Personal Website Questionnaire

Below are the results of a questionnaire circulated to various writers with their own websites, as preparation for an article about personal websites for the PN Review. The PN Review is a small but prestigious print-based literary magazine from the UK, edited by Michael Schmidt and published by Carcanet. They are currently running a series of articles, written by me, about hyperliterature.

The first of these articles ("Hyperliterature - the web as a text") was published at the end of 2001. The second, "Marketing the Intangible - literary e-zines and their profitability" was published in Jan-Feb 2002.

In the true spirit of hyperliterature, I have randomised the links below using Javascript. If your browser doesn't support Javascript, you can read them in a fixed sequence by scrolling all the way down the page.























From Peter Finch:

1. How long have you had your own website?

I was one of the early ones. 1996

2. How long have you had your own domain name?

Since 2000

3. Approximately how many hits do you get per month?

No idea

4. Who do you think your visitors are, and who would you like them to be?

Poetry fans, second aeon researchers, people wanting to get published, people interested in Cardiff, celtic poetry freaks, buyers of my books, people who want to book me for their festivals or whatever

5. How frequently do you update the site?

at least weekly and often daily

6. How have you built the site, and how do you maintain it? Do you hand-code in HTML or XHTML, do you use a design package, or do you get someone else to look after the design for you? Do you use JavaScript, Java, or similar - if so, did you learn them specifically for the sake of your website? Do you use Flash 5, Quicktime, Shockwave or any other specialist software? Have you bought any other equipment, such as a scanner or digital camera, for the sake of your website? How much time do you think you spend on your website per month, how much money, and how does this interface with your other work as a writer?

Most of the site was built by me hand-coded. I have tried various packages including FrontPage and found them mostly lacking. I use Photoshop for the graphics and Dreamweaver v4 to upload (although I do some site updating with this now). I do not use much JavaScript and do not use flash animation at all. I am now onto my second scanner specifically for the site updates. How much time? Not sure. Money, not a lot. The interface with my work is direct. I enjoy html and web creative experiments. You can check some of the results on the site where a few poems only exist in their web incarnations.

7. Do you have a philosophy of website design - e.g. that it should download quickly, or that graphics/photographic content are essential, or that tables should be used rather than frames, or any other?

simple as possible. No frames. No flash.

8. When you update the site, is it to revamp its appearance, to upload new material, to remove old material with which you are no longer satisfied, to update any links to other sites, a combination of the above, or for any other reason?

I update to update content and when time allows I revamp design

9. Why did you first decide to launch your own website, and have your reasons changed since it was launched? Do you regard it as a business venture, a means of publicising your work to a wider public, a means of staying in touch with family and friends, or a combination of these?

My web site is first and foremost me in public. I sell from it books, myself, my work. It is also a creative vehicle in its own right.

10. Is any of your writing directly for sale from your site, and if so, how successful have you been in selling it this way?

yes it is. Not brilliant but some sales have occurred which otherwise would not have.

11. Does your site redirect people to conventional publishers/online publishers/other websites or other publications which carry your work? Have you tried to build up a network of reciprocal links with other writers online?

I run many links

12. What kind of work do you put on the site? Work which has never been published elsewhere? Work which has been published in the past, but is now unavailable elsewhere? Extracts from work which is currently available elsewhere? Experiments? An online journal? Other?

Examples from my hard copy published books and new work

13. Do you send out information about your site by e-mail (e.g. when you have updated it)? If so, to whom do you send? Do you have a "subscribers' list"?

No

14. How important do you think it is for present-day writers to have their own websites? How has your own website affected your development and commercial success as a writer? Do you think writers' websites will influence the development of our literature from now on, and if so how?

It is pretty important in order to make a serious mark. Will sites influence the development of our literature? If others follow my own creative path then without a doubt.

15. Any other comments?

best wishes

Peter

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From Stuart Moulthrop:

1. How long have you had your own website?

Since the fall of 1994.

2. How long have you had your own domain name?

I don't own my domain name, but rather use an academic address.

