Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Love Web 2.0

I just read Linnea Sinclair's note in the comments on her post The Buddy System.

Linnea wrote:
If one person has survived it, you can survive it.

One person.

Rarely have I heard a summation of the basic theme of "our" kind of literature, the binding theme between SF, Paranormal and the general Romance field.

Heroic Fiction belongs to the "Romantic" category -- in the literary sense of "larger than life" -- and that's how most people view stories about those first, or only, "one person"s Linnea is referring to.

This is a point I neglected to make in my blog post here about why we have such a perception problem with Romance.


And you'll notice that blog post also starts with a comment Linnea Sinclair made!

And that point is that the reason we read these stories, and the reason we prefer characters we can identify with, is that we, ourselves are tasked, perhaps karmically, with being one of those "one persons" who do "it" to demonstrate that it is possible.

We need to break through the barrier around the possible -- mostly because it's a barrier. As people climb mountains because they are there, we hurl ourselves into impossible tasks (such as finding a soul-mate and raising his kids "right") because the task is there.

Yes, SF and Romance are both genres that are about doing the impossible -- finding a Soul Mate or inventing a gadget like the Universal Translator (rumored to have been invented by Spock's human mother, Amanda Grayson) or the Internet or the Web, invented by groups of people desperate to communicate in an "impossible" way.

They did it. Now we do it without even thinking about it.

When I first heard the term e-mail, I had to ask what that meant. The explanation didn't thrill me. It sounded cumbersome and awkward. Today, there's an insurmountable barrier between me and envelopes & stamps!

I remember the wonderful Romantic Comedy, YOU'VE GOT MAIL.

WATCH OUT at that link above for pop-ups and pop-unders circumventing your anti-popup software.

Two people meet via chat online, fall in love, and later discover they already know each other but don't "like" each other all that much in the real world. At the time that movie came out, it was thought "impossible" for real love relationships to begin online.

That movie is a "show don't tell" for a lot of truths about internet socializing that non-netizens deny vigorously.

Text-only communication can reveal the true depths of personality never visible in "live" contact situations. The "sub-text" of Relationship becomes undeniable in text-only. Great movie! Powerful truth. I actually know a couple happily married for more than 10 years who met in an online fandom chat!

And that was chat by text-only! Not even video conferencing. Just text.

I think another such huge chasm as we saw between those just getting online and those who would not or could not attain internet access is opening. It is opening between e-mail and social networking online. Between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.

Social networking got its start as mostly a kiddie thing for wasting time. MySpace and so forth provided the youngest web users a way to communicate with their peers and play online.

There's nothing wrong with playing -- it's what kids have to do to become effective adults. Note Luke Skywalker's jetting around pot-shotting local vermin -- eventually, he used the same skill to take out a Deathstar. How you play and at what affects what you are able to do, and how you can do it as an adult.

So we have a generation-gap chasm opening between those who played their way to adulthood online and those who got online in adulthood. And yes, a chasm between adults who did take the plunge and adults who just have not.

Watching over their kids shoulders, the adults who dabbled online or perhaps used a computer only at work soon saw that this social networking thing is the work-around, the dodge, the cure for SPAM!

If you use, say, LinkedIn.com (professionals only; no kids, no playing) to send a message to a friend, it works just like email except that it lands in their inbox without a ton of e-spam stuck to it.

If you need to tell a few friends something quick, you can twitter or plurk or use one of the other microblog services. I'm sure three more started while I've been typing this.

Texting by simple phone connection is good, too. I worked the election Nov 4th with 7 older people and a 17 year old (Arizona program to allow youngsters to learn to work the Polls).

The 17 year old spent the intervals between voters texting with her hands under the table, looking attentive to her job. The older folks were bemused. One told a story of her college age kid who racked up a couple thousand text messages a month - until he broke up with his girlfriend, and it dropped to hundreds. Texting-romances no doubt abound!

The world is abandoning e-mail and Lists and Newsletters as fast as it can because of the spam load. Life is too short and that stuff is too putrid.

Meanwhile, personal communication has gone multi-media. Sound, images, animation -- it's all at our fingertips. Skype is very popular for international families. And I'm sure it's supporting a lot of romances.

Websites that sell things for a profit are fully interactive, some with a live-chat feature. This personalizing, multi-media, interactive approach to web applications is what they loosely term Web 2.0. Much of it functions as "plug-ins" to a browser.

The lexicon gurus still disagree about the exact definition of Web 2.0 -- but they agree that it takes a broadband connection to get the most benefit out of it.

The internet evolved into the Web which became a personal communication tool swamped by toxic waste, and cleaned up by -- SOCIAL NETWORKING.

Now I've been getting dozens (if not hundreds) of e-mail pitches from people who want to sell me lessons (webinars) in how to use social media to promote products -- some even specifically for how to promote your books if you're a writer.

First the kids, then the adults, now the merchants invade social network spaces.

Where will folks go to get away from the sales pitches?

