Mahiko San Log: The year that was, and will be (003)

Just random thoughts about the year that was… and moving into the new astral era, 2016!

Hello guys it’s been a while hasn’t it! Although I promised at least a bi-monthly MSL, the latter part of 2015 was pretty brutal administration-wise. So let’s see..

Our staff has increased by 33.3%!!!!

Whoa! 33% is a huge growth!!!! Yes, it’s all true!!!! Amazing!! We have increased from TWO members to a whole THREE! You know what they say, “There’s strength in prime numbers!”. While I may have made up that quote, yes, we have a new helper – Welcome her in, my girlfriend Princess!!!!

So since around November last year – our organizational structure looks like this

  • Mahiko San: God.
  • Maruko San: Corporate communications, Planning & Strategy, attempts to apply business-like structure to fansite management (much needed improvement)
  • Princess: Slave

Princess, while not an expert in FF, has played the game and levelled up and is familiar with a lot of the chumpy aspects of FF. Her real purpose? To help me with the gruntwork which involves brainless copy/pasting, format checking, image uploading, spellchecking and other mundane activities. Which is good, since it frees up ‘god’ to make more meaningful updates!

Her motives are actually selfish – so I may ultimately have more free-time which SHE THINKS I’ll spend with her! What a value move!!! Here’s hoping she never reads this!

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Mahiko San, if you are god – why have you forgotten us!

HAH! Divinity works in mysterious ways, scrub! The site is constantly being improved, even when the changes aren’t obvious. For example, my current goal is to refine all crafting guides to a modern standard. This little “bubble” of guides has 27 specific items in it.

2/8 leveling guides have been COMPLETELY REWORKED (ALC, ARM)
8/8 levequest list guides have been re-checked and fixed!
8/8 DoH class guides have been “princess fixed” but needs Gods Work

Are these new guides? No. Do you see them in the feed? The leveling guides, maybe. Again – you might NOT see these things, but a lot is happening behind the scenes. (for example, the linking to all levequest fish and ff14angler more-info links in the FSH leveling guide)

There’s a ton of little things going on. I haven’t forgotten about you guys or the site. FAITH is the framework in which gods operate. Have it, and I will come!

2015 – the Umbral Era

Ho boy, so where do I start here? What happened in 2015? Well, a couple things.

Heavensward Released

This one. This. Not like this… not like this… So basically my process follows a priority system like this:

  • Make patch specific guides (BiS, new content)
  • Any easy quick fixes to typos or info? Patch.
  • Any “eternally useful” guides missing? Create.
  • Any older guides need a major rehaul? Rework.

The last two share priority as “low”, but I’ve been focusing on that recently. So how did Heavensward break this pattern, and subsequently nearly break ME? See now, at the top of the list you get something like…

  • Create every 3.0 specific guide (Leveling guides to 60, new skills? scrip? gathering rotations? try. to. remember. just. how. much. heavensward. added.)

So everything else quickly ground to a halt. Not only did I have to play double-time to actually experience the new content, the more time-consuming part is actually CREATING these new guides!

So I remember getting a comment “You guys used to update so fast! Whats up?”, well, heavensward was like a nuclear bomb. I remember listing down all the updates I needed & guides that need creation – and the number was above TWO HUNDRED. Needless to say, I suffered burnout.

Alex Savage tore me a new one

To top it all off, we have the now infamous Alex Savage. This… so much this… Imagine doing this while tackling that beast? Our static was still within the first handful of people to clear, and lemme tell you… That just ripped into any soul I had left. Again, burnout. Which ultimately affected my site-work.

The administrative side

Ohhhh now here’s the one. I can go on a long rant about security issues but that would suck. So lemme just say that “We learned a lot” and did a lot of things to prevent this kinda stuff from happening.

  • We have a paid firewall and security service
  • We migrated to a more secure web host.
  • We improved our security protocols

Don’t wanna waste your time with all the details but things have been looking up since. The security issues were a huge toll on my mind and a hassle to you guys so it was our top priority for some time.