3. Approximately how many hits do you get per month?

Not a huge amount. Usually in the low thousands.

4. Who do you think your visitors are, and who would you like them to be?

Students, academics, designers. This seems the right crowd.

5. How frequently do you update the site?

I add content every six weeks or so, do major overhauls and redesigns about every three years.

6. How have you built the site, and how do you maintain it? Do you hand-code in HTML or XHTML, do you use a design package, or do you get someone else to look after the design for you? Do you use JavaScript, Java, or similar - if so, did you learn them specifically for the sake of your website? Do you use Flash 5, Quicktime, Shockwave or any other specialist software? Have you bought any other equipment, such as a scanner or digital camera, for the sake of your website? How much time do you think you spend on your website per month, how much money, and how does this interface with your other work as a writer?

I write my own code and do my own visual design. Since I don't do e-commerce, the technical demands are limited. The site is free to me, though I do have to administer the Web server myself. Probably costs me about 8-12 hours per month.

7. Do you have a philosophy of website design - eg. that it should download quickly, or that graphics/photographic content are essential, or that tables should be used rather than frames, or any other?

I like simplicity in graphic design, though am also fond of structural experimentation. Graphics are useful. Frames are ugly and I no longer use them. Tables are essential until browsers fully support Cascading Style Sheets. I can't stand Web pages with unconstrained right margins.

8. When you update the site, is it to revamp its appearance, to upload new material, to remove old material with which you are no longer satisfied, to update any links to other sites, a combination of the above, or for any other reason?

Most updates are for content. Major redesign every 2-3 years.

9. Why did you first decide to launch your own website, and have your reasons changed since it was launched? Do you regard it as a business venture, a means of publicising your work to a wider public, a means of staying in touch with family and friends, or a combination of these?

Main reason for the site was (a) circulation of material not appropriate for academic journals, such as hypertext fiction and (b) opportunity to experiment with tools and forms. I do not regard my Web site as a business venture.

10. Is any of your writing directly for sale from your site, and if so, how successful have you been in selling it this way?

No; I've profited from free distribution of my work through professional advancement -- the quintessential academic/writer racket.

11. Does your site redirect people to conventional publishers/online publishers/other websites or other publications which carry your work? Have you tried to build up a network of reciprocal links with other writers online?

Yes, I direct people to Eastgate Systems, which publishes my one commercial title.

12. What kind of work do you put on the site? Work which has never been published elsewhere? Work which has been published in the past, but is now unavailable elsewhere? Extracts from work which is currently available elsewhere? Experiments? An online journal? Other?

Some material on my site is unavailable elsewhere (e.g., academic papers and essays), some has been published in on-line journals.

13. Do you send out information about your site by e-mail (eg. when you have updated it)? If so, to whom do you send? Do you have a "subscribers' list"?

Nope. I'd do these things if my site were commercial. The downside of the academic/writer niche is that you haven't much spare time.

14. How important do you think it is for present-day writers to have their own websites? How has your own website affected your development and commercial success as a writer? Do you think writers' websites will influence the development of our literature from now on, and if so how?

Every professional writer should have some Web presence--or should loudly protest her refusal to have one.

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From John Tranter:

1. How long have you had your own website?

A year or so. Well, I have two -- one is a research site, which I put together in mid 2000. The other site (it is four years old) is maintained as part of Australian Literary Management's site of author notes and pages. The firm is a literary agency managed by my wife Lyn Tranter and myself. That site is more concerned with recent writing. The size is currently three megabytes. I regard this as my main website.

2. How long have you had your own domain name?

I haven't; it's a part of Australian Literary Management's domain.

3. Approximately how many hits do you get per month?

Don't know, don't really care.

4. Who do you think your visitors are, and who would you like them to be?

I guess most of them are students doing research for essay topics. Some would also be poets and editors from the US and UK. Who I might like them to be is irrelevant: you get what you get.

5. How frequently do you update the site?

It's been on hold for a year or so, as I've been busy with other things, mainly Jacket magazine.

