Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How Other Comics Annoy Me Personally: Part 3. Take your pinky off teh shift key.

I'd bet you're probably thinking I have certain people in mind. Of course I do. I'm constantly taking the time to quickly look at their webpages and comics as I type this out. But I'm not going to name names. Why not? Because I keep seeing these annoyances repeated over and over. Just because teh really cool kids did it, doesn't mean you'll (me) be cool as well. Just because they did this spectacular effect, doesn't mean it was any good to begin with. Count how many times it was used. If was used once, or even a few times, (or even in every comic,) probably wasn't a good idea to begin with and is not worth repeating.

In this rambling misgiving I am going after the comics themselves. What I am NOT going to do is criticize story, jokes, writing, or even the art. What's good and what is not good is subjective. One person finds stick figures a number one, the next finds it crap. Someone may think jokes about lesbian twin sisters are funny, or maybe they think it's just gay.

I just got done reading a comic about a fairly popular video game amongst a group of hardcore fans and discovered that while the art style was very distracting, I found myself ignoring it and reading the text. It was well written and the jokes were pretty funny.

Another reason I won't name names is that I don't want to piss off certain people. SO I'll just go back to my random ramblings.

Headers and footers. Sometimes these can be excessively too large. I opened up one of these comics in MS Paint with the magnification set at 100%; I took a tape measure to my monitor and measured it. The whole comic was about seven and a half inches tall. The header and footer was two and a half inches. Really? Inch and a quarter apiece? Really? That really is annoying. You got to have some way to identify your comic sure, do a cover page. (Please not a “click here to enter.”) Put in some fancy, but small and undistracting title bar and if you must have a copyright statement keep it short, sweet, to the point, small, and undistracting.

Keep in mind how people read. Since I come from a European background I read left to right so I construct my comics the same way. I try and keep it so that there is no question as to which speech box is to be read first, second, third, and so on. The second will usually be to the right or below the first. Only rarely do speech boxes cross panels. I try not to cover up the characters at all costs. Though sometimes I have no choice or I need to hide something for a while. The text is clean and crisp (usually for easy editing if years later I find I mispelled a word,) and it is on a flat white background.

However, people still haven't learned from other people's mistakes. I've seen this font that puts a halo around the text. This would be a cool effect for angels, but not every character. It gets to be very difficult to read with the background showing through. Speaking of that, FOR GODDESS SAKE DON”T FADE THE TEXT BOX INTO THE BACKGROUND! On top of that DON”T USE A FONT LESS THAN A TEN AND THAT IS ANTI-ALIASSED! You do this, people won't read your comic because they can't. You may have Superman like vision, not everybody else can see through Lois Lane's clothes.

Now the occasional misspelled word is okay, but not okay in every line. Use a word predecessor to type everything out first and then copy/paste it into the comic. Get one with a spell check. You can download Open Office for free. (Buy the weigh, spell chucks wont cats gamma.)

How do we read? Typically you don't move your head , you don't move the book, you don't move the monitor. You move your eyes. (And sometimes lips.) So make sure you consider this: NO LEFT TO RIGHT SCROLL BARS! It is annoying to have to stop reading, move the mouse to the bottom of the browser and move the screen, continue reading, stop, scroll back to the left, continue reading, stop..... you get it? Be sure to chose a panel format that prevents left/right scroll bars. Consider the flow of the comic. Will the reader be able to at least understand which way to read it? I've seen comics constructed like it was a game of snake. You start in the upper left, then it's up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, and Mr. T as B.A. Baracus.

One final bit about flow is once in a while I'll see the up to down method. It's not just a webcomic thing. Some nationally syndicated cartoonists and my local paper will often chop up comics to do this for space. It's annoying.

Here is one thing about writing and flow: This comic I was reading last year seemed as if it was changing stories halfway through the comic. Out of an eight panel or so comic, it felt like I was reading a different comic at around panel five. Not really annoying, just confusing. It was beautifully animated, just not a consistent read within one single comic.

Oops, Am I criticizing something I said I wasn't going to criticize? Put it to you this way, writing to me is the most important part. So what about stick figures? Good writing will overcome that every time. Then again, what's that song by Tim Wilson?

Plan ahead on your publication destination. If you have your own site which allows for the format, size, and color depth you desire, great. But not everybody can spend the money. So you decide to use a freebie site instead. These freebies can have many limitations. Some are not mentioned. Facebook changes all formats to JPG. They say you can upload a GIF, but it is re-GIFed at a lower quality or even changed to JPG. I have to consider that. One of my local papers runs a bad cartoon contest every year. I have to print out the comics, then they scan them in and resize for the paper. I've learned to make compromises of number of colors and what colors to use. For one comic I had to change the color of Penny's speech box so it wouldn't blend into the background.

