Why So Silent?

I’ve been a bit quiet lately, not because I haven’t had thoughts on the current events (Syria, anyone? What exactly does the United Nations do?) but because I can only write so many words and I’ve chosen to write them elsewhere. To be more precise, I’ve been writing fiction.

With the rise of self-publishing, I finally got myself in gear and tried to put some of the things I’ve been thinking about down on paper (or rather pixels), and then getting them into a state where I was willing to send them out into the world.

Having read a lot of information on those who had been successful publishing their own work, I first started with a novel in a popular genre: thriller.

I haven’t finished rewriting that yet (still on the first draft), but I also read a post by Joe Konrath about writing short stories because they can be used in multiple ways to ‘better monetize your intellectual property.’ Having just written something that was 70,000 words, I figured I could bash out five stories of 5,000 words each in fairly short order.

Well the shortest ended up at 8,500 words, and the longest is over 20,000. I’d finished all five by October 2012 and I’ve been rewriting them ever since. The first one was released in May this year. It’s called Riders of the Wind. I have three out to date, with another hopefully in September. You can find all of them on my author website or my Amazon author page.

Still plenty more to do, but I will get back to writing here more often as well, so the world can ignore my views on it once again.

Trawling the Archives

One of the things I lost in the move from self-hosted to wordpress.com was my custom snippet post type.  It was an attempt to create a Tumblr-esque quick post mechanism, and it worked.  But the way the links were stored meant they didn’t get exported, so every thing in the snippets category lost its link to the source material and some where just orphaned headlines with no link or description.

So I’ve manually gone through and added source links and, in many cases, some information about the original article (some made no sense so out of context).

The process of adding the links doing forced me to re-read many of those articles and my predictions and comments and it made some interesting reading, so I thought I would sum a few of them up (some will make it to their own posts).

Tablet Computers

Back in 2008 I posted about the TechCrunch tablet, which evolved, through bitter dispute, into the JooJoo or whatever it was called, and promptly died a death.  I think the concept is still valid (a simpler tablet to the iPad) and the iPad has obviously proved we were on to something. Continue reading

Usability in Blog Design

I was thinking of overhauling the design on this site for a while before I jumped in. One of the things I try to think about when designing any site is how the visitors will interact with it. I’ve thought about the usability of a blog each time I’ve re-designed and this time was no different. Usability as a subject interests me and I’ve read Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think! It’s a good book, better still — it’s short — I’d recommend it.

How do people use my site?

First off I started by thinking about how I use the blogs I visit. If it’s a site I am fond enough off to check regularly, I subscribe to their RSS feed and read it in a feed reader, only clicking through for links that I want to read (typically I scan the article in the feed reader and, if it takes my fancy, open it in a tab and move on to the next item, once I have done that for all of the feeds I work my way through the tabs and close it once I have read it). So in this case I jump straight to the relevant page. I don’t go to the home page at all.

If it’s a site I read regularly it’s also unlikely I will click around, possibly I may look for similar articles but I find clicking on tags or categories rarely gets me there and so prefer to use the search box, sometimes even reverting to a Google site search if the one on the site is useless/non-existent. If it’s a link out to another site (the original source perhaps) I will read directly on the site and I may have a look at the related links, but typically not.

If I’m looking for something or want to read more on the topic I tend to start at Google (aka my search engine of choice — side note, who are the people who don’t start there but use Bing, Yahoo, Ask, etc? No one I know). I check the results and click the links to the site’s pages direct. I’ll then decide if it’s worth staying and read if so, if I’m interested in other articles by the author I may click to look at their tag/category archives (as far as I’m concerned tags and categories are the same things on most sites). If they reference an earlier post about the subject I want to check out I may glance at any related posts if they’re listed, otherwise it’s back to search as I’ve found trawling through category pages a waste of time.

Looking through my web stats the feeds come fairly high in most common pages, there’s plenty of direct links to pages, the archive index makes it into the top 20, the home page does well too. I used to just have one post on the home page, or excerpts, so people had a quick, fast page with little scrolling. Now I show the last five posts in their entirety so people can get a good taste of the content and then choose to continue or not (though with the length of this post I may ask people to click through in order to read it all). I quite like the idea of a ‘popular posts’ section, but how do you measure that; based on visits, comments, what metric? I don’t get many comments, so that would generally be old posts. Visits can easily be skewed by a bot or any number of other things. Something to think about perhaps.

Page Design

So the key things to look at were my home page and the individual article pages. I wanted to make content king, and the site clean and easy to read and use (most of my sites are clean in design, to make them load fast and keep the site out of the way). So on the single pages you get the article up front and centre, no two-column layout competing for attention. The navigation forward and back and links to related/recent posts are all below the main content. I did put the post date up top, I like to know how old the content I’m reading is to give me an idea of freshness and relevance.

The home page is much the same, only with five articles and none of the gumpf. I started with a two-column design but it just didn’t work for me (along with many of the other ideas, I have much more respect for sites that rely on typography, especially serif fonts, for layout).

I stuck with the simple idea of colour/underline for links and font size for importance. Most of my pages are single column, though some are two where it felt appropriate. The biggest page of them all in the archive index, a beast with links to every single post on the site.

Continue reading

Status Update

Just back from my brother’s stag week in Amsterdam and the final Harry Potter book is now out. So:

  1. Yes, I have bought a copy.
  2. Yes, Asda are selling it for £5.00 despite the wholesale price being £10.74
  3. Yes, Asda did still have plenty in stock, despite selling 250,000, half their order, before 9am (but a lot of people were buying).
  4. No, I didn’t go out especially to buy it
  5. No, I haven’t finished it yet because I can’t read up to 4,000 words a minute like some people

Rumours of My Demise Are Premature

It’s been awhile. It wasn’t supposed to be, it started out as thinking ‘I can’t be bothered to post today’ and just spiraled out of control. I put it down to several things:

  • I’m uninspired – nothing moved me enough to make me want to post
  • I’m knackered – working long hours is wearing me down
  • I’m satiated – I think working in a web job means I get my fill at work

Anyway, I’ll try and post some more from now on. I am still adding things to my Tumblr feed, and I have been meaning to add that to here. Just got to figure out how, and move a few things around to accommodate it.

The New Look

It’s that time again, the re-design is upon us. It’s not entirely finished and I’m not 100% happy, but it was well past due, so as version four fades into memory, I unleash version 5 of The Digerati Peninsula.

I’ve been wanting to change it for some time, since about January, but the time it was going to take put me off the idea. With so many great WordPress templates being produced, I thought one of them must be ready, both capable and stylish, and that I could just use one of those, maybe adjust the colours, but let that do everything. None of the templates I found did what I wanted however, and changing them to fit was going to take as long as building my own. I found this on the recent re-design of Potter’s Place, although it uses a standard template, it still took a lot of time to adapt. In the end I gave in and started the TDP re-design from scratch.

Aside from the obvious overhaul of the visuals, there’s been some serious changes under the hood too. Gone are the Blog and Archive super-categories, they seemed superfluous, so now everything fits into a top-level category.
Continue reading