Piloting a tea-zeppelin on Mars is a lonely job

Robin Johnson makes interactive fiction and text adventures.

Detectiveland: New Losago, 1929 – a town full of creeps, clowns, mobsters, and, if you know where to look, the occasional honest citizen. Guide private investigator Lanson Rose through a series of puzzling cases: solve the city’s liquor supply problem in “Speakeasy Street”, track down a missing food scientist in “The Big Pickle”, and investigate strange goings-on under a dilapidated mansion in “A Study in Squid”.

Hamlet: You’re the prince of Denmark, and boy, are you in a sucky mood! You’ve been grounded again, your friends don’t understand you, and your evil uncle has murdered your father to usurp the throne. “In just five minutes’ playing, I was hooked” – Neil Gaiman

Aunts and Butlers: It’s 1920, you’re a minor aristocrat fallen on hard times, and your wretched Aunt Cedilla is on the warpath. She’s your last hope of a decent inheritance, so you’d jolly well better get yourself into her good books before she croaks. And what’s that mysterious butler up to? A comic adventure in the style of P. G. Wodehouse.

Portcullis: Your home town has been taken over by an evil sorcerer (because that’s what evil sorcerers do.) A party of professional adventurers has arrived in town to dethrone him (because that’s what adventurers do.) Help them defeat Zapdorf and liberate the town – or is there something else going on? A comic fantasy storygame, written for the 35th anniversary of Zork and the 40th anniversary of the original Adventure.

Draculaland: A loose adaptation of Dracula, faithfully reimagining several characters and ignoring most of the original plot. Guide Jonathan Harker on a trip through Transylvania, interacting with vampires, mad scientists, zombies, annoying magpies, and moustachioed werewolves.

Xylophoniad: The King of Anachronopolis has ordered you to complete three labours: end the Trojan War, slay the dreaded Bicyclops, and rescue a couple of inmates from Hades. A comic adventure based in Greek mythology.

Zeppelin Adventure: Piloting a tea-zeppelin on Mars is a lonely job, but this run is nearly over and then you’re due for a holiday. That’s unless you get sucked into a puzzly adventure involving pterodactyls, robots, paternoster lifts and space elves!


  • Get Lamp
  • One summer I hitchhiked through Britain trying to find a harp-maker.
  • Interactive Fiction competition 2016
  • West of House
  • Ten minutes of righteous robot ruination
  • “Where are they?” Interactive Fiction on Civilizations
  • Want to play a surreal interactive fiction game?
  • Interactive Fiction has a convention of rating how cruel a game is
  • Write your own adventure
  • Interactive Text Adventure for Your Kindle/E-Book Reader
  • text adventures (interactive fiction)
  • “Read you a story? What fun would that be?”
  • August 2, 2001
  • If you decide to explore the ledge where the seeker has come to rest, turn to page 6.
  • You are sitting in your chair, in front of you is a gray tablet that is not glowing.
  • Selection of Stories
  • Choice of the Dragon
  • Choice of Broads, Choice of Dudes.
  • You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.
  • It’s that time again
  • I was cheering for Lost Pig, too.
  • It Has Been Quite An Adventure
  • 9:05
  • A game about crime.
  • The Digital Antiquarian
  • You haven’t been eaten, until you’ve been eaten by a grue
  • Infocom and the Atomic Bomb
  • You feel yourself turning into a small fish! You flop three times then die.
  • You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
  • Also: The Interactive Fiction Database



    Clickhole’s “Well Played” tag follows the ordeals of a mild-mannered man dealing with quiet maladies: struggling with groups and their frequent casual miseries, handling chance encounters with strangers, suffering the minor cruelties of workplaces, failing to romance, sitting wrongly, and just generally being alive. But there’s something hidden among those videos. What is it? Just reload those pages a few more times, and try to watch those videos again…

    (Explanation here, if you’re not seeing it. Discovered through this Clickhole AMA.)

    MetaTalk: MetaFilter revenue update: holy cow, y’all!

    Recently, I announced that MetaFilter was in serious financial trouble, and asked you to help with additional community funding of the site.

    Y’all have really, really come through. Recurring contributions supporting the site are up by almost $10,000 a month and growing, erasing our current shortfall and helping move MetaFilter toward a more sustainable, independent revenue model. Community funding alone now covers very nearly half our operating budget. That’s amazing.

    Come on in and I’ll give you the details on what’s happened and what we’re up to next.

