John Suler's The Psychology of Cyberspace
This article created Sept 1998, revised Aug 1999, Oct 2003 (v2.0)
Idea Independence, Interdependence, and the Academic
Who's the Boss?
Who's the Audience?
Limitless Revisability: The Evolving Document
The Interactive, Multimedia, Searchable Document
Interconnection, Integration, Association (hypertext isn't hype!)
Is It Any Good?
Is Hardcopy Better?
Do's and Don't's
A hardcopy version of this article appeared as: Suler, J. (1999). Publishing Online. Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 1, 373-376.
When I first went online, experienced users were buzzing about the "World Wide Web." Those were the days when the only thing you could browse was text, thanks to the pioneer program Lynx. Then came Mosaic, and I nearly fell off my chair when it enabled me to SEE pictures and HEAR sounds. Something new - very new - was happening on the Internet. The number of web sites seemed to double every week. I was intrigued by the fact that anyone - well, anyone with a computer who knew HTML - could publish whatever she or he wanted on a web site.
"Why not me?" I thought to myself. Then came the more difficult question of what exactly I would put online. Having been a college professor for 15 years, I had developed dozens of exercises, projects, and handouts for my classes. So I created the Teaching Clinical Psychology web site as a resource center for instructors who teach courses similar to mine. Not long after that, I became fascinated by cyberspace itself - by how people and groups behave online. I wrote an article about people's addiction to Palace, the online multimedia community that had become my home away from home. Then I wrote a few more articles about the Internet, which I collected onto a new web site that I called The Psychology of Cyberspace. Now, years later, the site has expanded to a full length hypertext book that I continue to revise and expand. Bitten by the online publishing bug, I also took an idea for a book that was rejected by more than a dozen hardcopy publishing companies and turned it into Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors. It has won quite a few awards and was even featured on CNN - which prompted one book agent who had abandoned the project to give me a call to "check in."
So what's my conclusion from these experiences? Obviously, I'm about to tell you how wonderful it is to publish on the Internet. It has been for me. As you can tell from my vita, I've published quite a bit in hardcopy journals, as well as a book on psychoanalysis and eastern philosophy. Although some good things resulted from these publications, they never came close to the level of excitement generated by my online works. I've connected with more people, found more colleagues, and received more invitations to speak at conferences, serve as a consultant, and contribute to books and journals than I ever did when I lived only in the hardcopy world. Even journal articles that I published long ago - which subsequently died as they became more deeply buried in the dusty shelves of university libraries - experienced a joyful rejuvenation when I published summaries of them online.
In this article, I'd like to share my thoughts about publishing online - the advantages, as well as the disadvantages. I'll also describe some of the guidelines I use in creating online hypertext manuscripts and books. Some of these ideas apply to many types of online publishing, but I will steer much of this discussion in the direction of academics who want to place their work on the Internet.
Who's the Boss?
For the independent-minded person, one obvious advantage of publishing online is that you are your own boss. You have complete control over how the manuscript is written, page layout, and marketing. There are no editors or peer reviewers to prevent you from constructing your article exactly the way you want. Of course, you may not feel comfortable with all of these dimensions of publishing online - especially the technical side of creating a web site. It takes time to learn HTML, but it's very do-able. You don't have to be a computer geek. Fancy web techniques - like Java and Flash - aren't necessary and may in fact result in a document that looks too commercialized for an academic work. Simple HTML is more than enough, and there are many books and web sites that will show you how to do it. You can learn the basics in just a few hours, or you can hire someone to write the code and consult on page layout. There are many skilled web designers looking for work.
Instead of constructing your own web page from scratch, you might use a weblog to present your writings in a journal format. These "blog" sites, which often are free, make it easy to publish online. The options for page layout are more limited compared to constructing your own web page from scratch, but the process of creating the weblog is made simple with prepackaged options for page layout. It may in fact look much more professional than what you could do on your own.
and readers.A more important issue - especially from the perspective of the academic - is the quality and accuracy of what you write. If there are no editors or reviewers to correct weaknesses in the manuscript, then how do you know you are on track? While being your own boss is very exciting and liberating, it's also necessary to get feedback and give careful consideration to it. Ask at least one colleague - and ideally several - to read your work before you upload it. Set up an e-mail link in each of your online articles and encourage readers to send you their comments. Weblogs offer the built-in feature of allowing people to comment on your writings. And the response may not always be glowing praise. It's tempting to minimize, disregard, or rail against negative feedback, especially when it can't prevent you from publishing what you want to publish. But give careful thought to such feedback. The comments that get you the most annoyed may turn out to be the most valuable.
