Giant Fire Bomb Side Chat

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#1  Edited By rorie

Hey all,

Vinny used to periodically update a forum thread with Site Stuff from time to time so I figured I'd get back in that habit! This post will be locked (as Vinny's was) to keep the updates easily readable but feel free to PM me with any questions and I'll try to tackle an update from time to time.

Here's an IG Live I did this morning with some questions and answers too! I don't know how to embed that.

Paypal: we attempted to update our payment gateway for Paypal off from CBS to an RV Paypal instance and hey - it didn't work! We need something called an API Signature and the way the Paypal is configured - we don't have that. We've been trying to work with Paypal to get this set up but so far it's been far more difficult than I would've thought to get resolved! We have bumped out the time between a Past Due invoice and the time that a subscription actually gets canceled, so no one should get disconnected because of this, but let me know at support at giantbomb.com if you run into any issues here and I'll make sure your subscription stays active. Sorry about this!

The Water Bottles went back in stock! And then immediately sold out again. One of the challenges of any merch item that we do is to gauge what number X we need of item Y to make sure that everyone who wants it can buy it but also we don't buy TOO MANY of something and have something be stored in the warehouse forever. We get charged by our warehouse for every pallet of stuff that we have hanging around! So we like having stuff in stock...but not too much stuff. Ryan once placed an order for like 600 of the GerstMannia shirt and...that turned out to be more than we needed of that design! Anyway we'll reorder the bottles again and try to get more of them so they'll stick around. Sorry about that!

If you are owed a letter from Extra Life or a Bombathon gift code, I'll try to get those to you soon! I was waiting for someone to respond to a follow up inquiry but I haven't heard back from them, so I'll try to get the gift codes set up this week and email everyone who donated enough to our EL stream about their personal letters. I even have stickers to throw into those! I just need a free day to go to the office sometime this month. All of these gift cards are going on my credit card (POINTZZZZ) so I was hoping to buy all of them at the same time and immediately file an expense report for them.

It's been a super busy month so far behind the scenes as we got thrown into the RV review sequence as soon as we got back to work on Jan 3rd. RV takes their review process pretty seriously and it's a ton of writing. I have to do five 360 reviews for other people! Those are due tomorrow! I should probably get started on that.

I also have a bunch of guest GOTY lists I need to get into the system! Getting everything linked up takes a while! Look for those to start popping up next week!

Don't forget that the Community GOTY voting is happening now!

Thanks, I love you.

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#2  Edited By rorie

Hey we're hopefully going to resolve our Paypal issues sometime soon. I'm told that it's up to Paypal to review our documents and allow us to take payments again and that should happen sometime early next week. Again, if you have had any issues with your subscription due to these Paypal issues, please shoot me a line at support@giantbomb.com and I'll get you some free time if you got cut off. Our bad!

We have a new newsletter from Jeff G. tomorrow! One of my big tasks this coming month is transferring our newsletter offerings from our current email platform (MAPP) to our new one (Iterable). We've been on MAPP since we started our newsletter a couple of years ago and they've been...fine. Well, a little tough to work with, honestly! The CMS is not my favorite and I have had a million problems with their image uploader. My main issue with it is this part:

No Caption Provided

When I make a new newsletter I try to find the four biggest stories of the last couple of weeks and get their screenshots and links into the newsletter editor. This involves finding the screenshot for the video, downloading it, uploading it to MAPP, copy/pasting the URL into the field on the right, and saving it. Unfortunately MAPP's image uploader is pretty terrible. Most of the time I'll try to download the image directly from our CMS, but when I try to upload that image to MAPP it just...doesn't work? Like it won't upload and I won't get any error messages; just nothing will show up. So I have to go back to the CMS, find the image again, and use the Windows Snipping Tool to make a copy of the image, save it to my desktop, and upload that. And that'll usually work fine! It makes no sense! It's not a file format thing, either; usually it's the same format. And sometimes when I upload the image it'll just wonk out and upload it full size. I can't delete those images so I have to just delete the whole module and do it all over again when that happens! It's pretty annoying!

One of the things I like about working at GB (and Screened before that) is the power of the CMS. If you write blogs over here you work with a pretty similar CMS to what we use for articles (or this forum post). It works extremely well for something that hasn't changed a huge amount in the last ten years. When I've delved into other CMSes in the past I've been...frustrated. When I worked at GameSpy for five weeks back in 2013 it was like going back into the Dark Ages; had to add pagebreaks to articles manually and number my screenshots in order to get them to show up. (Remember multi-page articles on the web? Crazy times!)

