The Great Archives Blog

by Planetperson

Happy new decade everyone! The year 2019 was certainly an eventful and productive year for the Great Archives. The site’s reference section was unveiled, the design of the OGD Archive was updated, the Farshtey Feed was added, and I finally got around to implementing the long-awaited line selection feature for the OGD topics.

Speaking of which, coming days after the line selection feature was added to the BZPower OGD topics, the same feature has now been added to the LEGO Message Boards’ Chat with Greg Farshtey topic as well.

Bada bing bada boom.

by Planetperson
Example of linking to specific lines.

One of the ideals I strive for on this site is to make BIONICLE lore accessible for new fans, so that they can enjoy the saga as we in the BIONICLE community did during BIONICLE’s heyday. Despite the fact that the original BIONICLE story ended nearly a decade ago, I have been pleasantly surprised by the continued vibrancy of the BIONICLE community. An example of this is that in the past few years, we have seen a surge of interest in compiling the various novels, comics, animations, etc. into a single, linear narrative through projects like Biological Chronicle and Wall of History. Compilations like these are a great way to introduce new fans to the old stories that captivated us all those years ago.

Another important aspect of the BIONICLE saga, however, has always been the tribal knowledge passed on from Greg Farshtey on forums like BZPower and the LEGO Message Boards. How do Matoran eat? How does the system of sky-domes in the Matoran universe work? What was the name of Lhikan’s Toa team? What power does the Rhotuka spinner on Zivon’s front-left claw have? All of this information originally came from there. This is why I am especially proud of the Official Greg Discussion Archive, which has restored and preserved the “official Greg topics” from BZPower and the LEGO Message Boards, all of which have been lost in their original forms. Since those topics altogether make up over 1,500 pages of forum posts, I have aimed to make it as easy as possible to find specific pieces of information and cite them, so reference sites like BS01 can easily back up facts with their original sources.

Being able to link to specific posts in the original sources has a gone a long way toward verifying information on BS01. To pick an example completely at random, I like that I can now go to a page like “Rhotuka Launching Shield,” read a statement like “When the Toa Hagah were transformed into Rahaga, their shields were transformed into mounted Rhotuka Launchers,” and see a link to the exact forum post from 2005 where this was stated. This is a lot better than “I don’t know where this fact came from but trust me I read it 15 years ago on a forum that no longer exists.”

There are eight other questions in that post that have nothing to do with that piece of information, though. You know what would be really cool? If you could link specifically to question #9.

Like this.

That’s right! It is now possible to link to specific lines within a post. This is a feature I have been wanting to implement for a long time, as it can vastly improve citations to posts which happen to contain dozens of other questions. For now, I’ve only added this feature to the BZPower topics, but I plan to add it to the LEGO Message Boards topic in the future.

Here’s how it works. When you hover over a post, line numbers pop up to the left. Clicking a line number will highlight the line next to it, and the URL in the browser will be updated to reflect the selection. The updated URL can be used as a permanent link to that specific line.

Selecting a single line

It gets even better. You can also select ranges of lines and make multiple selections by holding down the Shift or Ctrl keys while clicking (Shift to extend the range, and Ctrl to add a new selection). You can also de-select lines by clicking them with Ctrl pressed. This selection mechanism should feel very familiar – it works in much the same way as a typical file browser or an Excel spreadsheet.

Selecting ranges of lines

I had a lot of fun working on this feature. It came with a few unexpected and interesting technical challenges. For example, I ended up writing code to ensure that the line ranges encoded in the URL are always represented in the simplest possible form, in order to canonicalize the links. For instance, to link to lines 5-10 and 15-20 in post #42, the URL uses the fragment #post42-line5-10,15-20. On the other hand, a URL with something like #post42-line5-10,8-12,13-20 would be invalid, since the ranges overlap, and the ranges 8-12 and 13-20 are adjacent. Instead, it is automatically simplified to #post42-line5-20. Another fun challenge was figuring out how to chop up the contents of each post into separate line elements without messing up the styling, and then figuring out how to un-indent the line numbers to line up evenly on the left column.

I look forward to getting some good use out of this feature on the Great Archives’ own articles. Hopefully some of you folks out there will find it useful too.

by Planetperson
Farshtey Feed on the OGD Archive

I’m pleased to announce that the Farshtey Feed has been newly added to the OGD Archive.

