Advanced Forum Posting (and pink unicorns)
*Note -- any images/links/stories/jokes contained in this article are shamelessly plagiarized, for nonprofit educational purposes to make it legal.
This article is a guide to posting.
"But MDK, I already know how to post!"
I know. This is a walk-through for more advanced posting techniques -- things like how to post pictures, how to post spoilers, how to post links properly, how to post bullet-points without your B) turning into a smiley-face wearing sunglasses.
"But MDK, I already know how to do all that!"
Then leave, this article isn't for you.
- Basic Principles of Advanced Posting
- Quote Boxes
- Spoiler buttons
- Style modifications
- Miscellaneous Options
Let's start with the shoe on the right foot -- basics of formatting. There are two schools of thought when it comes to fancy forum shit. One says, go into the full-on Advanced Reply option, click a bunch of buttons, and make the computer figure it all out. The other says, format manually as you go -- I'm going to tell you the latter, because that's how I do things, and because that will give you an understanding of what the computer is doing -- and why your formatting isn't working properly!
The basic unit of BB Code is the bracket. The forum has been trained to recognize certain bracketed words or letters, and to automatically display them as special formatting. It begins with a bracketed [word], the "opening bracket," and ends with a bracketed [/word], which I call "closing bracket." The answer to any formatting question is to properly manage your opening- and closing-brackets.
For instance, let's say I wanted to display my text as a pink unicorn. BB Code for this command is [pink unicorn]. Watch what happens when I accidentally leave off the closing bracket:
[pink unicorn]This text is a pink unicorn![pink unicorn]
As you can see, that text is not a pink unicorn. When reading my post, the forum saw an open bracket, but not a closing one -- so it never modified my text to properly display it the way I wanted to. Now, watch again while I close-bracket the text correctly:
See? It's that easy! Every formatting code works on this exact same principle. Some have special tricks that you can use to make your formatting even cooler. Others are vanilla and boring. But everything works the same way -- open bracket, close bracket. It's that simple.
As this guide continues, you will see a "Code" box under each header. The code boxes will display BB Code Brackets with extra spaces before and after the code itself -- I'm intentionally inputting the code wrong so that you can easily see the code at work. In all cases, you'll have to type the bracket WITHOUT the extra spaces, thus: [thus][/thus].
Last note: Always close your brackets in order of which bracket was opened most recently. There's method to this madness, which I'll discuss at the very end... for now, just keep that note in mind. Most-recent to least-recent, always!
Image brackets are easy to do. Image hosting is easy to do. Unfortunately wires sometimes get crossed, and your pink unicorn image may end up looking more like this:
[ img ]http://image.url.com[ /img ]
There's the easy way to fix this, and the wrong way. The wrong way is to find any old image you like on the internet, right-click it and select "Copy Image URL." Then, you might simply click on the "Insert Image" button on the Advanced Reply box, you know, the yellow one with the mountains on it like this http://roleplayerguild.com/images/ed...nsertimage.gif, paste the URL, click OK, and call it a day.
That's wrong for a good reason -- it's called "hotlinking," and it eats up bandwidth for the host site. Which is a victimless crime, until they block hotlinking and your pink unicorn looks like a crippled webpage again.
The EASY way to fix all these problems is to save any photos of pink unicorns you wish to use to a free-and-simple Photobucket account. Photobucket is free, and it's simple to use, and best of all it gives you unlimited storage space. When you find that perfect pink unicorn picture, right-click it and choose "Save to my computer." Don't worry -- you can delete it before your mom finds out you've got a whole ten gigs of pink unicorn pictures on her hard drive. Now, go to Photobucket and log in to your free account, and click on the "Upload Now" button. Upload your image, save it, THEN hotlink it. Photobucket is designed to let you use your pink unicorns wherever you like. When you link a photo from your photobucket account, instead of this
You'll always get this
Now that image is hosted online. You don't have to keep it on your hard drive -- the data is elsewhere, on Photobucket's ample web server, and the image is being pulled from there instead of poor Mom & Pop's Unicorn Shop . com. This is the proper way to go about posting images! Unless you're posting in a thread about ducks, there's probably no good reason NOT to host your own images. It's quick, easy, and free.... just do it!
[ quote ] I Think Pink Unicorns Are Awesome! [ /quote ]
Quotes are great. Longwinded internet debates about which pink unicorns are superior, just wouldn't be the same without them. There are a couple of tricks to the mystical quote-box that can help you make your formating look impeccable. I'm going to start with the stuff you can type into a quick-reply box, and work my way up.
I Think Pink Unicorns Are Awesome!
