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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: internet, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 328
1. Sorry To See You Go

My technophobic wife has taken an increasing shine to internet shopping.

Point, click, receive, wrap… Point, click, receive, wrap…

At this point, you might be thinking this is another husband-rant about all of the clicking activity and the bill that will come due in January. Well, that may be a subject for another post (I hope the title changes), but right now I’m trying to wrap my mind around the amount of email spam that her clicking has brought us. You see, we share an email account. Mistake? Maybe… but it has worked thus far.

Here is the problem, cleaning my inbox is the one thing I’m OCD about. I need it to be current or I lose focus. At work, I churn through emails faster than a Gopher on balsa-wood. If I can answer it immediately, it is gone. If it makes me mad, gone. If it is ambiguous and may not pertain to me, whoops, I hit delete. My inbox is squeaky-clean. The one at work, that is.

The shared inbox at home gets bogged down in December with order confirmations, shipping information, and advertisements. Oh the advertisements. Did I mention my wife is a technophobe? So, while she has mastered the checkout function of two hundred seventy-four websites, I can’t convince her that they won’t think any less of her if she unchecks the little box that says, “Would you like us to send you an ungodly amount of emails that are irrelevant, obnoxious, and likely to cause enmity between husband and wife?”

I should be working a second job to prepare for the aforementioned bill, but I spend my December trying to unsubscribe from every mailing list known to mankind. Only they lie to you when they allow you to hold the illusion that leaving them is an option. It’s a web of deceit – an impossibility. You cannot be removed from mailing lists. “You have been removed from our mailing list. We are sorry to see you go” is a lie from the bowels of the earth.

unsubscribe

What the little button should say is, “Thank you for verifying your existence, I will now torture you every fifteen minutes with a blinking email reminder of your incompetence.”

After trying unsuccessfully to remove our email address from yet another list, I marched to the den, bowed out my chest, and sternly gave my wife an ultimatum!

“Either you learn to uncheck the subscribe button, or we are changing our email address!”

 

Women don’t like ultimatums.

 

Of course, our email address remains the same and though wounded and alone, I am off to fight a MailChimp.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

9 Comments on Sorry To See You Go, last added: 12/17/2014
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2. Parental consent, the EU, and children as “digital natives”

Children have become heavy new media users. Empirical data shows that a number of children accessing the internet – contrary to the age of users – is constantly increasing. It is estimated that about 60% of European children are daily or almost daily internet users, and therefore, by many they are considered to be “digital natives”.

However, in our view, the use of this “digital natives” concept is misleading and poorly founded, and is based on the assumption that children are quick to pick up new technologies. A recent EU Kids Online study invalidates this assumption. The study shows that even though children actively surf on various online applications, they lack digital skills such as bookmarking a website, blocking unwanted communications, and changing privacy settings on social networking sites. Many children are not capable of critically evaluating information and changing filter preferences.Interestingly, the lack of skills to perform specific tasks while being online does not impinge on children’s beliefs in their abilities – 43% of surveyed children believe to know more about the internet than their parents. At the moment, no correlation between this proclaimed self-confidence and their actual understanding of how internet works can be done due to the lack of data. Nevertheless, it is worth questioning whether, and to what extent, it is reasonable to expect that children understand the implications of their behaviour and what measures could mitigate children’s online risks in the most efficient and effective way.

It is probably closer to the truth to say that, in terms of privacy and data protection awareness, children are anything but “digital natives”.

Indeed, children’s actions online are being recorded, commercialised and serve for the purposes of behavioural advertising without them actually realising. This media illiteracy is tackled by awareness raising campaigns and policy measures on domestic and EU levels. However, it seems that these measures only partially address the challenges posed by children’s online engagement.

Image credit: Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw via Flickr Creative Commons. This image has been cropped.
Image credit: Classroom laptops, by R. Nial Bradshaw. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr. This image has been cropped.

The European Commission (EC) seems to be in favour of legislative measures providing for a stronger legal protection of children’s personal data in the online environment. In Article 8 of the proposal for the General Data Protection Regulation, the EC introduces verifiable parental (or custodian) consent that would serve as a means of legitimising the processing of a child’s personal data on the internet.

Article 8 of the proposal foresees that parental consent would be required in cases where the processing operations entail personal data of children under the age of 13. The age of 13 would be the bright-line from which the processing of children’s personal data would be subjected to fewer legal constraints.

In practice, this would divide all children into two groups; children that are capable to consent (i.e. 13-18 year olds) to the processing of their personal data and children that are dependent on parental approval of their online choices (i.e. 0-13 year olds). Drawing such a strict line opposes the stages of physical and social development. Also, it requires the reconsideration of the general positive perception of the proposed parental consent from a legal point of view. In particular, it is necessary to evaluate whether the proposed measure is proportionate and whether it coincides with the human rights framework.

In a recent article published in the International Data Privacy Law Journal, we have analysed the proposal to distinguish between children younger and older than 13 years and found many practical and principled objections. Apart from the practical objections, which are often self-evident (e.g. what about the protection of children in the age group from 13 to 18 year old? How to ensure the enforcement of the proposed parental consent?), there are several fundamental problems with the proposed 13 years-rule.

The bright-line rule, which would require data controllers to obtain parental consent before processing personal data of children aged under 13, seems to be incompatible with the notion of evolving capacities. The proposed measure is based on the assumption that from the age of 13 all children are able to provide an independent consent for the processing of their personal data in the online environment. The proposed Article 8 ignores the fact that every child develops at a different pace and that the introduction of parental consent does not ensure more guidance regarding online data processing. We also regret that Article 8 in its current form doesn’t foresee a way in which children could express their own views regarding the data processing operation; the responsibility to consent would rest exclusively with a parent or a legal guardian. This set-up opposes the idea of children’s participation in the decision-making process that concerns them, an idea anchored in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and that is recognised by both the EU and its Member States.

