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.
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.
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.
As I started this blog post, I’m reminded of a Tweet I saw from Remkus from early November.
You see, I remember my list from last year (notice the “goal”? Same as last years goal) and thought “Oh my god, I’ve failed at this, spectacularly”. Upon reflection I…haven’t? There has been a lot of success this year. Albeit not quite in the ways I expected. Nevertheless, I’ve set out to achieve most of the goals.
So I’m beginning this year by looking at these goals and how I did.
Improving my Personal Branding – Success (Kinda). I spent the early part of last year rebuilding Dwi’n Rhys, posting more on Instagram and I’m happy with how things are looking now. Sadly I didn’t manage to fix WP Email Capture or Winwar Media. At the time of writing, the latter I’m aiming to do this in the Crimbo Limbo. At the time of writing this sentence I didn’t, instead dedicating myself to a game of Civilization 6.
Side Projects to Cover the Mortgage – Dismal Failure. Sadly two ideas I wanted to push out are ideas and didn’t really succeed beyond a bit of traffic: Buy a Fucking Aircon & Dad Joke Ipsum are out there, but to be honest the first one I’m probably going to let lapse. Dad Joke Ipsum is still getting a bit of traffic and probably just need to cover it in Adsense. I have another side project I’ve launched and it’s doing okay. Will be sharing bits about that when I can.
Work Less – Success 🎉. Yep! Largely managed to book most of my Friday afternoons off. Only two projects from clients ate into that time, but they were fairly big projects that I wanted to get finished. One such ate the time in December, and one in May. But overall that’s 2 months in 12, so better than my 75% goal. I did occasionally do quick bits and pieces – so I wasn’t completely absent, but this was achieved!
Score more than 23 in a match in cricket – Failure – I did well, but I was 10 short, scoring 13 in a match.
Play more than 8 matches in cricket – Success🎉 – I played 9 games in the Thursday league, and 6 matches in the Saturday league. 15 games overall (and that’s not including a couple of friendlies I played).
So overall, a 66% success rate for my goals. Not too shabby!
I got thinking of this year’s goals, and what I want to achieve in 2024. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind start to 2024 already (which is exciting/terrifying). So with that headspace in mind, here’s my goals for 2024.
Get back into public speaking
Now that the majority of the pandemic is behind us (COVID is still a thing folks, please look after yourself), and events are beginning to happen again. So I’d like to get speaking. The WordPress Talks page on my freelance site will be 4 years without any new content. Now that WordPress events are opening up again, hopefully there will be an opportunity for me to speak.
There is the big goal – WordCamp Europe 2024 – but I must admit looking at the dates and my life, there’s a chance I won’t be able to attend 😢. So need to keep my options open. Hopefully will get the opportunity to get up on stage again.
I realise I use the word “hope” a fair bit. But the goal is to do one public speaking event.
Diversify my income away from web development a bit
Similarly to last year’s goal where I pay off the mortgage with side projects – 2023 was a bit of a downturn for my WordPress business, in that there wasn’t quite the level of work as previous years. I was fine, more than fine, but it wasn’t quite as strong as I would have liked.
So this got me thinking – I’ve got a couple of side projects that have a decent level of traffic (think 1k a month) and often the only things on this sites is Adsense. Which is brining in a solid if unspectacular amount. It covers the costs of being there, but could be better.
I had a lot of free time when the world was going to pot during the pandemic, and I made a lot of ideas come into fruition.
My goal is to get at least 2 months income of £30 or more not from revenue streams that exist for me (Adsense, Twitch, Plugin Sales or Web Development Work).
Rebrand Winwar Media
Winwar Media’s website is looking tired man. The site has lacked content for ages and I want to use it as a place where I can sing about some of the side projects I do. It’s the name of my company but it’s very much unloved for a long time, which – similarly to the above – gets a lot of traffic so I want to be able to direct people to the right place through it, be it my freelance stuff, my plugins, or just a few side project sites I release.
I have ideas on what I want to do, and it’s a line on my Side Project Spreadsheet Trello Board (yes, make that language make sense), but I want to be able to look on the new site with pride.