Coping with the fine details of spelling and grammar is another ball of wax. If you know a professional copy-editor who is willing to help you out, or you have the money to pay for such a service, you're lucky. Otherwise, you must rely on your own abilities and a little bit of help from your friends and colleagues. Over time, if you continue to reread and revise the article, you'll gradually weed out some of these errors - but despite your best efforts, some will linger. Adopting the philosophy that "nothing is perfect" helps. If an article is good, most readers will overlook the minor flaws.
Who's the Audience?
Anyone on the Internet can get to your online publication. That's a lot of people - all kinds of people. The potential readership for an academic's web article or book is much larger and more diverse than if it were published in hardcopy. The pressing question for authors is how many and what types of people do you WANT to read the publication? It's always important to keep in mind the intended audience for your work, as well as the audience you might get. Is it designed for other experts in your particular field of study, or the more general population? The appearance of the page, as well as its content, makes a big difference in how attractive it is to the eyes of professionals versus the general public.
My sites are intended to cover slightly different territories. The Teaching Clinical Psychology site was originally targeted for college and university instructors who teach courses related to clinical and counseling psychology. The audience turned out to be bigger than that - including high school teachers, students of all levels with an interest in psychology, and people in the general public who are inclined towards psychology, mental health issues, and ideas about personal growth. I created the Zen Stories site for anyone, anywhere, who is interested in eastern philosophy, religion, spirituality, and story-telling.
The issues concerning audience for the Psychology of Cyberspace are a bit more complex. I wanted to share ideas with colleagues of all disciplines who were doing research about people and groups on the Internet, but I also wanted the articles to be valuable to those people and groups. After all, they gave me so insights into this topic during my numerous interviews and participant-observation studies. I wanted to give something back. Purely scholarly articles and those for the general online public require very different writing styles, so I tried to steer a path somewhere towards the middle. Some of the articles lean in the academic's direction by using more technical language, while others sway more towards the general online public by offering down-to-earth prose. When I do use theoretical terms I try to explain them in everyday language. Although the graphics I construct for many articles might create a "pop psychology" tone in the opinion of some scholars, I enjoy creating them. I also like to think that they present some symbolic meaning about the topic of the article, as well as catch the eye. Because both professionals and lay people have shown their appreciation for my work, I think I've succeeded in steering that middle course.
Limitless Revisability: The Evolving Document
The concept of
"out of date"
can be out of date.Based on feedback from colleagues and readers, an online manuscript or book can be revised any time you want. This limitless revisability is a big advantage over hardcopy publications. The online document becomes a living, evolving entity. If your research and ideas in that topic area progress, the article can be updated to reflect the state of your art. The concept of "out of date" can become out of date. Of course this raises the interesting question about WHEN it's time to revise an article. When have your ideas or research evolved enough to warrant a modification? You may choose to make small tune-ups on a regular basis, or wait to do less frequent major revisions.
For the academic, a disadvantage is that one single manuscript that matures over time doesn't satisfy the need to build a publication list on one's vita. But that's mostly a social/cultural issue within the world of academia where evaluators feel they need to "count the countables."
At the top of all the articles in The Psychology of Cyberspace, I indicate the month and year that it was uploaded. Later on, whenever I revise a piece, I also indicate those subsequent months/years of the new uploaded edition. This let's the reader know about the history of the piece. It's an indicator of how much and how fast that particular manuscript is evolving. For people who are returning to the article, it also lets them know whether it was modified since the last time they viewed it - in a sense, what "version" the article is in. In fact, I also provide a version number for each article (e.g., "v1.5"). At first it may seem rather silly to mimic that strategy in software development, but it does give readers a thumbnail measure of how much an article has been improved since the last version. For a detailed history of how the book is evolving, I offer an article index that contains a reverse chronologically ordered list of all the articles based on their dates of creation or revision. In the abstracts for the articles in that index, I provide a brief description of what that revision entailed.
Make it as easy as possible for people to know that something has been revised in your publication. A simple "NEW" icon catches the eye. I offer the opportunity for visitors to subscribe to an email newsletter that announces revisions and new additions to The Psychology of Cyberspace, as well as gives them an insider's view of my current thinking and challenges with the project. A more high tech approach would be the incorporation of RSS (Rich Site Summary) into your site, which automatically informs readers who use RSS feeds that something has changed in your publication, so they can stop by to take a look.
