A Midweek Writing Exercise: “Statement of Problem”

Howard here. Let me cut straight to the exercise:

Describe the problems you currently have with the Writing Excuses website, but do so without describing solutions to those problems. 

and then…

Describe things that work the best for you, or things that you enjoy the most at the Writing Excuses site, but do so without simply naming the feature.

We’re giving writingexcuses.com a redesign, an overhaul, and we need use-cases. From you!

In the world of web design (and in the larger world of software design, and the even larger world of product design) the engineering team will do the wrong thing when presented with a long list of instructions from end-users. What they need is a concise list of instructions from an architect, who has looked at the various use-cases in their correct contexts.

Here is one way you might respond to this exercise without having paid attention to the instructions:

“Use a bigger font, and make the buttons bigger, too.”

Okay, but will a bigger font actually solve the problem? Let’s reword this and see.

“I can’t read the site when I’m using my phone, and when I try to click on links or buttons I usually miss.”

Oh-ho! Now we know that what this user actually needs is a version of the site that comes up for mobile devices, and which is optimized for use there. (Note: yes, we know this! And we also hate when mobile sites don’t provide the full feature set. Both of these things are already in our requirements list. And we also know that even for laptop/tablet/PC/Mac users, the existing font is often too small.)

More examples:

I like the tag cloud.

Well, okay. Producer Jordo hates tag clouds, and I don’t like tagging things when I write episodes up, but we’ll go ahead and leave that alone, I guess.

I find episodes using the tag cloud, and sometimes I find super-helpful episodes that I didn’t expect would help.

Wait, you mean it works? Well, that changes things. I’m encouraged to keep tagging episodes as I create them, even though (confession time!) I don’t use the tag cloud myself, and I worry that it might not be useful. And hey, for some of you it might not be! That’s why this writing exercise is so important. One person’s solution or favorite feature may be another person’s problem, and unless we describe the problems and the functional use-cases, we won’t catch that.

Let’s do this one more time…

Don’t make the site all bloated and graphics-heavy! I hate sites that do that.

There’s no value assigned to “bloated” or “graphics-heavy.” Why do you hate sites like that? Are you offended by color? Is it a mobile phone issue? This totally ties our hands, because adding ANYTHING might be problematic here.

I like how quickly the site loads. Episodes take a while to stream, but the UI comes up fast.

This statement identifies load-time as the thing we need to not break. Taken in context of other problems and other successful use-cases, we can see exactly what we need to do.

This writing exercise is especially tricky the more you know about web site design and software design, because you probably already know the solution we’ll end up using. You want to save time and just jump ahead. If you’re passionate about the solution you’re offering, that’s yet another difficulty level. They stack! That means this is a great writing exercise for the engineers among you! It’s like “show, don’t tell,” only with more descriptions of eye-strain and less pre-formatted XML.

Producer Jordo and I interact with the site differently than you do, and Izzy and Tiffany (our development team) are even further disconnected. But if you give us the right information, we’ll give you a new, improved writingexcuses.com that will amaze you, and part of that amazement will be that we gave you good stuff without taking any of the old stuff away.

Unlike our writing prompts, this exercise goes into the comments. And we’ll actually read it! (No critiques, though.)

For your handy-dandy, below-the-fold reference, here is the exercise again:

Describe the problems you currently have with the existing Writing Excuses website, but do so without describing solutions to those problems. 

Describe things that work the best for you, or things that you enjoy the most at the Writing Excuses site, but do so without simply naming the feature.

109 thoughts on “A Midweek Writing Exercise: “Statement of Problem””

  1. I want to re-listen specific episodes but have trouble finding them.

    I find world clouds ugly and confusing

    I’ve never done one of your writing prompts, just saying.

    I like the simplicity of the site. A pleasant lack of flashing adds makes me happy.

  2. WANTS

    – I want a happier or higher energy feel from the site.

    – I want to see everyone’s mug shot. I love Mary, but it seems to be a Mary production because I really only see her fine and happy face. I do scroll when browsing by date, but I think after that first look which only features Mary, I focus more on the posts.

