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Ellora’s Cave: IT Infrastructure Statement

elloras-cave-blog-header

Recently, on the #notchilled hashtag, we heard about Ellora’s Cave’s IT system in the days of yore. Then Ellora’s Cave sent an internal email on the subject. I have some commentary after that.

First, the tweets that started it all:

Note: this happened in the 2003-2004 time period. Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s read the rest of BJ’s tweets on this topic…then Ellora’s Cave has an official response.

So, to recap what I understand as the essential elements from the above:

  1. At the time (2003-2004?), all critical business infrastructure data was on one laptop;
  2. …and it was dying while at an RT convention, so Jet called in her husband’s help.
  3. Jet did not work at the EC HQ, but this was stated (to her) to be the only copy of EC’s data for various critical systems.

Ellora’s Cave Decides to Respond

So Ellora’s Cave’s CEO, Patty Marks, sends a puff piece to their biz group. Which, by the way, happens to be hosted on yahoogroups, exactly where I’d (not) expect a company with a competent IT infrastructure to host critical infrastructure mail groups….

Letter follows.

Sent: Monday, February 16, 2015 2:36 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] Gossip regarding our systems

I don’t like to address gossip, because it lends to the possibility that someone may find it credible, but I think this is important.Apparently there is someone out there saying that we don’t back up your information and that we run our systems on single computers without backup.This so ludicrous that it shouldn’t need addressed, but just in case…

All of our data, including but not limited to Financial, Manuscripts, Graphics, Spreadsheets, programs and any resources used in the daily business of the company past or present is currently stored in a multi-server network.Each server is raided in the event of a hard drive failure and run we run redundant power supplies as an extra precaution.All data stored on the network is then backed up to another location using automatic backup software.The entire room is on its own electrical panel with commercial grade surge protection and battery backup.Our server network and all computers that access it are protected by the latest in antivirus and firewall technology.We have and still do employ a full-time IT department since 2005 – not to mention three outside consulting and hosting companies, one for the website, one for our computers and servers and one for our accounting programs.

Before that, we were a company consisting of six people or less and had no server network at that time.IT services were subcontracted on an as needed basis.Computers were backed up individually to external storage devices and no one computer contained all of the company information – at least not since I have been with Ellora’s Cave.As the company has progressed so has our hardware and software that we use every day to run things.

As for the confusion in the data loss with the Amazon cloud crash, there was no royalty data lost.The information erased were certain formulas that were built into the back end of the old EC site.We had the consultants who designed the original formulas fix the broken code – using the backups – and install it on our servers as a standalone program.All financial spreadsheets, imported or exported, royalty programs hosted offsite or onsite, have always been stored on our server network as well.Again we run like seven server environments for redundancy.

Our email system and our website all run on multiple cloud based servers for backup redundancy.Our own network has its own backup redundancy as described above.All user passwords and master passwords have to meet strict password requirements and are changed on a regular basis.All internal users require a domain credentials to access the files they have been give permissions to view and remote users need their domain credentials as well as firewall credentials to gain access to the internal network.No one person has access to the entire system except the IT department.All other permissions are locked down by department and department level basis.

AND – on top of it all – we carry business insurance in case of hardware or software failure and data loss.

Can I say with certainty that our systems are absolutely impenetrable?Well, considering people have hacked banks, giant retailers, SONY and managed to crash the Amazon cloud, I would guess not.But to imply that all of our information is on one “dying laptop” is laughable and simply untrue.

My Commentary on the Above

  1. It’s generally a convention of the English language to put spaces after periods and before new sentences. I’d expect a publisher to know that.
  2. It wasn’t actually gossip. That’s awfully dismissive.
  3. Anyone who thought it might be a statement about Ellora’s Cave’s current business practices needs better reading comprehension skills.
  4. Methinks EC doth protest too much.
  5. “We have and still do employ a full-time IT department since 2005 […}.” Conveniently, none of these people appear on Ellora’s Cave’s staff list.
  6. “Each server is raided in the event of a hard drive failure[…].” Okay, I actually LOLed at that. I assume Patty means: “Each server has RAID arrays to prevent loss of data from hard drive failure” and not what it says, which is: “We cannibalize servers when hard drives fail.”

