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In the non-denominational, non-partisan, multicultural spirit of NationStates, I hope everyone has a very happy enjoyable holiday, celebration, or whatever. Life is good.
A Whitelisted Christmas
For some reason the number of UN invitation e-mails that bounce back
asking to be "whitelisted" has rapidly increased lately. Whitelisting
is when your mail filter bounces back e-mail from anybody not in your
address book, usually requiring them to send a second message to confirm they're
not a spammer.
This is pretty effective at keeping out spam, but it's also effective at keeping out much non-spam, like your UN invitation or password replacement e-mail from NationStates. So if you use a whitelist and are expecting an e-mail, make sure you tell your filter to accept e-mails from nationstates.net.
Meritocracy Shows the Way
It's a bit alarming when some players create a web site for their NationStates region that's more professional than NationStates itself. But that's what the residents of The New Meritocracy have done -- check out their handiwork at merit.jink.org. The site features just about everything a region could ever want, including a map, a charter, and a truly amazing collection of colorful, well-presented statistics.
I can't heeeeaaaaar you
Thanks to some sterling work by resident Tech Modling SalusaSecondus, nations now have an Ignore List, which allow you to refuse to accept telegrams from... well, anyone you like. Or, more to the point, anyone you don't like. Visit your Telegrams page to test it out!
And on that note, it's about time for a version change! These are getting increasingly arbitrary -- the code is constantly being tweaked and improved -- but you have to draw the line somewhere, I guess. Here's a list of what's changed.
New York Times cites Jennifer Government
The New York Times has released its list of
Notable Books of 2003, and Jennifer Government is
on it! And just in time for Christmas, too.
Could this have anything to do with the "New York Times Democracy" category in NationStates? Nooooo. Surely not.
[Reviews] [More Info]
Search No More
As part of our ongoing quest to keep the forums in some kind of
reasonable shape, the keyword
search facility has been disabled. Hopefully this is temporary.
You can still search for forum posts by author name.
Nations up close and personal
One of our players (Eponya)
has created a NationStates page at Meetup.com, a site that
lets people all over the world arrange to meet up. That is, in a
non-online, in-person, RL, non-virtual sense. I know, it's a
confusing concept. But if you've got a hankering to get face-to-face
with some national leaders, here's your chance.
Eponya has scheduled Meetup Day for Saturday, December 13 at 4PM. For more information, see http://nationstates.meetup.com. You can also write to Eponya at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: This event isn't official, or supervised, or endorsed in any way -- it's just a few people deciding it would be fun to get together. Also, if you're under 18, Meetup.com won't let you take part (and nor should you).
500,000 and Counting
Another milestone today -- we've just passed half a million nations created!
While we're reminiscing, here's a picture of the number of nations we had in the first two weeks of NationStates's life. When I first put up this site, I sent an e-mail around to about 20 friends and told them to pass on the word. Boy, did that work. If humankind ever gets wiped out by a super-virus, the infection rate is going to look like this.
Working hard, or hardly working?
No wonder NationStates is so popular in the Netherlands. A Dutch study has found that playing games at work is good for employee productivity. Although they do say, "within certain limits." But I'm sure that's subjective.
It Shall Live On In Our Hearts
Wow, that was fun. Fifteen player-created birthday banners, a system crash and the first ever NationStates worldwide Issue later, the birthday celebrations are over. Hope it was good for you too.
NationStates turns 1!
Hard to believe, but it's true: this baby is one year old today.
What started as a weird idea for a game that might help promote my novel has
seen around half a million nations created, taken 750 million hits,
become one of the most popular browser-based games on the internet,
and, most impressive of all, developed an amazing community that
sprung up from nowhere at all. (I often get asked
where all these people came from. Because surely communities don't
just materialize -- surely demographics must need to be targeted and
marketing plans executed. But apparently not. You all just turned up.)
Many more people have now played my game than read my books, possibly by an order of magnitude. This is pretty ironic, given the standard of my programming skills. But it's an awesome display of the internet's power. I hope the net always stays like this, a place where a person with no IT training can create a quirky site and have a million or so people stop by to check it out.
I'm very proud of this site, but I also feel that all I did was put up four walls and a ceiling -- it's you guys who came along and turned it into a party. So many people have put so much time and thought into adding spice and color to NationStates! Thanks to every one of you.