    – I want an easier way to find podcasts on a topic than the tags. It feels so scattered to me, a thousand different posts on a thousand different topics. Maybe what I really want with this one is an easy way to browse by topic. In this browsing mode, I don’t think I want to browse page after page. I want a big list. I’ll scroll via titles and short descriptions, but I don’t want to page, page, page, page, page, page. I want to see all the podcasts on a topic together. Get the lay of the land.

    – I want it to be a bit easier to read. I feel like I’m squinting to see the letters. I also am feeling squished with the text in the post–description, news, featured book, etc.


    – I like seeing the counts of downloads. I do not know why.

    – I like the brief summary about what I’m going to listen to. It helps me determine if I want to spend the time.

    – When scrolling on the normal pages, browsing by date, I like that I don’t have to click into every podcast to see the details. I think the “more” clicks would bug me.

    – I really enjoy the times you post images.

  3. I love the microcast episodes, but hate that I don’t know where to submit anonymous questions. I hate using twitter for sensitive questions.

    I hate it that people don’t know to hit ctrl and + at the same time, on most browsers, to make the screen bigger and easier to read.

    I hate it when Dan isn’t on the cast, I enjoy his different perspective as a horror novelist. :)

  4. #1: I love the cast.
    #2: I find myself annoyed that often when I go to click on the play link on my phone, I accidentally hit the audible links or something else nearby it when I just want to play the cast.
    #3: When I hover over Mary’s Bio/Website, It says Brandon’s Bio/Website respectively. (Surprised I didn’t see that one above somewhere)
    #4: When searching through the archives, clicking play right from it caused the episodes to stop playing a few minutes in and I have no idea why. Only way to fix it is to click on the page and play it from within there.
    #5: The comment section is a little clunky and it would be nice to be able to follow back and forth conversations rather than picking out the @ signs.
    #6: It might be time to change the tagline, as most casts are no longer 15 minutes.
    #7 I love the cast. You guys are awesome.

  5. Problem: Whenever I try to find the archives to previous seasons, it takes me longer than I expect.

    Problem: I have been frustrated before when something was mentioned would be “in the liner notes” for the episode, but I cannot find it when I come on the site.

    Like: I find it very useful to have the audiobook and writing prompt of the week printed right there with the episode.

  6. I agree with the above people who have talked about the search function: it is extremely weird and I tend to use Google to find any particular old episode.

    Also, sometimes when I try to play a podcast from the site using my iPhone, the play button overlaps the last bit of text that always has the link to audible.com and I can be taken there when I’m just trying to listen to you guys.

    I, for one, like the monochrome: it gives a sense of writerliness by imitating a manuscript.

    I am, however, a bit confused as to why there is a smiley face at the very bottom of the screen.

  7. Problems:
    1. The writing excuses twitter community is not accessible from the website. There is no way to read the tweets or join in the exchange on the site.
    2. The central “active content” is squeezed by essentially static, largely unused material on both left and right sides.
    3. The play me info/links at the end of episodes are “fine print” even though they are often what a person wants first.
    4. Since I don’t follow twitter closely, and there is no email notification that I know of for new episodes (my preferred medium for messages), when there are middle of the week episodes I may not catch them for a while (usually my first notice is seeing something in the Howard’s tweets on the Schlock Mercenary site).

    1. The current episode is always up top and easy to find.
    2. The popup player has proven simple to use and flexible for transcribing, with pause and slide timing.
    3. The relatively simple layout of the site means fast loading, seems to work with most browsers, and has easy to understand text (as opposed to mysterious icons, or having to hunt through various tabs or menus to find things).
    4. The newspaper or magazine layout is a good visual metaphor for the site.

  8. Not enamored of the search function. I’ve been listening for the last several years and I have a neighbor who is just starting to listen. I keep telling her about specific episodes, but frequently neither the search function nor the tags make it possible for me to find the episode I’m thinking of.

    (FWIW, I’m a fan of tagging. Yes, the list keeps growing, but I find it a convenient way to find things, as long as they’re logical to me and everything gets tagged. Sometimes I just like browsing by topic, too, and they’re convenient for that!)

    Otherwise, the podcast is great. I find the website reasonably easy to navigate. The text is small, making it hard to read, but I come here to listen more than to read. I run firefox on a linux machine and I’m very happy with the way the player works. Sometimes there are compatibility issues, but you seem to have avoided them.

