Q: WHAT IS YOUR COMPANY, WHAT ARE YOU SELLING?
A: This website is a "personal page," although the contributions from the
folks on VORTEX-L help much in offsetting expenses. OK, OK. Time to sell
out, go strictly commercial as Zappa says. I'll sell you something. But
then I'll give away the profits, nyaaa! Check out SCIENCE HOBBYIST
BOOKSTORE, also FEYNMAN BOOKS.
Also, I hire myself out for occasional lectures on topics like:
(Old Answer: I'm a hobbyist on a $10/month account. The internet lets me
get this info out to people without having to *pay* anyone! Maybe someday
browsers will have micro-cash features, and I'll be able to charge
everyone a penny per hit and make the site pay for itself.
- WHAT *IS* ELECTRICITY, ANYHOW?
- PHYSICS PROJECTS AND TOYS YOU CAN BUILD
- DEMOS AND EDU. TECHNIQUES FOR TEACHING ELECTRICITY
- EVERYTHING WE KNOW IS WRONG: ERRORS IN SCIENCE TEACHING
Speaking of selling, there are cassette tapes available of me talking
about "scientific suppression" and about the "Taos Hum", see the Laura Lee
radio show. No, I don't make any money off of cassette sales.
You can find my talk "The Darker Side of Amateur Science" on the
Keelynet Conference videos Jerry Decker sells.
I also have an "Electricity Misconceptions" talk on Steve Ellswick's
Exotic Research conference videos.
The REPORT UNUSUAL PHENOMENA page is part of the WEIRD SCIENCE section of
my SCIENCE HOBBYIST website. It's not associated with any academic
institution, etc. I started it for several reasons: there was nothing
else like it on internet, I myself wanted to read these types of reports,
and finally, I realize that these types of stories, if kept secret, can
wreck your life. The cure is to realize that such things happen to
other people too, and to get your experiences out (even anonymously) so
others can benefit.
Q: WHERE ARE ALL THE KEWUL GRAPHICS?
A: Many who use this page are on VT-100s at libraries, or are using older
PCs at school, so I intentionally try to see the world through their non-
Netscape eyes by developing and using these pages with a Lynx
text-only browser. I'm starting to become a bit of a 'techno-luddite' and
text-only activist. I can't SEE the bleeding edge hype-factor stuff, so
my pages end up having a bit more content than most sites. Also, my pages
don't have that "Please download Netscape" notice which excludes so many
users: if the people have no bread, why, let them eat cake! Also, things
aimed at the text-only users will end up being useful for the growing
population of visually-impaired internet users.
Another point: reading is subversive. Reading makes you weird. If I put
lots of good science stuff on the www in the form of text, then any kids
who read will be rewarded. The web is an immensely powerful force for
convincing kids to take up reading. It may be even stronger than, (gasp!)
comic books. (I learned to read via comic books. If not for comics
during childhood I probably never would have become a voracious reader.)
BTW, if you use a modem link and have a Unix "shell" account on your ISP,
try typing "lynx" as a Unix command. Or, if you are on a freenet, search
your menus for the "Lynx" browser. If Lynx is available, try using it for
web surfing. On a modem, it is MUCH, MUCH faster than Netscape (and
others), since it is actually running on your ISP's machine with a direct
hardline to the internet. Unlike with Netscape, your PC is then being
used only as a terminal, and your actual browser is on an extremely
high-speed mega system. I use Lynx to race through my web site
explorations while bookmarking the good ones, then later go explore them
with Netscape. This is a huge time-saver.
Q: WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST 'FRAMES'?
My main beef: Frames make a site useless for visually-impaired people.
My site attempts to be handicapped-friendly, so my policy is to avoid
linking to frames-only sites. It's not just Frames that causes problems.
If a site is entirely based on Java navigation and has no text links or
ALT tags in its GIF graphics, or if a site is useless when viewed with
the Lynx browser, then I will avoid linking it to my site. For more info
on creating good, browser-compatible web pages, see my collection of
links to webpage design
Q: WHY DID YOU INVOLVE YOURSELF IN ALL THIS DISGUSTING
"FRINGE" STUFF? YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED!
A: Many reasons.
Q: HOW DID YOU GET SO MANY HITS ON YOUR PAGE?
