Monthly Archives: July 2008

Toying with Redesign

Inspired by recent comments and e-mails I’ve been rethinking the design of the Locus Online homepage, and supporting pages, the past couple weeks — the sort of rethinking that’s appropriate every couple three years anyway. It’s been a year since the homepage was widened to include box ads in the right margin; and roughly three years since the current homepage color scheme and drop-down menus were introduced.

Since I’ve gotten absolutely no comments to my previous post that invited comments or suggestions about such a redesign, I feel free to do whatever I want.

I’m considering a couple options. Both would reorganize the archive links in an attempt to better make site content more findable, along the lines of the site’s logo subtitle, and introduce some gradient graphics to give the site an up-to-date look. One alternative would completely retain the blog-like homepage, while a second option — an option I experimented with back in 2005, and find myself drawn to once again — would remove fly-out menus and place instead directory boxes of various site category contents down the homepage, with only a handful of recent posts at the top… making the entire site contents more visible, hopefully. Not sure I’ll finish either version and make a decision in the next week…

Because in a week I’ll be leaving for Denver, and the Worldcon. I’m not on the program and have only a couple appointments; will be around for the entire con, probably hanging out at the Locus table in the Dealers Room part of the time, and would be happy to chat with anyone reading this blog…

Meanwhile, have read quite a few interesting books lately (see sidebar thumbnails) and will post comments about them, sooner or later.

George Takei and Star Trek

As I mentioned several weeks ago now (at the end of this post), actor George Takei, famed for his role as Lt. Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series, appeared at the rocket-engine factory where I work in the Los Angeles suburbs for a lunchtime speech in celebration of the company’s recognition of ‘Gay pride’ month — Takei (here’s his Wikipedia entry) being a prominent actor who recently ‘came out’ and whose association with the most famous SF TV series ever being especially apropos to our line of work.

Takei looks great for being 71 and spoke powerfully in a rotund voice for well over half an hour, in a speech obviously prewritten but dramatically delivered without notes, about his childhood in Los Angeles and in Japanese internment camps during World War II, in Arkansas and northern California, and how that experience as a less than full citizen related to the ideal of American freedom and liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, and his current experience as a gay man faced with legal barriers to full recognition of his long-time companion for over 20 years — with whom, coincidentally concerning my company’s arrangement to have him come speak, he had just taken out a marriage license, following California’s Supreme Court ruling allowing same sex marriages.

Following that appearance I dug out my copy of his autobiography, To the Stars, published way back in 1994, and read it. The book was published long before Takei ‘came out’ and so focused on his childhood and acting career without any description of his personal life. I was enlightened to learn of his early roles in films alongside the likes of Richard Burton and John Wayne, and amused by the recurrent Star Trek theme of William Shatner constantly hogging directors’ attentions and having camera angles repositioned on himself to the detriment of other actors in the scene. Still, Takei’s own recurring attempts to expand the role of Sulu in the feature films that followed the TV series, to the point of suggesting scenes with Sulu wielding that rapier as in the famous scene from “The Naked Time”, didn’t strike me as all that much different. Just less successful.

I’ll also mention that Takei’s book is written in a similarly rhetorical style as his speech — expansive, with too many adjectives and adverbs for normal prose, though perhaps appropriate for inspirational delivery. It’s heartfelt, and sincere.

I should also mention at this point, even more belatedly, the episode of Star Trek: New Voyages that Takei guest-starred in, “World Enough and Time”, co-written and directed by Marc Scott Zicree, who was kind enough a couple months ago to send me a DVD copy of the episode, in recognition of its nomination for this year’s Nebula Awards (though it didn’t win) and Hugo Awards (results to be announced in about 3 weeks). The series is a recreation of the original Star Trek, with amateur actors playing the roles of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al, with production values, given the advances of 40 years, that impressively outstrip the original show. For anyone with an interest in Trek (even if like me you haven’t kept up on the last couple TV series or movies) it’s worth checking out. I can’t say much for the amateur actors — compared to them, George Takei is especially impressive, as is the actress playing his daughter — but the script is expert, a clever time-travel story in which the young Sulu is lost in an alternate universe and returns after decades of local time — now played by Takei — to the early Enterprise. It’s downloadable here. It’s a worthy Hugo nominee, and even though I haven’t seen any of the other nominees in its category… would not be an unworthy winner.

