Today I am interviewing Dave, Administrator of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror website, WorldsWithoutEnd.com.
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DJ: Hi Dave! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar, could you tell us a little about yourself and what your role at WorldsWithoutEnd.com is?
Dave: Thanks for having me on, DJ. Worlds Without End is a fan site dedicated to helping genre fiction fans find the best books to read. As one of those fans my job at WWEnd (we say “dub-dub-end”) is site design, day to day running and data updates, and interacting with members etc. Chris is our coding guru and he makes it all work on the technical side. Rico is our social media guy and takes care of Twitter and Facebook. Together we plan new updates and features to keep improving the site for our members. After us three we have a crew of Uber User volunteers who help us with data entry to get all those authors and books added. We could never keep up with demand without them.
DJ: What is WorldsWithoutEnd.com? When was it first created? What was the original goal of the site?
Dave: Back in 2006 I was getting into web design and thought it would be fun to put up a little site for my friends and I to track the Hugo Award winners — it was our goal to read them all. Then I found out about the Nebula… and Locus… and Clarke and decided to start adding those as well. Pretty soon we had enough content to be of interest to others and WWEnd was born.
DJ: WorldsWithoutEnd.com has several fantastic features (such as BookTrackr, Book Award catalogs, and books lists) that readers can utilize to advantage. Can you tell us about some of the more prominent and popular features?
Dave: Well, the awards and lists are the first thing that people gravitate to on the site. That information is easy to be had on the web but our gallery displays are unique. All that great cover art is fascinating to look at — even the really bad stuff! You can easily get lost looking through all those awards!
BookTrackr is the engine behind almost everything we do on the site. It allows members to tag the books and authors they have read, are reading now, and want to read in the future. It customizes the site to your reading history so you can see at a glance what Hugo winners you’ve read, a list of your favorite authors, and helps you keep track of your to-be-read pile.
Another of our most popular features is our Roll-Your-Own Reading Challenge. After hosting a couple reading challenges we discovered that with any reading challenge you’re always cutting out a large chunk of people. They don’t like the theme, or want to do something different than last year, or can’t find the time to meet the challenge requirements. We decided we needed to remove all the common excuses people use to not participate and not to limit ourselves to a single theme. That’s where the RYO was born. With the RYO anyone can create their own reading challenge. They get to set the theme, determine the rules, establish different reading levels. All member created challenges go onto the RYO list where anyone can join in. If you don’t find one you like on the list then you just roll your own to suit your tastes. And because there are different levels for each challenge you can join several smaller ones instead of limiting yourself to just one or join a challenge in July that started in January — just pick a lower level. We have 39 challenges going on right now with a wide variety of themes like the Tor.com Free Short Fiction Reading Challenge, the Ursula K. LeGuin Memorial Reading Challenge, and the LGBTQ Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge. There really is something for everyone.
I could go on about dozens of other features but the best way to see what we have to offer is to pop over and explore! Click a few links and see our lists of great genre magazines and podcasts or check out our All Women Authors page and see how many you’ve actually read.
DJ: Which feature or aspect of WorldsWithoutEnd.com do you actually like most/sets its apart from other sites in the community?
Dave: One of the things that we have tried to do is replicate the brick and mortar bookstore experience online. We have set up the site to be browse-able in a way that sites like Amazon or other online bookstores just aren’t. On those sites you go in already knowing what you want. You can’t really browse like you’re wandering around in a bookstore. On WWEnd we present you with shelves of books in different categories that you can easily browse through.
You might start off looking through the Nebula shelves for something to read. You spot a great looking cover, just like you might in a store, and click over to read about The Three-Body Problem. You read the synopsis, just as you would flip the book over to read the back blurb. Then you read the excerpt as if you held the book in your hands. Then you skim through the reviews to see what other folks are saying about that book as if there was someone else on the isle in the store you could talk to. Then you notice that the book is also on the WWEnd Most Read Books of All-Time list so you wander over there to see what else is on that shelf. Then you see an author like N. K. Jemisin that everyone is talking about so you click her name and see what’s on her shelf.
And as you go you’re tagging books to put them on your to-read list for later examination or marking the ones you’ve already read and slowly but surely the site is getting color-coded to your reading history — suddenly you realize you’re only six books away from reading all the Campbell Award winners. Or you find out that you haven’t read as many books by women as you thought you had. The experience is fun and intuitive and we provide an abundance of information so you can make more informed choices before you plunk down your hard-earned money.