  9. Another item came up in the middle of this process:

    I placed a request in my comment above: to locate a particular episode.
    There is no way for me to know if another reader has found that episode, other than to log in (without knowing if I need to), and then scanning all the other comments.
    It would be better to get notified if someone specifically attempted to respond to my comment, and then to get directed to that response.
    You’d probably get more of a sense of community, too (I believe others have alluded to this, but I am just bringing up the problem from an information retrieval perspective).

  10. p.s. My frustration at information retrieval and search is directly correlated with my desire to obtain the material. So all these information retrieval requests should, of course, be parsed as compliments.

  11. I don’t really use the site, I just use the RSS feed. Just keep the RSS feed running and I’m a happy guy.

  12. I have two major goals I try and achieve with your site.
    1. Check out the new episode, see if it’s useful to my writing, then download it

    2. When I’m stuck in my writing I like to look up old episodes that could help me get unstuck and then download it.

    The good of checking out new episodes:
    The titles are very well down and thoughtful.
    The descriptions of the episodes are well written and engaging.

    The bad:
    I find the download link really hard to pick out (I read the title of the episode, read the description, skip the writing prompt and audio book, then go hunting for a small grey link near bright and eye catching share this info links.)

    (software engineer rant: a screen should making achieving the primary use case as easy as possible)

    The good of ‘When I’m stuck and need to get unstuck’
    The archive section is amazingly useful, short description of episode, relevant tags and is easily clickable. (software engineer anti-rant: This is a great example of clean,elegant design that’s functional. Yay, this page makes me happy!!!! High fives who ever designed this page)

    I do use clicking on tag wall to finds relevant episodes to my current problem but I do find the layout really confusing.

    The bad:
    I couldn’t find download links on transcription pages so if i use them to find episodes to listen to I have to then go find the download on another page (Google often returns the transcript page in search results cause that’s where the text is, I often remember what people say in the episodes and search by that in google)

    To summarize I find your site amazingly useful, but the software engineer in me is conflicted that I think the primary purpose of your site is to allow the downloading of the episodes yet your screens do not reflect this.

    If there is a page that describes the episode, transcripts the episode, refers to the episode then yell it from the roof tops that here is where I click now to download it.

  13. Liner notes are sometimes referred to in the podcast but are not found on the site.

    I rarely check out the Comment section, thus was completely unaware this is where the Transcripts are found. (though I just noticed for the first time there is a link to the Transcripts on the right hand side…but as I never knew about Transcripts, I never had need to search the site for them)

    Have heard reference to the show’s Twitter feed, but no mention or links to it on the site, no where on the site to follow the Twitter feed.

    I listen to the podcast exclusively on the website from my laptop. It always loads quickly with no buffering or delays.

  14. Things that work well:

    1) I like that I can find the play button for the new episode quickly, click it, and listen right away, without waiting for it to load.

    2) I like the good audio quality.

    3) I like that the comments section is easy to use, and devoid of spam and flame wars.


    1) Often I hear a reference to something being in the “liner notes” then fail to locate said item when I want it. This is particularly true if I’m remembering a liner note item from a previous episode, but can’t remember precisely which episode it was.

    2) If I remember correctly, there’s an online community someplace where people post attempts at the writing prompts. I would like to be able to read a writing prompt, then quickly find the place where people are trying it out.

  15. * I love the way the way the website’s laid out like a typewritten page (even though I am pretty sure those are computer keyboard noises at the start of each episode): it feels clean and to the point, like good writing should be.

    * I love that I can download a ‘cast from the general archive page, rather than being forced to go into each episode: it’s convenient and saves me time.

    * I like the tags (but don’t love): it’s nice being able to see what a podcast is about at a glance, although usually the titles are descriptive enough for me.

    * I like that the transcripts are so easily accessible (even though the page itself for them is a bit lackluster). When an episode is a little garbled, it is nice to have a written record of what was said. As an aside, whoever does those transcripts is a gentleman and a scholar.

