The upgrade is mostly-sort-of-kinda complete. That is, the essentials are done, and the site should function mostly-as-advertised, though some components had to be removed in the meantime, because there wasn't an upgrade path for them (read: the devs didn't bother to make a new version compatible with the new version of Joomla, so I had to remove those extensions or the migration would bork). Hence where my comments disappeared to (sad panda) and my sitemap (not a huge loss, for this site).
If you find anything fundamentally broken, please do let me know. I've checked things, but there are just SO MANY things that broke and were fixed and rebroken and jury-patched as I did this upgrade that I've likely missed some. My bio page has information on how you can get in touch.
(Edit: Oh, if it's broken in anything earlier than IE8, I really don't care. Not supporting that. I had to convert this template over to the new format, and reading through all the snarky, often-sweary comments for my million-and one IE-only CSS hacks reminded/reconvinced me not to bother supporting broken browsers.)
I say mostly-done, because there are some changes I want to make, both content-wise and design-wise, so they'll be happening as we go along--this is why this upgrade was a patch-together job, rather than a slow-and-steady get-it-perfect business. I'm going to find a new extension to handle my comments, and try out some other concepts I want to play with on this site, and I have a complete CSS-redesign slowly moving through the pipeline that will hopefully make this site a lot faster to load, as well as being a visual update. I like the design I have now, but I think it's time to move on--especially as this site is now going to be serving more than one conceptual master.
Thank you for your patience. Regular posting will hopefully resume soon.
I had a post, but this week has been a giant week of things Breaking And Generally Going Wrong, and this post is basically just an announcement that I need to pull the site down for a bit to do a migration and upgrade of Joomla, so i'll be down over the weekend. Hopefully just the weekend; it might stay down longer than that if I run into problems.
But then, once we're back, there will be posts, because I got creative with my furniture, this week.
Argh I missed I week, I know. I was trying to do business tax for the first time whilst getting two submissions together for Lightspeed's Women Destroy Science Fiction special issue (kickstarter just ended, they raised over $53,000, and will be using the proceeds to fund Women Destroy Horror (Lightspeed's sister magazine, Nightmare) and Women Destroy Fantasy (resurrecting a special issue of Lightspeed's former sister magazine, Fantasy).
The number of submissions to these issues has been incredible, so the results should be some truly stellar stories. If you didn't back the kickstarter, you'll be able to preorder them soon at the sites above.
However, this post is actually about a seriously cool thing that Hugh Howey, author of hit SF series Wool, has done. There's a post over at Passive voice explaining in more depth (and worth a read) but Hugh and a tech-savvy friend of his have generated a report of the real earnings of authors via Amazon's best seller list rankings.
The cliffnotes are:
1. Amazon's best seller lists use rankings. Author A sells more books than B, then A is ranked higher than B.
2. From previous investigation (ie watching his own sales and chatting with others who were doing the same) Howey realised the correlation between rank numbers and sales was so strong he could actually estimate an author's earnings from their sales rank (combined with the book price, obviously) with a surprising degree of accuracy.
3. This would have just a cute discovery until a tech-savvy friend of Howey's said he could create a web spider to crawl the rankings and automatically calculate it, thus reducing the giant barrier-to-entry (the formiddable amount of data entry required to get the information).
4. The Author Report was born. It crawls Amazon's best seller lists and tells us what authors are really earning out there.
Important Caveat: A lot of amazon's "best seller" lists are frankly nonsense, because the category is so very, very specific (and therefore tiny) that the 'top sellers' are in fact books that have sold a whole five copies. Think "Zombie romance set in WW2-era New Zealand" level of specificity--not a useful amount. So the data has to be interpreted with that in mind.
This is an incredible breakthrough for authors, because we finally have real numbers for what authors are earning, not just the mumbled fudge-figures from traditional publishers.
A few years ago, a script reader in Hollywood had three hundred scripts to read. As he (? probably he) went (or maybe afterwards, I'm just writing up an introduction, here) he noted certain features about each script--the gender of the writers, the script location, its ending 'type' and--perhaps of most interest to storytellers, the 27 most common reasons he passed on the scripts.
