Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mysteries du Jour

Mystery #1: You, the Outpost Reader

The other day I happened to refresh a window (or maybe a tab) that had a view of the Outpost from almost exactly 24 hours before. I was a little shocked to see the counter jump by just over 100 hits,especially considering the fact that there had been no comments during that same period.

Now, I don't mean to either crow about the unexpectedly high readership or gripe about the lack of comments. It just intrigues me a bit. I don't usually pay much attention to the numbers on a day to day basis (hourly is more like it), but I kind of had the impression that several dozen people a day stop by (thank you for that!), perhaps as many as fifty, with a few more around the time of a Round Robin Photo Challenge. Have I been wrong in my estimates, or did my readership suddenly double? If the latter, then why?

Based on some of the links I've come across lately, I'm guessing that some of the post labels, particularly Wikipedia, are getting this blog picked up on aggregators and the occasional real blog when I write about certain subjects. Don't worry; that doesn't mean the Outpost is suddenly going to be all Wiki, all the time. I am curious, though, about whether these label/tag thingies are starting to genuinely affect people's reading habits. And is it the labels, or do the spiders search for words like Wikipedia in the text of the entry itself, and grab snippets on that basis? There. Now I've used that word twice, but it won't be in my tagging. Will it matter?

As for the comment issue, there's a definite "I know you're out there; I can hear you breathing" element to this blog, and probably to most blogs. I probably shouldn't worry about such things. The blogs I've seen that have serious comment threads are usually ones that have a real community built up, with conversations not just between the blogger and the reader, but between the readers. For that to work, the entry needs to be about something that provokes a reaction, that makes people want to respond; and the blogger needs to actively encourage discussion. It also requires a fairly large readership of people with common interests, who therefore have something to say to each other. I'd love to see that here, but really, I don't often write something that fits such requirements. I also suspect my readership is more diverse than that of, say, Making Light, as well as many times smaller. And I'm so far behind on my email and blog jogging that I'm kind of surprised you guys still put up with me at all - grateful, but surprised.

Mystery #2: No Pictures!

My new set-up

Today was Saturday, and lately that means the U.K. transmission of another Doctor Who episode. As I said last week, never mind how; but I've gotten to watch this week's story, "Gridlock," several times over. As you know, the CD/DVD tray on my computer is broken, but today I set up my older laptop on the shelf above this one, to use as a DVD player. It works great, except for one little problem. I tried and tried, but I can't do a screen capture on that computer. Dunno why, but there are multiple, mysterious problems involved:
  1. The one program that has a screen grab icon isn't displaying the video properly in the first place.
  2. Other programs (e.g. RealPlayer and Windows Media Player) don't seem to have an equivalent control.
  3. A print screen command, which on this computer is tricky to do in the first place, won't paste into anything but Paint. When I did that, the Paint window displayed a moving image - a portion of the image in the video player window. When I saved it and opened it with another problem, the middle part where the video image should have been was simply black.
Weird. So after hours of fiddling with the problem, and looking for online images that I didn't feel guilty about swiping, I decided to photograph the computer screen with my Sony Cybershot camera. The results aren't great, but this is what we have. Kind of interesting, I think.

Mystery #3: The Last of the Time Lords

The Face of Boe

This particular Doctor Who episode features the third and final meeting between the Doctor and the enigmatic Face of Boe. This ancient alien, just before dying, tells the Doctor a highly-anticipated four word secret. It all has to do with the shocking revelation the Ninth Doctor made to Rose "The End of the World" (2005), the first episode with the Face of Boe in it. Sometime between the 1996 Doctor Who tv movies and the 2005 revival of the series, the Doctor's planet, Gallifrey was destroyed, taking with it all of the Time Lords except the Doctor himself. This all happened in the Time War between the Time Lords and the Doctor's greatest foes, the Daleks.

There have been hints that the Doctor was indirectly responsible for the death of his own kind, as the price of killing off the Daleks. But the Daleks have returned several times since then, rebuilding from a few escapees and in one case a prison ship. The Time Lords have not returned. The Doctor believes it is not possible that any of them have survived. This gives both the Ninth Doctor and his successor, the Tenth Doctor, a pathos that the earlier incarnations never had.

"Who needs secrets, eh?"

But when the Face of Boe prepares to impart his final secret to the Doctor, the Doctor doesn't want to hear it. One reason for this is that it implies that Boe is about to die, and the Doctor wants him to live, the other sole survivor of an ancient race. But the other reason appears to be that the Doctor suspects that the revelation has to do with his being the last Time Lord, as indeed it does. This is problematic, partly because the Doctor is feeling his losses anew since losing Rose (and therefore doesn't want to think about it), and partly because the Doctor hasn't told Martha that his planet and people are gone. In fact, earlier in the story he lied to her, pretending that Gallifrey still existed. But when the Face of Boe mentions that the Doctor is the last of his kind, and then...
******SPOILER ALERT!* Skip the next paragraph if you don't want to know what the Face of Boe said******

The Doctor reacts to the Face of Boe's final revelation

...paradoxically, tells the Doctor, "You are not alone," Martha is right there. Afterwards, she conducts a one-woman sit down strike, refusing to budge until the Doctor tells her the truth about himself and his people. He then explains about the Time War, and then reminisces about the planet that he's lost forever.

Now when the Ninth Doctor was first revealed to be the last surviving Time Lord, I was pretty shocked, and not terribly pleased. Gallifrey is a big part of the Doctor's 44-year backstory. We've met some of its people, visited its Citadel, learned of its traditions and some unsavory elements of its ancient and recent past. The Doctor's own granddaughter, Susan, may not have been on Gallifrey at the end, but the Doctor says all his family and friends are gone now. This would also likely include a non-Time Lord friend, Leela, who married a Gallifreyan and stayed behind there. Yet another companion, the Time Lady Romana, is said in spin-off media to have eventually become President of the High Council. Gallifrey gone, and all its people? Forever? How awful! How sad! No wonder the Doctor has developed a melancholy streak, and a tendency to close himself off from others. His friend Rose drew him out, made him care, even made him love her. But she's trapped in another Universe now, as lost to the Doctor as his own people. So now Martha struggles to bring the Doctor out of his shell once more.

I'm not sure I quite approve of this drastic measure, but it makes for pretty compelling television.



Shelly said...

I used to obsess about stats. Now I check nightly on MyBlogLog to see the day's hits and what's been clicked, but I almost never check the blog counters. The View from Here got an amazing bump when it was a Blog of Note and that lasted 2 weeks, with folks telling me what a great blog it is, but it's back down to 10 or so hits a day now.

My comic blog, however, which picks up a weekly linkback from a feminist comics directory blog, and is in an active subgenre of blogging, gets upwards of 50 unique visitors and can reach as much as 200 hundred a day without my doing anything more than simply blogging there. I created that blog because I didn't want to bore readers of my book review blog with comics reviews and it's become my most popular blog. Who'd have thought it? Not me.

You must be doing something right, so just keep doing what you're doing. :)

Paul said...

Whew! Hadn't been by in almost a week, but now I'm up to date. Here, anyway.

Becky said...

Perhaps some of those hits are those of us who have Bloglines picking up your latest entries.
I try not to read all your posts on Bloglines because it's nice to visit in person now and again. Now spill! Where/How are you watching the new season of Dr Who???! I've been pacing the floor waiting for SciFi to start it up again! Meanwhile, have you watched The Dresden Files at all? Loads of changes from the books. But good.