    * I like the Caster portraits, and the associated bio, webpage, and store links. The portraits help make the podcast seem a little more personable, like Brandon is talking to you when he says “now go write.” That said, even though I like the links, I’m not sure I have ever used them (I tend to access author pages directly, rather than going through Writing Excuses). I just like information, and it is comforting knowing it is there.

    * I like that recent comments are posted on the left: it lets me know if one appears on an old podcast that I’m not checking.

    * I dislike the tag cloud: maybe I am just old and crotchety (no, I am not really that old), but the tag clouds are a fun concept that totally don’t work for me. It isn’t that I can’t find things that way, it is just that the search function is a far better way of doing it, and the cloud conveys information that I find irrelevant (why does it matter how frequent a tag is?)

    * I dislike that there is no good way to access old seasons as a group. I use PodCast Addict, and old episodes (from before I was using that program) don’t show up, so I have to download the episodes to my computer, then put them on my phone. That means I have to download episodes one at a time, which can be tedious and lead to skipped episodes or duplicate episodes, if I forget when I was. Honestly, I would pay money to be able to download entire seasons electronically (not a suggestion on how to fix a problem, mind you: just a way to show how passionate I am about this dislike).

    * I dislike that some of the links to Howard’s site don’t work (for example, season 1 episode 3, the link to Howard’s original time travel outline is broken). This stuff sounds amazing, but I can’t access it, which is frustrating (although, perhaps broken links are a bit o a tangent?)

    * I dislike that only a few of the recent comments show up, and that there isn’t a way to view the last, say, day or week’s comments. When there are a lot of posts, such as for this writing prompt, they get buried quickly.

    * I feel bad for the calendar. I never have any reason to use it: it tends to be easier to access the archives, if I want an old episode, rather than to use that. Yes, I take pity on inanimate bits of code (no, I am not a programmer).

    * I dislike how verbose I can be sometimes… wait, that’s my problem that I’ve made yours. Sorry.

    * I wish I could see what books the Writing Excuses Crew has been reading. I think that would be very fascinating to see (and okay, it would be great fodder for a reading list), and more useful to me than tag clouds.

    * I wish that tags could be suggested easily by readers. If a few hundred people all think that “These Marshmallows are Delicious” is an important tag, then that might be worth including. (or am I getting into solutions, again?) Basically, it would be nice to see what other readers thinks were the key topics of each episode.

  16. First and foremost, I love you guys (that’s a gender neutral “guys” :D) and the podcast. You are awesome, thank you so much for sharing your experience and expertise with us!!!

    Problems I have with the site:

    I don’t like that the Bios aren’t kept up to date, because it would be awesome when discussing the podcast, or its amazing authors, to have that copy & paste-able/linkable info be current.

    I dislike when you’re copying and pasting text that you get a long URL link added. For the most part, if I am copying from the site, it is a comment that I want to quote so I can respond to it or it’s something like the writing prompt. In either case, the URL is just an annoying thing I have to delete. (Example: See more at: https://writingexcuses.com/2014/05/01/a-midweek-writing-exercise-statement-of-problem/#sthash.DpiyHl1H.dpuf)

    Like many others who commented here, I too have difficulty finding specific episodes – the search and cloud functions sometimes work, but not always. And as others have mentioned, a Google search can fix this problem … unless the word or phrase you’re searching for is in the comments only. In addition, both Google and the transcripts are only helpful if you remember the exact word or phrase. (Plus looking through the transcripts page by page through 9 seasons? Generally that just takes too much time.)

    I wish there was a “Subscribe” button or some easy way to get email notifications when mid-week episodes come up. I do not use the RSS, nor whatever it is that I saw folks mentioning that automatically let you know there is a podcast to download – I almost always listen the first time from my desktop or notebook anyway (though occasionally via my android phone). I know sometimes episodes are mentioned on one of your blogs and/or on twitter, but I don’t always see those.

    Things that I like/enjoy about the site:

    I love that I can listen by pushing play on the main page via computer or phone …. AND I can also download episodes to have when I don’t have internet and I want to listen to Writing Excuses. :)

    It is SUPER nice that you don’t have to log onto an account to post comments!