Finally, our analysis suggests that children’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy may be undermined, if the proposed parental consent is introduced. As a result of Article 8, children’s access to information could become limited and dependent on parents. Also, the scope of their right to privacy would shrink as parents would be required to intervene in children’s private spaces (e.g. gaming accounts) to make informed choices. Therefore, it can be observed that the introduction of parental consent contradicts the key principles of human rights law enshrined in the UNCRC.

Featured image credit: Student on iPod at school. Photo by Brad Flickinger. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

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3. E-Queries

How do you format email queries? 

http://www.literaryrambles.com/2009/12/how-do-i-format-my-e-query.html

0 Comments on E-Queries as of 10/13/2014 6:29:00 PM
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4. Amazon Author Pages

Increase your sales by using these strategies on your author page. 

http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/amazon-strategies-sales-page/

0 Comments on Amazon Author Pages as of 9/26/2014 11:42:00 AM
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5. Skink - No Surrender - a review

Hiaasen, Carl. 2014. Skink - No Surrender. New York: Knopf.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Skink - No Surrender is Carl Hiaasen's first foray into YALit, and he's making his entrance in a big way, employing Skink —the outrageous and outlandish character from his adult novels.

In keeping with his customary practice of setting books in Florida's great outdoors (Hoot, Flush, Scat, Chomp), Skink No Surrender begins on a Florida beach where Richard finds Skink buried in the sandon the hunt for turtle egg poachers. Though at first taken aback by the one-eyed, cammo-wearing giant of a man with buzzard beaks braided into his beard, Richard soon finds out that he is the ex -Florida governor and a force to be reckoned with - even if he is presumed to be dead.

     All kinds of wild rumors got started, and some of them turned out to be true.  According to one Wikipedia entry, the ex-governor became a wandering hermit of the wilderness, and over the years he'd been a prime suspect in several "acts of eco-terrorism."  Interestingly, he'd never been arrested or charged with any serious crimes, and it seemed to me that the targets of his anger were total scumbags, anyway.
     The web article included interviews with a few witnesses who'd supposedly encountered Clinton Tyree by chance.  They said he'd lost an eye, and was going by the name of "Skink."  They had differing opinions about whether or not he was nuts.  The most recent entry quoted the governor's closest friend, a retired highway patrol trooper named Jim Tile, who said:
     "Clint passed away last year int he Big Cypress Swamp after a coral snake bit him on the nose.  I dug the grave myself.  Now, please let him rest in peace."
     Except the man was still alive.
An unlikely pair, Skink and Richard team up to find Richard's cousin, Malley, who has run off with (or been kidnapped by) a young man she met online.

An intense hunt takes the two across the swamps in search of Malley and a dangerous impostor.  Suspenseful and very funny at the same time, Skink No Surrender presents a case for Internet safety, bird habitat conservation, and the value of family, but you'll be havimg so much fun that you won't even notice!

Getting my autographed copy of Skink
See the first 56 pages of Skink No Surrender here.

On sale and in libraries beginning September 23, 2014.

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6. Cautionary comic for writers (and illustrators!)

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7. Youth and the new media: what next?

By Daniel Romer


Now that the Internet has been with us for over 25 years, what are we to make of all the concerns about how this new medium is affecting us, especially the young digital natives who know more about how to maneuver in this space than most adults?

Although it is true that various novel media platforms have invaded households in the United States, many researchers still focus on the harms that the “old” media of television and movies still have on youth. The effects of advertising on promoting the obesity epidemic highlight how so much of those messages are directed to children and adolescents. Jennifer Harris noted that children ages 2 to 11 get nearly 13 food and beverage ads every day while watching TV, and adolescents get even more. Needless to say, many of these ads promote high-calorie, low-nutrition foods. Beer is still heavily promoted on TV with little concern about who is watching, and sexual messages are rampant across both TV and movie screens. None of this is new, but the fact that these influences remain so dominant today despite the powerful presence of new media is testament enough that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

When it comes to the new media, researchers are more balanced. Sonia Livingston from the UK reported on a massive study done in Europe that found a lot of variation in how countries are dealing with the potential harms on children. But when all was said and done, she concluded that the risks there were no more prevalent than those that kids have confronted in their daily lives offline. What has changed there is the talk about the “risks,” without much delving into whether those risks actually materialize into harms. Many kids are exposed to hurtful content in this new digital space, but many also learned how to cope with them.

2013 E3 - XBOX ONE Killer Instinct B. Uploaded by - EMR -. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

2013 E3 – XBOX ONE Killer Instinct B. Uploaded by – EMR -. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.

The perhaps most contentious of the new media influences is the emergence of video gaming, either via the Internet or on home consoles. The new DSM-5, which identifies mental disorders for psychiatrists, suggests that these gaming activities can become addictive. Research summarized by Sara Prot and colleagues suggests that about 8% of young people exhibit symptoms of this potential disorder. At the same time, we still don’t know whether gaming leads to the symptoms or is just a manifestation of other problems that would emerge anyway.

Aside from the potential addictive properties of video games, there is considerable concern about games that invite players to shoot and destroy imaginary attackers. Many young men play these violent video games and some of them are actually used by the military to prepare soldiers for battle. One could imagine that a young man with intense resentment toward others could see these games as a release or even worse as practice for potential harmdoing. The rise in school shootings in recent years only adds to the concern. The research reviewed by Prot is quite clear that playing the games can increase aggressive thoughts and behavior in laboratory settings. What remains contentious is how much influence this has on actual violence outside the lab.

