Archive of published articles on May, 2008

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26/05/2008

Did some maintenance on the website today, cleaning up old databases, subdomains, etc. Finally got rid of the Blood and Iron forum… sad, that was good memories.

Wiki has been installed and once I get together with my web admin, I hope to get the forum software installed. I should have been writing a .NET or PuppetShop tutorial this weekend, but played Team Fortress 2 instead. Three days is too long a weekend for me. And still haven’t touched my projects I am supposed to finish (both about a real 80% complete… shame).

Another idea I had as I was setting up the website was, to set up a simple versioning/repository for anyone that signs up. I think this would be really nice- most people I would think have webspace, but setting up an SVN repository is a pain. I would like to develop a way of setting up some sort of versioning system people can subscribe to with a couple clicks, so they don’t have to worry about losing or overwriting their scripts (who hasn’t done that before…). That may be a task for the future, however, no idea how complex it is.

Anyway, assuming my potential web admin doesn’t fall through, I should be on time for an official launch some time in June. And assuming I can do something useful instead of play TF2 :)

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tech-artist.com roadmap

18/05/2008

Well I’ve gone ahead and made the domain purchases for tech-artist.com, .org, .net, and tech-artists.org and .net. I have a tentative web admin for now and have a friend who I can ask for questions and help if needed, as well. Over the course of the next week, we will be setting up the Wiki and Forums. Once they are up, I will start porting over my site content to the Wiki along with other content I’ve already gotten the go-ahead for. After that, I’ll be sending out emails to some VIP technical-artists and animators for feedback on the idea of the site and their feelings about a tech-art community. I’ll also ask about porting over some of the tutorials and articles they have on their site. I hope to officially launch sometime in late June, probably with a contest of some sort to draw some attention.

At the same time, I’ll be working on a few more tutorials and articles, especially about .NET stuff in Max, which is not very well documented, yet, along with some Puppetshop things I’ve been doing at work.

A couple issues I am considering are:
-Initial workforce: A functional Wiki requires a core group of editors, especially initially before a critical mass of users is reached. I’m going to look mostly to younger technical artists like myself, and students, as we hopefully have more energy for this sort of thing. It will also be a learning opportunity for aspiring technical artists, I think, and that may be attractive for certain people.

-Moderators: Credit/link backs for contributors. The purpose of personal sites is generally promotion, and the reason people put articles on their personal sites is promotion along with education. I am not worried about getting information from Wiki’s and articles, but there needs to be some incentive to encourage people to put or duplicate their articles on tech-artist.com. This is especially tricky when their personal sites are more well known and popular than the new site, though I suppose it will be easier once the site becomes more popular. A related issue is ownership and the wiki- wikis can change and the author will not have sole control over his article. To get around all of this, I’d like to establish a practice of crediting articles, with a very clear link to the site of the original contributor and a clear list of changes from the original- and, hopefully, feedback for the original contributor on the changes (since this is all about learning, right?). I can be an idealist in some things, but when it comes to the motivation of people, I take a very real approach- embarking on a project that requires large anonymous contributions that are, in a way, a negative result for the prestige of the contributor (since it would otherwise be on their site and closely tied to them) is doomed to fail. This is an issue I will need to keep considering and feedback will be useful.

-Promotions/marketing: Initial costs will be out of my pocket, and my pockets aren’t very deep right now (though as I recover from my recent relocation things should be fine, and I don’t spend much money). Fortunately, running a website isn’t very expensive while it is small, since I have hosting already. But this hosting won’t support a large site (especially one database heavy with forums and a wiki), despite its claims of huge bandwidth and storage (DreamHost). Or so I hear. Anyway, I figure once that size is reached, I will have a popular enough site where I can place some Google Ads that will absorb at least some of the cost of new hosting. What I’d like to spend most money on is prizes and contests and anything I can do to facilitate the site, education, and exchange of information and goods that would contribute towards these goals. Prizes have the benefit of drawing views and members, tying the community to the site, and also rewarding those that contribute with what will help them do better work and continue contributing.