As well as the professional goals, I’ve some personal goals I’d like to achieve in 2024.
Reconnect with the WordPress folk I enjoy spending time with. I’ve two events – PicnicPress and WordCamp Europe 2023, that were very dear to me as I met some people I’ve not seen for a very long time: the WordPress community. The hope is that there’s more events where I can run into them again. Granted the former I put on so hopefully put on more events next year (time willing).
Take a catch at cricket and continue my batting improvements (score 23 in a game) – my last two goals in cricket are to continue improving in the field and batting. I’d like to take a catch at some point (weirdly, nothing seems to come in my direction so I think I had two half chances last year) – but definitely get better at batting and cement my place in Earlestown’s teams.
Like last year, I’ve not got as many personal goals as professional ones, and even those feel a bit weaker and not as big as last year. What do you think? I feel they are achievable though.
2023 in video games was brilliant wasn’t it? Seems to have been a very strong year, with a load of franchises that have had stellar returns.
Like last year, I’ve decided to use a bit of a lull as most of us wind down for Christmas to look at the video games I played in 2023. Especially as the post Crimbo Limbo will have a bunch of sales. I think every one of these is worth a bit of your time. I’d also like to highlight last year’s list, especially as the game at number 2 and number 3 (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredders Revenge & Trombone Champ), I still play. Overwatch 2? I don’t touch.
Similar ground rules as last year – It must have been released in 2023. It can be a compilation or a collection or a remake, but it need to have had it’s first release within the year of 2023. Oddly the games I expected to feature didn’t, and some that I didn’t expect to see, including number one, came out of nowhere.
But let it be known, every game below here is worth your time. I occasionally list the negatives about them but often these are outweighed with the positives. I’ve played more, but those games didn’t really grab me (with the exception of one – Portal – that I finished this year but 95% completed it a while back). Here is a full comprehensive list of games I completed on my TwitchyRhys Twitter profile.
Games I Enjoyed Playing in 2023
As always, this post highlights the games released in 2023. However there are a bunch more games that I first seriously played in 2023. Here are games from previous years I played this year.
The first completed game for me was a gifted game from a friend of mine (Fee). Gris (PC*) was excellent. An arty platform game that with a story about loss and grief. Gris (pronounce gree) is nice and short and just beautifully animated.
I was intrigued with Brutal Legend (Xbox 360*), which promised the writing of Tim Schafer mixed with the comedic chops for Jack Black. A mix of action adventure and real time strategies. It starts really strongly, but gets lost half way through. A love letter to metal, the gameplay is solid but couldn’t decide as a game what it was, and the story is okay. Will make you smile though.
I played my first game from the Yakuza game this year. Yakuza Kiwami (Xbox One) was a cracking introduction. A great story that I got absorbed with, and Kiryu’s fighting style that felt very “Virtual Fighter” means that I’m not going to turn my nose up at this franchise anymore. Didn’t think I’d like this franchise. I was utterly wrong.
Maybe my game of the year, The Case of the Golden Idol (PC*) – along with the game of the year for me – scratched the “Obra Dinn” itch. A 1800’s murder mystery game where you have to piece together a story about a Golden Idol, it’s powers, and how each person who came into contact with it had their demise. Ignore the rudimentary art style, this is a fantastic deduction game. I’m already looking forward to the sequel being released next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s my Game of the year next year.
Another franchise I never dabbled in, I played Shining Force CD (Sega CD) on my fantastic little Ambernic device (seriously if you’re a retro head this is the best £150 I spent all year). And it’s brilliant. No real story but a fun turn based battle system that sees you play as the entire Shining Force. It was for a couple of months my “play for 20 minutes” game, and the Ambernic helped achieve this when travelling.
I’m going to talk about a game later that would have been potential Game of the Year but it didn’t nail the landing. Let’s talk about a game that really did nail the landing. I’ve never gotten on board with the 3D games of popular Nintendo Franchises however I played and completed Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) for the first time ever. I found it occasionally a bit of a slog, but holy hell the last dungeon was brilliant. If a game is remembered by how you ended it, then I really enjoyed this. I don’t however have the nostalgia trigger for me to consider this the greatest game ever that many of my peers did. Good, excellent, and you can appreciate it, but may not be for me. It’s my Taylor Swift of video games.
A love letter to the early 80’s arcade games – Donut Dodo (PC) has been an inspiration for a potential project I’ve been coding on my downtime 👀. A fantastic Donkey Kong/Bomb Jack high score challenge, it’s just made with love and well worth picking up for cheap. If you do, please let me know how you get on. If you don’t, my god, listen to the soundtrack at least. It’ll get into your head.
FAR: Lone Sails (PC) was a interesting atmospheric platformer with driving elements. You have to pilot a steampunk train across a post apocalyptic landscape. Why? Nobody knows. Beautiful looking, though.
There were a few games that didn’t quite make the top 3, but are well worth picking up. Here’s my honourable mentions for the list.
Like Zelda, I never really gravitated to the 3D Metroid game, but when Metroid Prime: Remastered (Nintendo Switch*) came out. I thought I’d give it a go. It was okay in all fairness. However, I felt there was far too much walking around lost, and I did end up very confused. It was okay, but not Super Metroid, nor Metroid Dread.
The Murder of Sonic The Hedgehog (PC) was a wonderful find! A free release from Sega on April Fools day, this gag turned out to be a fun, tongue in cheek visual novel featuring Sega’s most famous character. Just really good, with a solid murder mystery plot, and best of all – it’s free. A bog standard PC can run it and well worth playing through over the course of two hours.
En Garde! (PC*) was on my top games for 2023 for a long time, but ultimately lost out. A fun little reactive swordfighting game with a lot of interactive elements (think Batman: Arkham games for combat style), you play as Adalia de Volador, a swashbuckling hero with a tongue as sharp as her sword, as she takes down the odious Count-Duke and rids him from her town. The game has a fun style and a wonderful sense of humour. The problem? The difficulty level ramps up heavily on the last battle which left it a sour taste in my mouth. Shame, as it’s well worth exploring.
I must admit, whilst I enjoy the Super Mario 2D franchise (again, another series I don’t really enjoy in 3D), the endless stream of “New” Super Mario games got a bit tiresome, without much in the way of innovation. It was always my least favourite franchise in the Mario Maker games. Over time however, friends who’s opinions I respect kept saying “you need to play Wonder! It’s the best 2D Mario game since Super Mario World” I wasn’t sold but eventually I relented.
3 levels in, I was smiling. It took familiar Mario tropes and with the Wonder Flower powerup, turn it on it’s head.
Guiding the plumber and his friends (yes including Peach & Daisy – no more damsels in distress here!) through 6 fairly open worlds to collect the Wonder Seeds and save the Flower Kingdom from Bowser, Super Mario Wonder is brave. It does innovative things time and again and then discards them never to be seen in the game. And the music? God it sticks with you. Classic Mario tunes.
My only complaint is that it’s probably slightly too easy for my liking, but you can go through the game and miss stages and paths, so there is a fair amount of replay value.
Also it must be commended in being the first Mario game that accurately depicts what happens when you eat random mushrooms (albeit with the “Wonder Flower”, which is probably cannabis).
A game franchise I felt had been abandoned for too long, and I’m sure I uttered to myself “Wouldn’t it be cool if F-Zero had a battle royale racing game?”. Well Nintendo delivered with F-Zero 99.
I’ll be honest, I was hoping it would have been a new iteration of the franchise (or using F-Zero X instead), hence why it’s not my game of the year. However this has had some fun experiences. Connecting with streamers, playing in races, and just having carnage. On my Twitch channel I play a lot of Wreckfest and this is similar. A fun, pick up and play racer where you can race 5 races or 5 hours of racers. The best multiplayer racing experience on the Switch since Mario Kart 8, and come just at the end of the life of the console. It’s also a testament to the game that out of all the games here, this is the one I’m still playing.