My Own Recent Oops

I’ve lost data, and it’s not pretty. In fact, I’ve been considering writing two separate pieces about preventing data loss: one about several simple things you can do to ensure you don’t lose your data on your hard drive, and the other would be ways to ensure you have a full backup of a WordPress site. The latter involves some harder problems, though.

I have what I consider a paranoid level of backups. The other day, I had to wipe my server (that no longer hosts deirdre.net but still hosts several other domains I run).

I bought another domain the other night and was wondering where I was going to put it—my VPS (virtual private server) was out of space. Then I remembered I’d paid for more space, so I should just use that. Except that meant re-partitioning the drive, which meant wiping it, and then I decided I wanted to switch Linux distributions while I was at it. So…been at that for a few days.

I use the utility rsync to push my sites to my VPS. This is an old habit of mine.

Each site is kept in its own git repository. For those unfamiliar with git, it manages source code control. So, essentially, I can get back any revision at any point. Git leaves an invisible directory, .git, at the top of the repository.

Unfortunately, when I pushed one site up, I forgot to exclude the .git directory, and I canceled the transfer in the middle. Remember, I was space-constrained and git repositories aren’t particularly small.

Then I forgot to remove the partial .git directory.

So I’m in a hurry to back up my domains before wiping my VPS and resizing the partition and reinstalling and yada yada yada, and what I meant to do was to copy the wp-content/uploads/ directory from the server back to my own hard drive, so I didn’t lose any photos. As Jenny Trout did. Disclosure: I have made the exact same mistake Jenny did, and that’s why chair-in-the-sky.com doesn’t have any of its old posts. I’ve removed them until I can dig up the photos. Sigh. Like Jenny, I lost them in a site transfer. Of all the steps in moving WordPress installs across sites, the media library is the most fragile part.

Rewinding a bit: I’m in a hurry. Instead of that one directory, I rsync back to my hard drive the whole domain, including the partial .git directory.

Clobbering my repository.

Sad panda.

But!

I have always pushed my git repository to another site! It’s all good, because my backup’s only a few minutes old. I can re-init a git repository and pull from the remote site.

However, the quicker option? I restored a thirty-minutes-ago backup of that directory with Apple’s Time Machine. Then I correctly pull the uploads directory only and add the new contents to my git repository. And push it upstream.

::phew::

To many of you, what I just wrote sounds completely unintelligible, but I do have a point in writing it (apart from personal embarrassment).

I’m a one-person shop, and this is the skill and expertise I have to ensure my own data doesn’t get lost, even when I screw up when I do something I’m too tired and/or rushed to do correctly.

Ellora’s Cave would need that much more skill on the ground, and their staff list doesn’t reflect that.

Look on the Bright Side…

I suppose they can just pay for all that IT infrastructure out of the bank account with $15 million in it, right?

And @pubnt wonders why Dear Author and Jane Litte want to subpoena her.

As Always, Linkage

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread helps support EC authors who’ve spoken out by linking to their sites and books.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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WordPress Themes: The StudioPress Sale

WordPress Themes blog post header graphic

tl;dr: StudioPress’s amazing WordPress theme bundle is on sale this week only.

I want to tell you a tale about WordPress themes, because I’ve run this blog on quite a few over the last ten (eep!) years.

There are the early days where there weren’t really “themes,” more like CSS stylesheets, and I played with them and changed them every 6-12 months, but I didn’t really love them.

Then the new WordPress theme system came along, and I loved it. You could to truly cool things with themes. You could also muck everything up. So the better got much better—and the worse got much worse.

I lived with a mostly-white site for a long time when I used the free version of Pagelines. All I have good to say about that is that the free version annoyed me with its arbitrary stupidity, and eventually I took my toys and went home.

With some bundle or other, I’d gotten four premium themes from ThemeTrust. I found them a) far, far less pretty than they look on the site; b) amazingly opaque to set up. I’ve never kept any of them deployed.

