2005 San Diego Comic-Con Photo Gallery

Sunday, July 31st

This Week’s Comic Update

We got the latest update out Friday around 2:30 pm--or about 46 hours after the four boxes of books from Diamond showed up from UPS.

Digression: For all of you folks out there who run comic stores, how the heck do you do it? If new comics only show up on your door on Wednesday, how can you possibly get them unpacked, cycle-sheeted, and prepped for the customers who will be coming through your door mere hours or minutes later, expecting their latest four-color fix? If there’s some amazing technique you employ, please let us know at releasenotes@comicbase.com -- this inquiring mind, for one, is really curious.

This week’s update included some 250 new comics, including 59 new titles. Highlights (for me) included the new Sgt. Rock Archives #3 (always beautiful volumes, and Kubert’s work is a joy to behold), as well as the long overdue Combat Zone: True Tales of GIs in Iraq.


ComicBase 10.0.3 Beta 2

We’ve also begun testing on a new beta of ComicBase 10.0.3. There’s one bug report driving the release--a redraw problem which seems to appear intermittently and prevents changes from showing up right away when you modify issues. We think we’ve got it licked in the new beta, but since it’s an intermittent problem, I’d really appreciate it if any of you who may have hit this when entering issues would give the updater a shot.

I also anticipate adding in one major new feature in ComicBase 10.0.3 before we call the beta complete: the ability to select whether content updates are allowed to correct data when they run, including changing existing cover date, cover price, storyline, and creator data. We’re also working to add in the ability to delete obsolete issues and titles, provided that you don’t have any inventory listed under the obsolete name. We’re still finessing the language, help messages, etc. related to these new options, but we’d appreciate your thoughts on it.

The big conundrum comes in the battle to (a) be cautious and never, ever, overwrite the user's own data, provided it's not blank, and (b) allow the update to make legitimate corrections to existing data.

We’ve erred toward (a) to a fault in the past, perhaps,thinking that if a user has gone to the trouble to change ComicBase's data, they must have felt they had a good reason. At the same time, we want to at least give users to option of allowing the update to correct existing information and mistakes. I suspect the way it will go down is that the new correction options will be unchecked by default, but that hopefully we can explain the implications of turning them on without making them sound unduly scary.


Wednesday, July 27th

Bar Code Mania

Sometimes, you never really know how the public will respond to features that you’ve spent months working on. Sure, you know they’re cool, but it’s hard to get over the secret fear that

you’ll announce your Big New Feature to the world and everyone will just sort of stare at you wondering what’s so great about it.

I’ll admit, this is pretty much how I was thinking about the new “barcode support in ComicBase 10. Bar codes themselves don’t actually contain much data, and they’re worthless without a master list to help match the codes against specific comics and issues—a list nobody had until we spent the better part of a year compiling one. At the same time, we couldn’t help but wonder if that many folks really cared about “barcodes and scanners and all that.

Oh, man, were we ever wrong!

Next to the free online updates, “barcode support is getting us more raves than any other feature in ComicBase 10. I’ve been getting tons of registration cards describing the “barcode support as, “the coolest thing you guys have ever done—next to the online updates”, usually followed by a big “Yes!!!” next to the question about whether the customer would recommend ComicBase to a friend. What’s more, the the “barcode scanners we decided to stock, “just in case our customers wanted help finding a good, affordable scanner” have been flying out the door so fast that we’ve already placed two re-orders from the distributor, and may have to put in a third before the week is out.

I think a big part of my surprise comes in that we here at the office are usually using the scanners to just record the codes into the master database—we rarely get to use them the way a normal customer would. After downloading last week’s content update for my own collection, however (see Monday’s column), I finally got a real chance to really give bar-coded data entry a try:

Wow! What a difference! In maybe twenty minutes (I wish I'd timed it now) I’d inventoried over a hundred comics and books, even factoring in those which didn’t have a “barcode or ISBN to go by. For the bar-coded books, it took just a few seconds each to trigger the Jump command (Ctrl-J), bleep in the “barcode, then type "1" to mark me as having quantity 1 of that book in my inventory. After that, I was on to the next book in the rapidly diminishing pile.

Note: We’ve revamped our “barcode coverage on the site a bit, and will be producing our own quick setup guide for the Manhattan “barcode scanner we use here at the office (and sell through the online store). Look for it on the site soon.


Tuesday, July 26th

On Your Radio

I was interviewed Tuesday by Vincent Zurzolo for his Comic Zone radio show on World Talk Radio. Thanks to the miracle of instant internet archiving, it’s possible to hear the whole thing right here if you missed the original broadcast. (The subsequent segment, with Gary Colabouno of Moondogs and Chicago Comicon fame is also terrific!)


Twelve Bored Men

As required for my Jury Duty service, I arrived promptly at the San Jose Downtown Superior Court House at 8:30 am sharp on Monday. The waiting room was just the same as I remembered it from several years ago during my last jury duty service, but this time we got to watch a spiffy motivational DVD about the importance of dispensing justice with fairness and seriousness.

