Grumpy post: 4 things I hate online

Generally I try to keep this blog on topic, or it easily descends into a “woe is me” chaos. But occasionally I need to rant, and particularly after researching website stuff (how to move an entire website and all those fun fiddly things) I really need to get it out. There are some things I absolutely loathe online, and some that I just generally dislike. The funny (read: enfuriating) thing is that many of these things are done by those who teach other people how to make good blogs and websites… So to everyone out there making author websites or writing blogs or whatnot – please don’t do these things?

1. “Subscribe to me!!111!” popup boxes

Here’s a tip: Popups aren’t any less annoying when they appear in the same window, or contain an e-mail subscription box instead of ads for dubious pills or even more dubious dating sites. As far as I understand getting as many people on your mailing list as possible is a thing. I’ve seen people recommend using these popups even if they dislike those abominations themselves. Because, well, subscribers. Why??? (You even made me bring out the extra question marks!)

Subscription popups make me seethe with internal rage every time I come across them, and it’s actually not an exaggeration. Throw a huge subscription box at my face and prevent me from seeing the content I came there for, and I will click the tiny, hardly visible X, and then I will click that slightly more visible X in my browser, not seeing any of the content you’ve worked so hard to make. I don’t like being nagged, and I have only ever continued to read a blog that had those once. No, that’s not an exaggeration either, and I only did it because the content was so fantastically useful to me. It’s not like subscribing will make the popups stop appearing either! They just come back over and over and over and over again until you feel like gouging your eyes out with a spoon.

Told you it was a grumpy post.

What happened to having a visible but relatively unobtrusive subscription box in your sidebar, so that people can subscribe without being forced to or nagged every time they visit, and focusing on writing content that people will want to read? Everyone has at least one needy friend who constantly needs to validate your friendship. Is that the person you prefer to spend time with? Nope. Nothing makes me more annoyed than being disturbed in my reading by a jiggly, brightly coloured box that obscures the whole text. Seriously, I would not be surprised if they started playing music soon.

Which brings us over to my next hate object:

2. Websites with auto-playing music or ads

Oh no, the travesty.

Honestly most websites I visit are not stuck in the nineties/early 2000s and know that websites with music that play automatically are annoying. But apparently not all. As someone who almost always listens to music while browsing, it is really annoying to have your favourite song interrupted by some bad tune with bad quality playing at top volume.

In reality most of these are auto-playing ads. It does not make things better at all. As I often listen to music, I have sometimes had a moment of paranoia when trying to figure out where the talking comes from. Is someone outside my window? Has someone walked into my apartment (even though the door is always locked)? Has it become haunted? Am I hearing voices?

In fact yes, it usually turns out that I am hearing voices. The voices of annoying salesmen in even more annoying ads, as it turns out after a bit of digging. Very fun if you have gone through your bookmarks and have open perhaps twenty tabs. (Which little, easily ignored ad box in one of these thirty tabs that I am reluctant to close is the one that is playing, and how can I make it shut up? Can I really do it in time before I throw the monitor out the window of sheer annoyance?)

I guess it should be a lesson that having twenty tabs open simultaneously is a bad idea. But sometimes you need it. Research, people, research! (And news about the latest k-pop scandal *ehem*)

3. it’s a seeecret

You promised to teach me to do <thing>, damnit! And only now, when I’ve read past countless reviews and you telling me how fantastic this thing is, you say that I can’t learn it unless I pay you or subscribe to you or something like that? Ugh, no thanks. I’ve just spent ten minutes or more reading all about why I should learn it, the benefits of learning it, who else is learning it, what people say about learning it, the history of teaching this thing, shameless praise of yourself disguised as objective facts, and so much rubbish fluff writing that my brain feels like dying. You think I want to give you money in addition to that? Yeah, I get it, you are selling a thing (or the knowledge of how to do a thing) and you want to make sure that people think they need it and that people want to buy. But could you do it in less words?

The same goes for blog posts or websites that go on forever before they even get close to the point. Seriously, why should I care? I don’t want to know why, I want to know what.

Tiny little tip: Personally I subscribe to other people because I like their content (shock!) and would hate to miss any. Not because I want free gifts, or something the non-subscribers cannot get. If you write good content, I will subscribe. If you try to bribe or confuse me into subscribing? Nooooo. I refuse to believe I’m the only one who thinks like this.

Seriously, some of those blogs feel like telemarketers in blog form.

4. You have to promote yourself!

This one is partially inspired by this blog entry on the blog whimsydark. It writes about the particular kind of “shouty” promotion, where authors promote and promote and promote online, trying desperately to build a fanbase and a social media platform, and it doesn’t help. Because they come off as desperate and annoying, and the potential reader still has no valid reason why they should read the person’s book.