I also paid for Elegant Themes for a year, but you have to renew annually. While they have a lot of themes, they are once again not as easy to set up nor as pretty out of the box. I found the map theme, which I’d hoped to use, not well thought out in terms of usability. A friend and I had bought bought it with the hope of deploying for our respective travel blogs, then we both gave up.

After all that white and all that unhappiness, I found MySiteMyWay, and was generally happy with their WordPress themes for the next three years. (phew) It was, however, built around an inner core that didn’t zig when WordPress’s repository zagged, so several new features weren’t usable. And I found that frustrating. Still, they have an amazing skinning system, and I like them a bunch.

When looking for really great free WordPress themes for ryanjohnsonactor.info, I found Pinboard, which remains my favorite free WordPress theme. It was like a breath of fresh air after every other theme I’d used, and I truly love it. [(demo here)[http://demo.onedesigns.com/pinboard/] I get quite a few visitors on this blog looking for extra header icons that I made for Ryan Johnson’s site.

But…Pinboard wasn’t what I was looking for for my own site, either.

Then I went through a disastrous deploy of Shutter, which is a beautiful photo portfolio theme that was never designed for a mostly-text site. It’s still pretty awesome. Just: not for me.

Around about now, I feel like someone explaining away eight divorces, but here goes….

Why I Switched to StudioPress’s Genesis-Based WordPress Themes

I joined a group that had a lot of writers, and many of them used Genesis. I’d always avoided it because of the cost. But, you know what? They have good, solid themes.

They are lightweight, and they’re made by CopyBlogger, who designs tools for people who write blog copy for their day jobs—even, maybe especially, those working for themselves running their own domains. These themes are designed to take everything you can throw at them. They’re stable, stay out of your way, and work. Whether or not you recognize their skeletal signs, they power sites you see on a regular basis.

The WordPress theme I use on deirdre.net is StudioPress’s Metro Pro WordPress Theme. (Heavily modded and, yes, even renamed so I don’t blast it away by accident.)

Desamo.graphics uses a lightly modded version of StudioPress’s Agency Pro WordPress Theme.

I avoided buying all the themes because who’d ever need them? Right, you got it. Me.

But, unlike other companies, once you buy in, that’s all you pay for life including any themes StudioPress releases in the future. Want StudioPress’s amazing WordPress theme bundle? Click on that link, then the “Get All Our Themes” banner. Sale ends Friday the 20th of Feb.

These themes have been designed to keep readers on your page by not being annoying. They’re the best WordPress themes for highlighting your content.

If those don’t quite float your boat, but you like the Genesis idea, I’ll write more about other themes later. Or, you can ask in comments or email too.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Ellora’s Cave: @pubnt Faxes Judge

elloras-cave-blog-header

On February 7th, @pubnt faxed a letter to the judge in the Ellora’s Cave vs. Dear Author case. Courtney Milan has a long blog post about it, so I thought I’d take a different tack on the issue.

Ellora’s Cave Thanked STGRB

On October 4, 2014, Tina Engler, writing as Jaid Black, posted a blog entry titled _To the Silenced Victims_, about how Ellora’s Cave’s authors and supporters were purportedly afraid to speak up.

On October 8, Ellora’s Cave tweeted a thank you to STGRB:
elloras-cave-thanking-stgrb-dick-move-indeed

(Thank you to azteclady, and several others, for screencaps.)

Before those two tweets, Ellora’s Cave hadn’t tweeted at all since August 11—nearly two months—not even promotional tweets for its new titles. I called out Jaid Black/Tina Engler on this:

For those who don’t know, the short version of StGRB is that it is not an anti-bullying group, but is a group of authors who bullied reviewers because of reviews the authors didn’t like. In other words, it’s ironically named.

Giving a one-star review to a book you genuinely didn’t like isn’t bullying.

I stated that the biggest problem with Ellora’s Cave’s tweets wasn’t so much the STGRB mention as failing to promote EC’s authors and books. I mean, it’s a Twitter account for a publisher that had new books published during those two months of radio silence. EC fixed that promotional shortcoming, and has remained focused on prompt tweeting of new releases, pretty much (I noticed a short blip, but didn’t record when, and I’m not interested in looking it up).