Or the world might change in even more drastic ways as the online generation takes the helm.

I saw a TV News item where the reporters were discussing how Obama's administration can use Information Technology and the Web to create a more "transparent" government -- and one younger reporter went a step farther, pointing out that with the interactivity available online now we can have a government that we not only look in on but actually interact with.

Whether that's a good idea or not -- the public micromanaging government -- is a subject for another Worldbuilding post about Aliens and Hive Minds.

Where will people go to get away from government issues invading their private communications? I can just see pop-up ads from the government soliciting your opinion on this or that! "Help your Congressman; take this two minute survey!"

Maybe it would be illegal to block those popups!

Well, just as I couldn't resist the lure of email once I got online (my first service was called Prodigy - anybody remember that?) -- now I can't resist the social networking craze.

I'm on a whole lot of them, YouTube etc., so many I can't remember them all until I get an email that someone new wants to be my friend or link with me or whatever that service calls it. I'm active on several social networks, while lurking on a whole bunch.

Meanwhile, in addition to social networks, I've discovered ancillary Web 2.0 services that help you sort out the information blitz of the internet, especially the blogosphere. Joining this blog has led me to explorations of RSS FEEDS, bookmarking sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, slashdot, -- there are more than 48 very popular ones, each with a specialty.

If you missed the step-wise development of the Feed services, you might be as overwhelmed and bewildered as I was when I started investigating RSS FEEDS. At first I thought I understood when I first saw the little orange icon. But when I asked myself how does it work and tried to do it myself -- I discovered I was totally clueless.

So I asked on LinkedIn what the best "feed reader" is and got back that Google's reader is good. Meanwhile, one of the "build a successful business online" Newsletters I get sent a file to install on the Google Reader that I could configure to track my own name as it gets mentioned on various blogs and web pages. Wow, I had no idea!

Someone on LinkedIn who is very knowledgeable recommended FeedDemon. So I went to feeddemon.com and downloaded their feed reader -- and I think it's better than google or yahoo, but each one has its strengths. So I use all 3!

Eventually, one or two of these services will emerge as dominant and providing all the tools we need to live online.

Simultaneously, via one of the e-mail Lists for professional writers that I'm on, I discovered an online interview on a blog with a woman who gives webinars on how to use social networking to promote books and other products. I learned about another service that helps consolidate all your services. It's called friendfeed.com

So I signed up for friendfeed, (where I'm JLichtenberg) and discovered that you can put a swatch of javascript on your homepage (see the bottom of http://www.slantedconcept.com for an example) or blog site like this one that will list at least some of the icons for some of the better known services that you use to post notes, messages, and even blog articles.

You'll see the new friendfeed icons for Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Rowena Cherry lower down on the right side of this blog, so you can see what I'm talking about.

This blog also has atom and RSS enabled -- you just need to put our URL into the appropriate field on your Feed Reader (click search for or add feeds -- this blog is a "feed").

If you click "subscribe to me" in the friendfeed icon you can see every time I post on facebook, amazon blog, this blog, microblog or whatever I've put into my list of places where I post things. I don't have all my places in friendfeed yet. When I do, you don't have to chase all over looking for what I'm doing, and you don't have to subscribe to a Newsletter and hope it doesn't get caught in the spam trap.

And once you've subscribed to someone via friendfeed, it's very easy to subscribe to someone ELSE -- thus consolidating the scattered postings of all your friends, or just people you want to follow.



This blog is registered with technorati.com which I've seen links to all over the place, but didn't understand what it is until I went there and poked around. It's huge. But the most valuable thing I've found there so far is a long article on the shape and development direction of the blogosphere.

A graphic image of what "blogosphere" means is posted at:

And the technorati article on how things change (they survey once a year) is posted at:

As Linnea Sinclair said, there are dozens, maybe thousands, of valuable "get started" tools available to new writers today that didn't exist when we started. But there are even more tools available for those who have started and now need to progress up the vertical learning curve. Those tools come effortlessly to the hands of those who grew up online, but we have to work at it.

Also from LinkedIn I discovered a website called pingomatic.com which lets you list your blog and then auto-updates a number of Feed services (there are more services than readers and like search engines, feed services don't all return the same results for the same query). Technorati.com does something similar with blogs.

I still haven't mastered astrogating around Web 2.0 -- things don't work as I expect them to, and I can't tell if that's because I did it wrong, don't understand what it should do, or it really didn't work right. I sometimes feel very much like the first time I wrote a novel on a computer: spikes of I LOVE THIS embedded in a sea of confusion and bewilderment.

Still, I posted a tweet on twitter and saw it come up immediately on my friendfeed.com page. But I had to click the link labeled "ME" that I see on the left of my page (I don't think you would see my ME link, but rather your own ME link). However, the Diggs I did yesterday don't seem to be on friendfeed -- but older diggs of mine are there.

