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What's next for the Lurker's Guide?

As the series has drawn to a close, I've received a lot of E-mail wondering what the future holds for the Lurker's Guide. Here are some answers.

Will the Lurker's Guide disappear?

Nope! I have no plans to ever take the site down. Of course, twenty years from now it won't be updated too often, but the existing material will, barring disaster, be available for you to download to your contact-lens Web browser and read while your car drives you to work.

Any plans to publish the site in book form or on CD-ROM?

I'm willing to entertain offers to that effect, but I'm not actively seeking anything at this time. For one thing, the site is still an unfinished work, as you'll see below.

If the Guide is published in some form, most or all of the proceeds will go to charity, since so much of the material here is the product of other folks on the net. It wouldn't be fair to the Guide's countless contributors for me to make a profit from the sale of their work.

The ideal format in my mind, by the way, would be a DVD-ROM (so the hypertext links still work) with the script for each episode included alongside the synopsis, and with video clips of various scenes. Obviously that only flies if the authors of the episodes want it to.

Will it ever be updated again?

First of all, I've accumulated a substantial backlog of suggestions for guide pages over the years. It'll take quite some time to go through them all and add them to the Guide as needed.

Leaving aside the backlog and any upcoming movie(s), there're two significant things left to add: background pages for season five and, more importantly, a new section on each guide page to discuss foreshadowing and the eventual answers to the episode's unanswered questions (e.g. the guide page for "Point of No Return" will discuss when and how Lady Morella's prophecies came true.) I intentionally avoided doing that kind of thing while the series was still in progress.

I have a stack of E-mail along those lines to go through as a first cut; then at some point I'll actively solicit suggestions.

And of course all that material will be split off into its own section at the bottom of each page, or maybe even placed on entirely separate pages, so as not to spoil upcoming episodes for viewers who're watching the series for the first time.

Finally, the Guide is chock full of text I'm not entirely happy with. If a book or DVD/CD publishing deal should happen, I'll want to go back and touch up a lot of old material.

The big one... will the Guide cover Crusade?

If I can find the time to write the software to handle it, yes.

The original Guide is almost exclusively a hand-edited affair. I have a little bit of automation to handle the page headers/footers and the datestamping of material on the episode pages, but the actual text of the Guide is all raw HTML I maintain using a text editor. I read the suggestions in my mailbox and write the material on the guide pages based on them. I edit the synopses as they come in, add links to the Poll 5 results, add new entries to the What's New page, and so forth.

In short, it takes a heck of a lot of time and energy. And now, knowing full well what I'm in for (I didn't at first) I'm pretty sure I won't be able to keep doing this for another five years.

So the two options are to decide the Guide won't cover Crusade, or to build something new, and hopefully better, that takes less effort to maintain.

Version 2 of the Lurker's Guide, if it happens, will look something like this.

The episode guide pages will be similar in appearance to the current ones. But instead of flat Web pages, they'll all be discussion areas, to which anyone can add new material at will. My role will be to go through the new submissions as they come in and decide which ones I would have included in the Guide if I were still maintaining it by hand. I'll mark those messages as moderator-approved and delete the inevitable flames, trolls, duplicates, and "testing, 1 2 3" entries. I may also appoint other moderators to help out.

When you enter the Guide, at first you'll only see the moderator-approved entries for each episode, a view similar to what you get today. But with the click of a button you'll be able to expand the guide page to include all the discussion, approved and otherwise, and you'll be able to add your own thoughts.

In addition, synopsis writers and other such contributors will be able to upload their work directly to the site without going through my mailbox.

How is this better than the existing site? In a few ways.

What I've described isn't a trivial undertaking. It's a fairly complex Web-based database application, in fact. Luckily that's more or less what I do for a living, so given the time it's all quite doable.

Crusade's delay until June is a blessing for me in some ways, since it means there's some chance of getting all this stuff up and running, should I decide to do it after all.

I'll keep the What's New page updated as things progress, so you can follow the development there.

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Last update: November 30, 1998