|Acaeum DCP Handbook -- Part One
This handbook is designed to help the aspiring subweb operator in planning,
organizing, and executing his or her subweb. Please contact the webmaster
([email protected]) with your
proposed idea before moving past Phase 1, below.
About a year ago, I privately solicited some members of the RPG collecting
community on whether they'd like to be involved in "moderating" a particular
site expansion -- whether Judges' Guild, AD&D 2.0, fanzines, whatever.
The response was a bit lukewarm, especially once I explained some ground
rules -- namely, that the contributor in question would be required to become
a "subop" (in old BBS parlance, a manager of that particular subdomain).
He/she would be responsible for creating the web pages and indexes, fielding
all the submissions, and most importantly, making a commitment to seeing
the project through to at least some sort of completion (or significant
work-in-progress). Needless to say, there are few people out there
who have both the expertise and free time necessary to make such a thing
At the time that I solicited opinions on possible site expansions, I indicated
to those involved that I'd probably open the discussion up to the general
forum membership at some point in the future. I think there's no better
time than the present -- therefore, check out the new forum (only visible
if you are a registered member of
The Acaeum Forums) on
what's already been written, and please submit your own thoughts.
The proposal is as follows:
While I initially dismissed any notions of expanding the site (for not only
the time requirements on my part, but also the problem of the site becoming
bloated and unnavigable), a few people got me thinking:
What if the site was expanded using subwebs? MS FrontPage 2003 (which
I use) allows you to create subwebs that have different access permissions
from the main site. The proposed "subwebs" would link off the main
page, and cover topics as related as "Planescape" and "Hollow World", or
as unrelated as "Judges Guild", "Alternity", or "non-D&D TSR". Such
a subweb's URL would be www.acaeum.com/planescape, etc -- to an outside
user, it would be indistinguishable from just another folder.
The subweb(s) could be linked to the main site via the home page, but otherwise
would be totally separate. The administrator(s) of the subweb would
be solely responsible for its creation and maintenance, including becoming
the resident "sage" of that particular area.
Virtually any RPG gaming category would be valid for a subweb. So
"Planescape" could be a subweb, "Judges Guild", "Runequest", "3rd Edition
D&D", etc. I'd even permit "non-D&D TSR", since there seems to be
a great deal of interest in non-RPG items that TSR produced. As long
as the focus is on collecting RPG material, the topic itself can be as broad
or as narrow as you think you can handle.
Benefits of an Acaeum Subweb:
- Your own server space (free!) to host a subweb, with capacity for
FTP-style file hosting and nearly unlimited room for HTML web pages
and cover scans.
- Your own subweb-specific e-mail address (i.e., [email protected],
[email protected], etc), which can either be a mail forward (all mail
forwarded to an existing e-mail address of your choosing), or a complete
POP-3 mailbox (with webmail access).
- Moderator access to your own subweb-specific forum on The Acaeum
Forums, for public discussion of your particular topic.
- Already have your own web site, dealing with some sort of RPG-collecting
topic? Move it over here and make it your subweb. You'll
benefit from the sizeable user base and traffic of The Acaeum, as well
as get free server space, acaeum.com e-mail addresses, etc.
The Ground Rules and Requirements:
- Obtain a copy of Microsoft FrontPage 2003. Since it's what
I use, and I would need to have the ability to access the subweb directly,
I'd have to require all the subwebs to use it as well. Some sort
of image-editing software (I use Paintshop Pro, but there are many which
will work fine) is also recommended.
- Learning the basics of how to operate these software programs, much
of which I can help you with.
- Maintain Acaeum style and conventions. Since it's a subweb
of The Acaeum, it should make users feel right at home, and the transfer
from the main site to the subweb should be relatively seamless.
Therefore, the same colors, background image, navigation bar style,
etc. With that said, the possibilities for otherwise customizing
the subweb are up to you. You can have your own "home page" (the
link off the main menu would direct the user to your own main navigation
page), decide what sections you want, how they're constructed and organized,
etc. I can certainly help in creating page templates, which you
can then use or customize.
- While I generally dwell in obscurity on the site (my real name doesn't
appear anywhere), you can feel free to plaster your name all over your
subweb. You'll also be credited as an Acaeum staff member on the
main credits page.
- Multiple admins of a single subweb would be allowed, but not recommended.
If you really work well with someone, by all means, go to work together.
But conflicts could be messy.
- Since you would be the sole creator of the material on the subweb,
the copyrights to that information would be retained by you (I have
no interest in making you sign over rights). Server space, and
all rights to the Acaeum titles and conventions, would be retained by
me. Therefore, should either you, or I, or both of us, decide
that the subweb needs to leave the Acaeum, you'd simply copy all of
your subweb material (minus the previously mentioned background image,
nav bars, etc) and go create your own separate web site on your own
- The Acaeum has achieved at least some level of respectability with
the collecting community, and I believe that is due in no small part
to the high standards we have around here. Those same standards
would be applied to a subweb. Maintaining those standards requires
hard work and long-term dedication. I'm not saying this is a full-time
job, but getting halfway through your Planescape material, and then
taking a three-year vacation, is not acceptable. Regular updates
(every two months? more?) are expected (unless you've finished saying
everything there is to say on your subweb, which is doubtful!).
As the resident sage of your subweb, you WILL get a flood of submissions,
questions, praise, and hate mail, the quantity of which being directly
proportional to the popularity of your topic. This sort of thing
(even the hate mail) is great fun for a while, but as the years go by,
can be draining. The commitment is to stick with it. The
rewards are many, and at least to me, well worth the aggravations.