Keep in mind that site providers will often shrink large comics down. So the reader will have to click on a thumbnail to see a slightly larger version, click on another thumbnail to see an even slightly larger thumbnail, to click on that to be blinded by white background.

Filenames. Keep your comics organized. If someone is asking about comic number 1495 you can look it up real quick and give an answer immediately instead of stalling for days trying to track it down. Plus, some readers save comics, they do like to reread them in order. A number of free providers have this strange tendency to generate completely random filenames. Like comic number 1 suddenly becomes 34r78106re2807314 b1bx018exb7t1e82t7bex871290te087.

If you can't control the file name, put the comic number in the header or footer.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ravy 2011 Pg. 39.

Click Here.

Just like that, I completely throw you for a loop.

By the way, I have been conducting a experiment for about a month now. It seems to be working. I plan on implementing it soon.

Here's a hint: target="_top"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How Other Comics Annoy Me Personally: Part Two.

Continuing where I left off with web design and go in a more attitudinal direction.

Overdoing the graphics. Now the choice of a simplistic design versus a grandiose is a personal one. (Sometimes it seems as if the cartoonist spends more time on the back and next buttons than he does the actual comic). I believe that the comic is the most important part. That is why I said previously is to put it at the top and centered so it loads quicker. Putting up a bunch of surrounding graphics drastically slows down load times. Especially if you are on a slow server.

I use a cable modem, four GB of ram, Phenom 2 3.0, and a VelociRaptor. Some comics still take more than 20 seconds. Some of those comics are in JPG. You can say I'm being impatient, but think of all those people that are still on dial up. Combine a slow server with dial up and you can just forget about ever having an audience or even having a guy come back twice.

So what you can do is change servers. Which may mean a new URL. Please be sure to leave a note on the original site saying you have moved. I have given up on many a comic because I had thought the cartoonist had given up. Only to find years later that that I am now years behind in reading and collecting.

You have your nifty new high speed server. So now you think it is time to retool everything with all the new Java scripting, CSS, and layouts you have been studying on for months. Please don't shut down your site. Leave it up. You can do all this retooling on your hard drive without having to upload anything. Please continue updating the comic as you do this or else people will think you gave up. If you take your site down and only leave a message about it being under construction, and it may take longer than you think (it always does) and people will think you gave up. Also you won't get any new readers because the search bots can't crawl your site. So if there is an explosion of interest in some obscure Japanese video game, and you did some comics about it, you may wind up missing the boat.

You’re done with the retooling, spent weeks testing, retesting, and testing some more to make sure everything runs correctly. And you tested it some more. You've uploaded it. No complaints, or no complaints worth paying any attention too. Now's the time to take that extended vacation.

Please TELL US give us a time frame as to your expected return. Remember, these can take longer than you think (it always does.) When it does, give us a note saying that updates will resume a little later than expected.

Oh yes, updates, the thing that annoys me the most. Even if you have no regular update schedule, you have one. You fall into a habit of posting new comics at a certain time all the time. Fans are very smart and figure it out real quick. If you think that just because you don't have an announced schedule and you can skip today's, this week's, or this month's update, think again. Because of the fact you will fall into the habit of screwing off updates. It is always better to piss off readers with the content of the comic or your blog than it is by not updating because you're trying to get the date with some chick in a video game.

You must always update at the same time all the time. Us true fans are always forgiving of down servers, bad weather, melted CPUs, or a total loss of interest. Just be sure to tell us that you have found out that this thing called “woman” is more interesting than some comic about obscure Japanese video games, magic girls, and lesbians.

Next week: The comics themselves.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ravy 2011 Pg. 38.

If you don't click here now, it may be too late.

Ain't nothing like forgetting those tiny little details that causes you to have to do a last minute mad dash to fix things.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Win 8: Fail Great.

I know it's too soon, but I am annoyed within five minutes of using it. Greeted with the touch interface. Click on desktop and goes to what looks like Win Vista. Want to play Solitaire? Click on the Start button and go right back to Touch. Click on Explorer to get to Libraries. Then you can get to My Computer. Now I'm really annoyed because I now have to dig through many folders to find Solitaire. Then I realize that I have forgotten the filename used. You see the name you see in the Start menu is not what is used in Programs and other folders.

There's MS Paint. Just as buggy as it is in Win 7. XP Paint still works. I transferred it over it open and works fine. Except the fact it adopts all the bugs too.

