Baggage Claim

Hello, I’m Oliver (aka SuitCase.) Visit the comic I help make, dig around my old website, tweet at me, ask me stuff on the BCB blog or email me.

Just browsing? These are the important ones:

Where do Bittersweet Club International members live?

The worldwide map of BCI members

For the uninitiated: Bittersweet Club International is a program we run where we provide extra comics and little gifts to those willing to contribute $39 a year. The graphic above (click for a larger view) shows the geographic distribution of club members, and gives you an indication of where we get much of our financial support.

United States

BCI members in the US

A pretty unremarkable map, I think. It kinda looks like it just follows the population of the US, doesn’t it?


The worldwide map of BCI members

Much more interesting. Why so many Germans? What on earth is going on in Denmark over the rest of Scandinavia?

And where are all of our Asian friends? Gosh. You’d think they were too good for us baka gaijn.

Anyway. That’s it.

These maps show a subset of about half of all BCI members, so if you’re our lone Congolese reader (or whatever), don’t fret!

Retina-Ready Webcomics

An example of a non-retina webcomic site

Remember the Retina display?

Apple, 2010:

The Retina display on iPhone 4 is the sharpest, most vibrant, highest-resolution phone screen ever, with four times the pixel count of previous iPhone models. In fact, the pixel density is so high that the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels. Which makes text amazingly crisp and images stunningly sharp.

It’s the new normal for smartphones and tablets. “Only iPhone has the Retina display”, Apple boast, but these days we must assume they are leaning on their strengths in colour accuracy, surface lamination techniques and wide viewing angles. The truth is, everyone makes Retina displays now, from Amazon to Samsung to BlackBerry. If you own a smartphone or tablet, chances are its display has a pixel density “so high that the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels”. Retina.

But there’s one exception. You’re probably looking at it right now. Even in 2013, your computer is almost certainly stuck in blocky non-Retina land. Apple wouldn’t gush about it. Even your cheap friend’s $179 Kindle Fire makes it look prehistoric.

But that’s all changing. Apple is making Retina personal computing happen while Google slavishly copy. (Just kidding, tacky Android friends.) Microsoft is kinda holding up the Retina train and won’t be ready until the next Windows, but we can be nearly certain that within a few years at least Macintosh users are going to be living in a fully Retina world.

No place to hide

The 90-130ppi desktop computing “standard” has been an invisible blessing for web designers since the web began. Make a graphic, 800px wide, good enough, pick the right compression, up it goes, done. People with ancient monitors see it big and scroll more, supernerds with 1080p ThinkPads push up their glasses and enjoy the extra space on their squinty spacious desktops. And all the people viewing on their Retina phones and tablets don’t care because everything on the web gets scaled down to fit on the small screens anyway. Sharp graphics for everyone.

But the party’s over. Just go to an Apple Store and look at their Retina MacBooks. (Or drag the loupe around on their website.) Look closely at those websites. All of a sudden we are facing a generation of computers that show all of the internet at a 200% zoom level just to fill those extra pixels, and our once-sharp photos, logos and graphic elements have turned into a terrible smudgy mess.

Yeah, and…?

It’s a new problem for everyone who publishes images online, and one that hits webcomics hard. We work in a visual medium consumed largely by technologically-savvy young people with great eyesight, and sooner or not they’re going to notice that your content looks distinctly old-fashioned compared to their 1080p YouTube videos, crisply-typeset weblogs and, well, their pixel-perfect back button.

You can ignore it. I suspect that the web will be uncomfortably smudgy and inconsistent for another decade. Expectations will remain low… for a little while. But if you’re the type to sweat the details, it’s not impossible to upgrade even the sprawling archive of a 7-year-old webcomic into something that looks great on these new ultra-sharp displays.

Because I did it! And I can show you how.

(If you have a lot of time. And care a lot about retina screens. OK, FORGET IT.)

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Three-Quarter-Year In Review

I finished my degree last November. Then I got an email reminding me that I was 3 units short due to a planning mishap, so I finished my degree last December.

I’ve only worked at my casual job a few days this year. I have spent the rest of my time at home or in cafes, working on a to-do list for the BCB site. It has been a flexible list, held in various note-taking programs, with new lines added and subtracted all the time. If something came to my mind, I’d jot it down on the iPhone. If I sat down to plan something, it’d come out as a list of tasks within a larger project.

A lot of the things I accomplished are alarmingly trivial to the user experience, and I’ve felt throughout the process that there’s a real danger that I’m just chasing after an obsessive-compulsive desire to get this list down to zero.

Oh well. It’s October, now. And it’s basically done. So I wanted to review the list, to reflect, to recompose. Let’s go through some major features and sections in order. These notes won’t cover “neat things I’ve done to the BCB site and ‘business’” generally, only those I’ve implemented in this recent push.

Be warned, this post is over 10,000 words long and is likely the most uninteresting thing I’ll ever publish. But hey, that’s for you to decide.

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For such a lightly-trafficked rarely-reblogged Tumblog, my posts seem to inspire a disproportionate amount of private feedback and occasional drama. Before I figure out what next to write about, I have some updates on previous posts about bookselling, our burglary and DailyComix.


Amazon stock levels

We have sold 266 copies of Volume One since I finished posting my bookselling experience. That makes for a total of 716, nearing half our print run. My sales predictions were generally accurate, though demand has been very soft post-Christmas. At this stage, the idea of selling hundreds of books in 2012 is unthinkable. But bundles with Volume Two are a very appealing idea!

I am very proud that we have been able to sell so many books at such a premium price. There are a lot of kind, supportive Bittersweet Candy Bowl readers out there.

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How Dare You

Brad Guigar, on last year:

Comic scraper sites (and apps) pop up at the rate of every other month or so. Typically, they use a webcomic’s RSS feed to “scrape” the comic and use it for their own purposes — whether it’s a collection of their favorite comics in one site or an app that allows a reader to easily surf all of their favorite comics in one, easy place. In general, comic scrapers take only the comic, leaving behind the other elements of the webcomic site — like the blog …and the site’s advertising.

The latest offender: DailyComix, an comic reader app for Android. Load it onto your phone, wait for it to download a comic index, pick a bunch to follow, and read them strip-by-strip in a clunky interface. There’s a free, ad-supported version and a $2 paid version.

The reactions:

Popular reaction to Dailycomix

This is all a bunch of crap.

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