Feedback Request Notes
This is going to be a little meta.
Yesterday afternoon I asked for feedback from Whatever readers regarding the site and what they liked and didn’t like and what suggestions they might have going forward. I got 150-some responses since then, which is a very nice, so thanks all of you for that. While I am still soliciting that feedback (if you want to give it), here are some thoughts on what I’ve received so far, plus some thoughts on 2012 content.
1. What people like/dislike/want to see more of is all across the board, which tells me something I already knew, which is that people who come here to read do so for a variety of different reasons — some like the pieces about writing more than other stuff, some like the political screeds, some like the pictures of cats and sunsets, and so on. This is fine, of course; I write the site in something of a “variety show” format, since that’s how my brain works and what goes up here is what’s in my brain whenever I sit down to write here. As noted earlier, I don’t see that changing much in the next year (or, well, ever).
2. That said, one thing you are likely to see more of in 2012 are politically-oriented posts. It’s a presidential election year here in the US, and I have a suspicion it’s going to be a particularly nasty election year, and I also suspect a fair share of my brain is going to be occupied with it. So there’s a good chance a lot of that will end up here.
I’ll probably have a more detailed post about this later, but for now I’ll just say that most of you by now have a reasonably good idea of what my political biases are, and that will of course inform what I post here politically. As for what this means, I will refer you to my site disclaimer, particular the sentence which reads “I make no claims as toward being even-handed, fair, or nice.” I think generally I call out political stupidity when I see it; however, I don’t believe that, currently, stupidity is evenly distributed across the political spectrum.
3. Regarding Big Idea posts, I don’t think you’re going to see much change either in format or frequency; I generally post a couple a week and it seems to be a good amount in terms of my goals for the feature, and for my ability to keep up with it. Some of you will remember I planned to spin off the Big Idea to its own site; that got shelved primarily because I and and the other two principals involved simply ended up getting too busy with other things. Fortunately it works perfectly well as a feature here.
4. Regarding the “New Books” feature, which were originally posts and then were added to the sidebar: It’s definitely coming back in 2012. I just got bogged down in real world stuff and didn’t update, and didn’t want it growing stale during the holidays. You can expect service to resume when the calendar turns.
5. One commenter wondered if my being the SFWA president had an effect on what I wrote here regarding current publishing debates, issues and events. The answer to this is, yes, a bit. Although I have been careful to deliniate between John Scalzi, private individual and John Scalzi, SFWA president (especially on this site), the two still reside in the same body and overlap, and what I say as a private individual is still noted by SFWA members, who may reasonably then wonder how it affects my thinking as SFWA president, and thereby, SFWA’s policy and organizational stances. This makes me (slightly) more circumspect about blathering on certain subjects here than I might otherwise be, especially if I find it on point to something that’s in SFWA’s wheelhouse. It’s a combination of the nature of the position, and my own decision that I owe SFWA and its membership the courtesy of placing their priorities over my own desire to blather in public.
reign of terror tenure as SFWA president comes to an end on July 1, 2012, at which point, of course, full unfettered blatheration will again be the order of the day. And I’m sure until then I will still have things to say on writing and publishing, as I usually do. “Circumspection” does not mean “completely silent.”
6. On the subject of site design and tweaking: As I’ve noted before, I am a bit limited in what I can do because of WordPress.com, but I think I should be clear and note that the largest vector of limitation is my own competence, not WordPress.com’s flexibility. For WordPress VIP accounts, true template tinkering requires me to upload changes via Subversion plus other technical stuff which strains my own personal limits of technical knowledge (most VIP-level accounts have dedicated Web dudes and dudettes; I have just me). So for now I use some standard WP templates and a little light CSS coding that can be accomplished without heavy lifting or resorting to Subversion.
One of the things I am considering for 2012 (or further out) is a top-to-bottom redesign of the site that makes it functional exactly the way I want it to be functional. But that will take both time and money and in both cases I will need to be able to justify the expenditure, especially since Whatever is essentially a glorified hobby. So in the meantime I’ll do the tweaks I can, but understand that my true talent lies in writing, not Web design.
7. On commenters: Many of you have praised me for comment moderation (thank you), but also see some people in the threads you consider trolls, or (more charitably) overly obnoxious and not adding to the conversation. The solution in those cases is simple: Ignore them. There will always be people who will skate right up to what I consider the general Minimum Level of Comportment, possibly because they’re socially clueless or because they’re assholes and that’s just what they do. In either case, when you see their name on a comment, just bloop over whatever that person has to say and continue on. I have to read every comment here, but you don’t, and you certainly don’t have to respond to them, especially when your response boils down to “wow, you’re just a perfect asshole, aren’t you?” Because that doesn’t make you look particularly good, does it. So: Ignore them. It’s not that hard to do, especially when most other people here are offering comments of substance.
As to why I tolerate the occasional commenter of cretinous comportment, well, the short answer is probably because it amuses me to do so, and because over the breadth of their entire engagement on the site I have not found every comment to be cretinous. I’ll mallet them when I think they’ve gotten out of line. And lest you think I am discussing a single person, I’ll note there is an actual list of people for whom the Mallet of Loving Correction is in a state of permanent readiness. Tolerance requires vigilance. Vigilance, I say!
8. There will continue to be cat and sunset pictures, never fear. Because I know how you are.
9. Some people wondered why I bother posting those “I’m not here” posts I do. The answer is because if I don’t by the end of the day I get e-mails/private tweets/social media messages from people concerned that something horrible has happened here at the Scalzi Compound. This is in fact one of the drawbacks of writing more or less daily; if you don’t, some folks will assume the worst. So it’s easier just to say “I’m not here today.” Yes, this is more than a little silly. But, eh.
10. My OCD requires ten items on this list.
Oh wait, I did have something here:
Tagging posts: I do in fact leave most posts untagged and the reason is because a) I am lazy, b) relating to the aforementioned OCD, if I start tagging every post from now on, I will feel a compulsion to go through and tag every single post here to date, which is more than six thousand. Which is a lot. It’s not to say I won’t do it, but if I do, again, it’ll take planning, and money, since I would probably hire someone to do it, that poor bastard, rather than do it myself.