SUNDAY, MARCH 1ST, 2020
BROWSE PAGE IN TURMOIL!
Only those with their site profiles disabled survived the purge.
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
This is a very special edition of the Inquirer, dear readers. Why, you ask? Well, because it's the first, of course!
Going forward, aspects of this news-paper shall be dependent on you, the readers! 'Penny For Your Thoughts' will be a column wherein I, RoseKnight, answer your queries, your electronic-mail, and your hateful missives! If you would like to reach me, I can be found at ga#3079 on the 'Discord', @_rose_knight_ on the 'Twitter', and at the electronic-mail address email@example.com.
Please also feel free to reach out if you believe you have a scoop worthy of a story, an idea for a guest column, a weekly strip for the sunday comics, or any other fun ideas for the Inquirer! After all, journalism is the voice of the people, not the voice of the one single snow golem!
AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD
This week, I perused some impressive sites I'd never before seen! This column will be for me to show off some up-and-comin', hippity-happenin' places on Neocities.org!
The first site on the agenda is The Insidious Bogleech! A site with over 15 years of creepy-crawly content to entertain your halloween-y side, which feels practically tailored to my interests. (It is objectively the best holiday, after all.) I have no idea how Bogleech escaped my radar; this site is simply filled to the brim with content in a way that you don't often see on Neocities. I am happy to report that my favorite starter, Turtwig, received an acceptable score from the proprietor of the site. And I am even PROUDER to report that my #1 favorite pokemon, Grimer, has received top marks!! Bravo to you, Bogleech, for the exceptional taste!
THE LATEST SCOOP
At approximately 7 PM on Tuesday, I was doing the usual Neocities testing rigamarole in an attempt to find out how the Browse page's Follow algorithm worked, once and for all. My accomplice of the evening, Yudosai, was the guinea pig willing to risk it all to find answers. My theory: That following your own followers lowers your score. What I found instead SHOCKED me to my very custard-y core, dear readers!
Poor, sweet, innocent Yudosai - dumped without trial an entire two rows down, from the depths of Page 2 to the top of Page 3. I could barely believe my eyes; had they lost a follower during our testing? Indeed, yes, but only one - could it explain such a jump, or was our experiment partially to blame? I unfollowed Yudosai to see how far they'd go - another two rows down. Then, I refollowed them... and they didn't move!! 'Hark', I said, 'What manner of trickery is this?'
But 'twas no trickery indeed!
I had stumbled upon a bug that had gone unseen for months - nay, centuries - which explained the browse page inconsistencies. Unfollows always counted against your score,
but follows only counted once! Ergo, if you were to re-follow a striking young fella 30 times, their effective follower count would decrease by 29! With this newfound knowledge in hand, I understood the grave implications - what to do, with this power? Did I quietly inform Neocities staff, avoiding potential incident? Did I keep my kisser shut, and slowly rise to the top using an advantage none others had? Or did I sell my information to the highest bidder?
Honestly I just autoclicked Fauux to page 68 and told everyone in the Discord how to do it and then shit went crazy.
Icons such as Suyu, Exosilver, Joppiesauce - in their follower and viewcount PRIME - were sent to the shadow realm! All those who dared to sit atop the front page were struck down with the merciless power of one-thousand auto-mated clicks! It wasn't until February 29th, a full four days later, that this bug was partially fixed, setting many individual sites back to where they had been, and many others to seemingly random spots. Will the browse page ever be accurate? If you're one of those com-puter whizzes, who would like to know more about the marvellous technological feats behind Neocities, read on to "Frontend To Backend" for a look at the github commits!
SUNDAY, MARCH 1ST, 2020
With the big browse page shakeup, finding some fresh new gems isn't a problem. The second site for this week is Tinypaws, a site entirely dedicated to Pixie the Chihuahua, with an impressive number of pictures. It's a real delightful site, and surprisingly has a ton to see within the periphery, like a Links page filled to the brim with helpful information, and a really sweet Past Pets page. Check 'em out!!!
BACKEND TO FRONTEND
Since The Latest Scoop focused on a Neocities site-wide bug, there won't be much to say in Backend to Frontend today. However, I would like to bring to your attention the specific mechanisms by which the bug was able to be abused, and why those mechanisms still have not led to a fixed web-site.
Many Neonaughts noticed, on the Leap Day, that their follower counts Leaped down multiple pegs, without any indication as to why. The truth is that site profiles that are disabled will no longer count towards your score... on your page. Whether or not this affects the browse page is an ongoing investigation. After rigorous testing, I found that disabling your site profile and re-enabling it will unfollow and refollow everyone correctly, meaning their numbers will go down and back up without incident. I still haven't figured out the intricacies of the new browse sorting method, so if you have any info you can glean from the github, give me a ring! Inquiring minds would like to know!
BLAST FROM THE PAST!
Veteran Neonaughts, from over a year ago, may remember one other time the Browse page was shaken up by yours truly. On Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, I discovered that the 30 children sites of a Supporter account were able to follow anyone they wanted, and have their follows actually count towards the browse page scores, allowing you to shoot yourself up the rankings. I also discovered that the 30 site limit was a ruse - there was, in fact, no such limitation.
Over 150 fake sites later, and I'd climbed nearly to the top of the browse page, and spammed everyone's activity into oblivion.
Of course, I cheekily reported the bug to Kyle Drake, who was not particularly happy. He deleted all of the false sites I'd made, on June 14th and 15th, 2019. After that, he made some tweaks to the algorithms concerning follower count, and he also made sure that 30 site limit worked properly this time. I am still amazed I didn't get banned, given how disappointed his response was over electronic-mail.
I would like to say that I learned my lesson, but given that just this week I opened Pandora's box for the second time, I'd say I probably haven't.
The shakeup of this past browse page kerfuffle is what led to my investigations and the more recent bug being found. Unfortunately, Neocities is the only web host with any sort of social media aspect to it, and that social media aspect is limited by these problems. Being on the front page leads to a noticeable increase in daily views, more people following your site, and the prestige of saying you're above all the losers. While the score is as meaninglessly incorrect as it is now, people are more inclined to try and break it, and it seems to work more often than not.
My hope as a humble unofficial and unwanted QA tester for Neocities is to find the bugs and get them fixed. I promise to you, my dear readers, that I will continue to fight the good fight, find bugs, and report on them! Either until the day I die, or until Kyle Drake unfollows me on twitter. Or I get banned. Or I get bored. Or I switch to Dreamhost or Digital Ocean or something.
...But until then, this is RoseKnight, signing off! See you laters, alligators!
SUNDAY, MARCH 1ST, 2020
SUNDAY, MARCH 1ST, 2020