July 27, 2011

Lashing Together a Digital Life Raft


When I first started blogging in March of 2004, I chose LiveJournal for three reasons.

One, its very short learning curve allowed me to jump in and go without burning precious writing time on career maintenance.

Two, its social networking element allowed me to build quickly readership.

Three, it was cheap. Also important to a working freelancer, who must watch expenses carefully.

It wasn’t the shiniest or coolest looking platform on the block. In recognition of this, I stuck for many years with the most brutalist of the available templates.

Over the years of creeping uncoolness, I’ve kept it up, even as the network started to fade. In recent months I’ve maintained its once-reliable hit rate by driving people to LJ from Facebook and Twitter. Google+ has, in a few short weeks, already shown itself to be a powerful feeder as well.

With this week’s crippling denial of service attacks, the tipping point has been reached, the rats are leaving the sinking ship, and, man, the week before Gen Con is the exact wrong time for this to happen.

I won’t be shutting down the account, for those who still use it as a regular platform. It’s the number one item you get when you Google “Robin Laws”, and there’s a big value in that. But it’s high time I deprecated it in favor of another virtual headquarters on the web.

It will be annoying to spread comments across yet another platform. That was another factor keeping me on LJ all this ti me. But now comments already fragment between LJ, FB, Twitter and G+, so I might as well embrace that reality. Maybe someone brilliant will come up with a grant comment unification tool and make a zillion bucks off it.

So, here I am over on the Blogger. I’ll chip away at it in the months ahead and see if I can get it to do everything I want. If not I’ll pursue a more customized, costlier solution with a longer learning curve.

As you can see, I’m still tipping the hat to LJ, manually replicating the themed user icon thing I had going on over there.

So the question I have for you is: what do I need that I don’t know I need?

Status Me On That

I was thinking this might be one of those Gen Cons where the annual buzzword is allowed to arise spontaneously over the course of the event. Not every year brings us a wheelhouse, after all. And the most praiseworthy four days in gaming are nothing if not about creation in the moment.

However, I have been informed that this laissez-faire attitude will not fly. In this era of social media 3.0 and HTML5, advance notice must be given.

After much deliberation, in which such candidates as toasty and curated were weighed and rejected, I have arrived at a choice. As per the rules of the game, it presses the boundaries of douchy business-speak while maintaining a scintilla of plausibility.

Status (when used as a verb) meaning to update, inform, or establish communications with:

As in:

“Status me on the dinner situation.”

“Text Hal and status him in on this.”

“This will require ongoing statusing.”

“It is crucial to reach out and status our fan base.”

As always, the object is to work the term into conversation, as if this a thing people of good sense actually say. Full points awarded for each straightfaced use of this meaningless pseudo entertainment business jargon as if it actually means something. Points deducted for visible irony.

Extra points will be granted for slipping it into podcasts, public announcements, and the like.

In past years bonus points have been awarded for causing the usage to catch on beyond the game. As that would be awful in this instance, consider this incentive suspended for 2011.

Finessing Expository Dialogue

A number of pitfalls attend the writing of dialogue that conveys information, whether in fiction or drama.

It can undermine character credibility, when one person tells another what he already knows.

It can sound flat, when the language slips from the loose and conversational into the persuasive mode of the essay or editorial.

Even when you finesse your way past these issues, the chunk of exposition may signal its purpose too heavily to the reader. As readers we crave information, but only to answer questions that we’ve already been made to feel a sense of curiosity about.

Mitigate this whenever possible by making the speaker a reluctant provider of information, who gives it up only after offering resistance. If you can turn the dialogue exchange into a victory for the scene’s viewpoint character, the emotional charge we get from that distracts from your turning of the structural gears.

Alternately, find another double purpose for the exchange. It might establish character, evoke a sense of place, or change the mood. The extra layer disguises your intent.

Or you can simply ensure that the information is riveting by presenting it in the form of a story or anecdote with a beginning, middle and end.