Social media smack-down

I admit it, I am an early adopter. I love to learn new things and to tinker. So I’ve tried Plurk (abandoned it); Friend Feed (it just chugs along; I’m not sure I remember everything I set it up to do); Linked In (I link only to people I really know, keep some semblance of professionalism); Facebook (it’s growing on me, and I’ll “friend” all sorts of people; I ruthlessly refuse application invites from friends); MySpace (I have begun using it for what it has become: a place to keep track of musicians); Delicious (sigh; basically a gigantic assembly of “this would be great to look at some time” links); and Twitter (you can look me up under my online avatar name, Otenth; I also have Twitter feeds for my cats).

But here is a brilliant take-down of some of the things that are wrong with social media: Social Media “Experts” are the Cancer of Twitter (and Must Be Stopped). And to complement that, a good, sensible approach to using social media: 6 Steps for Creating a Social Media Marketing Roadmap & Plan.

(Hat tip to Lactose.)

The longer you wait, the farther away it gets

On September 15, 2006, I ordered a special 25th anniversary edition of one of my favorite books, Little, Big by John Crowley, which was then in preparation. (I even sprang for a copy of the numbered edition, I like this book that much.) There is a theme in the book, that the farther in you go, the bigger it gets. Waiting for this book to appear feels much like that. Here’s the most recent (October 3) update from the publisher:

A few folks have made the perfectly reasonable request that I post updates on the progress of Little, Big 25 more frequently and more regularly; I will do so at least once a month from now on, and as we get closer to finishing the book that frequency will only increase.

The news from September is not ideal. I threw my back out badly early in the month, and was barely able to move for twelve days. I got little work done during that time, and it’s taken me awhile to get back up to speed since. I am still immersed in choosing the art for The Wild Wood, and expect that John Berry and I will finish that within ten days or so, and move on to The Art of Memory. I will post another update at that point.

I regret to say that this means we won’t be able to get books out in time for Christmas. Better that I make that clear now rather than later. January remains a possibility.

In other news, the Numbered Edition is almost sold out: out of 300 numbered copies, we have sold 290: only ten remain. Those interested in buying a Numbered copy should enquire about availability at

Many thanks for your continued patience and forbearance. Please look for another update around the middle of October.

It is, you will note, nearly the middle of November and there has been no update. I don’t know whether to feel resigned, sad, or angry.

Resist the present!

Not to mention the future: Online Literacy Is a Lesser Kind —

So let’s restrain the digitizing of all liberal-arts classrooms. More than that, given the tidal wave of technology in young people’s lives, let’s frame a number of classrooms and courses as slow-reading (and slow-writing) spaces. Digital technology has become an imperial force, and it should meet more antagonists. Educators must keep a portion of the undergraduate experience disconnected, unplugged, and logged off. Pencils, blackboards, and books are no longer the primary instruments of learning, true, but they still play a critical role in the formation of intelligence, as countermeasures to information-age mores. That is a new mission for educators parallel to the mad rush to digitize learning, one that may seem reactionary and retrograde, but in fact strives to keep students’ minds open and literacy broad. Students need to decelerate, and they can’t do it by themselves, especially if every inch of the campus is on the grid.

Obviously this guy is a complete lightweight, or he’d be holding the line at oral recitation. Pfft.

While I heartily disagree with him (I believe he is confusing the medium with the method, and reactively at that), his essay is worth reading.

Comment period on DHS HIV travel restrictions

The GayCityNews has information on how to register a comment on proposed regulations concerning the entry of people who are HIV-positive into the United States (comments close December 6):

Individuals who wish to protest the harsh new DHS regs on HIV-positive travel may submit comments online . . . — but to do so you must include the docket number of the proposed regs, USCBP-2007–0084.

Select the pull-down for Department of Homeland Security-All, and at the bottom, select Docket ID and paste in the number. You can read the proposed regulation as well as previous comments (which include such sentiments as “i oppose giving any visas for aliens with hiv. none should be given. the law as it stands keeping them out is a good, sound, healthful one. there is no reason to change it.” and “I OPPOSE ANY CONSIDERATION OF CASE BY CASE BASIS. KEEP ALL WITH HIV OUT OF THIS COUNTRY.” Such are our fellow citizens.)

(Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for keeping this before us.)

Shoddy financial services

For convenience, I decided to use a CapitalOne Mastercard for my monthly fee from Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life. This morning, I got an email from Linden Lab saying my charge had been rejected. When I called CapitalOne, they said the transaction had been sent to the fraud department since it was charged via London (just a bad decision in Linden Lab’s choice of billing vendor). They said they would mark it as ok, but when I mentioned that it is a monthly charge, however, they said I would have to call every month. Calling every month for a routine transaction, just because it’s coming from London? What a load. I’ll be moving my business elsewhere.

Home again

Whew! The annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association was rewarding (who knew so many people like the magazine?), spending Monday doing tourist things was fantastic (I’d like to be able to visit the classical Chinese garden on a regular basis), but the flight home was absolutely terrible (American through Dallas-Fort Worth, with a night on a cot in the airport).

But at least I’m home, in the familiar heat and humidity of summertime Boston!


I’ve been having a lot of fun (and spending a lot of time) in Second Life. My original avatar, created on November 20, 2006, is Otenth Paderborn. Otenth has dabbled in land speculation, done a fair amount of shopping, and created a Quaker meeting in SL (First Friends Church of Second Life, SLurl: Quaker/155/22). He’s about to teach a four-week Quakerism class.

I’ve also created several alts, including one for work purposes named Thoreau Alcott. Only one of my alts is active, however—but she is very active. Hermione Fussbudget was created on January 22, 2007 in order to try out a new part of the orientation experience. Due to technical glitches, I wasn’t able to do that, and I thought, “oh well.” (Part of Hermione’s genesis is the result of how one creates an account in Second Life: You are presented with a limited number of surnames from which to pick; you can then add any forename that results in a unique combination. How could I pass up “Fussbudget”? And “Hermione,” well, I have very fond memories of Hermione Gingold on talk shows when I was a child, and it’s a killer combination. My friend Sonja then helped me create a realistic female shape, in contrast to the many, many Barbie-doll figures found in SL.)

Hermione was on her way to the inactive list with my other alts, until I discovered Caledon, a multi-sim, privately-owned area with a Victorian Steampunk theme. It’s a beautifully executed environment, less cluttered and more manageable in size than the mainland, and with a thriving social community. And thus Miss Hermione Fussbudget found an engaging home and secured her future.

One of the activities in SL is the Second Life Relay for Life (SLRFL), an adjunct to the American Cancer Society’s annual fundraiser, the Relay for Life. It’s a major activity in Caledon, and there are many fundraising acitivities. Hermione invited Miss Ida Keen, the creator of very fine animated knitting needles, to create a special set of needles for Caledon, and she really outdid herself, creating needles that, when worn in SL, actually result in clothing and objects that you can give away. (You can get a set from the SLRFL vendor beside Hermione’s house in Caledon Tamrannoch.)

So, this year’s meta-theme for the Caledon SLRFL is a “war” with Port Neualtenberg, another region on the mainland of SL. So far, so good. Hermione’s knitting fundraisers used the trope of “keep our boys warm,” appropriating images used by the American Red Cross during the First World War. She also bought a commission in the Caledon Militia, along with a suitable uniform and weapons (She is, apparently, not a Quaker!). So far, still so good!

But the people organizing the “war” events held an event last night that took a bizarre and, to me, offputting, turn. There was a Reconciliation Ball to which all the militia were invited, as well as Neualtenbergers. Broad hints were proffered that all was not as it seemed. And indeed, explicit instructions were delivered that a machinima was being filmed and that principals in the event had scripted roles. Since the war talk had been going on for quite a while, I thought it a good idea that some slight would be offered one way or the other during the ball and that, finally, we would arrange a straightforward shooting melee at some civilized, appointed time. I was happy for Hermione to attend the ball and, in effect, serve as an extra.

What happened, though, was a complicated (and long!) bit of scripted interplay that involved armed conflict between citizens of Caledon, with a confused conclusion.

As an inexperienced role-player, I don’t know what to make of it. I’m happy to role-play a slightly saucy Victorian spinster. I’m happy to be an extra in a machinima (albeit that part was extraordinarily boring!) I was happy to make low-key war talk in a good cause. But I’m not happy, as the real person sitting at the computer enjoying myself in SL, to be made confused and at loose ends by some unknown group’s script. As a bystander last night, Hermione saw one of her neighbors in Caledon act reprehensibly as part of the scripted RP. What does an RPer who isn’t in on the larger picture do? Ignore it all until there’s another scripted event? Write and play my own script? Shun the neighbor?

I guess what I’ve discovered about myself is that I do not want, personally, to experience confusion and conflict that was created on purpose by other people RPing in SL. I felt like I was used as an object for other people’s enjoyment, rather than as a participant. (Once the scripted violence started, we were instructed to move back and shut up, in effect.) And I’ve discovered that I’m not sure how I feel about creating a mock war as a fundraiser. (War as a metaphor is fine. Even defined as “armed conflict against an enemy,” I don’t think all weapons are physical. The Lamb’s War is a sadly ignored concept from early Quakerism.)

And now I’m rambling, so I should end!

(P.S. Otenth and Hermione share a blog: Tenth Life.)

Mars promotes homophobia

I won’t link to their website, because that’s actually good for them, but the Snickers website has 1) a homophobic ad they aired during the Super Bowl; 2) three more even worse ads that they’re inviting people to vote on for airing during the Daytona 500; and 3) bigoted reactions from pro football players.

So, no more: M&M’S, MARS, MILKY WAY, SNICKERS and TWIX; Skittles, Combos, Starburst, or Dove; Whiskas, Pedigree, or Sheba; Uncle Ben’s.

UPDATE: Andy Towle (Towleroad) reports that Mars has pulled the website, the ads, and the footballers’ reactions.

Goodbye Googlebombing!

Nice take-down of Google in the Guardians’ story, “Read me first”

‘Miserable failure’ Bush rehabilitated as Google steps in to defuse the Googlebombs

The company is allowing concerns about its public image to influence the search results it dishes up. . .

The perception of Google as an honest broker, disinterested in the information it presents, remains a popular one. We like to believe that “we the people” control what comes out of Google’s mouth.

But while that may have been true once, and while it was in fact one of the company’s founding ideals, it’s not so true any more.


Great article today in the New York Times: U.S. Says It Fears Detainee Abuse in Repatriation.

A long-running effort by the Bush administration to send home many of the terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has been stymied in part because of concern among United States officials that the prisoners may not be treated humanely by their own governments, officials said.

How much bullshit, two-faced lying, and general evilness is this administration going to keep shoveling out? Creating the prison in Guantánamo Bay was unethical from the get-go, not to mention the treatment of prisoners since. No wonder it’s creating more problems now.

And by the way, when was the last time the U.S. gave asylum to a gay person because of fears that they might not be humanely treated by their own governments?