Posts tagged with "internet" - Faerye Net 2010-10-18T14:42:10+00:00 Felicity Shoulders New Etiquette Rule: Kittens vs. babies 2010-10-18T14:42:10+00:00 2010-10-18T15:03:22+00:00 <p>As we all know, technology changes the way humans communicate. New communication means new etiquette. Some of this is more or less known already: the use of Bcc when emailing groups is discreet and considerate. The blink tag is the equivalent of bringing a vuvuzela to a garden party. But I have devised &#8212; or should one say discovered? &#8212; a new etiquette rule.</p> <p><strong>Rule: While it is acceptable to impart news of a human birth without photographs, it is improper to send or post news of a pet adoption without same.</strong></p> <p>Explanation: The arrival of a baby is a major effort: usually tiring and medical, if not traumatic. The newly arrived baby is not yet at his or her best and most photogenic. A new kitten (or puppy, I suppose) is not usually adopted until already weaned, furry, playful and delightful, and the humans by whom it is adopted are by no means incapacitated by the advent. Thus, there is no reason not to include a photo with the announcement, and a strong reason to do so: the terrifying prospect of inducing prostrating <strong>kitten letdown</strong> in your friends and associates. Send a photo! Strike a blow against kitten letdown.</p> <p>I have no new kitten to announce, but since I&#8217;ve said &#8220;kitten&#8221; approximately 16 times, I will allay your potential kitten letdown through the use of a photo of a kitten who is no longer a kitten and no longer mine: <br /> <center><a href="" title="Many ways to sleep when you are a fluid kitten by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="375" alt="Many ways to sleep when you are a fluid kitten" /></a></center></p> Coincidental magic 2010-10-08T16:03:22+00:00 2010-10-08T16:05:18+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve been thinking recently of the roleplaying game <a href="" target="links"><em>Mage: The Ascension</em></a> (don&#8217;t run, non-gamers!) This game and its fellow supernatural-hidden-under-our-world games were big in the 90&#8217;s (hmm&#8230;do RPGs telegraph bestselling novel genres of the next decade?), and Mage was one of my favorites. The premise was basically that the world runs on consensual reality, and magic is only impossible because most humans have been deeply convinced it is. If a strong-willed magic worker manages to do something obviously &#8220;impossible&#8221; (like turn a vampire into a lawnchair) in front of non-supernatural witnesses, the universe smacks the mage down with the force of humankind&#8217;s collective disbelief. The only dodge is to make the magic seem vaguely plausible &#8212; &#8220;coincidental&#8221;, as the game puts it.</p> <p>Why have I been thinking about this? Because I think the internet is upping our collective weirdness tolerance. I personally have seen zombies, and even had them flail against my car (I think they were mad I was laughing instead of frightened.) and the same day witnessed a band of semi-armored zombie-hunters stalking around 11th and Burnside. Improv Anywhere creates <a href="" target="links">temporal folds</a> that only Mages with advanced Time skills could match, not to mention <a href="" target="links">freezing 200 people</a> in a train station.</p> <p>All I&#8217;m saying here is that thanks to the internet, the collective belief of the people is a little more stretchy. Next time you think you might have to turn bullets into butterflies or punch through stone, have a friend bring a videocamera. When you next find yourself fighting zombies in Pioneer Courthouse Square or disassembling the Man&#8217;s robotic minions in full view of a schoolbus, yell &#8220;<strong><span class="caps">FLASHMOB</span></strong>&#8221; first! If people still seem genuinely freaked out, try doing a little bit of the Thriller dance. That should change any bystander from organ of the collective banality and stodginess of the universe to an embarrassed giggler ready to recount this &#8220;weird event&#8221; to their co-workers.</p> <p>Go out there and be magic, people! It&#8217;s totally coincidental.</p> Zeitgeist in the machine 2010-06-13T00:04:57+00:00 2010-06-13T00:48:55+00:00 <p>You know how you&#8217;ve never heard of something, and then you hear about it seven times in one week? I used to think it was largely psychological &#8212; you wouldn&#8217;t have noticed the extra instances until you had a context and a reason to remark them. (In fact, there&#8217;s a psychological term for this impression: the <a href="" target="links">Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon</a>, a learned psychologist informs me.) But I think it&#8217;s also partly real, an effect of zeitgeist, critical mass of relevance. Or as we now say, of something being <a href="" target="links">&#8220;trending&#8221;</a>.