I learned this from the Bolter and Chainsword if you actually want to try and steal the intellectual property of Games Workshop instead of waiting a few more days for your physical copy to arrive, I suggest you search the Internet using Topsy not Google.  It’s also Debate Night in America so the Twitterverse and Blogosphere are extra busy tonight…

I haven’t played 40K in years it seems. My life is on hold. I got sucked into following the rumors and some overly opinionated B&C posters seem to have caused various threads to get shut down if not getting themselves banned. I’ve never been banned from any online forums, but I have become disgusted and left some. Sadly given all the other alternatives, the B&C is probably still the best 40K forum as far as I’m concerned.

In the past few weeks I’ve come up with two army lists. One is sort of a wish list based on rumors I read online. The second one is a throwback list back to the end of 2nd Edition and the dawn of 3rd. Basically it is all Plaguemarines in small 5 man squads to maximize champions and special weapons. My general will be a Nurgle Lord on a bike, giving him toughness 6 and making Plaguemarines Troops. I also want to try out my Defiler.

Plaguemarines seems to be a bit cheaper, they are 120 points for five and a champ. Just about every squad in the new codex comes with a champion, which combined with the must challenge and boons of chaos rules, will lead to people painting spare Spawn and Demon Princes in addition to more aspiring champions. I have several painted Beasts of Nurgle but I could use a new Demon Prince perhaps. I thought all my Plaguemarine squads had a champion model, but every squad doesn’t have a champion with a powerfist. I probably will run some cheap champs with just melta bombs, that is what I did in the past.

All the Nurgle Terminators I rebased

The other big debate I’ve seen in the blogosphere lately is whether Rhinos are worth it. I plan on using some eventually, especially Rhinos with Havoc missile launchers, but I’ve run foot slogger lists before… I need to do a lot of painting eventually, but my first proposed army list is entirely painted and should come to about 1500 points. I need to get my army out of storage and shoot more pictures of it to put on Flickr… I plan to use some Nurgle Terminators too, though ultimately I’d like some Khorne Terminators with the Forgeworld bits to go with the one I already painted. I plan to do some Nurgle Raptors, but I think Khorne or Slaneesh Raptors maybe better, I’ve been collecting bits for that but now I’ll have to get the new Raptor kit too, maybe some of the many 3rd party bits too.

Servant of Decay test figure

I haven’t gotten to play sixth edition so I’m unsure how much anti-air I need. I was originally thinking Dragon thing, but I’m now thinking I might just add some more models to my Forgeworld wishlist… Cultists are something I’ve been going to do for a long time. I think a squad with a Dark Apostle sitting behind the Aegis Defense wall would be a good home objective sitting squad. It will take me a while to paint them, I think I’ll first concentrate on painting more vehicles that I already own plus maybe a Forgefiend, 8 shots at strength 8 seems like it could be fun, though most people seem to like the other builds…  I always take the path last traveled.

I’m still anti-special character. Chaos seems to have a lot of special characters, I think Ahriman may be the best as I like the Warlord trait he gets. I think knowing what your warlord trait is in advance is a huge advantage and infiltrating three units seems awesome. I also like Fabius Bile as he has Strength 5, a special needle gun, and plus makes one unit better. You could totally make a super scoring troop choice with Fabius and other upgrades. Everyone is talking about Abaddon Deathstar Leroy Jenkins builds or Typhus horde J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs builds.  I’m a slow painter so a horde of cultists will take me months to paint, but I have plenty of power armored CSMs already painted. I need to get some games of 6th Edition but mainly I need a job.

I plan to convert a new Chaos Lord of Nurgle on Bike model plus some mates for him to ride with. I have the bits but in the mean time I will just use a model I converted during 2nd Edition.

I’ve spent yet more time fine tuning my miniature painting news aggregator. Time I probably could have used more productively. I tend to put a lot of time and effort into ‘side projects’. Side projects that don’t earn income or help solve any of my problems.

The first week or so was spent wrestling with PHP, particularly with SimplePie and other related code. I still have an outstanding issue with that codebase that no one seems to want to acknowledge or suggest any solution. I definitely did not want to become an expert in PHP, RSS, and Atom feeds.