The fact that articles are continually revised, in addition to their being published online, creates some challenges in how people will cite them. APA and other professional organizations are coming up to speed in modifying their citation guidelines to cover online publications, but works like The Psychology of Cyberspace still fall outside those parameters. Ideally, the citation should capture the fact that the article is part of an online book, the original publication date of the article, the date of the most recent revision of the article, and the location of the article. Indicating the date one downloaded a paper, as some citation formats suggest, doesn't convey the more essential information about when the article was published online. The article may seem to be recent when in fact it isn't. There is no accurate publication date for the entire book because its component articles all were created and revised at different times. Indicating the date the book was first created might be useful information, but it might also be sacrificed to simplify the citation. Within The Psychology of Cyberspace I provide a link to a page that describes my recommendations for citations. Apparently, most people either don't see it or choose to follow the formats dictated by the journal in which they publish.
The Interactive, Multimedia, Searchable Document
As we all know, the web has sight and sound as well as text. If you have the technical skills, you can place not only photographs, drawings, tables, and charts into your publication, but also audio recordings, video clips, and animated illustrations and diagrams. The possibilities are limited only by one's imagination and technical skill. This multimedia potential of a web publication catapults it far out of the comparatively static and sensory restricted range of hardcopy works.
Readers do not
have to be passiveThe document also can be interactive. A simple approach would be appending to the article the comments that readers e-mail to you. A list of such comments offers a fascinating variety of perspectives and opinions about the work. For example, see the e-mail that I've received from visitors to The Psychology of Cyberspace. An automated and more sophisticated version of this strategy would be a discussion board forum where readers discuss the article by posting messages to each other, or a weblog that allows readers to enter comments on the article. This is an "asynchronous" style of discussion that doesn't require all readers to be at the web site at the same time. An email newsletter might also work as a tool to create a sense of community for people interested in the site. If an online publication draws a steady stream of readers, it's even possible to create a chat room where visitors, in real time, gather to talk. The interactive potential of an online document can transform it into an anchor or springboard for an evolving discussion group, perhaps even a "community." Here are some questions, suggested by Charlie Hendricksen, to consider in deciding what kind of feedback and/or discussion system you choose:- Does the reader have to download software in order to use the system?
- How much do the author and readers have to learn in order to use the system?
- Will readers be exposed to commercial banners?
- Can comments be password protected?
- Can the author of the article edit and delete the comments from readers?
- Can comments be private exchanges, group directed, and openly public?Last but not least, an online document can be scanned for specific words or phrases - yet another powerful feature that hardcopy publications lack. Any decent browser allows you to search the page you have loaded into the browser. You also can install search engines that will scan the entire web site. The search function for The Psychology of Cyberspace scans the entire book, as well as several of my other online publications - which helps readers see the themes and inteconnections across my various areas of interest. However, most search tools only locate a specific string of characters. They may not be able to find slightly different spelling variations on a word; they can't find ideas or concepts; they can't suggest what terms to search for. For large documents or sites, an old fashioned subject index may be helpful. The Psychology of Cyberspace has a subject index in which each entry is followed by a series of links to articles containing that term. Once they jump to those articles, readers can use their browser's search feature to locate the term on that page.
Interconnection, Integration, Association (hypertext isn't hype!)
Hypertext - the ability to jump via links to other pages or to other sections within a page - is the essence of the World Wide Web. It's the "h" in http and another powerful advantage of online publishing over hardcopy publishing. A document isn't restricted to a linear format in which readers progress from the beginning to the end. Readers can move back and forth within and between documents. They must make decisions about how they move through the publication. Their first visit may land them somewhere right into the middle of the site, their "hot spot" of interest that the author should take into consideration when designing the hypertext within that area of entry. Once in, readers choose among options and create their own path that shapes the flow of the reading experience. The challenge for writers is to anticipate how people might move through the article or collection of articles. They must construct a set of path options that offers flexible opportunities for pursuing related topics and subtopics, without overwhelming the reader with an overly complex maze of links. Very few or no links within an article fails to take advantage of hypertext; an article plastered with links in every sentence becomes overwhelming. To avoid reader disorientation in a complex document, every page should offer a map or navigation bar that displays the "big picture" of the site and links for jumping to important sections (here's a page with the navigation bar I often use in The Psychology of Cyberspace.)
