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What's This Web Page For? In my household, more often than not, I get to play the chef for my wife and two daughters. Sadly, my girls (OK, women, if that offends you) are fussy about what they eat, and there's precious few dishes I can make that all are happy to eat, so I'm usually just a short order cook, asking each one what they'd like for supper that night. Often they reply, "I don't care." That's a lie. They do care, but they just won't tell me what they want. Alas, I often have to cook several different dishes to satisfy this group (and yes, Dr. Spock, I realize I've spoiled them rotten). It's hard work trying to please everyone. When they tell me they don't care, I often reply, "Then you have to eat whatever I pick." Sometimes they nod, I cook something of my choice, and then they turn their nose up at it. Their loss -- they had the opportunity to choose and ignored it.
by Brian Plante
So help me out, willya? What's this web page for? Don't say you don't care -- you do. What's missing? What works and what stinks? I'm thinking about investing some time into redesigning things a bit, but I'd like some feedback. Perhaps it would be helpful (for me, at least) to think about who you are and how you may have gotten here.
Many of you probably got here because you read a story of mine and googled my name or followed a link in an "about the author" bio or my signature line on a bulletin board posting. You probably came here either to find out where you can see more of my stories, or to find out more about me. My fiction and bibliography pages are probably what you're looking for. Well, maybe the biography page isn't exactly what you were looking for, but more about that later.
Perhaps you got here by following the SFWA Web-ring. If so, then you're a fan of SF/F, but not necessarily someone who's heard of me before. What are you looking for? Sample stories? Perhaps my Bio, or bibliography?
Some of you got here by searching on something other than my name -- perhaps a phrase that appears in one of my essays. You got here (in my mind) by happy accident. What are you looking for? It could be anything, really (like sad Christmas music or Yertle The Turtle), but now that you're here, how do I get you to look around a bit, and perhaps pique your interest so that you want to read a story I've posted here, and then maybe go looking for others in the bibliography. This site is primarily a promotion tool, and if I can get someone interested in me and my work, even someone who is not a regular SF reader, then I've succeeded. If not, well, I know how it is -- so many web pages, so little time.
Occasionally, I'll get a visit from someone with the same surname as mine, perhaps doing some genealogical research or just checking up on what other Plantes are up to. Howdy cousins. In all likelihood we are related, as it's not that common a name. Hope I'm a credit to the family. If you're doing genealogical research, then I'm afraid my bio isn't much help. Drop me a line if you really want useful family info.
Well, now that you're all here, lets take a survey to see what I've done.
Home page -- My welcome and a launching point for all the other stuff. Does it make a good first impression? An eye-catching graphic (or is the brain thing a turn-off?) but nothing so heavy that it takes too long to load. Should I make the first page flashier, at the risk of putting in something that takes too long to load? You broadband people probably might appreciate this, but I know a lot of folks (like me) still access the Internet through slower dial-up lines, and the larger file sizes this eye candy requires is a turn-off. Is there some feature of the site that you feel should be displayed on the home page? Something that doesn't belong? Let me know.
Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers? My most popular feature so far. This was just a short-term project to get a few more eyeballs looking at this site. If you're one of them, I hope you didn't stop looking when I finished the Chronicles. But if you did, well then you're not reading this now, and I'm talking to the wall (um, keyboard). Do I need to resort to more publicity stunts to keep readers?
The Graffiti page. This is just some daily content to get you to come back. The hidden counters I've placed on these pages show me there are people out there reading these, so I guess this is worth keeping. If you have something that you think fits on the Graffiti page, send it along, or just post it yourself on the bottom of the page.
Of course, a writer ought to have some sample work, and I've got a few stories posted. These are teasers to get you hooked and make you want to read more of my work. What should I post here, my best work, or just average stuff? Should I change the posted stories on a regular basis? If I post lots of my very best stories, that decreases their worth as reprints, but if I post the dregs you might decide I'm not a very good writer and never return. I've posted a small number of stories I think are pretty good. Did you want more?
The real original content here, which changes on a mostly regular schedule is the Plain Banter articles (like this one). What sort of thing would you like to see in these pages? More articles on the business side of writing? Reviews? Humor pieces? How-to advice on writing? I can write on just about anything, and I take requests, so let me know,
OK, let's talk about my Biography. If you've read it, you know it's not at all serious, but surely more interesting than my real life story.. Is anybody out there truly interested in one of those dry I-knew-I-was-a-writer-at-the-age-of-four type biographies? If so, you can probably piece together a lot about me from the Plain Banter articles. Perhaps you'd rather have more funny stuff. I'd really like to know if the phony bio is entertaining or frustrating.
Bibliography -- the real promo page. Well, I have to be serious here, for those of you who want to read more of my stuff. Unfortunately, the magazines are fleeting, and it may be more frustrating than helpful to know there are all these stories I've written, but they're all in magazines that are long gone from the shelves. I could add scans of the magazine/book covers, but that might slow down a lot of web surfers. Would short excerpts or plot summaries be helpful or just a vanity on my part?
What about the Photo Gallery? Some of you apparently want to know what I look like. Notice I don't draw a lot of attention to this page, or update it very often. What I look like probably isn't one of my selling points, but for the morbidly curious, there it is.
My Links page. I suppose this is almost obligatory for personal web pages. But I wonder if it's really all that necessary. I could just point you to a handful of other sites that have much deeper and more organized links than I do. Would you really like me to expand the links page to show all the sites I regularly use, or is this just too much of a cliché?
e-mail -- so you can talk back to me. That's what the Internet is good for -- you can communicate directly with the writer. Even if you've never tried to contact me, the option is always there. Don't worry, I don't bite. Because my actual e-mail address is out there, I gets tons of spam, but I guess that's the price I have to pay.
So what's to fix? I know this website isn't perfect. Lots of you have complained that the white-on-black text is hard to read, and I'll probably fix that. What else? Maybe a real bio for the few of you who are really interested (although that may backfire -- I'm actually fairly boring). Do you want a daily weblog (a real one, not fiction like the Garden Variety Writers)? Personality tests? More fiction? More links? Animation? Advice on writing? Stuff geared more to readers instead of writers? Games? Eye-catching graphics and widgets? Music (I used to play in bands and can post MP3 files). More photos? I can do lots of different things, but what do YOU want to see here? What will keep you coming back every month? Every week? Every day?
This page is for you. Tell me what you want. Please don't answer, like my daughters at dinner time with, "I don't care." Of course you care. If you don't find anything of interest here (except, of course, for my sparkling fiction, insightful non-fiction, and incessant wit) you're not coming back. What will make you return? Tell me now, or I get to pick. And you better eat every bite, or so help me, you're not leaving this table, and there will be no dessert!
Copyright © 2003 Brian Plante Count=5450
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