Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for September 4 2015 – DDOP 32

In this episode, I answer questions from fellow Dog Days podcasters: Nutty Nutchtchas asks why I close the show with I love you? and Derek Coward asks what happened to the Uplifter events and CREATE South?

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, September 4 2015

Links mentioned in this episode:

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for September 9, 2014 – Exclusions

In this episode, I talk about interest groups that feel the need to exclude others in order to maintain themselves; I talk about “mansplaining” and why I think focus on it alienates potential allies; I discuss my personal strategy on dealing with flame wars; I use Penn Jillette as a model on how to deal with friends with beliefs contrary to your own and then I toodle.

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, September 9, 2014

Links mentioned in this episode:

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for August 17, 2014 – DDOP Day 18: Hackerspaces

In this episode, I talk about hackerspaces, bootstrapping communities, and how few people it actually takes to get a scene going.

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, August 17, 2014

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for April 10, 2013 – “Forgetting History”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, April 10, 2013. This episode is again one recorded in my car. I talk about crashing my laptop, failing to organize a conference, my poor sleeping habits, recording podcasts I never publish. In a now resolved controversy, I discuss the then big controversy about the digital censorship of the Saga comic book, and finish up talking a little about podcasting history and revisionism.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Grand Strand Tech Awards

I am delighted to be nominated for the first running of the Grand Strand Tech Awards as one of the founders of CREATE South. I think there is zero chance of me winning as I’m up against several of my co-organizers in the same category. I’ll take the warm fuzzies from the nomination process. I’m just happy to see our community accepting and honoring people doing this kind of work. A large portion of our motivation in founding CREATE South was to allow those in technology in and around Myrtle Beach to find each other and recognize that they were not alone. In that respect, I think it has been a wild success.

Thanks for the nomination!

CREATE South 2011 is Tomorrow

I’ve been not really involved in the planning for this year and not really blogging since the little 7 pound bomb was detonated into our lives. However, let me note here that the 2011 running of CREATE South happens tomorrow. It is a 100% grassroots, community organized effort to boost the creativity and technology profile of the Grand Strand.

If you haven’t already registered, please go to the site and do so. The session lineup gets shifted every year to match the zeitgeist and what our community seems to want. If you are in the Myrtle Beach area and/or able to make a road trip it’s always a good time. Plus, every year the lunch catered by Proud Purveyors of Pork really sets the crown on fire (and also makes them sleepy in the lunch sessions.) Hope to see you there.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for May 30, 2010 – “Prose and Cons, 2010”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for May 30, 2010. I play (most of) a song by Phil Rossi; I do a recap of my time as an impromptu guitar tech; I recap CREATE South 2010; I play a song by Mudhoney; I talk about my experiences so far with Baltion 2010; I play a song by Jonathan Coulton as a belated birthday gift to spring. This episode was actually recorded onsite at Balticon 2010.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Social Media Vacation Wrapping Up

Theoretically, if I hold to my original setup today would be the last day of my social media vacation. This is the 28th day since I queued up a bunch of “send later” tweets and Facebook status and then shut all that crap down. I did violate the embargo last week to announce the news about CREATE South becoming sponsored by the Horry County Arts and Cultural Council, and then shut it all down again.

Here’s the deal. While I acknowledge that Twitter has upsides, I believe they come at too high a price for it to be a tool to draw my attention all day every day. I don’t anticipate ever returning to my previous levels of usage. A lot of the Twitter critics from big media, the same people that criticized bloggers 5 years ago, focus on the unseemliness of the hoi polloi enjoying the same ability to communicate as them. Screw those people, they can bite my ass. My criticism is the opposite. I see value in ordinary people having the channel to communicate, however I find the act of following it closely all day every day to be detrimental to peace of mind. Operative word: peace.

