The intersection of science and science fiction: Future Tense podcast

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. produces an excellent weekly science podcast, called Future Tense.

I just listened to today’s episode, Future Sci-Fi, which is about the intersection of science and science fiction — how they’ve influenced each other. I’ve heard most of these anecdotes before, but nice to have them pulled together into a well-crafted narrative.

Worth a listen.

It’s 2010: Where are you writing and reading?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed my personal patterns of writing and reading have changed significantly. Some of this has been in response to the changing technology of communication — the rise of social media, in particular. But some of it has also been about where I am in my life and my work.

Here’s a quick rundown of my own changes, and contributing reasons for them. I’d be curious to hear about other people’s personal media evolutions, too. Please share your own experiences in the comments below…

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Integrate your brochure site into your blog (updated advice)

Recently I offered some advice for how small businesses and independent professionals who aren’t very tech-savvy could expand their existing simple brochure sites into sites that will actively help build their business.

…Because the way the internet works today, a static brochure site is like a car up on blocks: You can sit in it, you can show it to people — but it ain’t going far.

After discussing some issues in the comments to that post with my friend maiki interi (a talented and thoughtful Web developer), I’ve decided to correct an important piece of advice.

Originally I advised: “You can create a blog using a free service like WordPress.com and integrate that into any site.” Maiki correctly observed:

“Seems to me to be [that may be] massaging the truth, on a technical level. Of course it depends on what you mean by integration.”

I was thinking over what it would really take to integrate a blog into a static site. It can be done, but yeah, it’s a lot of hoops to jump through. Plus, there are many ways this integration could be done badly. Also, it’s not reasonable to expect a non-technical business person to know what to request from a web developer on this front.

So here’s what I’m going to recommend instead: Integrate your brochure site into a blog, not the other way around.

This does NOT means starting over from scratch. You can still use most or all of what your web designer originally built for you. However, you’ll be strapping it to an engine that will play nice with the internet and actually get your business moving.

This also does not mean your site has to look like a conventional blog. It can still mainly look like a brochure, if that’s what you want.

So here’s what the nontechnical people can do to reconfigure their brochure sites…

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Blogging doesn’t have to be extra work

Recently I was conversing with some journalism colleagues about getting started with blogging. One of the most basic questions inevitably arose: How can you make time for blogging, on top of the stories you’re already writing or other work you’re doing or just having a life?

In my experience, blogging can be an easy way to get more mileage out of things you’re already doing. It’s a matter of shifting your process, not just adding new tasks. If something you think, encounter, or learn is interesting or entertaining and there’s nothing to lose by sharing it, then blog it.

For instance…
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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Reader Discussion Guide Excerpts

I just finished reading a killer classic fiction mashup (literally), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s a parody of the Jane Austen novel (which I tried to read in college and found unbearably tedious).

I must admit, though: The addition of a Night of the Living Dead-style zombie plague made all the endless fretting and plotting over how to present  oneself as appropriately marriageable in polite society surprisingly entertaining and understandable.

Because the thing is: The strictures of British aristocratic society — particularly how women were held in chattel status, and the ceaseless power plays of verbal indirection — were indeed nightmarish, soul-destroying, and cannibalistic.

Therefore, I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider this book a seminal feminist treatise. (God knows we need more entertaining seminal works of feminism!)

If you read this book (and I recommend it) don’t miss the reader’s discussion guide at the end. It contains 10 questions. Here are a couple of my favorites…

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Straight to the point: the Miniskirt theory of writing

If you want to make a point in writing, make sure you nail the “so what” in your first 62 words. Readers won’t give you much time, especially online. It’s much easier and more effective to work with that reality than whine about it.

(See? That was just 44 words.)

Why am I telling you this? At this weekend’s Thin Air Summit, a great new media event in Denver, I gave a session on writing called Blogging: Every Word Counts. (Video should be online soon.)

Apparently, keynoter Jeremiah Owyang was intrigued by one point I made, which he tweeted:

@agahran suggests that you have to make your point on online content within the first 62 words. Are you that disciplined?”

Thanks, Jeremiah. Yes, it’s true, I did say that. I know it sounds draconian, but here’s my rationale…

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Blogging: Every word counts

On Sunday morning, from 10:45-noon MT, I’ll be speaking in Denver at the Thin Air Summit. (Twitter hashtag: #TAS08) It’s a new conference on new media that I hope will become an annual affair. A lot of intriguing new media people and companies live and work along Colorado’s Front Range. We’ve really needed our own event. (Hate to break it to ya, Bay Area, but you’re not the only new media hub in the country.)

The title of my talk is listed on the schedule as “Blogging: Making every word count” — which I’ve just decided to re-edit because I dislike unnecessary gerunds, especially twice in the same title 🙂

Grammar aside, that title is deliberately nebulous. Here’s why… Continue reading

Media Career Insurance: Your Blog

Last month I spoke to a class of journalism undergrads at the University of Colo., Boulder. These people are just starting out in journalism. Not surprisingly, most of them hope to land more-or-less traditional reporting jobs in more-or-less traditional newsrooms.

I asked these students whether they read blogs. As is common, the vast majority said no. But, as with Web users of all types, it’s likely that in fact they do read blogs far more often than they think. That’s because nearly all Web users frequently encounter blogs through search engine results. But they may not realize that, since many weblogs don’t call themselves (or resemble) blogs. In fact, they often look just like any other Web site — except that they happen to be supported by a blogging platform on the back end.

Why should young journalists care about this? Because in a professional environment where staying findable equals sustained opportunity and flexibility, search engines are a key arbiter of your career. The more findable and linkable you are, the more search engines will reward you.

…And search engines really, really love blogs…

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Posting to wordpress from my iphone

I’m writing this on my iPhone. Just installed the free wordpress iPhone app. This would really be great if there was a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone. (I loathe this $@?:&@!!! Touchscreen keyboard for anything more than a few words at a time…)

But the big bummer here is that I don’t see any way to create links in a blog post here. Just text. Hmph.

(UPDATE: I might be wrong about that. Editing here to add a link to my Twitter page. We’ll see if that works…)

(UPDATE 2: AHA! It does work! I can handcode HTML with this app. But it’s ultra-tedious.)

Of course, there’s still the glaring usability problem that there is NO GODDAMN COPY AND PASTE on the iphone! :-/

What am I supposed to do, memorize URLs 4 characters at a time & keep switching between the wordpress app and mobile Safari until I get the whole thing? Probably I’ll just scribble them down in my paper notebook and then type them in. How’s THAT for cross-platform technology integration?

Well, at least the WordPress iphone app works. That’s a good start.

UPDATE 3: TECH BREAKING NEWS!!!

New iPhone copy & paste tool: