Thirty-Seven

Today, I turn Thirty-Seven.

My 36th lap of the sun I thought would be dominated by Brexit, but reading last year’s update I talked about how much travel would take place in the first half of the year in a big fuck you to Brexit, but – on the first trip (a visit to Berlin to spend time with friends, a trip I value dearly looking back) – we got the announcement that Twitchcon, the reason I was going to Amsterdam, was cancelled. This began a massive domino effect that saw all 5 of those trips cancelled.

Yes, a week after writing the post, COVID-19 became a thing in Europe. And my “settling and slowing down” goal became a grinding halt. A big client left, and by April I had effectively no income.

Be careful what you wish for, I guess.

Thankfully, with the world moving everything online, a web developer wasn’t out of work. The work was different, it wasn’t always constant (I started side projects like Drive in Cinemas that actually got finished, and the wonderful Auction Request that burned bright and then exploded), but it was there. And it eventually got to the point where mortgage companies would take a second look at me.

So yeah, settling down. I ended up getting to the point where I felt like getting on the property ladder was actually possible. I got an idea on how much I could afford, but you couldn’t get much for your money in Manchester. However, one day in a WhatsApp group where Shane shared a few properties in the village he lived, which were 60k cheaper and included such luxuries as a garden, third bedroom and a garage, I ended up circling a few properties in Newton-Le-Willows.

The first property I talked myself into putting an offer in, it was accepted, and 4 months later (which apparently is super quick) I got the keys.

So, since then, most weekends has seen me covered in soil, paint, or god knows what was in my drain. It’s been fun! I’ve enjoyed having my own space and being a hermit, and whilst it’s not perfect the house yet, I’ve loved every second.

The business has taken a hit, I’m not going to lie. I’m probably about 10% down on last year, I feel some business decisions may have cost me a bit, but it’s purely down to not wanting to go through what I professionally went through April & May last year. Business wise I’m happier (the current grump I have whilst writing this aside), if not necessarily richer.

Of course, with travel out the question (so much so that on one day where I made it to Llandudno between lockdowns on a beautiful sunny day I cried), I’ve had to spend my time doing other things. Before leaving Manchester I found parks I never knew existed 10 years living in the city, I have discovered similar beautiful places (many of which you can see on my friend’s Del’s Instagram, usually with a description of “I LIVE HERE!?!”) in Newton-Le-Willows, I’ve been attracting the neighbourhood wildlife with all manner of bird feeding contraptions, and I’m hoping some of the garden things I’ve planted turn into plants or vegetables and don’t remain mounds of dirt.

The first time I could touch the ground with straight legs. I can also almost now do a push up….

Health wise drink was up and down (shout out to the Corona Pub), so I gave up on the drink free days (It’s a pandemic, duh!). Similarly because of the Corona Pub my diet fast became “a pizza in front of the webcam”. I’ve stopped the majority of this now, largely due to moving and actually having access to a kitchen when I want it. But maybe do have the odd pizza here and there. 6 weeks ago I also began DDP Yoga and whilst I can’t say I’ve lost weight (I tend to not track weight) I do notice my sides are slimmer (if not my belly), my arse is a little bit less flabbier, and I’m more flexible, so that’s good.

A happy moment for me in my 37th year was the Corona Pub, getting to know people. I didn’t create it, but did keep it running, and it meaning so much to people that they would send me Christmas cards made me happy.

In a weird way, sitting here, a week before my 37th Birthday, I’ve begun to think about the past year, largely alone, largely in lockdown, and where exactly I am. Of course, there’s things I want to come back: seeing my friends, going to the pub, generally wanting to be able to travel are all things I want back. However, I’m also reflecting of the things I’d like to stay: I think masks when you are sneezy should be a thing in supermarkets going forward, working from home is likely to continue (I worked out I spent more time in Zubaz in my career than wearing a suit, that makes me happy), and also spending time in the community – one I’ve yet to experience fully – would be nice. Of course I’d love my business to pick up again, and see friends again (as well as meet new ones I’ve made on Zoom chats in the past year), but maybe this is the new normal.

And the new normal should be better than the old one.

So without further ado, here’s my updated comparison with you know who.

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

Reese Witherspoon
AgeNearly 37 (Up 1)Nearly 45 (Up 1)
Oscars
(Nominated)
0 – No Change
(0 – No Change)
1 – No Change
(1 – No Change)
Books Written1 (No Change)1 (No Change)
Marriages0 (No Change)2 (No Change)
Children0 (No Change)3 (No Change)
WordPress Plugins Written &
On the WordPress Repository
10 (Down 2) – I removed a couple0

See y’all next year!