    WHAT HAPPENEDTwo weeks ago I told you all that MetaFilter had an $8K/month revenue shortfall. And I asked you all for help defraying that. My hope was we could cut that rate of loss back some, reduce the shortfall by a few thousand dollars a month to buy us more time to work on other revenue-generating stuff and sort out budget cuts.I had no doubt the MetaFilter community would help. You’ve all been generous before in your insistence on supporting the site, and you’ve convinced us to ask for help when we need it, and that by itself means the world to me and reassured me even as we were facing down this financial difficult new financial situation. You said ask for help, we asked for help.But you didn’t just help. You didn’t just reduce the shortfall. You eliminated it entirely, with room to spare. As of right now, MetaFilter members and readers and well-wishers are currently contributing an additional $9,500 per month compared to this point in May. That’s more than double what our community-funding levels were before. It fully covers the eight thousand dollar shortfall and gives us an extra fifteen hundred dollars a month to build into savings. On top of that, we’ve recieved over $30,000 in new one-time contributions to the site, which has put our savings into immediately better shape.I can’t say thank you enough. I can’t express my gratitude sufficiently. You’re all amazing. Not just because we’re breathing easier now than we were two weeks ago, but because this demonstrates a level of commitment to a long-term community-funded future for MetaFilter that puts us on far steadier ground than we have ever been. If this is what an independent web community looks like, you all have helped show that that is an accomplishable goal, that MetaFilter’s future doesn’t just come down to hoping the ad market holds out.We’ve got a bunch of work to do still. We’ve had a very busy couple weeks, and we’re working on stuff right now and have a lot of stuff queued up for the near future. I’ll sum that up below as best I can. But, just…thank you. Again and again. Thank you all.WHAT’S NEXTFirst off: probably needless to say, but I don’t consider this a “problem solved!” situation. The revenue dive you all have helped us recover from came from a big drop in the ad income we have historically depended on, but there’s no guarantee that that’s the end of any problems there. So I am very much taking this as a prompt to plan for the possibility of future problems along those same lines. All the stuff I talked about in the post a couple weeks back still stands as work we need to do, work I need to do. Best case scenario we’ll end up in a really positive revenue situation in the long run and build up a really great savings to work from; worst case scenario, we’ll be better prepared to deal with future downturns by embracing a business model focused on fostering and supporting community-funding of the independent web. So I am deeply relieved right now, but not resting on my laurels.In the last couple weeks we’ve gotten a ton of worthwhile input from the MetaFilter membership, in original State of the Site thread and a bunch of subsequent MetaTalk discussions; thanks also to the various folks who reached out over the contact form or dropped me a line directly via mefimail and email. It’s been a really heartening level of brainstorming, community self-reflection, and well-wishing. It’s also a lot to work with and through!So as a team we’re sorting through all that and setting out priorities for what we can tackle immediately, what we can tackle soon, and what we’ll be focusing on as bigger, longer-term projects. Over the next few weeks we’ll be easing from the bustle of intense community discussion of the last little bit- and the collating and processing of info coming out of that-into getting small changes implemented, starting new discussions of individual aspects of site practice and culture and features, and getting some of our more significant feature development stuff ready to roll out.I’ll run down some of those various things we’re working on:1. Advertising revenue. I’m looking at where we can tweak the existing Adsense units we’re using; they’ve got a couple newer programs I’m exploring and there’s spots we’ll try to adjust our existing ads a little to kick up revenue without going nuts with the ad coverage. If you read logged-out sometimes, you may see ad units page layouts change some, though no big changes in the type or behavior of ads. I’m also talking with a couple independent ad folks; we’ll likely very soon start testing one or more small ad types visible to logged-in users up at the top of front pages, replacing what used to be The Deck ads for many years.2. Affiliate revenue. We recently added international Amazon referrer links, so folks outside the .com market can support the site that way. Right now those links are on the fundraising page; we’re gonna work out a way to make those links more visible on the site, and add some documentation on how they work, what tools are available for making them more convenient to use, etc. We’re also going to roll out some OneLink code to make it so existing Amazon affiliate links in comments automatically redirect to the appropriate regional store as well, which will be helpful for both MeFites and, crucially, for drive-by search traffic who wouldn’t ever go looking for our dedicated affiliate links in the first place. I am starting to explore some other good-reputation affiliate possibilities as well for the kind of sites MeFites are likely to be linking to or shopping at already; more on that as it comes.3. Operating budget. I’m continuing to look at possible trimmings on our monthly hosting costs with AWS, which may save us a little money month to month. I also decided earlier this month as a first-cut move to reduce my own pay by a bit before looking at any staff-wide cuts, to help us hit budget until things steadied out. The way revenue is going with the new community contributions, it looks like that cut can be temporary instead of a long-term move, which is a relief; that we don’t need to look at any other payroll cuts now at all is much bigger one.4. Community funding and subscriptions. We talked a lot in the State of the Site post about focusing more in the future on supporting a formal subscription process for the site. That’d mean moving from the “hey, contribute if you can” indirect process we’re currently using to