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Tweaking my website and blog strategies in 2020

I launched my first website to tout my early short films approximately one million years ago in 1999 using the “members” section of aol.com. I can’t find my archive of the original index page, but I did find my splash page image, which I assure you I thought was AWESOME. ENJOY!

Greg Pak 1999 website image

Over the years, I’ve upgraded my website multiple times. First, I moved my static pages off aol.com onto to a webhosting service with my own gregpak.com url. Then I added webring code (yes! webrings!) and cgi scripts for message boards and comments and all the other stuff we did back then. I was typing up HTML for updates and indexes in chronological order — essentially hand-coding a blog before we even had the word “blog.” At some point, MoveableType popped up and I converted the site into an actual blog with automated tools for posting and indexing. Years later, I finally accepted the fact that MoveableType was gone and converted the site to WordPress, which is where we are today. For the past eight years or so, it’s been essentially the same creature, but with social media links and embedded media and a better newsletter sign-up process.

But every few years, I find myself fixing some small glitch on the site and I end up rethinking things a bit. Last night was one of those times. I had trouble sending out my latest newsletter through the MailPoet plugin (problems that I still haven’t entirely solved), and as part of the troubleshooting I started upgrading various plugins. And eventually, like a dope, I upgraded the Codium Extended theme that provides the visual backbone of my site. Unfortunately, I’d made a hundred tweaks to the Codium templates to get my site to look the way I wanted, and the upgrade overwrote all those tweaks. Huge disaster! But I was able to find a 2016 backup and was also able to grab the source code of a cached page of one of my posts from one of my browsers, so after a panicky hour and a half, I had the site back in shape.

The bonus of that big goof was that all that poking around in the guts of WordPress got me to finally wrap my head around how WordPress.com works (as opposed to WordPress.org) and try out a few new (to me) things that I hope will help get my posts out to more eyeballs.

WordPress.org is the organization that makes and distributes the WordPress software. That “org” at the end of the URL tells you it’s a nonprofit — it distributes the free software you can install on your own server to run WordPress for your own website. WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a business that sells you hosting services for WordPress blogs. I run my site on my own, so I got my software from WordPress.org. But I’m using the Jetpack services for stats and backups that I pay for and manage through WordPress.com. It’s been a while since I set everything up, so I’d kind of forgotten how this all works! But while digging back into everything, I finally educated myself about one of the other big benefits of WordPress.com. You can use your account not just to manage your blog, but to follow and read other people’s WordPress blogs!

Yes, WordPress.com and the WordPress app have very, very nice readers that allow you to follow and easily scroll through and read a bunch of blogs. The interface is great — I like it more than Feedly (a similar blog aggregator). The biggest minus is that the WordPress Reader only works with WordPress blogs, as far as I can tell. But I’ve been looking to spend less time scrolling through Twitter and more time digging into longer articles, so this is very interesting to me as a reader.

But I’m even more intrigued as a creator.

I’ve recently seen various writer colleagues on Twitter musing about blogging, thinking about diving back into it. Folks like John Scalzi never stopped, of course. But for most of us, blogging began to feel too time consuming with not enough payoff — quick posts on Twitter almost always get tons more traction than a longer blog post. But as wonderful as Twitter can be, it’s also a garbage can full of distraction, lies, and harassment. And any social network could become unusable overnight if it’s sold or if its owners decide to monetize it differently. Conversely, we own our own blogs. Until the whole system of assigning URLs and building websites gets ripped out of our hands, folks can always find us there. So anything that encourages readers to visit our independent blogs on a regular basis strikes me as fantastic.

The payoff to this long story? I’m now following blogs using the WordPress.com app and I’m going to look for ways to encourage more people to follow my own site there — and to follow it through other services like Feedly. I’ve also discovered and enabled the widget that allows people to subscribe to my website. They enter their email and WordPress will automatically send them an email whenever a new post goes live. It’s a bit confusing because I also have a newsletter that folks can subscribe to. So folks visiting my site for the first time might get a little confused about the differences. I’ll have to figure out how to explain that succinctly on the site. But for now, it’s at least one more way folks can choose to hear about my stuff — and you can try it out by entering your email right up there on the upper right of this page!

Finally taking advantage of these tools feels important, and I’m pretty darn proud of myself. But I know that nothing matters more than posting good, useful writing. When I look back over my site’s greatest hits, I’ve always gotten the most visitors when I’ve posted something special they can’t find anywhere else. The challenge for working writers is finding the time to post that special stuff when we’re grappling with weekly, daily, and sometimes hourly deadlines. I’m still figuring it out! But digging around on the tech side always makes my website feel like a fun new toy, so I’m hopeful that you’ll see more posts like this in the near future.

A last point: the massive success of of social media comes from those fun little buttons allow you to instantly share what you dig with everyone who follows you. None of the blog aggregators I’ve been looking at quite reproduce that kind of seamless sharing. So I’ll keep looking, and in the meantime I’ll continue to use my social media accounts to push my blog posts, and I’ll do better at reading and sharing blog posts from friends. And I’ll report back if anything seems to be really working!