I only tried the Ink Pad app, much to my dismay I couldn't close it. I'm guessing that there is supposed to be a button on whatever pad device Win 8 is going on the closes apps, but you still need that close button in the app itself. Had to Ctrl-Alt-Delete to close it.

I've only tried it for an hour, not loaded any other programs, and don't have any drivers. I'll continue looking at it and report back.

Download it here:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How Other Comics Annoy Me Personally: Part One.

Another multiparter, This one is tentatively planned for three. No promises.

As a reader of several webcomics, there are things in the web design that annoy me. When talking about it I'm not doing it as a programmer. I'm going to say my peace as a consumer. (What's that saying? Those who can't... criticize?)

The first is on navigation. There's more than one comic, so how do you navigate to those others? Sometimes funny symbols are used. The symbols blend into the background. Java scripting and Flash is used and therefore is not usable because they are blocked by the browser. With text sometimes the background color obscures the text link. People will use words not native to themselves. And I'm left guessing what it is I have to do to find the previous comic. Other times you can't find home link in the real tiny text on the bottom left underneath all the blogging.

Is there any real solution to archives? Drop down menus, calenders, lists, to just flat out nothing at all. I understand that there may really be no silver bullet especially for those letting a free service do that archiving for them.

Don't blind the reader. And don't give them an epileptic fit. Use colors that let the text be readable. Bright pinks, reds, yellows will send me away getting the eye drops and an insulin shot. Don't send people from a really dark page to a white page. That really hurts my eyes. As an example go to Page 50 of Season 20. Click on the Dr. Wily logo at the top. Just remember, you don't have to click on it. It's not like I have your cat or anything.

Hiding the comic. I hate this. I go to website that is abstemiously about a comic strip. Instead I'm greeted by the cartoonist's Bob Zany like zeal in selling merch. So you have to scroll down to read the comic. Keep the comic above the fold. So that it can be read first thing. Have some title graphic, some links that you think are important, but please center the comic at eye level. If you must tell us about how much up some other cartoonist's ass you nose is or how you can't get enough of some obscure Japanese video game; PUH-LEASE put it below the comic or a link to some other page.

Don't put the comic on some other page. I'm going to your comic's home page I would like to think I'm going to see a comics strip. I don't want to have to click on “current/newest/latest comic” just to have to click on link to click on a thumbnail view to click on another thumbnail to get blinded because now I'm staring center of a white background.

And why are there still “click here to enter” pages that are just “click here to enter?”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ravy 2011 Pg. 37.

Click Here.

I do an occasional comic for my Facebook friends. Yes, I still have some. I call it Penelope for Your Thoughts. It's news with Cajun Bob Vivant:  Penny Bell. The format I use is is a news broadcast with Op and Penny. (Ravy is currently on another assignment.) I've been using that system to kind of explain in long, drawn out, and painfully inaccurate ways on how I make these comics.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

“No Great Economic Sacrifice;” Are You Kidding Me?

Tooling around trying to find something on the radio to listen to, I fall upon a daytime talk show. The guest on at the time was talking about the War on Terror. He made a point that there has been no call for economic sacrifice. He meant stuff like Victory Gardens, scrap metal recycling, buy war bonds, and bring back the Steel Penny. While true, the guest hadn't thought it through and I was ticked that the host hadn't challenged that statement.

I'll pick up the slack.

There has been great economic sacrifice. One way is the call to duty by the military. The military is essentially divided into two main parts: Active and Guard/Reserve. The Active Duty's impact on the economy is that when a unit deploys that's anywhere from 100 to 1000 people no longer participating in the local economy for at least a year. That number of people not buying food, gas, clothes, music, books, movies, manga, going to baseball games, dry cleaning, military surplus, and going to strip clubs. That can really hurt a small community that is completely dependent on the military customers for its business. And businesses can go away for good leaving employees without jobs.

I will put myself into a potentially hazardous situation and say the when a Guard or Reserve unit deploys, that can even be more detrimental. Why? Who makes up one of these units? Unlike an Active unit that is made up of people from all over America, and in some cases all over the world. A Guard unit is made up of people from the local towns, cities, counties, and states. These people are not soldiers 24/7. When not doing the two weekends a month and two weeks out of the summer; they are going to their day jobs. People like plumbers, carpenters, truckers, managers, telemarketers, cops, firefighters, lawyers, judges, politicians, and strippers.

These citizen soldiers are activated and become full time soldiers for at least two years. A year to train up and deploy then redeploy. And a year on the actual deployment. That's two years of not participating in the local economy. Especially if you are making less as a soldier than a garbage collector. On top of that businesses have just lost several employees and now must scramble to fill those positions. It costs a business a lot of money to hire someone, even just temporarily to fill a slot. These businesses are losing customers because they can't fulfill the customer orders. Those customers are losing business because they are scrambling to fill slots left open by deploying Guard/Reserve employees.