    I love that the archives are by year and in order. It is really neat to listen to them all in order, btw … you can hear the changes in experience, opinions, and ideas over time.
    (Note, some people said they’d like to be able to listen to them in different orders, such as by learning level or by topic. That would be pretty cool, but only if you could still also see the listings by date.)

    I’m not sure how much I like the tags, because I’m not sure how removing them would affect the website. For instance, I like the cloud for researching on general topics or random listening. And I *think* tagging affects the search engine, which is above in my dislike category. But I am positive that I like Howard more than the cloud or easy searching – I’ll be fine without either if it keeps Howard’s brain from hurting. :)

    Please note, nothing I have listed here would make or break whether I continue to listen to the podcast. :D

  17. Oh man. *blush* And I dislike that there is no preview option so I could see how long and clunky my post looks without bullets of some kind BEFORE it was uploaded. (And then fix it.)

  18. 1) Irregular update times are frustrating. Its always leaves me shaking my head when howard’s monday strip goes up before a sunday podcast he’s in.

    2) The hardest part of searching is that you can’t scan over many episode titles quickly: they have the big chunk of information between each title.

    The content is the best part of the site, but we aren’t talking about that …

    I think the monochrome makes the site looks clean, and the limitation of advertisements to the book of the week and the podcaster’s books makes the site look professional and trustworthy.

  19. As someone who writes a blog which focuses on writing, I find myself mentioning Writing Excuses often as one of the best writer resources ever made. Often I like to share a particular episode that I found especially useful. In such cases, the tag cloud is a lifesaver for me, since it lets me search for a topic I’m going to be writing about, and allows me to quickly find the exact episode I remember helping me, even when I don’t remember its name.

  20. **I wish the whole audio bar was bigger.

    I find the buttons (play, pause, volume) feel particularly tiny when using my laptop touchpad although it’s a full-size screen.

    And I want to quickly see my progress through a particularly episode, which is difficult with the present audio bar if I’ve slid to the other side of my desk or stood up.

    **Color on the site

    All the grey is sad…. especially when I’m particularly discouraged by my writing progress.

    **Keep being awesome

  21. Problems:

    1) Website font is small and hard on the eyes.

    2) Transcripts are hard to find.

    3) Mailbox is always full and my messages bounce back.

    4) no hint of what will be covered from week to week

    5) Still no podcast on flashbacks

    Things I like:

    1) How I can see a whole season by season break down

    2) Like that I can download episodes or have them stream

    3) Like how fast the website loads and the links to each podcasters website

  22. I listen to podcasts on an old phone which (as far as I can work out) can only add podcasts if they’re in the iTunes store. For some time now, Writing Excuses has not been in the iTunes store, or when it has been the feed has been empty (as it currently is) or out of date.

  23. And now I wish for nested comments or editable postings because I need to tell you that the blurry strip in every 3rd to 5th line only exists on my flat monitor (old video card?). It’s still seems hard to read but the blur isn’t there on the old massive monitor. And by telling you here it might be hard to remember which comment I’m referring too.

    Also, while I’m on the topic of optic effects messing with my mind, I’m not a fan of the off white background with the bleed through ink/dying monitor word shadows. It doesn’t matter when I’m up where links hides it, but it distracts me when I scroll down and I find myself squinting at the sides to see if it really exits or if my eyes are just being weird before I remember that it’s there and is probably a theme thing to imply writing.

  24. I love your website, and how available the archives are to be searched. The only thing I wish was you had a “Play all” feature per season, so while driving or at work instead of waiting for downtime after playing an archived episode to click another, I could just stream the whole season for hours of uninterrupted entertainment. That would be awesome but is more of a wish, rather than a website problem.

  25. – It’s harder than it should be to find older episodes. The calendar is inefficient, showing only 30 days at a time, where only 5 – 7 of those days will be links, and none of them give information about whether it’s a post like this, an episode, what the episode is, so on.

    – I sometimes visit the site for non-episode things, e.g., Book of the Week when I’m casually browsing a bookstore or Audible, or Writing Prompt when I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel for inspiration. It would be nice if these things could be compactly listed on their own somehow, rather than paging back through the archives hunting for bold text (especially, yes, on my phone, since that’s likely how I’m accessing it at a brick-and-mortar bookstore.)

