Showing posts with label forums. Show all posts
Showing posts with label forums. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Here's a quick guide on how to create ASCII art in posts on sites like Reddit, forums, email and elsewhere.

ASCII art has been around for decades now. This site provides a very nice summation of the history of ASCII art, including its beginnings in hieroglyphics, monasteries, and finally on computer screens. You can find ASCII art online today in the form of emoticons, and also at various sites (like this one) that have compiled all kinds of ASCII art creations for your enjoyment.

Creating most ASCII art relies mainly on using a fixed-width font, such as Courier New. Doing so ensures that your work will look the same when rendered by the browser or email client or whatever medium as it does in whatever tool you're using to create it, because each character has a set width, a set number of pixels that it occupies.

Many text editing widgets on websites and email clients give you the option of picking what font to use. For purposes of ASCII art, pick a fixed-width font. Then, begin crafting your design. You can also simply copy-and-paste someone else's ASCII art, like this cupcake, for example, but if you do so, it's best to keep any attribution the artist might've tagged their creation with (thanks Krogg, whoever you are):


         | |
     _.--| |--._
  .-';  ;`-'& ; `&.
 & &  ;  &   ; ;   \
 \      ;    &   &_/
  | | | | | | | | |
  J | | | | | | | F

Many forums have a WYSIWYG text-editor that lets you pick from a variety of fonts. In those cases, you can typically create your art in any text editor (I use Notepad++) then copy-and-paste it into the forum's editor, and then highlight the text and then change the font to apply fixed-width formatting.

Email clients, too, usually have WYSIWYG editors. Microsoft Outlook, for example, can be configured to use Word to create emails, allowing for great flexibility in formatting. For email messages, you can simply configure your email client to use a fixed-width font like Courier New, or alternatively change the email format it uses to plain text, rather than HTML or Rich Text; by default many email clients will render incoming such email messages in a fixed-width font, saving you some guesswork about whether the ASCII art will appear as intended.

Specific to Reddit, their text editor doesn't let you choose what font to use, beyond the font selections you choose for your web browser, but they do enable you to use a fixed width font by preceding each line of text with four blank spaces. Users in the programming field will sometimes post programming code, and while this feature is particularly suited to that purpose, it can also help you break up an otherwise serious discussion with some frivolous ASCII art creation.

To reproduce the above cupcake ASCII art on Reddit, then, you'd simply copy-and-paste the above into a new post or comment on Reddit, then copy a set of four blank spaces and paste them in front of each line of the cupcake. Then when Reddit displays the text, it will apply formatting rules and display the cupcake in fixed width font for everyone's enjoyment. Here's an example.

Unfortunately, some sites like Facebook won't allow you to choose your own font, their text formatting is very limited. However, you could simply host either a plain ASCII text file or an HTML document on a free web host like Awardspace. Then, simply refer your friends to the URL for that page to show them your creation.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Top 10 List on 10 Separate Pages?? Uhhh... NO.

I discovered a new old Firefox add-on which is my new favorite. Repagination lets you take many annoyingly spoon-fed articles on the web which are broken up into separate pages and consolidate them as you like.

Increasingly, to get their advertising exposed to as many eyes as possible, content publishers will take anything from a howto article to a top 10 list and break it into individual pages. I think mainly the purpose of this is increase the CPM, which is understandable if someone is publishing content for purposes of earning some money.

Another reason for doing this is to try to regulate how much bandwidth is consumed in viewing the site. One user gobbling up 1 item of a top 10 list at a time uses less bandwidth than a user grabbing all 10 items at once. This is certainly a concern particularly for a forum which might be running with an ISP which charges for monthly bandwidth overage. However, some sites like Something Awful will do stuff like charge users a one-time fee for the privilege of searching their forum. While this is understandable, I find it annoying.

Say you have a favorite thread on a forum which is huge, but unfortunately only shows a set limit of posts per page. This add-on lets you bypass the site's limitation, and lets you consolidate all the posts into a single, huge web document.

In the screenshot below, by right-clicking on the Next link, a Repagination popup menu is present, and the "All" option I choose lets me append to the current page all subsequent pages of the forum thread.

In this example, a thread which is several hundred pages long can, if I like, be loaded en masse in a single browser window. At that point, I can easily search it for references, in this case, to artists or songs I like, or just save the whole mess for viewing later on a laptop if I happen to be somewhere without wireless connectivity (a situation which is becoming increasingly infrequent).

While the popularity of this kind of add-on certainly will open the floodgates as far as your ability to gobble up more of a content publisher's bandwidth at one time, it also will and arguably should send the message that informed users can and will get around attempts to spoon-feed content and advertising to them.

Although this add-on hasn't been updated recently, someone posted an update to this extension here which makes it compatible with Firefox 3.x. I hope that the author will consider an update of his own, I find it an incredibly helpful and useful add-on!