6. How have you built the site, and how do you maintain it? Do you hand-code in HTML or XHTML, do you use a design package, or do you get someone else to look after the design for you?

I do it all myself, hand-coding using HomeSite. It was built originally in HTML and I am now converting bits of it to XHTML.

Do you use JavaScript, Java, or similar - if so, did you learn them specifically for the sake of your website? Do you use Flash 5, Quicktime, Shockwave or any other specialist software?

No, no, no, no and no. These clumsy, difficult and time-wasting programs were originally designed to waste the time of impressionable advertising agency executives, and have no place on a writer's website.

Have you bought any other equipment, such as a scanner or digital camera, for the sake of your website?

Scanner and CD burner.

How much time do you think you spend on your website per month, how much money, and how does this interface with your other work as a writer?

About a day a month. Very little actual money. All my Internet work -- especially Jacket magazine -- interferes with my work as a writer.

7. Do you have a philosophy of website design - eg. that it should download quickly, or that graphics/photographic content are essential, or that tables should be used rather than frames, or any other?

It should download quickly, have simple, clear and obvious navigation, and be easy to read. The basic elements of good print typographic and book design apply to the Internet just as they do to magazines and books.

Graphics, yes, but only where they add to the information and are small and optimised for fast download. No frames, as they make it impossible to link to a particular page. I use tables to control the layout.

8. When you update the site, is it to revamp its appearance, to upload new material, to remove old material with which you are no longer satisfied, to update any links to other sites, a combination of the above, or for any other reason?

A combination of the above. (Except I don't remove anything.)

9. Why did you first decide to launch your own website, and have your reasons changed since it was launched?

1998. No.

Do you regard it as a business venture, a means of publicising your work to a wider public, a means of staying in touch with family and friends, or a combination of these?

As a means of publicising my work to a wider public.

10. Is any of your writing directly for sale from your site, and if so, how successful have you been in selling it this way?

No.

11. Does your site redirect people to conventional publishers/online publishers/other websites or other publications which carry your work?

Yes.

Have you tried to build up a network of reciprocal links with other writers online?

No. I'm busy enough as it is.

12. What kind of work do you put on the site? Work which has never been published elsewhere? Work which has been published in the past, but is now unavailable elsewhere? Extracts from work which is currently available elsewhere? Experiments? An online journal? Other?

Mainly selections from my books which are now mostly out of print, or selections of recent poems which are in print. My journal Jacket is perhaps a kind of extension to my own website, and you might like to look at an essay I wrote which talks about that: The Left Hand of Capitalism.

13. Do you send out information about your site by e-mail (eg. when you have updated it)? If so, to whom do you send? Do you have a "subscribers' list"?

No.

14. How important do you think it is for present-day writers to have their own websites?

Not important.

How has your own website affected your development and commercial success as a writer?

Hardly at all.

Do you think writers' websites will influence the development of our literature from now on, and if so how?

No.

15. Any other comments?

Thanks.

best wishes,

John Tranter

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From Peter Howard:

1. How long have you had your own website?

About 6 years.

2. How long have you had your own domain name?

I don't have my own domain name.

3. Approximately how many hits do you get per month?

According to the tracker on my site, I get about 1000 visitors per month. According to the information provided by my ISP, I get about 60000 requests per month. This either means that my visitors are downloading 60 items each on average, or that my tracker isn't catching everyone.

4. Who do you think your visitors are, and who would you like them to be?

I suspect many of my visitors are people making use of my lists of links to other poetry sites. I would like them to be people who are interested in reading my poems. A few visitors are searching for information about racoons. There is very little information about racoons on my site.

5. How frequently do you update the site?

I update the links section about once a month, sometimes more often if I'm informed of a broken link. The rest of the site I update fairly whenever I have a new piece I want to upload.

6. How have you built the site, and how do you maintain it? Do you hand-code in HTML or XHTML, do you use a design package, or do you get someone else to look after the design for you? Do you use JavaScript, Java, or similar - if so, did you learn them specifically for the sake of your website? Do you use Flash 5, Quicktime, Shockwave or any other specialist software? Have you bought any other equipment, such as a scanner or digital camera, for the sake of your website? How much time do you think you spend on your website per month, how much money, and how does this interface with your other work as a writer?

