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The End of a Blog and the Start of a New One

Hullo hullo, lovely readers!

I’m very pleased to announce that I’m going to be moving my blogging activities!  Some friends and I decided to start a new group blog together.  It’s called Bad Menagerie, and I’ll be blogging there henceforth.

This is quite exciting, and I hope you’ll enjoy the new content just as much as I will — many of the people I’m blogging with are far funnier than I am!  (Also, there will be comics and other art.  There already is.  It’s da bomb.)

We started the blog Monday, and have three posts up so far:


So, what will happen over here?  I’m not going to delete the archives of this blog, obviously — all the permalinks will remain intact.  I will be freezing user registration and commenting here in the near future, though, and resetting my top menu to show the old blog archives (here) and the new blog (where I’m actually blogging).  The rest of this site will remain active as my author website.

Thank you for reading and following my journey here.  I truly hope you all will enjoy the new blog as much as I think you will.

Things to Consider When Starting a Group Blog

First of all, I have exciting news!  Which is . . . this blog is moving soon!

Yes, this IS exciting.  I’m much more excited about blogging as part of a group, and everyone I’m going to be blogging with is fascinating and funny (most of them much funnier than I am), as well as being very smart people with excellent experiences and perspectives to share.  I’ll be making an announcement when the switchover happens, and I hope you’ll all continue to follow me there!  (The archives here will remain in existence.)

Now, this post might have been better saved for the group blog, but I felt like writing it now.  We’re working through many of the minutiae of how we want to run it, and I thought this information might be useful to others.

Questions You’ll Have to Decide On if You Want to Start Blogging With a Group

  1. What are everyone’s goals with the blog?  What would everyone like to get out of it?
  2. What level of commitment will you require from each other, if any?
  3. Will the blog have some sort of theme when it comes to content?
  4. Will there be a general tone you want to strive for?
  5. What about strong opinion posts that the other contributors might not agree with, such as political posts?  Will they be permitted on the group blog?  Should there be a disclaimer?  Should the other contributors get to approve them?
  6. What about dark or controversial subjects, or angry rants?  Is everyone involved okay with those types of posts?
  7. Will there be content guidelines as to posts being substantive?
  8. Will there be content guidelines as to profanity, sexual suggestivity, or anything else?
  9. What if a member of the group blog would like to leave the group blog, or just not contribute for a while?
  10. How will you decide on name, theme, colors, static pages, etc.?  (With a large group a good procedure for collating opinions was not immediately obvious.  We sort of had to feel it out.)
  11. Who will be responsible for the domain name and hosting?
  12. Who will be responsible for blog chores like moderating comments and ensuring consistency of tagging and categorization?
  13. How will you schedule posts?

My Advice

  1. Do this with people you already know well and are very sure you want to (a) work with, and (b) be associated with in people’s minds online.
  2. Realize that with a large-ish group, there may not always be a unanimous favorite on things like names, wording, or aesthetic decisions.  This is okay!  Take everyone’s opinions into account and aim for decisions that everyone’s good with, even if they’re not everyone’s first choice.
  3. Be flexible.  Expect compromise.  If you want control over every little thing, a group blog is probably not the best thing for you.  The point of a group blog is to do it as a group.
  4. Group decisions on major things (like the domain name) are important, but they take a lot of time.  With any minor changes during construction of the blog that are not irreversible, don’t bog down the process by checking in with the whole group about everything.  Let people move forward with the work and update others on their progress, and everyone can discuss or edit each other if they don’t like something.
  5. Let people edit each others’ typos in general.  (This was suggested by one of our members who’s part of another group blog, and we thought it was a great idea.)
  6. Find a theme and plugins that help support a multi-author blog.  It will make your life easier.

I’m sure I’ll learn even more once we all start blogging together.  Anybody else have advice?  We’re still in the constructing stages so I’d certainly love to hear it!

Radio Silence, Part Deux

One of these days I will NOT overestimate my ability to keep up with online obligations while dealing with health concerns, and will post one of these messages before I go dark.

Anyway: I’ve been mostly offline for the past month or so dealing with the final stages of my cancer treatment.  It went well (w00t!).  I am, hopefully, mostly done.

Completely over-optimistically, I did not set up an email autoresponder or, yanno, post something like this beforehand, because I thought, “oh, I’ll be able to work through it this time.”

Yeah . . . that didn’t happen.

