Thoughts on Wikis, Responsibility, and Cultural Shifts

I'm currently re-reading Robert E. Cumming's introductory chapter from Wiki Writing: Collaborative Learning in the College Classroom, entitled "What Was a Wiki, and Why Do I Care? A Short and Usable History of Wikis." This is one of the readings for my class on digital rhetoric, and it serves as a handy introduction to the invention of wikis, the reactions to them in the "ancient times," and some of the key concerns about their impact on knowledge production. Basically, it's some nerd shhhhh. That said, it has got me thinking a lot about the role of wikis in our culture and, more importantly, just how much has changed since I was a kid. While there are still people running about saying you should never use wikis, for the most part, even academics have softened on them. A lot of you probably remember when that wasn't the case. Hell, remember when that wasn't the case for me as a teacher. Mind you, I was never the type to outright fail a student for using Wikipedia, but I did strip away points. Read More

Comics and Tablets: Your Thoughts?

I've recently become interested in reading comics again.  I used to read them as a youngin', but sort of gave up on them for one reason or another (I used to collect all the trading cards from Marvel, too, and probably still have some floating around -- there's a box of comics somewhere in my closet).  But rather than jump in to whatever is going on right now, I want to read a lot of the backlist to get a sense of how things have progressed.  Understandably, that means doing so digitally (through the Marvel database, etc.), as trying to buy all those older comics would probably bankrupt me.

What I'm wondering is whether any of you have experience reading comics on any tablet.  I know there are a lot of different types out there, from the ASUS Transformer to the iPad to the Galaxy, but reviews can only go so far for me.  I need a bit more before I make that investment.

If you have read comics on a tablet, or at least have experience with one, let me know your thoughts about that particular device:  pros, cons, recommendations, etc.  I am partial to tablets that are connected to a vibrant app community, as reading comics will probably requiring the use of apps (PDF and CBR/CBZ readers).


Social Network Bingo (Or, Hey, I Do Different Things)

I thought today would be a good time to talk about social networks (broadly defined).  Since there are about 10,000 of these blasted things out there, it's always a struggle to figure out which ones work best for whatever it is I want to do -- talking about geeky things, writing, and politics.  I've been pretty careful to separate some of these subjects from one another, in part because I (used to) think separation was important for aspiring writers such as myself.  After all, politics and writing sometimes don't go together, particularly when you say things that other people won't like (a guarantee in this political climate).

And so, across my various social networks, I've found ways to separate and compartmentalize my various interests (with some crossover).  I won't suggest that everyone should do what I do.  Rather, I think it's more compelling to see how other people do it.  For that reason, I'd appreciate it if folks would comment below with their own explanations for how they use the various social networks.

The following are the major social networks of which I am a part.  For those that don't follow me elsewhere, this list might help you decide where to follow and/or avoid me:

Blogger (where you're currently reading this, I assume)
Topics:  Writing, Genre Fiction, and Other Geeky Topics
Follow:  N/A
I use Blogger primarily to explore the geeky things that matter to me, and to maintain some sort of online presence for my writing career (fiction and academic).  As such, much of what I post here, if you don't already know, is focused on genre fiction, with a side of writing (mostly genre fiction writing).  In the past, I've included things like politics and poetry, but those topics have since moved to other arenas (mostly because I find they fit better elsewhere, but also because, if I'm honest, I don't want this space to fall into the politics trap).

Topics:  Writing, Genre Fiction, Politics, Randomness, and Other Geeky Topics
Other Uses:  Linking to my other content...
Follow:  Friends, Colleagues, and Professionals
Most of my Twitter activity is focused on genre, random things that I find amusing, and related categories.  For the most part, I've found it to be a great place to interact with other SF/F folks, and have, as such, used it sparingly for political stuff (maybe 25% of my activity there has to do with political things).  Likewise, I have found it a great avenue for keeping in touch with fellow grad students, many of whom follow me there.  You'll find me discussing a lot of genre-related topics there because it is one of the most lively places for such things (such as today, in which Mari Ness, Julia Rios, etc. and I talked about SF Poetry).

Topics:  Politics and Geeky Topics (w/ cross-pollination from my other ventures)
Follow:  Professionals, some Friends, and Political Folks (plus a lot of random people who periodically disappear from my list)
The bulk of my G+ use is political in nature.  In fact, of all the social networks I use, this is the only one that I use primarily to discuss politics.  As such, most of my followers aren't necessarily genre people (though there are a few of those), but folks who find my take on various political issues interesting (even if they disagree).  The remaining, tiny percentage of posts is devoted to geeky things and my own various works (such as podcasts, publications, etc.).  If you want to know what I have to say about politics, though, this is the place to go.  You won't find nearly as much discussion about such things anywhere else.

