Tag: new features

Introducing: A Curated Index to the Blog

Those of you with a keen eye may have noticed a new menu options available on the blog this weekend: A Curated Index to the Blog. This is something I have been wanting to do for a while, and I managed to get about the first 10% percent completed so far.

A new menu option!

This new page takes you to a curated list of posts that I have written over the 16+ years that this blog has been in existence. With over 7,000 posts on the blog, I am trying to find ways to expose readers to stuff I have written in the past, not just posts that I am writing today. To do this, I have started to go through my massive backlog of posts, and find a representative sample that crosses the spectrum of everything I write about here.

My goal is to eventually have about 10% of the total posts listed on this curated index. As of today, I’ve indexed about 100 of these posts, so I’ve still got 500-600 to go. This is clearly a work-in-progress.

The new page provides a brief introduction, and is then followed by an alphabetical list of topics. Posts are listed in order of date below each topic. This provides a single page that someone can go to and scroll through to scan the kinds of things I write about, and maybe dive into something that they haven’t read before.

Each bullet links to the post and is followed by the date the post was published. Within a given topic, I list the posts in date order. For those posts whose titles aren’t completely clear on what the subject is about, I’ve added some annotations to give more details.

I am trying not just to pick a random sample, but a representative sample. I write about a lot of different things here and I want this index to reflect that. I am also trying to find posts that I think are particularly good, but also include some posts (particularly earlier posts) that may not be up to my standards today, but are accurate historical representations of how I was writing on the blog 10 or 15 years ago.

I’ve wanted a place to point people to when they ask, “What kind of stuff do you write about?” Now I’ve got one.

Feel free to check out the new index, and let me know what you think about it. I’ll be adding more posts over the next few months until I reach my 10% goal. If there are posts you know about that you think should be on this list, please send me your suggestions.

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More Enhancements to My New Reading List Page

Yesterday I introduced a beta version of my new reading list–everything I have read since 1996–hosted here on the blog as opposed to in GitHub where I’ve been keeping it the last several years. If you’ve been checking out the page, you may have noticed some changes in the last few hours. If you want to check it out, you can find it here:

What I have read since 1996

It is still in beta, still a work in progress, but here are some of the enhancements I’ve added since yesterday:

  • Switched to a different table tool, which is simpler but more functional (so the table may look a little different than it did before).
  • The table is still sortable, but I’ve fixed the date sort so that it now behaves correctly when sorting the date.
  • Removed the “Format” column from the table and replaced it with an icon ahead of each title. The legend at the top of the table provides an indicator of the format in which I read the book.
  • Fixed many problems with bad symbols in the data. I still have more to do there.
  • You can now search the list! Type anything you want into the search box above the table and if it is in the list, it should find matches. For instance, to see how many times I’ve read E.B. White’s One Man’s Meat, I just type it into the search:
  • Converted the “Format” column to a “Topic(s)” column which is useful for searching for books by topic. For instance, how many Presidential memoirs have a I read1:
  • I removed the Length/Pages column and replaced it with what I call BEq. “BEq” stands for “Book Equivalents.” I took an average of the length of all 1,100 books that I’ve read on my list, and it turned out that the average book length is 410 pages. I then degreed that for my purposes, 1 book equivalent = 410 pages. I like this number better because some years I read fewer, longer books, some years many shorter books. The BEq gives me a nice way of seeing how much more or less I read a year focused length not books. A BEq of 1.00 means a book of 410 pages. A nice side effect of this is that a BEq of 2.00 is a book of 820 pages. Have I read any books that are longer than 3 BEqs? It turns out I have read 4:

As I said this is still a work-in-progress. Here are some of the things I will working on over the weekend, so you can expect to see things change more:

  • I noticed that my data export was imperfect and some titles don’t match the authors correctly. I’ve been fixing these as I go along.
  • I still have to go through an add format icons to about 7/10th of the books on the list.
  • I still have to complete adding topics so that all of the books have topics.
  • I also need to add all of the 2021 books to the list.

