A Guide To Extreme Hosting: How To Write Fast

Hi there! I’m Crypt. Yesterday, I reviewed 41 cars in one day. Across the past 2 months, I have reviewed 76; I won’t be shocked if I hit 100 in 3 months soon. How? Something I call extreme hosting, inspired by extreme programming. The tenets of extreme hosting are simple:

  1. Less Is More
  2. Find Your Voice
  3. Rhythm Mania
  4. Know Your Limits
  5. Spreadsheets Are Your Friend

Taking ages to write a challenge is easy. Putting up something half-baked (regardless of how long it took you) is easy. I know this first-hand, and all these lessons came through trial and error. So, let’s go through them one by one.

The first point is the most controversial, with good reason. Wanna hear a secret? I didn’t download the cars for QFC until after it closed. Did not touch a single one. I got all the reviews out in a few hours. I could not do that for any other challenge, but it’s a good example. QFC reviews are 140 characters or less. Nice and easy. You’ll notice it’s a running theme in my hosting though. I’ve stopped doing anything involving CSS beyond the very basics. I don’t write overly long fluff. There’s no long descriptions of the character’s inner life, there’s nothing beyond the basics, explicitly stated. Now, is this universally good, is this the one true approach? No, but it’s an approach that gets good results - and it makes your life easier. Be brief, cut the filler, just go with the basic facts. Less work for you means you get done quicker.

The second applies everywhere, but it’s much harder. My voice is heavily informed by technical and academic writing. It’s based on a tone I use at work and university. When I write reviews, I already know the style. I know how I am going to write, so I can get it done. There’s no escaping it, being good at writing lets you write quicker - who would have guessed? But even if you aren’t, you can still find a voice, you can find a consistent way that works for you. Even if you aren’t following the rest of this, you can find a way that works for you. This isn’t unique to this approach, but it’s a prerequisite to the next point…

Remember how I mentioned doing QFC in one day? How I didn’t even start until then? The same is true for elsewhere, I didn’t do the writing for any portion of ALC1 until the day I posted them. I did it all in one day… But not one session. Rhythm management is cruicial to maintaining high productivity, and avoiding burnout.

It’s a balancing act. No breaks means you have issues with getting your mind working. Long breaks means a lot of time re-finding your place. You need to be disciplined and find the middle ground. Take breaks of around 5-10 minutes every hour, maybe longer breaks of 30-60 when you are at a clear transition point. When you do this, get away from your computer, drink some water, stretch your legs. Maybe even go outside and get a change of scenery. Do something else - but stick to it at the same time, maintain your rhythm.

Rhythm is one of the best reasons to manage the scope of your challenge, by the way. If you can break the challenge into segments where you can do each in a day, ideally in 3-5 hours? Yeah, that’s best for rhythm. If you are going to write several pages of fluff which isn’t actually reviewing the challenges? I doubt that you can get that done in a day, so you’ll have to sleep, which breaks your rhythm.

Anyone who has been following ALC will know that there was a period of a week or so when I did nothing for judging. You’ll also know that I have delayed the next round substantially. Why? Because I know that I won’t be able to judge it. With the most recent set, I could’ve tried to do a little bit of judging here and there, but that would take twice as long because I wouldn’t have any rhythm. I waited until I could do a solid block, and then I did that block. Not judging is as important as judging - and if you expect that you won’t be able to judge? Don’t host. If something comes up, let people know. People will understand and have a better experience that way. This, like knowing your voice, is essential if you wanna use that rhythm.

Finally, spreadsheets. Use them.

The most powerful command in a spreadsheet is one you may not know - the concat command. concat(“a”,“b”) returns “ab”. How is this useful? concat("@", concat(username, concat(" - “, concat(carname, concat(”: ", review) returns something like “@AMuteCrypt - BRM Sensible: Your Paint Choice Sucks, Boo!”. Do this for each of your cars, and you can just copy-paste all your text in one review, then add whatever images you want to. Want an example? Here is a pared-down version of QFC’s sheet, hiding each entrant’s stats (some entries were edited in the post, which is why they don’t match). All I had to do was copy column D and paste it into the body of the post and bingo, nicely formatted text. You can even do it if you want to add CSS or stuff, feel free to copy this trick. Less work to do means your life is easier and less time spent reviewing. Can you do this with other methods? Sure, but this is easy. Spreadsheets are good for other stuff too, like comparing stats at a glance.

You might think that using a spreadsheet is basics, but it’s part of a crucial ideological thread here: Be lazy and value your time. If you don’t have to do something? Don’t do it. If you can find a tool that does something for you? Use the tool. There’s effort you can avoid, effort that doesn’t improve your challenge. Maybe you enjoy putting in this effort, but this is a blueprint for how you can save time and effort without a meaningful drop in challenge quality.

I’m not saying you have to do this, feel free to ignore it by all means.



Aaaaaaand now we are into full-on rant territory.