On the positive side, other researchers have noted how much good both the old and new media can provide to educators and to health promoters. It is helpful to keep in mind that many of the concerns about the new media may merely reflect the age old wariness that adults have displayed regarding the role of media in their children’s behavior. In a recent review of the effects of Internet use on the brain, Kathryn Mills of University College London pointed out that even Socrates was skeptical of children learning to write because it would reduce their need to develop memory skills. Here again, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Daniel Romer is the Director of the Adolescent Communication and Health Institutes of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. He directs research on the social and cognitive development of adolescents with particular focus on the promotion of mental and behavioral health. His research is currently funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He regularly serves on review panels for NIH and NSF and consults on federal panels regarding media guidelines for coverage of adolescent mental health problems, such as suicide and bullying. He is the author of Media and the Well-Being of Children and Adolescents.

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8. Paul Otlet, Google, Wikipedia, and cataloging the world

As soon as humanity began its quest for knowledge, people have also attempted to organize that knowledge. From the invention of writing to the abacus, from medieval manuscripts to modern paperbacks, from microfiche to the Internet, our attempt to understand the world — and catalog it in an orderly fashion with dictionaries, encyclopedias, libraries, and databases — has evolved with new technologies. One man on the quest for order was innovator, idealist, and scientist Paul Otlet, who is the subject of the new book Cataloging the World. We spoke to author Alex Wright about his research process, Paul Otlet’s foresight into the future of global information networks, and Otlet’s place in the history of science and technology.

What most surprised you when researching Paul Otlet?

Paul Otlet was a source of continual surprise to me. I went into this project with a decent understanding of his achievements as an information scientist (or “documentalist,” as he would have said), but I didn’t fully grasp the full scope of his ambitions. For example, his commitment to progressive social causes, his involvement in the creation of the League of Nations, or his decades-long dream of building a vast World City to serve as the political and intellectual hub of a new post-national world order. His ambitions went well beyond the problem of organizing information. Ultimately, he dreamed of reorganizing the entire world.

What misconceptions exist regarding Paul Otlet and the story of the creation of the World Wide Web itself?

It’s temptingly easy to overstate Otlet’s importance. Despite his remarkable foresight about the possibilities of networks, he did not “invent” the World Wide Web. That credit rightly goes to Tim Berners-Lee and his partner (another oft-overlooked Belgian) Robert Cailliau. While Otlet’s most visionary work describes a global network of “electric telescopes” displaying text, graphics, audio, and video files retrieved from all over the world, he never actually built such a system. Nor did the framework he proposed involve any form of machine computation. Nonetheless, Otlet’s ideas anticipated the eventual development of hypertext information retrieval systems. And while there is no direct paper trail linking him to the acknowledged forebears of the Web (like Vannevar Bush, Douglas Engelbart, and Ted Nelson), there is tantalizing circumstantial evidence that Otlet’s ideas were clearly “in the air” and influencing an increasingly public dialogue about the problem of information overload – the same cultural petri dish in which the post-war Anglo-American vision of a global information network began to emerge.

What was the most challenging part of your research?

The sheer size of Otlet’s archives–over 1,000 boxes of papers, journals, and rough notes, much of it handwritten and difficult to decipher–presented a formidable challenge in trying to determine where to focus my research efforts. Fortunately the staff of the Mundaneum in Mons, Belgium, supported me every step of the way, helping me wade through the material and directing my attention towards his most salient work. Otlet’s adolescent diaries posed a particularly thorny challenge. On the one hand they offer a fascinating portrait of a bright but tormented teenager who by age 15 was already dreaming of organizing the world’s information. But his handwriting is all but illegible for long stretches. Even an accomplished French translator like my dear friend (and fellow Oxford author) Mary Ann Caws, struggled to help me decipher his nineteenth-century Wallonian adolescent chicken scratch. Chapter Two wouldn’t have been the same without her!

Photograph of Paul Otlet, circa 1939. Reproduced with permission of the Mundaneum, Mons, Belgium.

Photograph of Paul Otlet, circa 1939. Reproduced with permission of the Mundaneum, Mons, Belgium.

How do you hope this new knowledge of Otlet will influence the ways in which people view the Internet and information sites like Wikipedia?

I hope that it can cast at least a sliver of fresh light on our understanding of the evolution of networked information spaces. For all its similarities to the web, Otlet’s vision differed dramatically in several key respects, and points to several provocative roads not taken. Most importantly, he envisioned his web as a highly structured environment, with a complex semantic markup called the Universal Decimal Classification. An Otletian version of Wikipedia would almost certainly involve a more hierarchical and interlinked presentation of concepts (as opposed to the flat and relatively shallow structure of the current Wikipedia). Otlet’s work offers us something much more akin in spirit to the Semantic Web or Linked Data initiative: a powerful, tightly controlled system intended to help people make sense of complex information spaces.

Can you explain more about Otlet’s idea of “electronic telescopes” – whether they were feasible/possible, and to what extent they led to the creation of networks (as opposed to foreshadowing them)?

One early reviewer of the manuscript took issue with my characterization of Otlet’s “electric telescopes” as a kind of computer, but I’ll stand by that characterization. While the device he described may not fit the dictionary definition of a computer as a “programmable electronic device” – Otlet never wrote about programming per se – I would take the Wittgensteinian position that a word is defined by its use. By that standard, Otlet’s “electric telescope” constitutes what most of us would likely describe as a computer: a connected device for retrieving information over a network. As to whether it was technically feasible – that’s a trickier question. Otlet certainly never built one, but he was writing at a time when the television was first starting to look like a viable technology. Couple that with the emergence of radio, telephone, and telegraphs – not to mention new storage technologies like microfilm and even rudimentary fax machines – and the notion of an electric telescope may not seem so far-fetched after all.

What sorts of innovations would might have emerged from the Mundaneum – the institution at the center of Otlet’s “World City” – had it not been destroyed by the Nazis?

