Category: blog


Update to My Blog Media Source

Pretty much since I switched over to WordPress, now three years ago this month, I’ve used Picasa as the source for my media files. My original thought in doing this was that I could better organize my media libraries and keep them all separate from the WordPress infrastructure. Three years ago this seemed like a good idea. I had a decent plug-in I could use to insert images into my posts, and WordPress didn’t handle media libraries very well.

Recent changes to my plug-in that caused (temporarily) unwanted behavior, made me reconsider this. WordPress’s media infrastructure has improved a great deal in three years. I also began to find it cumbersome to get images into my posts, because I typically had to go through 2 steps: first getting the image onto Picasa and then into the post. This may not seem like much, but considering how much I blog, any shortcuts save time.

So I recently decided to switch. You probably didn’t even notice. Instead of using Picasa, I am now using WordPress’s native media manager for my blog media. I’m not moving the old stuff from Picasa into WordPress, but anything new goes into WordPress, eliminating an entire step and making it faster to insert images into posts.

What is the different for you? Well, you tell me. Here I am in Picasa:

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”photo.JPG” type=”image” alt=”photo.JPG” thumb_w=”550″ thumb_h=”” thumb_crop=”false” ]

And here I am in WordPress (looking a tad happier because it is easier and saves me time):

Happy Me


I suspect there are only two real differences you’ll see:

  1. If you click on the image, you get to different places.
  2. Since the images are now hosted within WordPress, they should load a little faster, but this is marginal at best.

There are other advantages for this down the road, but for now, I’m just happy with how much time it saves me each time I want to add an image to a post.


A Couple of Minor Blog Tweaks

Just a note that I made a couple of minor blog tweaks this morning that I hope improve things here. I make these incremental changes from time-to-time and try to avoid doing too much at once. Today there are two changes:

  1. Added better copyright information to the footer of each page. I added an explicit creative commons copyright note in the footer of each page.
  2. Added better automated separation for footnotes on pages in which I include footnotes. I use footnotes from time-to-time1. In the past, these footnotes simply show up at the end of the post without any clarification of what they are. It is probably obvious, but I decided to modify the plug-in I use for this to provide better separation at the end of the post. I used to manually insert a line between the main post and notes. Now, this is automatically included (and better labeled) whenever I use footnotes in a post. You can see an example of this below2

That’s pretty much it. I have plans for more minor changes but nothing that will result in major changes to the look-and-feel of the page. And I am always open to suggestions.

  1. Like this.
  2. This was a very simple tweak. I modified a style and added a tiny bit of html to the plug-in.

A Reminder About the Site Policies

I have been receiving and increasing number of inquiries about requesting to put guest articles on the site in order to increase my audience and get more Facebook likes, etc. The most recent one I received was last night, and a portion of that message reads as follows:

I came across this which says you accept guest posts and I would like to submit one for your consideration.

I found this to be particularly odd, since I have a site policy that says explicitly that I do not accept unsolicited guest posts or advertising. I suspect that the author of the message didn’t really look at the site at all, but rather than make that assumption, I made some minor tweaks to the site in order to make sure that the site policy pages were more readily available. Here are a few of the changes I’ve made:

  • Added a link to the site policy in the footer of every page.
  • Added a reference to the site policy on the About page.
  • Added a reference to the site policy on the Contact page.

I try to keep the policies to a minimum, and they are as much for reader’s benefits as for my own. But for anyone who is considering asking about guest posts, or advertising; or for those inquiring about whether I’ll review your book or comment on your manuscript, I urge you to check out the site policies before proceeding.

My Newly Revived Wayward Time Traveler Column Is Back at SF Signal

After going on hiatus since early 2012, my Wayward Time Traveler column on science fiction is back over at SF Signal. In this month’s column, I talk about “Remembering Malcolm Jameson,” a writer during the early Golden Age, friends with Robert Heinlein, and someone whose stories unexpectedly grew on me. Head on over to SF Signal to check it out.

(And special thanks to John DeNardo and Patrick Hester for having me back.)