Once I’ve gotten those things done, my next steps are:

  • Add related posts to relevant titles. You’ll see a handful of these in the current data, but I’ve actually written on the blog about many of the books on the list, and I plan to try to link to the posts from the list as best as I can. Here are some examples of what is there now:
  • I’m toying with the idea of having “top” page for the list which would have a table of individual lists by year along with some stats. Clicking on a year list would take you to a table like the ones above, but filtered for the year in question. There would still be a page for viewing the full list.
  • I want to add pages for things like recommended books, or themed lists.

So, those are the changes that I’ve made so far, and some of what you can expect over the next few days. The feedback I’ve gotten from those of you who have provided it has been incredibly helpful, so keep it coming. I’d like this to be as useful and fun for you as it is for me.

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  1. Note: I’ve only added topics to about 1/5th of my list so far, so these examples are incomplete.

Beta-Testing My New Reading List

ETA: I’ve made some additional enhancements since writing this post.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would be adding some new features here on the blog. For one of those features, I’d planned to move the list of everything I’ve read since 1996 back here to the blog. I recently began that process and now have a page ready in beta for people to take a look at:

What I Have Read Since 1996

A few notes about this initial testing phase:

  • Currently, the list includes what I have read from 1996-2020. I have not yet added the 50 or so books I have read in 2021. That will be coming shortly.
  • I have not yet enabled responsive design, so it may not look right on mobile devices, yet
  • You can sort the columns by clicking on the sorting arrows. Sorting on the Finished column doesn’t work right yet because I don’t have the date formatting correctly.
  • To get back to the default sort, sort on the first column.
  • The Related Posts column is intended to be a place where I will link to posts I’ve written about the book in question. I’ve added one example so far.
  • Want to see the longest book I’ve read? Do a descending sort on the Pages column

If you are curious to see an example without clicking on the link, here’s a screenshot:

screenshot of my new reading list page
Screenshot of my new reading list page.

My goal here is to be able to provide a single authoritative place I can point people to for a list of everything I’ve read. Ideally, I’ll be able to add links to related posts for additional context for a given book. A few things I’ve been thinking about but am on the fence on:

  • I’d like to have one big list, but I will likely break it into pages by year before rolling it out officially. This will allow me to have a “top page” with a table that lists each year, along with some stats for the year and links to other things like recommended reads, etc.
  • I’d like to add an icon in front of the title to indicate the format in which I consumed the book (paper, ebook, audio, etc.)
  • I’d like to add an indicator for books that I recommend. Maybe a star at the start of the column? Or just a bold column? I’m not really into 5-star ratings so that’s a nonstarter for me.

Finally, keep in mind that I will be tweaking this as I have time, so you may see things change or disappear. But I wanted to get the basics out there for folks to see.

If you take the time to check it out, I’d love to hear your feedback. Please, let me know what you think, good or bad. I want to make this as functional as I can manage. Leave your thoughts in the comment. Or, if you prefer to provide them directly to me, shoot me an email.

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A couple of new blog features

I’ve added a few new features to the blog this morning: comment subscriptions and spoiler blocks. I explain each of these briefly below.

Comment Subscriptions

As I find more and more people commenting on posts here and the threads getting longer, I thought it might be useful to provide guests with the ability to subscribe to a particular post and receive email notifications when comments are added to the thread. You can also subscribe to a post even if you don’t leave a comment. For each post you subscribe to, you will get a confirmation email making that validates that you really want to subscribe. This feature should now be available for all posts.

Spoiler Blocks

I added this feature specifically for my Vacation in the Golden Age posts. The dilemma is thus: some stories have a great twist that you really don’t want to give away; on the other hand, they are extremely hard to find these days and it is unlikely that a reader will seek them out. On the other hand, there are famous stories (like Asimov’s “Nightfall”) which are readily available and also spoiler-worthy. Rather than hold back information and not give away the ending, I will use the spoiler-blocks to hide what I think might be a spoiler. Any reader can choose to open the block and read the spoiler. Or skip it. It allows me to write what I want, but leaves you the choice of reading that part.  The spoiler blocks work like this:

[spoiler title=”You can find the spoiler in here”]If you can see this, then you’ve obviously decided to see how this thing works. Brilliant, right?[/spoiler]

Hopefully, readers of this blog will find these new features helpful. As always, I continue to look for ways of making this space more user-friendly and comfortable; a cozy little corner of the web for you to visit from time-to-time.