Back in May I had confidently expected the redesign of the White Dragon website would be completed and the new site active from the beginning of August. The best laid plans, as they say. Various family issues arose during June and July which made the intended timescale impossible and we will therefore be returning to the matter in September once those issues have been resolved and the holiday season recovered from.
In the meantime, progress reports will be posted as and when on this blog so please call back from time to time for the latest excuses.
Back in the mid-naughties, when the present website design was launched, WD set up affiliate accounts with both amazon.co.uk and amazon.com, which meant that readers from pretty much anywhere in the world could click through and buy a book they liked the look of. Then Amazon changed the rules, and decided that no longer would they pay commission on amazon.com sales into a UK bank account but only into a US one. Exit amazon.com, stage right.
At some point, the click-through links from the reviews to amazon.co.uk disappeared as well so there has been no commission coming through from there, either. Since all the click-through links from the reviews and from the recommended reading sections will need to be recreated ab initio, the question arises whether it’s worth remaining with Amazon at all, or whether I should be considering other options. Within the UK the most obvious (or maybe only) alternative is Waterstones. Now, Waterstones only sell books while Amazon sell all sorts of other things, so with the latter there’s the possibility of commission arising on all sorts of non-libritudinous sales. On the other hand, Amazon pays no Corporation Tax in the UK and seem fairly keen to keep it that way so there’s a wider ethical issue. Che far?
At the same time, it seems worth revisiting the question of going into an affiliation relationship with a US-based online seller again. The options seem to be Barnes & Noble and Powell’s Books. B&N are big but seem to come in for a lot of criticism over stock in their physical stores (too many toys, not enough books) and customer service; and Powell’s are currently a locally based outsider that have a lot of good reports and are tipped to get a lot bigger. The ideal would be for commission to be paid to WD’s (fully verified) paypal account, but paid direct into WD’s bank account would be fine so long as most of the commission doesn’t disappear in banking charges.
I wish I had a lot more time to investigate the options or think this through, but it needs to fit in with the wider website redesign. Eheu!
The book reviews have been categorised. It was in the end a much quicker and more painless process than I dared imagine as all but a small handful fell firmly into one category or another rather than into 2, 3 or 4 as the articles had.
I suppose this is not surprising: an academic study of the Lancashire witches was only ever going to fit into the academic history category, and a Llewellyn mass market paperback almost invariably fell into Wicca – Popular and nowhere else. The main crossover sections proved to be Folklore and Mythology, since there’s a rather fuzzy border between the two, and Sacred Landscapes. I seem to have ended up with 42 categories, some with only one or two books in them. While this means that those one or two books can be readily identified rather than being lost in a larger category, it will no doubt play havoc with the design of the menus and will need to be discussed with Alexa.
While working through them it struck me that some of the reviews can be culled as no longer relevant; in particular a handful of small press booklets and pamphlets, as it’s incredibly unlikely that the reader will ever come across them, and one or two rather strange works of fiction (essentially self-published) that probably shouldn’t have been reviewed in the first place. On the other hand, there are upwards of 40 or more reviews which were never added to the site in the first place and which will need to be incorporated into the redesign work.
In much the same way as I spent a couple of days going through the old articles and sorting them into categories, I’ve now embarked upon the more daunting task of doing the same for all the on-line book reviews. I say “daunting” because there are a lot more of them – if each issue of the magazine contained an average of 4 articles, it contained some 10 or 12 book reviews so if nothing else the numbers are correspondingly greater.
A rough categorisation of the books was done some years ago, resulting in 8 categories. Some of these, such as “Fiction” and “Art”, were very straight forward and their contents can be transferred into new ones very easily. Some of the rest however are much more complex and need to be further split down. Consider the issue of the Celts and matters Celtic, for example. There’s a world of difference between a book by John Matthews naffly illustrated by Courtney Davis, and one by Dr Miranda Green; one is popular and the other academic, leading to “Celtic – Popular” and “Celtic – Academic” categories. One of the other differences between the two is that the academic books were the ones I deliberately solicited for review, and which as time went on the academic publishers started to send spontaneously, while the popular ones were the books certain publishers targetting a pagan or new age audience tended to send unbidden and often unwanted. Much the same goes for the history books.
Given the huge range of books in terms of both subject matter and seriousness (ie, in many cases, quality) reviewed over the years, it’s difficult to know just how many categories to use. Lumping together all the books currently lumped together under “Archaeology/History” doesn’t make it easy for the reader to find the sort of book they’re looking for, but equally too many categories are only going to lead to confusion.
I suspect it’s going to take me the best part of a week and several bottles of wine to do this properly.
The categorisation of the online articles is complete. I’ve taken the opportunity to review them all for continuing relevance and have decided to remove four of them from the new website. These four are short and essentially topical pieces which were published in the very early days in response to specific news items of the time and which no longer serve any real purpose. So out they go.
I’ve also revised the “What is WD?” and “Where is Mercia?” pages from the present website and amalgamated them into a single document. They were originally intended as information for prospective subscribers and writers but are more relevant now as a sort of potted history to answer such unasked questions as: How did WD start? And Why? And where exactly is or was Mercia?
One of the distinctive features of the WD website is the library of articles published in the earlier editions of the magazine which are now available online for anyone to read. I counted them up today and found there are over 100 of them, though admittedly some of those from the earliest editions are fairly short, ie 1,000 words long or less. Nevertheless, the sheer number of them raises questions as to how to organise and manage them within the pending site redesign.
After some thought it seems most appropriate to simply classify them under various topics such as “Arthurian”, “Heathen”, “Folklore” and “History of Magic and Witchcraft” and that is what I have been doing in recent days. Needless to say, articles don’t always belong entirely in a single category, and around half sit equally in two categories and a few in three or four so some duplication is inevitable.
We’re also planning to have a more efficient search function on the website which, combined with the categorisation of the articles, should make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.
I’ve started this blog in connection with a revamp of the White Dragon website which is currently under way, with the new site expected to go live around Lughnasa 2013.
Regular visitors to the website and readers of the magazine will be aware that publication of WD ceased at Lughnasa 2009 and that there has been a lack of news and updates on the website since then.
There were various reasons for this, but one of them was the lengthy serious illness of WD’s former webmaster, Tony, who died suddenly in March 2013, at a time when the website was temporarily off line. I am therefore grateful to Alexa Duir, author of the Wyrdwolf novels, who got it back online and volunteered both to take over management of the website and to undertake a radical redesign and update of it.
With WD no longer being published, the focus of the website will be changing from supporting the quarterly editions of the magazine. The core will in future be the library of articles previously published in the magazine and the book reviews, many of academic and scholarly books not reviewed anywhere else in the pagan press. I am also looking at several ideas for producing completely new material especially for the website and for expanding several long neglected parts of it.
In the meantime I still have copies of a variety of editions of the magazine, which can be ordered through the website if you have gaps in your collection or are simply curious about the rag. You can of course pay by Paypal and I will send copies anywhere in the world.