Blog Stats for 2012

Now that the final numbers are in, I can put together a post on the numbers for this blog in 2012. Those who aren’t interested in such things, feel free to skip over this. As to why I am interested in this, there are several reasons:

  1. The numbers provide some manner of objective measurement: visits, visitors, etc. Some valuable information can be extracted that might help me improve the blog in the coming year.
  2. The numbers can be compared to previous years to see changes, which is interesting to me.
  3. In general, I’m just kind of fascinated by these types of metrics.

I will try to indicate the source for all of my numbers as I go along. Keep in mind that different sources have slightly different numbers, but the differences are within a reasonable margin of error. Besides, I’m not using these numbers in a manufacturing or similar process so they don’t have to be precise. Mostly, I’m interested in the overall trends.

Sources of the data

I am making use of three primary sources of data, listed in order of priority:

  1. WordPress statistics that come via the WordPress JetPack plug-in. The same numbers are produced via WordPress’s site when I log in there with my account. This is my primary source of aggregate numbers. These numbers do not include subscribers to the RSS feed.
  2. Feedburner statistics that come from Google’s Feedburner. These include only those numbers that come from the RSS feed and do not include people who visit the blog directly. In other words, in terms of statistics, #1 and #2 can be considered mutually exclusive. (The same person may end up reading a post via RSS and then coming directly to the blog. In that case, the visit counts in both places.)
  3. Google Analytics. This is my primary source for demographic data on the blog, i.e., where people came from, what browser they used, how long they viewed the site, etc.

One other definitional clarification: I distinguish between page views and unique visitors. Mostly, when I am referring to numbers, I am referring to the page views, the total number of times pages on the blog were viewed. This is different from the number of unique visitors. The latter is often lower because the same person often views more than one page. I will try to be clear about when I am referring to views versus visitors.

The basics for 2012

Here is a chart that plots my monthly totals for 2012:



This is a stacked-chart. The purple area represents pages views on the blog. The blue area is page views via the RSS feed. The stacked total is the total number of views the for the month.

Some interesting observations:

  • Fewest page views took place in February with a total of 23,095.
  • Most views (best month) was December with a total of 107,691 (more on this later).
  • For the year, I averaged just under 59,000 page views per month

In April, I began my Going Paperless series of weekly posts and that is where things really began to take off. For instance, for the first three months of the year, I averaged about 29,000 views per month. From April through December, however, after I began my Going Paperless series, I averaged nearly 69,000 views per month.

Read more

What Blog Software I Use

I have been getting asked two questions with increasing frequency: (1) What blog software I use; and (2) How to build a successful blog. Since the first question is far easier to answer than the second question (because it is entirely factual) I’ll give that a go today1.

Blogging platform

I use a self-installed and self-maintained version of WordPress. This is as opposed to the commercial Why do I use a self-installed version? Because I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to things like my blog and website and I want complete and total control. This means that I do have to perform my own maintenance: upgrades, tweaks, plug-ins, etc., but keep in mind that I am a software developer in my day job and have been doing this kind of thing for going on 20 years. And actually, the blog requires very little in the way of regular maintenance.

WordPress theme

I use a heavily customized version of the SubtleFlux theme. If you check out the theme in themes directory, you’ll notice that it hasn’t been updated in a couple of years. That’s okay because when I first installed it I made tons of changes to it to get it to look and behave just like a wanted. By “tons of changes” I mean I modified just about every style sheet that came with the theme, and more than a few of the page templates. My sister designed my page banner. I have it looking just like I want it and everyone is happy.


One of the big advantages of a self-installed version of WordPress is that I can install whatever plug-ins I want. I don’t need a special plan with my host or with WordPress. I’m given just enough rope to hang myself.

At present, I have 27 active WordPress Plug-Ins. I’m not going to list them all, but I’ll call out a few that have been particularly useful:

  • Akismet keeps my blog comments spam free. Don’t believe me? This year alone, Akismet has identified over 142,000 spam comments. You never saw one of them. Neither did I–unless I wanted to review them–which I periodically do. Bottom-line, it keeps the comments on this blog nice and manageable and distraction-free.
  • JetPack performs a whole bunch of utility functions on the blog, including managing subscriptions to comments, giving me access to statistics, and letting me do cool things with my sidebar widgets.
  • Picasa Express allows me to manage the images I display on the blog in Picasa. Very convenient since I already have a lot of images over that way.

