I was reading an interesting article on Slate earlier today, about how Facebook is no longer sending visitors to them. Apparently Facebook has started to prioritize sites that its own users think are trusted. Hah, what could go wrong with that feedback loop? As you might expect, it turns out mostly to be Fox News that Facebook users consider a trusted site for their news. Yikes. Under this updated news feed algorithm, a left-leaning news chat site like Slate must be purged. That’s depressing, of course, but Slate is seeing new visitors coming from interesting new places. They say:

One silver lining of the Facebook crash is the emergence of other platforms that have been directing more traffic to many sites in the past year, even as Facebook sends far less. Google, Apple News, Twitter, and Flipboard are all sending more readers to Slate than they used to, and the increase has happened over the same time period that Facebook traffic has dried up.

That’s good news for Slate, but it caught my attention for another reason, too. Of the sources of new traffic mentioned here, to me the most interesting one is Flipboard. Everyone talks about Twitter for promotion, but when was the last time you heard anyone suggest Flipboard? Maybe I just don’t read good SEO and marketing articles but I have never heard their name suggested before.

Flipboard is a news aggregator and social network aggregation company based in Palo Alto, California, with offices in New York, Vancouver and Bejiing. It was first released in July 2010, and it gathers content from social media, news feeds, photo sharing sites, and other websites, presents it in magazine format, and allows users to flip through the articles, images, and videos being shared. Readers can also save stories into Flipboard magazines. As of March 2016 the company claims there have been 28 million magazines created by users.

I have never been much interested in curated news feeds like Flipboard, but reading this made me realize that even though I don’t consume news this way, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be providing the content of my site this way. The bottom line is that to get BrettFitzpatrick.com in front of more eyeballs I should probably get it onto Flipboard.

I hesitated for a second, because my site isn’t exactly news. It is more a site that is just another drop in the sea of commentary out there that is the Internet. But then my hesitation abated: firstly because sorting out what sites to include and what not has to be Flipboard’s problem not mine – I shouldn’t be self censoring myself, here – and secondly because commentary is useful. If everyone is talking, for example, about what a great book Too Like the Lightning is, you need an asshat like me who hated it.

Besides, what have I got to lose? Google Analytics is telling me that I get zero traffic from Flipboard at the moment, so it’s not as if that number will go down if Flipbiard decide they don’t like my site. Even if this turns out to be just another failed experiment in promoting my blog and my books, hey at least I’ll get a post out if it. I will have fed the mighty sarlacc for one more day, and I can quit worrying about posting again until tomorrow rolls around.

So, I went to the publisher sign up page at Flipbook. There was a big red button there, prominently displayed and inviting me to publish my site. Yay, so far so good. I pushed the shiny button, and it asked me to provide my full name, email address, and a password, which I guess is okay. There is also an option to sign up with Facebook, but there is no way in hell I’m going to do that. So I provided the relevant info, and next I had to choose from a list titled “What’s Your Passion?” Believe it or not, sci-fi was not one of the options. The nearest I could find was Star Wars, so I clicked that.

It turned out that I was signing up for an ordinary Flipboard account, and the publisher sign up button was hidden at the top of the page. Argh! I had to start all over again. This time when I went to the publisher page it asked me to upload an avatar. Now that’s more like it. I also had to wite a blurb for my profile, and I went with this:

I’m a sci-fi author, and like many other writers I have a blog where I share my opinions about the latest sci-fi happenings, ruminate on classic sci-fi and give updates on my books.

I clicked the big blue button to submit, and this took me to a sparsely populated profile page. It told me to write something about myself, so I wrote this:

I write sci-fi books, and regularly post to my blog about what is happening in science fiction and related fields.

The site, still on my spanking-new profile page, then told me in a big red box to do the following:

Create a magazine to submit your RSS feed for review. You’ll be able to add additional feeds if you are approved.

So I hit the gray box with a plus sign in it that this red instruction was pointing to. A new dialog box appeared, as if by magic, and asked me what my new magazine was about. I told it:

Sci-Fi and Related Stuff

It also suggested that I write a description of this magazine. I wrote the following, all the while wondering what a good length for this description would be. A little guidance on this from Flipboard would have been very welcome.

About sci-fi, and some related stuff like horror and fantasy, with a special focus on the things I love, such as space opera, cool spaceships, diversity, classic British sci-fi of the late 1970s, comic books, and… well, you probably get the picture. The whole point of my Internet writing is to promote my books, so inevitably there will be mention of these, too, from time to time.

It’s a hideous description, I know, but I held my nose and pressed submit. I figure I can always improve it later. There was also a box for tags, so I went nuts and added the following:

sci-fi, Star Wars, movies, comic books, 2000 AD, Starlord, Galaxy Dog, Brett Fitzpatrick, cool fictional spaceships, science fiction, fictional robots, writing ebooks

At last we were getting closer to me adding my blog to Flipboard. I was taken to what looked like a new page, and the following message appeared at the top of it:

Magazine Sources - You may add RSS feeds to auto-populate this magazine. For more information, please visit our RSS Guidelines.

I never know what my RSS feed actually is, so I went to this page to find out how to determine it. It said:

The easiest way to get the address, no matter what web browser you’re using, is to look at the HTML source of your page. How you view it in your web browser will differ, but in most browsers, you’ll choose the Page Source or Source option under the View menu near the top of the window. Once the window appears with the HTML for your page, use the “Find” feature (typically Ctrl-F on a PC, Command-F on a Mac) and search for RSS (without the quotes).

According to that, my feed is http://brettfitzpatrick.com/index.xml even though that doesn’t have the word feed in it. I hope that’s correct, because that’s what I pasted into the appropriate box at Flipboard. I the clicked the “add source” button and waited to see what would happen.

Nothing happened, at least not straight away. Then I refreshed the page and my latest posts started appearing, populating the page like green shoots popping up from a spring meadow after the first rains. Unfortunately they were ugly and mutated, and this is because the blogging platform I use does not handle RSS well. I found this page on RandomGeekery which suggested ways to fix my feed. What it suggest doing is hella complex, but I’m no stranger to editing text files where one small error can bork your entire site, so I dove in with no hesitation.

So now I’m on Flipboard and, if my blog gets approved, people will one day be able to see my stuff there, and some eyeballs may even come my way. I’ll be watching my Google Analytics with interest to see what kind of effect this has – if any.


Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy)

Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy

Galaxy Dog is an epic space opera. What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet, brings to light an ancient archaeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy. This is the story of his rise, and the story of the fierce and independent woman and the feisty robot who help him.