Oh, and also, Ellora’s Cave deleted one of those two tweets, the one that invoked STGRB. Why bother with this digression? Please hold….

@pubnt Invokes STGRB

What’s interesting about @pubnt’s tweets from the October 4th creation of the account until February 1 is that there are zero tweets for: “STGRB”, “goodreads”, “bully”, or “bullies”.

And yet, in her letter to the court, @pubnt relies heavily on STGRB rhetoric. Also, STGRB are in fact the only links in @pubnt’s letter.

What amuses me the most of all about @pubnt’s letter is the assertion that @pubnt is presenting evidence. STGRB isn’t evidence, it’s hearsay. Of course, if that’s how strongly TE feels about STGRB, she could have seen to it that the principal STGRBers were on EC’s witness list. But Ellora’s Cave didn’t choose to add said writers to their initial disclosures.

As a general rule, anything said by anyone outside the list of people who make formal statements admitted into evidence or who are witnesses in the case—that’s hearsay as far as the case is concerned.

Remember the pocket universe episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Legal cases are kind of like that. Apart from the witnesses and people giving testimony (and the law including case law, of course), the world outside is invisible. Or, more accurately, hearsay, with some notable exceptions.

Invoking some random blog, even this one, is neither evidence nor proof.

Things @pubnt Says About #notchilled Regulars and My Statement About Who I Am

I’d like to refute the generalizations @pubnt makes about #notchilled regulars, at least as they pertain to me.

  1. I have never met Jane Litte. I have followed the Dear Author twitter accounts because Jane Litte and others recommend books I’d like to read. I often disagree with JL’s ratings. As a specific example, one of my favorite books last year was Laurelin Paige’s Fixed Trilogy. JL gave the first book a C- rating. I agree that the first is the weakest of the three, but the plot twists in volumes two and three made it one of my favorites, and book one was strong enough for me to continue reading. Apparently not for JL, and that is her choice.</p>
  2. I make a horrible minion. I will only do what I think is right, and, even then, I don’t have time (or energy) to do all of that. In Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies, I’m a rebel with questioner tendencies, so I’m perfectly fine with not fitting in and not going along with a crowd.

  3. I have made far more money from being traditionally published than being self published. I have books published by Que, Sams, Baen, and BenBella, plus others under pseudonyms. (If you follow the purchase/sale trail of the first three, you’ll see that means I’ve been Big5 published by two different routes: Sams and Que became part of Simon & Schuster, and some of the work I did for Macmillan Computer Publishing meant I’ve been published by Holtzbrinck.) I’ve never been published in the romance genre, and I’ve only been rejected once in that genre—more than twenty years ago. Frankly, it was a horrible proposal for a category book, but I was still too green to know that. I am working on a romance novel, and I have an agent who’s already been promised first look.

  4. That said, of course I’ve been rejected, too. It’s a part of being an author. Though sometimes rejections sting (and I do whine about those privately), I also get over them. As a friend of mine says, the right attitude to take to these if they’re getting to you: “That’s one more time an editor tried to stop me and failed.” (Neither of us believe this viewpoint, btw, it’s just that it’s one that happens to work for both of us to help get us back to the salt mines of writing new stuff.) I don’t dislike anyone who’s rejected my work—except perhaps MZB, but that’s for reasons unrelated to her authorial or editorial work, at least as it relates to me.

  5. I am not “jealous” of any successful writers, nor am I envious of them. I also understand the difference between these two words.

  6. I don’t accept advertising on deirdre.net, and never have. That said, I make a small amount of money every now and then from Amazon’s Associate program. How small? I haven’t received anything since 2011, and they’ve owed me $16.28 since 2005. Which I didn’t know until I logged in for this screencap.

    amazon-associates

    Essentially, I removed all the Amazon links I had after LGBT fail and have never really managed to build up the associate income stream I used to have, small though it was.