-- Max Barry, 13-Nov-03
No, that didn't seem to help at all. Okay, out with the new and in with the old! NationStates will go off the air shortly while we put the forum back the way it used to be.
Work, Damn You
A few major configuration changes have been made to the forum, which will hopefully give us improved performance (e.g. it will take less than a minute after you click something to get a response). However, possibly this is just going to make things even worse. If it does, we'll revert to the old settings quick smart.
Bigger Gets Better
If your nation has a population of 500 million or more,
and that exhaustive list of nation types ("Republic", etc)
just isn't enough, good news! You are now able to invent
your own nation type, by typing it directly into the space
provided in your "Settings" page.
The rest of us must content ourselves with the drop-down list. Although, frankly, there's nothing wrong with the list. It seems to be good enough for pretty much every nation on Earth. But NationStates players, of course, have higher standards.
It is my sad duty to report that a great fire at the United Nations
Headquarters wiped out entire filing cabinets worth of UN Delegate
lists last night, throwing entire regions into Delegacy chaos. Regions
such as The Pacific, which were formerly quiet, peaceful havens of
iron tyranny, are now in a state of Delegate-free uproar.
Actually, it may have been a system crash. The fire is unconfirmed. But what is certain is that the United Nations bureaucrats are even now scurrying back into action to update their vital Regional Delegacy records. Very shortly, in each region, the nation with the most endorsements will again be officially appointed its Delegate.
The UN wishes to convey its apologies for the inconvenience, and stress that no nation has lost any endorsements. In the meantime, those nations frightened by this new Delegate-free world order, particularly those in the Pacific, are encouraged to inhale deeply and smell the liberty. Or is it smoke? It's hard to tell.
NationStates regional boards and telegrams now have "flood control", which means you can't post two or more messages within a few seconds of each other. You probably won't notice it. But occasionally someone decides to go nuts and spam every regional board in sight; flood control means they at least need to take their time about it. With luck they will use this pause to ponder the mysteries of the universe, the meaning of life, and why they would want to spend their time spamming a free web game.
Finally, the Issues!
now has a system that lets Game Moderators edit player-submitted nation
issues into a format suitable for use in the game. This was something I originally
intended to do myself, and then you guys submitted thousands of them, which pretty
much killed that idea.
But now -- finally! -- we have a system that should supply an ongoing, never-ending stream of new issues for your nations, meaning you never need grow tired of seeing that Harry Potter issue yet again. It's definitely a big improvement over the 30 that we started with.
Newly created nations will receive the "original" issues that I wrote for the first couple of weeks of their life, and thereafter qualify for new, player-submitted, moderator-edited issues.
There is currently an enormous backlog of player-submitted issues -- about 2,500 of them -- and it'll be quite a while before the mods work their way through all of that!
Thanks again to all the people who have submitted issues, and are continuing to do so -- this wouldn't be happening without you. And profuse thanks to our moderators, who do a brilliant job of keeping this place running.
Fear the Postmaster-General
The forum titles have undergone a reworking, with a few new categories
added and the number of posts needed to gain them modified. Now
you hardcore forum addicts can receive the recognition and/or sympathy you
so richly deserve!
Forum titles (such as "Envoy", "Diplomat", etc) are based solely on how many posts you've made, and do not affect your nation.
Thanks to the many people who suggested new titles, especially Sirocco and Thestalker!
Fun With Macros
In the last day or two quite a few people worked out you could embed little macros like "@@NAME@@" into your nation motto and it would be substituted for the name of whichever nation was looking at you. This is kind of neat, but unfortunately it has the potential for abuse. So it no longer works.
No News is Good News
It's been a bit quiet on the news front for a while, but this
is because there's lots of good stuff brewing. (Also because we
had yet another UPS-related crash a couple of days ago, but I couldn't
bear to announce it.)
Over the next month I'll be announcing developments on a few fronts, including player-submitted issues (which have been a very long time coming, I know!) and NationStates 2.
Telegram InBox Size Increased to 15
You wanted it, you needed it, UN Delegates of large regions pleaded for it, so okay: nations can now store 15 telegrams in their InBoxes, up from ten.