While the Nazi invasion signalled the death knell for Otlet’s project, it’s worth noting that the Belgian government had largely withdrawn its support a few years earlier. By 1940 many people already saw Otlet as a relic of another time, an old man harboring implausible dreams of international peace and Universal Truth. But Otlet and a smaller but committed team of staff soldiered on, undeterred, cataloging the vast collection that remained intact behind closed doors in Brussels’ Parc du Cinquantenaire. When the Nazis came, they cleared out the contents of the Palais Mondial, destroying over 70 tons worth of material, and making room for an exhibition of Third Reich art. Otlet’s productive career effectively came to an end, and he died a few years later in 1944.

It’s impossible to say quite how things might have turned out differently. But one notable difference between Otlet’s web and today’s version is the near-total absence of private enterprise – a vision that stands in stark contrast to today’s Internet, dominated as it is by a handful of powerful corporations.

Otlet’s Brussels headquarters stood almost right across the street from the present-day office of another outfit trying to organize and catalog the world’s information: Google.

Alex Wright is a professor of interaction design at the School of Visual Arts and a regular contributor to The New York Times. He is the author of Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age and Glut: Mastering Information through the Ages.

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9. A Call to Tech Support

The wifi in my eldest daughter’s laptop died recently. Being the home’s Chief Technology Officer, I worked through the handy troubleshoot on the system which told me it was working perfectly. Of course, the inability to connect to the internet and the distraught look on my poor daughter’s face told me it wasn’t. No worries, I bought a USB dongle and she was up and running.

Little did I know that my trouble-shooting skills would soon be needed again. A week ago, she informed me that her dongle wasn’t working. Of course, at 11:15, my system was shut down, so I didn’t pay much attention and went to bed. When I awoke, I realized it wasn’t her computer – there was a wholesale internet outage in the house!

I think that is mentioned in Revelation, isn’t it? The Mark of the Beast and the inability to access High-Speed Wireless is in chapter 13, if I remember correctly. I looked outside and it didn’t appear the Battle of Armageddon had begun yet. A check of the beds told me the wife and kids were still here, so the rapture hadn’t left me behind (Whew!)

But I still had no internet.

This has happened before and I fixed it. What did I do? Oh yeah, I unplugged it and it rebooted itself. So I pulled the plug and let it regenerate. Unfortunately, the light blinking was still red long after power was restored. So I called my ever-helpful internet service provider and got stuck in the web of automated attendants who sound helpful, but are very patronizing. Don’t they know I am the CTO? That should give me some status, I would think.

My biggest problem wasn’t the self-righteous know-it-all computer voice on the other end of the phone, it was the fact that my cell phone service is spotty in the basement where the router resides. So I put the phone on speaker and listened as best I could. Like a rat pushing through a maze, I found the tech support cheese after seventeen minutes and the new, smarter sounding Tech Support Weenie voice tells me we are going to have to restart the system.

TSW: I will now tell you how to restart your system. This is a medium level procedure and will take approximately 3-5 minutes.

Okay

TSW: Can you see your internet router?

Yes

TSW: Please find the power cable on the back of the router and say yes when you’ve found it.

Got it

TSW: I didn’t understand you.

Er…  Yes

TSW: Trace the cable to the electric outlet. Unplug the cable and wait 10 seconds before plugging it back in.

Well, that’s what I did before, but okay

TSW: Did this solve your problem?

NO!

At that point, my spotty cell service affected my ability to clearly hear the next steps in the process. What I am pretty sure it said was for me to disconnect all cables, kick the box across the room, plug it back in and see if any lights were blinking. Repeat until no lights function.

Done!

After I hung up, I went to work early and left this note on the floor:

936051_10152553265964675_8432536674832206132_n

 

The good news, there is free wifi at the hotel, but I really wish they would call.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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10. Amazon Strategies: Look Inside

amazonlook inside

blondeops

Let’s take a look at another feature that Amazon offers anyone who sells their books on their site.

Don’t miss out on using this feature. This is another reason why it is important to make sure your first chapter sings.

Personally for me to buy, I look over five things:

Price: I buy lots of ebooks that are offered at $1.99 or less, without having read anything about them.

Cover: I don’t buy books where I don’t like the cover, unless someone else said they were good. I guess I believe in first impressions.

Reviews: I read what book is about and a couple reviews. A few bad reviews don’t stop me from buying, since I’ve read many top-seller books that I thought were great that received a few terrible reviews.

Publisher: I check out who published the book. If it is from a well-known publisher, that could seal the deal right there.

Look inside: If I have not clicked the button to buy, I will “Look inside”. That’s when I put on my editor/agent hat and only give five minutes to the author to grab me before I make my decision. Sometimes the problem is that the book really grabs you and then you have to read the whole thing, even when the desk is piled with work and the kitchen needs to be clean. Many of those books have been self-published, so don’t stick your nose up at them or else you might missed something really good.

Here are some tips on using the “Look inside” feature.  

1. Keep front matter to a minimum. You want to make sure the reader can get to the meat of the story quickly. This is also important to do this with the full ebook.

2. Amazon Reviews. Work hard to get as many as you can when you launch the book. This will help raise your ranking and buyers who have read the first pages will look at this, especially if you are self-published.

3. At the end of your book you should ask the reader to write a review. Stats show that this helps you increase your sales numbers.

4. Hot New Releases List on Amazon should be in the forefront of your mind when planning a launch. Talk to your publisher to see if they have planned your novels launch based on other similar books coming out. If there are too many it will hurt your chances of making the list. The list is only good for the first 30 days of a books release.