Meta

Some personal news…

Finally deleted Facebook. This is just to let you know that if you see anyone on Facebook posting from this point on claiming to be me, it ain’t.

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Books Written by Greg Pak Comics Written by Greg Pak Films Meta

Sending out another Greg Pak Newsletter today with fun bonuses – subscribe now to get in on it!

MECH CADET YU art from Takeshi Miyazawa and Triona Farrell.

My revamped email newsletter has been a blast so far — I’ve sent out three newsletters over the past few weeks with a few free comics and lots of news.

Today I’m sending out another edition with a nice discount coupon for the Greg Pak Shop and some exclusive sneak images that haven’t been shown anywhere else from an upcoming comic book!

Subscribe today and don’t miss out!






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#AsAmCreatorRollCall Books Written by Greg Pak Comics Written by Greg Pak Films Robot Stories

#AsAmCreatorRollCall

So a little over 24 hours ago, I posted this on the Twitter machine:

Since then, the tweet’s been viewed over 115,000 times and dozens if not hundreds of Asian American creators have used the #AsAmCreatorRollCall hashtag to tout their work. And hundreds more people have retweeted those tweets.

And my heart’s grown three sizes.

Fifteen years ago, when my producers and I were taking our Asian American sci fi feature film Robot Stories to film festivals, I remember a distributor telling us to our faces that it seemed weird to him that the film had all these Asian people speaking English without accents. I think we just stared at him in astonishment. He didn’t say it in a rude manner; he wasn’t trying to be offensive. He just totally didn’t get it. He didn’t get the film, and he didn’t get us. Even though he literally talking to real live Asian Americans, he didn’t seem to understand that Asian Americans exist or could tell stories that other people could relate to.

In the end, Robot Stories played in over 75 film festivals and won dozens of awards. We self distributed the film theatrically, and with the help of a bunch of incredible grassroots Asian American film festivals, Asian American cultural groups, sci fi fan clubs, college organizations, and indie film fests, we played across the country and ended up getting picked up by Kino for a DVD release.

A lot has changed in fifteen years. But Asian American creators can still face tremendous difficulties getting stories about Asian American characters out into the world. But as I learned with Robot Stories and a bunch of other contemporary Asian American films like The Debut and Better Luck Tomorrow, when folks come together, we can make amazing things happen for each other.

So last night I saw the great Daniel Dae Kim retweet the great Justin Chon on Twitter:

And shortly thereafter, I saw Reappropriate say some smart things about a recent list of 100 influential Asian Americans:

And I found myself thinking about how each of us is more powerful than we realize — particularly when we work together. And that one of the easiest things in the world to do is talk up the things we love so others can find out about them.

So big, big love to everyone who’s shared something using the #AsAmCreatorRollCall tag, and big, big love to everyone who’s retweeted anything someone’s posted using that hashtag. Folks are out there doing absolutely incredible work every day. Let’s all continue sharing in 2018, building that beautiful audience for everyone, and making the world we want to live in.

Please do check out the glorious projects and creators on display at #AsAmCreatorRollCall, and feel free to check out this very nice write up from Splinter News.

Meta Real World News

ComicsBeat on email newsletters with quotes from me & Warren Ellis

A few days ago, I wrote about the precarious state of social media and internet services and how creatives and freelancers might consider revamping their email newsletters in order to maintain contact with readers and fans. That same day, Warren Ellis sent out some similar thoughts in his own email newsletter. And now Heidi MacDonald at ComicsBeat has written about both of those pieces!

Check it out — lots of great food for thought!

And please do sign up for my newsletter, natch!

And you can sign up for Warren Ellis’s legendary newsletter right here.

Meta Real World News

Rethinking social media, the internet, and email newsletters for creators in 2018

I’m just old enough that email newsletters made my career possible. And I’m starting to think that they’re going to save us indie creators and freelancers all over again in the coming years.

Back in 2002, when I was taking my feature film Robot Stories around to film festivals, I’d pass around a notebook and collect email addresses from every audience I spoke to. By the end of our festival run, we had no real budget for publicity for our theatrical run, but we had a few thousand email addresses. And that was better than gold. I sent out email newsletters every week, asking our amazing supporters to get their friends in whatever city we were visiting next to come see, come see! And they did!

As the years passed, I sent out fewer and fewer newsletters and spent more and more time on social media. Social media was easier, and let’s be honest — it was more fun. At first it seemed like we were all just goofing around on Twitter, telling ourselves it was good publicity but mostly just cracking jokes. But Twitter proved its enormous value when I started doing Kickstarters. Without Twitter, we’d have been hard pressed to drum up the kind of support we did for Code Monkey Save World, The Princess Who Saved Herself, ABC Disgusting, and Kickstarter Secrets.