Previous Versions: 303435, 36

How I Stream On Twitch

I’m a rarity amongst my friends in the mid 30’s – I stream on Twitch. I started mainly to cut down on drinking, but it’s made me connect with some amazing people, become better friends with people I already knew, as well as earn a little bit of money.

In recent weeks, with the Coronavirus issues, people have been looking to get more into Twitch streaming, and asking me how I did it. I’d thought I’d teach you how I do it. Here is a guide of how I did it.

Starting for “Free”

Before starting, I’d recommend getting things up and running as quickly as possible for free. I started with Retro Gaming with a stream of Championship Manager 93. For this I simply needed an emulator, ‘acquired’ copies of the game, and Open Broadcasting Software. Open Broadcasting Software (henceforth referred to as “OBS”) is a piece of software that has Mac, PC & Linux alternatives and allows you to put together a “scene”. This scene can pull in any window on your machine, images, your webcam, as well as any audio associated with it. You can then immediately stream by connecting the software to Twitch (here’s a guide on how to do it). Test everything is working (you can run test streams) and then go live!

My OBS for when I stream ZX Spectrum games (in this case Manic Miner)

Your first streams won’t have many viewers, that’s fine. I think my entire first 2 months of streaming I had less than 1 average viewer per stream. If you can bring people in that can be useful (my first regular viewers were people I knew outside of Twitch). But you should use this time to speak and get comfortable, which is why a game like Championship Manager is great as it’s slow paced and you can talk about what you’re seeing. Things like that. People may show up. People may not. But you should decide if you enjoy it, which is why I say a game like this is perfect. You can stream direct from Xbox/PS4’s, however they don’t have features like webcams, and it’s far easier to connect when you see somebody.

Investing in Streaming

Decide you enjoy it? Great stuff! Now let’s spend some cash

My entire streaming setup (outside of games & consoles) cost me about £250-300. I had some elements already (like the computer), and I did use some tokens to take some of the damage off, but this is what I bought.

When all the gear arrives, in between your console and your TV put the Elgato Capture Card and your console. You’ll want to capture the signal to put it into OBS, there are millions of ways to do this and my way is rather complicated (but works for me!). So I’ll not share it. However you should have something that looks like this.

I don’t usually put the streaming card this side of the laptop, but you can see how it is structured with the grey HDMI cable being the input (from the Raspberry Pi) and the black being the output (into the monitor).

Notice the fact that what I’m watching on the screen (top screen) is not running at the same time as my stream (bottom screen). This is deliberate as there will be a delay. Also it’s a good idea at this point to run as lean as possible – close all programs, drop the bitrate of the video (I stream at 760p standard definition as for retro stuff & my ugly mug it’s fine) and generally try and run the games in the resolution they were intended in on your monitor.

Bots

A Chatbot is a good thing to have in your stream. They can do basic moderation, help sort out spam, and respond to events as well as provide commands. You can see this in action by going to my stream and typing in commands such as !social, !discord & !prime. Or just write a few messages relatively slowly (so not to set off the spam filter). Here are a couple of ones.

  • Streamlabs Cloudbot – probably the simplest to set up, and I’ll talk more about Streamlabs offering in another part.
  • Nightbot – Popular with some elements of the community.
  • Phantombot – What I use. Self hosted (so you have to pay for server space). Complex to setup, but I love their dashboard and it is open source. Plus it allows me to tinker and improve it however I wish.

Dashboards

You can also setup a dashboard. Dashboard are what you look at whilst streaming. It can tell you things like the bitrate (how your internet connection is), how long you’ve been streaming, how many viewers you have watching and anything that’s happening on your stream.

The Default Twitch Dashboard

Some dashboards I’m familiar with are the following.

  • The default Twitch Dashboard. If you watch it disable your video, as I found it make things all a lot slower.
  • The default Twitch Dashboard on Mobile – again can be useful and easy to setup, running the dashboard on your mobile. I started with this.
  • Phantombot’s Dashboard (this is what I use). I found it light and didn’t take up as many resources as the default Twitch Dashboard.

I’m not sure about any other Dashboards, but I’m sure there are plenty more. If you set up a dashboard switch off viewers. It can be distracting and disheartening when you’re performing to an audience of zero.

