Sunday, June 27, 2010

Five Years Of Orbital Vector

About five years ago last month I launched the Main Orbital Vector site. I had an earlier test site, called the SpecTech database, that was online a year or two before that.

As a budding science fiction writer at the time, I had been frustrated that I couldn't find what I considered a good, detailed, straight-forward database of science fiction or speculative technology ideas. It was easy to find some concepts (like space drives) but not so much others (like futuristic ocean tech.) So, gathering up the plentiful notes I had floating around from research I did for various stories and RPG games, I organized them and decided to put them online for anyone else who may be interested.

The site was slow to catch on, and truthfully its always been a sideline, pretty much a hobby, so I never really publicized it that much. But it eventually got noticed by various like-minded users, and it gained in popularity gradually mostly by word of mouth. Nowadays it averages between 20-30 hits a day, and seems to be on a slow upward trend in user hits.

If you like the site, its probably for one or more of three reasons. One, I've tried to make Orbital Vector mostly about its content, and to make sure that content was useful, interesting to read, and easy to get to. I know I kind of suck as a web designer, so I stuck with a simple design that even an amateur like me could keep up with, and concentrated mostly on the articles.

This is not to say that all my prose has been sparkling, or that my writing is without errors and gaffes. This is like I said a hobby, so this is what I do when I'm too tired or burnt out from other stuff, and sometimes that creeps into the articles here as clunky prose and typos and broken links and such. But the readers thankfully seem to be pretty forgiving of my occasional botched english or coding.

Two, Orbital Vector is also more subtly about optimism for the future, which I know from emails that a number of users really respond to. After all, through all these neat tech concepts and ideas, we're showing just how awesome the future could end up being, and perhaps more importantly, that we'll still be around to enjoy it. There are a lot of dire predictions and attitudes about the future floating around; I wanted to make OV a bit of an oasis from that.

And Three, you just like learning about future technology and may want to use the ideas here for your own stories or games or art or what have you. That's what I originally created the site for, and I'm glad to see people take advantage of that. The articles on OV are written specifically for the layman who may not have a lot of scientific or technical background, but still want enough detail for them to understand how its supposed to work.

I only update OV sporadically, when I get time between other things going on in my life. I try to get 2-3 articles out a months, but sometimes its more, and sometimes its less, just depending on what else may be occupying my time.

Some people ask why I emphasize some technologies but not others. For example, I have an awful lot written on space tech, but very little on medical tech and nothing at all on things like cybernetics.

Mostly, I've tend to write about things I already know quite a bit about already. I read up a lot on new science and technology, but naturally I tend to be interested in certain fields over others. Stuff I haven't read a lot about, like advanced medical tech, requires a lot more time and effort for me to research and write about, so I tend to let that stuff go in favor of things I can produce sooner.

Plus there are some fields that are turning over new tech so fast that its hard to keep up. Electronics, for example. Things that seem futuristic to us now could easily become the next big consumer product in just a few short years. And when a speculative technology becomes commonplace, it doesn't belong on OV anymore. So I kind of have been edging away from electronic and computer speculative tech, as I'd rather not have to write an article that I would just have to remove six months later.

So what's going to happen to OV in the future? More of the same, really. I'll keep adding new articles when I can, filling in gaps in the old sections, adding new ones when I can. There will be some new features though, depending on when I can get around to them:

-- One, I'd still like to convert the site from HTML to CSS. The effort earlier in the year kind of fell through, but that's still on the agenda.

-- Two, i'm going to be adding some donation incentives, and some Orbital Vector swag people can buy. The site makes just enough from ads to pay for its own webhosting, but I'd also like to be compensated, at least at a token level, for the time and effort I put into the site as well. But I will make sure that whatever I offer is quality stuff, so if you do contribute, you'll get something in return that will be worth it.

-- Three, I'm going to be trying to put together some non-fiction books based on the material I've written for the site, so you might see OV in print some day. We'll see how that goes, and if I can find a publisher for it.

-- Four, I'm going to be revamping the Author's Page with a simpler design and new material. That's long overdue.

-- Five, I'm also toying with the idea of adding a Gamer's Page, which would focus on material for science fiction tabletop RPGs like Traveller. I used to game a lot myself, and even wrote a little for gaming magazines, way back when. I know a lot of gamers already use OV for tech ideas, so it seems like a natural extension.

So anyway, thanks for five years of readership and support. Hopefully Orbital Vector will still be here five years form now. See you guys in the future!


Zot said...

I have lurked here for months. I absolutely love the site. It is a great resource for ideas for a story I am writing too.

Paul Lucas said...

Thanks Zot! Hope to keep the site going for a long while yet, and hope you keep coming back. = )