    – The left-side strip is a confusing mass of information. I don’t even know what anything besides the calendar is really for. It’s possible there are things over there that would be useful for me, but nothing looks useful, and I’ve never wanted a given thing where something on the left looked like it could provide it.

    – “Purchase Mary’s Books” – “Purchase Brandon’s Books” – “Purchase Howard’s Books” – “Buy Dan Bacon” — One of these things is not like the others. (Possibly intentional, but then again, possibly a little detail the webmaster hasn’t noticed yet.)

    – Some of your episodes are available on YouTube, where they were recorded at a con or something. It would be nice if this weren’t something that needed to be stumbled on by accident, both in terms of making people aware of your channel’s existence, and listing what episodes are available. In a similar vein, many of you have presentations / talks you have given on YouTube, that are likely relevant to the interests of listeners, even if not formally ‘Writing Excuses’ material.

  26. Whoops, I forgot to say something nice, which I really, really do love: Your episodes have always been downloadable directly from the site in mp3 format. That is a huge, huge win for me. This is the only podcast I follow regularly, and I suspect that is a large part of it.

  27. I wish we could like comments so we can quickly see which comments are more popular. Then we could search by popular comments to read the more thoughtful and beneficial comments first.

    I like that I can download the episodes for listening when I don’t have access to the internet.

    I would like to see more social media integration through the site. A twitter/facebook widget would be nice.

    I would like a section that allows people to upload their writing excuses writing prompts. This way we could get other peoples input on the things we write relative to the podcast.

    This might be too involved but a members section that allows the user to establish a profile so fans can get more familiar with each other would be nice. Along with the members section we can favorite certain podcasts for future listening and make requests for subjects.

    I would love an area where we could suggest topics for podcasts which would also allow followers to vote on the topics suggested. This would allow you to more quickly find topics a larger part of the fans would enjoy listening too.

  28. I access the podcast through the rss feed.

    I love having access to an rss feed as I listen to multiple podcasts and instead of having to check each website I simply look at my feed for updates. It is a shame when a site doesn’t have an active rss feed as I usually don’t remember to listen to their podcast.


    P.S. Just tried to submit this and got an error that email is a required field. Would have been nice to have known it was required before hitting submit (maybe it does and I just missed it…).

  29. Issues
    When I listen to the episodes using the embedded player on the website the player tends to crash every 8 minutes or so. Refreshing the player and fast-forwarding the timestamp of the failure and resuming play works fine as a workaround, but still annoying. Using Chrome.

    I really like the tags for guest stars, I don’t really use any of the other tags, but I can typically find an episode I want by searching for the guest. When the episode had no guest I usually can find it faster by using the calendar or episode title.

  30. I like the frequent liner note links to helpful resources.

    I really like the book recommendations, including book-of-the-week and other mentioned works. The current list of BOW has very helpful information, including synopses and/or why it was recommended. But, the list is incomplete and outdated. I would like to have a way to look at all of the recommendations, a comprehensive, searchable, and sortable/filterable list. And since I would be scanning a longer list, it would be nice to see more on a single screen; the current list format only fits two books at once on my computer.

    When listening to the cast I frequently want to go back a ways in the audio to hear part of the conversation again. The in-site player does not allow easy navigation, which is frustrating.

  31. Woohoo!

    I wish I could listen to episodes in the archives without having to click on to a separate page for each episode (on the front page, I only have to click “play,” and when I’m done I don’t have to hit “back” in my browser and scroll down to find the next episode).

    I wish I could navigate the sound player more precisely. I like that I can hit the “30-second” button when I miss something and want to go back a little.

    I enjoy having your pictures down the side.

    I like that the archives are easy to navigate.

    I enjoy the look of the website.

    Sometimes I have to look a while to find the archives button on the home page.

    Thank you very much for making this podcast! You all rock!

  32. I don’t know was already addressed. There are currently 79 other comments before mine but …

    When I try and listen to an episode on my phone instead of opening up the episode, the page redirects me to an audible membership. I used to be able to play episode no problem and listen to them all the time in my car, but now I can’t get anything to play. This only happens when I try and play it through my phone as opposed to a computer where it works just fine.