    That said, I have been considering what kinds of banner ads I might have, but generally those would not be paid ads. Like: I’d make a banner ad for my own new book, which makes sense, right? But how about if a close friend releases one that I liked? How about if my writing group did one? Should I promote Clarion (a workshop I did) via ad? If so, what are my guidelines about where I’d put those vs. where/why I wouldn’t? I don’t have those answers yet. Until I do: only inline contextual links.

  7. I have a few other kinds of promotional links here and there, but none are specifically targeting indie authors unless it happens to be a book I’ve enjoyed.

  8. One of the reasons I don’t generally review books is that I would feel compelled to be honest about books I didn’t like, and I feel that’s a problem as an author. Sometimes my reasons for disliking books have to do with various artistic goals I’ve got as a writer. For example, I stopped reading Neal Stephenson because his endings didn’t satisfy me. As a plot structure person, that’s a killer for a book for me. Clearly, many readers don’t share this perspective, and I’m glad he writes books they can enjoy.

    The guideline I’ve decided to follow is that I’ll promote books I genuinely love. Period.

Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread is located here. Many EC authors have books out from other publishers. The purpose of the support thread is to help give those authors willing to speak out some visibility.

Note:

An earlier version of this post was supposed to be published over the weekend. Apparently several posts I thought I’d scheduled didn’t post. Oops.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits

Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits

If you’re anything like me, you’ve politely sat on your hands in some talk about author marketing because the techniques discussed clearly were aimed at non-fiction writers. Using your book to upsell readers onto a course (as an example) isn’t something that will (usually) work for a novelist unless you’re an academic.

I can’t remember the exact context I saw this post by Samuel Hulick in, but I first saw it a month or two ago linked from something technical I read. It’s about user onboarding, which is the process of getting a new user able to be up and running with some software in question.

It’s short. It’s brilliant. Go read it.

Except that novels (and short stories, and really any writing) also has an onboarding process. For me, I call it the point where the book “catches” for me. That’s where I’m on board for the first time.

Look at the image he’s got there. That flower? That’s your book. It’s not what you’re selling. That is just a feature of what you provide.

Much like the setting sun in the picture above is a feature. The benefit is its beauty that draws people out to watch.

How to Dovetail this into Author Marketing

When you’re looking at your book in terms of wanting to sell it to someone, whether that be an agent, editor, or reader—think in terms of benefits, not features.

A space opera: that’s a feature. A shifter romance: that’s a feature. Sure, the market has created that so that each catchphrase does create certain expectations of benefits to the reader.

Picking a book somewhat at random (on my to-read pile), Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked uniting a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Now the Dhai and their allies must hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

The themes in the second paragraph are mostly about loyalty. That’s what this book provides: an exploration of an important theme in our lives. It’s not just a book, it’s a conversation.

But What if You’re Just Providing Entertainment?

Then that is your benefit in author marketing terms. To some extent, all fiction is entertainment in some form or another. That’s okay. But you can be more intelligent about your work than just “my writing amuses people.” To the extent that you can be more articulate about it, you can create an online marketing strategy that’s actually useful.

The point is to know what your benefit is.

Photo by Gabriel Santiago

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Vaccination: Just Do It

vintage poster encouraging polio vaccination for children

I’m going to talk about vaccinations from the point of view of a person who’s older than most of the current vaccines, and what the changes have been like in my life.

My Age, In Practical Terms

If you read up on all of those, a handful of vaccination shots mean we miss the opportunity to suffer a whole lot of misery, and a bunch of truly smart and amazing people have been working hard ensuring that you, me, and that other person over there have the best chances at health possible.

I still remember spending a week absolutely miserable with chicken pox. A few years ago, I had a reoccurrence in the form of shingles. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

One of My Earliest Childhood Memories

I remember going to CalTech’s park areas where I got my Salk vaccination for polio around about 1963. I was three or four years old.

You don’t see a lot of people with polio any more, for two good reasons: 1) thanks to Salk, it was eradicated in 1968, 2) the people who did have visible polio symptoms are less numerous as a percentage of the population.

Polio’s a horrific disease that not only killed and crippled people in droves, it has the unfortunate habit of cropping up again decades later. It was not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to polio back when I was a kid. (Granted, it was also not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to injuries in WW2, the Korean War, or Vietnam. Or even WW1.)