Another crash :(
A power outage in San Francisco (plus some pathetic UPS action from our host)
took down the NationStates server, and
once again it failed to reboot correctly. This meant it sat there,
throwing up crazy errors about cookies to everyone who visited, until I came back
from a weekend away and noticed I had about a 1,000 new e-mails. At first I thought
maybe my novels had just become that popular, but sadly, no.
Anyway: we are back on the air! Sorry for the inconvenience.
All the News, All the Time
NationStates news is now available via RSS feed, which is great news if you use a news aggregator, and means nothing to you otherwise. If you're one of the former, hook yourself up to the feed via this link: http://www.nationstates.net/news/index.rss.
Please excuse a few time-related oddities at the moment -- our system time got out of whack in the crash, and we've just reset it. This is a lot like travelling back in time 20 hours. It's psychedelic, man!
Ker-rash Mystery Solved
For those who like to know these things: our crash was caused by a fault in the UPS (uninterruptible power supply), a device meant to ensure the server doesn't crash in the event of a power outage. Ah, irony.
The server crashed yesterday, ushering in a dark, dim period where nobody could access their nations. People experienced a wide variety of problems, including being told that their browser was not sending cookies and receiving a lot of "Could not connect" errors. But we're back up and running now! Investigations into the cause are underway.
More on new issues
Work continues on building a web interface for moderators to review and edit player-submitted issues into a form suitable for use in the game. There are close to 2,000 of these waiting for processing at the moment! Hopefully we'll start to process them in bulk within the next couple of weeks. Thanks for your submissions -- and your patience!
Boy, do we have issues
Whoa! That's a lot of submitted issues. In less than a week, you people have
written more than 650 of them. This has exposed just how very under-prepared
for them I am: at my current rate, I figure it's going to take about three
years for me to work my way through these, converting them into use for
At first, I wanted to edit all issues myself, because, after all, NationStates is meant to promote my novels Syrup and Jennifer Government (which you've all bought, of course). These issues are meant to demonstrate my snappy prose and witty style. But on the other hand, maybe it's time to relinquish a bit of control here, for the good of the game.
For now, please understand that the new issues are coming in a trickle rather than a flood. But I want to fix this.
And thanks to everyone who's submitted an issue! You guys rock.
We have issues
NationStates hits version 1.6!
The big news is that we've just gained the feature you've all been praying for (and
hassling me about via e-mail): player-submitted issues. From today, you can write an
issue and submit it for me to review; if it's a good one, in it goes. This will
provide NationStates with an ever-expanding pool of issues, allowing everyone's nations to
develop in new ways. That's right: no longer will you be endlessly assailed by Harry Potter controversies!
New issues should start showing up within the next few days (especially in older nations). To submit an issue, follow the brand new link from your nation's "Issues" page.
Britain gets Jen
Jennifer Government has finally made it to the
UK! I know, I can hardly believe it either. British NationStates players
should feel free to form an orderly stampede to their local bookstore;
also to make loud comments in public about this brilliant new novel they've
read. It's the next best thing to new NationStates issues!
[Reviews] [More Info]
The Forum That Ate New York
I still can't really believe how popular this little site is. NationStates
is about 7 months old now and it still takes me by surprise.
For example, today I saw
in the Forum that lists web sites people have created for their nations
and regions--and it's unbelievable! There are dozens of them, and many
are really well made.
The Forum is something I kind of tacked on to NationStates at the last moment: I hoped people would want to talk about stuff there, but wasn't sure they would. Well, they do: the forum receives around 2,700 posts per day. Right now my favorite thread is this one: "You know you've been playing NS too much when..."
We've been filtered!
NationStates has made it onto the hit list of Websense, an internet filtering product installed by companies that want to "enforce acceptable Internet use policies." In other words: to block their employees from playing games on company time. Yes, NationStates is now a threat to the global economy. I feel special!
The rumours are true
It's been more than six months since NationStates launched, and in that time those 30 Daily Issues have sure been given a workout. If you've been playing for a while, you're probably heartily sick of all of them. So I've made a decision: since you have been dedicated enough to stick with the game, you deserve More Issues. And I hereby declare: you will have them! Soon. Ish.
Jennifer Government creeps towards UK
Only a couple of weeks until
Government hits bookstores in Britain!