Anyway, we have most of February to shift over to Iterable. It seems like a good platform that'll be easier to use. A lot of the stuff they do is focused on customization and marketing stuff, which we currently don't do much of, but if you want your newsletter to start with "HEY [USERNAME]" then maybe you'll be excited too!

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#3  Edited By rorie

Hey there,

An update to our Paypal saga! Wow has this been a frustrating journey to get to where we're at!

Where we're at: Paypal has been hooked back up for all new subscribers. If you want to sign up for a new subscription with Paypal, it should work! But let me know if it doesn't!

If you signed up for a Paypal account prior to January 4 or so, however, your renewal will most likely be declined. I've included some instructions in the emails that are sent out when your account is about to renew and the email you get when a payment is declined, but just to make sure it's everywhere, her e's the jist: we need to remove your billing information from our payment gateway (recurly) to allow you to sign back up with Paypal. You can use the same Paypal account without issue, but you will unfortunately have to go through the billing process again and re-add your Paypal account on the site before the payment will go through.

So, in the immediate future, if you're on a Paypal subscription and get a declined notice, please email us at support at giantbomb.com and I can clear your billing information for you and get you some free time to make up for the hassle. Sometime soon we will probably just automatically delete the billing info for all Paypal subscribers, since it will have to be done at some point anyway, and once that's done you will be able to refresh your billing information yourself when it comes time to renew. Sorry for the hassle! It sucks! Please do email me at support at giantbomb.com for any concerns you have here, though.

Jan and I have been assigned desks at the old office! We'll be sitting with the GameSpot crew on the days that we decide to go in. Red Ventures as a company is saying that they'd like people to be in attendance on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, but for our specific situation that'll probably be difficult since all of our actual working computers are, well, at home. Our work laptops are...functional, but you can't install anything on them without filing a ticket with IT, so they're not the best things in the world. But I'll probably start heading back in at least once a week to get out of the house and also take care of anything that requires shipping since we'll have the ability to ship from the office again. So if you're expecting a letter from our Extra Life marathon, maybe it'll happen soon?

Anyway, February's a big month with some huge games, so hope you check out some of our coverage. I've been playing a bunch of Cyberpunk lately, so I'm curious to see what they do with patch 1.5, and I'm also still fooling around in Dying Light 2. Going to try some co-op in there today, and maybe more later if it's fun? We'll see!

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Hey folks,

Time for another update to this here thread. I am typing this from the sixth floor of 235 2nd Street, a building I have worked in off and on for almost 18 years now. It’s a pretty generic office building, all things considered, but it’s hard not to feel somewhat fond of a place I have probably spent a solid two years of my life in. It is thus far a quiet experience as only a few people seem interested in returning to the office before it becomes a bit more, shall we say, “gently mandatory.”

RV as a business is shifting back to hybrid office hours with the expectation that most people near an office will come in Tuesday through Thursday; this more or less echoes what most tech-oriented companies are pivoting towards. Obviously things are a bit different for Giant Bomb, dispersed as we are as a staff, but I still plan on trying to make the trip in a day or two a week, just to get out of the house. That is a marked shift from a few years ago, when I was scrounging for any reason at all to work from home, mostly because I hated the arcade machines and the incessant noise that they created right next to my desk. Those are shuffled off to a side room for the moment, where hopefully they will be disassembled and donated to a charity that makes annoying machines into firewood.

It’s odd how a couple of years away from a thing can make you want to go back even if you weren’t particularly enjoying it when you left! Unfortunately going into the office means I’m restricted to my work laptop, which is basically only good for browser work. Luckily pretty much everything I do here outside of streaming or podcasting is done through a browser, though, so it’s not super limiting, but it is still a step down from BIG MONITOR FAST COMPUTER at home. RV also has pretty draconian security on these work laptops, such that you basically can’t install anything without opening a ticket to have IT remote in and put the admin password in for you. Discord and Telegram I can run in a browser tab, I guess, but they have not gotten back to me about installing Magic Arena on this thing, despite the fact that there is a clear and obvious work-related need for me to get four wins a day in that cursed app.

