Category Archives: Site Announcements

Upgraded Seach Results Functionality

A few of you have written in recent months asking that we improve the way search results are shown at the Atlasphere.

In particular, you mentioned it would be more helpful if the results were divided into a set number of results per page, rather than dumping out all 500+ results on one page if you search for something popular like “chess” or “psychology.”

I finished making this upgrade last night. Now, when you conduct a search, the results are shown 50 per page, and you have a menu for navigating through the results.

Next up: We’ll make it so you can confine your search results to your geographical area — another popular request.

Meantime, take the new functionality for a test drive, if you like, and let us know if you have any additional requests!

UPDATE: Today we also made it so that it’s impossible to view directory profiles that have been suppressed by the user. (Previously, they were simply withheld from being listed in the directory; now they are actually impossible to view, even if you know the correct URL.) The option to suppress one’s directory profile is available only to members with active dating profiles.

Site under Reconstruction

As you no doubt noticed if you tried accessing the Atlasphere this evening [it's 12:27 a.m.], we’ve been making a lot of upgrades to the site.

Our first step was implementing the new design you see before you. We actually had to close the site for about five hours this evening while we made the transition. (We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. This should be the only time we have to actually take the site offline.)

Next, we’ll be ironing out any bugs associated with this new design, and making some small improvements in how errors are handled, etc. Finally, we’ll be adding some cool new features over the coming weeks!

There are likely to be plenty of small bugs during the next couple days. If you encounter any big problems, however, or are just feeling particularly helpful, send us a note and we’ll try to fix it ASAP!

“Why Did You Publish that Column?”

Questions about why we published this-or-that column come up not infrequently at the Atlasphere. Below is a letter I wrote to a new Atlasphere member who had questions about how we decide what to publish, in general, and about Jessica Bennett’s most recent column, “Rationally Green,” in particular. Perhaps others will be interested to hear this information.

* * *

In general, we strive to publish lively, stimulating content of likely interest to fans of Ayn Rand’s novels (who may or may not consider themselves Objectivists). Feel free to peruse our writers guidelines, if you’re curious.

Occasionally one of our authors skirts the lines of what we find philosophically acceptable and we definitely try to keep things relatively Objectivist-ish, in that regard. At the same time, we don’t devote a lot of time to enforcing intellectual “purity.” We trust and encourage our readers to think for themselves, and we’re more interested in providing stimulating material than in providing philosophically exact content.

To provide an analogy, within the Rand-admiring community, we strive to be more of an Atlantic Monthly than, obviously, an academic journal. If you’re looking for scholarly or philosophically scrubbed material, there are others that do this much better than us. If, on the other hand, you are interested in casual worldly discussions of this-and-that, we seem to be a good place to go.

At least, that’s the conclusion I reach from the number of people who’ve signed up for our columns announcements. We’ve had well over 4,000 members sign up to receive an e-mail notification each time we publish a new column, and every day more people ask to be added.

Fewer than 5% of those who request the announcements have ever turned them off — meaning they happily keep receiving three new column announcements from us every week — which never ceases to amaze me, personally. I truly never thought our columns would be quite so popular, but they seem to be meeting some kind of need, out there.

Regarding Jessica’s most recent column in particular, I think Jessica is advocating more of the “conservationist” position, which was the old name for environmentalism, before it became a political cause and a religion for some people. Conservationists were people who loved nature and wanted to help protect it. You can kind of sense that Jessica’s groping toward a free market solution to the problem of how to protect nature. I don’t think this is hard to see.

I actually didn’t see this particular column before it was published. Our editor, Carol Brass, handles all that, for which I am eternally grateful. She and I both have full schedules, and the Atlasphere actually doesn’t get paid for the time she and I invest in these columns. On the contrary, I pay our editor and writers a small amount of money to create this content, and I receive no direct compensation in return.

So if, in the rush of day-to-day life, something slips by that one of us regrets for some reason — I don’t see it as a big deal, usually. If it is a big deal, I’ll edit or pull the column post-publication, and send the writer an explanation. But I’m disinclined to do that for this particular column, because I think it’s just a matter of whether readers are willing to entertain a position that’s fairly understandable, all things considered.

You probably wouldn’t know this, but Jessica is actually one of our more popular columnists; she has her own following at the Atlasphere. Usually she doesn’t write about topics with a strong political charge. Something about her thoughtful (“poetic” as you called it) style of writing resonates with many readers — including me, I should say.