I sincerely apologize to everyone in my piled-up email inbox and Twitter stream, not for going dark for cancer (I’m sure you’ll grant me that ;) ), but for being too stubborn to put up a notice or autoreply in advance.  Sometimes that sort of thing feels like admitting defeat, when really it’s just . . . having forethought.

*tiptoes sheepishly back online*

It will take me a little time to get through my backed-up correspondence, for which I beg your patience. Please feel free to re-email me if you’re afraid your message got lost in the shuffle.

State of the Blog 2^8

Here we are at post #256!

Things that happened between SotB 27 and now, not necessarily in this order:

  • This blog started to gain quite a bit of traction — or at least, it feels like it has.
  • I stopped checking my blog stats.  Like, pretty much completely.
  • I spoke a lot about the the SFF controversies that went on during 2013 (and the beginning of ’14).
  • I released my first book!

Some of these things are related to each other, I am sure!  To analyze a bit more closely:

Against the advice of some who tell writers not to be opinionated, it’s always been important to me to speak out on this blog, particularly about issues that matter to me.  I’ve also always been determined to blog as myself, and to be stubbornly and opinionated-ly genuine — not to be a persona, a brand, or a salesperson.  I think it’s because of this that I’ve been able to build up such wonderful relationships and friends through blogging and Twitter.  (A lovely side effect of all of this was that I realized I truly love my online interactions for themselves, and that if I’d never published my book, I wouldn’t have stopped.  I value the online relationships I’ve built too highly!)

And you know what?  I’ve already been floored by the number of people — people I didn’t know — who have expressed interest in my book because they like my blog.  And also by the number of people who do know me — who got to know me through the Internet, through my blog or through Twitter or through Absolute Write (where I am also very opinionated) — who’ve been excited about my book, or reviewed it, or helped me promote it.

It was never something I expected, and still not something I expect — I mean, I just don’t think that way, the “what can this person do for me” way (something I’m very grateful for!).[1]  It would feel like I was bending my brain in half if I tried to think about people like that, particularly people I know and respect.  I’d so much rather just talk to people I like about things I like to talk about!  But from the response my book has gotten so far, it appears that by being, I don’t know — a real person and whatnot — that I have accidentally Done Social Media Right from a business perspective.

Which makes me want to say IN YOUR FACE to those people who preach about exactly how one must construct a Social Media Promotional Persona. ;)

And the reason I’m talking about it here is to encourage authors who are just starting to blog: Be yourself.  Talk to other people, and listen.  Interact.  Have opinions.  Engage with other people about their opinions.  Be thoughtful, and sincere, and passionate, and talk to people you like about things you like, and make friends you will have such a gangbusters time laughing with on Twitter that you won’t know or care whether they bought your book or not.  In other words, you don’t have to be a one-person Promotional Machine of Social Media Blitzing — and perhaps, speaking with my own humble experience as a Twitter user, it’s entirely possible that is exactly what you don’t want to be. ;)

Incidentally, as social media began to feel much more like a conversation and much less like essays being thrown into the wind, I stopped checking my stats.  I just . . . didn’t really care anymore?  The quality of my interaction became so much more important than the quantity that I just sort of stopped thinking about it.  Which has been kind of wonderful for my sanity, and also wonderful training for my book release, because I have so far been surprisingly successful in parlaying that attitude into not checking my Amazon numbers.  (How many books have I sold so far?  I honestly don’t know.  I’ve been working on Book 3!)

Since I suspect it will interest people, however, here are the top nine most-visited posts of all time (everything that ranks higher than my “About” page):

The SFWA ones are not a surprise, and the gun guide posts always get a fair amount of love.  I honestly didn’t know the one about actor backup plans was that popular — it must have gotten linked somewhere, but I have no idea when or where!  The story about my afternoon of being hopped up on a Sudafed/Synthroid combination has always seen a slow and steady stream of search engine hits.  I wrote it for exactly that purpose, as something people could find when they searched for it, but I’m still surprised to see it ranked that high; perhaps it got linked somewhere as well.

Now, elephant in the room: I kind of have to talk about my posts regarding SFWA, don’t I?  Several of them went viral at the time, and as you can see, half the top-posts-of-all-time are related to those issues.

Thing is, if we’re talking blog stats — as far as I can tell, those posts matter, and they also don’t.