Lessons Learned

It’s hard to explain it here, but needless to say I learned a lot. When the next major patch hits – I will definitely be more prepared! So now im going back to the old flowchart of “Patch, Create, Rework”, because I want every guide to be up to my new standards. It wont happen overnight, but It’s something I want to give to the community.

2015 was tough, but my vitality increased by at least 17 points, coupled with about 30 DEF and MDEF so I’d say worth.

Visual Update – new theme

This one is a bit tricky! We’re currently looking at a few themes and testing them on our duplicate test site. We have a few issues with each theme we try, but please know we’re working hard on it. The main problem with FFXIVGuild is the content is SO WIDE. And most themes these days are quite thin.

It’s an interesting process, but in the meantime we can refine our current theme to be “usable”. It’s a move that we want to stick to for at LEAST 2 years so we wanna make it solid before doing so. Thanks for your patience!

Looking back, going forward

Honestly, there’s still so much more to say. But to summarize it, I’ll strive to make the site better for you guys. Simple as that, I guess!

You know, each time I write one of these I feel a little more relaxed. I don’t know if I can commit to scheduled posts, but I’ll try to write when I think it’s needed. It’s fun, but I honestly don’t know what’s holding me back in regards to this. Let’s see huh?

My to-do list grows and grows and 2015 seemed like it grew faster than it was getting chunked, but I’m getting more and more efficient at doing this, so I hope you all will continue to grow with me and FFXIVGuild.

Cheers,
Mahiko “God” San.

See Mahiko San Log Archive

Mahiko San Log: Let’s talk! Feedback & Communication (002)

In todays MSL, Mahiko San talks about how he wants to communicate more with YOU! And how talking in third person feels weird.

Hey guys welcome to the second installation of Mahiko San Log! Today, I want to talk to you guys about, well, talking to you guys! The readers! First, a small update on the sources of these changes… the FFXIVGuild ‘team’!

TL;DR Summary of high heaven: We’ve implemented THIS GOOGLE FEEDBACK FORM, that you’ll be seeing in many pages or accessed from the Feedback menu item up on the very top. Use it to point out our mistakes, shame and laziness)… (or other things)

Feedback is only bad for microphones! – Mahiko “Electric Fan” San

Mahiko “Virusbane” San Status:

So, It’s been a little more than a week since our site went up again, and my schedule is returning to normal. This means that more VISIBLE site updates will be more frequent. I didn’t leave you guys in the dark though, I’ve been stealth updating some older guides, as well as finalizing many of the BiS lists. The timing couldn’t have been any worse… I was busy IRL when this virus stuff hit, but thankfully to an extent working on the site relaxes and energizes me (To an extent, haha.)

Maruko “Antibody Incarnate” San Status:

He’s currently in a waaaaay different timezone than I am. It’s temporary but his company usually sends him away. Our scheduled mini-meetings are 12 Midnight my time – and 6pm for him. I wonder who got the short stick there… But this also serves as our time to catch up and play together!

Communication: Important for lovers – Important for us, too

So I noticed that when the site went down – people came out of the woods to message us. I greatly appreciated this! One of my concerns since forever was…

A lack of communication. I would very much love to interact with you guys!

… Does the site have to go down for us to talk!? Hahaha. Seriously though, the main reason I want to do this is to put a ‘human element’ to this site. I feel it will help with a lot of things, going forward. This ‘problem’ of communication should first be opened up by ME: and I can only hope that you guys will answer. First, let me discuss about the single most valuable form of communication I can get from you guys.

What we need most…

Okay, so for me, (and for you readers) there actually exists the MOST CRITICAL form of communication, namely…

Giving feedback on typos, misinformation or general suggestions to guides.