</p> <p>I had an interesting experience along these lines recently. I had seen the cover of <a href="" target="links">Janelle Monáe</a>&#8216;s first album <a href="" target="links"><em>The ArchAndroid</em></a>, but I hadn&#8217;t really registered it until I saw a link round-up on <a href="" target="links">Racialicious</a> with two links to blog posts about her, one of which had an embedded video. Long story short, I ended up buying both <em>ArchAndroid</em> and her earlier mini-album and loving both. (While I mostly use this as an example, I do recommend checking her out: her voice is as versatile as her songwriting talent, and her album is catchy but smart, eclectic but cohesive.) I <a href="">tweeted about it</a>. This was June 7.</p> <p>On June 9, I noticed her <a href="" target="links">uh, imprint</a> had retweeted my tweet, as they do most mentions of her, and that their most recent retweets mentioned that her name was trending. And now <a href="" target="links">she&#8217;s showing up other places</a> I wouldn&#8217;t have expected. The weird part here is that her album came out <strong>May 18</strong>, and it&#8217;s getting this body of attention now. One of the original two articles I read was complaining that no one was noticing her album &#8212; that it didn&#8217;t have &#8216;buzz&#8217;. A week later, I think that&#8217;s no longer the case. And that&#8217;s what is so odd about trending topics. There is now a metric for buzz.</p> <p>It used to be that zeitgeist lived up to its ethereal name (&#8216;geist&#8217; is literally &#8216;spirit&#8217;), but now we have to some extent bottled that genie. As we analyze, capture, track and archive more and more about our lives &#8212; where we go, who we like, what we watch and listen to &#8212; there will probably be other moments like this, when the intangible becomes suddenly concrete. Perhaps some of them will make us nostalgic, but perhaps it&#8217;s a good thing. That blogger complaining that Janelle Monáe didn&#8217;t have buzz was creating buzz. She was one (big) rock hitting more pebbles, and the hillside moved. We can measure this buzz because all of our voices contribute. There&#8217;s something charmingly democratic about it, even if it means the world is that much more mechanical.</p> Social Networking Etiquette for Self-Promoting Writers 2010-02-26T14:45:00+00:00 2010-02-26T15:30:21+00:00 <p>Writers tend to be self-employed, and are often &#8220;their own brand&#8221;. This can mean the lines between promotion of work and promotion of self are blurry, especially as more and more people are active on social networks like <a href="" target="links">Twitter</a>, <a href="" target="links">Facebook</a>, or more niche sites like <a href="" target="links">Goodreads</a>.</p> <p>My writing career is pretty young, so I may be an odd person to listen to about marketing. However, thinking about my future as a self-promoting writer has colored my experiences as a reader, consumer and user of social networks. These are the rules I&#8217;ve internalized. I say they&#8217;re &#8220;for writers&#8221; but I suppose they&#8217;re for anyone who is their own brand &#8212; anyone who finds the personal and the promotional mixing in social networks, and doesn&#8217;t want either to suffer as a result.</p> <p>1. <b>Don&#8217;t do anything that makes you uncomfortable.</b> I hear people talking about the sites they use as if they are giant chores, or acting as if sooner or later someone will force them at gunpoint to sign up for <a href="" target="links">Twitter</a>. They won&#8217;t, and you can live your life and have your career, I&#8217;m fairly certain, without having a Twitter account. You have to decide what you&#8217;re comfortable doing, not just now but longterm. Everyone&#8217;s different. If using <a href="" target="links">Facebook</a>, or even blogging, is a chore and you think it&#8217;s eating away your creative time, don&#8217;t do it.</p> <p>2. <b>Remember these are <em>social</em> networks.</b> Even if your primary reason for being on a network is business, you&#8217;re surrounded by people who are doing it for fun (okay, not with <a href="" target="links">LinkedIn</a>.) Their expectations for the network are social, and if you only use it for promotion, they&#8217;ll feel used and turned off. If you occasionally mention your books and stories, but also post silly anecdotes and links, you&#8217;ll come off a lot better than someone who is only posting promotional info. Another way of being social: engage in genuine conversation with others and comment on their links and doings. If doing the social stuff seems like too much of a chore, consider #1. Those networks may not be a good fit for you.</p> <p>3. <strong>Offer information, don&#8217;t demand attention.</strong> There&#8217;s a natural order of obtrusiveness in communication, something like:</p> <ul> <li>Dropping by</li> <li>Phone call</li> <li>Text message</li> <li>Instant message</li> <li>Email</li> <li><span class="caps">RSS</span> feed</li> <li>Posting on the web and hoping they read it.</li> </ul><p>Twitter and Facebook status updates are somewhere between <span class="caps">RSS</span> feed and posting on the web. They&#8217;re mostly passive. It&#8217;s up to the other person whether they want to check the site, and whether they pay attention to that particular item, gloss it over, filter that sort of content, whatever. That&#8217;s pretty unobtrusive. Many people have, say, Twitter direct messages or Facebook messages set to notify them by email, which demands more of their attention. So use messages, or event invitations, more sparingly than you do wall/status posts or tweets. (This is especially true of Facebook messages to multiple recipients, as even if a user deletes the original message, he or she gets all the replies. Facebook&#8217;s suggestion for dealing with this is to educate your friends about using &#8216;reply&#8217; rather than &#8216;reply-all&#8217;. Oh, that sounds fun.) I don&#8217;t mean you should never send out email or email-level communiques: just that you should remember you&#8217;re being more demanding of your audience, and reserve their use for more important occasions.</p> <p>4. <strong>Avoid multi-posting.</strong> There are limits to this. If I subscribe to your blog&#8217;s <span class="caps">RSS</span> feed, follow you on Twitter, and am friends with you on Facebook, I expect a little overlap. But you should also be aware that that overlap exists. Consider it before implementing reposting software, for example, and also consider whether the place you&#8217;re reposting content has robust filtering (Facebook has decent filtering; Twitter doesn&#8217;t unless you use some of the most cumbersome third-party software.) Consider this most strongly before multiple-posting something on the same network. Sure, a double-post for time-zone reasons might be reasonable. But repeating much beyond that, you run the risk of the reader seeing that bit of self-promotion three times on Twitter, another two times on Facebook, one time aggregated on your blog, another time when the blog post is piped into another site&#8230;the last thing you want is your potential readers &#8212; especially people who know you and should be rooting for you &#8212; tired of you.</p> <p>5. <strong>Opt-in, not opt-out.</strong> If you want to use more aggressive tactics than I&#8217;ve discussed above, consider using an opt-in system: for instance, making a &#8220;page&#8221; for yourself on Facebook. &#8220;Profiles&#8221; have friends. &#8220;Pages&#8221; have fans. While you still don&#8217;t want to spam people continuously, if people sign up to be your fan, they explicitly want to hear about your career, and you don&#8217;t have to worry about #2. It can be awkward for someone who values you as a friend to have to opt out of your marketing efforts. You don&#8217;t want to put them in that situation. Using a different medium, like a fan page on Facebook, an author page on Goodreads, or a group e-mail list, allows your friends to opt in if they&#8217;re interested, instead of assuming your social network also wants to be your marketing network.</p> Writing tools: Flickr 2009-08-04T17:30:29+00:00 2009-08-04T17:46:30+00:00 <p>My dear friend <a href="" target="links">Jeannine Hall Gailey</a> recently encouraged me to blog more about my writing process. I was dubious about this &#8211; I believe I said, &#8220;Thousands of people are working on a first novel. Why should anyone care that I am?&#8221; but I gave it some thought, and I came up with one aspect of my writing process that might be interesting.</p> <p>I use <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a> as a writing tool a great deal. By no means am I the only author who has come up with this particular expedient: <a href="" target="links">David Long</a> has also enthused about it, for example. Flickr has millions (billions?) of public photos from all over the world, many of them tagged extensively. This combination of photos and <a href="">folksonomy</a> is invaluable.