I Hated Shots As a Child

Despite being a child of scientists, I absolutely hated getting shots. They terrified me.

I remember hiding under my doctor’s desk in his office, and there were many tears associated with getting shots. But you know what? My parents had not only my best interests at heart, but those of the rest of society, too. Apart from fear, there was no good reason not to get my vaccinations.

When I was in early adulthood, it changed. I was okay getting shots if I saw the shot. Now I can look or not look, it doesn’t bother me either way, because I know the purpose of a shot is to kick the ass of something.

I’ve generally stayed on top of my boosters since then.

Have There Been Problems?

There is in fact a rather horrifying article about the Salk vaccine and SV40 over on SFGate.

Some of the early attempts at vaccines were like trying to tune a car engine with a plastic fork. There wasn’t any real way to ensure non-contamination until we got modern tools for sequencing, replicating, and analyzing DNA.

Penn and Teller on Vaccinations

Short but to the point, this is an awesome pro-vaccination video that neatly addresses the “vaccines cause autism” hype.

Vaccination Schedules

Here is a list of vaccination schedules by country.

Note that there are vaccines other than the flu vaccine that you should get, or get a booster of, as an adult.

If it’s helpful, the CDC has some tips on keeping (and locating) adult vaccination records.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Rebranding: D. S. Moen Becomes Deirdre Saoirse Moen

rebranding-bph

Years ago, based on something Patrick Nielsen Hayden said (“You have three names, all of them difficult to spell.”), I decided to submit my work to publishers under the name D. S. Moen rather than my full name of Deirdre Saoirse Moen.

Partly that was being conscious, having worked in a bookstore, that anyone with an invisibly compound last name was difficult to shelve. We had signs in the M that Gabriel García Márquez was shelved under García Márquez, for example. (Wikipedia follows the same convention for Spanish-style naming customs.)

Mine isn’t that. I like to say that I emborged Rick and added his distinctiveness to my own, keeping my own surname as a part of my new surname. And Saoirse was a name I legally changed my surname to.

At the time I made that call, I wasn’t as well known as I am now, and I think it’s just easier for everyone if it’s under my whole name rather than part of it.

Henceforth, for things I publish under my own name, they will be under Deirdre Saoirse Moen rather than D. S. Moen. I care less about whether I’m shelved under S or M, though S is technically correct.

Limited Amazon Exclusivity for Rhonda and Duchess

Both of these have been out for a while, so I’ve put them in Kindle Select through mid-April-ish. This requires withdrawing sale from other retailers (including my own web site).

However, if you’re in Kindle Unlimited (and if you’re not, there’s a 30-day free trial), these books are free for you to read. Free!

"The Duchess's Dress" is a 3200-word fantasy short story set in a quasi-medieval secondary world. Can Elise, servant of the duchess, save her from the seer? Can the duchess, offended by the seer's vision, get the queen to sanction the seer?

"A Sword Called Rhonda" is a 2800-word humorous fantasy short story originally published in a Baen anthology.

Deirdre Saoirse Moen Anagrams Very Nicely

I’m the only person I know of whose names are separately anagramable and, when those anagram words are put together, form a phrase.

dire red / a rose is / omen

Or:

Red rose is a dire omen.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Fundraiser for Alexis Savino (My Stepson)

alexis-savino

Alexis Savino is my stepson from my first marriage. He’s wanted to be an actor since he was a little kid, and he’s done some amazing work as an actor since then, including being the youngest member of Blue Man Group at one point, and studying acting at NYU.

Here he is in Far Rockaway:

His Current Situation

He’s got legal bills related to an NYPD police brutality case. There’s a longer legal story there, granted, and it’s not fun. But he really does have a good shot. Catch is, he can’t afford a good shot.

And he has a really good lawyer. A really good not inexpensive lawyer.

And he has a good expert witness. A really good not inexpensive expert witness.

Alexis definitely was injured, he definitely took a turn for the worse as a consequence, and there’s very little I can do from California. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had an apartment fire a few months ago, and it really has been one thing after another for several years.

