On Friday I sat down with some of the guys at Middle Earth Network and talked a bit about the Witch Watch, Project Frontier, DM of the Rings, and other assorted topics.
You can hear an archived version of the interview here.
It was fun. Thanks again to the MeNet guys for having me on.
Shamus Young is a programmer, an author, and nearly a composer. He works on this site full time. If you'd like to support him, you can do so via Patreon or PayPal.
Aha! Thank you for posting this, I almost forgot to buy your book. Birthday’s tomorrow, so I’ve got.. Birthday money. Time to spend it on worthy things.
You know… I always felt that I was an important part of this place. That I somehow was crucial to what goes on around here. Then I heard in the interview that you get a million hits a month.
/sigh… Once again relegated to being a statistic. Another bubble bursteded.
I’m always uncomfortable talking traffic, for a lot of reasons. For one, it’s often gamed, and it’s often exaggerated. (In fact, I’m guilty of that RIGHT HERE. Analyitics tells me I get 700-800k average pageviews a month, but it’s more impressive to say “under a million”. Charlatan!)
Note also that there is a lot of misunderstood jargon:
HITS: Anytime a resource is requested. If someone loads a page with nine images, then it will generate ten hits. It’s a hit whenever someone hotlinks an image on my site and the image is viewed elsewhere.
PAGEVIEWS: Ostensibly one person loading one page. If you sit down and read all of DM of the Rings in a single sitting, it should generate 144 pageviews.
VISITORS: THIS is the important one to me. How many people visit. That person reading DM of the Rings in a long binge, it should register as one visitor. A lot of people present “pageviews” as if they were “visitors”. “My site reaches a million people a month!”. The number of active visitors is really, really hard to judge, so the web server makes guesses based on IP addresses. (If your dial-up drops five times while reading DMotR, you’re now five visitors!)
I also don’t like to talk about traffic because I don’t like to think about traffic overmuch. I check the numbers every couple of months, but I’m afraid of letting visitor behavior drive my writing habits. I don’t ever want to fall into the trap of, “Hey, dumping on X really gave me a nice traffic boost, I should dump on Y!” This is an easy trap and I’ve seen good websites go to crap in the quest for more eyeballs.
I try to keep myself focused on “what makes for a good discussion”, because that’s the goal. Some articles get a flood of hits, but nobody says much. Some only get a few, but generate thought-provoking threads. I try to keep the focus on this, because that’s makes this site special and fun to write.
All of this is a very long way of saying: People don’t think of yourself as a statistic. The people who join the discussions are why I do this, and it’s obvious there are only a few thousand of those, and only a few dozen regulars. The millions of pageviews are a by-product of me engaging with the dozens of regulars, and if I take my eyes off the discussion and start watching the big numbers I will be sabotaging myself.
It’s a lot like a company that takes their focus off of “make great product” and instead chases after “increase sales”. (Valve vs. EA is a classic example.) If you keep your product good, you won’t need to worry about sales.
Hey dummy. Nice wall of text. You should have made this into a post.
Make it an Experienced Points instead.
That’d be rather interesting. It’d teach people the different terminology and how to spot when websites are being sneaky.
Nothing wrong with that. It’s still pretty interesting.
Indeed. Very informative. Always wondered what the difference between them all were. I always believed “hits” and “pageviews” were the same thing.
Here’s a data point: Part 21 of my blog got around 1200 page views. Part 22, which Shamus linked to, got 19,000 page views.
With any luck you’ll get a flood of replies to this post alone.
Just add it into the existing post?
So what’s your guess as to your # visitors?
Here’s an interesting point of comparison. I run a wordpress site for a course I teach with 46 students enrolled. So you might expect roughly 50 “unique visitors” a month, maximum. If you include the bots that leave spam on my comment boards, 80 to 100 at most.
But in March I show 1284 “unique visitors”, and in February 1666. Pretty weird.
On a related note, I’d consider myself a regular, but I have no idea if I actually comment enough for others to consider me the same.
I think you post more than me, which means if you’re not a regular than I’m not, which means you’re a regular because I’m arrogant.