</p> <p>You see, the world (and the web) is dripping with information, but much of it isn&#8217;t the kind of information a writer needs. <a href="">Wikipedia</a>, for example, is very general. I need specifics. Wikipedia may have vague or incomplete range information for an animal, when what I need to know is whether it lives in Southern Oregon. It may contain information on blights that affect a tree, when I want to know what range of colors its leaves turn in Autumn. As Flannery O&#8217;Connor says in <a href=" " target="powells"><em>Mystery and Manners</em></a>, &#8220;It&#8217;s always necessary to remember that the fiction writer is much less <em>immediately</em> concerned with grand ideas and bristling emotions than he is with putting list slippers on clerks.&#8221;</p> <p>One of the best ways I&#8217;ve found to locate the necessary list slippers is Flickr. For instance, my story <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Conditional Love&#8221;</a>, which will appear in the January 2010 issue of <a href="" target="links"><em>Asimov&#8217;s</em></a>, takes place in near-future Cleveland. Now, I lived there for a few years (it was the past when I did, though, not the future) and have a fair idea of the place. But I wanted to double-check my notion of when the cherry trees bloom, so I searched Flickr for <a href="" target="links">&#8220;cleveland cherry blossom&#8221;</a> and perused the date stamps. It&#8217;s good to double-check by using photos from several different Flickr members, since date stamps can be off or show the upload rather than the capture date. Similarly, Flickr members may misidentify the tree or deer in their photos, so it&#8217;s good to make comparisons for certainty.</p> <p>Another way I use Flickr is as photo reference. Even in fantasy stories, I like to firmly establish the geology and landscape. Sometimes I choose a real-world analogue &#8211; say, the Hebrides &#8211; and use photos of that place to inspire my descriptions of the rocks and waves, to anchor my thoughts. The same concept works for animals.</p> <p>Finally, Flickr and <a href="" target="links">Google Streetview</a> can help you research buildings and streets in settings far away. My novel is set in a future Los Angeles, so I can take plenty of artistic license. But if I want to, I can find out exactly what&#8217;s there now. I know of non-spec-fic authors using Flickr to set novels in other countries, too. Building details and atmosphere are easy to pick up as long as there are lots of photos and lots of tags to make sense of them.</p> <p>I&#8217;m very grateful for the opportunities the internet provides to me as a writer. I can still walk down to the local library and get a deep text on trees when I need to know the usual size of various species, but I can also quickly find out what a tree looks like, or whether a certain flower grows in a certain state. With careful searching, I can even figure out what name goes with a remembered image in my brain. Detail is what grounds a story and convinces the reader of the reality, immediacy of its world. It&#8217;s wonderful to have so many resources available when I go hunting for those list slippers, fallen leaves and cherry blossoms.</p> Why amazonfail matters 2009-04-13T12:16:22+00:00 2009-04-13T13:00:48+00:00 <p>By this point we&#8217;ve reached the existential phase of the <a href="" target="links">amazonfail debacle</a>, where everyone has acknowledged something happened, has vented their anger, and is now asking underlying questions &#8212; how and why did this happen? Who did it? And of course, should we still be concerned?</p> <p>While Amazon&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">&#8220;glitch&#8221; response</a> is inadequate, it does seem to indicate that they&#8217;re planning on fixing it, which seems to me to have caused a certain wave of relaxation in those angered by the removal of <span class="caps">GLBT</span> literature, feminism and <a href="" target="links">disability texts</a>, and more. Yes, it&#8217;s very unlikely that Amazon did this deliberately. Yes, internet outrage at this point does little good (except possibly to <a href="" target="powells">Powell&#8217;s</a> sale numbers). I&#8217;m just not sure people should be standing down yet. Even when it&#8217;s fixed, there are causes for concern. As explored in <a href="" target="links">this Making Light post and comment thread</a>, there are definitely plausible scenarios this occurring because of inadequacies in the meta-data provided by publishers and Amazon. (<a href="" target="links">This post at Dear Author</a> gives great specific meta-data breakdowns that may show why <em>Playboy</em> escaped the purge and <em>Heather has Two Mommies</em> did not.) However, as writer <a href="" target="links">Lawrence Schimel</a> said <a href="" target="links">over at Making Light</a>, somewhere, someone had to decide that &#8220;gay=morally objectionable&#8221; (&#8216;adult&#8217;) in order for this to unfold. And as other commenters, such as albatross, mention there, Amazon didn&#8217;t give consumers a choice of filtered versus non-filtered searches.