Alerts

One thing I quite like is Alerts. They help improve interaction between you and your streamers. These are little animations that pop up when things happen on your stream. Two of the most popular ones are the following:-

  • Streamlabs Alerts – I have this, and has a wealth of tools available to handle alerts for anything from followers to subscriptions.
  • Soundalert Extension – This will allow users to donate bits (more on Bits later) or use channel points to play sound effects on your stream.

Maintenance

It’s up to you, but I put my streams up on My YouTube Channel whenever they are finished. Streams last on Twitch for a couple of weeks, but can be exported with the click of a button in Content > Video Producer.

Anything you clip, or one of your users clip last permanently though.

Growth & Monetization

And so the big one, how do you grow or monetise it? Well let’s start with growth.

Growth kind of happens slowly. It’s a good idea to have a community or things you can latch onto to help. If you can bring viewers to Twitch in some way (say if you have friends that enjoy games) that’s an easy way. Other than that, my three tips are.

  • Share the love: once finishing streams “raid” a random person. Raiding is passing on your viewership to somebody else. Some people switch it off as it can be a bit overwhelming, but if you have a few viewers, find a streamer of a similar/larger size, and raid them. Be friendly and chatty and hang out for a bit – I try to end a stream earlier than you wish to make sure that I can have a small chat.
  • Jump on hashtags: Some such as “#SmallStreamersConnect” and “#StreamFrens” retweet go live notifications – though you may want a dedicated Twitter account.
  • Sit and watch other streams: Some of my earlier viewers came from people I had previously watched. You can do that.

Some communities exist that can help you grow. These are things such as the following:-

And finally onto earning. Well you cannot earn straight away, you need to become a Twitch Affiliate, to do this you need the following:-

  • 50 Followers on Twitch.
  • Stream on 7 Different Days over the last 30 days.
  • Stream for 500 minutes over the last 30 days (8 and a bit hours).
  • An average of over 3 viewers on your streams.

It sounds like a lot but it’s quite easy to get, it took me about 2-3 months to achieve but if you are committed you can do it quicker. Becoming Twitch Affiliate allows you to earn using the following ways.

  • A share of the ad revenue.
  • “Bits”, small donations when something cool happens (usually works out at 1 bit for $0.01).
  • Subscriptions.
  • Affiliate income from games – rarer.

Subscriptions are the best way to earn as if you have Amazon Prime you can get Twitch Prime as well, which allows one subscription to somebody that’s not yourself on a monthly basis – you can read a guide on how to subscribe to a streamer with Twitch Prime here. So ask your friends to subscribe to you!

The only thing that is lacking is that it doesn’t auto renew, and designed to be a service where you share the wealth. A good alternative is my side project Streamer Sub Alert, which allows you to generate a link that you can put on your profile, or activated via a bot which allows people once subscribed to put a calendar reminder into their calendar to resubscribe. Paid subscriptions do auto renew though.

And how much can you earn? Well, it’s a slog, I’m after 9 months about a third of the way to the payout level. But it’s something to look into a side project rather than a main source of income. Do it for the love, rather than the money.

Thanks For Reading!

If you’ve enjoyed this article, great! I hope I answered questions. My inbox is open for any further questions. If you are on Twitch, please follow me on Twitch. Also YouTube, Twitter & Discord for my other services. If you have Amazon Prime and haven’t used your Twitch Prime Subscription, please consider using it with me – you get a cool emote that you can use on Twitch & Discord (thanks to ArdonPixels for the design). You can do so from my Twitch Profile by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top. If nothing else, thanks for reading and please share.

Thirty-Six

Today I turn Thirty-Six.

My 35th celestial orbit was a year I’d suggest of personal settling down, if not slowing down. I felt like in my year I’ve changed a bit personally, if not necessarily professionally.

Business has been good – or so everybody has been telling me. It saw me speak outside of the UK for the first time (WordCamp Dublin), at the time of writing in 2 weeks I do my first talk in mainland Europe (WordCamp Antwerp). I’ve also been growing a quite fun little side project – (Streamer Sub Alert), and became a Twitch Affiliate. Although I enjoy all my projects and sites I work on, a particular highlight was working with Fullfact on their Fact Checking Schema Markup WordPress plugin, purely because it shared my values & it was working with some interesting people on this project. At least that’s one I can talk about a bit!

So yes, settling down a bit. Last year around this time I was a bit down with the whole Brexit nonsense. I’m still down about it. But one brave moment in my 35th year was to put my life on hold in Manchester & decamp to Berlin for a period of 3 weeks over the original date of the transition period (March 31st 2019). I always promised myself that should the fateful day come, I wanted to be on the other side of the wall. And (originally) I was. But the date moved and I was in the UK when we finally shot ourselves in the foot.