Social Networking and "feeds" are the work-around we need until the internet infrastructure can be totally redesigned (from the hardware level) to wall out "spam." The resistance will come not just from the cost of doing that, but from the commercial interests that don't want to be walled away from your inbox.

Nevertheless, I am thrilled to discover this Web 2.0 level of the new world we're building and appalled at how I'm about 4 or 5 years behind leaping the chasm (again)!

As writers, we find social networking just the thing to promote our books and keep the wheels of imagination greased. However, I don't think it will last long. With the invasion of commercial interests, people will flee again or just turn off awareness of any kind of promotional material.

As writers, we need to think about YOU'VE GOT MAIL, and how to use the platform of Web 2.0 to tell a whopping good Romance that reveals some hidden truths people would prefer weren't true. Such as the one I discussed in my post

As SF-Romance writers, we need to think about YOU'VE GOT MAIL as it might have been written before the word e-mail was first coined and get a grip on the sociological implications of communication advances such as maybe Web 4.0.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Until I'd posted my entry for today, I didn't notice how it fits with (as a counter to) Jacqueline's post! I admit I'm more in the "dragged kicking and screaming" camp where innovation is concerned. Once I've found something that works for me, I don't want to go to the trouble of changing it. Not unless I'm shown a very clear advantage. For instance, I don't need a new computer every few years. My husband, OTOH, does, because the games he plays keep demanding more powerful machines to play on.

    Meanwhile, the Web frustrates me by continual upgrading so that eventually I have to accept a new computer whether I want to or not, just to be able to visit websites. (Praise to the designers who include an alternative version as a feature to accommodate older browsers.)

    I resisted the idea of e-mail at first. I couldn't grasp why anybody wanted a mode of communication in between letters and phone calls. Once I started using e-mail, I got the point. It's like a phone call, except the other person doesn't have to be home, and you don't have to worry about interrupting her. It's like a short letter, but faster; also, some people who never answer their mail may actually respond to e-mail. Cool!

    But, no, I don't want to bog down my computer time with visiting multiple social networking sites. I belong to MySpace but haven't done anything with it so far except accumulate friends. And I certainly wouldn't want services like that to replace e-mail. I always protest at any suggestion that a list I subscribe to be replaced by a bulletin board. I never remember to visit bulletin boards. (Heck, some weeks remembering to do the minimum chores necessary to get through the day is a stretch for me.) E-mail lists land in my in-box automatically. (I keep them all on digest to make them manageable.)

  2. I forgot to mention texting and IM. Good grief. They combine the disadvantages of online activity (dubiously reliable in operation) with the disadvantages of phone calls (people pestering each other in real time). I also meant to ask a question about online relationships: I've seen the point made that in e-mail and texting one doesn't get the body language cues that contribute so much to understanding in face-to-face communication. Emoticons provide only an imperfect substitute for body language. Do you think the other qualities of online communication outweigh or somehow compensate for this disadvantage?

  3. Actually, the social networks that arrange a mailbox for you actually SEND the real mail to your email box you sign in with.

    So net-net it's no change in your behavior. But only people who belong to that particular social network can send you email. Thus (so far) you end up signing up for a whole bunch.

    That won't last. Change is happening fast, and since most of these facilities are advertising supported and advertising is going to tank during this recession (it always does, but more-so this time) many of these sites will disappear.

    That's the other problem -- you can depend on yourself, but NOT on tools supplied online.

    Yes it's a complicated world. Real tech sophistication is marked by extreme simplicity.

    That's a Worldbuilding principle.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg


    Well, some people are more adept at using it to mask their true selves, some people are less adept at reading it properly.

    Yes, I rely on it a lot for subtext and subliminal clues, but if you DELETE BODY LANGUAGE, AND TONE OF VOICE, which can be "noise" you may hear the "signal" better.

    Then again, you might not.

    There's the challenge to writers, you see. And yes Margaret's post nails the counter-argument.

    Remember, the essence of story is conflict and the internal conflict mirrors what's happening in the external world (which happens in reality sometimes, but is the signature of Art -- symmetry, composition, etc) -- and we are in a world fighting the battle Marion Zimmer Bradley explored in the Darkover Series -- technology vs Magic.

    Right now, the battle lines are drawn along generations -- people who grew up "playing" online and grabbing for the next best cell phone vs people who once defied authority by using ball point pens in school.

    People born in the late 1980's process information differently and their brains adapted and wired themselves differently.

    Older people can change, but don't want to and don't enjoy it and don't see the point. Younger people LOVE the sensation of their brains adjusting to some new action-response process (such as playing harder faster computer games).

    Some older people (I knew Robert A. Heinlein when he was very old and he still had a YOUNG brain and a young attitude) love that sensation of brain development too.

    So the gap is blurred and smeared, but it is there, and it is one reason Obama won. He mobilized younger people via the web, people who want to change the world into something more amenable to their online lifestyle.

    And there are more of them than there are older people - and that disparity of numbers will grow.

    In a majority rule world, minorities have to give up. Don't they?

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg