user experience begins at home

The view from Rainforest

I spent a few days writing without ice and snow last week. Also without much Internets. We had a weak WIFI signal, which made for many words, and an odd feeling of being disconnected on a global level, while very connected to my fellow writers. This was a very good thing.  Many thanks to Patrick Swenson and everyone at session 2 of the wonderful Rainforest Writers’ Village.

I gave a Deadlines 2.0 talk and I made deadline-apocalypse stickers for it… I have some extra. Might give away a few. Will give that a think.

Meantime: Picspam!

Owning My Notebook Habit …

So a few weeks ago, the lovely Shveta Thakrar asked me about the piles of notebooks I have in my office.

What The Author Sees.

What The Author Sees.

I don’t have piles. I have a couple notebooks, maybe. Piles would make me a tree killer. That’s what I thought. (more…)

On Staying Ahead of Technology & ICFA

Where is March going, you guys? It’s a total blur.

I’m still in editorial mode, but tomorrow I am off to ICFA – the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. I’m ridiculously excited about all three guests of honor, writers Nnedi Okorafor and Ian McDonald being regular occupiers of my bookshelf, and guest-scholar Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. as well. (Yes, I’m also happy it will be warm and not snowing.)

My schedule: Thursday, March 20, 8:30 am in Vista A, Author Reading with Brett Cox (host), Greg Bechtel, Sarah Pinborough & Fran Wilde

If you’re going, I look forward to seeing you there. If not – check out the papers and panels. This is an amazing conference.

Otherwheres, I was asked to guest post about staying ahead of emerging technology over at SF Signal last week. Here’s the teaser – go read the rest – and jump into the discussion, if you’re so inclined.

On Staying Ahead of Evolving Technology (OR: Things Fall Apart)

John DeNardo invited me to talk to SF Signal readers about the sensor wasps that appear in my Asimov’sApril/May 2014 short story “Like a Wasp to the Tongue,” and I’m delighted to do so.

SF writers spend a lot of time thinking about where technology is headed. In particular, we try to stay far, far ahead of where technology might be headed. It’s part of the job description. Personally, I find it a lot of fun. But it isn’t an easy sort of fun. Tech moves faster every day.

In a former life as an engineering and science writer, I learned that one way to get a jump on technology and where it could evolve is to look at the problems that technology (read the rest here...)

Algorithms Love You and Want You to Be Better!

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar on disruptive technology given by the director of Singularity University, Salim Ismail, his colleague David Roberts, and Banning Garrett, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Heads up — this post is going to be higher-geek-octane than usual. Specifically: robots, 3D printers, gene-hacks, exponential technology growth, pristine-algorithm-theory, self-replication, and godmodding. If those words make you clutch your bleeding ears, Cooking the Books is over here, and there are fine fiction links here and here.

Still with me? Sweet.


Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest… – do you need them all?

A question to the floor: pinterest2
What social media tools do you use and for what purposes? We could talk all day about Facebook (or on Facebook) – where many writers have fan pages, or post most updates – but let’s go a bit further afield too.

  • Pinterest – Launched in 2010 as a ‘virtual pinboard,’ Pinterest can be used for research (putting photos in buckets), inspiration, and conversation. Check out some really well-curated pinboards for examples: Arin Dembo, Elizabeth Bear, Holly Black, Jenny Lawson, Sara Mueller, and Craig EnglerMine’s a bit sloppy, but I’ve found it a useful place to store things in buckets, so I know where to find them. Broadcast type: public.
  • Tumblr – Founded in 2007, but rising in visibility recently. The tumblr technique is called short-form blogging by the company. I’m new to this one (which is the reason for this post). In some ways, Tumblr is also a pin-board, though its visual interface is linear where Pinterest’s is more of (more…)

For the Greater Good

The Internet and one of its many, many kittens. Wikimedia Commons image. Photo Credit: Sasan Geranmehr

Ok, some Sunday morning musing for you: How do we as a culture determine what is ‘good’?

In any field, at any point in history, a pulse-point of ‘good’ has been established. That’s where we get various canons – quite often the creative works of a dominant culture, to the detriment of other voices, other data.

Also throughout history, arbiters of taste abound, marketing studies flourish, trends analyses bloom like algae (or tulips) all over the surface of ‘good’ in the marketplace. And sometimes the only result is noise, or mundanity: a horse designed by committee, versus something sleek and fast and wonderfully new. That’s not good at all.

Now though. Now we can quantify good. We can see how and where the market reacts to what we give them, we can establish datapoints, and we can give the market more of what it wants. And we will make the market happy and that will be good. Right? This is the message I’m getting from Fast Company’s article on Amazon’s Serialized Novel program. A cautious sense that -hooray- we will Finally Know What People Like And Be Able To Give Them More Of It. With data. (more…)

Your Voice, in Public

The dreaded podium.
photo credit: Brian Herzog
source: Flickr (creative commons license).

Last week, at a local writers’ coffeehouse sponsored by the Philadelphia Liars Club, the topic of pitches came up. Meaning the kind of pitch you do sometimes in an elevator (giving the pitch its name), sometimes in a conference room, and never in a bathroom. The “I’ve finished a novel/autobiography/teleporter,” pitch. The “you’ll remember me, because,” pitch.

Keith Strunk, an actor, author, and Liar (the club linked above, not the activity), in particular said a number of good things about practice. About knowing well what you’re going to say before you need to say it. About speaking with confidence, and being yourself.

Two great tips: (more…)

Your Newly Enhanced Experience

What is it about social media that requires constant redesigns of the interface? Is it a desire to stay ‘fresh’?

Or is it the need to feel like you are once again the new kid on the block, when, in actuality, you are getting a little creaky and the new apps are breathing down your neck and offering to walk you across the street?

Hey, Google, Facebook, Twitter… once again, you’re giving us design changes we do not want and have not requested.

Google+ redesigned itself yesterday into a minimalist-facebook, complete with banners in user profiles and a shrunken space for user content.  It’s this second item that should be the biggest clue about who their audience is now. Hint, it’s not us.  What we say and do in these spaces matters less and less, so they’re giving us less space to do it in. As evidenced by the page real estate being sucked up by buttons, advertising, and things that we didn’t ask for and do not use.

In short, we are spending more time finding our way around the new layouts of these mediums than we are using the medium to communicate with others.  This makes no sense, since the stated purpose of twitfaceboogle is to help people communicate with each other.

It’s time for the social media user experience folks to sit down with the VPs and the design consultants and come up with a way to let the users -us- control our own experience, at least in part.

Make us part of the experience again.  That’s enhancement enough.

Don’t be (more) evil

There hasn’t been a tech post in a while. Granted, this only marginally qualifies…

Watching last week’s roller coaster response to Apple’s iAuthor app, and this week’s gaining response to Google’s account-information merge with no opt-out, I’m again thinking about needs vs. wants, standards, and the greater good.

I have no answers.  I can’t tell you how devious the intent was when Apple shifted iAuthor’s product from epub standards and towards an iPad-only model.  I can’t tell you why Google wants All The Info in one spot, though I have some guesses.

What I know is that both decisions limit the choice of the individual (producer or consumer), in favor of what benefits the company providing the technology.  From a programming standpoint, less individual choice may make some sense – it’s easier and cheaper to manage; from a marketing standpoint, it means your audience is captive, not just captivated.  But.  Technology is about personalization.  Which doesn’t just mean a company gets to offer me more things that I might enjoy reading/buying/liking.

It also means that I, as the consumer of technology, should be able to personalize my level of control over the information I create to use on that system.

and, truth be told, I would love to play with HTML5 in my ePubs.

Hopefully, someone out there sees this the same way I do.  Or, perhaps, I’m completely in the wrong here.  Hoping someone can tell me so.