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Janitor On Duty

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November 25th, 2008

1:42 PM

Changes are coming to All About Romance

Warning: unwanted suggestions and advice ahead, with this blog entry no doubt coming off as self-important and all-knowing if that is how you choose to interpret my tone!

I have a soft spot for AAR even if my reading taste and that of the reviewers there have diverged so much to the point that I rarely find their reviews as useful as they once were when it comes to selecting my purchases. (Then again, I rarely find reviews on other places useful either - I think my reading preferences and tastes are probably on the eccentric side.) But they were a nice place to hang out once upon a time, so it's great to see them trying to keep up with the Smart Bitches and Dear Author folks when it comes to staying relevant and up to date.

Yes, changes are fast coming to All About Romance, one of the earliest and still one of the most useful romance online hangout around. You may remember that the founder, Laurie Gold, decided to retire from her administrative duties on AAR, leaving the running of the site to the remaining long-running staff members.

So far, they have done what I believe should have been done a long time ago (and therefore, this makes those decisions the right ones, heh). They have combined the "What we reviewed" and "What you read" boards into one simpler forum where people can discuss the reviews of the books by AAR as well as books not yet reviewed by AAR. The forums are still too "traditional" in terms of the reading taste of the regulars for me to make them a place that I can "click with", but this revamp and the promise of a less stringent moderation (one that will no longer be overly fixated on what you can say and where you can post your thoughts, at least) will be a good way, I feel, to go some way in rebutting the unspoken consensus among some ex-AAR forum folks that the place was too fixated on artificial boundaries to be a fun place to relax and hang out.

Then they have a blog started where they will put up industry news at what I'd presume is real time rate. This is a much-needed move for a site that wants to be the "in" place to go when it comes to the hottest news and industry gossip, so good for them! (Aside: Mary Balogh has four new books out in four months? Ugh. But of course, since she's Mary Balogh, I'm sure her fans will never admit that this move will severely compromise the quality of her books, the same way her back-to-back books in the last few years are sewer pipe material compared to her early works.)

Now, if they would revamp the front page so that it is less wordy and the links to all their subsections are more prominently displayed. And rope in some people who actually enjoy reading erotic romance, AA romances, gay romances, and ebooks without acting as if they have been forced to read those books by having a gun pointed at their foreheads. The ebook culture or gay romance genre doesn't have to be the primary focus of the site - which has been on mainstream print books so far - but I feel at the same time that one can't claim to be the #1 site on romance without covering other genres as well as romance subcultures that were new... oh, three years ago, after all. Not without coming off as isolationist or out of touch, anyway.

11 comment(s).

Posted by Conrad:

The Smart Bitches were very funny once; but with Candy being a no show for years, Sarah's having quite a hard time keeping up their original spunk. Takes 2 to tango-as they say.
November 25th, 2008 @ 9:38 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

What happened to Candy?

I must confess that I haven't visited SB in a while. That site has over time become more like a water cooler to chat about things, most of them have very little to do with actual romance novels. I eventually drifted over to Dear Author - the content there fit exactly what I am looking for (news, views specifically on the romance genre).
November 25th, 2008 @ 10:05 PM

Posted by Fiordiligi:

I would really like to know what happened to Candy... As to the AAR site. Why oh why don't they use RSS feed or some such thing. I am not a specialist, but it can't be too difficult to integrate into the site. As to the front page: bleargh. Way too much text. I like their power search function, however, because it enables me to search for genres I like. My problem is that so far I haven't found a reviewer that approximately has the same taste as I.
November 26th, 2008 @ 12:22 AM

Posted by MoJo:

The new SB theme is really hard on my eyes and my ADD wasn't coping well with all the visual clutter, so I had to pretty much give up on that.
November 26th, 2008 @ 1:02 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

I have no idea why AAR won't use RSS, but speaking for myself, I started my website before RSS came into fashion. It is very hard for me to understand how the whole thing works, much less how to create an RSS feed for my HTML-based website. RSS feed is geared towards dynamic websites, not static ones like mine. I have two solutions to choose from. One is to pay $$ to get someone to convert all 5,000+ pages of content into a dynamic/database one website. That one is out of the question. Two, I can use a free RSS feed generator and use the free service from Feedburner to create a "Get your RSS" thingie on my website. But that means I have to do double work, updating both the site and the RSS feed. No matter, I'd still be happy with the extra work... if there were more than 10 people subscribing the feeds in the two months I started the Feedburner project of mine.

AAR is a database-driven site, so I'd assume it will be easier to create RSS feeds. Maybe that is in the works and the feature will debut sometime soon, who knows?
November 26th, 2008 @ 1:14 AM

Posted by RfP:

Wait, you have a RSS feed? I would subscribe. Even if it's only for future reviews, as converting all your old reviews sounds like a mammoth chore.

MoJo, I don't love the SBTB redesign either, and I miss the days when the site had something to say about romance novels. I sort of feel they've been hoist on their own success :) Ah well, things change with all of us. In AAR's case, I'm hoping the changes signal better usability--and better search engine rankings. It's strange how invisible their content is.
November 26th, 2008 @ 3:02 AM

Posted by Conrad:

The SB's haven't been hoist on their own success-one of their member just doesnt show up any more. Main reason why people use to like them so much was because they use to live up to their name: two foul mouhed, funny women who didn't fear to express their opinions. How can that be done now with one of them gone all the time? Dunno why Candy's doing that.:-?
November 26th, 2008 @ 4:54 AM

Posted by MoJo:

RfP, whereya been? Is MY RSS feed still acting up for you?

Re SBTB, I'm not exactly a long-time reader there (less than a year, I guess), so I didn't notice that there was a person missing for a long time until people started asking where she was.
November 26th, 2008 @ 7:08 AM

Posted by Conrad:

MoJo, I was under the distinct impression that no body at SBTB made even the slightest effort of mentioning that Candy wasnt there; not the SB's themselves or even their fans. They seem to think it an embarassing situation; sort of like pretending that the big elephant isn't in the room-or in this case, pretending that the big elephant hadn't vanished from the room! :(
November 26th, 2008 @ 1:16 PM

Posted by RfP:

IIRC, the site started losing my interest about when they started writing their book, so I draw a different conclusion than you. I'd assume Candy's (a) busy with school and (b) putting most of her time into their book, while Sarah's (a) working on the book and (b) phoning it in with Help a Bitch Out items to keep the site going meanwhile. Whatever else is going on, that's a lot to juggle; and then there's all the influxes of a more general audience of pop-culture-focused readers (from their online awards like PC Mag). To me, that says hoist on their own success.

And with that, I've exceeded my gossip quota for the night. Cheers.
November 26th, 2008 @ 5:11 PM

Posted by MoJo:

Huh. Well, in that case, I'd assume it'd go back to "normal" once the book was done.

Still can't take the busy-ness of the site, though.
November 26th, 2008 @ 11:13 PM