Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to John Q Public's Interviews on the Interwebs show. Today we're talking -- okay, typing -- with Anne of the rusted-crush.com website network.
John Q Public: Welcome, Anne!
Anne: Thank you, John Q!
So, Ms... ? Come to think of it, what IS your last name?
My real last name is classified. ;) On the 'Net, since Anne is a common name, I often use the last name Bristow.
When I was first getting into websites as a hobby, I was a big fan of the TV show, Alias, and Bristow is the heroine's last name.
Oh, that's right! You've had, shall we say, an "internet presence," for quite a while. How long, exactly?
:laughs: Well, Internet Presence is an overstatement! I started my first website on April 18, 2001. I branched out into other topics and I've been running websites ever since.
When you say you run websites, what does that involve?
Smallish sites like mine start with assembling three basic elements.
1) content: the information
2) the page layout: the way the information is presented
3) the site structure: the set of pages and the way they connect to each other
After starting a site, then comes the "running" in which I sporadically revisit and update some combination of the above elements in an effort to stay current.
You mentioned branching out. How many websites do you have?
Since some sites have overlap -- the same subject or shared features -- another webmistress might count those as one. But the way I slice it, the (semi-)official number is twenty-two.
That's a lot of branches!
As I like to say, "It's good to have a hobby."
And what awaits us at these twenty-something websites?
Collections of quotes, trivia, lessons learned, top ten lists, and favorite scenes. Reviews, narratives, fanfiction, opinion pieces and other writings. Some of the larger sites are fan dedications to TV shows, with original episode recaps, fanart, and commentary. Over time, somewhat random features such as games, helpful hints, and attempts at humor found their way into the mix.
I'm intrigued! How do we get there from here?
The full list is in the websites directory at www.rusted-crush.com.
Ah, yes. The anthology. Or should I say anne-thology?
Right! And this might be a good place to warn the audience that I make up words.
Hey, with twenty-plus sites you need to have an imagination.
It certainly can't hurt. :laughs:
Do you have any special training? A degree in Computer Sci-gineering?
I've had one class in HTML. That's probably what piqued my interest; it painted webpages as a valuable platform, making information accessible to anyone who can connect with a browser.
Has anyone ever seen your work and offered you a job, or proposed marriage or anything?
No, nothing so grand! But you could say that I've been recognized. If I may speak in bullet points, I've received:
1) A CD of music, to review for my Alias website
2) Two books: one to review for my MacGyver website, and one to review for my Princess Bride page
3) An interview, for possible inclusion in an article about MacGyver
4) Invitations: one to a fan event and one to be considered for a proposed reality TV show about fans. (I was unable to attend either, since both were *far* away from where I live.)
Aha! So that's why you do it: material gain? Possibly the chance at your own reality show?
Definitely not for my own show. Not even for the prizes. For me, the biggest rewards are intangible.
1) At its peak, my Alias website averaged a few thousand visitors per week, by far the most traffic of any of my sites.
2) My Alias site also -- finally! -- was deemed worthy enough to be mentioned at the official ABC site. They even included a flattering description, calling it "comprehensive" with "insanely frequent updates."
3) The Alias site was also given honorable mention in a book about the fandom.
4) The Angel site that I took over (started by someone else) was listed as a must-visit site in a book about the fandom.
5) A scene recap from my MacGyver site was used in a book -- with credit!
6) The quotes page from my Christmas site repeatedly shows up on the first page of Google search results for both "Christmas quotes" and "holiday quotes." This brings in much traffic, typically starting in November.
7) Feedback from site visitors is doubly rewarding because not only is it a reminder that people still drop by, but also, that a few of said visitors are moved enough to respond!
8) Most of all, I actually enjoy working on the sites. Whether it's for a TV show or something personal, it's time spent with my mind in a pleasant place.
Ever wanted to throw your hands up and just quit?
Sure. As with anything, "running websites" has its challenges:
1) In the past, I've sometimes felt that my efforts were unappreciated when other sites didn't link to mine, or hit counters reflected a low number of visitors.
2) Hosts for various website services can be unreliable.
3) Other sites steal my original content/graphics and pass it off as their own. (Now I try to look at this as "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.")
4) Finding time to do all of the things I want to do: new features to add, information to correct/update, etc.
5) Discovering and learning to apply new tech -- such as php or HTML5 -- to maintain my sites and their components.
6) With so many screen sizes and devices, it's tough for the casual web designer to make a layout that works well in all of them.