Two years later the citizen soldier comes home gets their job back (hopefully, I've heard stories) and one year later does it all again.

So even though you are not seeing a flood of ads to join the Army in the national interest, doesn't mean that there hasn't been a call for great economic sacrifice.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Browsing for a Better Browser.

When I first got on the net way back when. I used what came with Windows: MSN Explorer. I always found it rather slow and unwieldy. A friend pointed me to Internet Explorer. (I got him back, I hooked him up with his now third ex-wife.)

IE was great.


I kept hearing about this foxy little upstart browser. All the magazines and online reviews said it was fast, safe, and easy to use. When I saw that one of my favorite webcomics was saying "Best viewed in Firefox." I decided it was time to take a peak. At first I thought that it was really no different than IE. Until that fateful day that when I went to paste in a password. Instead of hitting Ctrl/V, I hit Ctrl/B. My bookmarks came up. I no longer had to click twice to get them. It's a keeper.


Since then Firefox has become bloated, slow, and unwieldy. I figured it was time for a change. To get me to change browsers, one had to pass two tests. The first is what brought me permanently to Firefox: bookmarks. Could you just import your bookmarks from another browser or a backup file and go forward? Like with Firefox? The one that stuck out like a sore thumb was Safari. For the life of me I couldn't figure out to import my bookmarks and make it look like it does everywhere else. I can drag and drop the backup HTML file onto the Bookmarks Bar then I would have to click twice to get anywhere. Or I can set the bookmarks as my homepage and center click to open the link as a new tab and then click on the tab to see the page.


So how do the others I tested do? Internet Explorer did okay. It alphabetized my bookmarks. Now I get to spend all day reorganizing them back into the order I want. Plus I still have to click once to get to see them. But they stay open during the entire session.

Chrome: They are on a toolbar that autohides. So I have to click twice to get to any page. They imported in the same order as I had them in Firefox.

Opera keeps the bookmarks pane opens and stay open for each session. Alphabetized again and you can't reorganize them. Wait? What's that? I have to check "Sort by My Order." Why doesn't it sort by my order to begin with?

On to test two: my site. I have to admit that one of the things I have failed to do over many years is to see how my site looks on other browsers. Does it function the way I intend? The answer is yes. The CSS, Flash, and links work the way they are supposed to in every browser. For the looks, I get that my site looks basic. I care more about being able to access the comic than spending time designing some super flashy interface that can't be seen because it turns into a mush of CSS and Java-scripting and doesn't work on an iPad. (That is one thing I need to fix: Change the Flash content to YouTube or simple HTML. No big rush since most of that is buried in the archive that isn't visited anyway.)

Firefox, Chrome, and Safari display just fine. I really can't see a difference. Internet Explorer and Opera really stand out. For opposite reasons. IE makes my site look bad.(Who can I blame beside me? I know! Micro$oft!) The links on the darker background are almost impossible to see. There is a setting buried in Internet Options that you can uncheck to make things look the way they are supposed to. But will the average user go that far? No. I've talked to many people. All they really care about is just being able to click around and have a good time. Not dig around in the bowels (literally) of some program to fix what some guy that gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars should have fixed in the first place.

I don't get paid that much. I'll never get paid that much. Maybe that's why I recognize the fact that I will eventually change up the color scheme so it doesn't A: Blind anybody visiting; and B: Doesn't cause any unnecessary squinting to see the links.

Opera is the lone standout. My site looks great (to me. I don't trust my eyes. I've been up all night typing this out.) Turned out better than intended. Everything is nice clean, clear, and crisp.

Final verdict: I'm sticking with Firefox. None off the others have that perfect combination to make me switch. Firefox has all the great add-ons I like and have spent years figuring how to make work. I don't want to start from scratch.

bonus: spelling suggestions:
Ctrl-Carl, Curl
CSS-CUSS, ASS (boy is that spot on)
iPad-paid, IPA

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ravy 2011 Pg. 36.


A long time ago I used to be about two years ahead of schedule. That has since withered down to about six months. Mostly because I spent a year trying to get a date with Yuffie on Final Fantasy 7.

Six months ago there was this huge controversy over Michelle McCool using A.J. Styles finishing maneuver. Then there was Wrestlemania 27 with several wrestlers using Kurt Angle's five moves of doom.

Of course there's me trying to poke fun at all this six months later.


Friday, September 2, 2011

More Inukami.

Just kidding. I'm done with it. I swear. Figuratively, and literally.