My site is built and maintained in hand-coded HTML. The design and coding is all done by myself. I use some JavaScript, which I learned specifically for use with my site. I use Flash 5 and RealAudio. I have both a digital camera and a scanner, but they're not used specifically for my site. I probably spend about 6 hours per month maintaining the site, but I spend a lot more creating Flash movies, that may or may not end up there. Including ISP fees and link checking service fees, I probably spend about GBP 20 per month on the site. Several of my Flash movies are based on poems I originally wrote for the printed page.

7. Do you have a philosophy of website design - eg. that it should download quickly, or that graphics/photographic content are essential, or that tables should be used rather than frames, or any other?

I try to ensure that the site is viewable with the majority of modern browsers, so I don't use code that is specific to IE. I make very sparing use of frames, largely because I find they are very rarely needed or useful. I'm not religious about the matter. The closest I get to a philosophy is that one should decide on what one wants the site to look like and then use appropriate techniques to achieve that look, rather than using particular techniques because they're cool or fun. I hate blinking text, animated gifs that distract from the rest of the content, and background music, so I don't use them.

8. When you update the site, is it to revamp its appearance, to upload new material, to remove old material with which you are no longer satisfied, to update any links to other sites, a combination of the above, or for any other reason?

Most frequently to maintain links, removing broken ones and adding new ones. Otherwise to upload new material. I rarely remove material unless I've uploaded it to a temporary area for the purpose of showing it to someone who might want to host it themselves.

9. Why did you first decide to launch your own website, and have your reasons changed since it was launched? Do you regard it as a business venture, a means of publicising your work to a wider public, a means of staying in touch with family and friends, or a combination of these?

I first launched my website when CompuServe first offered web space. I had no coherent idea at the time why I was doing it. Several frequenters of the CompuServe Poetry Workshop launched sites at the same time and we were just experimenting. I now regard my site as principally for publicising my work to a wider public.

10. Is any of your writing directly for sale from your site, and if so, how successful have you been in selling it this way?

Not really. Sometimes I submit Flash pieces to other sites and upload the work temporarily to my site so that the owner of the site I'm submitting to can view it and evaluated. I have been paid for some of the pieces I've submitted in this way.

11. Does your site redirect people to conventional publishers/online publishers/other websites or other publications which carry your work? Have you tried to build up a network of reciprocal links with other writers online?

Yes. Though I link to other sites if I think they're interesting. I never demand a link back as a condition of putting up one of my own.

12. What kind of work do you put on the site? Work which has never been published elsewhere? Work which has been published in the past, but is now unavailable elsewhere? Extracts from work which is currently available elsewhere? Experiments? An online journal? Other?

Flash work. Experiments. Poems that have been published elsewhere (either on the web or in print) and is now unavailable.

13. Do you send out information about your site by e-mail (eg. when you have updated it)? If so, to whom do you send? Do you have a "subscribers' list"?

No. I used to have a subscribers' list for the section of my site devoted to poetry events in Cambridge, but I no longer provide this service.

14. How important do you think it is for present-day writers to have their own websites? How has your own website affected your development and commercial success as a writer? Do you think writers' websites will influence the development of our literature from now on, and if so how?

Publishing on the web is very different from publishing in print, and the audiences for the media are still pretty much separate. So if someone is interested purely in print publishing, I don't think having a personal website is particularly useful. Having a website has affected my development as a writer in as much as I now spend much more of my time writing work for the web rather than for the printed page. I suspect writers' websites will influence the development of literature, by making it more interactive. It will also (is doing) change the way in which reputations are made, as there is much less dependence on the whims of print publishers.

15. Any other comments?

I think that's enough, isn't it?

Regards,

--

Peter

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From Jane Dorner

1. How long have you had your own website?

Since 1994. I'm answering about my editor.net personal site

2. How long have you had your own domain name?

Must be 5 years - I've renewed twice

3. Approximately how many hits do you get per month?

Hits or visitors? Hard to say. Last week the average was 85 people a day.

