A Small Cosmetic Note

As most of you have figured out by now, there are currently two writers here at Whatever: Me, John Scalzi, who has been here for a while, and Athena Scalzi, who came on staff as of this month. On RSS/email as well as on the AMP versions of site, the author byline is evident, but it’s not on the actual site itself. We’ve taken to signing the posts with our initials, which I think has been helpful, but only to an extent — the initials are at the end of the posts and some of you are still guess which of us is writing until you get to the end. As exciting as that may be, it’s not great user interface.

So starting today we’re adding another way to identify who is writing at you at the moment: Photos! Waaaaaay back when I was a newspaper columnist I would have a photo accompanying my column, and I figured, well, look, this is an old-fashioned solution to a modern problem. So now, for any piece that’s longer than a single paragraph, I’ll put in a picture (for pieces shorter than that you should be able to get to the initials quickly). We’ll still keep the initials for those of you who for whatever reason are not able to see the photos, so no matter what you should be able to know who is writing at you here.

I’ve gone ahead and backdated photos for every piece here since Athena came on at the beginning of the month (Big Idea pieces excepted), and we’ll add them in going forward. Expect a few glitches here and there as we adjust to this new bit of process and make sure the pictures work in multiple formats. And as always I’ll keep working on the UI here to make things easier to use and read. Thanks.

— JS

39 Comments on “A Small Cosmetic Note”

  1. Truth to tell, John, I think folks can tell who is the one writing the post based on the subject matter. Of course, we’ve a limited set of examples but so far it’s been fairly easy to tell.

    We’ll have to see, however. And can I suggest that we leave your photo off and just put Athena’s up with her product? No offense, or anything.

  2. I’ve only had one post where I wasn’t sure at first. Your most recent post’s title made it really clear, unless Athena’s started secretly ruining science fiction in your name.

  3. I’ve noticed that you tend to sign your posts with an em-dash character and a space (— JS) whereas Athena does so with a hyphen character (-AMS). Is this intentional?

  4. While I admit that I was temporarily confused and amused picturing you having trouble finding dresses that fit, I agree that putting some sort of by-line at the top is nice.

  5. Thank you. Not that I’ve had any problems figuring out which writer created which post–or am upset by having to scroll to the bottom if I’m unsure–but one of the things that keeps me coming back to Whatever is how clear and easily read and navigated the site is, in general. This cosmetic change fits in well with that overall clarity, and contributes to it, imo.

  6. I love this!!!! Please switch up photos a lot. Or take like “mood” photos and use them to set the tone for the piece.

  7. I don’t normally have difficulty telling your posts apart. I also see the byline in my RSS feed for Whatever. As a software person, I still think it’s important to have writer identification at the top, immediately visible, on general principle. The author’s photo is a good solution.

  8. Thank you John, I was getting tired of scroll down >> scroll up. Much appreciated change.

    And BTW, I miss the five things, would you bring them back please?

  9. It didn’t particularly bother me before, but I really like the inclusion of the photo. Thank you.

  10. I will also weigh in with my support for the photos. They add a nice touch. Although I did enjoy the game of “How quickly can I tell who wrote this one?”

  11. Damn! I’ve been pretty entertained by trying to guess who wrote the piece I was reading. I haven’t missed one yet. You and Athena have very distinct styles and voices to your writing.

  12. It’s a small thing, but would you be open to adding alt text to your and Athena’s photos? That way users with screen readers would also be able to know the author at the top of the post rather than at the end.


  13. I think it would be pretty cool if you started adding author photos to Big Idea pieces too, to be honest – maybe not at the beginning of the piece, since you feature the book cover there, but at the end?

  14. I read your site via RSS. I’ve noticed that your posts show up in my RSS reader as “by John Scalzi”, while Athena’s show up as “by athenascalzi”. Is this difference in capitalization/spacing an intentional stylistic choice? If so, should we expect a follow-up to her post about the use of periods in text to explain this?

  15. I considering asking for something like this, as I found it distracting to be figuring out who wrote the post, but decided that was too minor. I’m glad it wasn’t just me.

  16. You may surprised to hear this, but I can tell within two sentences if it’s your or Athena writing. So no problem either way. That’s a great photo of you, btw. Now I have to check back and see what Athena’s looks like.

    Cheers! I think she is doing great so far! Fascinating posts of her own and a nice contrast and new ideas. It’s going to be a fascinating fall at Whatever.

  17. Blaisepascal2014, yeah, that could be confusing, because Mary Robinette Kowal’s green gown fit him Just Fine for that picture, even though he’d have probably looked better in jewel tones.

    John, while that’s a good author picture of you, you’ve probably got a wide range of others, and certainly a wide range of good pictures of Athena, and it’s always been fun seeing your different photography and techniques, and if you go switching them around a lot, I think most of us won’t get too confused.

  18. Sorry, hit post before I meant to. Having the date on the blog page itself helps because you often write responding to current events, and it’s helpful to be able to orient relative to which current events, which sometimes are referenced only by implication in the post.

  19. Great, now I’ll have to see your face for every post that pops up in my RSS reader. (I’m just kidding, it’s a lovely photo!)

  20. Retro is always good.

    Personally, I’ve usually been able to tell who is who, simply because the both of you have different voices. It also helps that I have a 19 year old daughter (granted yours is a few years older), so it makes it easier to pick up on the particular wavelength that yours is speaking on.

  21. Thanks. It is, as you say, a small thing, but it messes with my brain to think of John Scalzy doing shopping therapy :D So I appreciate it!

  22. For those like me that wish to have a classic spoiler-free “figure out who’s the author before the initials” experience, just turn off image loading!

    (I’m still waiting for an “author fake-out” post that that returns to the “OKAY I AM IN MY ROOM AND I WROTE A NEW BOOK AND IT’S CALLED “JOHN SCALZI IS MY DAD AND NO I WON’T TAKE OUT THE TRASH” AND IT IS A BESTSELLER” thread)

  23. suggest: pictures of mallets with labels not faces… let the mallets be your avatars,,, hecks make them into your brand… start an e-store selling AI-enhanced mallets to other bloggers…! (uh oh, I need to down tweak my oxygen feed, getting giddy)

    suggest: if you gotta have faces please wear silly hats… I need a reason to laugh…

  24. I actually much prefer reading through without the top-line author aid. I do the same thing over at Wonkette.

    What this does for me is add a dimension of paying close attention to style and usage, not merely substance. An additional depth of reading, as it were.

  25. Nice! One more request: can you do something to separate out each comment so it’s more obvious whether the author is the name at the top or at the bottom of each? It’s visually confusing now.

  26. Just put the initials at the top, ditch the photos. They’re on the first screen.
    Newspapers use headshots because they have many different writers, many entirely new to readers.

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