Topics:  Personal Stuff, Writing, Politics, and Cross-pollination from Twitter
Follow:  Friends, Colleagues and the Rare Professional
Facebook is one of the ONLY networks I use primarily for personal communication.  I rarely friend anyone there who I do not already know.  As such, most of the people on my Facebook are people from college, friends, colleagues, and the occasional writer (most of whom fall into one of the other categories).  While politics, writing, and genre fiction pop up on my FB page all the time (usually through Twitter), its primary function remains personal.

Topics:  Poetry, Writing, Art, Nature, and Related Topics
Follow:  Friends, Interesting Posters, and the occasional Colleague
Of all my various social networks, this one is quickly become the most personal (in terms of what I share).  While I am sharing my own writing (poems and snippets from fiction), I've primarily been using it to explore various things that matter to me, such as art, life, my dreams, and more.  In fact, this will probably become my depository for all the things that frankly don't fit elsewhere (particularly, my poetry).  Tumblr is uniquely designed towards sharing these sorts of things (also:  porn, which I'm not sharing).  While Blogger is also a great space for the personal, it doesn't work so well for the things I'd like to do on the side, in part because my history on Blogger has pegged me as a certain kind of blogger.  Tumblr, then, is filling in the gaps.


What about you?  Do you use your social networks in different ways?  If so, how?

Barnes and Noble’s Nook: A New Wave in eReaders?

B&N isn't the only one announcing new eReaders. Apple is rumored to have one coming up and Amazon has released the international version of the Kindle 2. But I think this is the first time I have found myself excited about the prospect of an eReader.

B&N's Nook is a sleek looking device with a heck of a lot of functionality, including the self-declared ability to read multiple formats adequately. While the Nook uses AT&T's 3G network, which is not covered in all areas, it does allow you to use your USB port on your computer, which makes folks like me, who download loads of essays in PDF form quite frequently, happy because it allows for the possibility of making those reading experiences more enjoyable.

So, my initial impression is that of excitement. I admit that I am not a big B&N fan (I prefer Borders only because their club card thing is free), but this might make me a regular B&N user over Amazon.

But enough about what I think, what about you? Do you think it looks good? Are you reserving judgment? Or do you hate it? Let me know and tell me why!

7 Reason Why I Won’t Follow You on Twitter

Twitter is a great tool when used properly. One of the biggest problems with Twitter is that everyone and their mother is trying to use it, and unfortunately I'm not going to follow everyone and their mother. Here are the seven reasons why I won't follow you on Twitter:
  1. You post nothing but links. I'm not interested in your dozens of links about a topic I'm already not interested in. Twitter isn't a link mill. Do something else.
  2. You use Twitter only to promote yourself and refuse to be a part of the community. I don't follow people I know I'm not going to be able to chat with. I want conversations, sharing, and cooperation, not a one-sided borefest. There are exceptions, of course, for publishers.
  3. You type in textspeak or are otherwise incapable of using even basic English spelling, punctuation, and grammar. I know you only get 140 characters, but if I need a chatspeak dictionary to decipher what you're writing, then you're a waste of my time.
  4. You follow ten times more people than follow you. Unless I already know you, I'm likely not going to follow you if it's clear to me that you're on Twitter to spam.
  5. You try to force me to buy your product. Chances are, I don't want it, even if it is something up my alley. Tell me about it, and then shut up.
  6. You're just another of those self-proclaimed SEO masters or whatever other nonsense Web 2.0 titles are out there. Honestly, I don't really care. I'm not on Twitter to find out how to make my blog the next Boing Boing or whatever. That, and, there are about ten trillion of you people out there, and none of you offer anything new. I can Google most everything you say.
  7. You're interested in subjects that I'm not interested in or you don't have a bio. With rare exception, I am not going to follow you if your bio indicates that you are into something that, quite frankly, I could care less about. I don't care about horse racing or bingo or how to sell dresses. My bio indicates what I am interested in, and unless I know you or somehow find you interesting, I'm not going to bother following you if your Twitter account will be dominated by subjects I find exceptionally boring or inappropriate.
What about you? What reasons do you have for not following people on Twitter? Let me know in the comments, and if you like this post, consider stumbling or digging it. Thanks!