Lets just all declare ourselves regulars and leave it at that. :D
The only reason I even brought it up was because the whole online community thing fascinates me, and because this is the only community I’ve found since the internet has existed where I’ve felt like I belonged.
If you feel like you belong, I think you can say you’re a regular.
I have to admit I wonder about things like that too. I’d be an irregular regular – I come, comment on everything for a couple months, then I’m gone for a while. I do that…
I have no idea who the hell you are!
But I consider myself a regular.
I kid. To be honest I recognize a lot of people who comment on here and sometimes purposely scroll down looking if certain people have commented on a post to see what they think. Also this is probably the only place where I haven’t posted something so blatantly offensive as to have a post deleted.
TwentySided makes trolls better it seems.
I am a bit curious about this… Do you have a way to estimate the number of individuals who have posted comments in (for example) the last month?
I check the site daily. Don’t post much, because a lot of the regular posters cover my opinions just fine. But I am a unique reader.
I know… It’s rather depressing! Mister Young hasn’t even responded to one of my thought-provoking and yet eloquently put comments, as of yet! This is why I don’t do maths! It makes me sad.
I’m one of the regulars. If I respond, does that count?
Yes, good enough. Vindication!
Then certainly I replying to you nullifies him, if not even putting you into the negative. Ha!
Thanks for coming on to the program, Shamus. It was a tremendous honor to have you with us and it was a load of fun.
We’re looking forward to having you back. :)
Thank you for having him. I think that was the most interesting interview I have ever heard him do (one sided of course– I sit in the room and only get to hear his side of the whole thing.:) I REALLY enjoyed hearing this one– great job with the questions.
I think that you should get a yellow comment field like Shamus and the Spoiler Warning folk!
Also, nice artwork!
Nothing to really add but it is frustrating that how to calculate traffic is difficult without signup and subscription.
Thanks so much for doing the interview Shamus!
As one of the Founders over at M-eNetwork, I was thrilled to have such a funny and knowledgeable guest on our show.
I look forward to reading your book very soon.
My reply to Earlindor applies here as welll so: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=15478&cpage=1#comment-270805 :)
I know that you touched on the reasoning for setting it aside in the interview, but I found Project Frontier incredibly interesting (I just reread all of them today, in fact). Therefore, here’s the obligatory question: do you have any plans to continue developing/writing about the project?
Wait, you never finished The Silmarillion? Heretic!
No, I kid. Well, mostly. :-P
How far did you get? If you can get past the wall-of-names chapters (and, while the names and languages are a big chunk of what Tolkien was doing, you’ll almost never read most of those names again in the rest of the book, so letting them slide off your brain until you make it through, and get a good sense of what the various Ainur — and later, Eldar — do throughout the rest of the book, is I think OK), and the geography chapter, pretty much the entire rest of the book is (I think) interesting. There are just those stumbling blocks in the middle. :-)
I’m speaking primarily of the Valaquenta section, then some bits of chapter 5 of the Quenta (“Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië”), then most of chapter 14 (“Of Beleriand and its Realms”). But in between those, you get chapter 2 (“Of Aulë and Yavanna”), where the Dwarves and Ents are created, and where Aulë fails and is redeemed, you get the creation of the Silmarils (the central items of the entire history, if that helps), you get the death of Fëanor, you get the march of Fingolfin’s people into Beleriand at the first rising of the sun, you get Fingon’s rescue of Maedhros, and a few other things I’m probably forgetting.
Then after the geography chapter, you get a bit of an interlude before the breaking of the Siege of Angband, and the epic battle between Fingolfin and Morgoth. Then you get a (longer) chapter and a bit dedicated to Beren and Luthien, then the “Unnumbered Tears” battle, and then another (longer) chapter and a bit dedicated to Turin. (And I’ll only mention in passing what happens to Turin’s grave, in the “and a bit” part. :-) )
Then the fall of Gondolin, the death of Glorfindel (yes, *that* Glorfindel; he got better; it’s a bit complicated, but Elves can — once in a while — come back to life even stronger) while killing a Balrog (note “and both fell to ruin in the abyss”; it must not be able to fly :-) ) while defending Tuor, Idril, Eärendil, and others with them, the birth of Elrond (son of Eärendil and Elwing — Elwing was the granddaughter of Beren and Luthien, via their son Dior), etc., leading to the War of Wrath, where Morgoth is finally defeated.