If you think about it, this is by far the most important. Guides & FFXIV info are why you stumbled on to our site in the first place. AS SUCH we have created a new system to track this…

–> This Google form <–

You can access it with the menu above. We will also be inserting links to this thing within ‘critical’ guides in the future. Honestly, I want to make it easy for people to LET ME KNOW when the site needs help. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

So if theres one thing you should learn from this Mahiko San Log – it is this.  Or just like Michael Jacksons tribute film, “This is it”

Communication: Let me count the ways

We still have a long way to go in refining the ‘feedback loop’ with you guys, but I hope this is a start. Also, I apologize in advance, the word Facebook is automatically linked to our page. Deal with it. Here’s a list of communication lines and some small thoughts to go along with them…

>> Facebook: I’m telling you guys NOW – Facebook is the EASIEST and most reliable way to contact us. Most virusy conversations happened here. For readers, liking us on Facebook gives you massive value. We post major guide updates there, and many other useful tidbits.

To anyone who visits the site, Liking us on Facebook is mega VALUE.
It’s our primary form of general communication to you guys!

For the next 13 days I will be posting the finalized BiS list on Facebook. It’s a great time to subscribe, and a great time to test the feedback sheet.

>>Mahiko San Log: Was also started for the same reason… communication!

There’s a lot of ways to communicate, Twitter, comments, email and such… But I guess now isn’t the time to talk about those things (or the lack of effectivity some of them may have!)

Communication: The Future, where $h!t gets really real.

So I’ll just quickly talk about what else I want to do on this end…

Streaming: I’ve always wanted to do this. Like, whenever I’m playing I can just hop on to streaming and talk to you guys. For QnA and entertainment purposes.

Video: I don’t know why but I feel some sort of communication via video (or do some video guides) would be beneficial, and somewhere I can express a little more. But of course, usefulness to YOU is above all other elements. This is a bit time consuming, though…

And I’ve talked about giving a human face to the site… how about mine, perhaps? Care to guess what I look like?

So that’s it for today and thanks for reading! The next issue of MSL, hopefully I can give an update on how communication went… But mainly: Answering a few commonly asked questions by our audience. Please look forward to it! Again, Like us on Facebook, damnit. Oh and for the last time:

TLDR; Use the FEEDBACK FORM OF HEAVENS to let us know how we can help YOU

See: Mahiko San Log Archive

Mahiko San Log: Site Downtime, What happened!? (001)

What happened to FFXIVGuild!? Why our site went down, and our story on how it got back up. The first of a hopefully eternal series: Mahiko San Log 001!

Hey guys, It’s been a while! The last few weeks have been pretty rough on me, and I’d like to give an update to all the readers out there who might be curious of what was going on! Here goes! We have one main topic on today’s MSL- Site Downtime: What caused it, how it affected us and you, what happened after?

“Where are you, FFXIVGuild!?”

What happened, in a nutshell

Basically, an automated virus that finds weak-spots in websites or web hosts and injects funky stuff  into our code. The type of ‘funky stuff’ that happened to us specifically were either: Redirecting you when you visit or Spammy blocks of text with links appearing above our guides.

How did it affect us, and you?

It is extremely unlikely that YOU or your local PC got infected when visiting us during the time our site was up and infected. The viruses actually target is the site itself – Redirects their sites to gain more $$$, and  the spammy links appear for the same reason. In hopes you would click on it and go to “god knows where”. I’m sorry but any actions you took in Lalafell pr0n pages are not in our scope of responsibility…

What did we do once we found out infection was imminent?

It was so damn hard to track the issues down because they were difficult to recreate! Not all pages were infected (that’s TOO obvious), and the infected ones didn’t all have the same problem (There were 2 virus types). Ultimately, we also had to track how they got in. The decision was obvious… It was heartbreaking but…

The site was ultimately shutdown for YOUR protection

Many thanks to ALL PEOPLE who helped us out on FB/elsewhere who sent us screenshots/examples/links to the whatever they found was infected! It helped a ton. Anyways – We decided it’s time to fix many underlying back-end issues too, and make  security as tight as as Lala-sphincter.