something tied explicitly to membership. It’ll still be pay-what-you-can-it’s essential to me that MetaFilter remain a site you can use regardless of your means or financial circumstances, even if that’s literally zero dollars-but it’d allow us to normalize the expectation that this place costs money to maintain and needs ongoing community support. I’m exploring a bunch of options for the subscription-management aspect of that; we’re also working on increasing the visibility of community funding appeals and info on the site long-term. One small change we’ve already made: the “I help fund MetaFilter!” message you can optionally display on your profile page now links to the funding page directly, instead of to an FAQ entry.5. Helping folks communicate with the mod team. Hearing from folks about problems, concerns, etc on the site is essential to us doing our jobs well. Flagging helps, so does using the contact form. But folks have been clear that there’s ways we can help supplement that, and we’re working on a couple specific things right now to this end: making the contact form link much easier to reach on mobile by getting it into the menu bar on the Modern theme mobile view, and working to very soon do a final test and public roll out of the free-form text field flagging option we’ve had in an almost-there state for a long while now.6. Making MetaFilter easier to understand, join, and share content from. This is a big topic with a lot of moving parts, but a few things we’re looking actively: making gift accounts free so members can more easily invite new folks on to the site; modernizing some of the signup content and FAQs to make it quicker to get the basic ideas of the place; working on an all-subsites landing page for easier browsing of content; and looking at a single-comment view or related approaches to sharing a small, fast-loading, easy-to-parse bit of a larger (sometimes much larger) thread. I’m also revisiting some ideas about tweaking the default view of the site to be a bit more, well, MetaFiltery: bringing back colored theming by default (though logged-in users will still have full control of their preferences there), reviewing some little look-and-feel things in our typography and color schemes, etc.7. Encouraging fun, interesting, makes-your-day-better-not-worse posts and engagement on the site. Some of this is features, some of this is culture & community work, and we’re looking at both. Revamping FanFare to be much easier to parse and find stuff on is an ongoing project; we’re aiming to support and highlight good/cool/fun/neat posts through community-wide posting initiatives and regular sidebarring; we’re going to filter politics megathread content out of the Popular Favorites view to make it a less grim and monotone list and more of the joyful/interesting mix it had traditionally been; we’ll be revisiting and discussing some of the site’s posting guidelines to make sure they’re serving the site and community well; and we’ll continue to have public discussions and do behind-the-scenes mod work to try and help people find a way to balance the need to stay informed and active in a weird and hard timeline with the goal of having MetaFilter be one of the good things in their day, not the first bad part of it.8. Working to improve on recurring conflicts and sources of friction in conversation. This is a complicated, progress-by-increments subject and one that’s going to require a mix of moderator work (via both in-thread moderation guidance and some private discussion with users) and collective effort from the MetaFilter membership as we try to steer some of our worse conversational patterns back toward a focus on kindness and patience and benefit of the doubt where possible. That exists in some tension with the need to continue to reject some of the toxic rhetoric and behavior that makes a lot of the internet uninhabitable, so it’ll need a lot of deliberate attention and there’s no silver bullet for it. But I know it’s something we can make some progress on, and I want to clearly acknowledge the need to do so as a major topic of discussion over the last couple weeks and as something we’re putting a lot of focus on as a mod team as we move forward.9. Merch! We’re gonna make some more merch, because dang it merch is fun. There’s been some good brainstorming both in the original State of the Site post and in the dedicated merch chatter thread, and I’ve been digging through some possibilities for getting some new stuff available in a low-friction way, so we’re hoping to get some new stuff on offer shortly and to roll out additional stuff periodically so it’s not just a once-in-a-great-while sort of deal.That’s a pretty good summary. It’s not everything, but it’s a lot and represents a lot of ongoing and future work, so we’ll be getting to it all in bits and pieces.As we roll out or prep a new feature or initiative or point of community discussion, we’ll be putting up subject- and feature-specific MetaTalk posts so folks can comment, brainstorm, etc. I’m hoping we’ll be able to tackle something new every week or so for a while, as frimble’s able to get stuff implemented and the mod team is able to put together the framework for discussing this or that issue.I’m also going to aim to just update MetaTalk with shorter, more frequent “here’s how things are going” posts for the foreseeable future, vs. the less frequent, more omnibus posts we’ve had previously. I want to keep you all in the loop on where we’re at, even when stuff’s mostly just motoring along month to month.There’s a lot going on so I appreciate y’all bearing with us on this and for being so involved and thoughtful in discussions of where the site is at and where it can go.And, again, again, thank you all for the outpouring of financial support. There is no question now that community funding is and will be not just a helpful but a fundamental part of this place’s business model. If you’re able to help out there, please do; we’re a long way from being totally ad-independent still, but the events of the last couple weeks have put me into a place of believing that it’s an achievable long term goal, and every little step forward there matters.I’ll stop typing, promise. I just want to reiterate, one more time, that the MetaFilter community is a remarkable group of people and I feel incredibly lucky that this is the kind of place I get to work and, more importantly, to call my online home.