I also spent way too much time gathering more RSS and Atom feeds. I originally just used the blogs I subscribed to, but FtW Ron had visions of 100s if not a thousand blog feeds being aggregated and merged together. It was while building that, that I discovered the issue with merging multiple blogspot feeds. I don’t know why people particularly in the miniature painting hobby have stuck with blogspot and continue to create more Blogger blogs when so many other free options exist.

The hobby is much more commercial than it was 15 years ago, back then everyone was a hobbyist except a few people who worked for one of a few miniature companies. Now there are many, many mini manufactures, many online stores, professional miniature painters, professional miniature sculptures, and numerous semi-pro hobbyists who supplement their income through their website and the hobby. I’ve always avoided going down that route, but I don’t really feel qualified to give career advice, given the mess I’ve made of mine. I’ve tried to keep the miniature painting news aggregator non-commercial, but maybe I’ll finally breakdown and put an ad on one of my ‘side projects’. I’ve also chosen to focus on miniature painting rather than a specific manufacture or game system, just like I tried to do with this blog. Focus can be difficult to maintain.

The miniature painting news aggregator looks and operates a lot like AllTop. That isn’t a coincidence. AllTop is one of the more successful news aggregation sites. My aggregator is much more specialized, even personalized. It is random, deterministic, algorithmic, chronological, and social. It sources information from Internet darlings like Twitter and Pinterest. You can pin, tweet, or like the featured story/photo. Information is pulled from major hobby sites like Tabletop Gaming News, Beasts of War, and Cool Mini Or Not. News is also pulled from an eclectic collection of smaller hobby blogs and websites. Information is also found by search agents, such as the YouTube painting tutorials, but other less mainstream search engines are used like Topsy. I even added Reddit’s miniature painting section.

I’ll try to continue to ensure it runs OK, I don’t think it’ll ever be fast unless I reduce the amount of content or do something else drastic. I’ll try out new feeds and I hope sites like Chest of Colors fixes one of their feeds, but mainly it should just be there for bored hobbyists who want to see cool stuff. Checking more than hourly will be futile, but hopefully it can become a useful tool for finding cool miniature painting news online.

I’ve been spending too much time online. This isn’t news, but what I’ve been doing a lot of lately is scouring the Internet for RSS and Atom feeds to pass into the miniature painting news aggregator I made. I could mention again how I think Blogger is inferior to WordPress or how not all feeds are created equal and not all behave as you’d expect them to, but what I really thought I’d write about is how a lot of hobby blogs don’t produce very consistent or high quality content. Revised miniature painting news aggregator

Ron is relaunching the From the Warp blogger group, but he is still using the exact same technology that ultimately let him down. He’s trying to be more selective as to which blogs he includes. There are a lot of these ‘blog networks’ now. Many bloggers seem to be a member of them all and rely on them to send readers there way. I’ve been reading the headlines and opening paragraphs of a lot of blogs both on FtW but also from the TGN Blogging Network and I’ve noticed a lot of poorly named blogs, poorly chosen post tiles, and a lot of low quality content.

I never set out to make a miniature painting news aggregator. I never set out to write PHP, but I have time on my hands so I try to do something with my education. I never wanted to curate yet more miniature painting information, but I’m disappointed with a few sites and the technology they use. I tried to find technology that would help me find quality content and feeds. I really don’t want to scrape content, so sites without valid feeds or an API will just not be part of what I continue to build, but for those hobbyists that do want more readers/followers there is a lot of things they could be doing that doesn’t involve switching from Blogger to WordPress.

First of all I understand people have limited time to devote to the hobby or to painting miniatures and people have their own favourite websites or forums that they frequent. My miniatures and paints are all in boxes in storage and I haven’t played a game of Warhammer 40,000 or anything that uses miniatures in about a year. However if you have time to blog, you have time to blog better. If you have time to post pictures to the Internet you have time to ensure those pictures are sorted, titled, and tagged intelligently. If you have time to comment on multiple blogs and forums and social networks, you have time to do something intelligent and useful with all that content and energy.

Cool Mini Or Not supposedly has the largest collection of painted miniatures online, but there is no way to subscribe to feeds of say the top minis submitted that week. There also is a lot unpainted or poorly painted miniatures so I don’t always find the coolest stuff by looking at random images on CMoN. I’m also interested in how things are done, not just seeing a high resolution picture of the final model. CMoN is definitely an online store now and I don’t find their site the best use of my limited hobby time. Dakka Dakka and Warseer both have galleries, Dakka Dakka had an RSS feed I thought would give me pictures of new and cool miniatures but it has proved erratic and disappointing. Warseer is not a personal favourite of mine, I’d prefer more hobbyists posted their completed miniatures to Flickr. I’ve also discovered that aggregation isn’t enough, a certain amount of curation and quality control is necessary to produce the best results.