Writing posts

I wrote the majority of my posts from the WordPress web interface. Many of the posts are pre-scheduled but still written via the web. When I am away from a computer, I write posts on my iPad using the Blogsy app, which is about the best app I’ve found for writing and editing posts for WordPress sites on the iPad.

Backing up my site

That’s right, I back up both the site and the database every day, and best of all, it is done automatically. These backups have proved useful on two occasions already. Back when I was with my old host, they had a database corruption issue that brought down my site. They fixed their problem, but not without some data loss. However, a very quick restore of my database from the last backup meant I lost almost nothing on the blog–in fact, I lost 3 comments that had come in between the last backup and the crash.

Also, when I moved my site to my new host, having the full backup–pages and database–made it incredibly easy.

So there you have the blogging software that I use. Tomorrow, I’ll see if I can put together a few points to answer to the more difficult question: how do you build a successful blog.

  1. I’ve had a persistent cough lingering after a cold that I caught from the kids and its got my pretty wiped out today.

Suggestion Box Post

It occurred to me when writing about my blog stats this morning that, having earned a good audience, I should at least solicit suggestions for how I can improve this blog. At first I thought I should limit the comments to specific areas, but why? I’m interested in hearing all suggestions and comments, the good and the bad. Rather than put together an elaborate form for this, I wanted to keep it simple. My idea is for folks to leave suggestions and comment as a comment to this post. This allows some transparency so that others can see suggestions that are being made and either comment on those, or add their own voice.

Of course, not everyone is comfortable with public comments or suggestions. So if you would rather, you can also email in your suggestion to suggestions [at]

A few notes about this suggestions box:

  1. I will read all of the suggestions and comments.
  2. If I think a suggestion is worth taking, I will do my best to implement it. But my time here is limited so it might take a while.
  3. If I do implement a suggestion, I will do my best to let you know, either via a post, or by an email (if you left an email address).
  4. If I don’t implement a suggestion, it doesn’t mean the suggestion was bad or wasn’t seen. It’s just something I didn’t want to do. Please don’t take it personally.

I don’t put ads on the blog (and have no plans to do so) and I also don’t have a tip-jar (and have no plans to include one). Occasionally, I am asked about both of these items. Folks, this is a labor of love for me that I’ve been doing since 2005. There is no need to buy me a cup of coffee. If you like the blog and feel compelled to do something, the best possible thing you can do for me is to tell others about it who might also enjoy it. Direct referrals like that are the best kind of reward for this type of work.

Suggestions and comments can be anything. What you like, what you don’t like, what you’d like to see more or less of. Ideas for ways I can improve the site, whatever. I look forward to hearing from you either here in the comment thread, or via the email address above.

And thank you so much for reading!

Blog Milestone: 400,000 Direct Visits In 2012

Last night, I was keeping a close eye on my blog stats because I knew a big milestone was approaching. And indeed, shortly after 9pm Eastern time, this blog passed the 400,000 visit-mark for 2012. This is significant for several reason:

  1. Although I’ve been blogging since 2005, I didn’t really have much of a focus until December 2010.
  2. In December 2010, I had a simple goal: I wanted to triple the daily visits to my blog by the end of 2011. I need 2010 with an average of about 33 visits per day. I was aiming for 100/day.
  3. I had steady growth in 2011, and a few outliers, but in the end, I beat my goal, ending 2011 with more than 260 visits each day.
  4. That things really took off in 2012 really surprised me. I haven’t looked closely at the data yet (that will come early in January) but I suspect a lot of it has to do with my Going Paperless posts. So far, I’ve averaged 1,125 visits per day in 2012.

You can see this growth rate yourself, month-by-month since February 2010 (when I converted to WordPress):

Photo Skitch Document.png

I have no idea where 400,000 visits/year puts my blog in relation to other blogs. I do know that it is about 1/20th the traffic that John Scalzi has reported getting this year for his Whatever Blog. Beyond that, I can’t really say if 400,000 visits is a big number or just par for the course. It probably doesn’t matter. The fact that the blog has grown so much in the last year just blows me away.