A lot of posts - both in challenges and entries - use images as the only place certain information goes. This is very bad. It means you can’t copy the text elsewhere to reference it. It means that if you are using a screen reader, you can’t read it. It means that if the person making the post didn’t do well with contrast, the whole thing is hard to read. Don’t do it. Stop putting meaningful information in images. Keep it to text, and make sure you have good contrast with the whatever background is behind it. Your image may be really nice, but it’s not accessible. If you must, put the text in a details box.

Fun related fact, did you know that the discourse forums support the alt and title attributes for images? This allows you to have a description of the image show up for if you are using a screen reader, or if you hover over it - which is great for accessibility. <img src=https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/358227284404076546/957126845298536498/unknown.png title=“An image of a bike fixture” alt=“An image of a bike fixture”> renders as
An image of a bike fixture
Hover over it and check! I haven’t used this because I didn’t know it worked, but I’ll be using it from now on. Incidentally, it’s also useful for captions identifying cars.

Also, I have no idea what the hell Pacific or Eastern Time are. Why should I? It’s another country across the world. I especially don’t know when it changes from daylight time to standard and vice versa. Know what I do know? UTC (also known as GMT), and my UTC offset. I always run my challenges on UTC, so that people can just memorise their one offset so they know. If you must reference a named zone, please provide the UTC offset for that zone alongside it. To summarise:

  • 12 PM PT: Can refer to two zones, changes at random times of the year. Do not use.
  • 12 PM PST: At least it always has the same meaning.
  • 12 PM PST (-8 UTC): I consider this the minimum for an accessible solution, as I can convert this easily.
  • 8 PM UTC: This is the best option we can get.

On discord, you can use services like this to make it render and localise automatically.

Here’s a fun illustration of that effect. Imagine if I said one of my challenges ends at 10 AM Australian Central Time. Who here knows that, without being from Australia or googling it? Using UTC means everyone only needs to memorise their own offset.


Also a tip from working with clients around the world on a daily basis - If you want to close at midnight (or noon for AM/PM), try to avoid 12 AM/24:00/00:00. To make sure people have the correct date, use 11:59 PM or 23:59 as it removes any kind of ambiguity on the date alongside it (theaters do this for showing time for example). Also for some people who are not used to AM/PM, 12AM/12PM can be very confusing.

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Nice tips @AMuteCrypt. If I may add my own tips…

1: be systematic and stick to a script for each car, especially if you want to write a detailed review. Not only will it be faster to review this way, but it’s less likely that you will forget something. Not to mention, it’ll be (or at least appear to be) more fair and balanced if you have the same quality and detail for each car in your reviews. Only add flourish/fluff on top of the established review script.

2: adjust the review length to the number of cars to be reviewed and your ‘deadline’. If you want/need to get reviews out in a week, you’ll approach it differently if you have five cars or fifty cars to judge. For five, you can do more detailed write-ups and still have time left over; if you do detailed write-ups for fifty, it’s a full time job. Be smart and choose your battles.

Case in point for both of these tips: my ARM14 reviews. There were 10 cars to judge and I wanted to get it done within 3 days due to IRL stuff coming up. So I decided to do five cars a day (two days total) and the third day was reserved for final verdict. With a strict systematic review scheme I could write between 750-1000 words for each car that was fairly matter of fact going though all relevant information. It was the same for each car, hitting all the same points. I added some flourish and fluff where appropriate, but it’s fairly minimal. The focus is on the car. This is important for fast reviewing, because (excuse me for bringing in a bit of neurology into the conversation) for most people it’s much easier and faster to use the analytical part of your brain to summarize readily available information, than to use the imagination part of your brain to write flavour/fluff/RP/world building stuff.

Edit: one more point I’d like to add. Just get started. That’s it. Usually the hardest part is simply sitting down and getting started. The task may look daunting and maybe even impossible, which makes one procrastinate for “when I have more time” or something like that. But if you just sit down and get started, you might be surprised that things will just start flowing.


I think the main success of your campaign lies in the format of the task.
I was personally attracted to QFC because of the quick burn, which I like. And at the same time, I was put off by Legacy because of its bureaucratic delays. I suspected there would be something as black as oil, no wonder people connected in any way with oil, industry, and manufacturing - oil and among others car tycoons - are at risk. This also includes our game.
As for the criticism, I think you have lost a follower.
Your objectives, perceptions and forces diverge.
On the one hand, you have created a quick chelenge, on the other, a long one. For a quick challenge - you want cars with a good look, but the fact is that building the car you want is a bussiness of 2 minutes. You apparently don’t want to accept cinder blocks without looks.
Also your article does not contain any technical breakthroughs. If you were at University, you could have made a ready-made form to analyse the numbers so that anyone could use it, and consequently become a host. Also, it is unknown whether you have passed the stage of graphomania, or are densely entrenched in it?
As for me, I’m more comfortable with the pathos version of the reviews, while your short posts, it seems to me, will not be of much interest to the old timers of the forum, they are interested in some features and gentlemen’s agreement that work on this platform.
These might be, for example, the rule of thumb: 0.5 litres for each cylinder
Or: CD infortaiment are airbags.
I think it’s about time there was a clear division of classes of challenges held, and for all branches there will be clear rules at which must reference the host. That is, there should be listed a hard rules that will never be changed, and thus the participant will know what are dealing with.