Back in 2008, I decided to start a little project called the Farshtey Feed. At the time, I was already in the habit of reading the Official Greg Discussion topic on BZPower more or less daily to get the latest, cutting-edge BIONICLE news from Greg Farshtey. I had even gotten into the habit of writing interesting factoids in a little notebook, categorized by topic, which later evolved into a massive Microsoft OneNote file.

Hey, you never know when a great BIONICLE sphinx will descend from the sky and demand that you answer esoteric BIONICLE trivia questions.

But really, I think what I actually had in mind was to compile that information into a sort of hyper-detailed BIONICLE encyclopedia (much like the modern Great Archives site). Whatever my reasons were, I eventually figured that other people might appreciate reading my summaries of the OGD. After all, the topic was notorious for being bloated with spammy posts or irrelevant/redundant questions. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just skip past all that nonsense and get a concise summary of the actual information?

That was my vision for the Farshtey Feed, a weekly digest of the OGD topic that I started posting on my personal BZPower blog in September 2008. It started off slow, without much fanfare. But over time, as more and more people discovered it, it became a much-beloved alternative to reading the onerous OGD topic. Finally, keeping up-to-date with the OGD was both pleasant and fast.

The Feed also had an inadvertent but very crucial side-effect: it preserved six months’ worth of OGD information when BZPower suffered a dataclasm in March 2009. As far as I know, the Farshtey Feed is the only surviving record of any data from this time period.

Although the original Farshtey Feed is still available to this day on my BZPower blog, I had a few reasons for wanting to add it to the OGD Archive. First, BZPower is well-known to be plagued by technical issues, and there’s no particular guarantee that the original Farshtey Feed will survive into next week. I know I’m being harsh, but it’s true. Second, because BZPower has undergone so many forum upgrades over the years, the markup has been mangled quite a bit. For a long time, content wrapped inside of spoiler tags was simply unreadable (this actually appears to be fixed again after the most recent upgrade, so kudos for that). I also saw this as an opportunity to remove the now-defunct [source] links that pointed to the original OGD posts, which were lost long ago. Third, putting the Farshtey Feed on the OGD archive allowed me to integrate it into the site’s search engine.

Personally, though, I think one of the coolest new features I implemented was the ability to link to individual bullet points:

Link to individual items in the Farshtey Feed

That should make the lore-masters at BS01 happy!

I hope this is just the beginning of adding more content to the OGD Archive. Ultimately I also want to add:

I actually don’t know where to find a copy of the 2004 Ask Greg. If anyone happens to have a copy of it, please do reach out to me on Twitter.

I’ve also taken the liberty of making a few minor improvements to the site. Any post that has been linked to directly is now highlighted, and it is no longer covered by the header bar. I also improved the performance of the auto-highlight feature in search results, although I’m aware that the quality of the highlighting is still somewhat wanting.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this round of updates. As always, feel free to send your feedback to me on Twitter. Until next time.

by Planetperson
Dwellers in Darkness

My mission to add more content to the site presses on, and so does the war against the Brotherood of Makuta! Information from the 2008 web serial “Dwellers in Darkness” has been newly added to the timeline and encyclopedia. This update also includes a much-needed reorganization of the 2008 timeline. It turns out that sitting down and figuring out the chronology of the 2008 serials is… not easy.

You can check out most of the updates at the Story Year 2008 timeline.

by Planetperson
The Great Archives logo

’Sup beings! Today I am very pleased to announce a project that has been a long, long time in the making. As you may know, since the spring of 2017, thegreatarchives.com has been host to the Official Greg Discussion Archives, a collection of once-lost forum posts containing canon BIONICLE information from author Greg Farshtey. Nowadays, the Official Greg Discussion Archive is being used extensively on the BIONICLEsector01 wiki to provide citations for its articles, and it serves hundreds of active users per month.

Today, I am expanding the role of the Great Archives to serve as a comprehensive guide to the G1 BIONICLE story. In addition to a snazzy new home page, the site now includes a work-in-progress timeline of events in the BIONICLE story, as well as an encyclopedia on the world of BIONICLE. Although they are still in a relatively rough state, they contain thoroughly cited information from a number of canon BIONICLE sources, including all of the official guide books and many of the novels. If you just want to take a quick look around, a particularly interesting starting point is the History of the Matoran Universe. Ultimately, I hope that the Great Archives will serve as a complete, well-written reference to all things BIONICLE that is approachable to new fans.

You can learn more about the new Great Archives on the about and status pages. To keep track of updates, you can follow the Great Archives on Twitter at @GreatArchives. Stay tuned.

This is just the beginning.