DJ: Recently, WorldsWithoutEnd.com has launched a Patreon! Can you elaborate on why the Patreon was created, and what you are hoping to achieve with it?
Dave: We have three goals for our Patreon campaign. The first is to pay for all the expenses of running the site. Hosting is expensive as is bandwidth and there are many other bits of software, fees, and services that we need to keep the site running smoothly. We can’t afford to come out of pocket for those things anymore.
The second goal of the plan is simply the incentive to keep us motivated to make improvements. When people volunteer to pay for something that they know they’re going to get for free it really leaves an impression that they care about the site. That is immensely gratifying and gives you that extra push when you’re up ‘till midnight updating awards lists because the nominees were just announced.
Goal number three is spending cash. We spend a ton of our free time working to make the site better and it can sometimes be quite a chore. The bulk of that lost time for me comes out of my personal reading time. I read far less since starting this site about books! A little pocket money for beer and BBQ is most welcome. And when we’re out having those beers and eating that BBQ we’re planning what to do next on the site! My dream would be to make enough money that we could quit our jobs and work on WWEnd full-time but we’re nowhere near that. Still, it’s nice to think about how much more we could do with the site!
DJ: It wouldn’t be a fundraising campaign without some types of rewards for the backers? 🙂
Dave: We do have some incentives built into the campaign. Bookmarks, stickers, buttons, and a WWEnd mission patch are some of the tangibles we have up for grabs right now. And of course we have a Patrons list on the site so everyone can see who’s going the extra mile to support us. There will be other incentives added to the list after we launch our new 3.0 version of the site. Patrons will be able to turn off advertising, have more customization options like different wallpapers or uploading your own custom background, get advanced access to new features, perhaps some exclusive features, and some other surprises we’ll keep up our sleeves for the time being.
DJ: What are some of the long term and short term goals for WorldsWithoutEnd.com? Whether they be directly related to Patreon or not.
Dave: Our main goal at the moment is to get our new 3.0 version of the site out to the world. We’ve been hacking away at a ground up re-write of the entire site for some time now and we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The new site will bring us up to modern web standards for responsiveness, design, and features and is in every way superior to what we have now. The new form-factor is a big leap ahead in the pretty department and is much more intuitive and works great on all devices. We have been showing some sneak peeks to our Patrons and our Uber Users and have gotten lots of great feedback. We can’t wait to show it off to everyone!
DJ: What are some of the challenges that WorldsWithoutEnd.com has had to overcome throughout the years?
Dave: One of our biggest challenges is making sure that WWEnd is inclusive and welcoming to all fans. Initially we built the site around the big awards like Hugo and Nebula. We had to focus on getting that data in first as our foundation but there is an inherent gender bias in those old awards and that became a part of our site. A fact that was hammered home when we added author pictures to the site and I saw all those old white guys staring out at me from my authors I’ve read list!
We’ve made a concerted effort to add more women authors to our coverage and also more books by the women already on our site and have made promoting women authors one of our stated goals. We’ve also expanded our lists section to include an original LGBTQ SF list curated by one of our members and have added four women author specific lists. We have a SF in translation list in the works to bring a little more attention to non-English speaking authors/works from around the world and are in the planning stages of a new list for African-American genre fiction. We’ve made some headway but we have far to go still.
DJ: What is your favorite part about being the administrator for WorldsWithoutEnd.com?
Dave: One of my favorite things about working on WWEnd is all the great people I’ve met from all over the world! We’ve got members from all corners of the globe and I’ve had the pleasure to have many long Skype sessions with folks from all around the US, Europe, and Africa. I’ve made great friends with one guy right here in Dallas who lives only a couple miles from me who I would never have met otherwise and another in Namibia on the other side of the world! He foolishly invited me for a visit and I took him up on it and brought my three brothers with me for a grand African adventure.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about WorldsWithoutEnd.com and the new Patreon that we haven’t talked about yet?
Dave: We are committed to making Worlds Without End the best site for genre fiction fans to find the best books. Help us spread the word about WWEnd and our campaign so we can continue to grow the site and our little corner of the genre community.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Dave: Thanks so much for the interview, it was fun! If you or any of your readers have any more questions about WWEnd please don’t hesitate to reach out to us through any of our links. Cheers!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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