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Changes at Centauri Dreams

When I began the Centauri Dreams site in August of 2004, the motivation was utilitarian. I was looking for a way to keep up with ongoing research into deep space exploration, figuring it would be helpful to establish a site that followed news day by day and maintained it in a searchable archive. Centauri Dreams the Web site actually preceded my book of the same name by several months, and it was in the back of my mind to use research collected at the site in future writing projects. That motivation still exists.

But something else happened in the intervening months. As readership grew, I found I was making new contacts in the research community, not just in the government agencies like NASA and ESA, but also in academic environments and commercial companies. Those contacts have been priceless, and have led to some fine friendships. And they’ve kept my eye on the main prize, which in my judgment is to put deep space research into the broader context of society’s awareness of time. To test and build for the long-haul, which is what interstellar work will demand, is almost unthinkable given the fast-paced nature of the modern world and its demand for quick, easy solutions.

But building for the long-haul is building for the human future, our children and our grandchildren and all those generations beyond them. Within that context, energized by a broader sense of purpose than just maintaining ready access to research materials, I began thinking of extending the site, and the limitations of my software became more and more of an issue. I also wanted to firm up features like commenting on individual entries at the same time that I extended Centauri Dreams to cover more and more research papers. All this led, after much testing, to a decision to switch to WordPress, not only because of my admiration for open-source software but also because I like the range and flexibility I was beginning to see in this lively programming project.

A Redesigned Site

What you see now is a basic WordPress setup, but one that I intend to fine-tune in terms of externals as the next few months go by. I like the easy ability to comment built into WordPress (be sure to register — it’s free — if you want to leave comments of your own). I also appreciate the more finely focused search methods, the use of categories, the easy setup with RSS for those wanting to track the site through syndication, and the fact that WordPress themes are becoming available by the hundreds. Not to mention a host of plug-ins that have brought unprecedented flexibility to basic page design.

Where are the archives? Don’t worry, they’re intact and will soon be available in their entirety here. But for various reasons, too complicated to go into now, I’ve moved only some of them over so far. The rest should be available within the next few weeks, making the search capability more and more effective at finding news events of the last fourteen months. Other features, like the list of ‘clippings’ from various news sources, will grow with time. WordPress is wonderful for extended tinkering, which is just what I intend.

Not to get too far into technicalities, but I have also been experimenting with the new WordPress theme called K2 and like it quite a bit, but its unwillingness to display properly with Internet Explorer has kept me from using it just yet (as a Firefox user, I hadn’t even noticed this problem until a friend pointed it out). But K2 is beta software, is loaded with promise, and you’ll be seeing it on this site before too long. The look will change a bit, but not overly much, though even more functionality should then be built in.

Thanks to My Readers

Let me thank the many regular readers who have contributed ideas, insights and links to good material in the months since Centauri Dreams first appeared. News on the interstellar front is happening fast, and I intend to continue covering it, from new exoplanetary discoveries to fresh ideas on antimatter containment and ongoing work on solar and beamed sail technologies. The Interstellar Flight Foundation, engaged in a slow but necessary process of ground-breaking, should start to become more visible outside the research community as we head deeper into the fall, and any events related to IFF will of course receive quick coverage here.

Centauri Dreams has, to sum it up, more or less hijacked me to become the leading focus of my work activities each day. A more satisfying focus I cannot imagine. I hope you will continue to read the site as news for comment and discussion continues to emerge. Ten years ago we learned about the first extrasolar planets ever detected. Today we have over 160, with new announcements arriving all the time as researchers tune their techniques. What a time to be alive and advocating a human future in the stars!