A: Ah, the webmaster's secrets, eh? The number one way to get lots of
hits on your webiste is this:
1. When first starting out, don't be tempted to concentrate on impressive
layout or exotic HTML and Java features, they will only use up your
precious time as well as ruining your
search engine ranking. Carefully avoid elevating
image over substance. Instead, offer some kind of useful service to
internet users. As they say, CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT.
Don't copy other sites; find something that ISN'T on internet already,
then become the worldwide supplier for that thing. If your site just
shows what a clever Java programmer you are, no one will care. Or if you
spend your energy on "image" and trying to impress people, then you'll
trigger the sensitive BS detectors of the audience, and they'll distrust
you (if not avoid you entirely!) But if your site is useful, everyone
will bookmark it.
I looked around the internet and found that there were no webpages
at all for Amateur Science or Tesla coil building. (this was 1994) I
complained about this for awhile, but then I realized something. There
must be hundreds of other people out there looking for the same sorts of
webpage I wanted to find. If I was writing webpages instead of
complaining, other people would even now be hitting my pages while
searching, and I could develop an audience.
Therefore, I decided to nominate myself as the central internet clearing-
house for Amateur Science and for Tesla coils. I was subscribed at the
time to the USA-TESLA discussion group, and also regularly read
sci.physics newsgroup. I started saving the really interesting messages
and putting them on my pages for the rest of the world to find.
2. While surfing, stay aware of your own desires, and write them down.
Get inside the heads of other people: assume that there are lots of
others just like you on internet, and if you are wishing that there was
a good website for XXXXXX, then you've probably just discovered an idea
for a popular website.
For example, while on newsgroups I was pissed about the constant flamewars
between all the gigantic, fragile egos. I wished there were some
interesting discussion groups where flaming was prohibited. And I wished
that people on alt.sci.physics.new-theories actually did experiments,
rather than arguing endlessly about untested theories. My internet-
provider offers an email list service, so it was possible for me to START
a discussion list. I became the provider for discussion groups for Weird
science museum staff (WEBHEAD-L), and others.
I also slowly typed in all sorts of useful files for other people to find.
I'm a frustrated writer. In the non-web world I had never managed to get
an article so cleaned up that I would want to offer it to a magazine. On
internet things were different. I could type the first draft of many
articles onto my website, then go back later and clean them up. I could
even put MAILTO buttons on the articles, get comments from passersby, then
fix what other people pointed out! This got to be a habit, and sucked me
into writing huge amounts of stuff. This draws people to my site.
Therefore, my next secret to generating content and attracting high
3. Make your website be your filing cabinet. If you have little projects
underway, put them on your website while working on them. Reject the
paper-publishing traditions of polishing an article to perfection
before publication. DO NOT ELEVATE IMAGE OVER CONTENT. (Perhaps even
keep yourself honest by cultivating a deep revulsion for "image.")
Instead, let all your flaws hang out, and type things directly into
your site in rough draft form (label them UNDER CONSTRUCTION if you
Expunge the fear of embarassment from your life, and instead practice
making foolish mistakes in front of thousands of strangers. Stop using
your PC to store files, instead use your website as your main storage.
Let people poke through your filing cabinet. It will contain far more
than a perfectly polished website does.
You'll always be adding more stuff, which will make your audience come
back again and again to see what's new. It will also give you "external
ambition," because you'll start getting mail from people who say things
like "when are you going to finish your article about smoke rings." ;)
Once you have some content, there are other things you can do to "spread a
net" and catch more hits. There are conventional tricks like submitting
your page to various search engines. But once you are "out there" you
should constantly test how searches are finding you.
4. NEVER EVER move one single html file or change an URL. Don't you
hate it when you click on a link and it says "404 file not found"?
Well, I've been here since 1994, and all the links to my site
Hitcount grows slowly as others link to you, and as search engine spiders
gradually catalog your whole site. Traffic grows exponentially. It
doubles, then doubles, then doubles again. The process takes a long time.
Don't wipe out all your traffic by doing something stupid. I've seen
people move their entire site to a new provider, delete all the pages on
their old website, yet only leave a forwarding link on their former top
page. VERY stupid. STUNNINGLY stupid. Yet even big companies do this!
Are they trying to hide, so web users cannot find them? As far as search
engines are concerned, their site has disappeared without a trace. All
their google links will say "404 not found," and google will punish them
for this major mistake. To google, the new site will be ranked like a
newbie's first blog, and it will take months for all the different spiders
to index their new site's URL. And even worse, during those months, human
web surfers will think that the company has met it's demise, and after a
few experiences with 404 errors they will stop clicking on any links that
the search engine turns up, even if those links later are repaired.
Another problem: Google finds your sub pages, not your top page. Your
site is like a large net, with each page intercepting clicks from many
google users. Your top page is only one tiny strand in the net. Most of
your visitors will enter via a lower page. Also, other web authors like
to link to your "subpages", not to your top page. And so... if you've
just bought a domain name and you ABSOLUTELY MUST move your site, you'd
better replace every single html file on your old site with a small link
to the new location of that page, and then maintain that skeletal site for
a year or three. If you don't, then people with links to the "good stuff"
inside your site will see those links go bad, and they will delete them.
You could lose the majority of your site's users. You'll only be left
with the non-serious people who link to the "splash page" at the top of
your old site. Very often I'll browse somebody's "amateur science" links
and will find that all the links on the page are bad. All except the ones
that point to MY pages. :)
PS, if your site is maintained by another person and you catch them
changing the URLs without maintaining the old URLs for many years ...then
they're completely incompetent and you should ditch them ASAP. Every
url is a lost search-engine link, and there's never any justification for
changing an URL. Even *thinking* about changing an URL should be grounds
for firing a web designer on the spot.
Wait a second.
Forget everything that I just said. Keep moving your site a few times per
year, and only leave a forwarding address at the top page of your old
site. After all, as long as you cause all your links to become "404 not
found", then everyone will delete the links to your site, and they'll only
be left with links... to MINE! Heh heh heh.
5. View your site using a 56K modem and with graphics turned off, then
redesign it so it's still useful.
Never forget: Google is a blind internet user; Google deletes the
blind-hostile websites. So, never use java/flash links or non-HTML text
content, use "alt" tags on images, and add "summary"
to tables, and provide text links that duplicate all your fancy
click-map navigation, etc. I
say more about this on my WEBPAGE MISTAKES page. Stay
compatible with minimal browsers like Opera, don't become a "Flash bigot."
You're trying to get MORE users.
6. Maintain a "link farm" of other pages similar to your own. Whenever
you find another page to add, email the owner of that page to tell them
about it. Don't add cool websites to your browser's "favorites" menu,
instead add them to your webpage.
This one above is critical for creating a huge web-presence. First, if
the other page-owners know you've linked them, they might add your site
to their own links. If they haven't seen your pages before, at least
attracted a new user. Secondly, after a number of sites all link to each
other, they form a "community", and when one page catches a new user, that
user can easily find all the other pages too. Third, if any pages in the
"community" become high in the search engine rankings, your ranking will
also increase. Even better: when no such community exists, and you're
the only one who maintains a links collection to similar sites, then even
if nobody else links to you, this still will attract
lots of people because you've become a "portal" site for that topic area.
Don't forget: if you find your
"favorites menu" useful, then others will like it too, so put it on the
users would rather browse a list of human-classified links than to run
web searches, so your site will become popular with everyone interested
in your subject.
Think! Would you rather have a librarian on call who can deliver any
you ask for, or would you rather wander in a library? Most prefer
wandering the library, because neither you nor your super-searcher-
librarian knows which keywords will find the best stuff!
PDFs, or any other site files other than dead-simple HTML 1.0.
Pure HTML links will make your page extremely friendly to vision-disabled
internet users. But far more important: fancy menu techniques are
unreadable by Google and any other search-engine spiders. Search-engines
are basically the same as the vision disabled. Google is a blind internet
user. They can only "see" html, and many cannot even handle Frames well.
So, if your site navigation links are all part of a Flash program, then
all the sub-pages in your site will never appear on any Google search
results! (Remember rule number one above: resist the temptation to use
fancy stuff. The fancy stuff will hurt you. Fancy stuff is an
embarrassing newbie mistake. )
8. Always add a link to the top of all of your pages which links back to
your main site.
If someone uses a search-engine and finds a deep subpage on your site,
they'll have no clue that the rest of your site exists. You have to
provide links! Also, other site-owners may link to subpages on your site.
If one of your files gets lots of traffic from some other site, that file
must have clear links to your main site. If it does not, then those users
may think they're still on the linking site. They may entirely miss the
fact that they are reading just one part of your much larger site. Last,
include the page URL somewhere on the page (usually at the very bottom.)
