Most of the revisions to the various ‘infrastructure’ pages of the site — standing pages ‘about’ the site and magazine, FAQs, indexes, archive pages, etc. — are now complete and posted, with updates to the text as well as the html coding, with consistent style sheets, and revised color formatting of some sections. I also trimmed down, just a bit, and rearranged, just a bit, the various links on the homepage to such pages — aware of complaints about the ‘messiness’ of the homepage, though at the same time I’m aware that, invariably, what others complain about is never what I detect as flaws; and as always indeterminate about the ideal structure of the homepage. Move or delete links, and people complain about not finding this or that; keeping links ‘above the fold’ is a worthy goal, but then there are so many links — to Locus Indexes, links about the site, links about the magazine, links to archive the main content — that it’s difficult to arrange them unobtrusively without seeming messy.
I do still have in mind one additional layer of links and content wrt/the ‘infrastructure’ pages. A bonus, an added feature, a freebie. But don’t look for it until I tell you.
If by chance anyone is reading this (via a direct bookmark, perhaps), the Locusmag.com domain has been down since 1pm or so Sunday afternoon, making the site unavailable (including my updates to it) as well as disrupting email service in and out (to me and to the magazine staff). The hosting service, C I Host, indicates various kinds of emergency hardware maintainance still underway; having a dedicated unix server with them obviously hasn’t been beneficial in this case.
Update 8 a.m. PDT: Site is back. Now where is the email?
The last stray Locus Poll ballots have been located and counted, and the results have been compiled. The winners won’t be announced until July, at a banquet during Westercon over the July 4th weekend, as has been the tradition for some years (except last year). But this year the Locus Editors have decreed that the top 5 finishers in each category, aka the ‘finalists’, will be revealed in advance of the winners ceremony, as a means of inciting interest and speculation in the final results. I have the list (of course) and it should be posted tomorrow. As a teaser, and bonus for those of you reading this blog, the top 5 SF novel ‘finalists’ are by Iain M. Banks, Cory Doctorow, Kim Stanley Robinson, Neal Stephenson, and Charles Stross. Full list tomorrow (unless not).
April and May, and later October, tend to be the busy book seasons — when there are more than average new books released each month. For the first time since I can’t remember when, I have such a backlog of new books to be posted that I’ve split the ’1st week May’ listings into two pages, the first posted Tuesday, the second this evening. And I have another dozen titles already seen to list for the 2nd week of May, one title by virtue of a review copy sent me, the others due to bookstore sightings, as usual.
Meanwhile, comments to the previous entry include a couple rather insulting posts from someone named Karl (no last name), who finds the website unprofessional and the homepage a mess, and who feels entitled as a subscriber to the magazine to a website of much a higher standard (without explaining what that means). In addition, the appearance of my name and the link to this blog is apparently beyond pale. I mention this because this is the harshest criticism of the website I’ve gotten in the 8 years I’ve been doing it, but as always, given the constraints on my time and budget, I’m willing to consider suggestions anyone has to offer for revisions of any kind. Karl has a point that the website isn’t about me, it’s about science fiction, just as Locus Magazine is, but the placement of names and links has, actually, been at the suggestion of professionals in the field as a way of clarifying the still frequent misapprehension that the website is produced by Charles Brown and his staff, when in fact it is not. Meanwhile, I’m still in a revisionist mode, updating html formatting, certain layout coloring, and the content of the various infrastructure pages (the ‘about’ pages, ‘faq’ pages, etc. — these not yet posted), slowly but surely in between the regular posts, catching up on e-mail, and working my day job. It would be nice to have more time and budget for the website, but it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
I spent some time this afternoon completing the first pass at a consistent re-formatting, via style sheets, of the various pages of the site. Most of this should be transparent to the user; the reasons for doing it include ease of maintaining the site, and a necessary enforcement of more consistent layout, via template pages. I mention it here just in case anyone notices any problems… which you shouldn’t, unless you’re using an antiquated browser (and can’t be bothered downloading for free the latest), which might not interpret the css style tags correctly.
