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GPF News Archive

First Post Previous Post Next Post Latest Post November 1, 2010

 

Yikes! Has it really been almost a year since my last News update? Seriously? Man, I'm really bad at this sort of thing. Then again, if you take a look at my blog, you'll see that various forms of social media have dominated my outward, non-comic communication in recent years. The old Neural Core Dump is becoming more of a "Twitter Core Dump". I swear there are actual content posts there... somewhere... honest. Then again, the thought of the "fail whale" "dumping core" is disturbing enough to erase the analogy from memory....

Anyway, today marks a new milestone for GPF: the beginning or Year Twelve of the comic. On November 2nd, GPF officially turns twelve years old. It's amazing how time gets away from you. So much has changed in my life, in the world of technology, and in the world in general since I posted that first comic in 1998. And yet, here we are. I'm still uploading comics and, for reasons I have yet to understand, you keep reading them. Honestly, don't you have anything better to do?

Since it's been seven or eight months since my last News post(!), I suppose I should post something, if nothing else to keep the GPF News cookie refreshed for those of you who use the notification feature on the front page....

State of the Comic: Occasionally, at the start of a new "year", I like to do a general "state of the comic address" so you guys know what's going on behind the scenes. I probably won't be as verbose as I have in previous years, mostly because GPF is sort of coasting by on the status quo. That's not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but more of a "middle of the road", "could be better, could be worse" scenario. If this were an ocean-going vessel, we'd be plodding along in the middle of the ocean, weathering the occasional storm and enjoying the balmy days in between. We're making headway, we're not getting too far ahead or too far behind, and we're staying the course. Boring, yes, but not necessarily a problem.

With respect to the comic itself, I'm nowhere near running out of ideas. My script document contains running notes on dozens of stories, some that we'll see in the next month or two and some still stretching out for years to come. There are plenty of unresolved plots I still plan to address and even more distractions to keep those long-running plots on the back burner for quite a while. I'm sure some of you have been expecting another "mega-arc" for Year Twelve in the vein of Surreptitious Machinations or To Thine Own Self...; after all, these stories appeared in Years Four and Eight, and we're entering another "mod 4" year with Twelve. Unfortunately, the hiatus during To Thine Own Self... and the general slow-down of updates in recent years have pushed off the next "mega-arc" for a while, so we won't be getting to that just yet. Yes, there is another "super story" in the works, but we're still sowing the seeds for it; it won't be ready to reap for a while. So anyone who may have concerns that I'll be ending the comic soon may put those fears to rest. I'm not saying exceptional circumstances couldn't potentially call for me pulling the plug, but there aren't any planned circumstances calling for the end of GPF anytime soon.

Our readership numbers are currently rather flat. Aside from seasonal swings up and down (which I usually attribute to you guys going on vacation from work or school and doing "fun stuff" that doesn't involve an Internet connection, whatever that means), we're not really gaining or losing readers. This is OK by me, I suppose, although I'll admit I'd always rather see our numbers climb. If you haven't done so lately, please consider sharing GPF with your friends. Share links, "like" us on your favorite social media hub, and feel free to link to GPF from any online presence you may have. Word of mouth has always been GPF's greatest promotional engine, far more effective than any advertisement or link swapping I've ever personally done.

Financially, we're pretty stable as well. Between advertising (about two thirds of our revenue) and Premium subscriptions (the other third), we're taking in more than we expend and I'm building a nice little nest egg for any future expansions. (Not being able to get out to any conventions these past few years has certainly been good for our bank account, if not for my personal morale.) The only thing I'd probably make note of is the ratio of ad revenue to Premium revenue. Last year, it was more of a 75%/25% split, and this year it's more 66%/33%. The number of Premium subscribers isn't necessarily going up, but many of you who are subscribing are doing so for the long haul. A general decline in ad revenue is probably the reason for the shifting proportions. (For those wondering where the books, Store, Tip Jar, and other revenue sources fit in, while not insignificant they tend to be minuscule next to the revenue generated by ads and Premium, and rounding nearly removes them from the equation.)