The first trick you should learn is how to credit a quote TO somebody. It's easy to do, but it requires you to add a "Modifier" to your opening bracket. You'll see more of these modifiers later in other advanced techniques -- this one's really easy. If you want to attach a name to your quote, all you have to do is add an equals-sign, and the intended name, thus:
Now, it's possible to make it even prettier, and the easiest way is to explore the buttons. At the bottom of every post, you'll see a few buttons that look like this:
[ quote=MDK ] I Think Pink Unicorns Are Awesome! [ /quote ]
Clicking on the "Quote" button will reference that post's assigned number and pull info from the big scary forum database. When you quote a person this way, it'll add things like when the post in question was made, by whom, the date, etc. The +" button does the same thing, but you can click it on several different posts and throw them all into the same reply. When you get done picking the quotes you wish to use, simply click "Add Reply," and the site will automatically parse all your Open- and Close-Brackets. Unfortunately it's hard to simulate that, but if you're curious, quote this post and check out the first line! I call this Auto-Quoting, because, well, it's automatic.
Some things to consider when using quote boxes: There's a polite way to quote people, and the definition of "polite" changes based on the situation. In some cases, it's perfectly acceptable to quote a whole entire post and type a short reply afterwards; other times, like in a debate, you might be expected to break apart the opponent's post into little individual points and address each one individually. Sometimes you may wish to quote a single line from a big post. In all cases, editing a quoted section is acceptable -- changing what is said, is not. Feel free to clip it down to a main point, just don't quote somebody and twist the context or change the words -- that's pretty rude!
Another pitfall to avoid is the quote pyramid, which looks like this -- only bigger:
This typically happens when you auto-quote someone, who auto-quoted someone, who auto-quoted someone, etc. It looks like a ziggurat viewed from the sky... It's wrong for two reasons. One, it's annoying. Two, it will actually reach a point somewhere where the forum can't handle the formatting anymore -- it can't draw the proper lines, or it's just fed up with your crap; either way, it freaks out and spits out an error message at you. Don't get into that situation.... there's almost never a time where you need to include three-deep quotes.
This Is My Pink Unicorn!
[url = 'http :// www . pink unicorns . com] This Is My Pink Unicorn! [ /url ]
Links are a great way to share information without having to do any real work -- but if you play your cards right, you can share links in some pretty clever ways. Thanks to amazing technological advances, you don't actually have to do any work whatsoever to post a link -- simply copy the address bar for the web page in question, paste it into your post, and the website will turn it into a link. It'll even give it a snazzy title from the target site's code, so your readers aren't just looking at a bunch of random letters and numbers. I'm going to copy-paste a forum thread for example:
With no work whatsoever, I've just posted something totally legible. The site added [ url ] [ /url ] brackets. But I can do so much better! By throwing in a bracket modifier, I can change the displayed text to whatever I want. The code will look like this:
[ url = http :// roleplayerguild . com/f54/status-update-52616/ ] The One And Only Status Update Thread! [ /url ]
The product of all that looks like this:
The One And Only Status Update Thread!
What I've done is, I've modified the bracket with the "=" sign and told the website to change the special formatting. Instead of "Make the enclosed text into a link," it now reads the bracket as "Make the enclosed text into a link TO THIS LOCATION." That gives me freedom to enclose whatever I want -- funny jokes, facetious titles, or even images. Almost anything can be made into a link -- just click on my unicorn!
Experiment with anything you can think of.
[ hider=True Story ] An invisible unicorn lives here [ /hider ]
Hiders, also known as Spoilers, are great sig devices. They "hide" a whoooole lot of stuff, without "spoiling" the forum experience for a passer-by. Use spoilers whenever you need to compress a bunch of info, or if you think you might spill the beans on something important that someone else might not want to know just yet (like if you know Snape kills Dumbledore, that might be spoiler/hider material!).
You'll notice I started right out with a modifier. Yep -- you need to include a title for your Hider Button. If you don't, the forum won't know how to draw the button, and it won't hide anything -- it'll just leave your text out in the open like this:
[hider]A visible unicorn lives here[/hider]
See how, even though the brackets were opened and closed properly, it didn't work? That's because this is advanced-level posting. Your spoiler isn't formatted properly until you modify your bracket with a nice "=Title". Once you add that, you can hide anything you like -- hide a list of quotes containing links in the form of pictures!
Not sure how I did all that at once? Auto-quote this post and find out! The key is to close your brackets in the order of Most-Recent to Oldest.
This is the perfect chance to see why it's important to close your brackets in the proper order -- most recent bracket first! Style mods can be used to add flavor, emphasis, to change color and identify different speakers, to align text to one side or the other (or the middle) and all sorts of other cool things. They're useful brackets! They're easy to learn, and easy to mess up.
[ b ] [ i ] [ s ] [ u ] [ center ] [ right ] [ left ] and more
For the most part, style mods are self-explanatory. [ b ] makes text bold, [ i ] makes text italic, [ u ] underlines, [ s ] does the strikeout command. Alignment is easy, too.