So far I’ve reformatted each of the latest Monitor pages — that would be New Books, New Magazines, New in Paperback, Classic Reprints, and Bestsellers — as well as the Directories pages [and their 2004 equivalents] — and the standing Future History pages, where I’ve also implemented a tweak to the color scheme (since, I decided, the old scheme was too close to the Monitor page scheme): Author Events, Conventions, and Forthcoming Books. I’m abandoning the on-again off-again Announcements page, and will post such items amidst the Conventions items, in a distinctive font color. One of the changes for consistency is that all pages will now be 750 pixels wide (or a bit wider, in the case of the Bestsellers page, which has for some time now been 800 pixels wide).
I tackled the most difficult pages first — those that involve various special formatting, for lists, bibliographic information, and whatnot — and so expect to complete similar reformatting of all the other current pages of the site (news, features, Locus magazine issue pages, and the various ‘about’ the website and the magazines pages) relatively quickly… within the next week… Though again, you shouldn’t notice any difference; the changes will be at the level of html coding. OTOH, I also will be updating the actual text of the FAQ page, the about the website, about the magazine, pages, and so on. A general upgrade. I’ll mention it here again when it’s all done.
Emails have been coming in all day alerting Locus about Robert Sheckley’s hospitalization in Kiev. Locus doesn’t have an explicit policy about reporting news about illness, news that might seem like impending death-notices, but tends to treat such reports cautiously, erring on the hopeful. But the situation governing a website is a bit different than that for a monthly magazine, since a website can be updated daily, or hourly; and so I’ve posted an item about Sheckley’s condition, to let people know, with of course all hopes that this is a temporary state and not something presaging any worse news to come. At least in the short term. That’s all any of us can hope.
Finished today editing write-in votes to the Locus Poll and tabulating not-quite-final results, pending only the last few paper ballots mailed to Oakland that have yet to be entered into the online form for electronic tabulation at my end. Part of the editing of ballots received thus far is checking for various voting sins. The ballot clearly says we will not count submissions without names or emails, and so the dozen or so ballots received without names or emails were therefore tagged invalid and have been omitted from final tallies.
Worse were those ballots that, despite admonitions, voted for the same item more than once in the same category. The rules every year say not to do this, but a few voters do anyway, even a few voters with recognizable, famous names. What do I do? Well, I don’t throw the ballots out entirely, though perhaps I should. I just omit all votes for the same item in a category except for the lowest ranking vote. For example, ballot number 612, not to name names, tended to vote for the same item five times in every category. I tagged all votes except for the lowest-ranking as invalid. Perhaps I should make this rule more explicit next year, but really, I think I’m being generous to count any such votes at all.
Actually, the number of voters who commit this sin is relatively few… few enough that their votes, counted or not, don’t affect the final results for the winner or close runners-up in any category.
As a matter of fact, a couple categories in this year’s poll *are* very close, and may be determined by the last few ballots received… but likely not determined by voters committing any detectable sins.
The Locus Poll for this year is now closed. There was a late surge of voting, some 300 ballots just in the past week — thanks no doubt due to plugs and links from Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Cory Doctorow, and perhaps others — to bring the total number of ballots received to well over 900, half again as many as last years 600-some. Weeding out duplicate votes (many due to e-mail glitches) will bring the number down, but there are also some unknown number of paper ballots yet to be received in Oakland and typed into the (now hidden) online ballot form so that everything can be tabulated together.
My job is now to edit all the write-in votes. Despite instructions on the ballot, there were many, many write-in votes that did not use the suggested format — lastname comma title — and it’s also fairly remarkable how many of this supposedly literate crowd cannot seem to correctly spell their favorite writers’ names or book titles. Sigh. Beyond that, the most common voting error is voting for something not in the proper eligiblity year. So there are votes for early 2005 books, for still-popular 2003 and earlier books, and even for titles like A Canticle for Leibowitz and Fahrenheit 451. There are always a few who are not quite clear on the concept; it happens every year.
Despite a remark of Jonathan’s, the results will not be announced shortly anywhere, but will be not be revealed until the ceremony at Westercon over July 4th weekend. (Unless Locus HQ has a change of heart in this electronic age.) The results will be known in just a few more days… just not revealed.