In my publications, I've experimented with various hypertext strategies. In several articles in The Psychology of Cyberspace - for example, the one about wizards in the Palace community - a table of contents at the beginning contains links to all the major sections within the article. This strategy works well with long documents. When wizards e-mailed me their comments about various passages in the article, I put those comments at the end of the article and placed asterisk links next to the corresponding passages. I used a similar strategy in the article Cyberspace as Dream World. In each dream that people reported about Palace, words or phrases in their descriptions are links to my comments about those aspects of the dream. The article about avatars, which is all text without any graphics, contains links to other pages that are illustrated versions of the corresponding subsections of the main article. I did this to keep the main article free of numerous graphics that would have made the document appear cluttered. It also cut down dramatically on the download time for the article.
"Pop up windows" are a useful tool for presenting annotations to a page. The table of contents (home page) for The Psychology of Cyberspace displays bullets next to the title of each article in the book. When clicked, a small window containing a summary of the article pops up into the left corner of the screen, which is handy way to peruse the contents of the book. Another version of the article about dreams that I mention above uses these pop-up windows to present my comments on the dreams. The beauty of these pop-up annotations is that the author can create an elaborate collection of meta-comments on the article with little disturbance of the article's visual layout.
Both The Psychology of Cyberspace and Teaching Clinical Psychology have a combined hierarchical/lateral structure. The "home page" is a table of contents with links to the various sections within the site. In the cyberspace site, a navigation bar at the top of every page helps readers locate these major sections. Many of the major sections contain links to subsections. Simulating a hardcopy book, The Psychology of Cybespace contains an extensive subject index with links to the corresponding articles. The cyberspace and teaching sites also contain a page/article index (1, 2) with a list of links to all the separate pages and articles within the entire site. This page/article index is intended to help readers find a specific page or article that is embedded within subsections and not listed on the home page. In both the cyberspace and teaching sites, "arrow" links at the bottom of every page direct readers up to the parent section and to the home page - which reinforces the idea that the publication is a hierarchical structure.
Embedded within and listed at the end of each article in The Psychology of Cyberspace, links to other related articles in the book comprise the lateral structure of this publication, which enables visitors to access a cluster of articles pertaining to their area of interest. The teaching site is an especially good example of how a collection of hierarchically and laterally interconnected documents (descriptions of class exercises and projects, syllabi, manuals, and essays) becomes an integrated whole that addresses the overarching objective of providing a resource center for teaching clinical psychology. The lateral integration of a new article into the whole web site is the last step in publishing it. It's a process that works in two directions: you must decide where to place links within the new article that conceptually link it to the older articles, as well as review older articles to locate places to link them back to the new article. This process encourages the author to reconceptualize the overall structure of the site.
Although it has a home page, the Zen Stories site isn't intended to be hierarchical. I designed it so people can wander around according to their own intuitive and subjective impressions of what looks interesting. With links to similar stories at the end of each story page, my expectation was that people could meander through the site without necessarily returning to the home page. My intention was to create a kind of circuitous feeling to the reading experience. There also are some hidden links. This seemed like a rather Zen way of doing things.
The other big advantage to hypertext is the ability to link to articles and resources located elsewhere on the web. This is a lot more powerful than a reference list at the end of a hardcopy publication, which simply tells you where to go to find the other publication. The hypertext actually takes you there. The hypertext publication can be embedded within and integrated into a larger body of publications. It becomes part of a network of information and knowledge, part of a larger whole that may indeed transcend the sum of its parts. With all those interconnected publications undergoing periodic revisions, the integrated body of knowledge keeps evolving as its subcomponents change within themselves and in how they interact with each other. Of course, for this vision of a "super-publication" to be realized, scholars must embrace online hypertext publishing.... and they must cooperate with each other.
The downside to linking with other publications is that they may disappear, resulting in dead links on your site and disappointed or frustrated readers. Try to link to publications that look like they have staying power. If you have a large collection of outside links, be prepared to periodically test, fix, or elminate broken ones.
The ideas I've proposed here are just the beginning. There will be many creative and controversial ways to use hypertext. The emphasis on an associative rather than linear style of writing could very well revolutionize intellectual discourse and scholarship. It may be more powerful, even more "natural." Writing organized by associations may be closer to how humans actually think than writing by linear design.
Associational writing may be closer to how the mind actually works.
Is It Any Good?
