Singularity Magazine June 2011

Singularity magazine June 2011

The June 2011 issue marks the birthday (birthmonth?) of Singularity! This is the 13th issue, and I thank you for reading the magazine. Download this month’s issue (about 7MB).

Behind the scenes

So I found a solution to my cat ride problem. I negotiated heavily with my cat, and she decided (rather imperiously, I might add) that she shall have 1 back massage per month.

“I thought I give you back massages!”
“Mmrrr.”
“Oh yeah, I haven’t done that for a while…”
*swipe claws*
“AARRRHHH! Whaddya do that for?”
“Mmrrr.”
“Ok, fine.”
*purr*

So now I have fairies as hired help, but I have to feed them and they are allowed cat rides. My cat shreds junk email and I persuaded her to give cat rides. In return, I have to give her back massages. What have I gotten myself into…

Singularity Magazine May 2011

Singularity Magazine May 2011

In this May issue of Singularity, we have interviews with molecular-genetics-researcher-turned-author Beverly Akerman (who wrote The Meaning of Children) and 9 year old go-kart-racing Ricky Springer.

I also covered an event by professor Joe Winston on “Beauty, Education and the Well-being of Children”.

Download the May 2011 issue.

In exciting magazine news, we also have a Facebook page! Share your comments, put up links, start discussions!

Behind the scenes

The fairies I hired to help me were starting to get very fond of the cat rides, which was an important part of my contract with them. My cat, if you remember, helps me with getting rid of junk email with her tele-mechano-kinesis powers. My cat had also gotten a little tired of giving rides. She took to hiding…

Cat hiding

This, is going to be a problem…

Singularity Magazine April 2011

Singularity Magazine April 2011

For April 2011, we have our “thickest” magazine issue ever. 95 pages! Even I’m surprised…

Download the April 2011 issue of Singularity magazine (about 11MB).

I have the pleasure of interviewing Thom Chambers, a fellow magazine editor who runs the In Treehouses magazine.

You might notice that I’m sort of slowing down writing for the blog here in favour of writing for my magazine. One reason is that I find some of my ideas harder or inappropriate to write here, due to design or expression or simply the idea itself. Another reason is that I feel a greater satisfaction of having created something, compared to just a blog post. You will do well subscribing to my magazine. I will still write here, just maybe not as often. Maybe.

Behind the scenes

Visits to 2 cafes, coverage of 2 events, 1 gruesome evening at an art museum and 95 pages later, I’m tired. To say the least. March was gruelling, what with working on my small business and writing the magazine and all. I asked my fairy helpers for, well, additional help. They did this:

Double Vincent

There once was a man named Vincent
Whose work had caused him to be spent
He bathed in fairy goo
And then split into two
Thus the laws of physics were bent

Let’s not do this too often…

How to self-publish a magazine

When I was starting out trying to get email subscribers to my magazine, I wrote a small ebook to give away as an incentive to subscribe. I’ve decided to just give it away for free. It’s called “How to self-publish an online magazine – Parry publishing pitfalls on a bread-and-butter budget”.

Download it for free (about 900 KB)

I just reread my own ebook. I found this particularly funny:

What do you mean you don’t know if there’s a next issue? Of course there’s a next issue.

You’d be amazed at how few online magazines are out there. Just so you know, I found a magazine that only had 1 article. It documented a party event, and was hosted online, so it’s all on one web page. But if packaged into a PDF, I’d say it’s about 5 pages at most. Can you write a 5-page magazine? Doesn’t seem so daunting, right?

The ebook was intentionally spartanly designed. I want the reader to start a magazine without being fearful of design issues. I’m not a designer, I make do with whatever skills and tools I have, and I do just fine.

For the April issue of Singularity, I’ve got an interview with Thom Chambers, a publisher of another magazine called In Treehouses. Stay tuned.

Singularity Magazine March 2011

Singularity Magazine March 2011

So in a fortnight’s time, it will be Pi Day! Are you excited? Yeah? Yes? no? Oh, you don’t care… Well, you get to eat pies… oh you love pies? Great! So look out on the Internet on March 14. Why March 14? Because the first three digits of PI (3.14159) is 3, 1 and 4. You know, 3/14 as a date?

Anyway, the March 2011 issue of Singularity magazine is available! I’d chomp right through a bushel of cookies if I had it right now. Because I’m that happy. Speaking of cookies, there’s a special report on CookieBank, a sweet way of microlending. Check it out in the magazine.

Since we have Pi Day, we can’t escape from mathematics, right? I bring you an interview with mathematician, John D. Cook. He says contrary to popular understanding, Taylor series approximations are not used to calculate trigonometric functions in computer chips. What, you didn’t know? Neither did I!

Download the March issue right now (about 3MB)

Behind the scenes

So the fairies I hired last month are really good. They helped me track down nice pictures to use in the magazine, small bits of info here and there, do some design stuff. All they ask for is that I feed them, which is ok, since they eat very little. And that I let them take rides on my cat (assistant). My cat graciously obliged (after I begged her imperial Majesty for a few days. I really needed the fairies to help).