That will force each of your pages to appear when people search on partly-
remembered URLs. And if someone prints out your text, it forces the URL
to be printed on that paper.
9. Maintain a "WHAT'S NEW" page.
This will let your repeat-users immediately find the stuff they haven't
seen before. Without a "what's new" page, your site may seem exactly the
same to everyone who visits, even though you're adding huge amounts to
some far corner of your site.
10. Every time you add a separate webpage, submit it to Google's ADD URL
page. Other good places are Altavista's add-URL page. Another
is the Mozilla Open Directory Project, dmoz.org and Yahoo.
These sites share their data with other link archives, so once you get
into one of them, your links end up in many others.
11. Use absolute links.
E.g., on your own pages, don't link to "sci.html",
link to "http://www.yoursite.com/~user/sci.html". Why? Because
people like to copy good webpages, and if all the links on their
stolen copy of
your pages actually point back to your original site, then the stolen
copies of your pages
will send people back to your REAL pages and not to other parts of the
copy. I've been doing webpages since 1994, and I've seen LOTS of
copied fragments of my pages in other places. But I always smile,
because all of the links to my orignal pages remain in the copy, so
these copies just route traffic back to me, and serve as
my original site!
12. KEEP CONTENT KING! And keep ease-of-use near the top of the list.
Look at rule #1 again. Do *everything* in html. Don't talk yourself into
having to use "impressive" or "modern" techniques. Don't let a pursuit of
"image" slowly destroy your site.
I constantly notice good sites that have slowly gone to hell because
someone is being paid to make them look polished, as if they were an
expensive magazine... and the designerly features interfere terribly with
navigation. Those page owners have it backwards: image is nothing, ease
navigation is everything, and the need for useful content outranks both.
Those page owners also have little respect for their audience; thinking
that nobody notices attempts to manipulate them with shallow facades.
In your organization, can the author of an article say "this aesthetic
feature slows people down slightly, get rid of it" and the art department
jumps to make changes? If not, then the wrong people are in charge, and
the way is open for creeping corruption of facade over function.
13. Provide a guestbook. Let people read it. This isn't just for your
ego. It provides another interesting file for your audience to read,
and you didn't have to write it yourself.
14. Mutate your guestbook! Look at my "report unusual phenomena" page,
and "science fair archives". These are simple guestbooks, but altered
so that passersby can type in interesting things, and others can read
them. Even if there were no other things on my site, just these pages
alone would be worth an occasional visit. It's like a no-cost
15. Become a heavy user of your own website. Try constantly to see your
site as an outsider; try to get into the heads of strangers.
Note how you cruise the WWW yourself, then modify your site so it is
easy for YOU to cruise.
For example, most people (including me) rarely use the scroll-bar.
Therefore, if they don't see good stuff on the screen instantly, then they
will go elsewhere. If the good stuff on your website is not right up at
the top of the screen, most people will never see it. See my own top
page. I put the big four subsections right in your face, using huge font
size. Yes, most of my other pages are these great huge things which
absolutely require lots of scrolling. However, nearly all of them have a
"shortcuts" list which acts like a top page, letting people jump down to
all the sections, and this
"shortcuts" list is right in your face, right at the top of the page. I
suck you in first, and only THEN force you to get off of your butt and use
the darned scroll bar.
Another example: stop maintaining a "favorites" menu on your browser, and
instead always put interesting URLs on your website. Make your website
become your only "favorite links" menu. Others will find this useful...
and also you'll learn to see your mistakes because you'll constantly be
looking at your own site and comparing it to others. Keep tweeking a page
site to make it easier for you and your friends. And once you've learned
the tricks, keep updating all the other pages in your site.
16. Start early. If you had started a few weeks ago, you might be getting
lots of hits by now. If you had started last year, your site might
now be a major player on the web. WWW is still growing fast, don't
put it off, jump in quick. Don't polish your site before publishing.
The time it takes to perfect your site could be better used for
hooking in more users and getting an early start on the geometrical
growth of hitcount. If you create a site a month early, several years
down the road that month could mean an increase of hundreds of
thousands of hits per year. If you are a big company that moves slow,
a year of delay can move you from the top-ten websites and place you
with the hundreds of late-comer wannabes.
Common mistakes to avoid
DOES THIS STUFF WORK? Well, here are some google keywords which, when
last I checked, give me top rank or almost-top in the search results:
Pretty cool, eh?