Tumblr was a big disappointment as far as finding cool miniature painting content. Facebook is a mostly closed network, so Twitter particularly #miniaturemonday has proven much more useful. I’ve even decided to join Pinterest to see if I can use that site to build a better curated collection of cool minis. I asked several people for suggestions as to what feeds to include and basically no one could be bothered to make any useful suggestions so more and more of my own personal preferences and biases are being reflected in the miniature painting news aggregator. Other news aggregators of course exist, PopURLs is mentioned by Ryan, but I’m more familiar with AllTop due to being something of a Guy Kawasaki fan. There is an AllTop for board games and RPGs but not for wargaming or miniature painting.

Maybe my efforts will be all for not, but given the increasing emphasis on curation and all the time and effort I’ve invested into the hobby over the years and finding quality hobby content online I don’t think it is the easiest problem to solve, there isn’t one site right now that has all the coolest miniature painting stuff in one place, I guess I’m that is what I’m building.

I tend to write long rambling posts with lots of information and links. However I am capable of writing high quality content that performs well in search engines or in social media. I started this blog so I could join the FtW blog network or just to de-complicate my original blog. Musk’s Miniatures definitely isn’t perfect or the best example of a high quality blog, however given that some people try to earn a living or augment their income from the hobby, I just know I’m going to get whiny emails someday asking why their blog isn’t included or featured, the short answer is “your blog sucks” or perhaps more eloquently your content just isn’t unique or interesting to me. Since I’m building and curating the website it definitely reflects my preferences but it is also incorporates algorithms and social media so other people’s preferences have influence. How Alltop works, is how my miniature painting news aggregator works.

I’ve written a lot of blog postings trying to pass on my experience and knowledge, here is advice on how to improve your hobby blog:

Others have written often conflicting advice to mine, but the goal is the same, if you want people to read what you write, whether it is about a hobby or some other interest, you have to work at it and you have to make a commitment to Quality. There are too many blogs and websites competing for our time and attention. Too many of them do not maintain a respectable wheat to chaff ratio. I’d rather read one awesome post a month, than 3 or 4 crappy posts a week. If you adopt the latter publishing strategy, I’m unlikely to subscribe to your RSS feed, I’m definitely not including your blog in my blog roll or the miniature painting news aggregator I just built, you won’t see many comments or hits, and long term your inferior content will not perform well in search engines or in social media. 100s of people a day still read hobby content I put online ten plus years ago, but I’ve also written content that no one reads, probably less than one person in a hundred days. Which do you think was a better investment of my time, which do you think was of higher quality as judged by search engines, my peers, and random websurfers?

Although I clearly should be studying or doing something else more productive, I spent a lot of the last week building a miniature painting news aggregator. I didn’t want to build a miniature painting news aggregator. When I want to look at painted miniatures I have a few sites I go to. I subscribe to quite a few blog feeds. I frequent the odd forum. But one site I used to waste time on was From the Warp, particularly the From the Warp sidebars which contained the From the Warp Blogger Group. Miniature Painting News

It was a good way to waste time. It was also a good way to find other blogs to follow. There are other blogging networks targeting gamers or miniature painters, but I thought this one was the best. It certainly was the best curated. It was the one I chose to join when I split my miniature painting exploits off from Muskblog. With no progress seeming to be happening I inquired with Ron what was up. I did some research. I looked at Yahoo Pipes, but the tool I thought could do the job was SimplePie.

I’d previously suggested to Ron to move From the Warp to WordPress even WordPress.com as Blogger/blogspot seems to be limiting what he wants to do with his blog. I still don’t know when the From the Warp Blog Network will be up and functioning. I tried to help. In the mean time I think I’ll pay more attention to the TGN Blog Network and I decided to see what I could build with SimplePie using the feeds I personally follow plus a few more.

Not all feeds are created equal. There are technical problems even bugs in SimplePie. Ideally they’ll get fixed and new release will solve all my problems. In the mean time I decided to let other people poke around and see if they have any suggestions, maybe they are PHP wizards.

