The Ballad of The Blogroll

Another lament on a web gone by.

I recently had to use The Link Manager in WordPress.

For those of you who are unaware, the Link Manager was the first high profile thing dropped from WordPress. In the earlier days of the web you were encouraged to link – freely – to other sites. The Links Manager was a way to link to blogs you liked, and it was known as a “blogroll”. When you linked blogs you tended to have sidebars with a whole host of links to sites you liked. Over time, when link equity became a thing, you removed sites, instead focusing on your own stuff, or removing them entirely.

As WordPress became more of a CMS than a blog platform, the Link Manager popularity dropped.

I remember when it was removed in WordPress 3.5, and how to handle it. In the end, it was enabled for those who had a WordPress installation since before 3.5, hidden for those that installed WordPress for the first time in 3.5 and above. Should you want this feature, you should use the official plugin to restore it.

An actual sensible solution.

Sadly, even now, it’s largely abandoned. Even the documentation hasn’t been updated.

Looking through my Blogroll

As this site has been present on the internet since before 3.5, mine was never hidden.

I clicked it and pined for a simpler time. Sure it’s largely gone, but I miss people being creative. Many of the domains have expired, dreams lost, projects abandoned. Furthermore, I’ve lost touch with a few of the folks there. One site is still going (waves at Jem!), the rest haven’t been updated in years, turned into static websites, or abandoned.

Sad. I hope the folks that were there that I don’t follow on socials are doing well.

As an aside, The reason I had to use it because I found a blog post from Jan-Lukas Else that linked to Robert Alexander’s Blogroll Map, that for entirely selfish reasons I wanted to be a part of.

It’s a bit finickity – the OPML protocol has advanced and there is a plugin that uses the more common ways to add the required headers to aid blogroll discovery which I’ve put on a few of my sites, but hopefully my sites will be more discoverable to a very nerdy corner of the web. Huzzah!

Blogroll @ newthinking store wc” by Neezee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

50 before I’m 50 – Watching a cricket match in a foreign country

I’ve been spending the last 2 weeks at the T20 Cricket World Cup.

I saw three matches in this year’s tournament – Namibia vs Oman in Barbados, USA vs Pakistan in Dallas, and South Africa vs Netherlands in New York.

Since getting really into cricket in my mid life crisis, I’d been wanting to watch a match in the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown. It looked good fun: drinking, pools by the ground, people eating mangos and fruit in the stands. Just a chilled vibe that I – a fat pasty white guy – wanted in.

Sure, the game I got in Bridgetown wasn’t the best on paper, but sure enough it was exciting, a couple of chances of a hat trick, and after a cracking final over which saw Oman bowl beautifully, the game went to a Super Over – think of it like a penalty shootout. Eventually Namibia – through David Wiese – got enough runs to win. Bucket list ticked. The game finished past midnight so towards the end I was flagging and ready to head back (not least because I was up at 8am to go for a tour of Barbados), but it was excellent.

Then came Dallas.

A few days later I was in the Grand Prairie Cricket Stadium. It was hot. I never knew my knees could sweat. I must have drank about three litres of water and a couple of beers and went to the bathroom once. It was worth it mind, seeing one of the biggest upsets at the cricket World Cup history, as the USA beat Pakistan with another super over. A result, I’ll have you know, I called on the BBC Live Chat a few days before.

So if you’re keeping score, there have been 4 super overs in the Cricket World Cup history.

I’ve seen 2 of them.

The final game – South Africa vs Netherlands – was probably the weakest. Netherlands did okay, but South Africa was too strong. As you read it the Nassau Cricket Stadium is once again a parkland in Long Island. Nothing on New York itself which was a great host with travel and everything being so well organised, but I would have liked to have seen a legacy. Plus my goodness the outfield was slow.

I’m not sure what the legacy post T20 World Cup is for Cricket in the USA is. I feel it may have something there, but for me, I ticked off one item from my list of 50 before I’m 50, and had a cracking holiday. A genuine holiday of a lifetime.

49 to go!

My Computing History

In my birthday post a few months ago (eek!) I mentioned how I struggle to blog when things are going okay. Spoiler alert: things still are, however I feel this place has been neglected.

