Monday, May 23, 2005

Interim Report

I've recently made the first in what will be a number of changes eventually affecting how I interact with the ever-changing Internet.

It may not seem related, but it is: I cancelled most of my cable television channels. We now have what is called "basic" cable service, the 2 through 13 channels, which consist of local outlets of the old networks, and public service/access channels.

This was partly a protest against the dereliction of the cable news channels, now united in an agenda of fluff and right wing propaganda. Paying more than $30 a month for what else cable TV had to offer was absurd as well as an elective payment for one's own oppression and degradation. We'll miss the Daily Show and the new Monk series, but that's about it.

Frankly if it were practical, I'd have it shut off altogether. The network news---and increasingly, disturbingly, this includes PBS though to a lesser extent so far---are becoming as irrelevant and noxious as cable. It may come to that, but for the moment I am investigating which way to go in the inevitable move away from dial-up Internet service: DSL or cable. As I'm leaning towards cable, I need to keep the minimum service. In either case, the money saved from cable bills will help offset additional one-time expenses for either choice.

Any advice on the DSL versus cable question would be welcome.

A change from my current dial-up account, which has migrated up the food chain as Tidepool was bought out by a slightly bigger fish and then consumed whole by a California-wide whale, will necessitate a new email address and change things for my web page and probably my blogs.

Though I don't know what the changes will be yet, the blogs are unlikely to remain in their current form for much longer. As an interim report on blog traffic, nothing much has changed in terms of ranking. This blog is still one of the least visited. My most visited blog by far is still Soul of Star Trek, and I'll say more about that below.

American Dash is the second most visited, but by about 10% of the number visiting Soul of Star Trek. With only a few exceptions in the past month, there have been fewer than 10 visitors per day, with an eyeball average of about six.

Because AD is updated frequently, these numbers probably indicate readers, whereas for some other blogs, it's clear from the searches that resulted in a hit, that visitors were looking for something else and probably didn't stick around long enough to read anything. That seems to be the case for Shopopolis and Kowincidence (which I regard as a kind of archive anyway.)

I had hopes for Books in Heat in particular, and Shopopolis, as well as my local experiments, the North Coast blogs. But traffic hasn't established any of them. Reviews in Books in Heat are quoted in publisher publicity, and there's sometimes been a nice bump when its address is appended to my reviews in the SF Chronicle (usually from the online link) but that's been about all the notice it's gotten.

I never intended to keep them all going, and so eventually they will be abandoned or fused together somehow.

By contrast, though not by comparison with truly successful blogs, Soul of Star Trek is at least healthy. It rarely receives fewer than 40 visitors a day, and in the past month has exceeded 100 on 10 days, with the one-day high approaching 400. Three times during the month it got more than 100 visitors on 3 successive days, and once it was over 100 for four of five days.

It benefits from links for specific posts from the big Trek boards (Trek Today mostly, but also Trekweb and a couple of similar sites in Europe), plus specific links from smaller blogs and BBS posts. That's when the higher numbers usually occur, although once this month it got over 100 visitors without being mentioned anywhere.

Soul of Star Trek has a healthy number of returning visitors, and an interesting geographical spread. United States visitors normally comprise around 65% of visitors, with reliable contingents from Canada and the UK. But there was a day this month when the second largest number of visitors were from Germany. I continue to be amazed by the geographical variety--really from everywhere in the world, including China.

The Soul of Star Trek blog has its fans as well. Someone with a Harvard address visits a lot and someone in Arizona visits very frequently. There was a day when somebody in San Francisco visited all my blogs. If the logs are to be believed, this person spent the entire day reading them. But how computers register on this system may not be always accurately reflected in the categories of the report.

Soul of Star Trek also gets comments, which none of the other blogs do, except rarely. I suppose it's helped to focus me on the work I've been doing anyway in this area, as I finally may be getting a draft of a publishable book together.

The summer movies have helped expand the subject matter of Soul of Star Trek some, so I'll be writing there about H.G. Wells soon, and I enjoyed doing a long piece on Douglas Adams, which gave me the opportunity to post photos from some of my 60s faves.

A couple of other factors are conspiring to keep me in that neighborhood these days. One of them is the possibility of publishing a book on Star Trek. I am in the weird position of being told by the editors at Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster who are in charge of Star Trek books there, that I am their choice to write the official 40th anniversary of Star Trek book. Unfortunately, the publisher isn't willing to commit to it, because Trek nonfiction hasn't been selling, and Paramount isn't yet focused on the matter.

So it is possible that late this summer I will learn that I have a couple of months to write this book. I've known this for awhile now, so I've gone ahead with writing what could be adapted to this book, or could be a book I would self-publish, through Xlibris probably, around the time of the 40th anniversary next year. Whether it will be positioned as a Star Trek book, or more of a Soul of the Future book, is yet to be determined.

The feedback I've gotten from the Soul of Star Trek blog, as small as it is, has been encouraging. It constitutes the only current encouragement from the outside world. Last year I freelanced for the arts sections of the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times, and I did several fairly long client projects for Humboldt State University. So far this year, I haven't gotten any more work from HSU (my contact and champion there left to literally go sailing), and after soliciting a proposal on the new Star Wars, a Times editor apologetically told me that word had come down from on high: no freelance. I heard the same from an editor at the Chronicle. (Although I eventually published a piece on the Star Wars movie in the Chronicle's Insight section.)

So things have been very, very quiet. Yet some work and some royalties and permissions fees has come through, enough so I could concentrate on the Trek/future book and related writing. At a certain point it felt like it was working, and I knew I had to go with the momentum. After all, I've been working on this off and on for at least six years. It feels like something (who knows what) may yet come of it.

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