It both respects your time and tempts you with one more go, the likes of which I haven’t felt for years. And it’s free. Please Nintendo, give us a new entry in the F-Zero franchise.
I often call this my “Brits in Benidorm” simulator. Chants of Sennaar sees you play as a hooded protagonist thrust into a world full of simple puzzles. The only problem? You don’t speak a word of the language. Piecing together what is being said, eventually the language opens up to you. Only for you to then discover that the Devotees (the first race you encounter) are having a bitter dispute with the Warriors. And they have their own language, and are not speaking to each other.
As you begin to figure out each language you learn what’s important and what’s special to each race. There are differences, but there are also similarities, and eventually you become a walking Duolingo between all races which leads to a satisfying conclusion.
There are stealth mechanics (my least favourite mechanic in video games) but they are quite small and easily navigable. A beautiful game with a great soundtrack, this indie title is well worth picking up and playing through. My game of the year for 2023.
Organised on a bit of a shoestring, but let’s do it…
So one factor to come out of WordCamp Europe for the UK crowd is/was “how to get face to face time with the community all together?”. Many of us it was the first time we saw each other since COVID and for 3 years and there hasn’t been much, if anything going ahead.
There didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for creating a WordCamp as of yet*, as – well – life has gotten in the way of a lot of the volunteers. However it was good seeing the community again.
So a few people proposed an informal meetup, and I’m deciding to run with it. I’ll be sat in Mayfield Park, Manchester on the 19th August at about 11am (train times permitting). The aim is to be there until about 4 or 5pm where we’ll all go our separate ways.
I’ve been calling it PicnicPress as it’s an informal, social meetup to discuss WordPress stuff and get some community face to face time. Bring a picnic as well as any sort of things to make you comfortable (camping chairs, picnic blankets). Hopefully the day will be dry but we can play it by ear if not, and if we have to relocate so be it!
Where – Mayfield Park, 11 Baring Street, Manchester M1 2PY (Google Map). I’ll bring something loud and obnoxious so we’re easy to spot. Think a flag like at Glastonbury.
How Much – Free (please bring your own refreshments).
There are no tickets, but drop me a comment or a message if you are attending or thinking of attending. Obviously if it turns out to be a success and something people want then we can go forward (and I am happy to take it out of my blog but…you know…I felt it was better to get something up and running).
I think I have everything. If I’ve forgotten something, or if you have any questions – then pleasedrop me a message (or on Twitter, Linkedin or Mastodon – or if you have my phone number or my Facebook, then message me on there), and I’ll do my best to answer this and update this blog post if needed.
Hope to see you! Bring sandwiches!
Update – 11th July 2023
So I went to check out the Mayfield Park on Sunday to answer a few questions to myself, and I thought I’d share them. We’re likely going to meet on the big green flat area in front of the “Depot Mayfield” sign here.
There were a couple of additional things, it’s largely signposted from the taxi area of Manchester Piccadilly Station towards Fairfield Park.
There is a small kiosk that sells sandwiches and coffees, and the map suggests there’s a loo by the kids play area (I didn’t check it out).
One important thing is no alcoholor smoking in the park. There were signs around.
*Though that may have changed since I started writing this: waves in the direction of Whitley Bay.
Update – 14th August 2023
So as a couple of people have asked me, yes this is still going ahead 🙂. As said it was an informal meetup rather than anything formal so yes I’m planning on being there this week (I’ve a minor update on that towards the end of the post). So I’ll guess I’ll share a few questions and things that have been going around in my head.
Weather – Manchester is dodgy weather wise at the best of times, so please bring wet weather gear. It’s very changeable at the moment. I still plan to show up but if it’s chucking it down we may relocate to a cafe nearby (there’s a few cafe’s nearby), Foundation Coffee House on Whitworth Street is nearby. I’ll try and post updates as soon as I can.
Transport – No train strikes planned that day 🎉. Obviously there may be work on your area.
COVID – So for full disclosure I’ve a nasty cough I’ve been trying to shift. Every COVID test has come back negative. As it’s a public park I cannot insist on people taking tests beforehand, but I hope if you do have an illness you’d stay away, or at the very least take a COVID test. Thanks.