5. Making sure your blog followers know about your book and doing book tours can help get the word out. It’s nice to get the buzz going, but you need to make sure you keep the big guns for the launch date.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, authors and illustrators, Internet, Marketing a book, Process, Publishing Industry, Tips Tagged: Amazon Look Inside, Amazon Strategies, How to Sell More Books, How to Sell More Books Workshop

7 Comments on Amazon Strategies: Look Inside, last added: 8/7/2014
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11. Using Technology in YA Literature - Clementine Beauvais

I don't 'do' Snapchat, unlike my little sister (19 years old), but I love dreaming about the narrative possibilities it offers. A murder mystery, where the serial killer sends short Snapchat videos with clues every time s/he strikes...

yeah, the logo looks more like a Casper story

Anyway, I'll never write that story, but I do love literature that talks about new technology. In many ways, it's difficult to think of a contemporary social realistic story, especially for teenagers, which wouldn't include smartphones and apps - Facebook, Tumblr, 2048, Google Maps - as a solution to many of the traditional adventure plotlines (nope, sorry, you can't be actually lost; nope, sorry, you can't actually be bored waiting for your train; nope, sorry, you couldn't not have known that she was in a relationship (and it's complicated)).

But I like it even more when stories integrate technology in a non-gimmicky way - as an essential part of the plot, as the plot. Many such stories are realistic: it's impossible to keep track of stories that revolve around mystery blog-writers, from rom-coms to dramas. Others are supernatural, but even a fantastical story like iBoy by Kevin Brooks is based on very real features of contemporary smartphones.

New technology offers possibilities both for entirely new plots and for interesting spins on older plots. There's been a spate of YA novels recently that revolve around revenge porn - one of them, in France, is mine. Of course revenge porn existed before smartphones, but the order of magnitude is different now, and so are, therefore, narrative possibilities - especially regarding character development, and some central themes of YA literature, such as gossip or bullying.

In my latest YA novel, Comme des images, there are snippets of Facebook conversations, YouTube comments, texts, emails - breaking up the narrative from time to time. Those are other voices, seemingly external to the plot, but actually crucial to it - because the existence of those hundreds of other voices is the very reason why the central event is so important: it isn't just there, it's also commented on, in the whole world. 

Of course, you need to get those voices right, because it can just fail to ring true. Being friends on Facebook with teenagers of that age - in my case, my sister and all her friends - can help. I'm not sure I'd dare do it in English, where I'm not as familiar with the language used by teenagers. So does being very active on these platforms, or at least having an excellent understanding of them. I cringe when I read books in which it is clear that the author (either by themselves or pushed by an editor) has attempted to include some (generally gimmicky) references to apps, software, video games or device without knowing anything about it ("'I sent you a Twitter yesterday!' she chuckled.").

Hybrid texts where 'normal' narrative is sporadically broken by other types of discourse - from mock-tweets to mock-Wikipedia articles - can be highly sophisticated. There is immense value in harnessing the narrative possibilities that technological innovations offer us, not to be trendy; in part so that we continue to map, as faithfully as possible, the changes that are occurring in teenagers' lives, and make guesses as to how they might influence their personalities, their reactions, their tastes, their values. But it has literary and artistic value, too. Such uses are not - or shouldn't be - just a way of spicing up a dull, ordinary story: they can be the opportunity for intensely original, groundbreaking advances in storytelling, for YA literature and beyond.

The only imperative is to avoid at all costs 'giving a message', 'warning' teenagers 'against' the 'dangers' of 'technology'. But frustratingly, in order to make them palatable to mediators, this pedagogical 'guarantee' is frequently used to qualify works which should instead be praised for being uncomfortable or unsettling, both ideologically and linguistically. Let's keep the unease, at all costs. Personally, in my double life - virtual, real, barely separated - saturated with a myriad different voices and worldviews, I have no patience for consensus and all the time in the world for controversy.

______________________________________________________________________
Clementine Beauvais writes books in both French and English. The former are of all kinds and shapes, and the latter a humour/adventure detective series, the Sesame Seade mysteries. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.

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12. Writing Tip – Google Maps = Magic Carpet Ride

Guest Blogger: Johanna Bilbo Staton  

Map Program = Magic Carpet

You’re writing about a particular place, but your description feels flat. What you want, instead, is for your reader to feel as though they are actually “there.” Time for a field trip? But maybe that’s not possible—it would take time and money, lots of both if the location is far away from you.

I’ve discovered another solution: the map program on my computer and in particular the satellite and street level views. Granted, they will not give you the sounds and smells of a place, nor how it will look in a variety of seasons and weathers. Yet a map program can provide you with a surprisingly useful amount of detail.

Here are two examples of how I have used this resource:

Those computer maps are likely less than ten years old. How much use could they be for a story set almost five hundred years ago? Answer: quite a bit. Part of my story is set in Quarley, a tiny village of thatched-roof cottages in Hampshire, England. I know for a fact that they are at least forty years old. Four hundred plus? Maybe not. But in that relatively flat countryside there is one high spot, Quarley Hill, and it would have been there at the time of my story. I’ve seen it in person, but before that, I had seen it on Google Maps, and had written about it:

By mutual agreement, we angled toward Quarley Hill, a bump in the landscape that was our one local claim to any sort of height. Trotting up and down it, Frydd declared, was the best way for Bonesy to regain his mountain legs.

Later in the same manuscript, the main character and her companion are riding west toward Wales. Obviously there’s a big difference between modern roads in the UK and those of Tudor England. But I compared a British Ordnance Survey Historical Map of ancient Britain (also a useful resource) with a modern Ordnance Survey map of the same area, and so had a good idea of the probable route my riders took. Going to the area on Google Maps and going to the street view gave me this detail:

The Salisbury Plain had been flat. Now we rode through rolling countryside. We were in a valley, with slopes rising up on either side of the road.

Chances are I may find the program useful in a possible future project to be set in medieval Scotland—find a modern road through a wild area (plenty of those in the Highlands!) , and see what there is to see.

(However, Google seems to have changed its map program slightly since I did that. Instead of being able to move a little person-on-foot icon to a road, the program shows me a selection of street-level pictures. But this ought to be helpful also.)

I’ve also used the map program capabilities in my freelance copyediting, but in a way that would be just as useful for my writing. The text in question was from a contemporary novel set in New York City, in a scene that was set on the roof of a major theatrical landmark, and concerning what the characters could see from there. From the map program, I was able to determine which of the details given were, in fact, visible from that location, and which ones were iffy or impossible.