4. Who do you think your visitors are, and who would you like them to be?

On my personal site, I really don't know. On my book site I think probably writers.

5. How frequently do you update the site?

Rarely - it's designed to be fairly static. I update interwriter once a month.

6. How have you built the site, and how do you maintain it? Do you hand-code in HTML or XHTML, do you use a design package, or do you get someone else to look after the design for you? Do you use JavaScript, Java, or similar - if so, did you learn them specifically for the sake of your website? Do you use Flash 5, Quicktime, Shockwave or any other specialist software? Have you bought any other equipment, such as a scanner or digital camera, for the sake of your website? How much time do you think you spend on your website per month, how much money, and how does this interface with your other work as a writer?

I'm afraid I use FrontPage because it's easy. I have Dreamweaver, but I can't get fond of it. I've tried various tricks and twiddles but have come back to plain, unfancy HTML. I got a scanner and Photoshop - I suppose, yes, mostly for my websites.

7. Do you have a philosophy of website design - eg. that it should download quickly, or that graphics/photographic content are essential, or that tables should be used rather than frames, or any other?

Anti-frames. Pro-simplicity. Tables to keep line-length to 12 words a line. Black on white. Lots else see my forthcoming (April 2002) Writing for the Internet (OUP).

8. When you update the site, is it to revamp its appearance, to upload new material, to remove old material with which you are no longer satisfied, to update any links to other sites, a combination of the above, or for any other reason?

Update info about myself and my work.

9. Why did you first decide to launch your own website, and have your reasons changed since it was launched? Do you regard it as a business venture, a means of publicising your work to a wider public, a means of staying in touch with family and friends, or a combination of these?

PR essentially. And for getting work. Much easier than sending a brochure, CV, portfolio or whatever.

10. Is any of your writing directly for sale from your site, and if so, how successful have you been in selling it this way?

Via Amazon. I do quite well on the percentage.

11. Does your site redirect people to conventional publishers/online publishers/other websites or other publications which carry your work? Have you tried to build up a network of reciprocal links with other writers online?

Yes.

12. What kind of work do you put on the site? Work which has never been published elsewhere? Work which has been published in the past, but is now unavailable elsewhere? Extracts from work which is currently available elsewhere? Experiments? An online journal? Other?

A bit of experimental work, but not much.

13. Do you send out information about your site by e-mail (eg. when you have updated it)? If so, to whom do you send? Do you have a "subscribers' list"?

I do for internetwriter; not for my personal site.

14. How important do you think it is for present-day writers to have their own websites? How has your own website affected your development and commercial success as a writer? Do you think writers' websites will influence the development of our literature from now on, and if so how?

Important to have a showcase and be found. It's been very useful for work. I don't think websites will affect literature per se, only creative writers who are prepared to play with the new medium will do that.

15. Any other comments?

All in my books

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From Adrienne Eisen

1. How long have you had your own website?

Since 1994

2. How long have you had your own domain name?

I don't have my own domain name. When I started out on the web it wasn't clear that people would have their own domain names and that would be an essential "self-branding point".

3. Approximately how many hits do you get per month?

No idea. I get about 100 emails about my writing per month, though.

4. Who do you think your visitors are, and who would you like them to be?

I like to think that my writing is interesting and accessible. For the most part, the people who write to me reflect the type of visitor who either

a) never reads anything but likes sex "hi. you make me hot. give me a call. [phone number here]"

b)looks at writing from an academic point of view "I'm writing my dissertation on hypertext can you answer some questions about how you write?"

c) connects on a deep level, "i think the same way you do. it's so nice to hear someone say all that."

I like all the visitors. I just want to have an audience. All readers are good readers.

5. How frequently do you update the site?

When I write a new hypertext or get a new award - about every year or two.