There was one small tiny bit of a commotion. An incident really. The fairies were exploring the house, and they settled near my cat’s food bowls. They picked a couple of pieces of dry cat food out.

KABLOOEEE!!

My cat pounced onto the fairies. Luckily, no fairy was hurt (they fly and flee fast, I’ll give them that). Otherwise I’d have to answer to the Magical Minist… what? Oh, I’m not supposed to tell them. Uh, forget what I said.

So. My cat’s fine with the feline rides. But touch her food bowls and you die. Period.

Singularity Magazine February 2011

Singularity February 2011

Chinese New Year is on the 3rd February 2011. So in this issue of Singularity, I will tell you how red packets came about, and why they contain money (it involves the story of Nian). You didn’t know red packets contain money? Well, now you know.

I also have an interview with Karol Gajda, entrepreneur, traveller, vegan, minimalist and Freedom Fighter. Learn his definition of “freedom”. I also covered the blinkBL-NK January event.

Download the February 2011 issue (about 3 MB).

There’s also a special alternate cover. Turn to page 4 of the magazine to see it.

Epic Cuteness Contest!

Because this coming Chinese New Year is also the Year of the Rabbit (according to the Chinese Zodiac system), I have a contest! Turn to page 18 to see the cutest rabbits of epicosity in existence! Then vote for your favourite rabbit. You can also use the Twitter hashtag #epiccuterabbits like so

I vote contestant 1 #epiccuterabbits

We have 4 contestants. Results will be tabulated and the winner of epic cuteness will be revealed in the March 2011 issue of Singularity. Vote now!

Editor’s story

This was another month cramped with activity. I launched my own product, a programming guide on spreadsheets and Open XML. I had to learn to write sales copy, do marketing, make sure the sales process go smoothly for the customer.

So I asked the magic elves who helped me out with the December issue last year. They said they’re swamped with work preparing for the end of this year. Their primary employer, a jolly good fella in a red and white suit, wants to get a jump on this year’s tasks.

But they referred me to some fairy friends of theirs. So yeah, I hired 5 fairies to help me. You know what’s the price? One jar of Chinese New Year goodies:

Pineapple pastry

Wait, what? Oh, I’m not supposed to tell them the details of the contract? Oh darn.

Uh, forget what I just told you, ok? Let me tell you about my other assistant. She helps me with simple admin stuff.

Cat assistant

Don’t let her relaxed demeanor fool you. She’s busy destroying junk email using her tele-mechano-kinesis power to reach into my computer and shred the offending emails to pieces. Sometimes, she lets a few of those slip through. Then she would wait by my side, looking at me. I would grab those junk email, crumple them into a ball and let them drop to the floor. My assistant would then pounce on the hapless piece of paper with playful ferocity. Does your paper shredder have fun shredding? Mine does.

Magazine publishing part 2 – Page settings

You learned about fonts in online magazine publishing in part 1. Today I’ll tell you about page settings.

Orientation

There are 2 page orientations to choose from: portrait and landscape.
Portrait versus Landscape

The traditional physical magazines are in portrait orientations. My guess is that it’s easier to flip. When opened, the visible surface area (squarish) is easy to read (and probably scan), and the centre of gravity of the opened magazine is positioned to easily balance on one hand. And on newstands, the magazines “stand out” (get it, “stand out”? “Tall”? Portrait? *sigh*)

On a computer screen, a landscape orientation might be a better choice. How many computer screens have you seen that are in portrait orientation? Exactly.

When you read an online magazine in full screen mode, the magazine in landscape orientation fills the entire screen or much of it. There’s no balancing act, no physical flipping of pages. Going to the next page is often a click away.

A portrait orientation often squeezes the text on a page if not viewed at the normal size (100%). You have to scroll up and down to see the whole page. In landscape mode, the whole page can be seen on the screen without much distortion (if at all).

Page size

When I started Singularity, I used Microsoft Word. The default page size was 11.69 by 8.27 inches. This is the A4 size for physical paper. This also gave me a lot of trouble because I work with images.

Images have this setting called Dots Per Inch (DPI) or Pixels Per Inch (PPI). When you add an image, Microsoft Word sizes the image according to its DPI. So if you have an image with dimensions 480 by 360 pixels at 72 DPI (fairly common), you get an image that’s 6.67 by 5 inches in physical size.

Why is this important? Because getting images to bleed properly (I’ll tell you about bleeding in another article) or to position nicely on the page is a chore. The image would be off by 0.01 inch, and on the screen, there’s a 1-pixel-width of blankness. No amount of manipulation gave a satisfactory solution.

So my suggestion to you when creating an online magazine: choose dimensions that are in “round” figures. My current page size is 12 by 8.5 inches. Use increments of 0.5 inches (assuming your images have dimensions that are even numbered). By that measurement, a full page image in a 12 by 8.5 inches magazine is 1152 by 816 pixels (96 DPI). Much better than having fractions in calculating your pixel dimensions…

It’s an online magazine. You don’t have to follow physical world dimensions (or even standard dimensions).

