19 March 1999
We posted a webpage version of the Locus Magazine poll and survey back on February 8th, and then delinked it just 2 days later -- the form is still there, but you can't submit it electronically. Why did we do such a crazy thing, just one reader emailed us to ask? (Presumably others have wondered.) Because the submissions in those first couple days were sparsely filled out, and several of them, from their looks, had little other than whatever paperback novel the reader had finished the week before. So we decided to keep the form available online but to deliberately make it more difficult to vote -- by forcing the reader to print it out and mail it in -- and thus to dissuade casual voters. We'd like more people to vote in the magazine poll and survey, but not at the price of diluting the results.
Also we were concerned about the ease with online voting of stuffing of the ballot box, as happened last year in the Modern Library 100-best poll that was overwhelmed by votes for Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard.
Nevertheless we put up a special online poll and survey (here) about 10 days ago and so far have detecting nothing fishy with the responses. Not as many as we'd hoped for (or feared) -- about 60 so far -- but no votes for Ayn or L. Ron and no obvious attempts at multiple voting. (One survey comment asked how we prevent multiple voting, and the answer is we don't necessarily. But the results are only semi-automatically compiled; they have to be individually read to tabulate the fill-in responses. And so it's obvious when a voter has hit the 'submit' button twice in a row, as has happened three times now; those duplicates will be omitted.)
The responses are good enough that the online poll and survey will be left up for another month, until April 15th, the same as the deadline for the magazine poll. After just 60 responses, I might mention, there are clear leaders in the SF, fantasy, and horror novel categories, and it will be interesting to see if those leads hold, and how they compare to the results of the magazine poll and to the Hugos, Nebulas, and other awards later this year.
Most web readers are aware that when a site such as Locus Online links book titles to Amazon, that means that the site gets a cut of the profit if the reader buys that book. What you may not realize is that the linking site also gets a cut of any sale made during a visit to Amazon initiated from the linking site. For example, if you click over to Amazon using a link from Locus Online, and then buy anything (say, Elsevier's Oil and Gas Field Dictionary, to name one item that someone did buy!), a portion of that sale is credited to Locus Online. I mention this partly in the spirit of full disclosure, and partly as a suggestion of a way you might want to help support your favorite website (this one or any other). Instead of typing www.Amazon.com into your browser window, or clicking there from your own bookmark, click there from the other website and credit them a few cents; your cost is unaffected.
This probably affects hardly anyone, but the underlying directory structure of Locus Online is undergoing a gradual change away from the system I set up back in October '97 when the current design of the site was established. The change is that there will no longer be fixed ''Latest'' pages within each section (Books/Latest.html, News/Latest.html, etc.) containing the most recent material, material which is later archived off onto pages with fixed dates (e.g. Books/1999/Nonfiction03.html) to make room for newer material. Instead new material will be put directly into pages with fixed dates as parts of their names and directory paths. This means you can no longer bookmark any page of Locus Online except for the entry page (or the Whatsnew page) and expect to find regularly updated material on that page; conversely, you can link to any page (except the entry or Whatsnew pages) and know that the material you read there won't be cycled off the page at some later date. The reason for this change is to make maintenance of the site easier and less error-prone; moving material to new pages (inevitably downward in directory structures) involved resetting links between pages and, inevitably, broken links when some were missed. The disadvantage of the new system is that there can't be links to the ''latest'' material in each section from anywhere but the entry (and Whatsnew) pages; fewer interpage links. Clear? Does anyone care? Is anyone still reading?
--Mark R. Kelly
19 Jan 1999: Musings about movies, SF and otherwise