    Because it’s about time someone did.

    Great article about the best comic-themed deep dive podcast you weren’t aware you needed to start listening to: Jay & Miles X-Plain The X-Men [previously], which posted its 200th episode today, featuring the most important X-Men author whose surname doesn’t rhyme with Belmont*, Louise Simonson, and is hosted by Miles Stokes and Jay Edidin.

    Jay was ComicBook.com’s Comics Person of the Year 2017, in large part for their part in publishing an exposé on sexual harrasment at DC.

    * besides, he was featured in episode #100)

    MeFi: We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

    If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing it would be this: “Abby, you were never Little Red Riding Hood; you were always the wolf.” So when I was entrusted with the honor of speaking here today, I decided that the most important thing for me to say to you is this: BARNARD WOMEN-CLASS OF 2018-WE. ARE. THE. WOLVES.

    Former U.S. soccer star Abby Wambach delivers the commencement address at Barnard College. Transcript. via.

    One Brain to record them all

    Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno turns 70 today. Rolling Stone has a nifty tribute, as does Pitchfork, but I’ve used my copy of Oblique Strategies to put this together. Don’t blame me, blame 15 year old me.

    What are you really thinking about just now? “In August 1992, Eno drew a crowd of 1,500 to Sadler’s Wells for a lecture, washed down with music and slides, entitled “Perfume, Defence and David Bowie’s Wedding”. The first part was about smells and how to mix them, a longstanding interest; the second was about the defence industry (“this is increasingly the way that governments explore new technologies”); the third was a firsthand account of the blessing of David Bowie’s second marriage, to Iman, in a church in Florence. “You couldn’t tell what was sincere and what was theatre,” Eno reported. “It was very touching.” In that lecture, Eno gave his definition of culture: “everything you don’t have to do.” Thus cuisine is culture, but eating is not; fashion is, but clothing isn’t. The great thing about the definition is that it covers both the common senses of the word – culture meaning art, and culture as in the ways that a group of people have in common.” (50 Eno Moments)

    Give way to your worst impulse: Live version of Seven Deadly Finns. So seventies. Much beret.

    In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly: “In January this year I had an accident. I was not seriously hurt, but I was confined to bed in a stiff and static position. My friend Judy Nylon visited me and brought me a record of 18th century harp music. After she had gone, and with some considerable difficulty, I put on the record. Having laid down, I realized that the amplifier was set at an extremely low level, and that one channel of the stereo had failed completely. Since I hadn’t the energy to get up and improve matters, the record played on almost inaudibly. This presented what was for me a new way of hearing music …” (notes) (music)

    Lowest common denominator: “The aesthetic theory that underlies the work of Brian Eno is to be found here. In his work, the music is slowed down to almost reach the immobility of painting, while this is moved along, almost magically, to the element of time. So, in the intermediate point between music and painting, in that center that always escapes to the structuring of the composition, the magic happens. Charmingly, certainly unexpected, music and painting meet. …” (Light Music)

    Define an area as “safe” and use it as an anchor: “Grotesque Tables II, itself an anagram of Oblique Strategies, are now available through a website created by New York based artist and conceptual musician Noah Wall. Taking 50 of the original 113 strategies, Wall reworked these helpful ideas into blissful abstractions. The results of his work are pretty wild, altering Eno and Schmidt’s suggestions such as “Use filters” and “Breathe more deeply” and “Be less critical more often,” into wonderfully bizarre phrases like “Let fissure” and “Elope by mere thread,” and “Be frictionless latecomer.” The cards even come with a Eno-approved blurb: “Let the Oblique Strategies fissure into a million wonderful variants, of which this is the first.” (OS rebooted)

    Simple subtraction: “In July 1975, Brian Eno found himself a few days and several thousand dollars into a studio booking with nearly nothing to show for it. It wasn’t that he had too few ideas, but too many. …” (Pitchfork review of Another Green World) (music)


    Repetition is a form of change: “All of our musical experience is based on the the possibility of repetition, and of portability, so you can move music around to where you want to be, and scrutiny, because repetition allows scrutiny. You can go into something and hear it again and again. That’s really produced quite a different attitude to what is allowable in music. I always say that modern jazz wouldn’t have existed without recording, because to make improvisations sound sensible, you need to hear them again and again, so that all those little details that sound a bit random at first start to fit. You anticipate them and they seem right after a while. So in a way, the apps and the generative music are borrowing from all of the technology that has evolved in connection with recorded music and making a new kind of live, ephemeral, unfixable music. It’s a quite interesting historical moment.” (2017 Pitchfork interview)

    Emphasize the flaws: Wilhelm Tell Overture with the Portsmouth Sinfonia.

    Discard an axiom: I couldn’t find a good match for this one that wasn’t gracelessly repetitive, so I’ll stop here.