Should you need to get in touch with me the best way is on the UK WordPress slack, or Twitter DMs.
It’s no secret the majority of my work is at a higher price point. It’s with good reason: it’s custom work, often built from scratch, to high standards. I’m confident in my code, and that’s what people pay for.
However, whilst this works for the majority of my clients, there are odd cases where quick, simple sites are a struggle to price. I’ve built sites on to top of other themes before, and happy to communicate that with a client that I am using a child theme.
However, they have a habit of looking the same, which is generally looking like a TwentyTwenty child theme. It’s fine, and the client is happy, but I’m not 100% satisfied myself.
Sure, there are other themes, but I tend to find they are bloated mess and I struggle using them, using custom admin setups and – more often than not – the demo doesn’t look like what it looks like out of the box.
Recently, however, I saw a question from noted newsletter peddler Remkus de Vries, and read the replies.
From the replies, one theme, from names that I trust and admire, kept cropping up. I also had a potential lead that came through that explicitly asked for help in that theme.
So – with the philosophy shared in my last side project build – where I make sure each side project is a learning experience, I reached into my box of domains, pulled out one – Dad Joke Ipsum – and set aside a day to build it.
So the idea behind Dad Joke Ipsum is a tool for web designers to generate dummy text for their designs. However the dummy text will be all dad jokes. After crowdsourcing a bunch of dad jokes (as well as using ChatGPT – did you know ChatGPT knows only 25 dad jokes? Dads: you’re safe), there was a bit of developmental work to build the generator with a database behind it. Ideally I didn’t want to be spending a huge amount of time on the theme, so Kadence WP made sense.
So, after soft launching the website at WordCamp Europe, I was impressed with Kadence WP, in a number of ways.
Kadence WP – Why I like it
1. It’s fast
So, the site is hosted on a bog standard SiteGround installation, and with a few images. Obviously other sites have a lot more images, but even using the SiteGround optimiser, it scores in the 90’s on mobile (though the largest contentful paint seems to be determined by the joke pulled from the database).
This bodes incredibly well as there isn’t a huge overhead from the theme itself, suggesting it is incredibly efficiently coded, with very little bloat. Also it scores highly in accessibility (the only error is me being odd with my heading tags placements). So it bodes well for a site that I’m trying to pick up traffic.
2. It doesn’t take over the admin
Honestly, I’m sick of themes that don’t use standard UI’s and take over the admin. Kadence WP very much does not. Logging in after installing and everything is either in the default Customiser, or within the posts. If anything I struggled to find where everything is located.
It’s everything you need, though even though I could do most of what I wanted to without one. I do have a child theme. This is more for structuring the dad joke archive page and individual jokes.
Once you get your head around it (which is incredibly straightforward if you use Gutenberg on a daily basis), then you’re good.
3. Free is more than suitable
So everything you see on Dad Joke Ipsum is using the free version. I’ve not used the premium version, just a bit of basic customisation, and I can use the Gutenberg editor to build out the pages. There is a premium version which includes starter templates, infinite scroll, WooCommerce integration & a few other bells and whistles.
However, I’ve not needed it. It’s good enough to use on its own with the free version. I have recommended the premium to a client who I felt they needed it (the basic look is quite basic, but the starter themes do change the look of it quite a bit), but even for things like the WooCommerce additions and Infinite Scroll, I’d probably stick to the free version.
So yeah, I am a bit of a fan of Kadence WP, and have already recommended it to a couple of legacy clients who needed a site building rather quickly. I cannot really see myself using anything else for things like side projects where getting things out the door is paramount. For bigger projects, I’m still going to be building from scratch – if you pay for a custom WordPress theme, you’d get a custom WordPress theme for me, but for those that need something built quickly, this feels like a great compromise.
Disclaimer: There are a few affiliate links in here. But yeah, wanted to write here that I am a fan of Kadence WP. You can click on those links and give me a small commission if you decide to buy it. Or just Google it and play around with it. Do what you want, I’m not your real dad.