6. How have you built the site, and how do you maintain it? Do you hand-code in HTML or XHTML, do you use a design package, or do you get someone else to look after the design for you? Do you use JavaScript, Java, or similar - if so, did you learn them specifically for the sake of your website? Do you use Flash 5, Quicktime, Shockwave or any other specialist software? Have you bought any other equipment, such as a scanner or digital camera, for the sake of your website? How much time do you think you spend on your website per month, how much money, and how does this interface with your other work as a writer?

I hand code the HTML and it's a joke how long it takes. I can't believe I'm still doing that. It's like a language, and when I haven't done if for a year or so, I forget things, like, what's the tag for vertical space? And then I have to guess. On the other hand, my code is so clean, and I love that. Each hypertext is about 60 pages, and each page should take about five minutes, but I'm constantly finding something I want to change, and each page ends up taking an hour.

I had a friend design the home page. At first I paid some guy $500 to do it, and the design was awful. So my friend, who does Web design for Sony and other entertainment companies, did it for free. I love the home page he did. Sometimes, though, when I want to make one, little, change, I don't want to bug him, so I do it in Photoshop myself, and I'm using stone-age edition of Photoshop where you have to like, export the file fifty times to get a .gif, and I usually mess up the site and my friend has to fix it.

7. Do you have a philosophy of website design - eg. that it should download quickly, or that graphics/photographic content are essential, or that tables should be used rather than frames, or any other?

My site downloads very fast. I think people are either writers or designers. There is no one in history that I know of who has been amazing at both. So since I don't collaborate with a designer I stick to writing. The design of each hypertext is minimal. I'm tired of designers who think they can write and wrtiers who think they can design. As hypertext matures as an art form it will be un acceptable to not be great at whatever you do - at the beginning of the art form, I think people got away with a lot of shoddy art.

8. When you update the site, is it to revamp its appearance, to upload new material, to remove old material with which you are no longer satisfied, to update any links to other sites, a combination of the above, or for any other reason?

Upload new material.

9. Why did you first decide to launch your own website, and have your reasons changed since it was launched? Do you regard it as a business venture, a means of publicising your work to a wider public, a means of staying in touch with family and friends, or a combination of these?

I launched the web site because I was writing interactive stories for CD-Rom, before there was the Internet (outside of the university setting) and I saw the Web as a way to distribute my writing much more easily than on CD-Rom. When I make money off my hypertext, which I do sometimes, I am always shocked.

10. Is any of your writing directly for sale from your site, and if so, how successful have you been in selling it this way?

I have a novel that is in print format, but people who go to my web site to read hypertext sometimes go to Amazon (linked from my site) to buy the book.

11. Does your site redirect people to conventional publishers/online publishers/other websites or other publications which carry your work? Have you tried to build up a network of reciprocal links with other writers online?

The only links on my site are to my work and my book on Amazon.

12. What kind of work do you put on the site? Work which has never been published elsewhere? Work which has been published in the past, but is now unavailable elsewhere? Extracts from work which is currently available elsewhere? Experiments? An online journal? Other?

Most of my hypertext writing was originally published on another site: Six Sex Scenes was on Alt-X first. What Fits was on Eastgate first. Winter Break was on Iowa Web first. Many pieces of the hypertexts have been printed in literary journals both online and off.

13. Do you send out information about your site by e-mail (eg. when you have updated it)? If so, to whom do you send? Do you have a "subscribers' list"?

I have a list of people who asked to be notified when I write something new.

14. How important do you think it is for present-day writers to have their own websites? How has your own website affected your development and commercial success as a writer? Do you think writers' websites will influence the development of our literature from now on, and if so how?

I am sure that gaining traction in the online world through my hypertext, early on (1994), gave me the readership to get a book deal for my novel I think people need good writing more than they need a good web site. There are thousands of writers with web sites who are not good writers. There are hundreds of excellent writers who have no web sites and sell millions of copies of their books. The top hypertext writers are published on top sites and do not necessarily need their own sites. The question of to have or not have your own site, I suppose, is like to self-publish or not self-publish your own book. Very personal questions. No right answer.

15. Any other comments?

Please let me know when your survey is up - I'd like to read it. Thanks.

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