When I've felt like quitting, I just take a break. I always find my way back, because for me the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
But why have a "personal" site?
I've started referring to it as an "unconventional e-book," an autobiography in which I share some of my history. It's also a creative outlet, because I've long been comfortable expressing myself through writing; even if no one reads every word, knowing that they could makes me feel as if I've been heard.
Why not just Facebook it?
I have a Facebook account, and I like it (pun intended!) for quick status updates with my family and friends. But social media often neglects the backstory, so it lacks much of the context needed to provide a better sense of who a person is. So there's still a need for a site like this. Think of it as a social media supplement. ;)
And what sort of supplementary information have we here?
I started -- in the first link in the top menu -- with an overview in the About Me section. Please forgive the lack of originality with the title, but it's been my experience that if you get too creative with your navigation, people won't be able to decipher... and they quickly lose interest in trying.
That is so true. It would be like looking for the hospital, but all of the signs say, "Help me, Rhonda."
Something like that! I want to clearly present the content that is available at this site, and so, in addition to page-by-page descriptions on the main index, I have organized a list of our features by keyword.
Excellent! Now, will the keyword list assist us in finding your proverbial dirty laundry?
D'oh, I knew I forgot a keyword! :exaggerated forehead slap: The journal archive is where I keep (the closest thing I've got to) my dirty laundry.
While we're on the subject of your best-kept secrets, didn't you previously have more menu options?
Yes, I did, although I wasn't trying to be secretive about it. :tries to look innocent: I simply moved the less "personal" content from the sampler menu and collected it onto a sampler page.
What if, instead of our content options, we're hunting for specifics about this website?
Links to site information, such as conditions for using our content or the hosting company we use, can be found on the site+contact page.
Is that where we look to find the answer to the question of whether those are pictures of you in the banner?
I can answer that right here: yes, those are pictures of me... well, not the guy with the guitar, lol. Oh, but I hope that doesn't make me seem vain! I just thought it was appropriate for a so-called personal site to incorporate pictures that I've taken, including a few of me.
Yes, I'd say that is absolutely logical.
I do try, although sometimes my logic is solely my own!
With all of that logic, I know you've got a plan. What other projects are in the works?
Lately, website projects are fewer and farther between -- thanks to recurring aches that flare up with prolonged computering sessions -- but let the record show that they do still happen! For specific plans and progress, check this thread at my forums; the most recent posts are at the end of the thread, which is here as of this writing. To recap the goings-on in my real life, I regularly blog the year-in-review questions.
Where else can we find you or your efforts on-line?
I run the "approved" fanlisting for MacGyver. I written a few episode recaps at tv dot com, and I've been an editor at dmoz dot org. I've contributed to the BuffyGuide website here and here. As of this writing, I regularly post reviews of The Young Riders episodes at Writers Ranch. The Sampler page has more links to articles and such that I've posted across the web.
You've told us you are at Facebook. What other social media sites do you haunt?
I'm at twitter.com/box47. I also have (or maybe I should say "had") accounts at livejournal and at myspace but I was never very active at either.
When you're not helping "weave the wwweb" what do you do?
Work, including a long commute, takes up the bulk of my waking hours, with "daily life stuff" and other responsibilities coming in second. I am active in my church, where I sing in the choir. Occasionally, I'll venture out to the movie theatre, or for some local travel, or to do some non-necessity shopping, but most often, my down time is spent enjoying DVDs -- and videotapes! -- of my favorite TV shows.
Oh, no! We're almost to the end of our chat. What should a site visitor do for questions not answered here?
They could ask me. Alternatively, I've structured the layout so that menus at the top and/or bottom of each page pinpoint the primary categories of information:
MAIN MENU - introduces each category and provides general tips for navigating the site
ABOUT ME/OVERVIEW - personal facts and minutiae, with subsections such as favorites, quirks, and "been there, done that"
BLOGGED - chronological archive of experiences and feelings
SAMPLER/PORTFOLIO - articles, commentary, etc.
DIRECTORY/SITE MAP - extensive selection of topics for both those looking for something specific and those who are open to suggestions
SITE INFO + CONTACT - links to our disclaimer, history, and domain details, plus a plethora of ways to transmit your feedback
With a Who's Who and definitions for my jargon, the glossary could also contribute some clarification.
Anne, it has been such a pleasure. Promise to return when you overhaul eclectic again?
Thank you for the invitations -- current and future! I will see you then: it's a date, John Q. ;)
'Til next time, Interwebbers, be well and remember: to find out about, you gotta talk it out!