The same problem goes for some art blogs and photo blogs and whatnot. Yes, I’ve bought the books of people because of their social media presence (though I hate that expression). But do you know what? None of them shoved their books down my throat, none of them talked relentlessly about why I should like their book, none of them kept trying to sell things to me. Informing me about their books or art and where I can buy them? Fine, absolutely fine. Constantly shoving this information in my face whenever I even consider visiting their website or blog or twitter or facebook site? Oh hell no. (So what did these authors whose books I bought do right? Well, they were generally awesome people. They gave advice, for free, they talked about their interests and their writing process and their life and their pets and their pet peeves and whatnot, and while they also talked about their books, they were real people. Don’t be pushy cardboard cutouts, people. Be a real and non-annoying person.)

The bottom line is this: I want to decide for myself whether or not I will buy something, or what I like. You wrote/made/invented the thing, of course you like it. You have no way of knowing if I will like it, so stop pushing. Yes, I will buy your book, thank you for telling me about it. IF it looks like a book I would like. But not if you keep shoving it in my face. That’s in fact the best way to ensure that I will neither by that book nor future books by you. Petty? Perhaps.

Summary!

Here are some short guidelines to stop being intensely annoying online:

  1. Don’t nag me more than my mother does. Seriously.
  2. Don’t be pushy. Let me decide for myself whether or not I like your book/website/whatever the heck you sell.
  3. Don’t interfere with my browsing experience. Don’t make me hunt for a tiny little ad with plenty of sound. Don’t throw huge popups in my face that prevent me from seeing the content I came for. Don’t make me waste my precious time hunting for a tiny, little, near-invisible X to read your article.
  4. Don’t be a tease. If you promise to teach me about doing X or Y, then do it, instead of throwing a “oh wait, haha, you have to pay for it” at me aaaaall the way at the bottom of a far-too-long page. Especially after forcing me to read all those empty fluff sentences.
  5. Don’t be desperate. Nobody likes to buy stuff/spend time on stuff/read stuff out of pity. Show me why I will like it. No, no, don’t tell me, show me. I’m not a difficult person, except if people try to guilt trip me into something. Then you’ll see difficult.
  6. Don’t follow advice blindly. Even mine. If someone tells you that you need to have subscription popups, but you actually hate them, why would you still have them? It genuinely baffles me.

Ah, it feels good to vent, even if the people who need to see these italics-riddled complaints probably never will. Do you have something to add to the list?

 

Changes!

Some days ago I made the abrupt decision to switch webhosts. It wasn’t a new idea, since I used several different webhosts and registrars and whatnot, but I couldn’t really be bothered before. I had also thought about moving my photography over to this site, but I never got around to it. So now I’ve made quite a few changes:

  • Made a hosting account with Bluehost instead of JaguarPC – I wasn’t necessarily unhappy with JaguarPC, but had heard good things about Bluehost. There was a Memorial Day sale with a really good price for the first year, so I just did it.
  • I’ve pointed my ciuva.com website to that domain, and let me tell you, I had some nerve-wracking hours when I tried to upload the website contents to the new host via ftp and couldn’t get it to log me on. Turns out I had been too impatient and the changes had not properly propagated yet. If you visited my website and saw that it was down yesterday, that was the reason.
  • I have cancelled the hosting for my csandal.com website, as well as cancelled the domain renewal. No point in paying for something I don’t use, and if I’m moving my photography to this site anyway…
  • I have also cancelled the renewal for my first domain, which for some reason has kept going even if I thought I cancelled it years ago. The most clunky URL ever – tales-of-charbakin.com. I chose it because Tales of Charbakin was, at the time, the name of my series, but I didn’t really think it through. I am thinking of using Tales of the North for something though…

So now, or at least as soon as all the changes go through, I have everything in one place. Just one single cpanel/hosting account to log into. It’s great! All the verification and security and information that Bluehost provides is a bit overwhelming and feels a bit too much, but I guess I shouldn’t complain.

I have some more visible changes in mind, but I am not sure when I will implement them. I will have to decide what to do first. I think I have decided on a theme, but I want to make sure it looks good first, and that the way I have organised things is good enough.

I’m sure none of you are really interested in this, but somehow I apparently had to write it, so… Well.

Tomorrow I’ll finally start editing Rogue Sorcery again. I could have started today, of course, but I have had five and a half hours of dance practice today, plus two yesterday and three the day before, so I feel too sorry for myself. Really painful feet are quite distracting… As is the Irish dance music that is stuck in my brain. I’ve tried listening to metal and disco (of all things) (not at once of course) to drown it out, but it still sticks. Perhaps k-pop works. 😛

Ready for Camp?