Writer’s block about your setting? Call up your map program, tell it where you want to go, let it get you down on the ground, and see what inspires you.


Filed under: Advice, article, authors and illustrators, Internet, Technology, Tips, Writing Tips Tagged: Jody Staton, Writing: Goodgle Maps

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13. No, That Is Not DFW's Copy of Ulysses. It's Not Even Ulysses.

Not from David Foster Wallace. Not Ulysses. (photo via Tony Shafrazi)

I, too, immediately thought, "Wow!" when I saw it.

I, too, accepted the idea that it must be David Foster Wallace's copy of Ulysses, because, well ... you've heard of David Foster Wallace, right?

I'm teaching a course in literary analysis in the fall and so am collecting whatever images I can find of the ways (reasonable or absurd) that serious readers annotate what they read. I zoomed in on the image to see if I could figure out the logic (or illogic) of it. But the pages didn't look like Ulysses to me. Nor, for that matter, did the style of annotation resemble what we know of DFW's style from the books at the Ransom Center. I zoomed in, and though the resolution was quite low, I made out what seemed to be two names: Maureen O'Sullivan and, at the top, Robert Mitchum. It looked to me like a biography of Robert Mitchum.

It was easy enough to use Google Books to find a Robert Mitchum biography with this page layout: Lee Server's Robert Mitchum: "Baby, I Don't Care".

I sent a Tweet to the person who originally posted this; I assumed he'd just been joking, as anything with a bunch of weird annotations could jokingly be called DFW's something-or-other. Though I don't know his motivations, this still seems the most likely explanation. That everybody immediately and without any research assumed it was true and not a joke was ... illuminating.

I continued to wonder what the book was, though, and why someone had ... decorated it ... in the way they had. I didn't have time to track it down, but Bibliokept did, and came up with some interesting stuff. Check out that link — it's a fun detective game.

The image is still compelling and fascinating, despite not being a book of DFW's nor a copy of Ulysses. In some ways, it's more impressive that it isn't a complex text like Ulysses, but just a popular biography of a movie star.

What are the lessons here? 1.) Don't believe everything you see on the internet. 2.) Sometimes things are even weirder than they seem at first.

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14. A doctrine of ‘market sovereignty’ to solve international law issues on the Internet?

By Dan Jerker B. Svantesson


One of the most prominent features of jurisdictional rules is a focus on the location of actions. For example, the extraterritorial reach of data privacy law may be decided by reference to whether there was the offering of goods or services to EU residents, in the EU.

Already in the earliest discussions of international law and the Internet it was recognised that this type of focus on the location of actions clashes with the nature of the Internet – in many cases, locating an action online is a clumsy legal fiction burdened by a great degree of subjectivity.

I propose an alternative: a doctrine of ‘market sovereignty’ determined by reference to the effective reach of ‘market destroying measures’. Such a doctrine can both delineate, and justify, jurisdictional claims in relation to the Internet.
It is commonly noted that the real impacts of jurisdictional claims in relation to the Internet is severally limited by the intrinsic difficulty of enforcing such claim. For example, Goldsmith and Wu note that:

“[w]ith few exceptions governments can use their coercive powers only within their borders and control offshore Internet communications only by controlling local intermediaries, local assets, and local persons” (emphasis added)

However, I would advocate the removal of the word ‘only’. From what unflatteringly can be called a cliché, there is now a highly useful description of a principle well-established at least 400 years ago.

ethernet padlock

The word ‘only’ gives the impression that such powers are of limited significance for the overall question, which is misleading. The power governments have within their territorial borders can be put to great effect against offshore Internet communications. A government determined to have an impact on foreign Internet actors that are beyond its directly effective jurisdictional reach may introduce what we can call ‘market destroying measures’ to penalise the foreign party. For example, it may introduce substantive law allowing its courts to, due to the foreign party’s actions and subsequent refusal to appear before the court, make a finding that:

  • that party is not allowed to trade within the jurisdiction in question;
  • debts owed to that party are unenforceable within the jurisdiction in question; and/or
  • parties within the control of that government (e.g. residents or citizens) are not allowed to trade with the foreign party.

In light of this type of market destroying measures, the enforceability of jurisdictional claims in relation to the Internet may not be as limited as it may seem at a first glance.

In this context, it is also interesting to connect to the thinking of 17th century legal scholars, exemplified by Hugo de Groot (better known as Hugo Grotius). Grotius stated that:

“It seems clear, moreover, that sovereignty over a part of the sea is acquired in the same way as sovereignty elsewhere, that is, [...] through the instrumentality of persons and territory. It is gained through the instrumentality of persons if, for example, a fleet, which is an army afloat, is stationed at some point of the sea; by means of territory, in so far as those who sail over the part of the sea along the coast may be constrained from the land no less than if they should be upon the land itself.”

A similar reasoning can usefully be applied in relation to sovereignty in the context of the Internet. Instead of focusing on the location of persons, acts or physical things – as is traditionally done for jurisdictional purposes – we ought to focus on marketplace control – on what we can call ‘market sovereignty’. A state has market sovereignty, and therefore justifiable jurisdiction, over Internet conduct where it can effectively exercise ‘market destroying measures’ over the market that the conduct relates to. Importantly, in this sense, market sovereignty both delineates, and justifies, jurisdictional claims in relation to the Internet.

The advantage market destroying measures have over traditional enforcement attempts could escape no one. Rather than interfering with the business operations worldwide in case of a dispute, market destroying measures only affect the offender’s business on the market in question. It is thus a much more sophisticated and targeted approach. Where a foreign business finds compliance with a court order untenable, it will simply have to be prepared to abandon the market in question, but is free to pursue business elsewhere. Thus, an international agreement under which states undertake to only apply market destroying measures and not seek further enforcement would address the often excessive threat of arrests of key figures, such as CEOs, of offending globally active Internet businesses.