Page margins

I keep a 0.5 inch margin from the edge for text (unless for decorative or style reasons). No special reason other than it keeps the text looking neat. Since your online magazine is not meant to be printed, you don’t really need a margin. But having a margin makes it easier to read. That’s more important to your readers.

Margins only apply to text. Bleed images (I know I know, I’ll get to image bleeding…), that is, fit an image to the edge of the page. Fill the edges with coloured pixels. Make it look beautiful.

In Microsoft Word, I could only bleed the cover image on the first page. I don’t know why Word can’t bleed images on other pages too. It did it for the cover image, right? Then I discovered I also have Microsoft Publisher, so I gave that a try. I could bleed images! Yay!

Next in the series…

Alright, alright, I’ll talk about bloody bleeding images… Do you have a question on page settings in your online magazine? Ask in a comment.

Magazine publishing part 1 – Fonts

With a few issues of my magazine published already, I feel confident enough to write about the process. In my free ebook (which you can get by subscribing to Singularity. Sign up at the blog), I told you to use only 2 different fonts in your magazine, 3 at most. The truth is, you can use as many fonts as you like. It’s your magazine. However, I told you to select only 2 or 3 fonts because I don’t want you to be paralysed by choice. I’m going to teach you more about font selection here.

4 broad categories of fonts

Fonts can generally be categorised into the following:

  • Serif fonts
  • Sans serif fonts
  • Fixed width fonts
  • Fancy fonts

Serif fonts have decorative features on the characters. “Times New Roman”, “Georgia” and “Cambria” are serif fonts.

Sans serif fonts don’t have those decorative features (“sans” means “without”). “Arial”, “Helvetica” and “Calibri” are sans serif fonts.

Fixed width fonts have, well, fixed widths for each character. This is especially useful to programmers because it makes code easier to read. “Courier New”, “Lucida Console” and “Consolas” are fixed width fonts.

Fancy fonts are designed for decorative purposes. “Chiller”, “Jokerman” and “Vivaldi” are fancy fonts.

Fancy font examples

Design for contrast

When designing for a web page, the conventional advice is to use a serif font for headings and a sans serif font for text. This is because sans serif fonts are easier to read on the screen, because they lack the decorative features which can crowd the pixels and make it hard to read. A serif font is used for the headings to provide contrast.

In physical print, it’s the opposite. That’s because a newspaper or a book has infinite resolution, so serif fonts work well. Those decorative features make it easier for a reader to quickly identify characters and thus it’s easier to read.

As for fonts in an online magazine, it’s meant to be read on the screen, so in general, design for that. However, a magazine is not a web page. Be creative. Use whatever font you feel suits the content. Use a font for emphasis, for decoration, for subtlety, for telling your story.

Size matters

I look at a computer screen a lot. So I appreciate larger font sizes so I don’t have to squint. For this reason, I decided on larger font sizes wherever it made sense. This might make even more sense because mobile devices can also read my magazine. Designing a magazine for mobile devices is a separate article altogether, since we might have to design for dynamic text and image flow while still retaining the look of the original article in the magazine (or even the magazine itself).

But feel free to experiment on font sizes for other types of texts. Blow up heading text for emphasis. Enlarge pull quotes. Dwarf answers to quizzes. Write fine print. Design for the screen, but deviate for design.

The fonts I currently use

I use “Perpetua” for the Singularity title on the cover page. Can’t remember which book I saw this on, but the font used was on the copyright page of the book (yes, I read that page too. I’m curious, ok?). Sometimes, publishers print the font in which the text is set on. I tried “Perpetua” with the text “Singularity”, and it looked great. Stately with decorum, yet not too formal. So that stuck.

Magazine text was originally set in “Calibri”, the default font in Microsoft Word (I’ll tell you about the tools I use another time). Now I use “Corbel” because it renders the text better for easier reading (to me at least).

On the front cover, I use “Candara” for supporting text. No special reason other than I wanted to try a different sans serif font than the magazine text font. It also looked great, so that stuck as well.

Here are some interesting fonts during my experiments:
Font suggestions

  • Castellar – Automatically in small caps. Great for decorative text
  • Copperplate Gothic – Also in small caps. Reminds me of Gotham City…
  • Edwardian Script – Alternative to the Vivaldi script
  • Elephant – If you want emphasis, get one of the largest land animals as a mascot
  • Harrington – Reminds me of book stores…
  • Palatino Linotype – Good-looking serif font. Consider using it for headings
  • Papyrus – For when you need writing that looks like it was written on old paper
  • Rockwell – For a feeling of solidarity

Ok, that’s it. If there’s anything you want to know, please comment.

Singularity Magazine January 2011

Singularity January 2011

The beginning of a new year brings hope and dreams of dreams fulfilled. In this first issue of the 2011, I bring you back to my roots. Mathematics. We discuss distance minimisation when waiting for the elevator. Then you’ll find out how to reclaim more of your life in a book review of The Other 8 Hours by Robert Pagliarini. Finally, you’ll visit HortPark, a garden in a garden city.

Download the January 2011 issue (about 4.4 MB). If you have problems downloading, try a right-click on the link, then do a [Save As] to your computer.

Also available at Scribd.

And have a happy New Year!