Since it so happens that my deadline for writing the next draft of Rogue Sorcery coincides completely with the deadline for Camp NaNoWriMo, I have decided to officially participate in it, even if it’s not a full rewrite and definitely not a first draft. To compensate, my goal is 80k, not 50k. In order to prove that I am sometimes a responsible adult I won’t even make any super-ambitious goals this time around. Mostly because I cannot bend the laws of time to my will yet. (I wish!)

Perhaps participating in Camp will help me stick to my deadlines. Because so far this deadline thing isn’t going very well. (I’ve only committed myself to following the main deadlines of my plan, right? Right?) I am supposed to have revised the ending of Rogue Sorcery fully by April 1st, but considering I also have two translations due before the weekend… Yeah. No.

I can plot an ending by then, no problem, but a good one? That’s a bit more problematic. Same goes for figuring out the problems with the old one. Currently it’s a bit too “whoops, look who happened to be in the right place at the right time!”. I feel a bit hesitant to change things around too much at this point, especially since the rather vague changes I have in mind will add a lot more words, but I might have to. The main question is: Will they all end up in the same place in the end as I had planned (which is a bit too convenient, really), or will they actually do stuff separately? But then what will Group B do (the ones who are not fighting the main baddie)? Are they even travelling? Perhaps something happens in Village A that means they will go back there? But then who does that? Does it have something to do with the plot in Forgotten Sorcery? Or perhaps C’s background, which has been sort of an unresolved issue? Do they even go to Fortress A? Isn’t it a bit too convenient that they reach the city where Group A is exactly at the right time?

Clearly there are some issues going on here. I could of course just say that it’s my good old perfectionism that rears its head again, but it’s better to tackle potential ending issues now rather than later. My gut feeling isn’t happy about it anyway. Besides, I have a couple of ideas. Some are rather easy to implement, others are more extensive and require changes to be made almost throughout the book. And some carry more weight, plot-wise, than I would really like. Still, everything’s up in the air right now. I haven’t found any one idea that really work, that ties everything up nicely while leading into book two, that is sufficiently dire and not too conveniently neat… Why are endings so difficult?


 

I am also working on my website nowadays. I have an unused photoblog and I’m not too happy about the layout of everything, so I’ve been thinking heavily about it. My current idea is to have one subdomain for my art and one for my photos, with separate wordpress installations (so that they can have themes customised for the content (For example a photo header for the photo section, while the art will have a painted one) and can be reached neatly and easily), but I haven’t completely decided yet.

I could of course put everything inside my current WP installation, but I don’t want it to become too cluttered, and then I would have to find a layout that works equally well for my photos and art and writing and blog and everything. In other words, I would never actually get it done. I just discovered that there is a plugin that allows you to have a completely different theme for certain pages, but I expect there will be a significant amount of tweaking there too. For example, the gallery pages will probably not have a sidebar or many widgets at all, or they might have a featured image section and so on.

Also, wouldn’t it be easier to direct people to art.ciuva.com than to a page address? If I link from my deviantART account it would be more sensible to link directly to the art section rather than the front page of everything. I can link to the gallery pages in the menu anyway, and there will still be only one blog (this one).

Or would it be confusing with three different themes? I cannot decide! The art and photo sections will most likely have the same theme, only with different graphics, in order to look similar, but they will all look different from the main site. Unless I change that too… Ideally I would find a theme or a design that works for all three sections, but I somehow doubt it.

Of course, to add to the problem, there are no themes I am 100% happy with. Either they don’t have the right fonts, or the right colour options, or they don’t work completely right, or I get frustrated because I cannot tweak that tiny little thing I apparently really, really need. Typical.

Anyway I think I have decided to stick to the subdomain idea, now if I can only decide on a theme…

The magnificent list of 2016 goals!

As promised, here is my list of 2016 goals. But I also remembered that I forgot to mention whether or not I reached my writing goals (or writing wishes, as I called them) for 2015. I forgot everything about them, actually, as soon as everyday life began again…

  1. Do something writing-related at least three days a week. I forgot to keep track, and I don’t think I managed it in the first half of the year, but since the summer I think I did it more often than that.
  2. Win NaNoWriMo. Which I did, with a new personal best and three stories.
  3. Win and overachieve at least one Camp NaNoWriMo. Yeah… no. I don’t think I even tried.
  4. Write at least one second draft for a story, preferrably Rogue Sorcery or the Madness. I actually did this for Rogue Sorcery! Granted it’s more like a second first draft, but still.
  5. Finish Ancient Elvish. No, I didn’t do this, but it was a conscious choice since I did a LOT of worldbuilding instead.
  6. Update blog at least once per week. I didn’t do this, but I came close in periods.