NationStates looking odd lately? Here's why
Quite a few people have reported a variety of problems since v1.5,
all stemming from browser caching issues. This means that instead of seeing
a fresh new page when you click a link, your browser shows you an old
one it has stored locally from last time you visited. So if you play two nations, you might
a mixture of pages referring to each of them; or you might see the
same "Issues" page every time, even though your issues should be changing.
This problem should now be fixed: our server should now firmly instruct your browser not to show you old pages. However, until your browser asks our server for a new page, we can't tell it to stop showing you the old one. To get things working again, you may need to manually refresh/reload obstinate pages. See the Known Problems page for details and updates.
Fare thee well, PINs
One fairly serious rewrite later, we no longer have PINs in our hyperlinks. Nation logins are now tracked via cookies, which means that accidentally posting a hyperlink from the game won't allow someone to hijack your nation. It's a solution even AOL can't foil! (I hope.)
Damn you, proxies!
Whoa, that didn't go down so well. Our shiny new PIN authentication procedure quickly blocked out hundreds of legitimate users, mostly from AOL. So we've removed the code again. Hmm.
Nation Stealers Begone!
In a major step forward in the campaign against people who have nothing better to
do than steal other people's nations, NationStates now attempts to block unauthorized
PIN usage. The PIN is the session identifier built into most hyperlinks
(it looks like: "pin=1234567890") and tells the game who you are: if someone else
gets hold of this, they can sometimes log in as you. For this reason,
strongly advises that you never publicly post a NationStates hyperlink with a PIN
But nobody pays that much attention to FAQs, and people have been posting their PINs all over the place. The new code means that in most cases, attempts to use somebody else's PIN will be blocked.
Incidentally, the second-most frequent cause of nation hijacking is using a public computer and leaving auto-login turned on. Don't do this.
Look! Up in the sky! It's... a moderator!
In the beginning, we didn't need moderators. Then we got very popular
and, sad but true, needed moderators. Now we have them! It's a good day.
Moderators are kind, noble players who have volunteered their time to weed out some of the obnoxious elements that pop up here from time to time: people who seem to have trouble recognizing that NationStates is a fun, friendly game. If you see something that should be brought to their attention, please visit the Etiquette section of the FAQ, which describes what to do.
Yet More XML
To keep the nation one company, there is now a XML automated region data feed, too!
Regional web sites
There are some pretty amazing off-site NationStates sites out there, but the best one I've seen is this one for the region The New Meritocracy. It's got it all: a news page, a forum, and a very cool Census, using the NationStates XML feed.
What is it with the Netherlands? Most NationStates players come from the United States, followed by Britain, Australia, and Canada. But after that comes the Netherlands. We get more than a million hits per month from there. Interessant!
All is Revealed
Last night we ran a scan to work out how many of each nation type there are in
NationStates. Who dominates the community: free-market ideologues,
psychotic dictators, iron-fist socialists... or someone else? The results are
slightly surprising -- see for yourself.
Spoiler warning: this page contains a list of every UN classification type in the game.
Automated nation data feed: yet more stuff
Due to popular demand (some guy asked me), the XML
automated nation data feed now contains even more information about each
nation: its Major Industry, top Government Priority, the URL for its
Flag, and Last Activity
(in both system-clock and natural language flavors).
If you've set up a web site to use this feed and you don't mind showing it off, let admin know: we'll post links to the best ones here.
How to be Nice
Following hot on the heels of our fancy Legal Disclaimer comes an all-new FAQ section: Etiquette. This explains what is and isn't acceptable behavior here, and addresses the contentious issues of "region crashing" and Regional Control abuse.
Two people have threatened to sue me so far, both because another player said
something mean to them. So now NationStates has a Legal Disclaimer, which you
have to read before
you create a nation. If you've already got one, you should read
it now, because it imposes new conditions on your use of the site. The big one
is this: if you post something illegal on NationStates and someone sues me
because of it, you pay my legal bills.
Of course, an even better situation is for nobody to sue anybody. That's been working pretty well so far. Let's keep doing that.
If you pay attention to tiny numbers in the upper section of your screen, you might have noticed that NationStates has gone to version 1.4. For a tear-stained history of the NationStates code, see here.