She’s stylistically different than our other writers, and she’s got a gift. She really does make you want to think things over, which I think is great. You might be interested to browse the archives (on the search page you can enter an author’s name to view all their columns) and read some of her earlier columns, if her style appeals to you.

You asked how you could submit a reply to her column. If you’re a paid Atlasphere subscriber and you’d like to reply to her personally, you can send her an e-mail via her Atlasphere profile (linked from the bottom of any of her articles). Or, if you’re interested in publishing a column on the subject, we do welcome submissions that present alternate perspectives on a subject as long as they don’t read like a response to an earlier column. Any column you submit should stand well enough on its own, without needing to quote-and-reply to earlier content.

I should also mention that we have published other columns, like this one by Walter Williams, taking a firm stance against environmentalism. So I don’t think there’s any reasonable way to infer that the Atlasphere is endorsing environmentalism per se by publishing what Jessica wrote. Ultimately, I think, Jessica is expressing an understandable tension between her own natural pro-nature sentiments and the wacky global-warming environmentalist Kool Aid that so many people seem to be selling these days.

I hope that answers your questions. I welcome your thoughts.

UPDATE (Mar 23): As it would happen, Thomas Sowell just penned a new column called “Global Warming Swindle” (his review of the excellent British documentary with a similar title) which we are happy to be able to publish. We look forward to covering the topics of environmentalism and global warming further, as the public debate over global warming continues to heat up and more excellent material is written.

Management Job Opening (Monsey, New York)

Long-time Atlasphere member (and Objectivist Singles founder) Dan Edge sends the following job announcement for his company:

Growing medical transcription company seeks full-time production manager.

Dan’s company is a small, growing company which provides transcription and other services to the medical communications market. We are currently seeking a production manager to coordinate subcontractors, manage projects, and ensure that deadlines and quality standards are met. We need a detail-oriented individual with exceptional organization and time-management skills. You need to know how to make lists for yourself, manage priorities, and operate under pressure.

Responsibilities Include:

  • Convert audio / video to a format usable by transcription software (i.e., MP3).
  • Contract, coordinate, and supervise subcontractors (transcribers, editors, proofreaders) on assigned projects to ensure that deadlines are met.
  • Complete administrative tasks including order status tracking, Purchase Order creation and approval, etc.
  • Proofread final product at various stages of process to ensure quality and accuracy

Requirements:

  • 0-2+ Years Experience in Project Trafficking or Production Management
  • Good familiarity with MS Office (Word, Excel, Power Point), and very computer-savvy in general
  • 2- or 4-Year Degree greatly preferred
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Willing to learn new things, work creatively, and grow with the business
  • Willing to commute to Monsey, NY

I’m willing to train the right candidate.

Salary – $36k +, commensurate with experience

Call 845-558-9328 or email resume and cover letter to dedge (at) edgetranscription.com

Dan Edge
845-425-5495w
845-558-9328c
dedge (at) edgetranscription.com
25 Robert Pitt Dr
Suite 218
Monsey, NY 10952

Are You a Wine Lover?

Happy holidays!

One reason why my own Ayn Rand meta-blogging has been sparse in recent months is that I’ve been working hard, together with Atlasphere programmer Marshall Sontag, to launch a new business in the wine industry.

Our new company, which we’ve named WineQ, is a “meta” wine club ($4.95/mo) that lets you queue up wines like movies, read plenty of reviews from other consumers while choosing your wines, and receive FREE shipping on orders of $35 or more.

Essentially, we allow people to create their own wine club: Instead of someone else choosing the wines you’re sent, you get to choose. Instead of someone else deciding how often your wines are sent, you get to choose. And instead of paying through the nose for shipping, you get shipping for free.

Shipping wine is costly, often amounting to a 30% markup on the wine you buy over the internet. Other e-tailers generally require you to order a bare minimum of $120 in wine to receive free shipping — so a lot of people are excited about our innovative business model.

See the write-ups we received, for example, at Winecast (WineQ: Wine Club 2.0?) and GoodGrape (The “Netflix Effect” and the World of Wine).

Currently we offer wines from a growing list of small California wineries, all of which are sent direct from the winery to the consumer (although, due to our unique business model, you can combine wines from different wineries into the same order).

Right now our selection is somewhat limited for East Coast customers, since not all of our wineries can ship to those states (e.g., New York). But wine lovers in most western and midwestern states will find plenty to enjoy, and in general our selection of participating wineries will be growing steadily over the coming months.