One of my favourite social platforms at the moment is Mastodon (follow me there) – because I enjoy the nerdy conversations there. From a toot by Jack McConnell I found a blog post by Kev Quirk called “My Computing History“, which details all the system Kev’s had over the years.

Brilliant. I’m nicking it. Here’s my computing history.

~1991: Commodore 64

The first system I owned was this beautiful Commodore 64. This version (the “Playful Intelligence” one) was a fascinating release – it was a re-hash of the ill-fated Commodore 64GS, with the keyboard stuck back on, a cartridge bundled in with 4 games (Fiendish Freddy’s Big Top o’ Fun, Flimbo’s Quest, International Soccer and Klax), and flogged in Tandy for about £65.

I bloody loved this. Although I really wanted a Commodore Amiga 500, I became a huge Commodore 64 gamer (suck it, Spectrum owners). I still have it – the header image is my machine. I still have the cartridge now, as well as 2 of the 3 budget games I got with it (American 3D Pool, Agent X II* and Rollaround) and Decembers’ Zzap! 64 Magazine I also got that year.

I got better and more powerful machines, even for Christmas from my parents, but I grew to love this beautiful machine.

~ 1995: Atari STe 520

My second computer was a hand-me-down from my uncle, which took residence at my grandparents house. The Atari STe 520. Although I craved it mainly for a game I played occasionally – Lemmings – a lot of franchises I love and still love to this day come from this machine. It had Civilization, The Secret of Monkey Island, Championship Manager, Populous, and many more. As you can tell there were a lot more cerebral and slower games – with good reason: a lot of arcade conversions were not great. More known for it’s music, ST Format did champion the computer long past it’s lifespan. Late games that haven’t got their flowers include the excellent Obsession, the “fuck me they’ve done a Doom clone on the ST” Substation and Super STario Land. All three were games I played long after the commercial lifespan of the machine had ended.

Also, fun fact – this was the first machine I dabbled with HTML in. Creating documents and putting them on disk, viewing them using the Crystal Atomic Browser. I wonder how that ended up for me?

~ 1997-1998: Olivetti PCS P/75n Pentium 75 (I think)

My first PC was a bit of a surprise. My grandad – who was probably born a generation or two too early – picked up a PC when the local Radio Rentals was closing and they were selling off stock. A great machine, I spent my mid teenage years playing some fantastic big box MS-DOS games that were a bugger to get loading. Theme Park, Doom, Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, Magic Carpet were all played and loved. All played for hours. Also I had a lot of fun with early Windows 95 games, particularly Shareware compilations became the order of the day, with CDs full of them and played with. Happy times with my grandparents.

It was used as a work machine though, so did used to type up my homework on it as well. It was an absolute timesaver as occasionally we had to repeat our homework, so being able to restore from a saved document rather than rewrite it saved hours. No need to rewrite in my best handwriting** the development of characters in The Mayor of Casterbridge anymore!

~ 1999: AMD (Something or other) with a Voodoo 3 2000 Graphics Card

I remember the graphics card. That’s all. What a beast this was.

Bought locally, this was the first computer at my parents house. A gorgeous machine, with an amazing graphics card, it was pretty much the PC I discovered a lot of later era FPS’ on, with Half Life, Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena being the order of the day on this machine. Sadly it was an AMD machine that’s chips – for whatever reason – didn’t quite work with the motherboard so I had to have a version of Windows 95 that was cloned on it. Odd. Anyway, it kind of worked, but every so often we had to wipe the machine clean and restore it from a CD.

Online for the First Time

This was eventually the first computer I had with the internet. It was expensive at the time (1p/minute, which racked up pretty sharpish), originally I connected with Ezesurf (if you want a rabbit hole, how that company went to the wall is a read), then with Freeserve, it was just about affordable at that point before we got broadband. After having a summer or two in Yahoo! Chat Rooms (which looking back may not have been the best idea as a 16 year old kid), I did discover a couple of interests.

One was programming. I ended up messing around in Blitz Basic and making and releasing a few games. I still occasionally run in to people from that forum. Sadly all but one of the games have been lost to time, as the forum that hosted it is no longer around. Even the game that still works, can’t run on modern PC’s.