How the admin ‘team’ responded

Let me preface this by saying we’re just two guys. I write 99% of the content, and about half the back-end stuff. Maruko helps me out with e-mails and other communication lines, while helping 50% of the back-end too. I’d like to remind the public two things:

1) We’re not a bunch of suits. We’re not even a “bunch”.
2) We’re 2 brothers who made a fansite.

So yes obviously that comes with a ton of limitations (more on that in the next journal!). I am quite an experienced “online guy” that’s done a ton of work online, managing a large website is a great learning experience. Sadly, some things are only learned the hard way. Security, in this case.

Maruko “The Unseen” San

I’d like to remind the viewers, and give a shout-out to the ultimate big brother. He’s really busy, but sacrifices a lot of his free time to help keep FFXIVGuild running! I dont know how, maybe via comment on FB, or comment here – let us all give thanks to Maruko San! 100% sure, I cannot have made it past this annoying roadblock without him.

The Virus Minigame

Thing were looking’ pretty bad, I wont lie. So me and Maruko began our two-fold quest to restore the site. After some time, it became obvious this was looking pretty similar to something…

We decided to think of this security threat as a raid boss.

Yeaaaahp. So our battle had three phases. (I could write a long post about how we did this, but you guys might get bored!)

Phase 1: Cleaning
Phase 2: Sealing vulnerabilities
Phase 3: Testing (repeat until enrage)

Our first problem was we COULD NOT RESTORE A BACKUP. Why? It wouldn’t do anything! The vulerabilities would still exist! So it became obvious that before the site could go up, we had to clean and patch as many known weak-spots we had. This  was NOT as easy as it sounds.

So the site comes back up six days later… and the real war began…

This is how our process worked. First we would check our logs for any suspicious activity. Then we would take steps to put up as many walls for any similar TYPE of attack, or outright blocking them. We furiously researched and applied best practices of securing high-traffic websites.

When we recieved more messages from people saying our website was hacked, our investigations turned up they were loading CACHED versions of the site! To think even a thing as this might happen! Some cached files were still stuck in our “CDN”!

For a few days, I would wake up every 2 hours and check our server logs. “Is there anything I can do better?”, “Is there a better way to secure the viewers?”, more and more… every implementation I felt more and more positive!

To beef up the security, this ‘raid boss mentality’ really worked! We were possessed! Before long, under this mindset, Maruko and I were in a frenzy! Like any raid, each time we shut the door on another type of vulnerability – we celebrated!

Finally, I can say… at least for now – we have won. We also fixed a lot of underlying site issues. As an great ‘side-effect’, our site loads much faster!

Summary

This wave of attacks apparently affected to A LOT of small to medium website owners. Hacking HOSTS isn’t actually as uncommon as it sounds! Ultimately, FFXIVGuild will have to move servers soon… we’ve GROSSLY OUTGROWN our type of hosting, and this will come with many changes in the near future. Which I’ll be discussing in the next journal!

To everyone who reached out saying “I need you guys back!”, you the real MVP

You know, running a fansite ain’t easy. But seriously thinking of those of you who took time out of their day to message us, and help us by showing screenshots and whatnot… I sincerely thank you! You were my inspiration to SMASH this threat!

Anyways, I’ve always wanted to have a ‘periodical’ type of post in FFXIVGuild, and I think having a personal blog regarding in-game or in-site matters would be the best. I’ve tried in the past as you may have noticed, but I think this is it. Mahiko Sans Log is here to stay! It’s a great way for me to communicate with you guys, which I think I want to do more of! And helps me let off some steam.

I’m guessing the next issue will contain what’s in store for FFXIVGuilds future – Please look forward to it(tm). Before all of this BS happened, I needed to refine all BiS lists… So I guess it’s back to business! I can finally work on FFXIVGuild in peace… Mahiko San signing out!