Professor Dan Jerker B. Svantesson is Managing Editor of the journal International Data Privacy Law. He is author of Internet and E-Commerce Law, Private International Law and the Internet, and Extraterritoriality in Data Privacy Law. Professor Svantesson is a Co-Director of the Centre for Commercial Law at the Faculty of Law (Bond University) and a Researcher at the Swedish Law & Informatics Research Institute, Stockholm University.

Combining thoughtful, high level analysis with a practical approach, International Data Privacy Law has a global focus on all aspects of privacy and data protection, including data processing at a company level, international data transfers, civil liberties issues (e.g., government surveillance), technology issues relating to privacy, international security breaches, and conflicts between US privacy rules and European data protection law.

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Image credit: Ethernet cable with a padlock symbolising internet security. © SKapl via iStockphoto.

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15. 99 Inspirations for The Riverman

99Luftballoons

Over two years ago, before The Only Ones came out, I did a countdown of 99 things (books, movies, art, places, etc.) that inspired it. It was a fun way to revisit some stuff I was actively thinking about when I wrote the book, as well as some stuff I didn’t realize influenced me until I had some time to reflect.

Well, it’s 99 days until The Riverman hits shelves and I figured, why not do it all again? So, without further ado, here is my list of #99inspirations that I’ll be counting down daily on Twitter. This doesn’t represent all of my favorite things (sorry, no bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens here), though it does include some stuff that I truly love. And hopefully it sparks some conversation about the stuff you love and the stuff that leaks into your creations.

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16. Innovating with technology

Innovation: A Very Short Introduction

By Mark Dodgson and David Gann


The next big thing in innovation lies in the ways we innovate using technology. We’re used to thinking about innovations that are technologies — the computer, the Internet, the laser, and so on. But technology is now being used to produce better innovations than ever before. By better, we mean innovations that meet our personal, organizational, and social requirements in new and improved ways, and aren’t just reliant on the technical skills and imagination of corporate engineers and marketers.

Here’s some examples of what we mean. If you have ever been lucky enough to design and build a home, you would have been confronted by technical drawings that are incomprehensible to anyone but trained architects. Nowadays you can have a computerised model of your house that lets you move around it in virtual reality so that you get a high fidelity sense of the layout and feel of rooms. You get to know what it really will look like, and make changes to it, before a brick is laid.

Move up a level and consider the challenges confronting the redesign of Cannon Street station in London. This project involved not only redesigning the station, but also building an office block above it, whilst maintaining access to the fully operational Underground station beneath it. The project used augmented reality technology to assist the design and planning process. Using a smartphone or tablet, augmented reality overlays a digital model on the surrounding real world, so you can see hidden infrastructure such as optical fibers, sewers, and gas lines — and get a sense of what things will look like before work begins. This is especially valuable for dealing with various vintages of infrastructure in busy city environments and when there are concerns about maintaining the integrity of listed buildings.

The key principle in these examples is that non-specialists can become involved in decisions that were previously only made by experts.

Other technologies that encourage this ‘democratization’ of innovation include rapid prototyping. This technology changes the economics of manufacturing, so it becomes feasible to make bespoke, individualized products cheaply. If you design something yourself, you don’t need expensive molds, dies, and machine tools to make it. We are quickly developing technologies that can produce your designs on the spot on your desk.

The Internet underlies much of the advance in the ways we innovate. It allows us to collect information from a massively increased population of designers, producers and users of innovation. It connects ideas, people and organizations. Also important is the ‘Internet of things’ that is the vast number of mobile devices and sensors that are connected together and produce data that can be valuably used to make better decisions. Drivers’ mobile phones, for example, can locate cars and traffic jams and allow better planning of transport flows. We have it from a reputable source that more transistors — the building blocks of sensors and mobile devices — were produced last year than grains of rice were grown. And they were produced at lower unit cost.

We’re all much better attuned at processing images rather than text and data. Half our cerebral cortex is devoted to visualization. Technologies developed in the computer games and film industries — think Toy Story and World of Warcraft — are being used to help innovators in areas ranging from pharmaceuticals to emergency response units in cities. The capacity, which these new technologies bring to produce dynamic images of what was previously opaque technical information, underlies the greater engagement in innovation by a wider range of people.

The technology that seems likely to have the greatest impact globally on innovation is the smartphone. Just think how short a period of time we’ve been using them and yet how much we use them for. Quite apart from putting us in direct contact with the majority in the world’s population, we use them to shop, bank, pay bills, and map our way. We use a myriad of apps for all sorts of productive and entertaining purposes. Nearly 6 million of the world’s 7 million people have mobile phones and in many developing countries there are more mobiles than people.

These devices provide opportunities for innovation amongst billions of people that have previously been excluded from the global economy for lack of information and money. Smartphones provide everyone with access to all the staggering amount of information available on the web. They can also allow access to finance, especially small amounts of money. Less than 2 million people in the world have bank accounts and banking on smartphones allows billions of previously disenfranchised people to borrow, trade, and be reimbursed for their ideas and initiative. In this way, technology makes innovation more inclusive and less the privilege of corporations with research and development departments. We look forward to a massive wave of exciting new and unimaginable ideas from all sorts of people from everywhere around the world.

Mark Dodgson is Director of Technology and Innovation Management Centre, University of Queensland Business School, and David Gann is Head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Imperial College London. They co-authored Innovation: A Very Short Introduction.

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Image credit: Above Cannon St Station, London, by Tom Morris (Creative Commons License). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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17. Millicent Marie is NOT My Name by Karen Pokras Toz

GUEST POST by DOUGLAS “DOOGLE” HARRIS   5 Stars Millicent Marie is NOT My Name Karen Pokras Toz Grand Daisy Press No. Pages: 150  Ages: 8 to 12 .................. .................. ................. Back Cover:  Twelve-year-old Millicent Marie does not like her name. After all, she was named for a woman who died more than fifty years ago [...]