The two posts that went viral didn’t give me an uptick in overall hits or subscribers.  My blog certainly got visibility from people linking to it, and eventually the length of the ongoing discussion gave me a certain amount of name recognition, but I don’t think those links, in isolation, matter terribly much if we’re aiming the discussion at the staying power of my blog.  Instead, I think what matters to my overall traction is that I write consistently about issues of representation, and I have since I started blogging.  I didn’t write about SFWA to sensationalize; I wrote about it because it fell in the intersection of two things I care about deeply, the SFF community and problematic institutional prejudice.  And I write about both of those things a lot, independent of each other, because I do care.

In other words: I do not think that one can from two viral posts a blog make. ;)  Having a post go viral was surreal — that was back when I was still checking my stats daily — and I was glad that particular post had impact, but as far as impact on the overall blog goes, I’m extremely skeptical a viral post is something that it matters for bloggers to strive for.

Now, in checking my stats page, the really interesting thing is that my subscribers number — which had stayed pretty static for a long time — seems to be climbing since my book release a week ago.  But you’ll have to wait for State of the Blog 29 to see how being a Real Live AuthorTM is affecting my status as a Strange Mad Blogger!

  1. Yes, I did start this blog because I wrote a book, but I was vaguely thinking in terms of general . . . visibility . . . or something, not starting out of the gate surrounded by wonderful people who really do want to see me succeed.  Having the latter instead of the former is a marvelous and humbling feeling!

Zero Sum Game Book Updates

Zero Sum Game is on Goodreads!  Thank you to the librarian who put it up; in my cluelessness I had not realized I could add it pre-publication.  Oops.

You might notice I’ve reorganized the website a bit, and now have a books section where you can see the blurb. After release, the vendor links will be posted there permanently as well.

I’m about a week out from publication (official release date is March 31, y’all, though I will probably upload a few days early to guard against delays).  Wheeeeee!

On Radio Silence

Yup, I haven’t been blogging a lot lately.  No, I haven’t died of Teh Cancer.  (Just in case the Internets were concerned.)

The main reason I haven’t been blogging is that I haven’t been doing . . . well, anything.  Except for recovering from that cancer thing, which is exceedingly boring.  I’m even getting embarrassed talking to my RL friends, because my end of the conversation goes like this: “Yup, still here.  Nope, still can’t do anything.” <long pause> “So, I ran out of Law & Order episodes today.  What’s new with you?”

Blogging (and Twitter) feel kinda similar right now.  I’m usually off doing lots of exciting craziness or reading and engaging with lots of thought-provoking amazingness and wanting to write about all of it.  Buuuuut not so much right now.  (Sure, I guess I could write about the whole cancer thing.  Some people rock at that.  Unfortunately, personally it’s not something I feel comfortable blogging about too much.)

So rather than writing about how Netflix really should get more seasons of Law & Order (seriously, what is UP with that?!), I’ve been keeping more to myself.

But wait!  Some people might remember that I have a buffer of over a hundred pre-written blog entries.  What happened to them all?

They’re still there.  But most of ’em are about a life I’m not living right now, so it feels kinda weird to post them.  Also, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve found there’s a social energy necessary for blogging and Tweeting, because people actually read what I write (whuuuuut), and respond to me (mind-boggling, I tell you!), all of which I love quite a lot, but which takes that “energy” thing that I have very little of right now.  Hence the radio silence.[1]

Anyway, I figured I should post and tell everyone I’m not dead, and that I still love you all, my most excellent and valiant followers!  I’ll be dropping in more and more as I get more energy back, and hopefully posting should resume a regular frequency by the end of the year.  Ish.  I’m not gonna pressure myself. :)

  1. Except on Absolute Write.  You can always find me dicking around there.  But not only do I have no hosting duties over there, I feel comfortable enough around the boards to wander out in my pajamas and blather about things.  Whereas here I feel like I need to put on pants.  And that I should probably be polite and offer people snacks.

So, You May Notice the Site Looks Different . . .

I don’t like changing my theme, because I know I get wildly thrown whenever blogs I read start looking remotely different.  But my old theme’s been bugging me for a while.  The primary reason was that the x-height of the default article font felt inconsistent, and I couldn’t get any other font to look right with the theme’s style.  YES I’M A NERD.  (I have just enough interest in typography to get me in trouble, especially as I have equivalently zero knowledge on the subject.)