Then the Akallabêth, the fall of the descendants of Elros (Elrond’s brother, who chose to become mortal), culminating in the return to Middle-Earth of Elendil and his sons, and the reshaping of the world. Then a bit on the forging of the Rings, and the really short version of what happens to them. (Notice who makes the Elven rings.)
And … this is a lot longer than I thought it’d be when I started. :-/
“And … this is a lot longer than I thought it’d be when I started. ”
Which is exactly the problem. The lore is all great and rich in detail, but it’s just so longwinded. I’ve only read it once and I had to force myself to finish it after a certain point (can’t even remember where). Forgot most of it in a few weeks.
Well… I don’t know. It’s only about 300 pages, all told. It is, however, pretty dense in places, so it feels longer.
The mode of English used also doesn’t really help — it feels old, which could be appropriate, depending on what you’re going for, but it takes a lot longer to read. Or at least, it takes *me* longer to read.
I should note that your comment about forgetting most of it also happened to me the first time I read it. But I picked it up again several years later, and while the experience was rather different (as it is when rereading the bits in Moria in FoTR), it still worked better. Now, this might just be my brain, I’m not sure (maybe I remembered more of it than I could recall, but being reminded of it worked), so I can’t say you’ll think the same. But it might be worth a shot.
You still may not like it, of course, or may not consider it worth trying again, and that’s fine; opinions are allowed to vary. Just saying what happened to me. :-)
It’s not really the length, just the content. I’ve read LotR twice. As for language, I happened to read the Finnish translation of it so I don’t know how much difference that makes. I’d imagine it’d taken me even longer than you to read it in some variation of Ye Olde English ;).
Suppose it wouldn’t hurt to give it another chance at some point. I always thought the lore and the history of Middle-Earth was interesting on its own, just never figured it could be so taxing reading about it. Smaller doses might be a good idea.
Nutrient dense content the Silmarillion is.
Shamus has read about 2/3 if I remember correctly but it has been ages and I may be wrong. I own and have read all of Tolkien’s work that was in print up until the movies came out (including the Lost Books though I may be missing one there– all packed away and I can’t remember. I know he has read through bits and pieces of most of them though not all. I have read through LotR at least once a year for 25 yrs and Tolkien’s Letters probably as many times. The Silmarillion I have read maybe twice in full and never in one sitting– I think I have read Leaf by Niggle and Tolkien’s other shorts from the Lost Books way more times. That said I think I have read and reread the opening chapter of the Silmarillion more than any other non-LotR Tolkien writing. Stunningly beautiful. Of course, being a story person and not a language person means I prefer his story to his fascination with languages and when a story focuses too much on language and not enough on actual story that is my time to bow out.
I love the first chapter of The Silmarillion, the Ainulindalë. All of Tolkien’s main ideas and key themes, which pervade all his stories, are presented in this one chapter. It’s pretty brilliant when you think about it.
Dang, Mrs. Young, we should get you on the program. ;)
Hahaha… man after my own heart.
But yeah, the names in the beginning are probably the most difficult part to swallow, and it’s not so bad when you pick it up a second time.
If you really have trouble, Shamus, there’s also a audio book available, which actually makes The Silmarillion easier to digest.
I also hope to be addressing the accessibility of Tolkien’s epic on our radio — hopefully in the not-too-distant-future.
Also, for this interested, there’s a fun little comic called Silmarillion: The Good Parts.
Wait, this exists? Why did I not know?! :-)
“Meanwhile, in Beleriand…” “Stuff happened.”
…Hmm. Yup. That’s about right. :-)
That reminds me of The Game of the Gods for some reason. Probably mostly because of Feanor and Melkor running around like crazy and causing trouble.
I found it a lot easier to follow the second time I read it, but I still prefer to read slowly, and in small chunks. Trying to plow through it would make me miss the little stories that make up the whole.