If your region is currently afflicted with unwelcome visitors, you'll be happy to hear that you can now do something about it. Each UN Delegate (and, from now on, the person who creates a region) can access a page called "Regional Control," which allows you to eject nations from your region. You can also password-protect regions, to effectively make them invitation-only.
Jennifer Government in Australia & NZ
Jennifer Government, the novel behind NationStates, hits Australia and New Zealand today!
So get down and check out the book the New York Times calls, "A total blast... funny and clever,"
Naomi Klein says is "brilliant and hilarious," and my accountant says, "Needs to sell a tonne of copies to pay for NationStates."
[Reviews] [More Info]
Itchy Trigger Fingers at UN
For a while now, the United Nations hasn't been terribly strict on people who violate the "one player, one UN member nation" rule. This has just changed. If you have more than one nation in the UN, you should resign the others right away.
United Nations Creeps Toward Semblance of Order
The UN has been creaky for a while now (the one in NationStates, I mean),
mainly because I never expected it to have near-on 40,000 members. So a couple
of changes. First, you can now search for a proposal name. Second, admin
is deleting inappropriate proposals. Third, you
now need to be endorsed by at least two other nations before you can submit a proposal.
This should go some way towards making the UN more manageable. There's more to do, I know. Baby steps, baby steps.
Each day, NationStates gets 3 million hits. And it's visited by between 30,000 and 60,000 different people. And it shifts over 7 gigabytes of data. Just thought you might like to know that.
Get your automated nation data feed here
There are people doing amazing things with their regions. If you're one of them, check this out. It's a way to automatically generate an XML document of any nation's vital statistics -- handy if you're trying to maintain a separate region web site and don't want to keep updating nations by hand.
Cheats, Griefers and Other Posterior Pains
Most of the problems I hear about these days don't concern bugs but other players, which in a way is a sign of terrific progress, but in another way is a real pain in the butt. Most of my time is now taken up with dealing with grief players and UN cheats, and that's not the way it should be.
So this problem has become a priority. If your region is currently afflicted with obnoxious morons, hang in there: help is on the way. Give me some time to fix the system rather than deal with your individual case, and we'll have a long-term solution soon.
The NationStates survey is over, and the results are out now!
After much slaving away on the forum code, we're actually making some progress. I know, I know, I can hardly believe it either. Right now we're in a transition phase, so things may be particularly odd for a few days, but most people should notice definite improvement.
If you're experiencing trouble, try clearing your browser's cache, and see the Known Problems page for updates.
Fun with Security
You might think people have better things to do than try to hack into NationStates to steal other people's nations, but I can tell you: No! They don't! We've had a few attacks recently, some more successful than others. In one case, someone from Puerto Rico sent out a bunch of e-mails that looked as if they came from NationStates, asking people to write back with their passwords. The most offensive thing about this was that they obviously thought NationStates admin couldn't spell. In another, a hacker's tool known as "Brute Force" tried thousands of password combinations and eventually got a couple.
This makes me feel glad I'm not running a bank. We've now installed a trap to prevent people trying passwords over and over, which should help a lot, and there's another security upgrade to come. But in the meantime, here's a hint: using your nation name as your password is a really bad idea.
Known Problems page
I've created a Known Problems page, so
you can tell if a problem you're experiencing is part of a known bug.
This should work better than the current system, where admin
receives fifty e-mails reporting every problem and spends half
the time replying to everybody.
A glitch in UN application e-mails is the most recent addition.
NationStates 2 Survey
I'm currently running a survey to work out whether there's enough interest in a NationStates sequel to justify creating one. Already there are some really interesting results emerging, and I'll post the findings on this site in the next couple of weeks.
It's a News Page!
At first I didn't think NationStates should have a news page. "That
will just encourage people to think I'm available to help them," I
thought, "and fill up my mailbox with questions, complaints,
and requests for new features." Then my mailbox filled up with
questions, complaints, and requests for
new features anyway, and most of them were about the same thing.
So it's probably time for a news page.
I'll use this page to keep players up to date with what's going on in the game: what bugs we're experiencing, what's been done about them, and what you can expect in the future. The fact that we have an actual internet community here has been a bit slow to dawn on me. Now it has, I'll try to make sure it's a well-informed one.