  33. I don’t know if it’s related to these questions or not, but I want to echo an earlier post: Please make Writing Excuses available through Stitcher. This is the only podcast that I listen to regularly that isn’t available through that app. If it was, I would have very few reasons to visit your site. Problems solved.

    As for what works…

    The archives served me well, though I renamed the files to make them play in the correct order.

    I like not having to register in order to submit a comment.

    I like that I can listen to this podcast without iTunes (specifically).

    I think the blog posts for each episode, including the synopsis, book-of-the-week, and writing prompt, are excellent. I like the consistent format and the inclusion of links, etc…

  34. Independently mine:

    * I’d like to quickly find the episodes where every regular is contributing, but no guests are included.

    * I want to be able to ask the site to show me a list of links to every episode where “this guest” was a guest.

    * I supported the site by subscribing to Audible, but that was last year. I get books written or narrated by writing excusers, but I’d like to more directly be able to support the ‘cast more.

    * Howard doesn’t like doing that thing he’s not good at. Maybe the listeners could tag episodes after they’re already up, according to our needs. (Crowdsource the thing we’re passionate about and he hates: we’ll do the work.)

    * I use the tag cloud for random re-listens, but would use it more if it were better.

    Partly inspired by or copying from previous comments, (a +1 or like, but possibly with elaboration):

    * I can’t sort episodes by how many times they’ve been downloaded. I don’t know which ones are the most popular.

    * Man, I like being able to browse episodes to hear again for dialog, endings, pacing, and the like.

    * I like how the site is quick and responsive when I visit it directly.

    * I dislike how the site puts so much space as blank gray on the sides. The parts with content should get that window width.

    * I wish the site text was easier to read.

    * I love that the content is classroom-worthy. It really teaches! I’ll use it for home-schooling, in two or three years.

    * I love the ability to listen on the site. I use it every Monday morning, and then a few more times, randomly, most weeks, for the latest or earlier episodes.

    * I want a way to jump to a random episode, for inspiration or as part of a shuffle playlist type of feature.

    * I want to be able to skip back a dozen seconds to hear that last part again. Sometimes something is so pithy it needs to sink in. Sometime a kid was winding the cat.

    * I like being able to download the ‘casts to my MP3 player.

    * I wish the naming conventions on the old episodes was corrected so that the episodes were easy to playlist by name order on my MP3 player.

    * I do not like that there is no link to a guest author’s website in the notes for every episode they are featured in.

    * I have to use google to find a specific previous episode: the search here isn’t trustworthy.

    * I want a way to preview and possibly go back to editing a comment before I submit it.

  35. I don’t like the font used on the website itself. I’m not entirely certain that I’d like it even if it were large enough to easily read on my iPad. It looks like the font used by my company newsletter.

    Regarding reading and listening to the site on the iPad, I have problems clicking the links without zooming the screen, and I have small fingers. I can imagine how difficult it might be for someone with larger fingers.

    If you have guests, I keep looking for a “Guest of the Week” panel or link on the sidebars so that I can read more about the guest or maybe get to their website or bibliography more easily.

    The last three times I tried sending an email, it bounced back to me because the mailbox was full or something. I don’t know if I just have the damnedest luck or if this is a problem other people are experiencing, but it’s a little disheartening.

    I wish there was some way for listeners to suggest topics for discussion in a way that lets the writers know which things are in most demand, or for the writers to peruse such suggestions more easily without having to browse through comments or forum discussions.

    That said, I do love the archives, having only started listening to the podcast in the middle of the last season. The simple aesthetic and muted colors of the site are also very appealing to me.

  36. When I listen to an episode on the website, I can’t make it loud enough to hear over cooking (like stir-frying), dishwasher running, etc, even with my computer volume and the site volume turned all the way up. I use a macbook pro and I know the speakers I have aren’t super loud to begin with.

    I like that the book of the week is tagged below the podcast because it makes it easy to scroll through the site and find good reading suggestions, instead of having to listen to each podcast again.

    Thanks for these great podcasts everyone! They are really inspiring to me to keep writing.

  37. When searching for episodes on a specific topic, it’s not clear to me if I should use tags or categories. At times looking up a tag and a category by the same name will return results that overlap, but not completely.