To use Twitter anywhere like the intended pattern involves a twitchiness and jangliness, like the shakes you get after your 7th cup of coffee. Either you are scanning it over and over manually, or you have something that notifies and interrupts you when messages occur. Either way involves Twitter taking your attention at frequent intervals, and usually for ephemera.

I stand by my original statement that there are only really three use cases for when I need information from Twitter right now: 1) when traffic is backed up between where I am and where I am going; 2) when I’m looking for someone with whom to have lunch; and 3) when I’m at a science fiction convention and I’m trying to find the room party that my friends are at. Everything else can wait, and it is detrimental to my life to be notified frequently. The act of getting notified reduces my life enjoyment more than the information increases it.

So, even though I’m coming off of Twitter/Facebook prohibition, I’m retreating from ongoing usage. I’m not sure if that means I only look at them at certain relatively infrequent times, only on specific days, or if I just say screw it and shut it down most of the time until I just feel like participating in them. For years I’ve been arguing with Steve Gillmor (I’d link to him, but links are dead) about the value of real time data streams. He finds them amongst the most important and salient bits of digital life. I’m finding them amongst the worst aspects of my modern life. Most people, myself at the head of the list, flatter themselves by feeling the need to be this connected. Most things in the world don’t need you, you don’t need most things in the world. I now choose to sacrifice connection for peace of mind and the satisfaction of being present in my daily life.

I’m choosing to live at a slower pace. I haven’t looked at a 24 hour news channel in 6 years. I’m clamping down my social media usage. Somewhere between Cory Doctorow and Ted Kaczynski is a happy medium, and for better or worse I’m falling on the latter end of that compromise.

Social Media Vacation, Week 3

I’m well into my social media vacation. I’m so far in I’m starting to approach the far end of it. My original “30 days away” plan would put me at 9 more days. I’ll be honest with you, people. I’m not sure I’m ever coming back. At least, I am never returning to the level of use of Twitter I previously engaged in. There is a calmness and peace to my days that was sorely lacking in the previous few months.

I’m about to briefly break my vacation to post the news that the CREATE South conference is now under the umbrella of the Horry County Arts and Cultural Council. This means that future contributions are tax deductible! It should be good news for us and I’d like to get that in the Twitterverse today as opposed to two weeks from today. However, I’ve been dreading even opening up HootSuite again. I did look at it for about 45 seconds the other day just to see what was happening on the #createsouth hash tag. I was (pleasantly) surprised to see that Mr. Tee Morris is still whaling away on the official CREATE South Twitter account. It’s a pretty open secret that he’s our ghost writer (tweeter?) and has done 1000X better job than I did when I controlled that account. So there is value being created by all this, but my point remains: what is the personal cost of creating this value and am I willing to pay it?

I’m gearing up big time on the production of my documentary. Later this week I should have the first shoot of the film. This is an exciting point to be at, since I’ve been thinking about this for at least two years and probably longer. There might well be some value in creating and maintaining a Twitter account for the movie but I just don’t really feel like doing it. My hiatus has reinforced my feeling that Twitter interaction is junk interaction, and I’d do better making phone calls or visiting the subset of people I care about personally and letting the larger Twitterverse go. In reality, I’ll probably arrive at some sort of equilibrium where I hold my nose and use Twitter/Facebook/FriendFeed and whatever horrific future monstrosities become the next geek toy fad.

However, from here on forward I for sure will be adjusting the dial so that the time and energy I put into social media matches the value I get out of it. No more imbalance for me. The days of twitchily checking for new tweets all day long is over. Just like I try to never turn on the TV when there is nothing in particular I want to watch, I’m done with social media when there is nothing in particular I want to say or hear.

Social Media Vacation, Week 2

Not only am I not finding it hard to stay away from social media, I’m thinking about staying away nearly permanently. In my previous fit of pique where I dynamited my entire Twitter network I only used Twitter when I was at science fiction conventions. That was predominantly to find out which room parties and hotel bars my friends were at. Frankly, I think I could go back to that sort of thing easily.

More and more, I’m thinking that I don’t care at all about social media for its own sake. It only really has value to me in the context of the logistics of a real world meeting. I’ve said over and over again that most of the value of Twitter to me is syncing up with other Myrtle Beach people where we are having lunch. I can envision a world where my Twitter usage is confined to a few days before any event (CREATE South, BarCampCHS, Balticon, Dragon*Con, etc) and between 11 AM and 1 PM on the weekdays. In fact, I could see value in building a customer Twitter API app that specfically didn’t check for new messages except in certain pre-defined time windows and possibly based on certain hash-tags. If that could be hacked in to HootSuite, that would be great. In all likelihood, I’ll do it the old fashioned way by just shutting the thing down except for the times I care about it.

If Creativity is an Avalanche, Twitter is Regular Cannon Fire

Ski resorts sometimes use cannon fire to prevent large scale avalanches. They do this by triggering very small avalanches at regular intervals, firing howitzers or air cannons into the higher snow banks to shake loose the chunks that are shake-loosable. The more I think about it, I think regular use of Twitter has done a similar thing to my blogging and podcasting output. Because I have access to a fairly constant ability to broadcast small chunks of whatever is on my mind, I have less urgency to gather my thoughts and write up longer bits.

I’ve discussed elsewhere how I feel like posting to Twitter is sharecropping. You don’t own it, it disappears down a Twitter driven memory hole, and whatever value you build is accruing to the account of Twitter.com, not you. I don’t make a killing on this blog, but whatever trickle of cash I earn from the Google ads and the Amazon affiliate links on here is more than I get from Twitter. When I blog, I make some pin money and I own all my stuff. When I Tweet, nothing much happens for me other than reducing my incentive and motivation to create anything else. That seems like an obviously pretty bad deal in every way you slice it.

This evening I did the data entry for every survey form turned in at CREATE South 2010. A lot of what was discussed this year involved social media. It was an article of faith that the energy put into social media is a necessity and has a positive payoff. I’m not so sure I buy that. I think the graph of involvement to value created has a steep climb from nothing to a small bit, and then caps out quickly. I know that puts me opposite of folks like my friend Tee Morris and Chris Brogan, who believe this is a necessity for anyone that wants to be involved in any form of internet culture. I’ve avoided drinking that Flavor Aid and it seems ever less tasty.

I supported my compatriots at CREATE South that wanted to teach and learn more about social media but less and less do I have any desire to be a part of it. What value it provides to the user comes at a high price, one that practically never gets factored in to the equation. I’m trying hard to account for those terms in my personal calculus.

Update: I forgot to link to Garrick Van Buren’s examination of the same topic as he examines what changed in his life when he dropped Twitter.

Kick Start My Heart

At CREATE South last week, we had an informal pitch session at which I primed the pump by going public with some of my skunkworks projects, one of which is an independent documentary idea that I’ve been kicking around for years. In it, I mentioned that I thought I could bring the project in for around $5,000 (mainly by NOT PAYING THE CREW!) From the floor, Mur Lafferty asked if I had considered Kickstarter as a fund raising mechanism for the seed money. I admitted that I had not and wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. I did file the idea away for future reference though.

In a bit of coincidence, earlier today I saw this post on the Comics Reporter that references Patrick Farley’s attempt to raise money for his webcomic project via Kickstarter. I have seen Farley’s work before and liked it. It seemed like a webcomic version of what I liked best about the cyberpunk work of George Alec Effinger. I am interested in seeing his nearly successful fundraising campaign succeed (90% there with 6 days to go at this writing) and am considering kicking in a few bucks. I was looking at the particulars of his project and noticed that Brendan McCarthy is one of the contributors. Yes, THE Brendan McCarthy. That part truly rocks the house, that one might be supported in a project by someone cool whose work you admire. That seems like a rare but awesome case.

If I’m going to do this via Kickstarter it makes more sense to do it sooner than later, so I might well set this up in a day or three. If so, I’ll be posting here shortly. Keep watching the skies, radar rangers!

Reading List for my Social Media Vacation

I have purchased a few books on my Kindle recently that I’m going to read during my “social media vacation.” Like almost every Kindle purchase I’ve ever made both of these were impulse buys. I still need to write up my big post about how big publishers are completely missing the impulse buy potential of the ebook platforms but that is for a later time.

It wasn’t intentional but both of these books are consistent with the theme of slowing down social media, stepping back, focusing more on creative output. The first is Jaron Laneir’s book You Are Not a Gadget. I’m a few chapters in to this one and it is exactly what I was already thinking about, an examination of what the effects of adapting humanity to their machines can do to us. Not only am I stepping back but at the same time I am completely and totally perplexed by the iPad fever of people I know. I’m reading this book with an eye to understand what is it we are trying to gain as we search around these technological spaces.

The other book is Jeff VanderMeer’s book Booklife. It was recommended by Mur Lafferty at last week’s CREATE South and so I impulse bought it and will check it out. I met Jeff 15 years ago when he was riding along to the WREK studios on a day when I interviewed his now wife Ann for Reality Break. He’s a great guy and a great writer so I have no doubt reading this book will be a mystically introspective experience. More about it later after I’ve read it. Dobbs help me, I hope it straightens me out a little in my creative life.

PS – before those who want to hoist me on the irony petard about reading You are Not a Gadget on the Kindle, the thing I like best about the Kindle is that it is the anti-gadget piece of consumer electronics. I keep reading reviews saying the iPad will take over as the book reader because it is so much sexier than the Kindle. I like the Kindle because it is not sexy! I use it to read books, and nothing much besides. That is a selling point. I want less distraction, less flashiness. It’s a boring little thing that does one job well and that’s why I use it.

My Social Media Vacation Begins Today

Last night when I went to bed, I shut down Twitter (HootSuite, really) and Facebook and FriendFeed. I’m not going to look at or log in to any of those things for the next 30 days. There might be slight exceptions if I get a Facebook invite to something timely I want to accept but even if I have to sneak back in, I’m not reading and digging through status updates.

This is a mental health strategy for me. I have found that the always-on constant update of social media has worn on me more and more over the last year. When I turned it off for a weekend or to go do things around my town, it actually felt like a relief to me to be able to step back from that. Bear in mind, without any sort of smart phone I’m only a fraction as connected as most of my friends and still it wore on me over time. I understand the ways it can be useful but we need to think about what it does to us long term to be connected so much of our lives to these fast twitch update systems. You ignore the long term consequences of your productivity tools at your own peril. Even crystal meth is an effective productivity tool if you only consider the short term.

I still need to do my writeup on this year’s CREATE South conference (now one week in the past.) The only reason I didn’t start this vacation earlier was because of that conference. A certain bit of coordination and promotion was aided by Twitter and Facebook so I bit the bullet and stayed connected until the mopping up was mostly done. It made me feel like a bit of a fraud during the conference itself because a number of our sessions were about strategies for using social media to add value to your life or business while I was just counting the days until I could get social media out of my life for a month. This year the official CREATE South Twitter account was completely run by Tee Morris and that was a fabulous success. Not only did he do a job wildly better than I could have, it meant I didn’t have to stay locked in on that account. The result was better and I was happier.

I have a goal (not a death pact, just a goal) to blog at least once per day over this period. As I put more energy into the ephemera of social media, I put less into the more durable work on this blog and podcast. As I’ve said before, blogging for yourself in your own domain is like farming, posting your witticism into Twitter is like sharecropping. The work is the same, it’s just someone else cashing out most of the value. I hope to move my mix into things of lasting value to myself.