Since I mentioned conventions above, I'd like to point out that I am still considering myself open for invitations, despite my absence from the con scene for the past five years. I've honestly made an effort to get out there, but have either been snubbed by some of the bigger cons or just not invited to the smaller ones. I've received a token last-minute invite here and there to events where I've had no time to prepare and promote, which doesn't help me or the event organizers in the long run. I do look for small to medium sized cons geographically near to me to which I can apply as a guest, but those tend to non-existent or hard to find. So I'll reiterate a few notes that I go into more detail with on the Shows & Cons page: Yes, I'm willing and able to attend cons in the coming year, but please remember to approach me as far in advanced as you can. I have to plan cons around a day job and family life, so there are many schedules to work around besides just my own. All invitations are greatly appreciated, but please forgive me in conflicts or finances make my attendance improbable.

Regular Comics Archive Gets an "Upgrade": Now some of you may have noticed a change with this week's new story line: the "regular definition" comics (i.e. not the Premium-exclusive "High-Definition" version) have gotten bigger! After a good bit of analysis and soul searching, I've decided to "upgrade" the regular definition strips and make them the same size as the current High-Definition strips the Premium folks have been enjoying for years. As I've worked on the strip over time, I've come to realize that the old 600-pixel-wide comics just weren't cutting it with today's higher resolution monitors, and next to other webcomics we've been looking like... well, like we're still stuck in the early 2000s. I did some tests and discovered that making the strips wider but keeping the same compression settings I've used in the past only slightly increased the file sizes, keeping the strips well within my comfort zone for overall bandwidth consumption.

The "upgrade" is still in progress, however. New strips starting with Year Twelve will be larger from the get-go, but I eventually plan to "upgrade" the entire regular strip archive to the new sizes. I've been working on a process to automate this, but it's still going to involve uploading megabytes of files and tweaking thousands of database rows before it all takes effect. I'll likely do sections of the archive in batches, like a year at a time, until the entire archive is complete. There are also a few anomalies left to consider, such as some animated strips that I no longer have the original sources to and thus will be difficult if not impossible to "upgrade". Please be patient as we work on this, and I hope you guys enjoy the new perk.

As for the Premium folks, please don't fret; I'm not taking away one of your perks. I have every intention of "upgrading" the High-Definition archives as well to keep you guys one step ahead of the regular folks. Unfortunately, I'm still not quite sure what I'm going to do to "upgrade" High-Def. I've been putting out feelers on this topic for months now, through the Rumor Mill and the Premium-only forum, and I've received some great suggestions. Unfortunately, many of them have some very practical limitations that I'm not currently in a position to implement. I'm not turning down any idea, however, and I really want to know what you guys think. So please feel free to join in on the forum discussion or simply e-mail, Facebook, or tweet me and let me know your thoughts. Keeping our subscribers happy means you'll keep supporting us and we'll keep making comics, so obviously your opinions are very important to us.

Splitting Some Twitter Hairs: Speaking of tweeting, our Twitter presence has also been "upgraded" since the last News post. As I mentioned there, my personal Twitter account is now @gpfjeff, as opposed to the old @jeffdarlington account that I lost when I deleted it. However, I know a lot of people like to receive comic-specific news and updates but don't want to hear me chatter about "irrelevant" things like Android, what I had for lunch, random stupid links to dancing aardvark videos (not that I've posted any, but it's the principle of the thing), etc. Thus, I've decided to split my GPF-specific tweets into a separate account, @gpfcomics. Those of you who don't want my chattering but want the comic updates can follow the new feed; those who don't want the comic updates (maybe you already subscribe via RSS) but want the chatter can follow the old one. Of course, the beauty of Twitter is that if you want both sets of information, you just have to follow both feeds. Nifty how that works, isn't it? Of course, the Facebook fan page currently gets both the chatter and the update notifications, so there isn't any change there.

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