Here are links I found interesting on January 20, 2014:
Here are links I found interesting on November 6, 2013:
- ‘The Writer’ Automaton – An unusual ancestor to modern computers.
- Washington Times ends Sen. Rand Paul column amid plagiarism allegations – Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
- Our Democracy’s Unnecessary Stupidities – One takeaway quote from his thoughtful piece: "Rampant abuse has exposed the filibuster as an anti-democratic tool of the defeated minority to thwart the will of the elected majority."
Some thoughts on a New Yorker essay.
I read an interesting essay on the New Yorker magazine’s website yesterday: “The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing.” It was one of those pieces that, as you read it, you realize that you and the author are sharing the same thoughts about something that you thought you were alone in thinking. As I read through the piece, I found myself wanting to highlight different passages of it — the parts of it where the author put into words what I’d been thinking or feeling for a long time.
So I figured I’d blog a little about it to store those thoughts here.
For example, the author of the piece, Thomas Beller, writes:
Most great writers could, if they wanted to, be very good at Twitter, because it is a medium of words and also of form. Its built-in limitation corresponds to the sense of rhythm and proportion that writers apply to each line.
And that’s the challenge of Twitter. Sharing a complete thought in 140 characters. I wrote about that back in October 2010 (was it really that long ago?) in my blog post titled “How Twitter Can Help You Become a More Concise Writer.” After all, anyone can write a string of tweets to tell a story. But how many people can convey that story in just 140 characters? How many people can be interesting, funny, provocative, witty, sarcastic, ironic, or insightful?
Yes, it’s true: I do tweet photos of some of my meals. (Don’t we all?) But occasionally I get more serious. Occasionally I dig deeper and come up with something witty or profound, something that other people find worthy of retweeting or, better yet, favoriting.
(Ever wonder how the word favorite became a verb? I did, too. Then I asked all-knowing Google and it pointed me to this article that explains it. It shouldn’t surprise you that Twitter is involved. But once again, I digress.)
While I soak in the hot tub, Penny the Tiny Dog hunts for mice around the woodpile. Gotta love the full moon.
— Maria Langer (@mlanger) October 27, 2012
And sometimes — just sometimes — I can paint a visual picture with those 140 characters that’s as clear as a glacial stream on a spring day.
Two more passages touch upon why and how I use Twitter:
Does a piece of writing that is never seen by anyone other than its author even exist? Does a thought need to be shared to exist? What happens to the stray thought that drifts into view, is pondered, and then drifts away? Perhaps you jot it down in a note before it vanishes, so that you can mull it over in the future. It’s like a seed that, when you return to it, may have grown into something visible. Or perhaps you put it in a tweet, making the note public. But does the fact that it is public diminish the chances that it will grow into something sturdy and lasting? Does articulating a thought in public freeze it in place somehow, making it not part of a thought process but rather a tiny little finished sculpture? Is tweeting the same as publishing?
I had always thought of Twitter as being a good place to work out ideas: a place to mull things over in public, and a way of documenting a thought to make it more likely that I would remember it. But is it like a conversation or is it “talking it out?” Is it a note to oneself that everyone can see, or is it, like iPhone photos, an attempt to offload the responsibilities of memory onto an apparatus that feels like an extension of ourselves because it is always in our hands? I sometimes wonder if I might ever be accused of stealing my own idea.
Enough of Chapter 13! Do they expect me to write all night? Besides, that martini has definitely kicked in. Time to surf.
— Maria Langer (@mlanger) March 21, 2007
And that’s how I use Twitter: as a sort of running list of my thoughts and the things going on in my life. (That might explain why I’ve tweeted more than 44,000 times since I joined Twitter back in 2007. I think a lot and keep pretty busy.) It’s easy to whip out my phone or iPad and tweet something that’s on my mind — or to save a picture of what’s in front of me in a place where it’ll be forever (or at least a long time). It is an offloading of information so I don’t have to remember things.
Mr Beller wonders whether articulating a thought in public freezes it in place somehow. It does. It freezes it in the Twitter archive, which I can download for my account and search at any time. (How do you think it was so easy for me to come up with the tweets you see here? Imagine that archive in the hands of a paranoid and delusional stalker!) That makes it possible for me to go back in time, to see what I was thinking and doing on a specific date since my first tweet in March 2007.
I can’t think of any easier way to make life notes. Stray thoughts can be captured before they drift away, to be pondered at my leisure. And sometimes — just sometimes — they become the seeds for blog posts or conversations with friends.
Twitter was introduced as a “microblogging” service and that’s exactly how I use it. I assume other writers do the same.
But is tweeting the same as publishing? I don’t think so. It’s more like standing on a soapbox in a crowded park, making random remarks. Some folks who know you’re there and find you interesting might be there to listen. But otherwise, your words go mostly unheard. You can argue that the same can be said for publishing, but publishing seems to be a more legitimate form of communication. Or maybe that’s just old-fashioned thinking on my part.
Managing the anxiety of composition is an essential part of writing. One must master the process of shepherding the private into public. There are bound to be false starts, excursions that turn out to be dead ends. But these ephemera—notes, journals, drafts—are all composed in a kind of psychic antechamber whose main feature is a sense of aloneness. They are the literary equivalent of muttering to yourself in a state of melancholy, or of dancing in front of the mirror with music blasting when you are alone in your room. Both of these are best done when no one is home.
I’ve never found it difficult to write; there is no anxiety for me. That’s not to say that I don’t have false starts and wander down to dead ends. Or, more often than I’d like to admit, write crap.
There is an aloneness to all writing, including Twitter. And yes, tweets are like talking to yourself, but with the very real possibility that (in my case) 1600+ people are listening and may respond. No one is home here except me — I’ve been alone for a long time, even when I supposedly wasn’t.
Almost everybody who is a writer these days gets, at some point, a lecture on the necessity of being “on” Twitter and Facebook. It’s a tool of selling and career building. It is, for writers of all ages and stages, not so much required reading as required writing.
I also got this lecture from one of my publishers. I didn’t need to be sold on Twitter — I took to that like a bird takes to the sky. It was Facebook that I avoided for as long as I could. So long, in fact, that I lost a contract because I wasn’t involved enough in social media. Imagine that! An early adopter of Twitter with tens of thousands of tweets not being involved enough in social media.
Twitter gives writers the ability to put ourselves out there for the world to see. Does it help my writing career? Perhaps — to a point. It certainly helps attract blog readers and give me a steady stream of intelligent people to communicate with.
After five years and more than 44,000 tweets, I know one thing for certain: Twitter has become a part of my writing life.
Here are links I found interesting on March 24, 2013:
- How Apple invites facile analysis – "Conjecture and misunderstanding can trump actual knowledge when it comes to evaluating a company; the hubbub surrounding Apple is a case study."
- Hey! You! Get off of Google’s cloud! – "The death of Google Reader should remind all of us how vulnerable 'free' software services can be to market pressures…. Free software served from the cloud can vanish overnight, or its features can be altered … without much warning. The same isn’t ordinarily true of software that you install on your own computer, or services that you purchase."
- Sarah Palin and the rejection of scientific method – "She is like a member of a religious sect that does not allow medicine yet cannot understand why the patient’s condition continues to deteriorate." I still can't understand why they keep letting media whore morons like her speak in public to represent their party. Are they trying to chase away the few educated supporters they have left?
- Fines Slashed In Grain Bin Entrapment Deaths – A tragic story of deaths due to repeated and willful OSHA violations.
- The Cash Register Rings Its Last Sale – How mobile devices in the hands of sales staff and customers are replacing traditional cash registers and check-out counters.
- The Mayor’s Geek Squad – Big data in New York City.
- Can Wind Turbines Make You Sick? – Or is it just another example of the nocebo effect?
Here are links I found interesting on December 27, 2012:
- We’re Puny, Insignificant, and Doomed – and That’s the Good News – "For all we know, we may be the only living beings in the universe, or at least the only ones with consciousness. How remarkable that on this remote planet, we’ve got the ability to ask questions, to write blog posts, to seek cures for cancer. If all we have is one another, our brief life spans, and the things we’re able to discover and create, then we’ve got the power and responsibility to make our lives meaningful."
- Why must the nation grieve with God? – "We are told the Lord works in mysterious ways but, for many people, to suggest there might be an intelligent deity who could rationally act in such a fashion and that that deity is worth praying to and thanking for 'calling them home' seems beyond the pale." Why can't more people see this? Who are they worshiping and why?
- The Linkblog Cancer – "There’s a cancer spreading through the indie tech blogger community: the blockquote + link post." I absolutely detest blogs that rely on this method of generating "content." What they're doing is taking advantage of the hard work of other content creators to generate hits to their own blogs. Shame on them!
- This Is How Facebook Tried to Make Money Off You – "For better or worse, this will go down as the year that Facebook really put a dollar sign in front of its users."
- What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web? – "Lanier was one of the creators of our current digital reality and now he wants to subvert the 'hive mind,' as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to 'social catastrophe.'"
- Enough! – "Between the humiliating and chaotic collapse of Speaker Boehner's already ludicrously extreme Plan B and Wayne La Pierre's deranged proposal to put government agents in schools with guns, the Republican slide into total epistemic closure and political marginalization has now become a free-fall. This party, not to mince words, is unfit for government." Yeah, and?
- The Room for iPad – "A physical puzzler, wrapped in a mystery game, inside a beautifully tactile 3D world." Also, a welcome break from the word games I've been playing on my iPad.