Constructing Your Subweb
Phase 1: Define
Here where you set the scope of your subweb. Tackle a topic that’s
too small, and you’ll quickly find yourself with nothing more to say. Inversely,
a topic that’s too broad will overwhelm you, and turn off visitors who encounter
far too many “Under construction!” pages.
Ideally, I’d prefer a minimum boundary of 30 or so individual web pages.
Any less than that is probably a waste of time. As far as a maximum, it’s
up to you, dependent solely upon your available free time and willingness
to work. In most cases, I will not agree to publish a subweb (i.e., go “live”
on the Internet) with less than 75% of the subweb complete. But if you want
to work on it for two years before going live, that’s completely up to you.
Your parameters should be clearly written out and presented to me before
you go any further (and preferably, before you purchase any software or
otherwise expend any effort on the subweb). Think of this as your proposal.
You should also provide me an estimate of the size of your subweb, in number
of web pages (loosely, a estimate of the number of separate items, or separate
groups of items, that you will cover).
Over time, your parameters can easily be expanded as necessary. Reducing
parameters (once the site goes live) will be done sparingly, and only after
much discussion – once your site goes live, you’ve effectively made a promise
to the public that you’ll be the complete source of knowledge on the parameters
Some topical examples:
- Dark Sun
- AD&D 2nd Edition
- Star Frontiers
- Non-TSR D&D
- Non-D&D TSR
… the possibilities are nearly endless. Your only boundaries are that the
topic should focus on a game(s) of some sort, and should focus on the collecting
aspects of that game(s). If you wish to provide estimated values for items,
that’s up to you – though any estimated values you present will be subject
to certain oversight from The Acaeum staff, to ensure that the values are
fair and objective.
Phase 2: Organize
As a reminder: before moving on to this phase, please contact
me at [email protected] to
discuss the feasibility of your subweb. I'd hate to have you put in
a lot of work for nothing!
You’d think that you’d organize your data
after compiling it, but that’s inefficient.
Sketch out how your subweb will be constructed. What will your front page
look like – will you need separate sections, such as a library, credits
page, and one or more indexes? Or would your subweb be better served by
simply having a single index serve as your front page?
In general, I’d like you to follow to conventions already established on
The Acaeum. Therefore, if your subweb is “Judges Guild”, either have one
master index of all JG items, or a couple of indexes broken down by whatever
criteria you come up with. If you need a library section, or a credits page,
that’s fine too.
Some design choices may not be completely obvious. You want information
to be located easily – and this may require some brainstorming. For example,
let’s take a look at “The Judges Guild Codex” at
. If you’re looking for the print history on the original “City State of
the Invincible Overlord”, how quickly can you find it? If you clicked on
“D&D”, you’d only find the revised edition – and no mention of what section
the original version is to be found in. Such misfires on your own subweb
will only serve to frustrate and confuse visitors, and you want to avoid
that whenever possible.
One system that I’m currently using for the Module Index is having
two indexes of the same information
– one organized by title, and one by module code. I only did this because
so many people are familiar with the module codes (the “D” series, for instance),
and might not be able to remember the title. With most other types of data,
however, I can’t see this type of system being useful – not many people
are familiar with Judges Guild’s module code system, so having a separate
index organized by code wouldn’t be too intuitive (and would probably serve
to confuse visitors further). Try and view your information from the perspective
of a non-expert, who’s trying to digest your subweb and find what he or
she wants quickly. Few visitors come to aimlessly browse.
Phase 3: Compile
The Acaeum was created primarily using my own collection, and exhaustive
research on eBay and the Internet in general. For example, to compile information
on the Aerie series of modules, I first dragged out all the “A” module copies
I owned, and compared the differences. From that, I was able to sketch out
a rough printing history. eBay searches filled in the holes; I could often
spot printing differences just from the cover scans depicted. Often, I’d
e-mail the sellers with specific questions.
Next, I decided which prints I would offer cover scans of. Not every print
needed a corresponding scan; if the difference between a Third and Fourth
print is the presence of an ISBN number, a separate scan is probably not
needed. If I didn’t have the particular print from which to scan the cover
of, I’d e-mail the eBay seller asking for permission to use the scan (and
often, requesting a better-quality scan in the meantime). If no scan of
that needed print was available, I’d put in a “Scan Needed!” placeholder.
Over time, contributors will send in the scans you need, but for aesthetic
reasons, I didn’t want too many “Scan Needed!” placeholders when the site
initially went live.
On my hard drive, I created folders for each of the module series (“A”,
“B”, etc), and into each folder placed the scans I was collecting as well
as a Microsoft Word document that had my current print history info in it,
along with any other trivia I was learning. Note that at this point, I hadn’t
even touched Microsoft FrontPage. FrontPage is just a design tool,
that lets you present your information to the public in an attractive package.
The meat of your subweb is the information – that’s why this phase should
be your most intensive and time-consuming. Making your information attractive
is the easy part.
Phase 4: FrontPage
Now that you have your information, it’s time to make it look pretty.
Fortunately for you, I can provide you with many of the basic templates
and graphics necessary to get you started. You’ll have the background texture
already in place, as well as all the Acaeum-style buttons and the CSS style
sheet (more on this later).
Much of this phase will simply involve making a new page, copying the text
from your research Word document onto the page, and inserting your cover
scans in the appropriate places. Obviously, it’s not quite that simple –
your text will need to be edited and probably expanded, the layout adjusted
so it looks nice, and the little behind-the-scenes maintenance tasks accomplished.
The next part of this handbook will serve as a basic tutorial on how to
operate FrontPage, and how The Acaeum’s pages and indexes were created.
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