Now for this year’s goals!

Not all of these are purely blog- or writing-related, but as they are related to my creative pursuits, I’ll include them all. Most of them, if not all, should be very measurable, and while some of them are optimistic, I look forward to going through them again next year.

  1. Write 2000 words per week. Perhaps this is ambitious, but I also think that it is necessary. Not only will I have to write considerably more than this if I want to be a published author, but also I have several first and second drafts I really need to work on. Besides, it’s less than an hour’s worth of work at my writing speed.
  2. Read Cicilie‘s manuscript. I cannot remember the deadline we set, but this is in the “very soon” and “absolutely non-negotiable” category.
  3. Update the blog once per week, in addition to the Saturday Snippets. Yep, new year, new attempt. Time will tell if it goes better this year.
  4. Work on painting and/or drawing at least once per week. Because I am done with using all my (admittedly rather scarce) painting time getting back whatever skills I lost during the last break. During 2005 and 2006 my painting skills improved by leaps and bounds, but the last five years they’ve felt stagnant. I’ve thought a lot about it for the past week, and have come to the conclusion that, while I have prioritised writing in the past few years, painting is a just as important part of me, and thus this year will be an experiment in doing both.
  5. Comment on at least two other writing blogs per week. Because a writer should not exist in a bubble.
  6. Comment on at least five pictures on deviantART and/or Epilogue per week. See the previous point – you don’t get feedback if you don’t give it, and I think it’s important to be aware of it. I’ve missed my little corner of the deviantART community, whatever else you may say about that website (for good or bad). There’s a lot of good stuff there if you know where to look.
  7. Get a picture accepted onto Epilogue in 2016. This was my number one painting goal for many years, and I think it’s time to dust it off and start working on it again. You see, Epilogue has quality requirements which I haven’t been able to meet, at least not when I so rarely paint backgrounds.
  8. Post at least one new picture at deviantART per month. If I manage point 4, this will follow quite naturally as there’s no point in not posting what I’ve painted, but again, useful to have a definitive goal.
  9. Figure out what to do with my photography website. Keep the gallery? Keep the blog? Scrap it all and move my photos here? It’s time to figure it out and stick to that decision.

So! Quite optimistic goals this year, but after this autumn I feel like I can accomplish anything, and I really don’t want to waste another year when I know what I really want. In other words, this is the year to pursue my dreams and to do my very best at making them come true.

Keep it simple, stupid

I’ve been working on this website for ages now. When I say working I really mean “doing everything else, because there is just waaay to much to do”. Sometimes, the answer isn’t to just get to work, but simply to reduce the workload and make it more… possible. Because let’s be honest here, if I had followed the original plan, I would not only have had to written up character profiles and story introductions, but I would have had to finish my worldbuilding (like you are ever really finished), make five Elvish languages and ensure that they could possibly be related (I am currently still struggling with the first one), and make two human languages. You know, as a beginning.

Yeah… No.

What I often forget is that I can always go back later and add one more category, one more menu item or one more page for that thing that I would love to have on my website, if I had only written that thing yet. It doesn’t all have to be ready right away, even if I have a clear image in my mind of how I would like this website to be.

Today I have gone through the menu and removed every single page link that isn’t ready or doesn’t at least have some content in it. Conworlding and conlanging were the victims this time, I’m afraid, and only left a few traces. There will be more content in those categories soon, though.

I’ve also changed some fonts (seriously – the menu font was ridiculously small, and too narrow) and colours – I’m still not sure I’m completely happy with it, but it’ll do for now. Feedback is much appreciated!

With that, the list of things to do before NaNoWriMo is getting shorter. I have found a way of organising my worldbuilding (password protected wiki), have transferred most of my notes there, realised that a very, very important part of the worldbuilding was never written down (and now I’ve nearly forgotten it), which in turn gave me a new story idea (which is not about something going missing, unless you count the sanity of a great number of people), I have done the rough edit on most of my photos (quite a bit of work still remains, but I don’t feel as stressed about it), I am nearly done with the grammar of Ancient Elvish (I just need to write the changes into the document) and will start making actual words any day now (fingers crossed that it hasn’t somehow mutated into some garbled nonsense in the meantime). That means that I can actually start making one of the daughter languages soon! I am also half-way through cleaning my apartment, preparing for a dance competition next weekend, aaand reading some of my unread books. (I seem to love parantheses today, can you tell?)

I should probably be planning my stories for NaNoWriMo too, but eh. I’m a pantser by heart. I have a general idea of most of them. This year I’m aiming for 200k – last year I got 160k, so it is doable – but I’ll be very happy as long as I get at least 150k.