.

There's a few Quatloos in it for ya.

Psion on 2001-12-29 23:42:41


Hey!
 

Precisely my point...

My intention in the previous post was not to call for anarchy, but merely to point out the limitations of formalism. My experiences as a member of the Adventurers of Ambler, as a paintball player, as an attorney and litigation consultant, and as a citizen of the United States, have made it clear that efforts to create intricate webs of rules and regulations to cover every potential event, and divorce issues of fairness from human intervention in favor of the regulation of human conduct in a programmatized fashion, in the end tend merely to reward those willing to test the limits of the system. This, in turn indirectly penalizes those who regulate their own behavior and behave in a reasonable and respectful manner. Ideally the function of such elements of our own constitutional government as jury trials, judicial review, executive orders, and even our governance by elected representatives as opposed to direct democracy, is to limit the sort of abuse and injustice that a government _purely_ by laws would be prone to. Whether these elements have been effective in this regard, or have been corrupted and abused in their own right, is a topic for a different discussion.

A "per word" pay structure will function merely as a solicitation of Dickens novels for posting on the site, and to encourage the sort of "bandwidth flatulence" that the web is already choked by, and of which we have seen brief demonstrations already. I encourage the Psi-Fuhrer to adopt the common sense approach to subsidizing contributions: A base fee for meaningful contributions; bonuses for particularly cogent, creative, or skillful submissions; and nothing, or even a penalty, for mere bandwidth sponging (e.g., "Ka-Chings", however verbose). This sort of evaluation might be argued to threaten excessive demands on the our Fearless Leader's time, but I'm not proposing an in-depth critique here... merely a sniff test of whether someone is truly contributing, or merely banging on the microphone ("eeeeEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeee!")

And surely if I truly wished to bring down Psidonia, I'd merely stop bothering to visit. Lord knows it hasn't been easy getting in here, but I have every confidence that our Psi-Caesar's ongoing efforts will continue to make it worthwhile, and that he'll never allow his rule to lapse into petty paranoid cattiness and sniping

umbriel on 2001-12-30 02:51:04


Hey!
 

Ka-Ching!

Did anyone actually read all that? (grin) Okay, your points have some merits, but you forget that for some people, those rules are half the fun. Look at the witless contributions that some people have made here in the name of the great Quatloo God, K'Ching! This is an evolving "community" with a few odd twists here and there for entertainment. If people get a thrill out of beating the system, then let them. What does this look like, the Lisaverse?

Anyway, in the spirit of your post, the cogent points it contains, and the cool appellations it suggests ("Psi-Fuhrer" and "Psi-Ceasar"), here's ten Quatloos for your trouble.

Psion on 2001-12-30 03:26:31


I Have a Question
 

And Furthermore...

I just realized that the above looks an awful lot like a dismissal of Umbriel's points. Let me emphasize the following:


  • I don't like "Me-Too" or "Ka-Ching" posts.

  • I'm not opposed to the idea of rewarding people based on the quality of their posts.

The problem with rewarding people based on the quality of their posts is that it is inherently unobjective and open to claims of favoritism. In fact, I intend to toss about Quatloos now and then to anyone who posts something I think is especially worthy. Heck, Ichiban got a bunch of Quatloos just for coming up with the name "Quatloo", so the precedent has already been set.

However, once things are properly set up and a full content management system is in place that will let citizens post more than just comments, I expect traffic and activity to increase, and I'm too lazy to dive into the database and make payments everytime someone says something witty or posts something that is really compelling. Further, the system I've described is more objective and helps to combat any claims of favoritism if interest in this site ever expands beyond the confines of our friendly, little group. At that point, I expect it will be easier to penalize those who break policy than it will be to reward them.

And with regards to posts of Dickensonian length: from this crowd? I'll believe that when I see it. Sheeze, they complain when they have to read posts from you or me, do you actually expect them to be rivals? How about this: a cost to post comments, with a per-word pay schedule up to an arbitrary maximum intended to encourage good posting practices, but not reward unnecessary verbosity?

Psion on 2001-12-30 03:52:48


I Have a Question
 

And with regards to posts of Dickensonian length: from this crowd?