However, within Berlin I began to realise just how difficult it is to move. I fully intended to integrate and learn the language, but after a short while I was simply watching Premier League Football in an Irish Pub most nights. I had fun, don’t get me wrong, and I spent time with amazing friends which was always great. However to start a new life (or begin to)? At 35? It’s tough, especially as somebody who struggled a bit with the language. I have a new found respect for people who do this to better themselves, as I feel people forget how hard it is.

With that said, a part of Mauerpark will always have my heart.

As such, with the Berlin trip, I spent more time abroad overall, but to less places. Berlin (twice), Oberhausen, Dublin & the only new country Morocco – with a trip to Marrakesh just before Christmas. This was my first trip to Africa.

It was there surrounded by all inclusive treats I realised that I’m getting a bit bored traveling on my own. There were a few times in Marrakesh that if I was with somebody I’d probably would have done more.

I’ve 6 trips abroad booked right now (Berlin, Antwerp, Mönchengladbach, Prague, Amsterdam & another place I cannot say), and all six I’m either traveling with people, or traveling to meet people. Some cases (Berlin) it’s both. But I cannot always rely on other people like this, so at the turn of the year – I did something rather brave for me.

I’ve actively started dating again. Or trying to.

You see, online dating is a thoroughly depressing experience. So far I’ve been on two dates and they’ve been the most successful moments which ended with “lets just be friends”. They have been the better ones where there has been a closure and certainty. It’s certainly a place where your ego gets a massive battering and you are left wondering where you screwed up. Apologies for sounding so neckbeardy & edgelordy but it’s such a depressing procession. But we continue as there’s literally no chance of me meeting people outside of it (in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody outside this medium, not for 10-15 years or so).

Finally, onto settling down a bit. I’ve been trying to cut down a bit with alcohol and I’ve begin to notice the effects, I’m more alert, I’m more sensible, and I’m more fun to be around. At least I hope so! Other people may disagree. No large part has been streaming games on Twitch, which began in June of last year. It’s about the level of responsibility I can stomach now. Between that & using the NHS Drink Free Days app I’m well on my way to my goal of less than 100 days drinking in 2020.

Anyway, that’s my rambling mess for my 36th year. Here’s my now yearly Rhys With-A-Spoon/Reese Witherspoon comparison.


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

Reese Witherspoon
AgeNearly 36 (Up 1)Nearly 44 (Up 1)
Oscars
(Nominated)
0 – No Change
(0 – No Change)
1 – No Change
(1 – No Change)
Books Written1 (No Change)1 (Up 1)
Marriages0 (No Change)2 (No Change)
Children0 (No Change)3 (No Change)
WordPress Plugins Written &
On the WordPress Repository
12 (Up 1)0

Previous Versions: 3034, 35

Three of My Favourite Games I Played in 2019

So my games this year has been vast and many. I’ve been able to play a lot of games this year, probably more than previous years. There has been a new console with my Nintendo Switch, but also visiting a lot of previous games for two reasons – first is because I bought a Raspberry Pi recently and I enjoyed playing old games, and the second I’ve been streaming quite a lot on my Twitch Channel recently, which has seen me play and complete a variety of games. So I’ve been enjoying getting back into video games. As such, remembering what I played in 2019 was tough, so I’ve had a look and here have been the games I’ve enjoyed playing most this year.

Honourable mentions: Mortal Kombat 11 was excellent with an amazing story but kind of wasn’t fun playing online. Civilization 6 was excellent though I missed the Celts in the game, Baba is You is a lot of fun but gets really hard, and – a game I thought would win – Super Mario Maker 2 – was okay, but kind of spoiled by the difficulty curve. Also Zelda: Link’s Awakening & Untitled Goose Game is discounted as I played that this year. (The cut off point being the beginning of September.)

3. Apex Legends

So last year I posted my lack of enjoyment for Battle Royale style games. I have since decided I actually just don’t like Fortnite. Apex Legends was my battle royale game of choice. I played this game for a solid month or two. It took some time to get into it, but Apex Legends has been superb. I finally put Overwatch back in it’s box for possibly the last time this year, as the community on Xbox was toxic. Apex Legends allow character based team games, mixed with battle royale style games, and actually quite nicely allows you to play team games without having to speak thanks to the wonderful tagging system.

What’s nice about Apex is the characters. They’re not as well defined as something like Overwatch, but nevertheless I have my favourites. This, mixed with a cracking soundtrack. And the not that long games, and chances to actually win, makes this a compelling experience, a great pick up and play.