Our web site is at WineQ.com. Check it out if you’re a wine lover or know friends or family who might be interested!

You can enter the coupon code ATLASPHERE during registration or checkout to receive $10 off your first order, giving you a first month’s membership for free.

We also offer unusually good discounts on expedited shipping — $5 for 2-day and $10 for overnight — if you want some exceptional premium wines to round out your holiday dinner plans.

Personally, my favorite wines on our site so far are the Ceja 2003 Vino de Casa Red and Deerfield 2003 RedRex. If you’re more of a white wine person, I can’t say enough about the Ceja 2005 Vino de Casa White. (None of these wines are over $20.)

And you can find many other highly-rated selections on our recommendations page.

Enjoy!

Letters from Atlasphere Couples

We get e-mails semi-regularly from Atlasphere members telling us how happy they are to have fallen in love with someone they met through our site.

Lately, the frequency of these e-mails has increased noticeably. This morning I received my third happy-couple message in less than a week. After living together for about a year, they’re now engaged and have chosen a wedding date in May. Judging from their photos and profiles, they look like they’ll make a fantastic couple.

I cherish each of these letters, because they really embody the hopes we had when we launched the Atlasphere. My wife and I just celebrated our sixth anniversary together. We are insanely happy in our own relationship, and seeing other happy couples only compounds our joy.

If you’re single and still looking, don’t lose hope. I look forward to seeing a message from you in my inbox one day soon! :-)

Atlasphere Columns Now Available via RSS Feed

The Atlasphere columns are now available through an RSS/XML syndication newsfeed.

Someone requested this feature last year, and it made perfect sense — but I’ve only now had time to set it up.

The little orange RSS icon is hidden behind the password-protected “columns” section of our site, but you can copy the actual link to your clipboard using this link.

Drop me a note if you notice any problems or have questions.

I know the feed doesn’t validate strictly, but haven’t had time to look into it, and I probably won’t bother unless it’s actually, you know, causing problems.

Atlasphere in the Christian Science Monitor

The Atlasphere was mentioned in the Christian Science Monitor today, in an article about niche dating services titled “Single white Earthling seeks Klingon for romantic orbit.”

The primary focus of the article, as you might guess from the title, is on “Trekkies” — fans of the Star Trek series. But fans of Ayn Rand’s novels make a cameo.

We’ve been getting plenty of new sign-ups today from the article.

To all these new members: Welcome!

About the Atlasphere’s Business Model

This morning one of our members sent us the following message:

Guys at the Atlasphere — as an investor in a couple dating sites, and the CEO of a pretty large internet subscription company — I thought I’d point out that it’s most common to show the pictures to basic members, so that they get really motivated to contact the other party and then pay to upgrade. Hiding the photos is hiding your best sales tool!

We receive some version of this question several times a year, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to answer in public, since no doubt many other people have wondered the same thing: Why doesn’t the Atlasphere adopt the same business model used at other social networking sites, of showing photos for free?

As it happens, the Atlasphere’s subscription rate — the rate at which our free members elect to purchase paid subscriptions — is about six times the industry average.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean we’re taking in millions of dollars each year. We’re a tiny fraction of the size of ordinary social networking sites, since our target market is limited to admirers of Ayn Rand’s novels — and so our base of potential customers is accordingly much smaller as well.

I’m not certain why our subscription rate is so much higher than the industry average, but my guess is that it has to do with the strong interest that Rand fans have in getting to know one another.

The Atlasphere seems to have struck into an untapped market in Objectivism: The desire for meaningful one-on-one contact, without the hassles and aggravation of participating in the (always controversial and time-consuming) online discussion forums.

This is why we’ve never had discussion forums at the Atlasphere, and why we’re unlikely to do so any time soon. (Another question we receive regularly.)

Returning to the original question: Would our subscription rates be even higher if we allowed members to see one another’s photos for free? We were curious to find out, so we tried adopting this membership structure during the 4th quarter of 2004 (Oct – Dec).

During this time, our subscription rates immediately dropped, by more than 80%, and did not recover until we reverted to our old membership structure.

So that’s our answer to the question raised above: Been there, done that, and found out it doesn’t work well at all for our target market.

If you have any other ideas for improving the Atlasphere, please (by all means) drop us a note! We welcome ideas for further improving our service.