The advantages of an office, beyond just a break in the endless bed-to-desk routine of WFH, are varied, of course. Face to face communication and dropping into someone’s office when you have a question still can’t be replaced by Slack or Zoom. I enjoy some of the quotidian pursuits that coming into the city affords me, like trying to find a lunch spot that won’t cost me 25 bucks, or actually leaving the office and taking a walk to see something more interesting than Oakland’s endless taco stands.

It all still feels kind of novel at this stage, almost like starting a new job, but I’m sure some of that shine will fade over time as public transit starts to fill up in the morning (right now it’s still easy to find a seat on BART) and we have 150 people crammed into one floor with two bathrooms.

Actually, UPDATE: I started writing this last week and now there are a ton more people here. I found the charging cable for my gaming laptop (from a few years ago, but still more than capable), so no need to fret over the low-powered company laptop for the moment (it makes a decent YouTube Music machine for the moment). The bathrooms are crowded. I’ll be here a couple of days a week, which I guess is ok. Here are some pictures:

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#5  Edited By rorie

Hey I wanted to drop a quick updatio!

We recently pushed out a large number of updates to our underlying technology platform Symfony. As with any large technology update there are usually some bugs to feel out and I'm sure you've seen some of them! I'm not sure if the recent logout problem is directly related but a fix for being logged out multiple times a day was pushed out this morning and hopefully will alleviate these problems. Please do let me know if you see any more funky site stuff in the bug reporting forum and I'll try to float it to the engineers. The error when you try to add something to a list is known and is being looked at!

We also recently pushed a bunch of changes to our video player and encoder. Our video player is a cross-RV technology at this point and as we do longer videos than most RV sites some speedbumps have arisen. Things are smoothing out a bit for us, but I know a lot of you are unable to watch videos in the site player due to adblockers. I have confirmed with the video team that this is unintentional and we're working to change the way things are set up so that you don't have to do anything funky with your adblock or ublock to make videos work. That change is in progress and I don't have an ETA but if you use the Download button in videos in the meantime it should work in your browser; we're looking into some of the issues that have popped up for settop boxes and apps with the new player/encoder and will be trying to fix them. There are some instructions for getting ublock working in this thread if that's your bag!

Apologies for the trouble! As always, the bug reporting forum or emailing your issues to support at giantbomb.com will help me see what's going on and pass them along to the engineers! Progress marches on.

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#6  Edited By rorie

@rorie:

Well, it’s been a while since I updated this post. What’s new with you?

There are a number of irons in the fire over here at GB and I thought I’d run down some of the odd technical stuff that’s been popping up from time to time over the last few months.

Newsletter Update: Wow this has taken a while! We shifted our newsletter platform from a company called MAPP to a company called Iterable earlier in the year and are finally near the end of the process that will result in us being able to send out newsletters again. The delays were partially me being lazy, but also because the newsletter and email marketing stuff is far more important to other sites in RV than Giant Bomb. I figured I could let GameSpot go through all the setup first and find the pain points to avoid when we were ramping up, and that mostly worked, but eventually we got to the IP warmup process and hit some hiccups there.

In case you weren’t aware, you can’t just set up a new email address and start sending out newsletters to many tens of thousands of email addresses right off the bat. I mean, you can, but most ISPs apparently find this suspicious and will make these emails have very low deliverability rates, which means most of the people you’re sending to will not even see the email in their inbox, let alone open it. In order to get back to the large sends, you have to go through a process of warming up your new IP address, by sending to incrementally escalating groups of people every day for most of a month. 50 the first day, 75 the second day, 150 the third day, and so on, until you’re finally sending to the full list.

Two big hiccups popped up here: for one, we wound up sending to a decent number of junk domains that were obviously not opening or seeing the emails and had to pause for a bit to figure out how to filter them out. Luckily Sam Freeman over at GameSpot knows all the tips and tricks for automatically removing emails from the list after they have been marked as not receiving the email at least twice. Secondly, I accidentally sent a test newsletter to the list for the last day of sending (a lot of emails) in the middle of the warmup, which meant we had to wait a bit to see how that played out. This stuff is confusing! But we’re almost done with the warmups and hopefully we’ll be able to get back to our usual wonderful bi-weekly newsletter routine sometime soon.