Apex Legends can be played on PC, Xbox and PS4.

2. Celeste

The most brilliant games in terms of storylines I played this year was Celeste. The story is the protagonist, Madeline, has to climb a mountain. However the story isn’t just about climbing a mountain. It’s Madeline also having to overcome her mental illness. Over her journey she meets many other characters, many of them having their own battles. If you have ever had people in your life suffer from mental illness, this story is absolutely engrossing.

A good story does not a great game make, but thankfully the game is great fun. Celeste’s game is a hardcore platformer in the Super Meat Boy style, but with plenty of places you can recover from, it’s unforgiving but easy to restart and rejoin the game. With the game being fun, you want to get to the end of the story. That’s, plus a cracking graphic style & amazing music, makes Celeste a must play.

You can buy Celeste on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PS4 & PC

1. Tetris 99

You know when you hear an idea that is so simple that you end up wondering why it was not done before? Then Tetris 99 is it. It’s Tetris. You know it, I know it, but it is mainly a battle royale game. You join a game with 99 other players, and you have to survive. There’s a strategy that you can attack certain players, but overall you can spend time trying to survive with Tetris.

This game has been my favourite I’ve played all year. The reason? It’s so pick up and play. You can play for 20 minutes, or you can play for hours on end. Winning is a genuine sense of elation, and the themes you can win adds some longevity to the game.

It’s so simple. It’s so playable. It’s free.

You can play Tetris 99 on the Nintendo Switch.

Previous Years: 2016, 2017, 2018

Thirty-Five

Today, I turn Thirty-Five.

Overall, my 34th trip around the sun was a year of change, and personal development. I thought of a photo to highlight it was outside my co-working space as a reminder to how far I’ve come this year.

Yes, one thing that was huge was my decision to go freelance. It’s been a largely positive six months, but not without it’s downs. I had a massive, massive freak out earlier this month – as in “Where will more work come from?” kinda freak out. Luckily, or strangely, I was without work for a period of time. Strange as it’s the first time in six months I actually had to get out and look for a bit of work. Luckily as it’s my first time. That moment’s has largely passed, but it freaked me out a bit.

Also, I’ve made a bit of a conscious effort to avoid social media. I’ve been getting down and depressed with it, what with the Brexit things happening and me being so vehemently opposed to it. It can swallow you up and after spending time reading various things that didn’t go the way I hoped with this whole Brexit nonsense I decided to use lists within TweetDeck, remove the Facebook & Twitter app from my home screen from my phone and switch off email notifications for a period of time per day. I say that’s been a huge help.

Alas, I cannot take the next step, as rather unfortunately I do seem to pick up a large amount of work through social media, so going completely off grid is not going to happen just yet. But it’s a start and it’s improved my mood immensely.

But yes, back to the B word, at the time of writing, I lose my freedom to work, live and love anywhere in 27 countries. Something may change in the next few days, but it’s getting mightily close. Growing a business with the fallout will be a challenge next year. I think I am prepared. Or as prepared as I can be. But I cannot help and look at my friends in other countries, or people with ways of escape, and cannot help but feel envious.

Regarding the things I love, I’ve done a lot of travelling when 34. Probably as a subconscious effort in losing rights. I had 6 trips abroad in my 34th year (which I actually lost count, whoops), which featured one new country (Belgrade, Serbia). One such trip was especially fun – Brussels in Belgium in the beginning of January as I pretty much kept it a secret. I don’t know why, part of me enjoys the thrill of running away, but I went to Belgium for a long weekend. Here’s me next to a pissing statue.

I also completed my goal of visiting 100 grounds before the end of the last season, a total that has largely stayed static since then (I’ve since added Eintracht Frankfurt & Prescot Cables to that list). I have bought a Switch (which I love), and started stockpiling some nice retro treasures (I now own for some daft reason every NES main line Mario Game in their original Japanese boxes, and some PS1 games). Yeah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So, without further ado, here’s my now yearly Rhys With-A-Spoon/Reese Witherspoon comparison.


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

Reese Witherspoon
AgeNearly 35 (Up 1)Nearly 43 (Up 1)
Oscars
(Nominated)
0 – No Change
(0 – No Change)
1 – No Change
(1 – No Change)
Books Written1 (No Change)0 (No Change)
Marriages0 (No Change)2 (No Change)
Children0 (No Change)3 (No Change)
WordPress Plugins Written11 (Up 1)0

Previous Versions: 30, 34