With 56k I also discovered the world of serious online gaming, I mentioned Jase a few posts back. This was where he comes onto the scene as part of me getting quite addicted (and quite good) at online Team Fortress Classic. Less action focussed games that were a game called Cosmic Consensus – a family fortunes style game that was great fun, and Acrophobia – which involved created Backronyms. Both games were precursors to what became the Jackbox Party Pack. Bring back Cosmic Consensus I say.

Sadly, something was always wrong with how it was built, as it exploded with a glorious electrical smell some point a few years later.

~ 2002: Pentium P133

A slight bit of a downstep in quality, as I went to Liverpool University to got another hand me down, this time a mid range Pentium P133. Sadly, this was pretty much a work and general browsing of the internet, but thankfully the beauty was being super connected to the internet meaning I was revisiting Doom, Quake and Command & Conquer in multiplayer when I wasn’t out causing mischief on the streets of Liverpool.

I think I did spend the three years upgrading it, so by the end of my time in university it could run Counter Strike very comfortably. Which probably explained the 2:1. I also began my first ever blog (on Blogger, yeah WordPress wasn’t a thing just yet), which at the time I think I may have blogged every day 😬. I can’t have been that interesting?

2008: Isys Elite – Intel Core 2 Duo E8200 2048mb DDR2 667Mhz 250GB SATAII nVidia 8500GT 512MB PCI-E Graphics DVDRW

You will notice this is the first PC with full stats, as in the process of writing this email I found the Novatech order I made to acquire this machine. From reading between the lines I’d have been working for a couple of years at this point, so had a wage, and also noticed that it seemed to have been ordered after I failed my driving test.

It took me two more years to finally pass.

Oddly, I cannot remember much of this PC as I was well into making websites at this point so I imagine some early WordPress development was done on this machine. One game in particular I remember playing quite heavily is Team Fortress 2.

This PC was stored in the shed at my parents until fairly recently, and went in a clear out.

~ 2012: Acer Aspire 5749

I cannot find the email about this, but apparently I bought my first laptop from Tesco. Primarily used for work (this is when I became rather boring), it was the first laptop I used to drag around to places. I believe it was what I used to contribute to WordPress for the first time. Oh my fresh face so excited to be helpful. Where did that person go?

I still have it. It’s covered in stickers and in a draw in my office. But occasionally I use it if I need a Windows XP machine to do something. The last time was to try and Nike Football Scorpion Knockout running – the free game based around that classic Nike advert. It has a CD drive which is unique as no other computers I own do.

2014: Apple Macbook Pro (2.6GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5)

This was a gorgeous machine.

From being a bit vocal supporter of Windows machines, I took the plunge and got a MacBook when being a Windows user became a bit of a barrier for contributing to WordPress (and that’s a statement I expect to be tore apart on podcasts), when all the documentation was written in Mac’s in mind. I loved the power with this machine – was powerful and allowed me to do some heavy duty coding, so much so that I had to rewrite a contract to use it for work.

A great machine, it’s since become a “Zoom Calls in my Lounge” and “Ordering off of Just Eat” laptop. It’s what Steve Jobs would have wanted. I also launched Dwi’n Rhys from Frankfurt Airport there, so saw me through my first two years of freelancing.

I also used it for Twitch Streaming as well. That wasn’t so good and begun to struggle.

The most expensive computer I think I bought, but the one that paid for itself many times over.

2020: Apple Macbook Pro (1.4 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5)

And finally to the machine I type these words on whilst sat in the City Tavern in Chester. A bit of a fluke really. 6 years after working on a Macbook it has been my pretty much my workflow now and I couldn’t imagine working with much else. However I needed to get a bit more power – it was the pandemic, and sure enough people were going online. I was juggling projects and it was taking up so much space on my laptop.

So – cue some good fortune.

My hosting company – 34SP – was celebrating 20 years and as part of it were giving away 20 prizes of increasing perceived value. The top prize was a MacBook Pro.

Which I won.

Truth be told I missed the fact I won (it went into spam) and even when I did win I begun to spun into working class guilt that always manifests itself with good fortune (said working class exists as I got my tax refund today). Three months later when I actually began to use it I discovered it was a great machine. Rarely do I hear a fan go on it. Probably need to clean the screen, mind.

2020: ASUS ROG Strix GA15 G15DH-UK041T Gaming Desktop

I had a solid pandemic really. Which feels wrong to say. I managed with my clients and people coming online and needing web presences to muster two years worth of accounts and a deposit for a house. In October, I moved out of Manchester to Newton-le-Willows to my first home.