How often do you hear people say, "There's so much crap on the web!" Everyone gets a chance to say their piece and there is no quality control. Personally, I think this is the beauty of the Internet. My first response to the critic's comment is that one person's garbage is another's jewel. The whole complex system of editorial boards and peer review systems evolved in the hardcopy world because there is limited space in journals and books. Not everyone can get in. So there has to be a filter to insure that good writing gets published while poor writing does not. Unfortunately, the filters don't always work. Politics, old boy networks, and status quo thinking sometimes determine what gets into print. On the Internet, these influences lose their steam.
be developed.Most academics don't have the luxury of heading towards this more liberal, democratic view of online publishing. For promotion and tenure, their writing has to be evaluated - and the bottomline criteria is where it was published. I doubt that promotion committees, in the very near future, will seriously consider online publications as valid - regardless of what arguments are made to the contrary. Nevertheless, I'm now going to propose some criteria for determining whether an online article or book is "good." Anyone who knows how to use e-mail and search engines easily could generate a report that addresses these criteria:
- If you enter the publication into search engines, how many hits result? Although it's a deceptive and crude statistic, it's easy to obtain and does satisfy that need to "count the countables." A large number of hits does indicate that people are talking about your work.
- What have unsolicited reviews said about the publication? What are the credentials of the people writing those reviews? Because it's so easy to publish on the web, everyone is commenting on everyone else's work. If a manuscript has been online for a while and there are no comments or reviews of it online, that in itself might say something. It might indicate that the author has not made an effort to announce and integrate his or her work into the online professional community - including entering the url into search engines - or that people do now find it worthy for comment.
- What have people said about the publication in unsolicited e-mail to the author? What are the credentials of those people? The amount of e-mail a publication generates might be another important index of its impact. This is why it's important for the author to encourage readers to provide feedback.
- What have other scholars said about the publication in solicited reviews? E-mail is so easy to use that canvassing evaluations from a large number of qualified people might be a worthwhile strategy. A quantifiable questionnaire distributed via e-mail or placed on a web page might be useful survey strategies.
- How many links are there to the publication? A link is a sign that someone considered your work valuable enough that they wanted to connect it to their own. This is an index of how much your work is "cited" as well as how much it is integrated into the body of online scholarship. Some search engines place higher in a list of hits those pages that have more links going to them from other pages. Also important are the credentials of the person or the reputation of the organization linking to the publication.
- Has the manuscript or parts of it been republished elsewhere on the Internet (hopefully, with the authors permission) or in hardcopy publications? What is the reputation of the other person or organization that republished the work?
- What "awards" has the work received? People may give you banners to place on your site as a kind of trophy. It does serve the purpose of advertizing their own site, but it also does indicate their appeciation of your work. What is the reputation of the person or organization giving the award?
There is a great deal of debate nowadays about whose ideas on the web belong to whom. I don't pretend to be an expert on issues about intellectual property and copyright. It's a complex, evolving subject. I do know that publishing on the web does make it easy for people to plagiarize your work. If you are worried about this, then perhaps you should avoid publishing online. On the home page of all my sites and at the top of each of my articles in The Psychology of Cyberspace, I have a link to a copyright page that warns readers about plagiarism and informs them of the format I prefer for their citing my work. I try not to get too aggravated by people who "borrow" my writing without my permission, and I don't go searching for culprits. Sometimes their misbehavior is brought to my attention. A reader of The Psychology of Cyberspace once e-mailed me to complain about how some links were dead. When I tracked down the page he was referring to, I found my book on some other person's site where he had recreated a mish-mashed version of it. I'm not happy about the fact that some readers are mistaking haphazard imitations for the real thing, or that the crook never responded to my e-mailed complaints. I could hire a lawyer, I guess, but so far I've just shrugged it off as "life on the web."
seem to respect
intellectual property.On the other hand, a few people very apologetically have taken down mirror sites when I asked them to. Some of them, who were from other countries, honestly felt it was a tribute to me when they duplicated my site on their server. Apparently, there are cultural differences regarding the issue of intellectual property. I try not to come down heavily on the "ownership" matter, but rather explain to people that my sites are always evolving, so any attempt to duplicate them in their entirety would only result in an out-of-date version of the original. I have to say that most people have been remarkably considerate about asking permission to cite sections of my work, republish whole articles, or translate an entire site into another language. Most of the time, I give permission to these requests. Why not? Upon request, I've also revised some of the papers on my web site for publication as book chapters and journal articles.
I imagine the most problematic scenario would be people plagiarizing your online work and then later accusing you of plagiarizing them. There are techniques - such as water-marks and time-stamping a document - that can help verify the originality of your online publications.
Is Hardcopy Better?
