Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Piperka for Absolute Beginners

Some people would like to follow my web comics, but have almost no computer skills. I want an easy way to set them up, but the best choices -- a subscription site or a feed -- are too technical for their skill levels.

I'm out to solve the problem. I've decided that it's easier to hook them up with a subscription site. I've chosen Piperka, and I am going to rewrite the how-to for everyone who feels put off by the existing, often technical, directions.

Please understand that I regard "Oh, it's easy" as one of the greatest of all lies. Nothing is easy, except in retrospect. With that in mind, I have attempted short instructions that should be clear to anyone who has spent at least a few hours or days browsing the internet on a popular browser. (Suggestions for clarification are welcome. You may reprint this post elsewhere if you link back to me here.)

What is it?

A subscription site is a web site which performs the service of keeping track of your favorite web comics.

Each time you visit, it will remember exactly where you left off reading.

Here are simple directions for joining and using Piperka, one of the most popular.

Joining is very simple, and most people won't need guidance.

1. Go to Piperka and join.

2. Bookmark Piperka. I like to keep the bookmark in my bookmarks bar, but you can decide later if you want it their or in your bookmarks library.

How do I use it?

Once you join, you need to identify the web comics you want to follow.

These directions are for joining a comic at its latest page. I'll explain how to join from an earlier page later.

All the menu choices you need are at top left. Let's say you are looking for my comic Li' Nyet.

1. Click "browse." An alphabetical listing will appear. Click "L" for Li'l Nyet.

2. Locate Li'l Nyet under L. Next to the title of all comics is a box with a plus sign or minus sign in it. To add a comic to your list, click the plus sign. It will change to a minus sign, which you can click in the future if you want to delete it from your list.

3. To add another comic to the list of those you want to follow, go back to the alphabetical menu, find it, and click the + sign. Note: if the boxes with the +/- signs are missing, it means you're not signed in.

4. The comics you selected will be monitored by Piperka. Each time a new page is added, Piperka will take note. If you come back to Piperka to check on Li'l Nyet after that comic has added three pages, your comics list will include the entry Li'l Nyet 3.

5. If you click on Li'l Nyet, you will be taken to the oldest of the three pages. After you read it, you click next or an arrow for the next pages. When you are done with the latest page, it is time to return from Li'l Nyet to Piperka. THIS IS WHERE IT IS EASY TO FORGET THE KEY STEP. Before leaving Li'l Nyet, select and copy the entire URL (page address) from your browser address window. Return to Piperka via the bookmark you placed in your browser when you joined.

6. There will be a rectangular window above your comics list. Paste the URL (page address) you copied into that window and hit enter or return, depending on your keyboard. This tells Piperka where you left off reading, and resets your tally of unread pages. It also removes the comic title from your unread list until there are updates.

7. If you forget to reset the bookmark, it's no big deal. Simply find the title in the alphabetical list (BROWSE) and add it back to your menu.

Perfecting Your Piperka Skills

1. You might visit one day and find that Li'l Nyet has ten updates, but you only have time to read four. Wherever you stop reading, simply perform the cut and paste exercise with the URL and it will bookmark you at that spot. You can return later and read the rest.

2. Perhaps you have found a comic you like and have read ten pages. You decide you would like to read it from the beginning. If Piperka carries it, all you have to do is locate the title in the library and click on it (not on the +/- box). This will take you to a page about the title, and some destination options. You can go to the first page, the last known page, or the home page. Often, the home page is the same as the last page, but not always. Navigate to whatever page you want to start reading from, read however many pages you care to, copy and set your bookmark, and you're ready to continue on your return.

3. You can click on any title to reach a page of information about it, and from there, go to the title. Piperka is a good place to try out a comic. Perhaps while browsing, you find an interesting one. Go ahead and add it to your list! You can always drop it if it doesn't hold up.

4. Piperka has a newer feature of listing comic titles that are popular with others who follow a particular title. The list appears on the right side of the information page that appears when you click a comic title. For example, those who follow Lil'l Nyet, also like The Saturday Bulletin. This is another good way to explore new titles.

Piperka is a nice way to follow your favorite comics whenever you have a break, or you're waiting for something to download, or taking on caffeine. It saves you lots of bookmarking, searching, site hopping and helps you find new titles to read.

A Few Comments for Comics Creators

This could be a whole post, but as long as we're here I am going to address what I consider two of the most misunderstood things about Piperka for comics that join.

1. Piperka does not hotlink to your site. You will lose analytics traffic to Piperka. If readers migrate to Piperka to read your comic. You can, however, keep track of the number of people subscribing via Piperka.

2. If you intend to submit a comic, make sure all the pages and episodes are linked together in one long chain. Otherwise it will not be accepted, and contrary to the notice, you will not be contacted.

Late Addition: Don't miss the comments from Piperka's proprietor in the comments.