Summer Cold; Design Thoughts

Running a bit slow this week, down sniffly and sneezy with a summer cold. Blinks pending.

Also compelled to contemplate design changes and polish to the homepage, in response to comments on this blog’s posts and to the Locus Survey Comments post. Those comments were concerned mostly with color schemes, graphics, and permalinks, not to mention general ‘clutter’, though specifics on what sites work better or how things could be made better on this site were sometimes lacking. The general trend for websites these days is to turn everything into a blog, with comment threads and datestamps and ‘permalinks’ that conflate the homepage posting with the item itself; I’m not inclined to wholly recast Locus Online in that direction. I do however recognize an opportunity to recategorize the content on the site and the way it is archived and accessed, via links and menus on the homepage. Rather than reveal the direction of my thoughts right away, I’ll simply invite additional inputs from anyone reading this post…

Inputs about links, permalinks, color schemes, graphics, or even (!) the content of the site. Resources are limited and I can’t promise grand reformations, but I take every comment and criticism seriously (perhaps too seriously).

Hugo Vote

I was all set to post a blog entry called “Disenfranchised” — because, while I did buy my Denvention membership rather late, it was some two weeks ago now, and I’d worried that I’d not gotten any email response to my purchase (though I noticed my credit card was duly charged, a week ago), and despite two follow-up emails, had not gotten the PIN number needed to submit Hugo votes — but then, just a few minutes ago, an email arrived with that needed PIN number.

So I’ve submitted my votes, on today, the last day of voting. Good thing; I wouldn’t want to have happen what happened a few years ago when I didn’t get around to voting.

Tom Disch; Linkages

With the Disch obit today, a couple hours’ work upon my arrival home from a July 4th trip, I’ve tried posting the entire thing on its own page, with its own URL, rather than only on the homepage, to see if this attracts any kind of permanent notice. In particular, Google, I’ve noticed, compiles new content when posted on new pages, but not new content merely posted on a site’s homepage. I’m curious now to see if Google compiles my Disch obit, where they didn’t compile my Budrys obit…

Disch was one of my favorite authors, in the sense that he was on my ‘A list’ — one of those dozen or so authors whose new books would cause me to replan my schedule and set aside everything else to read their new books. I kept looking forward to The Pressure of Time, one of those great heralded but never completed novels, and though I’ve not reread them in years, I remember the impact that stories like “The Asian Shore” and “Casablanca” and “Understanding Human Behavior” made on me. And On Wings of Song, of the novels…

Tweaking the Clutter

OK, then, away with the search box bubble. Realign the title logo vertically, rather than horizontally, and make it the same width as the left pane where the Blinks are. Recombine the current issue and magazine info bubbles on the right (they were split while highlighting the Locus Poll voting). Make all the content in the left pane left-justified, rather than a mix of center and left. Make the search box a simple box, same width as left pane, and put the semi-independent other Locus links (the indexes, Locus Press, etc) in a similarly thin box alongside, the width of the center and right panes.

Consider moving Blinks into the center section, alternating with main content posts. That works OK, but then what fills up the left column? More ads? Put blinks back in left column.

Realign categories of drop-down menus along the top. No need for Indexes drop-down; those sections are static, and now listed across the top. Move the similarly static Links pages drop-down over the left side, as part of the website links. Now the four drop downs in the center section are all content that’s regularly updated and amended. And there’s now a distinction between features derived from the magazine, and those special to Locus Online, though perhaps most readers don’t care or notice.

And finally, make room for a link or two to specific posts from my blog, when they are relatively newsworthy.

That’s it for now. (Here’s what it looked like a month ago, though this capture has the ads removed.)