Well, the first blog post is finally up there, and the characters will be commenting from their various time zones at appropriate moments throughout the day.  Expect posts from each of the main characters in the next few days.

A lot’s changed since the last time I blogged about my plans for the Bad Influences project.  After arguing to DustinM (all those years ago) that it still counts as blogfic even if readers can’t comment, I’ve decided the project wouldn’t be the kind of blogfic it needs to be if they don’t.  If my project is to investigate the poetics of blog fiction I need to be writing something that’s typical blog fiction, rather than widening the definition to just about accommodate me.  It does make the project a little more unwieldy.  I not only have a punishing posting schedule in which I could be posting a comment from any one of four time zones at any time of my day or night for almost a year, I’ll also be checking e-mails and moderation queues daily to ensure that other comments go up when they should.  There are a few lulls built into the project to give me a break, but I expect to spend most of the next year enslaved to my e-mail announcements, in the constant company of my netbook and never straying too far from a 3G or Wireless zone.

This also means that am technically inviting my readers to be research participants, so I had to get ethical approval from Edge Hill – much gratitude to Ailsa Cox, Peter Wright and Alyson Brown for helping me to get that sorted at such short notice.  It’s going to make the project much more interesting.  Anybody wanting to participate, have a look at the guidelines and participation agreement.

I also changed platforms at the last minute.  Right up until I’d created the main website on WordPress, I was planning on using LiveJournal for the character blogs.  I got a brilliant RSS Multi-Importer plugin for aggregating the feeds onto a page of the site, so that you can either read them right here or click the links to look at them as the characters designed them in a lightbox.  Just one problem – the comments are a major element of the story, and LJ doesn’t do comment feeds.  It also doesn’t extend the design as far as the comments unless you pay $20 a year, and this includes changing how the datestamp is displayed, which I’ve mentioned before is kind of essential to this project.  I was willing to make the investment – $80 or around £55 for the four character blogs – for the sake of LJ’s interest and friend networks, and the fact that LJ is the platform normally used for this kind of personal, diary-style blogging.   Lack of a comments feed broke the deal for me, though, and I looked at what other platforms had appeared since last time I made these investigations.

First, I chose Blog.com, and had fully designed two of the character blogs before discovering that the unreliable server connection made a mess of the aggregated RSS feed.  Posts appeared and disappeared at random with every refresh.  I could have created each character’s own fully-customisable WordPress.org if I’d paid out for web hosting that allowed me that many databases, but instead I eventually opted for a free WordPress.com site for each character, which turned out to be reliable and just customisable enough.  The standard blogrolls on the free themes looked horrible, so I had the characters follow each other and used the “People I follow” widget instead of the blogroll, creating a nice tile of all four character avatars.

Designing the sites was also something of a task – I haven’t tried my hand at web design since the late 90s, and while WordPress themes do most of it for you, I’m finding it near impossible to find the right bits of HTML or CSS to tweak as I want them.  I’m pretty satisfied with the results, though, which are much enhanced by the artwork of Lia Segar and Arthur Goodman.  Lia did the watercolours I’m using slices of as the banners on Mei’s blog, which will change over the course of the project, and Arthur (of Favourite Crayon and Square-eyed Stories) has not only made an awesome banner for Jack’s blog and created artwork that will be used later in the story, but has also created some fantastic user icons, which the characters will start using once the blogs are a little bit more established.

My next task is publicising the project and building a readership.  I’ve got a Facebook and a Twitter for the project, and I’ll be posting to every relevant online fiction forum and site that I can find in the next few days, and contacting all those who’ve expressed interest in the past.

Looking forward to hearing what you all think of it, and cracking on with editing, transfer documents, conference proposals and – what was the other thing I was supposed to do? – oh yes, research.

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Bad Influences by Emma Pooka is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.