With that came a room I could dedicate to an office, as well as room for a proper gaming/streaming rig. I bought this machine, which I use for more high end stuff. Mainly streaming, but also for training videos for clients. I’ve discovered the wonderful world of Steam gaming with this. Many of the games from the “Video Games I Fell in Love With” series in the past 2 years have been on this machine.

Not top of the range, but good enough for what I want to do.

And Next….?

Honestly, where is next? I don’t know. Both machines I own are powerful enough for what I want to do. As such, an upgrade is not on the cards at the moment. But you never know. But by writing this I’m reminded on how much technology is linked with me. As the machines have upgraded, so have I. The memory on the machines have gotten bigger but the memories with the machines have become stronger.

I genuinely didn’t expect to write as much as I have. I hope it’s not too self indulgent!

* Fun fact: There isn’t an Agent X 1, despite the name of the game suggesting there was…
** Which – if you ever received a Christmas Card from me would know – is terrible.


Today, I turn forty.

I mentioned this to an offhand comment to Jem a few months ago on my Mastodon account a few months ago in the paradox I have with blogging. In so much that generally I blog a lot better when I’m not in the best place mentally. The worse I am, the better this blog does and the happier I am with my writing. Trust me, I’ve currently 14 Drafts that were written at lower points in my life that are just sat there with emo titles that befit the elder millennial generation that I am a member of that I just didn’t post for one reason or another. That’s one for you hackers.

But really? Now? As I write this sentence on the 5th of February and short of the stress I’m putting myself for my 40th birthday party which would have happened by the time you read this (what happens if there’s a train strike? Or nobody turns up? Or just generally things go wrong? Or there’s 2 or 3 people that don’t get on? Or those people who are coming and don’t really know people there?), things are…you know…okay? The past year has flown by and it’s been largely okay? Unspectacular, but okay.

Travel wise there was not really a huge amount. I saw Berlin (again), Athens (again) – both of it were work related trips: WordCamp Europe for Athens, and Berlin to go a wee bit outside my comfort zone and go to a dev conference (WeAreDevelopers World Congress). Not really talked about that but was fascinating hearing Sir Tim Bernes-Lee speak. I suffered proper imposter syndrome at that conference but met some wonderful folks there. There was more internal travel within the UK. London, Blackpool, Huddersfield & my first ever trip to Cornwall were my biggish trips. I felt like I did a lot, and looking back I did.

The usual geeky haunts of Play Expo, Arcade Club for the Retro Asylum meetup were on the list, however I saw a lot of cricket. 4 times to Old Trafford (including one day for the Ashes, which I made the BBC coverage clapping Zak Crawley’s knock). That was the high standard stuff. Village wise although the summer was a bit poorer I did play a lot more games, so most weekends I was watching a game at the Earlestown Oval, sometimes even playing for Earlestown Cricket Club.

Work wise things have been a bit slow and steady, and only really picked up in the last quarter. Whisper it folks, but so far this year is looking good. The spare time has seen me work on my brand, write some blogs, and a couple of side projects – I stuck a proper shop on Retro Garden which is my basic “let’s get rid of a couple of duplicate games I’ve acquired over the years” along with trying some affiliate income. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of folks I know are building WooCommerce affiliate stores. I do wonder if that’s a trend.

I also launched All Rumble Stats which is a site dedicated to tracking every Royal Rumble over time. It’s basically been a spreadsheet I’ve kept offline and stuck online.

I’ve used KadenceWP for that which I’ve talked about here – a theme I also used on the brand new Earlestown Cricket Club website. I’ve really taken to use it in my setups.

Yes, I handle that and I am sponsorship secretary for the club as well 🙂.

Twitch Streaming has continued to be sparodic unfortunately. I’ve just struggled to find time to do it with any sort of consistency, but between Liverpool at Eurovision and a random day I met with a few of my streaming palls of Jess, Kittens, Rosie, Boo & Jans. That was a lovely couple of days that I treasured.

Moments I have treasured and will continue to treasure. Being one to try and experience more I’ve started my 50 before I’m 50 list. It’s currently 35 but hope to add more to it.