eReaders: Comparison Study

I've been looking extensively into all the various eReaders to see which one would be most useful to me and thought I would post the data here as a comparison study. The readers I've looked into the most have been the iRex iLiad, Sony eReader 505, Cybook ePaper, and the Amazon Kindle. There are some technical specs for each (they represent the best data I could find and I left out a few things that I didn't think were important, such as some support formats that really won't be of much use for eBook readers anyway). Here goes:
  • iRex iLiad
    • Battery Life -- 15 hours.
    • Charger -- AC wall charger.
    • Formats -- PDF / HTML / TXT / JPG / BMP / PNG / PRC (other formats later)
    • Wireless -- Yes / Ethernet
    • Disk Space -- 128 MB Flash / Expandable w/ USB / MMC / CF
    • Screen Size -- 8.1 in. 768 x 1024
    • Processor -- 400 Mhz.
    • Memory -- 64 MB
    • Weight -- 15.3 oz.
    • Price -- $699.00
      • Pros: What sets the iLiad apart from the others for me is the fact that it is easy to upload different formats. You are not limited to loading DRM only books and from what I've read you can put PDFs on this and they'll work. It's battery life isn't really all that bad, although in comparison to others it's not very good. It also has wireless for updates and you're not limited to a specific network. If there's wireless Internet where you are, you can get online. It also can automatically update your RSS feeds for newspapers, etc. It's also bigger than the others, which is good and bad, depending on your perspective on that.
        It uses a stylus like a PDA and also allows you to take written notes that can later be turned into printed text, which make the iLiad ideal for students. Additionally, because the iLiad isn't limited by its hardware in the same way that other eReaders are, updates to it could very well open the door to the use of other formats, such as Word documents. But, then again, it might not matter because it can do stuff online (blogs and newspapers) and that big screen makes it rather easy. Interestingly enough, to turn the page on this thing you actually have to turn a little "dial" of sorts, which might help simulate the reading experience.
      • Cons: It's freaking expensive. For something that doesn't even come close to doing what a laptop of the same price could do, you're paying quite a big chunk of change. True, the iLiad is more "open" than the others (especially over the eReader and Kindle), but depending on what you're using it for, it might not matter. If you're okay with using Sony's ebook format or Amazon's, then skip the iLiad. However, if you want a lot more freedom to bring all your written content with you, whether they be books, newspapers, blog feeds, etc., then perhaps the iLiad is for you. The iLiad is also a little slower in some respects to the others. This is mostly in reference to the menus as it is faster at page turning than the Sony eReader.
  • Sony eReader 505
    • Battery Life -- 7,500 page turns (whatever that translates to in hours, I don't know)
    • Charger -- AC wall charger or USB
    • Formats -- BBeB / JPG / GIF / PNG / BMP / TXT / RTF / PDF / DOC
    • Wireless -- No
    • Disk Space -- 20 MB / Expandable with USB
    • Screen Size -- 6 in. 170 pixels per in.
    • Processor -- 800 Mhz.
    • Memory -- 128 MB
    • Weight -- 9 oz.
    • Price -- $299.99
      • Pros: What the Sony has over the other eReaders is its price. It's the cheapest of them all, including the Kindle, and yet it's also not that different from it's biggest competition (the Kindle again). It's rumored to have an exceedingly long battery life and pretty much does what it's supposed to.
      • Cons: It's biggest issues are what killed it for me. It functions almost exclusively with Sony's ebook format, which limits your selection, and, while it can view other formats, everything I have read suggests it isn't very good at these things. PDFs especially are said to be notoriously difficult, as are newspaper feeds, etc. It's great with the Sony format, but it falls apart if you want to use it for anything else. It also lacks wireless, which means you have to have all the books you want to read on there beforehand and can't pick something up off the airport wireless if your trip is delayed or something. This also means you have to wait until you can plug into your computer before you can get updates to the machine itself or whatever feeds you might be reading (or attempting to). I'm also told that Sony is pretty much PC specific and requires the use of an iTunes-like Sony platform. Lots of cons, but if you're only going to read eBooks and aren't too picky about selection, it's the best one out there for the price.
  • Cybook ePaper
    • Battery Life -- 8,000 screen refreshes (whatever that means)
    • Charger -- AC wall charger.
    • Formats -- PRC / PDB / HTML / TXT / PDF / JPG / GIF / PNG
    • Wireless -- No (update via USB)
    • Disk Space -- 512 MB / Expandable with SD
    • Screen Size -- 6 in. 600 x 800
    • Processor -- 200 Mhz.
    • Memory -- 16 MB
    • Weight -- 6.13 oz.
    • Price -- $540
      • Pros: The Cybook has a lot of internal disk space for all your books. There isn't a lot out there about the Cybook, and I suspect that has a lot to do with the fact that, well, nobody even knows it exists. Unlike the Sony eReader or Amazon Kindle, the Cybook has been relegated to the land of obscurity. Because of that, I don't know a whole lot about it or how well it works.
      • Cons: The price is the big one. Almost as much as the iLiad for a machine that may or may not be better tan the eReader or Kindle. Some have said it's a decent machine, but I just don't know. I'm not sure it's worth the risk spending $540 to find out.
  • Amazon Kindle
    • Battery Life -- One week (without the wireless on)
    • Charger -- AC wall charger.
    • Formats -- AZW / JPG / GIF / BMP / PNG / DOC / HTML / PRC / PDF
    • Wireless -- Yes / Whispernet via Sprint EVDO
    • Disk Space -- 180 MB / Expandable with SD / USB
    • Screen Size - 19.1 x 13.5 cm. 600 x 800
    • Processor -- 400 Mhz.
    • Memory - 64 MB
    • Weight -- 10.3 oz.
    • Price -- $359.00
      • Pros: The Kindle has quite a lot going for it in comparison to its competitor (Sony eReader). It has free access to Whispernet, making it relatively easy to get a new book on the fly, or a new newspaper, or whatever you might be looking for that the Kindle can support. A great benefit for Kindle owners is that eBooks are tremendously easy to find, since they're all on And you can buy all of that stuff right off the wireless, no problem. An additional benefit is that Amazon offers a free way to convert files like Word documents, etc. into a format your reader can read, which is then beamed into your reader via the wireless through an email specific to your Kindle. Whether or not that conversion proves to be of good quality is up to speculation, though. You could end up having loads of issues with the converted file, which would make reading something pointless anyway.
        It's not a very expensive piece of hardware in comparison to the others. That's a good thing for your pocket, of course. You can also upload and publish your own ebooks, which should probably be a con, because now we'll have to worry about thousands of self-published people, most of which shouldn't be published, throwing their books up there for us to trudge through.
      • Cons: Well, with a lot of good things to say about the Kindle, there are quite a lot of bad too. One big problem is that you have to turn off the wireless manually by going into the settings to do so (the iLiad actually has a button for the wireless, which is convenient). If you don't do this, the wireless drains the battery. The wireless is also limited to Sprint's network, which means you can't use the wireless outside of the United States.
        It also has the same issues the Sony eReader does with PDFs and non-Amazon-ebook files. And the non-Amazon files you want to have on your machine have to be converted first, which means you have to send them to an email system that converts the files and then sends them back to you. You can do it the free way or the way that costs (sending them to yourself isn't free). And there's no guarantee the conversion will work. Go figure. The process is a bit confusing, so I won't get into it, but I imagine it seems more confusing than it really is.
After all of that, what would I buy if I had the money? Well, I'm leaning towards the iLiad. It's the one that fits my needs at this point. The Kindle would probably be second. My problem with the big machines right now is that they all aren't stable enough with alternate formats to be of much use to me. I'd like to try them and see if maybe people are just stupid, but I don't want to spend $300 or more to find out something isn't even going to work. The iLiad, as far as I can tell, will do what I want it to do and with little complication, except its price. If it were cheaper, I'd ask for it for a gift, but since it's not, it'll stay in the back of my mind where I put all the "stuff I want to buy but am not going to shell out X amount of dollars for).

