Thursday, September 22, 2011

How To Successfully Gain Me As A Follower 2

I originally posted this blog back on July 22, 2011, and it's time to update my list of Do's and Don'ts.


How To Successfully Gain Me As A Follower

I'm noticing an annoying trend on twitter. Maybe it's new, or maybe I've just now noticed it.

New followers who are spectacularly failing to receive my follow back.

This isn't going to be a rant. Think of it as a handy set of guidelines to tweet by. :)

I use Hootsuite to tweet with. On the profile page for a tweeter it gives me the option to look back through the last several tweets you've sent. After your initial profile in 200 characters or less, this is one of the major decision criteria I use for follow/no follow decisions.

It's not hard people. Seriously.

  • Be interesting - If all you tweet about is the ducks you fed at the pond, I'm probably not the follower you want. Ducks can be interesting (And sometimes even tasty!), but if you're just ducks 24/7/365, I'm going to go load my blocking gun. As I'm writing this, @JStevenYork just shared a fascinating youtube video with his followers about the design of the lunar rover, and how it fit into an empty 5ft tall x 5ft wide x 5ft deep wedge-shaped storage space on the lunar lander. THAT is being interesting, folks.
  • Be relevant to me - Okay, this one you CAN'T control, but it's really not too hard. I have lots of interests, you'll probably fit in one of them if you try. Just look at my log line for the blog for inspiration.
  • Interact with your followers - Put the SOCIAL in Social media. If you aren't talking to people, you're not being interesting to me, and probably less relevant.

  • Be a spammer - You're just asking to get blocked and reported.
  • Be a link whore - You links might be interesting, maybe even useful, but I'm not going to follow you. Obsessive re-tweeters fall into this category too. If all you do is RT, you aren't being "You".
  • Fill your tweets with quotes of famous people - If all your tweets consist of these, you're not going to have me following you. 
  • Don't have more than half your profile  filled with pictogram symbols. Seriously, I'm not going to spend the time to decipher what you are trying to mean by No.7 or a music note. If I wanted to spend my time deciphering symbols, I'd take up the study of hieroglyphics. Sure, it might mean you like music, but that tells me nothing about what KINDS of music.
  • Don't spend over a month on twitter and have only 3 re-tweets to show for it. You aren't being social, which is the point of "Social Media". That's a #TwitterFail to me.
    See? Simple dos and don'ts. Follow them, and I'm more than likely going to follow you back.

    Any tips for separating the wheat from the chaff? Feel free to share them!

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Pacing Yourself

    Technology. It's the sci-fi writer's best friend, and biggest cheat. We use it in so many ways, as settings, plot devices, a convenience and eye/brain-candy. But who can guess what will actually be available when that future time actually comes around?

    After Tuesday's blog, Leah Petersen and I were discussing about the difficulties of writers predicting technology far enough into the future to fit a story's setting. She mentioned that though her story is set 350 years in the future, most of her tech feels like something we could have in the next 20 years. This got me to thinking about some of the factors that affect tech development.

    One of the biggest factors I see is the problem of stagnation. Sometimes a technological innovation will undergo a period of dormancy while waiting for component technologies to mature, or for a new break-thru to push the boundaries of what's possible. Airliners were built out of aluminum as far back as the 1930s, and it's only within the last decade that the carbon-fiber skinned 787 is changing that. It offers more strength for less weight. Carbon fiber isn't new, it's been used for years in Formula 1 racing cars and in certain parts for airliners, but it's only recently that the technology has matured enough to attempt it's use in an airliner the size of the 787.

    And, sometimes what's possible isn't always practical or realistic for other reasons. Look at aviation again. We went from the Wright Brothers first flight, a 120 foot long journey at not much faster than a running pace, to the Concorde, an ocean spanning Mach 2 airliner, in a little over 70 years. However, Concorde ended up being too expensive and impractical, only carrying between 92 and 128 passengers at a time, while a 747 of the same period could typically carry up to 452 passengers in a little over twice the flight time.

    The oil crisis of the 70s effectively killed off the supersonic airliner from wider-spread use. Jet fuel prices are tied almost directly to the price of oil. $2 a barrel for oil? Sure let's build supersonic airplanes. When the price jumped to $10 a barrel? Fuel's too expensive now, we have to charge customers ticket prices they won't want to pay. (This sound familiar to anyone with a gas tank in their car over the last few years?)

    That's something that we writers should always take into consideration when designing tech (or trying to) for our stories: is it practical for the characters daily lives? Is it something that a character can do without, or is it something extremely vital for survival?

    Ultimately, it comes down to doing research, the writer's discretion, and what feels right. No two writers are the same, and neither well they share a specific sense of what's right.

    How do you handle technology in your sci-fi stories?

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Don't Panic!

    ...he also had a device that looked rather like a largish calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million "pages" could be summoned at a moment's notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons why the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words DON'T PANIC printed in large friendly letters. The other reason was that this device was in fact the most remarkable of all books to ever come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
                                                   Chapter 3, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    Douglas Adams was a genius and a prophet, but that's true of any good visionary sci-fi writer. Call it a Kindle, Nook, iPad, Netbook, tablet, or Smart phone, today some form of portable electronic device that let's us access the internet. (which is very convenient, as Adams says in relation to a printed-version of the Guide, "an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.") Adams is just carrying on a long tradition of giving us glimpses into the future.

    Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were famous and celebrated for this ability. Submarines that can travel thousands of miles under water without surfacing? Sounded far-fetched in Verne's time (the submarine as a viable war machine was it's infancy during the American Civil War), but only fifty years after Verne's death, nuclear powered submarines were  in operation, the first one appropriately named Nautilus.

    More recently, tv and movies have led the way toward the future. Star Trek saw Kirk and Spock running around with flip-up communicators that allowed them to talk to the Enterprise from a planet's surface as clear as if both parties were in the same room. Now, people carry around cell phones that are not much bigger than a deck of playing cars, can reach around the world, and hold more computing power than all of NASA during the Apollo moon missions.

    Star Wars hasn't been left out of the act either. TIE fighters were famous for mostly being Rebel target practice. However the TIE part (Twin Ion Engine) is now a viable engine technology for spacecraft, scooping up matter from the front end, and ejecting ions out the back end to propel the craft along. And, remember the tank of pink goo (Bacta) Luke floated in on Hoth while recovering from the Wampa attack? Now there is a gene therapy gel in testing that speeds up the natural healing functions of the body by as much as six times normal - no scuba mask needed.

    Sci-fi writers are always looking forward, trying to imagine tomorrow, and the day after. Sure, there have been some miserable failures (I'm still waiting for my Jetson's car that folds up into a briefcase, personal jetpack, and my ticket on Pan Am's Lunar flights to the moon- thank you Stanley Kubrick & 2001: A space Odyssey) but there have been resounding successes. So, the next time you see some far-out concept in a book or movie, something seemingly impossible and outrageous, remember: DON'T PANIC! That just might be the future you see.

    Thanks to @LeahPetersen for inspiring today's blog post. You can blame her for this drivel. :D

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Something In The Air

    Stepped outside at 7am this morning and the temperature was about 62F. There was a slight nip in the air that felt soooo refreshing after the  blazing Texas Summer we've been having. There was something else in the air this morning. Anticipation of something that comes around once a year.

    It felt like NaNoWriMo.

    It's a good thing too. I've been drawing a blank as to what I was going to write for NaNo this year. It's really been hard to even think about November this year. Don't get me wrong, I have some ideas floating around in the back of my mind- I always do. I just don't know what I'm going to write.

    I should do the responsible thing and work on one of the novels in the Hunt Starfire series. Or, finish the first one and start on the second on. Those seven novels won't write themselves. Or, one of my other partial  projects. I've only got several laying around waiting for a storm of writing to happen upon them.

    I really keep thinking about a shiny I've been slowly putting notes down about, but I'm trying to behave and not start yet another new project until I get something finished.

    So, I'll let you give me some input as to what I write for this year's NaNo.
    1. A Hunt Starfire novel - the chronicles of a mercenary star-fighter unit.
    2. Finish "Thieves at Heart" - space pirates. Enough said!
    3. Finish "Jameson Hewitt Airship Mystery" - a steampunk mystery set on a transatlantic airship.
    4. Finish "Hammerfist" - A tale of three bounty hunters.
    5. Give in and  write the New Shiny Idea - lost science ship (this one needs a lot of planning first).
    There's your options. I'll keep the voting open until the end of the month, and announce the winner in October. Go Vote!