Overall, I’ve been relatively happy and in a good mood. I took 6 months (late 38-mid 39) for to look after myself, which is well worth doing. 10/10 would recommend. Between that and therapy (which is now down to a fortnightly session), my last year of my 30’s was pretty good, and been a happy time for me.

It just doesn’t make a good blog post. Soz.

And now the yearly comparison!

As you all love it so much. Here’s my updated comparison with you know who.

Rhys (With a Spoon)
Rhys (With a Spoon)

Reese Witherspoon
AgeNearly 40 (Up 1)Nearly 48 (Up 1)
0 – No Change
(0 – No Change)
0 – No Change
(2 – No Change)
Books Written1 (No Change)4 (Up 1)*
Marriages0 (No Change)2 (No Change)
Children0 (No Change)3 (No Change)
WordPress Plugins Written &
On the WordPress Repository
11 (No Change)0

* I made a mistake, turns out Reese Witherspoon has been a lot more prolific than I’ve thought.

See y’all next year!

Previous Versions: 303435, 36, 37, 38, 39

Content Creation Ramblings from an Nerdy Elder Millennial

Or: Finding out how my plugins helped out a British celebrity, and yours can too.

Content creation is a weird phrase isn’t it? It can mean anything. From a well crafted blog post, to an hour video on how the Super Mario Brothers 3 record dropped over time, to those videos that crop up every 3 or 4 videos within my TikTok “For You” page that make me embarrassed to watch them in public, to those Facebook memes your racist auntie’s shares on Facebook. Every one of those things could be classed as “Content Creation”. Invariably when I see a talking head with job title of “Content Creator” mentioned in the media by I think one of these roles.

I may sneer a bit. Largely because like other things I sneer at like Formula One or Cody Rhodes’ booking strategy post Royal Rumble 2024 (NB: I wrote this sentence before Thursday 8th February, and publish it on the 9th. Holy shit it’s box office again and consider me a fully paid up member again the Cody Rhodes train again), I don’t really understand it. I yearn for a simpler time.

Rhys laments the old internet…again

Then I’m reminded how the old internet used to be. The one I’ve talked about on this site before. How as creators in any way shape or form we’re just a few steps from connecting with people. How it was a great time.

I saw a toot from Frank Goossens about how his plugin – Autoptimize – was used on Taylor Swift’s website. Taylor Swift! A content creator I have heard of! Using WordPress! There’s hope for me yet.

I remember the brush with celebrity I’ve had using my WordPress plugins. Stacey Solomon – an X-Factor contestant who has carved out a niche as a TV presenter in the UK – used WP Email Capture for a while on her (now defunct) website. Although I’m not an X-Factor or TV junkie, I did remember at the time I thought it was quite cool.

As I’ve gotten older, having somebody invest time as opposed to money into something I’ve created, fills me with a warmth that contracted work can never do. I did lament a few weeks ago (something I talk about in my 40th blog post) about the paradox of how this blog suffers when I’m mentally in a good place. However occasionally, a great read – “Why Personal Blogging Still Rules” by Mike Grindle – will provide me the inspiration to rattle off these few 100 words, such as these.

It may be harder for us to connect off the major platforms (and – if you decide not to pay Elon Musk $7 a month – on it as well). Hopefully something: be it a plugin, an article, a silly video or a meme, made by us, can light the day up and connect a bit closer. We connect, we may drift apart, but eventually remember.

Remembering Jase

I found out a few days ago that a bloke I knew online in my mid 20’s passed away in 2016. We connected through a TF2 community that had a server that was voice only. A ridiculous server with drunken Friday nights sniping on 2Fort. Never spoke to him after I moved to Manchester in 2010. There for a season and left. I knew very little of him, but what I remember sticks with me. He was Irish, and he used to sing karaoke over the server. He introduced me to The Velvet Underground and I knew his favourite song was “I’ll be Your Mirror”. I guess the above 600-odd words are for him. How somebody who entered my life for a few months, yet changed it for a lifetime.

And I guess that’s the power of blogging, or forming communities off of walled silos. Maybe in ways you’ll make something that does for somebody else. Be it a tribute singer from Ireland, or Taylor Swift. You won’t know until you try.

Header image: “IMG_0351 (Copy)” by paisleyorguk is licensed under CC BY 2.0.