Wetmachine designer & webmaster Gary Gray and I met tonight to go over plans for tweaks to the site, coming Real Soon Now.

We have a couple of goals in mind. Firstly, we want to make “Tales of the Sausage Factory” and “Inventing the Future” more accessible to their readerships. So there will be separate RSS feeds for these series, and vectors into the archives by author/topic. There will be sign-ups for various Wetmachine mailing lists. It will be more obvious how to post comments and how to get in touch with the various Wetmachiners.

Below the fold: your chance to jump into the Gary-John brawl over the “feel” of the site.

Gary is the designer not only of this website, but also of the covers to my two books. (NB: Gary did not do the cover of the first edition of Acts of the Apostles (which sucks). He did the cover of Cheap Complex Devices, and also of the hard-to-find second edition of “Acts”, which is also the cover of the downloadable PDF. (Warning: large PDF)). I think these designs are wonderful: dark, enigmatic, vaguely threatening. Now he wants to repudiate that edge? Like the guy from Korn who found Jesus?

Gary wants to make the new Wetmachine more open, inviting, friendly. He thinks the current design is too dark and stagnant. Too itchy and scratchy. Contrariwise, I think the site isn’t dark enough and could stand to be considerably more itchy and scratchy, a la Cult of the Dead Cow.

Frinstance, he wants to get rid of the “Fair and Balanced” tagline. “That’s played out,” he says. What say you?

Frinstance, he wants to get rid of the nifty angel-in-the-circuitry artwork that hides faintly here (you can see it on slow refreshes.) I myself, personally, love the angel-the-curcuitry. And for Chrissake, Gary designed him(her?).

Frinstance, Gary wants to get rid of the nifty blogbox on the right side of your screen and go back to boring old HTML. I, obviously, love the bloxbox. And I’m not just saying that because “Laszlo” appears on my paycheck.

I mean, after all, I founded this site fully intending it to be a future-fearing technoparanoiac haven, & I still pay the bills. Sure, I invited Harold and Howard and the other Wetmachiners to come party hardy with me, and somehow the site has morphed into something altogether more reasonable. But is that MY fault? How was I to know that they would turn it into a nexus of civic action and webophilia? Don’t my opinions count for nothing around here no more?

So, what’s your opinion? Wetmachine: Too itchy-sratchy? just right? Not itchy-scratchy enough?

If you can figure out how to post a comment, we would love to hear what you have to say!


  1. Way to go guys. The current design is nice, but it could use a little freshening. Makeovers are big these days: short attention span America.

    The one feature that I care about is that readers and writers can learn about new postings on categories of interest (writing, my stuff etc.) Maybe there’s a last-changes summary page that includes comment changes. Maybe folks could register for email notification.

    Please keep it easy for people to comment — no signups.

    I don’t think I have an opinion on dark vs…. what?… professional? … boring? That’s too abstract a question even for me! Darkness is cool: good design (whatever that means) is more important than the depth of darkness displayed.

    Actually, I think the thing I’d like to see most is more writing by John!

  2. Well, the newer version of the blog software we will be moving to (which I may just go ahead and do before we do the “look and feel” overhaul, since doing two major changes at once is always a bad idea, if you can avoid it) has a bunch of neat features that go along the lines of Howard’s requests.

    Specifically, we’ll be able to let people subscribe to a mailing list that will ping them when a new article is posted. I don’t think users can be selective about which articles that they will be pinged on, unless we actually go ahead and split out Inventing the Future and Tales of the Sausage Factory into separate blogs… that would be a bit of a pain, since I’d have to go into the database and phsycally move postings from Wetmachine into the separate blog postings. If our readers really want that feature, though.

    There are also lots of options to put “most recent comments” and so on on the front page. This will let people dive into ongoing conversations easier.

    We will probably still keep comments open. We haven’t had any real problem with spamming so far (since we’re not using one of the big name blog systems, which is what comment spammers tend to target). I may add some additional protections to head off comment spam, but it should affect legitimate comment posters.

    Also, one new feature will let people commenting do some formatting in their posts (i.e. actual links rather than just typing in a URL and getting a mangled list in the text, like http://wetmachine.com).

    And there will be new features for authors as well, to make the process of posting a lot easier (I hope). Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy way to add spellchecking to the site, but there are workarounds I’ll explain later.

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