  38. Dislike:

    Clicking on download tries to load it into my browser (Firefox). I have to go to the context menu to make it download into a folder on the disk.

    Playing the downloaded file in iTunes is close to inaudible, even with the sound slider all the way to the max. This may be a local problem, though. (Mac OS X)


    Fast load. I’m behind a slow line, and sites that download fonts from a font repository to “make it look prettier” just slow down the load time – I’ve never seen a font that makes me go “oh, yeah!” as a real improvement. The same goes for pretty graphics: I’d swear grass grows faster than they load.

    Don’t use, can’t imagine why I’d want to:

    The tag cloud.

    Don’t currently use, might be useful exploring:


  39. – I have adult ADD and I tend to get paralyzed for a few moments when I first visit the site. Text is everywhere and it takes extra time and brain power to filter out content that isn’t pertinent to me (at that moment).
    – I like the idea of tags, but again my head starts to whirl with the varying sizes. I find color variances are easier to process (and actually helpful) as compared to spacial and size variances which tend to be confusing.

    * I like that the outline for the most recent podcast is right there in front of me when I load the page.
    * I like small animals and I prefer sparkling grape juice to wine. Did I mention I have ADD?

  40. 1. I love the cloud and you categorizing posts. It makes it much easier to find casts on what I am currently working on.
    2. I wish the website itself had an email we could contact like to use to comment or ask a question that is not cast or author specific.
    3. I enjoy that you have links to the people involved in the casts.

  41. 1. I like being able to navigate to several interesting places from any given page without having to mouse through menus. The sidebars you have now allow for this, while top menus do not.

    1.1 The tag cloud is very useful, as it allows me to quickly find a category. If I’m thinking about brainstorming, I can find the brainstorming episodes. If I’m thinking about a character, I can find the character episodes. It may be useful to increase the number of people who can tag podcasts.

    2. I like web pages that are quick to load, and do not break when using script blockers. Failing gracefully is fine, but the page shouldn’t become entirely unusable without scripts.

    3. I like clean audio that doesn’t hurt my ears. I’ve noticed many times that Writing Excuses suffers from audio clipping during recording, notably when people start laughing. Playing back through speakers this is fine, but when wearing headphones it gives me a headache.

  42. I like that the archives are sorted by season, list the runtime of each episode, and contain brief episode summaries. This makes it easy for me to choose what I feel like listening to.

    I don’t like that there’s no way to pick a random episode when I don’t feel like choosing.

  43. The search option often comes up empty for me. (sorry, no results found).

    I love that all the previous episodes are archived (and I have been listening to old episodes on a regular basis), but it is a cumbersome task to find where I left off. I can change the URL at the top by adding /page/8/ but every time something new is added, the pages change slightly.

    The Facebook page doesn’t change much. Is it even used?

    I love the liner notes links for going more in depth on a topic

  44. I don’t know if this is my system or not, but the scroll bar on the right side is white with a white box. So it’s really hard to see how far down the page I am.

    When you download an mp3, and it opens in new window, and you save it. I have found that adding them to my mp3 player to listen to at work, they don’t play in order. It plays #1,#10,#11 … .. #2, #20, #21, …. etc. I believe I see why, under the file name, they are labeled as 1,2,3, and when put in mp3 it doesn’t separate those from the teens. I am relabeling all of mine to 01,02,03 to see if it works better for me. Not too much of an issue other than me wasting time to do this :P

    Craig A. Price

  45. A problem I’ve been having is that every few minutes the player stops playing and I have to reload the whole page to get it to play again.

  46. I know I’m late to the party, but here’s mine:

    * I love the feed via RSS – iTunes would kill it for me. All my podcasts are through RSS into a podcatcher app on my phone, so I really like this.

    * I’d love to have an automatic (i.e. no manual search/download) way to get archived podcasts, like a re-run feed.

  47. Ack, let me rephrase that last one, after reviewing the post instructions/examples.

    * I want to have automated delivery of archived or past episodes on my mobile device (where I consume all of my podcasts) in addition of the current episode RSS feed. It could be random or sequential. The ability to specify how many per week or per session would also be nice.

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