But with each passing day, the culture and administration of Twitter seems to get more overwhelmed with negativity and harassment. Something’s going to break. And when it does, where does that leave all of the creatives and freelancers who have put so much of their outreach efforts into the site?
read more »

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I’m upgrading my email newsletter! Sign up today!

 

Art by the great Marie Severin

Hey, fun news! I’m upgrading/relaunching my email newsletter and now’s the perfect time to sign up!

The newsletter goes out around one to four times a month and it’s the best place to get the very latest news about my comics, films, and other projects.

Just enter your email in the form below, and then please be sure to check your email and click the confirmation link in the note we’ll send you. Please check your spam folder if you don’t see the email right away — it might have gotten redirected!






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Other Projects

My D&D character Blackheart

The other night, I saw artist friends Wendy Xu and Trungles posting sketches of their Dungeons and Dragons characters on Mastodon, and I couldn’t help wanting to play along. D&D was a huge part of my middle school years. I spent hundreds of hours working on characters, drawing maps, designing castles and ships and coats of arms, and even writing constitutions for my fictional worlds. All of that play and work absolutely helped prepare me for what I do every day as an adult writer.

So I crashed Wendy’s and Trungles’ party and drew my own, new D&D character. Meet Blackheart, a halfling berserker who needs a hug.

DO48TVjW4AAjpHm

Tech Support

New webhost – testing, testing!

Just switched webhosts for GregPak.com and now I’m testing things out. Everybody seeing this?

Tech Support

All my Apple software problems

Glenn Fleishman recently posted a list of software problems he’s been encountering in his Macs. The post resonated with me — for about two or three years now, I’ve had the sense that problems with my Apple computers are constantly increasing. I’m not about to switch — I’ve been using Macs since 1985 and have gotten myself pretty locked into the ecosystem. I also essentially owe much of my career to Macs — the advent of cheap digital video editing with Final Cut Pro made it possible for me to make the majority of my shorts and my feature film “Robot Stories.” And the introduction of the iPad has enabled digital comic distribution to develop as an actual business that helps pay my rent. So yes, I’m grateful to and very appreciative of Apple products and generally very comfortable using them.

But that doesn’t mean everything shouldn’t work better. The company’s made a lot of hay over the idea that “It just works.” But increasingly, it doesn’t. So here’s my list of problems, and here’s to hoping the company’s paying attention and working on improvements.

  • The whole file system of iOS seems overly complicated. I understand the system isn’t built for my specific needs. But I want to be able to plug an iPad into a computer and see a hard drive pop up on the desktop that I can move files to and from. And I want to be able to access those files with any app that can read them on my iPad. Instead, I have to figure out how each separate app uploads files — and I have to upload the same file separately to different apps if I want to view it in different apps. This seems wasteful of both user time and space on the device.
  • The rollout of Final Cut Pro X and the lack of support for FCP 7 makes no sense to me as a pro user. I’ve stuck with FCP 7, like every other filmmaker I know because FCP 7 has all the features I need and because I have fifteen years of edited films that I CANNOT OPEN with FCP X. But I know eventually Apple will release an OS that I have to upgrade to in order to do my other work that isn’t compatible with FCP 7. And that’s going to be a terrible day. The writing is already on the wall — since upgrading to Yosemite, I can’t export from FCP 7 to QuickTime. I have to export via Compressor — which works, so at least there’s a workaround. But it’s a sign of things to come, and I don’t like it.
  • Apple hardware has become increasingly difficult to fix/upgrade at home. I was pretty easily able to upgrade many parts of my old Pismo or even my black Macbook back in the day. Much more difficult to do anything with any current hardware.
  • Searching in the Apple Mail program is a disaster. I admit — I have a HUGE number of emails in my program. But doesn’t everyone? For about a year now, using the search function to find anything in Mail frequently takes up to a minute. Since upgrading to Yosemite, it’s improved for me a bit. But it still can take many long seconds to complete a search. And sometimes it doesn’t complete the search ever — I have to clear out the search terms and try again to get a response.
  • I’ve had similar problems just using the Finder to search my computer. Searches used to be instantaneous. Now they can take a few seconds or what feels like a full minute.
  • Image Capture fails if I’ve kept it open and done other things between sets of scans. Upon returning to do a second set of scans, it typically loses its connection to the scanner and sometimes the entire computer has to be restarted for it to recognize it again.
  • For the first time ever, Preview started giving me trouble, taking forever to open and scroll through a document that was only 25 mb in size. This happened after I upgraded to Yosemite and after I’d been working with a pdf with fields you could fill in. I’ve finished what I needed to do with that document and haven’t had trouble again.
  • Every time I start up my computer, I get a message saying Text Expander wants to open up System Preferences so I can give it permission to work on my computer. I have already given Text Expander permission. But this dialogue box comes up anyway.
  • Mac Pro frequently doesn’t recognize USB drives it recognized moments before. The drive in question is a Lexar USB 3.0 drive.

I’ll update this post as I discover/remember additional problems.

 

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