I think it's telling that #7 is "the female part is underwritten", a common problem even in the scripts that get made, and a both a contributing factor and symptom (there's a whole vicious circle thing) of women's general underrepresentation in a whole range of industries. This is a can of worms so big I couldn't begin to tackle it, and journalists, bloggers and vloggers are building their entire careers around its analysis and deconstruction, but to start with Geena Davis has a great point to make on it here, complete with two "simple steps" to help counteract it:
Step 1: Go through the projects you're already working on and change a bunch of the characters' first names to women's names. With one stroke you've created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they've had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it's not a big deal?
Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, "A crowd gathers, which is half female." That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don't gather, I don't know.
Yeah, I'm behind, sorry. It's been a week. I had something I was going to post, but it requires brainwork that hasn't happened, yet, so instead, here's a nifty little infographic about author's wakeup times, their productivity and the prizes or awards they won. It takes a little bit of interpretation, though there's a legend on the graphic:
- the author image has a colour-coded halo to the prizes they won
- the number of works they wrote is represented by the number of little lines
- the colour of those lines indicates the type of work (poetry, non-fiction, fiction, etc)
- the positioning of the 'works written' lines indicates the time they got up, like a clock-face.
Of course it's not written in a way that makes it easy to determine if there actually is a correlation between a particular habit and a particular output, but it's still pretty.
You can see it in full here.
(Sourced from shortlist.com)
I thought I was done with these, but I hadn't yet romped with Flare's idea of design for HTML 5 output.
That was the sound of my forehead repeatedly mashing my keyboard. Because when they came up with the idea of how tech writers were going to control the design and appearance of their HTML output in Flare, somebody was so far out to lunch that not even the ants could find them.
The primary reason that I moved away from Authorit was that its HTML was ludicrously bad, and it was incapable of giving up the iFrames. Now, I'm not "death to iFrames", like some on the internet, but they're not mobile-friendly, and mobile is where we're going, so an option that doesn't involve them would be good, thanks, and while you're at it, HTML generation that isn't twenty years old would be spiffy.
But Author-it at least assumed you probably knew better exactly how you wanted things to look than they did. The HTML output was basic, but it was also very flexible because it was almost entirely not done in Author-it: you created an HTML file with all the images and layout that you wanted, and then you added some specific <aitdata> tags that Author-it's publishing script would pick up and replace with the topic contents, et voila.
Flare, on the other hand, has these things called 'Skins'. Skins are proprietary scripts--meaning they're compiled and not editable--that generate an html template that is used to construct the pages. The scripts control where everything is, right down to where your search box is located, or what's happening in your header field. This would be alright, if the edit-Skin UI actually allowed you to edit all components of it, and didn't make huge whopping assumptions about what you wanted. For example, things that I should be able to do easily that I can't do without hacking around:
- Move the searchbox from the top of the screen to within the toolbar, or anywhere else.
- Have more than one image in the banner at the top of the screen.
- Have anything other than an image in the banner at the top of the screen. No text for you.
There are many more. So many aspects of the layout and styling that are bizarrely hidden from any kind of editing, because when they wrote the scripts, someone just assumed that people wouldn't need to want to change it. And that's not even getting to the mess it makes of its only-partially-editable CSS file every time you change anything. Ugh.
Bad developer. No cookie.
I do have options, but they're not pretty. There is a place I can inject custom scripts into the toolbar, and I can write a script to take the existing output and fix it the way I want it, but that's rather like hiring a guy to stand next to everyone who's reading your book and nip in with the commas and periods just before they're needed, because your printer couldn't get a handle on this punctuation thing. And, in my opinion, about as ludicrous.
If it weren't for Flare's translation management, I would really be regretting switching across from Author-it. There are just so many bugs, so much unecessary complexity, so many weird assumptions and limitations, and frankly I could write a parser to fix Author-it's bad HTML (and even have Author-it run it for me as a post-processing command, all by itself.) Flare looks cool, and it's certainly cheaper, but in my opinion it's yet to prove itself an equal to the behemoth that is Author-it.