These numbers come from WordPress’s stats package. They don’t include people who read the blog via the RSS feed. This morning, I looked into those numbers.  It appears that I’ve had an additional 259,000 visits via RSS, bringing my grand total, to-date, to about 659,000 visits. That is just remarkable to me!

I will post a more detailed breakdown of the end-of-year stats in early January. I’ll try to include regional breakdowns and other interesting data that I can gather from Google Analytics and other sources. For today, I just kind of wanted to stare at these numbers, unbelieving, and say thank you to everyone who comes to read the blog, or leave comments here. It would seem I’ve actually attracted an audience and I am so grateful to have you all!

Jamie Todd Rubin – Science Fiction Writer on Facebook

With that previous post in mind, I do recognize that some people are only interested in some of the things I post on this blog, and that is perfectly fine. I try to accomodate that where I can. For instance, I have setup a separate RSS feed for my Going Paperless posts. So people who read this blog via RSS have a choice:

  1. Get all of the posts via RSS.
  2. Get just the Going Paperless posts via RSS.

I also realize that a number of people friend me on Facebook and are thus flooded with various and sundry things that make it to my wall, many of which have nothing to do with paperless lifestyle, or science fiction.  It is for that reason, that I set up a Facebook fan page, Jamie Todd Rubin – Science Fiction Writer. While all of my blog posts get linked from there, the only things that I post on the wall are things relating to science fiction. So if you are looking for a way to filter out all of the non-SF stuff I write about, or would just like a faster index to the stuff that I do write about without all of the other Facebook clutter, go “Like” Jamie Todd Rubin – Science Fiction Writer.

A Couple of Housekeeping Notes For Friday

Just a few notes relating to this blog that I thought I’d pass along on this cold (27 degrees!) Friday morning. I hope you are staying warm, wherever you may be.

1. My LiveJournal account has been deleted

As I mentioned earlier, I have deleted my LiveJournal account as of this morning. If you were reading this blog over on LiveJournal, you have 4 options if you want to continue reading:

  1. You can read it right here.
  2. You can subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog.
  3. You can read it over on Tumblr.
  4. You can read the RSS feed over at LiveJournal–setup courtesy of my friend Micahel Burstein.

I have nothing against LiveJournal–it’s where I got my blogging start. But there was very little traffic over there and it simplifies things to not to have to maintain so many different outlets. More details on my reasoning can be found here.

2. Web of Trust rating for this site is now excellent

A little over a year ago, I’d never heard of Web of Trust, but every once in a while, someone would report that their browser warned them that this blog was “unsafe.” It turns out that WOT is a crowd-sourced tool that allows people to rate the quality of sites. For reasons that were never fully explained, mine had a low rating, and people who had the plug-in would get a warning. At the time, several regular readers went over to WOT and gave updated reports on this site. That helped. Back in May of this year, the rating had improved and was no longer in the “warning” zone.

I happened to check the site yesterday and it turns out the scores have improved even more:


All of the score are now in the “green” and this makes me happy. It is one less thing I have to concern myself with. I just wanted to thank everyone who took the time to make accurate reports on this site. It took a year, but you can see the results for yourself.

My 5,000th Blog Post

Hard as it is for me to believe, this is my 5,000th blog post. I started blogging regular way back at the end of 2005, and is has taken me close to 7 years (with some small gaps in between) to accumulate 5,000 posts. But looking back over the years, it is a quite an array of posts, and some pretty good documentation of my life over those 7 years.

In case you were wondering, those 5,000 posts amount to 1,583,943 words, which averages to about 325 words/post.

I’m deeply ensconced in NaNoWriMo this month and I didn’t plan on anything special for my 5,000th post–other than to call it to your attention. So let me just say, once again, how grateful I am to the readers who take a few minutes out of their day to drop by and read what I write. And thanks also to those who go above and beyond and a leave a comment or provide other feedback on the blog.

I wonder how long it will take me to write the next 5,000 posts?