</p> <p>And that&#8217;s what&#8217;s really troubling to me. Amazon has made an empire on selling everything all the time: KitchenAid mixers to people in pyjamas at 2 am, esoteric camera repair manuals to some dude on his lunch break, three books and a racquetball racket at the same time. They&#8217;re so huge that sales rank on Amazon is a crucial metric for a book&#8217;s performance. They chose to protect consumers from &#8216;potentially offensive content&#8217; in a lazy, slipshod, and reductive way that stigmatized the mention of homosexuality and transgenderedness as much or more than explicit heterosexual acts, not to mention violence. They chose to remove their sales rank, important to publishers and authors, in order to change what consumers see. But before they did it stupidly, they chose to do it at all. They decided that an Amazon consumer didn&#8217;t get any say in whether they saw the plain search results or the Bowdlerized search results. They decided to abridge the full functionality of their website without notifying customers or letting them have a choice. They decided we are all children, and they know what&#8217;s best for us.</p> <p>For a company that made its fortune on selling anything and everything, that&#8217;s a stupid decision. For a company that sells books, it&#8217;s wrong.</p> Write a fan letter, I dare you 2008-09-15T10:59:28+00:00 2008-09-15T11:16:05+00:00 <p>In my very limited experience of publishing (one story, baby! As a former teacher says, &#8220;In jazz, we say as long as you&#8217;ve been paid once, you&#8217;re a professional.&#8221;), fan letters are splendid little bombs of joy. I use the term &#8216;fan letter&#8217; generally: obviously, having published only one story, I cannot receive &#8216;fanatic&#8217; missives declaring how the writer has read all the kajillion stories I&#8217;ve written et c. et c. Also, they weren&#8217;t paper. I received a few e-mails around the time of my publication, one from a fellow writer and a couple from readers, saying they read and enjoyed my story. One chap said he hoped I published again soon.</p> <p>Is it necessary to describe how thoroughly my day was made by these things? When I saw my name in print &#8211; in <em>Asimov&#8217;s Science Fiction</em> no less &#8211; I felt the world would change. As I&#8217;m fond of quoting, I felt &#8220;Perhaps there may be golden trumpets!&#8221; But there were not, of course, as my more rational mind predicted. I still went to Queequeg&#8217;s every day, encountered the same scammers and scallywags, rejoiced if the weekly tip haul worked out to $1.60 an hour. What those e-mails told me was that I had been heard. Which, after all, is half of why we do this, right? Otherwise we&#8217;d all be Emily Dickinson, content to hoard our scribblings. When you&#8217;ve been heard, the world <em>has</em> changed. Your words are part of the internal universes of those who&#8217;ve read it, and knowing that, you feel changed as well.</p> <p>I hadn&#8217;t thought about it that deeply, or for a while, when I read the <a href="" target="links">September 2008 issue</a> of <em>Fantasy &amp; Science Fiction</em> the other day. The novella in it, &#8220;Arkfall&#8221; by Carolyn Ives Gilman, was wonderful. An intriguing setting, a compelling character conflict, and soon enough a fascinating plot. I enjoyed it immensely, not only for those separately listed elements, but for the way they interacted and informed each other. It was a beautifully balanced thing that caught the imagination and heart.</p> <p>And so, when I put the magazine down (always a sign of a good story: you can&#8217;t go on ravenously to the next), I wondered if I should look up the author and send her a note. I never would have considered this last year, but for some reason the idea did arise, and I couldn&#8217;t dismiss it. <em>I&#8217;d feel so foolish!</em> I thought. <em>What would I say?</em> Some slightly less gushy version of what appears above between &#8216;An&#8217; and &#8216;heart&#8217;, obviously. <em>But why should I suddenly start sending appreciative e-mails?</em> The answer to this one was just as obvious: because now I know what a difference it makes. I also told myself that sci-fi has a more collegial atmosphere, and it wasn&#8217;t really that odd to send a spec-fic author a note &#8211; very much of the spec-fic culture. (I don&#8217;t actually know if the literary mainstream engages in this note-writing activity or not, since I won&#8217;t be published in it until next summer &#8211; anyone want to enlighten me?)</p> <p>So I sat down and searched up her e-mail, wrote her a note, and pressed &#8216;send&#8217;. And you know what? She did appreciate it. Even widely published authors want to know they&#8217;re heard. I don&#8217;t know whether it made her day, but it sounds like it brightened it. So next time you read a story in a magazine that really strikes you, that you can&#8217;t stop thinking about, hang up your self-consciousness on a peg and write a fan letter. It&#8217;s a simple way to spread a little happiness in the world.</p> <p><em>For fun, I formalized the rules I made up for myself before writing the aforementioned e-mail: <a href="">here they are</a>.</em></p> The masculonormativity of spam 2008-09-12T10:30:47+00:00 2008-09-12T10:32:27+00:00 <p>One observation I failed to make in my <a href="" target="links">general masculonormativity post</a> is this: spam is for men.</p> <p>This is precisely the kind of thing I would guess is hard to notice if you&#8217;re a man, but I estimate my spam (when I do see it) is almost 50% Viagra/Cialis offers, 20% (gender-neutral) offers of cut-rate software, 10% (gender-neutral) nonsense or Nigerian scams, and 20% (male-oriented) porn ads. That means 70% of spam assumes that I am a man. Some of that is likely capitalism at work: if men are more likely to click on spam, or if porn and ED drugs are the main ways to make money off spam, that may be what&#8217;s driving it. But it may also be an easy assumption for spammers in Russia or wherever to make &#8212; that men are the primary users of the Internet or the primary spenders of money.</p> <p>All I know is that last year when, briefly, I got spam advertising knockoffs of designer handbags and heels, I was almost pleased. Spam that assumed I was a woman! Amazing!</p> Reading Recommendations 1 2008-09-05T10:18:37+00:00 2008-09-05T10:19:00+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve been reading a lot of magazines recently, part of my drive to get to know the current spec-fic world (I&#8217;m a huge sci-fi dork, but my reading in the field was long guided by my dad, so it tends towards classic sci-fi.) I have some paper ones, but there are loads of excellent online spec-fic magazines, as well as book publishers givin&#8217; away fiction. I thought I&#8217;d share a few stories I&#8217;ve really enjoyed which are free as little birdies in our glorious intertubes.</p> <p>From the fabulous <a href="" target="links"><em>Clarkesworld Magazine</em></a>:<br /> <a href="" target="stories">&#8220;Her Mother&#8217;s Ghosts&#8221;</a> by Theodora Goss: haunting story about the emotional legacy of totalitarianism (her <a href="" target="links">essay</a> about writing the story is excellent as well.)<br /> <a href="" target="stories">&#8220;Blue Ink&#8221;</a> by Yoon Ha Lee: <em>Clarkesworld</em> often goes in for mindbenders &#8212; this interdimensional battle is my favorite of them so far.</p> <p>From <a href="" target="links">Subterranean Press</a>:<br /> <a href="" target="stories">&#8220;Denise Jones, Super Booker&#8221;</a> by John Scalzi: a superhero riff in the form of an interview.</p> <p>From <a href="" target="links">Apex Books</a>:<br /> <a href="" target="stories">&#8220;Scenting the Dark&#8221;</a> by Mary Robinette Kowal: sci-fi horror story with a blind perfumer as the protagonist.</p> <p>All of these are short reads, and there&#8217;s quite a range between the four. If you&#8217;re not much of a spec-fic reader in general, try &#8220;Her Mother&#8217;s Ghosts&#8221;, which might be described as interstitial. If your day could really use some laughter, try &#8220;Denise Jones, Super Booker&#8221;. Enjoy!</p> My boyfriend's famous, and all I got was this lousy copyright infringement 2008-08-22T16:11:35+00:00 2008-08-22T16:12:33+00:00 <p>So, <a href="" target="links">Ryan</a> recently announced some awesome <a href="" target="links">stuff he made at work</a>, and he&#8217;s getting a little <a href="" target="links">attention</a> in the Tech media. Only problem is, <a href="" target="links">several</a> of them are running a photo of him off <a href="" target="links">his about page</a>. A photo I took, not under Creative Commons or anything. No credit, and they didn&#8217;t ask either of us.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t actually mind, though I did consider posing Qubit for a lolcat take-down notice just for giggles. It&#8217;s just more than a bit odd that tech news sites wouldn&#8217;t be a little more savvy, a little more careful.</p>