That is probably one of the best ways for the “uninitiated” (so to speak) to tackle the book. :)
Also–and I highly recommend this–one of our friends, Dr. Corey Olsen (better known as the Tolkien Professor) is doing a Silmarillion Seminar podcast, which is also helpful in going through the book.
Seriously, check out this guy’s stuff. It’s brilliant.
Eh.. Silmarillion. Sigh.
I really like LoTR, and the hobbit (which admittedly is far more simplistic, I feel), so I picked up the Silmarillion just thinking it would be more of the same Tolkien stuff.
Oh blimey, was I wrong about that.
Essentially, Silmarillion is almost the ONLY book I’ve not finished. The way it is written, and laid out, and the rate at which things develop, is just god-awful. I’ve often seen people saying that LoTR has ridiculously long-winded descriptions.. I can’t agree with that. But Silmarillion, that indeed has ridiculously long-wided things in it, and at an absurd level of persistence, even.
Frankly.. Silmarillion is the best example of a very disappointing product by a promising source I can think of, off the cuff. It is just so summarily bad, with such huge potential.
Can totally understand this– I felt the same way, especially after finding out that Tolkien wanted the Silmarillion published FIRST!
Well, the story of the Silmarils is pretty interesting. The presentation in it’s unfinished, unrefined form as printed is difficult to digest.
I totally understand where you’re coming from, but I also couldn’t disagree more. :)
I find the Silmarillion to be a masterpiece. It is written in the style of an old epic, which is what Tolkien intended. Tolkien wrote everything the way he did for a specific reason–down to every period and dotted “i” and crossed “t”.
I enjoy it, but I also get that it’s not very accessible to the masses which, as I’ve stated here already, is an issue I hope to address.
Offtopic: See from your inlined twitterfeed on the mainpage that you are testing out spotify, (selfish selfpromotion) if you like retro’ish game music (think chiptune inspired) search for Rescator Game Over
My other two albums, Ryoko, and ZXY, are more varying in style. Almost all the songs on the three albums was made on the Amiga using a tracker, so the sound is a tad oldschool.
Ontopic: Great, something to listen to while I grab a nightsnack…
About your tweets:Shamus,are you sure that you didnt just stumble upon an april fools site a few hours late?I mean most of the links on that site lead to nowhere.Even the expand ones for texts about the reviewers.
Oh, I’m sure that was April Fool. My first tweet was incredulous, then I remembered the date and joined in on the joke. Having said that, the whole thing sounded just a little TOO plausible for comfort.
Ah,I keep forgetting that you guys in the new world live in the past.Its the 2nd here for over 3 hours now.
I really enjoyed that interview. I learned a few new things about you Shamus and was very interested in what you and others had to say about your book since I’ve read some of the stuff about it you’ve posted here and it makes me want to pick it up sometime( which should probably be soon so I don’t forget).
I was really entertained by how the interviewers seemed to revere you so. Whenever you talk about yourself, what you do, and your website it is always so very humble and modest and to me it sounded like you were being put on a pedestal so everyone could revel in your glory. It was a very entertaining contrast.
That being said you were the focus of the interview and you definitely have a lot of excellent content from DM of the Rings to your articles, and of course the collaborative web series Spoiler Warning (I haven’t read your books so I can’t say anything about them but it sounds like at the very least Witch Watch is good!).
Thank you for posting that and thank you MeNet for interviewing him.
On a side note I seemed to have been doing a lot better at this flash-based soccer game(soccer flash game?) I’ve been playing while I was listening. Apparently I need your voice in the background when playing games if I want to excel.
I practically whooped the first time Mark (our founder) gave me the green light to invite Shamus on to the program (fortunately, it wasn’t all that hard to convince him, lol). It was a blast then, and it was a blast… now… then… thing. Glad you enjoyed it. :)
Is there a text version of the interview somewhere? I have a horrible time trying to listen to people talk, but reading is super easy.
I’m sorry to say I don’t think we do. :/
As far as correcting that, I’m not the person to ask.
Thanks for the quick response!
Shame there’s no text version, but I’ll give the podcast the old college try anyway!
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