The Indiegogo Fundraiser

Here’s the link to his Indiegogo fundraiser. Please contribute if you can. If you can’t, please share this.

Alexis wrote an essay a few years ago telling what it was like growing up as a boy with a name like Alexis during the Dynasty era. I saved a copy of it then (which is good, because otherwise it would have gotten lost), and have reformatted it for donors. If you donate $10 or more, we’ll send you a copy.

If nothing else, it’s worth full price for the condom ad audition anecdote….

alexis-cover

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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What I Learned from Google Analytics Today

I’ve been trying to be smarter about marketing, and part of that means understanding who finds your pages and how they find them.

Hence I’ve delved into the dark art of SEO, specifically landing pages: when people search and find/visit my site, what pages do they land on?

And…I was surprised! Who knew that 1,000 (~2%) people would visit my spork page?

deirdre.net-landing-pages

What Surprised Me

I only looked at the top 25 landing pages. Here’s what surprised me from those results.

  1. I’m unsurprised that Marion Zimmer Bradley brought in the largest chunk of hits, especially given that one post was linked to from The Guardian. What I am surprised is that, SEO-wise, it’s a smaller number than I expected. Then again, she’s been dead over fifteen years, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.</p>
  2. Similarly, I get a lot of hits on Ellora’s Cave posts, but it’s only 7% of my incoming search traffic despite having a high Google ranking for the search term Ellora’s Cave. Which…should say something about EC: relatively obscure.

  3. 20% of my incoming search traffic leads to my various art projects, mostly t-shirts. Given that I’ve been posting them for less than a year, this is very interesting to me. I was in the middle of a quandary: given that I want desamo.graphics to focus mostly on graphic elements for sale, is it more off-brand to put those projects on deirdre.net or on desamo.graphics? The results say to me that I should keep these on deirdre.net.

    Also a surprise was that this was my most-frequently-found art-related post.

  4. 9% of my incoming search traffic leads to two posts about fountain pens. I should do more of these. Did you know there are relatively recent patents about cool fountain pen technologies? It’s true!

Finding Your Own Landing Pages

You can find your top pages by doing the following in Google Analytics:

  1. Log into google.com/analytics. If you haven’t set up tracking on your site, now’s a good time to do so.</p>
  2. Click on Reporting.

  3. Click on Acquisition.

  4. Click on Search Engine Optimization.

  5. Click on Landing Pages.

You can see more about how to do that in this moz.com blog post.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

SFWA Active and Associate Membership Will Be Available to Indies

sfwa-indies-bphSFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has just changed their membership rules. There will be some speedbumps, as this is a major structural change.

Effective March 1, both indie and small press authors will be eligible for SFWA’s Active and Associate memberships.

For Active (full) membership:

  • One novel-length work for which the author’s earned at least $3,000; or
  • At least 10,000 words of shorter work for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

For Associate membership:

  • At least 1,000 words of shorter fiction for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

And then there are those of us bound to break the system because we’re already associates, but before the 6 cents a word went into effect.

Not Just for Gearheads

SF/F is a bigger tent than you might think. If you write a number of romance genres (e.g., paranormal romance), you’re also arguably writing SF/F.

I look forward to our Amish science fiction writer members.

More details here.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Principles of Determining Geolocation

In 2004-2005, I worked for Quova as a Network Geography Analyst.

As a practical matter, given that MLB was one of our largest customers at the time, this meant that we fielded complaints for people who were locked out of viewing baseball games where they should not have been, and a good chunk of my job was investigating those complaints.

This is intended for a mixed-level audience, so I’m going to skip deep nuance and detail.

Simple Explanation

  1. When you connect to the internet, whether through cable, your cell phone, whatever, you’re assigned an IP address, where IP stands for Internet Protocol. At the point in time you connect, your IP address has a fixed location in physical space: wherever you happen to be.</p>
  2. Your device connects to another, upstream device, and depending upon where you want to go, it connects to a series of other devices until it arrives at your intended destination (say, Google’s web server). Each of those devices has an IP address, and each of those IP addresses has a fixed location in physical space.