I’m not sure if I’ll be keeping the background math.  Does it make the articles too hard to look at?  It’s some game theory texture I was thinking of using for book art before that idea got scrapped.  It’d be nice to use it somewhere, but I’m not sure if it’s too distracting . . .

I will also note: Yes, I am using the WordPress Twenty Twelve theme.  Even after spending obsessive amounts of time live previewing themes, I like this one the best, which surprises me as I’ve never thought the older WordPress defaults were particularly aesthetic.  It feels odd to be using the default theme, but hey, it would feel even weirder not to use the theme I ended up liking best just because it’s the default one!

Comments?  Does it look horrible?  Awesome?  Hurts your eyes?

ETA: You guys are the BESTEST . . . thank you so much for the feedback!  Hold onto your hats; I’ll be futzing with this throughout the day!

Admin Updates: Accidental Pingback Deletion (sorry!), and — I’m on Twitter Now!

First of all, an apology: one of my anti-spam plugins was accidentally spamming legitimate pingbacks/trackbacks.  I didn’t notice until I saw people linking to the timeline post and the pings weren’t showing up.  I’ve now disabled that plugin and reinstated the spammed pings manually, but I think some were already trashed before I got there, and I apologize to anyone whose link got deleted accidentally.  (Feel free to leave a comment with your post instead, if you notice it’s not linked to and want it to be.)

Second, I am now on Twitter.  I’m really rather terrified about this.  Mostly because I am constitutionally incapable of writing anything in less than 140 characters.  Also because I am an obsessive proofreader and checker of anything I write, so I fear I’ll be spending an hour composing each tweet.  But I’m giving this a shot, so without any promise I’ll keep it up for more than a few weeks, I’m tweeting as @sl_huang, and if you read my blog and drop your Twitter handle in the comments, I’d love to follow you!


First, in admin news, my caching plugin appears to have been malfunctioning the last few days, causing the site not to update if a user isn’t logged in.  I’ve deactivated that plugin now.  Sorry about that.

Next, in I-have-a-blog-so-let’s-be-arrogant-about-my-alma-mater news, MIT has come in first in U.S. News & World Report’s list of the world’s best universities!

MIT! MIT! MIT! Hee hee.

Of course, how much do rankings mean?  Not a damn thing, in my opinion.  But just like how I’m happy when one of my friends wins an award, I like seeing MIT score so well in the public consciousness.

Although, in U.S. News & World Report’s national rankings list of the top schools in the U.S., MIT only comes in sixth.  Which breaks my brain as a mathematician, because the world is a superset of the U.S., so if we’re first in the world, we should also be first in any particular country, right?  The only possible explanation is that U.S. News & World Report uses different evaluation standards for the U.S. list, which suggests that they’re separating lists not only by the nation the school is in, but by the demographics and desires of the nation the school is in, and that they think what makes a college great for an American is a distinctly different set of assets from what makes a college great for the average global citizen.  On the one hand, this makes some sense—for instance, on the world rankings they have scores for international students and faculty, and how universities handle international students and faculty does differ school to school.  But it leaves me with a slightly skeevy feeling, because the U.S. list linked above doesn’t call itself “the best schools in the U.S. for Americans.”  It calls itself a national rankings list, which to me implies “best schools in the U.S., full stop.”

Rankings.  Ugh.  Yet another good reason to think they’re pretty much meaningless.

Except, of course, when we win.[1]  MIT! MIT! MIT!

  1. Tongue planted firmly in cheek.

State of the Blog 2^7

Here we are at my 128th post!

Back when I started this blog, I mentioned that I didn’t do so until I had 128 pre-written entries.  How many have I blown through?  Well, despite having pulled from those occasionally, the number of drafted posts in that file is now up around 150.  I guess I’m not having trouble keeping up this blog.

I did, however, decide to start updating slightly less frequently, because in discussions I’ve had recently about blogging most people expressed a preference for the blogs they follow not to update every day.  So, as you may have noticed, I moved to every-other-day-ish, or 3-4 times per week.

November saw this site start to take off quite a bit more.  (Hello new readers!  Thank you for being here!  I love you!)  Thanks to some of my articles getting linked/tweeted around, in the month of November I had over 4,500 pageviews according to WordPress, which is almost three times as many as I had in October.  And then halfway through December, I had a nice order-of-magnitude milestone and hit 10,000 views.  Yay!

This makes me nervous and excited all at the same time, because now that you’re all here, I have to produce decent stuff for you to read.  Aaa!

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