[ left ]
[ center ]
[ right ]
You can change fonts and colors as well -- generally the easiest way to do that is to use the Advanced Reply option, highlight the text you wish to change, and select a new font/color from the dropdown menu -- however, the dropdowns don't include every color or font at your disposal. If you know "color codes," you can use those too -- [ color = 8888888 ] would give you Color 8888888. You can learn those through image editing, or settle for the ample options offered here.
Now, easy ways to mess up Style Modifications: First and foremost, since these are pretty easy to type out on the fly, the biggest mistake here is the typo. Maybe you open a [ b] but close with [ /i ] accidentally, or close with an additional [ b ] -- not a big deal to figure out what went wrong on those. The other easy way to mess up is to close your brackets out of order, and this is the perfect chance to show you why it's important to get that right! I'm going to type out "I Love Unicorns!" I want it to be bold, underlined, italicized, centered, large pink Century Gothic font. Since I'm doing it by hand, I'm going to 'accidentally' close everything in the wrong order. Watch what happens....
I love Unicorns!
...well, that was anticlimatic, wasn't it? THESE forums in particular are smart, and they sort through the closing brackets well -- which I honestly didn't expect when I started this guide, because with most forums you'll encounter the wide web over, you'll be left with a bold set of open-brackets and no other formating. Which, I realize now, is tough to demonstrate here on these smart forums. But, build a good habit pattern! If you close things in the reverse order like I said, you'll never leave one open by accident and you'll never encounter a dumber forum that can't handle your style. An easier way to keep this straight is to highlight the text in question and pick out your mods from the Advanced Reply menu -- it'll automatically bracket everything for you, and it'll use the bracket order we've been teaching all along.
Some keys to remember: Style Modifications are useful as long as you don't overdo it. Some colors are painful to read on this site -- always, always, ALWAYS "Preview Post" to make sure your formating is (a) working properly, and (b) legible! In RolePlay sections especially, you need to check your post AS IT'S GOING TO BE READ, not as it was written. If you're posting from the quick-reply box, when you finish your text click "Go Advanced." It will take you to the preview-post screen and the Advanced Post menu. "Preview" before you "Post!" It's not the law, but it ought to be.
If you're using the quick-reply box, you don't get any miscellaneous options until you click "Go Advanced." Once there, if you look below your text window, you'll see first a few post icons -- these are almost never necessary, especially in RP settings. Below that is an extra window labeled "Additional Options." Here you'll find a few extra things you can play with to change the way your post shows up.
Option one is a checkbox labelled "Show your signature." Typically this is checked by default -- if you have a large sig and you're trying to RP, it's courteous to others to uncheck the box. Nobody in your RP cares what your signature looks like -- it's just dead space getting in the way of the RP. Uncheck it if you can remember to -- you can also change a personal setting to make the box unchecked by default.
After that comes "Automatically parse links in text." That's the magic box that makes linking easy. It takes any word beginning with HTTP : // and turns it into a link to the address that follows. However, if you want to display a URL without making it a link, uncheck that box. You can still post links using the [ url ] brackets, but the automatic option won't go anymore.
The following box is related -- "Automatically retrieve titles from external links." That's the one that turns Pink Unicorns Home Page - Hand Crafted Wearable Textile Creations by Harriett Moore-Boyd into Pink Unicorn Supercenter all by itself. Typically, it's a good idea to leave these two boxes checked -- if you want to display a URL without making it a link, just surround it in quotation marks like this: "http://www.pinkunicorns.com"
The last box is "Disable smilies in text." The forum is trained to recognize smiley faces and transform them into graphics. A side effect of that is that occasionally, a list or a colon or something you didn't MEAN to be a smiley, turns into a smiley. If you check the box, you can type A), B), C) at will, or TL:DR without faces popping out and embarrassing you. If you're using the Preview button like you should, you'll catch these accidents -- fix them by checking that box.
After the "Miscellaneous Options," there's an attachment window. My advice? Don't bother with it! Attachments take up space on the forum and presumably make it run slower. Instead, upload everything you need to Photobucket, and link it in the old-fashioned way. Attachments are convenient... but also, lazy and bulkier. It's much easier/better to simply use the off-site hosting.
Last is "Thread Subscription." Use this to receive notifications of people posting in one of your RP threads! Most GMs like you to "Subscribe," so that you don't accidentally miss another person's post and slow down the game. "But MDK, do I really need to subscribe? I don't like getting emails!" If you're online frequently enough, you probably don't need to subscribe -- but it's polite to do so, especially if your GM asks you to. The site won't send you spam!
Now you know how to post like a champion. Now you get those jokes where people say something like "Yeah, that's a great idea! [/sarcasm]"
If you have any questions, or if you think of something that wasn't addressed here, just ask. I'll update as necessary. Hope you learned something and enjoyed the thread. Since I didn't end up needing it anywhere else, here's the Pink Unicorn of Closing!