On top of that, my goal is to spend less time in front of the computer altogether. If there is one take-away lesson from CREATE South, it is that you get a lot of bang for your buck engaging with the people and the world around you and we geeks do too little of that. I want to attend the next Rivertown Social in downtown Conway. I want to start kayaking up the Waccamaw River. I can walk to the river landing, for pete’s sake. As I put it yesterday, “I want to spend less time with Facebook and more time with faces and books.” It’s shut down until May 23rd. We’ll see where it goes after that, but for now I am taking a well deserved break and it feels great.

CREATE South 2010

This blog has been mostly quiet as I’ve been neck deep in preparation for this year’s CREATE South. It will be tomorrow, at the Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s conference center (the campus by the beach, NOT the one on Highway 501 in Conway.) There is so much good stuff happening in the sessions tomorrow that we all will have hard decisions to make (of the best kind.)

Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors how made this year both the easiest and on track to be the best one yet. If you can, come out and join us. As I’ve been talking about my new media malaise, CREATE South is what I’m hoping is the shot in my metaphorical arm to rekindle all the things I loved about the medium in the first place. I will see you there.

Keep Blogs Alive

The Riverfront in Conway

My struggles with the online world continue. I am blogging ever less, podcasting ever less. However I remember the introduction to Ted Sturgeon’s short story collection Sturgeon Is Alive and Well . . .. In it he posited that there is no such thing as “writer’s block” only changes in writing styles that require entering a chrysalis-like state for a while before emerging as a different thing. He thought that what seemed like an inability to write was the conscious writer requiring a quiet time to catch up with the subconscious one.

I hope that is what is happening to me and social media. The positive side about my online life doldrums is that is being matched with a ramping up of activity in my offline life. Just this morning, I rode my bike down to the Conway riverfront and around downtown for the first time in a long time. I plan after next weekend’s CREATE South to take one month off from social media – for sure Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and other presence type services and possibly the blog and everything. I know Larry Lessig does one month a year entirely away from the internet and that might turn out to be a long term healthy way to live.

For now, I remain trying to adjust the needle to the sweet spot of the online/offline balance mix. Time to shut down the computer and go play some beach volleyball with friends. It seems like a better thing to do on a beautiful April day in Myrtle Beach than blogging. I’m just saying …

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for March 21, 2010 – “New Media Gut Check”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for March 21, 2010. I play a song by Chris Yale; I discuss the uproar in the podcast world following JC Hutchins’ recent post and my own shifting feelings about new media; I play a song by Paul Westerberg and pull the rip cord.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

CREATE South 2010 is Coming

On April 17th, 2010 we will have the third annual CREATE South conference in beautiful Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Our keynote speakers will be Tee Morris and Mur Lafferty, and the day will be filled with talk of new media, social media, technology, art, creativity and how to take your ideas and get them done. Registration is free, the day is guaranteed to be fun and we even feed you. Come join us and you will leave with a full head and a full belly and a full complement of new friends and associates.

The day is Saturday April 17th, 2010. The place is the conference center at the Horry Georgetown Technical College’s Grand Strand campus (one block from Market Commons), 950 Meyers Avenue in Myrtle Beach SC. The mission is fellowship, knowledge, interaction and fun. We shall succeed, and we shall do it together.

Grand Strand Tech Expo

Tomorrow I will be at the inaugural year of the Grand Strand Tech Expo. I will be manning the table for {day job} as well as talking up CREATE South. It should be a fun time and we hope a useful time. If you are around the Myrtle Beach area and will be at the expo, come by and say hi. As a bonus, we’ll have information and stickers available for #MBGeekOut as well.

The Grand Strand Tech Expo is the kind of thing I like to support. At its heart, it has the same motivation as all of these various projects that I’ve been involved with. CREATE South, #MBGeekOut, the Grand Strand Bloggers et al are all driven by the desire to raise the profile of the Myrtle Beach area in the tech and social media world. The big benefit of these events is giving all of us a venue to realize that we’re all out here and none of us are alone. Rock on.