Maybe the Kindle is better than I'm hearing. Maybe Amazon would like to let me borrow one for a month so I can see how it works for class. Or maybe the iRex people would do the same...hint hint.

Yeah, I know that won't work. So be it.

What do people think we’re listening to?

I was riding the bus today and an elderly gentlemen gave me a look. You know, one of those looks of disapproval, sort of how folks must have looked at teenagers in the 80s who had 80s hair or how people still look at folks with mohawks or weird piercings. He was giving me this look because I had my little ear-bud things for my mp3 player in their proper place and he must have been thinking I was listening to rap music or some such, because if he had actually known what I was listening to I doubt he would have given me that look.
After being given this look it made me wonder whether iPods/mp3 players have started a new trend of disapproval just like 80s hair or mohawks or weird pierces did. Millions of us use our mp3 players, whatever brand they may be, on a daily basis. They've shaped the way our society (speaking in the U.S. here) in ways people probably never though possible. How many of us can honestly say we knew right from the start that the mp3 would replace the CD? It has, even though they're still making CDs (which poses some serious problems for the future of the music industry when the mp3 officially takes over and CD stores go out of business).
Getting back to the point, do we hold any sort of bias towards iPod/etc. users? Do we automatically think, upon seeing some teenage kid or college-age man with headphones and an iPod, that such a person is only listening to music, and most specifically poppy musical garbage that hasn't technically done anything to advance music as an art? Or maybe we think they're listening to their indie bands, sucking up all their silly folk music about saving the planet and what not?
For the record, I wasn't listening to music. I was actually listening to a podcast interview with a fantasy author, and a good one at that. In fact, I listen to a lot of podcasts and audio interviews, and other such things (even listened to a few lectures on there). Sure, a lot of folks probably only listen to music, but that's not all of us. Some of us even listen to music that older folks might think is quite acceptible (classical music, for example).
What do you think? Do you have this sort of bias when you see people with ear buds? Do you think this is a common thing among people in general? Do people scoff at the iPod/mp3 player fad in the same way people once scoffed at rock music?