Q: HOW'D YOU MANAGE TO CREATE SO MUCH STUFF?
First answer: I started early, in 1994. Them squirrels, how they do
accumulate detrius. Or maybe its crows. They like shiny objects.
Second answer: whenever somebody asks me for something and I have time to
supply it, I make a strange assumption. I assume that hundreds of other
people are wanting that thing too, but didn't have the ambition to email
me and ask. Therefore I copy it onto my website, rather than hiding it
Third answer: I don't live in XP or ME or Windows 95. Not win3.1 either.
Not MSDOS. I live on the internet, in an ancient unix shell account which
is aliased to look a bit like msdos. If I should ever type up a little
textfile during other activities on the computer, it only takes me ten
seconds to put it on my webpage. Unlike most people, for me the barriers
against publishing on internet have entirely evaporated.
Fourth answer: I took a typing course in 1974 high school. Best
investment I ever made, almost as important as learning to read. Now
after years of systems programming, I can type REALLY FAST. If ever I
think of something interesting, I can jot down a couple of pages about it
and link it to my website.
Fifth answer: I have no shame. Would you let the entire internet have
read-rights to your hard drive? And then make some menus, so they could
look at all your private stuff? That's what SCI HOBBYIST is, it's my c:
drive. I'm sure that many people have all sorts of fascinating junk on
their systems as well, or in their filing cabinets. Difference is, only
they themselves can access it. Most people prefer to hide their flaws, I
suspect. I want to flaunt mine! The withering spotlight of honesty keeps
the evil insanity of the self-lie at bay.
Sixth answer: I don't necessarily create it. Much of it I simply notice
and write down. If you adopt a religion which requires that you look at
yourself without blinders on, then you'll discover that it's a monumental
task to take your habitual blinders off. Once you succeed, you'll find
that the entire world looks very different. Interesting things will
spring out at you which only you can see. Anyone could see them, but the
vast majority of humans are so afraid of looking at the rotten crap that
they've done throughout their lives, that they desparately maintain the
blinders. The blinders are like painkillers which eliminate any negative
viewpoints and let people feel good about themselves regardless of their
past actions. Unfortunately these same blinders make most of the real
world become invisible to them. In any scientist this is a real shame.
It ruins our powers of observation and cuts us off from our fundamental
creative source. So, gather your stamina and gaze
unblinking into your own personal hell, and on the other side you might
perceive the outer world as it really is. Then stop talking philosophy,
and just tell others what you see.
Last: if you never have to wait for Windows to load, writing a quick note
will become a positive experience, and also you'll have some extra free
time for other things. :)
Q: WHERE DID YOU GET THIS JUNK?
A: It's a secret. Here it is. Always tell the truth, and, more
importantly, never lie. Even to yourself. What the heck does this have
to do with anything? Well, once I realized that I was defending my ego by
constantly telling myself a thousand subtle lies, I was able to stop.
When I did, all this stuff started boiling up out of my unconscious and
out onto my website. It must have been in there all along. It just
wouldn't come out and play. Maybe it was embarassed about all the lying.
PS I strongly suspect that Richard Feynman accidentally stumbled across
this same technique. It's a source of creativity like you wouldn't
believe! It's a wellspring of amazing ideas which seem to arise fully
formed, without you doing the work to assemble them.
This sort of extreme creativity seems to be an inbuilt human feature, but
unfortunately a "normal life" is filled with millions of tiny
dishonesties which acts as a "plug" that halts the creative flow almost
entirely. If you stop lying to yourself totally; stop distorting reality
in your efforts to have a positive self image, then you damage your own
psychological defenses. Those defenses block the Monsters from the ID.
They keep your personal horrors at bay. But they do far more than that:
they also cut you off from the prime creative source, your subconscious,
and they block your flow of ideas almost entirely. If you choose the
safety and never look deep within, then you may retain the ability to do
really well on exams, and to be an expert puzzle-solver. But you'll
never come up with major new ideas.
Shatter your mental plug and you're on your way to an amazing life.
you do remove your psychological defenses, you force yourself onto a path
that leads to both genius or insanity. Do you REALLY want to see yourself
as you really are? No fuzzy lens at all? Some people would rather not go
there. And that's one reason why insanity is so close to genius.
Removing your defense mechanisms is far more serious than taking a
powerful drug that gives you honest vision. The effects of drugs
eventually wear off!