I’ll try to update here as to how the coming weeks unfold and do some planning as well (even if no one else reads it, writing for public is useful as it forces my thoughts to congeal and allows me to evaluate and consider them more thoroughly than keeping them only in my head).

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Eureka!

11/05/2008

So after spending a few hours setting up the Wiki I was going to migrate my site over to, I realized what it is I should be doing. After putting things like PuppetShop or DotNet into the [[ ]] tag that represents a wiki page, I realized, this is my personal site and even if I type a lot, I won’t be able to fill all this stuff up usefully. I also realized, that for me to ask someone to fill out a Wiki on my personal site (with my own name in it) is/seems too self-serving, no matter how noble the intent.

So I realized what I should be doing is putting together a technical artist community site. Duh! This is an idea I’ve toyed around before, but frankly, I didn’t have the experience or contacts to make it happen, but I think I have a good shot now. Right now there is really no community for tech artists- there are the MEL and maxScript CGTalk forums, and each CG community usually has a couple that hang around. But there is no real central community or infrastructure. The same goes for info- we all have articles and tutorials, but they are usually on our own website. Generic CG Wiki’s are far too, ahem, generic for most technical artist needs.

All of this is surprising since out of all artist disciplines, the technical guy has to constantly learn and sharpen his knowledge. It is essentially a job where every ‘technical’ task starts with a “How…” Much of the time we are doing things we’ve never done before and didn’t know we’d be doing a year ago. Having a better place for technical artists to communicate, question, learn, and contribute would be quite an asset.

Can I pull it off? I was mostly responsible for a modding community overhaul at a large game fansite, and much of that involved gathering and organizing data from forums and people and centralizing it on the wiki in a format and layout that is conducive to learning and education. I know many technical artists are like myself and love teaching and discourse as much as learning, and I hope I can get them involved. There are plenty of differences between a modding site and a professional community (starting from no central audience, relative education of members, free time, etc.), but I think I will be able to adapt and overcome to make something great.

I’d like the site to be centralized around a Wiki that contains mostly technical and in-depth information. I don’t want it to be redundant with other generic CG Wikis and I want it to be a second stop for people wanting to learn more. Redundancy is another thing I’d like to avoid as much as possible. While the site will have a forum, it won’t have its own MaxScript or MEL forum, etc- much better to just link to CGTalk. Same for scripts, much better to use scriptspot or highend3d. I’d like to supplement rather than challenge and compete, there is more than enough information and talk to go around.

In the next couple weeks, I’ll get together the site address and infrastructure (hopefully I can find someone to administrate it because that, at least, is something I can’t learn right now). I’m very excited I have something to put my energy into again- the personal projects and tools which I’ve been working on for the past few months (and will finish up sooner or later) are all well and good, but community initiatives are where my passion lays.

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Status

10/05/2008

I’ve finally settled down and got internet in Austin. Life and job is awesome.

In my month of internet-less I didn’t really work as much as I should have on my new projects, my mind was pretty full learning lots of stuff at work. However, I did completely redo vertex vector displacement and made it into a completely useful texture-based blendshapes. I still have some shader work to do (a pre-processing RTT step I don’t have enough experience in), I will finish it when I get some good ‘alone time’ with a programmer or someone who can help me. Very excited about it.

Next week I’m going to switch over my entire website to either a Wiki or WordPress, can’t decide. The Blog will replace the front page. Basically, most people come to my site for information, and for downloads. The current format is already feeling a strain, and frankly, I don’t enjoy editing webpages in GoLive or any other HTML editor for that matter. I can’t decide what to switch to, so I’ll spend a few hours this weekend trying some out and researching. I’d like to make my website able to scale, and the current setup makes that very difficult. Wiki’s seem to be the most utilitarian but they are also bland. Not sure what I’ll do but there should be a major update sometime after next weekend.

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