Category: blogs

So I lied…

I wasn’t quite finished tweaking the site. This morning, I decided to move forward with my plan to switch from 3-column to 2-column format. You are looking at the results. I think it is much better, less clutter, and it allowed me to use a slightly larger font which is easier on the eyes.

Other changes I made:

  • Reorganized the sidebar.
  • Added a press kit.
  • Switched to threaded comments.
  • Switched to the native Jetpack Facebook “like” button

I am also in the process of updating various pages (About, Bibliography, etc.) to bring them up-to-date and to allow them to take advantage of the wider space they now have.

As always, I am open to suggestions for future changes.

Finished with changes and tweaks to the site

I have finished with changes and tweaks to the site. Most of what I changed was minor and was intended for improved usability:

  • Changed the style, increased the size and spacing of the font on the main article section of the page (what you are reading right now).
  • Made the archive pages like the main index page. Previously the archive pages showed only a very brief summary of the posts. They now show either the entire post, or that portion up to the “Read More” as indicated on each post. This was something several folks requested and should make these archives (category pages, tag pages, etc.) more useful.
  • Added an improved Facebook “Like” button that should be more reliable than what I’d previously had.

I’ve browsed the page in Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari on my iPad and all looks well. Let me know if you see any immediate problems.

Going forward I am considering a few additional changes:

  • Fixing a minor vertical spacing issue at the bottom of each post (where the Like and Share This buttons are).
  • Updating my About, Bibliography, and Contact pages

I am also considering one fairly major change. While I like the overall style I’ve developed, the page is beginning to feel a little too crowded. I am therefore thinking about going from 3-columns down to 2-columns to give more space to the main content. The remaining right-hand column would be a hybrid of some (but not all) of the information currently present in both the sidebar columns. Let me know if you have an opinion on this.

Minor font style experimentation over the next 24 hours or so

We interrupt this blog with the following important message:

I will be experimenting with better font styles for the main (left-hand) column of the blog and website over the next 24-hours, attempting to improve the font used there for better readability. Just wanted to alert those used to seeing that font that’s been there for nearly 2 years, in case you notice some changes.

We now return you to your regular programming.

Recent blog stats: an interesting trend

Every once in a while, visits to this here lil’ blog take a surprising jump. Usually it is a blip on the radar and the spike returns to roughly normal fairly rapidly. But over the course of the last two months, something has changed and the number of visitors has increased quite a bit. Quite a bit. Here, see for yourself. Here’s a chart that I put together plotting average daily visits since I converted the blog to WordPress back in February 2010 (and imported LiveJournal posts going back to 2005, for which I have no visit data).

chart_1 (1).png

Average daily visitors were always steadily increasing, which is generally how I like it. Slow, but steady. Late last year things started to pick up, but as you can see, there was another dip. Then, beginning last month, things really picked up and have stayed there. Indeed, May is outpacing April by half again, despite April being an outstanding month. At the moment, I’m seeing, on average, over 2,200 visitors each and every day!

That made the total visits to the blog explode, of course:

chart_2 (1).png

This chart shows total visits by month. Note that in both these charts, I’m counting only direct visitors to the blog. I am not including people who read the blog via RSS feeds. Those numbers tend to add about 1,000 visits per day. In the month of April alone, I had half as many visits as all of 2011. It is incredible!

Many of the visitors are coming by to read my Going Paperless posts that I have been doing in my capacity as Evernote’s Paperless Lifestyle Ambassador, and , of course, that pleases me enormously. The feedback I’ve gotten on those posts has been overwhelmingly positive. But it seems like folks who come by to read those posts, are looking at other things as well, and that also pleases me. I can’t imagine this ever-increasing pace can be sustained, but it’s certainly fun while it lasts.

So I just wanted to say to all of the new visitors, and the old visitors who keep coming back: thank you for stopping by. It’s a pleasure to have you here and I am humbled by the activity I’ve seen in my little corner of the web.

SF Signal MIND MELD: Whatever happened to interstellar travel in science fiction?

Over at SF Signal, I’ve participated in the most recent MIND MELD in which Paul Weimer asks the question: Whatever happened to interstellar travel in science fiction? Some fascinating answers by Elizabeth Bear, Fred Kiesche, Rene Sears, Kevin J. Anderson, Karen Burnham, Kay Kenyon, Daniel Abraham, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Kristine Rusch, Fabio Fernandes, Mike, Resnick, Karl Schroeder, Michael Flynn, and yours truly. Some good reading about the direction of the genre.

Do you remember your first time?

Over at SF Signal, my Wayward Time Traveler column this week asks, “Do you remember your first time?” Of course, I’m referring to the first time you read a classic of science fiction. It might not have been the first science fiction you ever read, but it was the first time you were really wowed by the genre. Head on over and check it out.

“Jump gestures” for e-books

So in thinking about more use cases for traditional books and e-books, I came up with one that would be incredibly useful to have in e-book readers. I’ll use the Kindle App as an example, since that is where I do 97% of my e-book reading.

Let’s say you are reading, oh, I don’t know, George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows. You have the physical book in your hand. Your reading a passage referring to some geographical point of interest so you flip quickly to the map and then back to the passage you were reading. Very easy to do in a physical book. Not so easy in an e-book.

In my Kindle App, there are a couple of ways I can do this:

  1. I can go to the table of contents, click the map, take a look at it, and then click the Back button a few times to get back to where I was in the text.
  2. I can bookmark the map, jump to the bookmark, look at the map, and then return to where I was in the text.

The problem is that each of these methods take at least 3 click to get to the map.

I think a very useful feature would be to be able to assign a single bookmark to a “jump gesture.” It would work like this:

  1. I bookmark the map page and assign that bookmark to my jump gesture.
  2. As I’m reading, when I want to refer to the map, I use the “gesture” (whatever that gesture might be, maybe a 3 fingered backward swipe, it really doesn’t matter) and I am instantly on the map. All I have to do is that swipe. To get back to where I was in the text: repeat the gesture.

This gesture acts as a toggle and would let me get to the reference point as quickly as I could in the traditional book. And of course, it would apply to other things than just maps. Maybe there is a passage you want to keep referring back to. Assign that bookmark to the jump gesture and you can swipe to it instantly.

I can’t imagine this would be a difficult gesture to implement. Maybe it’s just me but I would make heavy use of this feature if it was available.

Transcript of my #sffwrtcht from last night

Last night I participated in my first Twitter chat, talking with Bryan Thomas Schmidt and others about writing, science fiction, and the Golden Age as part of the #sffwrtcht. It was a lot of fun and a lot of typing to keep up!

Bryan has posted a  transcript of last night’s chat for anyone interested who might have missed it. The order of the Tweets is a little funky because of delays in Tweets showing up, so some stuff might seem non sequitor-ish, but you’ll get the gist by skimming through the whole thing. It really was a lot of fun.

Thanks to Bryan for having me as a guest, and also to everyone who participated, asked questions and offered opinions.