As I knew someone would ask, I took a screen shot to try and explain how it works. Most everything is pulled from RSS feeds. Flickr, TGN, even Dakka have working RSS feeds that SimplePie can work with. The rest of the information is pulled from two text files containing a list of feeds. If the From the Warp Network comes back online I’ll try to work it in, but given all the trouble I had with feeds from blogspot, I have my doubts that software will handle 1000 plus feeds effectively and gracefully.

The data in the red boxes to the left comes from one text file. The data on the lower right comes from another text file. The text file that controls the data on the left is going to be smaller and much more exclusive. There is no policy. I didn’t want to create yet another blog network, I just wanted a place to go to look at cool stuff. The most recent post appears at the top and one random feed is featured in the bottom box. I create a thumbnail from the first image in the post. This is perhaps the most intensive and problematic feature of my news aggregator. I’d prefer people just uploaded their finished miniatures to Flickr or a distant second Dakka Dakka. Cool Mini Or Not has no feeds for their gallery and has become more and more of an online store, although there are a lot of nice minis their site doesn’t appeal that much to me. I’m interested in knowing how something was done. Ditto Bell of Lost Souls which has too many writers and just a way too busy site design now. I just want to look at the minis not fight with their web design or told to go fuck myself.

If people want to know how to get their blog included, I suggest they join the TGN Blog Network. If they want to know how they get their website added to one of the two text files I created I suggest they create awesome content. If you consistently create awesome content I or someone else will notice and then I may add your feed assuming you have one that functions. The text file that controls the content on the left I intend to be more exclusive, difficult to get on to, easy to get taken off of. The other text file I’m more willing to just throw a website on, but I’m big on quality content. I can handle the odd picture of your new baby, but if you go on too many tirades or post too much stuff that should end up Facebook or more likely in a private message I’ll be unsubscribing from your feed, removing you from my sidebar and definitely deleting you from the text file that controls the miniature painting news aggregator.

I hope the news aggregator is useful to someone other than me, it took a long time to make. I also hope it isn’t too expensive to maintain so I can keep it lean and mean. Some people would like it to run faster and there are some optimizations that may be possible, but cutting the content in half may make it run twice as fast but is that really desirable? Finding the right balance and the coolest content is the key. If you know of an RSS (or Atom) feed I should include let me know via email or in a comment. Remember I’m a quality over quantity guy and I want painted miniatures or painting advice primarily not your opinion of why Swooping Hawks suck.

As part of my generally not very successful life and career post Sauder MBA, I had to move, putting all my stuff in storage until I can find a permanent job.  My job search has continued to go very poorly and I don’t have any answers or fresh ideas on where to apply or what type of position I would finally be “the right fit” for. Anyway as part of my move I had to take all my painted minis out of the three glass Ikea cases I bought for them and put them somewhere. Fuzz box budget foam miniature storage

I own several miniature cases. Some I’ve my made myself. Some I’ve adapted from gun or computer cases. I’ve cut my share of foam and I’ve bought cases from GW and Charon. I don’t play much, haven’t played a miniature wargame in well over a year, see first paragraph for the reason why. But when I do play I usually need about 1500 points maybe 2000 which works out to about 40-50 guys plus a couple tanks and walkers or if I’m playing fantasy more men but less big models. Sabol pick and pluck foam

I got my customized Charon case to hold just about anything, since then the truly custom laser cut foam has come on the market. I may get one of those cases someday, cut to match my next army, if I ever do a next army. But in the mean time I discovered I didn’t have enough cases, especially good cases with nice mini-specific foam to move all my models at once.  So I ended up moving them in stages. I filled up the Charon case and maybe the GW case and moved those models to my mother’s house, then later I brought back the empty cases and moved the rest of my collection using every case I had.

I thought about buying some more foam or a dedicated miniature case then, but I didn’t want to rush my purchase decision and I’m well past broke from being unemployed for so long, so movement expenses were being kept to a minimum. Several months have gone by and my minis have sat on a shelf I cleared of books or in a case in storage at my mom’s house or in a storage locker on Terminal. Miniatures in need of a foam home

It was recently Christmas and my 36th birthday so I got given some money and not wanting to spend it, I didn’t. However I keep reading more books and need that shelf space back, my mom’s house has too much stuff in it, and miniatures just sitting on a shelf are at risk so I bought some econo miniature cases I read about online.  I got 5 of them from the War Store for 50 something dollars and I bought two more Sabol Design foam pieces that I can use to store the bigger more awkward models.