  3. If you ask for a traceroute from a command line, it’ll tell you what series of hops it goes through to get from point A (you) to point B (where you want to go).

    $ traceroute 8.8.8.8
    traceroute to 8.8.8.8 (8.8.8.8), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets

    1. 10.0.1.1 (10.0.1.1) 10.938 ms 1.183 ms 1.032 ms
    2. 198.144.195.185 (198.144.195.185) 51.874 ms 52.194 ms 51.948 ms
    3. ge1-8.rawbw-demarc.sfo4.reliablehosting.com (216.131.94.209) 61.865 ms 57.246 ms 64.077 ms
    4. core2-1-1-0.pao.net.google.com (198.32.176.31) 52.671 ms 51.958 ms 55.120 ms
    5. 64.233.175.169 (64.233.175.169) 56.400 ms
      64.233.175.171 (64.233.175.171) 54.772 ms
      72.14.236.114 (72.14.236.114) 54.420 ms
    6. google-public-dns-a.google.com (8.8.8.8) 54.663 ms 54.480 ms 94.454 ms

    The first is my internal IP address. The second is our gateway address. The third is our provider’s demarc with their upstream. The fourth is where it enters Google’s servers.

  4. Network administrators, to make their lives easier, often label those intermediary hops with names. This is not required. Often those names have geocoding information. These are often names of cities, airport codes, weather station codes, neighborhood names, apartment complex names—all kinds of things. In core2-1-1-0.pao.net.google.com, “pao” is Palo Alto, California, which has an airport IATA code of PAO.

  5. If you’re very lucky, you will have a traceroute that shows very little router delay (like one hop in my example above). Then you can use actual physics to tell you where it must be in relation to the adjacent hop.

    Light (and electricity) travels 300,000 km/sec, or 186,000 miles/sec. Per millisecond, 300 km or 186 miles. It’s easier to multiply by 300 than 186 in my head, so I’ve typically stayed metric at this point, but I’ll give both. Besides, it just sounds cool to drop millilightseconds in a conversation.

    See that last hop? 54.420 -> 54.480 (using minimum to minimum)? That’s 6 hundredths of a millisecond, meaning the laws of physics say the packet traveled a maximum of 18 km or 11.2 miles.

    Except traceroute measures time there and back, so the real numbers are 9 km or 5.6 miles.

    Is it in Palo Alto? The end location is 1.808 ms from the stated Palo Alto location, which means it’s at most 262.35 km or 168.25 miles from Palo Alto. So almost certainly SF Bay Metro with some lag. This is where repetitive traceroutes at different times from different locations would be helpful. (I’d expect the location to be Mountain View, California, which is the city south of Palo Alto, and also Google’s HQ.)

That’s the Basics. Really.

So the real trick to geolocation is to have as many knowns as possible. This means having server space on fast networks around the world, being able to triangulate in on locations of interest, and getting different results over time.

You can read more about using millilightseconds in this humorous story of network diagnosis.

This four-part series about traceroute is quite good, and covers some of the wrinkles.

My Own Little Experience

I mentioned this on Twitter at the time it happened.

blog-hack-attempt

There are some interesting nuances here:

  1. I don’t have a user called admin, but that’s the default super user in WordPress.</p>
  2. If you do a whois on that IP address, you’ll note it’s assigned to T-Mobile:

    NetRange: 172.32.0.0 – 172.63.255.255
    CIDR: 172.32.0.0/11
    NetName: TMO9
    […]
    Organization: T-Mobile USA, Inc. (TMOBI)

    Real hackers trying to crack into your web site will not be using mobile as a rule. This was personal, not a doorknocker.

  3. At the time, it showed up as being in LA. Once you get a dynamically-assigned IP address, such as a mobile address, to a metro area, there’s no guarantee you’ll get closer than that.

  4. I note that this screenshot shows 1) T-Mo; 2) LA, and my breakin attempt was a couple of hours after this was posted. Obviously, no proof, yada yada. Just: correlation.

Quick Geolocation for Mere Mortals

Use the GeoIP Tool website.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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