"I'll believe that when I see it"

Mark my words... If you pay them, and leave the door open, they will blather.

If for no other reason than to avoid being left in the dust by those to whom it comes naturally.

And obviously you had a kneejerk reaction to my use of the term "hack". I meant it in the sense of corrupting, abusing, and testing the limits of any rules set... a practice which you outright encouraged above. So be it. Run the asylum any way you wish, doctor.

umbriel on 2001-12-30 14:16:44


Hey!
 

Happy belated 2002!

Sorry, it just looked so sad to see the great state of Psidonia with *no* 2002 posts. Had to do something.

BTW I like the new(?) drop-cappish first letter look on the articles. It's good to know that all our hard-earned tax Quatloos are going somewhere besides dried-flys for the palace Iguana. Drop caps don't grow on trees folks!

Oh yeah...ka'ching!

Ichiban on 2002-03-04 14:36:44


Hey!
 

Stirrings

A long weekend and several remonstrations from friends were enough to shake some cobwebs loose and set things in motion again. Psionium Phase 1.04 is nearing completion. This version brings several new features to the site, including:

  • Content Management -- Add and maintain your own articles
  • Hidden Pages -- An outgrowth of the content managment function, you decide when or even if others can ever see your article.
  • Groups -- Group Membership has its privileges (and secret pages)
  • Economic Reform -- A new, more complex way to get and lose Quatloos. Ka-ching rides are over soon, but if you generate a topic with lots of comments, you'll get lots of Quatloos!
  • A revised headlines system -- necessary to make room for...
  • GAMING!

To accomodate all this, I've stuck my head in a dryer, set it on tumble-dry and turned the database upside-down. The end result will be a website that will present different content based upon who you are, what "groups" you are a member of, and your own preference settings. Common articles will be visible by all, but some of you will be placed in special categories that unlock pages only you and others like you will be able to see and participate in.

*twitch* Well, it's back into the dryer with me...this load still looks a little moist!

Psion on 2002-05-28 14:06:13



 

I almost missed this

So the structure of Psidonia will at last mirror the twisted and nefarious mind of it's monarch.

BTW Economic reform == The Man keepin' us down!.

Viva El Aparador!

Ichiban on 2002-06-11 21:34:59


Hey!
 

ALMOST THERE!

Well, the next round of changes to introduce Psionium Phase 1.04 are nearly complete. I'm still toying with the idea of whether there will be any games or not. That could delay things a few more days, and I'm not sure if I want to do that. There are some cosmetic and sloppy programming issues to be cleaned up first, but within a day or two the first version of Psidonia.org's content management system will be in place.

There are several important changes coming in this new release, most of which were mentioned above. Yes, you are all now members of different groups, based on what I know about you. There is a Trek group, for example, for members of my Star Trek RPG. There is also a V&V group. At present, there are seven groups, and I expect to add to that list as necessary. As a member of a group, you can post articles that only other members of that same group can see.

Economic reform is also here, at last. There is a two Quatloo charge for every comment and a five Quatloo charge for every article. This is offset by the fact that you earn five centiQuatloos for every word you post, up to a maximum payment of ten Quatloos for comments and twenty-five Quatloos for every article. After that, you're just being too wordy and you're working on your own deciQuatloo.

And of course, there is the content management system. I've been testing it, and it looks good enough to let the rest of you chimps...er...chumps...er...good citizens play with it. You can't upload binary files just yet (images), but you can prepare a story online and edit it at your leisure since no one else will see it until you chose to publish. If you need graphics to go with your text, either send them to me, or link to a location offsite. Eventually, I'll put in local file management so you can upload everything you need here.

Okay, that's all for now. I'm not making any more Quatloos off this post, so I'll just stop typ

Psion on 2002-06-13 03:26:40


Is there anything in the above that is wrong? Do some of the statements make your blood boil? Do you want to give someone a piece of your mind? After all, you know more about these issues than almost anyone, and people should be listening to you!

Alas, you have yet to take the time to log in or register yourself.

Go on, join up! Become a citizen of Psidonia and let these nimrods know what's really going on!

(If you're having trouble figuring it out, there are log in and registration controls over there on the left side of the page...no, your other left. That's it, click the pretty buttons...)