The econo boxes are the bigger ones, the so-called Fuzz Boxes. They can hold a lot of models for about 10 bucks, but the spaces look a little small, now that I have them in my hands, especially for Chaos Space Marines. I’ve previously cut GW and Charon foam to make room for spikes and big guns and it is possible to get larger foam cutouts, but not this cheap. The budget boxes are all one size fits all.  I may get out the scissors,  I also may repack the Charon and GW case as they have some goblins in them, Goblins are much smaller but spear goblins are difficult to pack none the less.  Most of my 4th Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle spear goblins are in a rifle case at the back of a storage locker. The archers and misc. other goblin models may be repacked into these econo boxes.

Some day I may have the money and space to have dedicated foam, if not a dedicated case for every model. As it is I’m unemployed, and many of my models never even see the table top and many had not even seen the outside of a miniature case until I bought the Ikea cases and put almost every model I ever painted on display in my apartment for no one to see.

UpdateOld plastic goblins in budget foam

A few days later I brought all or most of my miniature cases into my bedroom at my mom’s house and tried to figure out which models would fit best in the new foam.  As I suspected the old GW goblin archers fit best. I have two units of those, the spear goblins are in storage in a rifle case but you can see from the photos how they fit less well.  My old Rogue Trader era and 2nd Edition Space Orks fit pretty well in the budget foam cases and the other models that got volunteered are my one piece metal plaguebearers. Old OOP Space Orks

I cut the odd little gap but I couldn’t safely fit my big spikey Chaos Space Marines in the budget boxes. I also couldn’t make enough room for them in my Charon Productions and GW foam.  I used the Sabol foam to make my three dreadnoughts a home. I need a better long term solution for my orks and goblins, my Silent Death space ships, and models on 40mm round or square bases or motorcycle bases. My ork models like that are in an old tool box I’ve lined with foam, but my Chaos Space Marines are just too numerous.  I have one piece of Charon Productions foam that has larger spots, but an even better solution is needed. Whether that involves pluck and pull foam, custom cut foam, or just ordering more specialty foam, I don’t know. Metal Plaguebearers in foam

I don’t know if I’ll ever start another army or even ‘improve’ the two old ork and goblin armies.  I’m out of practice painting and my life is not going well so time for hobbies I do not have. Everything will set in storage as is at my mother’s house for the foreseeable future. Maybe after sixth edition comes out, I’ll dust off the Diseased Sons and the Nefarious Fire and play some games, but I’m not optimistic I’ll get a lot a use of my miniature collection in 2012 or even 2013. Dreadnoughts in their new foam

WordPress says people read this crap ;-)

Posted: December 31, 2011 in Op Ed

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I haven’t had much time and energy to devote to painting miniatures let alone playing any games, I am still seeking full time employment.  About all I do is follow blogs in my RSS readers.  I’ve found some new ones lately that I like and I have a few old favourites so here are some recommendations for those people interested in miniature painting, modeling, and miniature wargaming particularly games produced by Games Workshop.

  • Dylan Gould’s Model Works shares a love for the mid 90s GW models that we both grew up reading about as much as painting.  Kids these days don’t know how good they have it with the Internet, world wide web, and smart phones.  I’m still somewhat surprised that video games haven’t completely killed off the hobby.
  • Recalcitrant Daze is an even more recent discovery that seems to be working on Nurgle and Orks for Warhammer 40,000. Just like I would if my life was better and I had time and energy to spare.
  • Rust and the City is doing a Nurgle Renegades army based on the rules published in Imperial Armour 7 from Forgeworld, just like I always said I was going to do…
  • Fawcett Avenue Conscripts are also older than the average GW fanboy and seem to have a number of old school veteran armies that they drag out and use and continue to expand.
  • Roundwood’s World shows just how good a modular WW1 trench table can look.  Maybe I’ll finish my modular trench table eventually.
  • Kings Minis is another blog devoted to a large and growing collection of old GW models that still get used in games.

There, go subscribe to the RSS feeds of these blogs, they won’t be as disappointing as they are making progress on their projects and include lots of nice pictures and interesting models you don’t see every day.