Iterable also has a lot of neat options for automatically sending content to different groups of people so I’m looking forward to working with it more! Need to get through that training.

Premium Sale: Obviously we did not do our usual May/June Premium sale this year! There’s been some stuff going on and we’re still working towards some revisions in the way Premium works, but if you’d like to get a yearly subscription at the sale price, you can always email support at giantbomb.com and I can cancel your store code and refund you down to the $35 price point. We also changed our payment gateway in February (this was behind a lot of the Paypal messiness that I wrote about above), and now it takes a while before the charge can actually be refunded when I see it. If you have a charge and I try to refund it the same day, it often hasn’t actually cleared yet so the money isn’t really there to be refunded; it just winds up as a credit back to your account. So refunds may take a day or two now! Sorry!

(The reason so much stuff shifted around earlier this year is that we had contracts with a lot of vendors that RV inherited from CBS and those contracts were running out. In some cases they kept the same vendors but in others they wanted to unify with the rest of RV. Some headaches involved!)

You may want to keep those codes, though, because:

Merch: We started talking to artists for the latest round of merch in late March and it’s taken a while to get the art finalized and samples spun up! Our store partners, Social Imprints, apparently stopped printing their samples in-house and now they have to come from Washington State, which has made the process a pretty long one, but we have a few samples now and I feel pretty good about the quality. I can’t wait to show all of these off to you, hopefully within a week or two.

I think we announced that Premium subscribers will be able to get a flat discount on all merch orders going forward, and part of that process is getting the Social Imprints people to import an updated list of current Premium subscribers into Shopify. Recurly obviously offers an API that can transmit a yes/no of Premium status and match it to an email address (you may have to use the email address matching your Premium account to get the discount when you order, but we'll figure out any edge cases as we go), but we’re trying to figure out the engineering aspects of this so you hopefully will not have to do anything to get that discount when ordering. It’s kind of a task but we’ll have more information about this soon I hope! And the shirts are looking great!

Going On: It’s been a relatively slow few months for GB on the product side of things but we’re ramping up some Asks of our engineers. One of the things I’m most excited about finally getting around to is a redesign of the signup flow. I’m not sure we’ve done much more than throw some bandaids on the account creation or login pages, which have mostly remained unchanged for the last decade or so, as far as I know. I recently discovered that there was not only a /login page, but also a /signup page, and also a /login-signup page, each of which acted differently! Why? Who knows! Hopefully as we go forward we can clean up some of the cruft in the whole system, add more payment options like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and maybe (dare I ask?) make it possible to sign up for an account on a phone like you can everywhere else.

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Well, folks, it’s been a month! Obviously the Ongoing Shirt Debacle and the New York Trip and the Fandom Acquisition have been taking up a lot of my time lately so I haven’t had much of a breather to sit down and update the Fireside Chat but, well, here you go.

To give you a timeline on the shirt stuff, we launched the new shirts in late July. By early August it was clear that something majorly wrong had occurred and we’d need to fix it. For some reason our store partners promised everyone replacements that would ship in mid-August and opened up orders again. Those replacements have not shipped yet, and people who ordered in the second wave started getting shirts that were screwed up in an entirely different way. I’m usually a pretty levelheaded guy but at this point my emails to our store partners started taking on a pretty frank tone of “what the fuck is going on over there, have you all forgotten how to make shirts????”

Wow, what a fuckup!

Anyway, if you missed the news, please do email our store partners at support@giantbombstores.zendesk.com and email me at support@giantbomb.com and I can remake your store code.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you all about today. I wanted to talk about support and support tickets. (very smooth segue.) Most of you probably know that I have been running the support email address for Giant Bomb for most of the last nine years. (I think Ryan would be answering them before that but it also might’ve been an intern back in the intern days?) Ever since the days I was writing stuff for GameFAQs I always enjoyed the simplicity of one-on-one communication with people who were interested in what I was doing, so I’ve generally had a good time figuring out people’s problems and trying to solve them, and there have been plenty of those over the years.

