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. 😛

Getting into the habit

I tend to become very enthusiastic when I first start a project. If I start a new language, I’ll do nothing else for a week or two, and then forget about it. Or if I start running or minding what I eat, I’ll be very diligent for a few weeks, before it all starts slipping. It isn’t because I don’t like those things – in fact some of them, like dancing and learning a new language or writing or painting and so on are some of my favourite things in the whole world.

One of my biggest problem with both writing and exercise alike is lack of consistency. Whether my goals are too big or too small – they’re rarely in between – I either stress myself out or lose interest, or both. My competitive side needs a bit of a challenge to bother with something, but at the same time, it causes me to easily burn out. If you instinctively make everything a challenge, when will you rest? How will you be able to limit yourself so that you can keep up the habit over time? How will you be able to make the transition from “new and exciting thing I love to do” to “habit that I simply do, just because”?

A year ago I looked for an app or a website that wasn’t just to do-lists in fancy formats – those really stress me out – but which approached it in a format more similar to a game. I like games. I like doing things in order to be able to level up or have other types of rewards. Unfortunately I didn’t find any, and ended up making my own set of tasks and rewards in Word. However, if you have real rewards with real money, and are really broke at the same time… it doesn’t work out well.

It turns out that I looked too soon. Only weeks after I searched, a new website launched, called HabitRPG. It does what it says – it works like an RPG, where you do tasks and are rewarded. You can get in-game stuff, such as weaponry for your avatar (which has an influence on the game), and you can level up. The neat thing is that the more often you are able to do something, the less gold you get for it. But you also take less damage if you fail to do it, since you are already into the habit. If you fail too many tasks for too long, you die (which basically amounts to losing all your gold and inventory and dropping down some levels).

HabitRPG

My HabitRPG profile.

 

Above you see a screenshot of my task view. The leftmost column are the habit column. These are tasks that you typically do once per day. They can be positive – meaning that you only click on them when you accomplish one of them – or negative, in which case you only click if you fail do to it, or both. As you can see I have a fairly good grip of them, which is not quite true since I redid my setup and most of them are brand new. I do have a lot of the habit tasks, particularly small things. There are a lot of exercise or dance-related tasks, such as 10 squats, 10 calf raises and so on, but also updating one of my blogs, drawing something, expand my worldbuilding, make words for my conlangs, study Korean or German and so on. Very neat!

The next column is the dailies. The dailies are tasks that can be scheduled, either every day or on set days of the week. As you can see a lot of them are greyed out: These are either done for the day, so I don’t need to do them, or they are scheduled for another day. As you can see there are some things I struggle more with than others, such as cleaning my apartment or limiting my carbs (I’m not a low carb fanatic, but I do notice a difference).

The next one is the to-do tasks. These typically occur once, and are things that you can schedule pretty far in advance, either with or without a due date. I have been horrendous at these. I did finish a lot of them yesterday, but those that are left are reading-related tasks, and I’ve been in a massive reading slump lately. I’m planning to fix it soon.

The last column is the best one – the rewards. Not much to say about those. And on top you can see my health (I took some hits today) and my points – not long until I level up now! There is also my fantastic avatar, which should be accompanied by a white wolf, but it seems to have disappeared. Red hair is in place and all.

As you can see there aren’t any specific “write so-and-so much” or “run at least this often” tasks in my view. I’ve realised that those stress me out more than I like, and so I have done it a little differently. I don’t usually need to be nagged in order to exercise if I’ve done the rest of it right. Often if I just get started on the small exercise goals I want to do some real exercise before long – and if not, well, I’ve done something. These are things that I can do even on days when there’s no time or weather for running.

As for writing I have one task over in “habits” that simply says “write something”. It can be two words, or two thousand, but something. I can also edit. With the amount of other things I’ve had to do since I began using it I haven’t been able to check that off yet, but I used it a fair bit (to great success) during NaNoWriMo. During November I had two daily writing goals, each with their own word count goal. Coupled with the stats at the NaNoWriMo site as well as a more customized spreadsheet of my own, I had all the motivation I needed.

Why one writing goal and so many exercise goals? Well, partially because it’s so much easier getting exercise done if I can see all the little exercises instead of just “10 minutes of strength” or something. I can do 10 calf raises while brushing my teeth, 10 squats before I start showering in the morning, 10 push-ups before leaving for work… and I won’t be able to cheat. With writing it’s not that easy. I cannot always do the same, because it depends on where I am in the story, whether I edit or write that day, or if I’m too tired to squeeze something sensible out of my brain. On those days I need to be able to check off something, even if it’s just a tiny little thing, and I cannot commit to more than that. It is also because, as one with a chronic illness or two, my health vastly improves if I exercise, even a little bit, and so it is more important to get done.

Have you tried HabitRPG, and does it work for you?

Note: This post is cross-posted with my exercise blog Lightning Feet.

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.