I've stated that I prefer to call my publications "online hypertext books" rather than "web sites." Web sites come in all shapes and sizes. I think my online works are large enough and similar enough to hardcopy books that a more specific term like "online hypertext book" is needed. At least one person e-mailed me to complain about that. "You can hold books in your hands," he said, "they have front and back covers, and paper pages that you can feel and turn.... Your web sites AREN'T real books!"
to hardcopy.Well, he's right on that score. Online works will never have the same tactile sensuality of a leather-bound volume. They're not as portable either. Some bibliophiles also don't like to read lengthy pieces on a computer monitor. Although it obliterates all the advantages of hypertext, they print out the document in order to read it. It's good to keep this in mind when creating an article. If hypertext is essential to the structure of the piece, warn readers about that (as I do in the cyberspace dreaming article). If particular links within the text lead to essential resources located on other pages, write out the url so people can see it when the article is printed out. Always include the url for an article somewhere within that article, so people who printed it out can find their way back to its location on the Internet.
It's very possible that people's preferences for reading hardcopy may change. Hand-held, book-like computers for reading digital publications may soon be cheap and widespread. Programs that efficiently save entire web sites to disk will make reading offline easier (I offer a download version of the entire Psychology of Cyberspace). People simply may get used to reading on a monitor. I have, and I rather enjoy it. One thing is for sure: it hurts my neck a lot less to look at a monitor than to stare down at a book.
I seriously doubt that online publications will ever replace hardcopy ones, either in the public domain or academia. I certainly hope not. Hardcopy and online hypertext works each have their advantages and disadvantages. Even though the text content may be very similar, the presentation is very different. A hardcopy and online version of the same work can supplement and enrich each other.
I have to say, I'm dismayed by people who write about the wonders of the Internet in hardcopy publications while offering very little of their work online. If the Internet is so great as a communication tool, why aren't they using it to communicate? I'm sure they would offer many logical replies - concerns about editorial feedback, copyright, prestige, marketing, and making money. But it still seems a bit self-contradictory.
Some people claim that hardcopy works have a longer shelf life than online publications. As physical objects rather than ephermal strings of electrons, they will withstand the test of time. Perhaps it's too early in the history of cyberspace to tell whether this is true or not. Printed material goes out of print, resulting in a precious few copies that become fewer and fewer as the years roll by. These journals and books get buried deep in the stacks of libraries where they gather more dust than citations. By contrast, digital works multiply and disperse with just a mouse click. A hundred years from now, will it be easier to find the hardcopy or digital version of a book published today? As the author of books that in their entirety exist only in cyberspace, I'd like to be optimistic about their digital durability. But I must entertain the very likely possibility that their byte-sized nature might make them very vulnerable. In particular, for The Psychology of Cyberspace, I often consider the epitaph, "This book was born in cyberspace. This book will die in cyberspace."
Do's and Don't's
Below are a miscellaneous collection of guidelines I use in preparing my online publications. Some of them are purely practical rules, others more philosophical. These aren't guidelines that everyone should follow - just ones I recite to myself while writing and designing my web sites:
- Make the page layout simple, nice to look at, and easy to read on a monitor. Spare people from eye strain: use a clear font size and color.
- Use graphics to catch the reader's eye and to illustrate an idea or theme in the article. Avoid the clutter of too many graphics.
- Don't use frames unless it *really* is the best way to help readers navigate through the site.
- Try to respond to all e-mail, even if it is a kid in school who is treating you like an information-machine that will feed him data for his report. Even a one-liner can be enough as a polite, humane reply.
- Remember that "making money" is not the only way a publication can be valuable to you. There's more to an author's life than royalties.
- Register your publication with the major search engines.
- Remember that the web is always in flux. Other sites move around or disappear. Try to keep up with fixing dead links.
- Try NOT to move your own publication, unless absolutely necessary. Try not to change the urls of your pages. Avoid becoming part of that web flux. If you do, people will have a harder time finding your work.
- Send e-mail to owners of other web sites who may be interested in your work. But avoid the notice that looks like an automated commercial that's being sent to everyone and their brothers. It's tacky. Take the time to write a personal message.
- Use that spell-checker!
- Help out visitors who land somewhere in the middle of the site. Let them know where they are and give them links to find their away around.
- It's a pain in the neck, but test your pages on all the major browsers and platforms. A page may look wonderful on your machine, yet come across as a mess on someone else's.
- To help people know that they're still in your space, keep a distinctive look throughout the publication. Clearly label links that lead people off the site.
- Don't expect every single duck in your publication to be in its row. Nothing is perfect, except perhaps imperfection.
- Remember that if your work is good, word will spread.