Technologically (and very roughly) speaking, the site has evolved from a startup-ish “move fast and break things” attitude in the early days to a more sound base of fundamental engineering that we enjoy today. There are good and bad aspects to both approaches, of course; back in the day I could run over to Dave or Will and see if they could fix a bug quickly and they’d usually be able to deliver. The downside of that was that things would not always be tested thoroughly and might cause more problems; if you’ve been around long enough you’ll probably remember the Hype Meter crashing chat during E3 one year. (Not Dave or Will’s fault!) But overall the site is generally more stable and less buggy now than it was before we merged our codebase between GameSpot, Giant Bomb, and ComicVine a few years back, which in turn leads to fewer support tickets for me to deal with.

That said, it was always something I kind of enjoyed doing (aside from the hundreds of tickets that would pour in every sale when I had to cancel store codes and refund people down to the sale price, which is a whole other story), so I was pretty mad at the suggestion a few years back that we start outsourcing our support tickets to a third party company. I like being hands-on with support and I think it’s important that people who are paying money to keep this dumb website going get, if not “concierge treatment” exactly, then at least something a bit more personal than what you might get if you email your internet provider or whatever. I had what could fairly accurately be described as a screaming match with my supervisor at the time over the notion, especially after the guy who was shifting CBS to external support told me - to my face! - that he had let go of the CNET support people after shifting our support tickets to the third-party company. That really made me feel like it was a great idea!

That turned into a conversation about where my time was best allocated; should I be spending more time on things that would reach thousands of Giant Bombers like our newsletter (which I need to write one of these about) versus trying to solve problems one on one with people via support channels. I thought at the time that a balance could be struck, and that I would have preferred to keep tickets in my purview, but alas, CBS decided to proceed with outsourcing. I was still involved in the ticketing process as there’s plenty of stuff that has to be escalated to me anyway, but most of the day to day password reset/name change kind of stuff was handled with macro responses. Worst of all, I couldn’t even see the tickets as they came in; I had no access to the raw emails but would have to wait until something was escalated to see them at all. I’m not a controlling person in general but it was pretty odd to all of a sudden not be able to see what was coming in; I’ve grown to trust our support team more over the years but obviously there’s a fair amount of oddball stuff going on on this website and I wasn’t sure if the support team would close tickets out or escalate them to me appropriately if they weren’t sure what part of the site they were referring to.

Anyway, a couple of years ago we switched to a new ticketing system (Zendesk) and I finally had access to the raw tickets as they come in. Most of the emails we get to support are pretty simple (password resets and username changes, as mentioned above), but some are a bit more complicated, and since MOST of the other people at CBS were getting tickets escalated to them in JIRA, I was working in a bit of a different mode where I could see the raw tickets and whether they were getting closed or sent to the spam folder or whatnot. When I did, I started seeing an odd number of tickets that were being “escalated to staff for review” but which were just being sent to the “closed” folder in Zendesk, meaning that I never saw them and thus never had the chance to respond to them. That led to me having to ask the agents to basically never close something outside of obvious spam, but even so I had to get our Zendesk engineer to bake me a new view of all tickets that had been “closed” so I could double-check them and see if they were something I should’ve responded to. So if you ever had something “escalated for review” and never got a response from me, it probably never reached me at all! Frustrating!

I feel a lot better about having access to the raw tickets obviously but now I basically have to check my incoming ticket folder as well as a Suspended folder (mostly spam but sometimes now) and a Deleted folder (in case an agent marked something as spam but it wasn’t) and a Closed ticket view (in case an agent responds with a macro to close out a ticket that I could actually help with). Obviously that’s a bit more complicated than when all the tickets just came straight to me without any intermediaries, but it’s still mostly worth it, especially when someone wants the sale price on a full-price Yearly Premium renewal. The agents can access our Shopify instance and delete the store codes before sending those tickets along to me which makes it a lot easier for me to just process a refund.

So here we are! I have no idea if any of the above will continue into the Fandom era of Giant Bomb. They might have their own ticketing/support system that they want us to use! I might wind up having the same arguments that I had a few years ago about all this! I really hope not. There is enough ins and outs of Giant Bomb between the wiki, the forums, the Discord, video players, downloads, RSS feeds, etc etc etc that it’d be difficult for a new team to come on board and work as effectively as the system we have right now, but if that does happen we’ll deal with it.

Anyway, I gotta run! I am…behind on tickets. It’s been a tough couple of weeks between New York and the new onboarding stuff for Fandom, but I’ll try to clear out what I have this weekend. As always if you don’t get a prompt reply to a support ticket, feel free to reach out via PM or on Twitter and I’ll try to track it down.