Time passed. The room thinned out as other panels were told to report to various courtrooms. Eventually, I was left with about 20 other increasingly downtrodden-looking prospective jurors, two of which slumped backward into their chairs in boredom-induced comas and began snoring spectacularly. I briefly considered nudging the one closest to me, but chickened out when I considered that I might want to be especially nice to my fellow panelists, just in case we found ourselves trapped in a courtroom for the next nine months.

Eventually, the clerk made the announcement: “Panel #16: You will not be needed. Thank you for your service.”.

“Does this mean we get to go home?” I asked.


“And we don’t need to come back the rest of the week?” Someone jumped in.

“Nope. You’re all done.”

“Awesome!” I said, and headed back to work to pitch in filling the flood of ComicBase orders that came in over the weekend.

Life is good.

Monday, July 25th

Sometimes It’s Real Magic
…Even When You Know How the Trick Is Done

After a ton of late night and weekend work, we managed to catch up with our indexing of the new comics that came in during the past two weeks (starting from when we left for Comic-Con). Two weeks--just two weeks!--of comics came to some 508 new issues, including 124 new titles! (I thought that last round of Diamond boxes seemed especially heavy!). We've set a goal of having a new week's comics indexed by 48 hours after they ship to us, so in general, ComicBase 10 users can expect to see a content update by Friday nights (barring extraordinary events like the entire company leaving for San Diego for a week).

After finishing the indexing work, I installed ComicBase 10 on a new machine here in the office. When I ran the program for the first time, it asked if I wanted to download the latest Title and Issue update:

I clicked Yes, and 2 minutes and 43 seconds later, ComicBase had updated itself with all the issues we'd just busted our tuchuses entering for the past few days (writing out a nice little upgrade report in the process!)

I’ll admit, I was grinning from ear to ear when I saw the update do its thing. It didn’t matter that I know exactly how we perform that little the trick, as well as how much it takes to pull it off. Still, having ComicBase instantly update itself mere minutes after we finished indexing the new weeks’ books was—to me, at least—nothing short of magic.

Note: Updating users should make sure they’re using the currently shipping version, 10.0.3, available in the updates section of the web site).


Jury Duty

I’ll potentially be out of the office all week due to Jury Duty, but will be checking back in as frequently as conditions permit. If you need to reach me about something incredibly geeky in nature, your best shot is probably email--otherwise, just give the office a call during the regular 10-5 PST hours at 408-266-6883 and someone should be able to take care of things for you.


Sunday, July 24th

Drinking From a Fire Hose: The San Diego Comic-Con

The San Diego Comic-Con is the Big Event of our year, not only because it’s the biggest, most magnificent monstrosity of a comic convention in the United States, but also because it’s where we traditionally roll out the new versions of ComicBase.

In the weeks that lead up to the convention, work weeks frequently start pushing into the 80 or even 100 hour range, and the offices are overrun with piles of disks, packaging, and print materials. Out back, we test out the trade show setup, which this year included everything from huge neon light panels to a giant inflatable rocket ship (more on that last bit later!).

The show opens with a “Preview Night” on Wednesday evening, which means that everything has to be finished, printed, packed, and loaded by Tuesday afternoon so we can begin the 500 mile trek from San Jose to San Diego. Luckily, the sheer adrenaline of the show has a way of carrying you through it all, as anyone who’s experienced my excited babbling in the early days of the convention can attest.

The show itself is something to be both loved and feared. Whenever I’m not there, I miss it terribly—there’s really nothing like the sheer size and spectacle of it all. It’s a show that completely fills every inch of the giant (and expanded!) San Diego Convention Center, with over 100,000 comics and pop culture fans attending. Here you can find hundreds of the field’s greatest creators, almost every major publisher and comic retailer, countless panels and movie previews, and thousand upon thousands of comics, toys, and everything else that a pop-culture-obsessed fan could desire.

For comic aficionados everywhere, the show is like discovering a glittering oasis of comic coolness in the middle of a vast desert. As you drink it all in, however, you quickly discover that trying to sample even a tiny bit of what the Comic-Con has to offer is like sipping from a fire hose: unless you pace yourself, it’s far too easy to get overwhelmed by everything there is to see and do, not to mention the miles spent trekking back and forth over the huge convention floor.

For me, most of the show was spent at the ComicBase booth, meeting up with old friends and customers, and showing off the new ComicBase 10. Sales were huge (As sales points go, it didn’t hurt to be able to say, “The new version comes with a quarter of a million comics built-in, we’ve got a new 2-DVD Archive Edition with over 100,000 comics covers, and—oh yeah, the new version lets you download free price and title updates for a whole year!”).

Other high points (for me, at least) were the always-outrageous masquerade (see our Comic-Con Photo Gallery), as well as unveiling the upcoming Atomic Avenue at our annual ComicBase User’s Group meeting. (Yes, this was the Really Big Announcement everyone was promised, and we’ll be posting more on it to the web site in the days to come).

My big Proud Papa moment came at the User’s Group meeting when I was able to introduce my son, Neil, who distributed the raffle tickets and called out the winners for the door prizes. Neil, now 7, was attending Comic-Con for his eighth time (yup, he was at Comic-Con since before he was even born!). He’s also the model for the Cub Scout in this year’s cover, produced, as usual, by the quite wonderful Glen Orbik.