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18. Digital Book World Week

digital bookbookThe Biggest Children’s Gathering Yet on Tuesday January 15 we’ll kick off Digital Book World Week with our second-annual Publishers Launch Conference focused on the digital transition in children’s publishing–giving this vital segment the deep and focused consideration it deserves.

The major themes of the event are the power of platforms; the challenges of marketing and selling to children in a digital age (including specific case studies for picture books, middle grade and YA books); rethinking children’s book intellectual property and the new ways in which publishers are creating, controlling and licensing IP; and the latest data and critical analysis of what it means.

You can come for just the day, or in a new twist, the DBW Children’s Package adds the opening day of Digital Book World–with general keynotes in the morning, and three more children’s-track sessions in the afternoon, including their exclusive new report from PlayScience on The ABC’s of Kids and E-reading at a package price.

We keep adding to the program www.publisherslaunch.com/2012-2013/launch-kids/program which finishes with a panel including Barbara Marcus of Random House, Karen Lotz of Candlewick, and conference chair Lorraine–but here is some of the diverse and talented group of publishing executives, technologists, innovators, educational specialists and librarians speaking:

Mara Anastas, Simon & Schuster Children’s
Jess Brallier, Pearson/Protropica
Todd Brekhus, Capstone Digital
Gretchen Caserotti, Darien Library
Devereux Chatillon, IP Attorney (Callaway and Zola Books)
Rachel Chou, Open Road Integrated Media
Christian Dorffer, Mindshapes/Magic Town
Deborah Forte, Scholastic Media
Corinne Helman, Harper Children’s
Lisa Holton, Classroom, Inc.
Eric Huang, Penguin (UK)
Carl Kulo, Bowker
Swanna MacNair, Creative Conduit
Kristen McLean, Bookigee
Tina McIntyre, Little, Brown Children’s
Asra Rasheed, Reading Rainbow/RRKidz
Terri Lynn Soutor, Brain Hive
Andrew Sugerman, Disney Publishing Worldwide
Jonathan Yaged, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Our one-day program kicks off Digital Book World Week on Tuesday, January 14 in New York City.

Here is a $200 code: Code: DBW13 Register here (prices go up again on December 8), or use the code PUBLUNCH for a 5 percent discount on any ticket option.  Be prepared for sticker shock.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: children writing, Conferences and Workshops, Internet, News Tagged: Barbara Marcus, Candlewick, Digital Book World, Karen Lotz, Publishing Executives, Random House

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19. Sending Web Content to an E-Reader for Reading Later

Following up on yesterday’s post—some good questions came up in the comments. I’ll tackle this one first: “How does the Send to Kindle app work?

Send to Kindle

I mentioned how much I rely on Send to Kindle to read long-form posts and articles later, away from my computer. This is an official Amazon app but there are third-party equivalents, too. (See Send to Reader, below. Instapaper is another.)

How it works: I installed Send to Kindle in my browser. (There are Chrome and Firefox versions, PC and Mac desktop versions, and even an Android app.)

toolbar4

In Chrome, the Send to Kindle icon appears at the top right of my browser—see the orange K?

When I’m reading a post online and I want to send it to my Kindle, all I have to do is click the icon.

If I want, I can choose to send the article to the Kindle app on an iPhone, iPad, or Android device instead. Click the icon to access the settings button. This is handy if I want to send a particular article to Scott’s device instead of mine. (You may have up to six devices connected to your Kindle account at any one time.)

Send to Reader

As I said, Send to Reader works almost the same way. You create an account, install its bookmarklet in your toolbar, and enter your Kindle’s email address. IMPORTANT: Be sure to use the free.kindle.com version of your Kindle address, i.e. username@free.kindle.com, not username@kindle.com. This is the simplest way to avoid any download charges for the content you send. (You can also tweak your Kindle document settings to make sure you don’t accidentally download content via Whispernet, incurring data charges. Go to Amazon –> Manage Your Kindle –> Personal Document Settings and set a price limit of, say, one cent for download fees. That way, any download that would exceed that fee will be withheld until you’re connected via Wifi, where all downloads are free. Or just make a point of always using the free.kindle.com address instead!)

While you’re in your Kindle settings, be sure to enter kindle@sendtoreader.com as one of your approved email addresses for receiving content.

This fussy set-up stuff takes much more time to describe than to do. Once you’re set up, you don’t have to bother with this ever again. From then on, you can zap articles to your Kindle by simply clicking the bookmarklet.

I believe Send to Reader works with the Kindle app on your iPad or Android device, as well. If you don’t know your device’s Kindle email address, you can find it at Manage Your Kindle –> Personal Document Settings.

Sending posts directly from Google Reader

OK, so that’s how I send long-form web content to my e-reader for perusing later. Now let’s back up half a step: say I’m reading a blog post in Google Reader—how do I send that post to my Kindle? Two ways. Either I can click through to the actual post and follow the steps above, or I can send it directly from Reader via the “Send to” button.

See the “Send to” tab at the bottom of the post? When you click on it, up pop your options. You can send this post all over the place!

readerscreenshot

 

Here’s how to configure the options: In Google Reader, click the Settings gear icon. Select “Reader Settings.”

Click the “Send to” tab to get to the screen pictured below.

readersettings

Choose whatever sites you like to send stuff to.

You’ll notice Diigo and Send to Reader are missing from this checklist, but do appear in my list of options in the previous photo. That’s because I added them manually (again, a one-time set-up process) following the instructions under “Don’t see your favorite site?”

readerconfig

Click “Create a custom link” to connect with the site of your choice. Again, I think this kind of thing is harder to explain than to do. Let me know if anything here doesn’t make sense!

I should add that I really only use Google Reader’s “send to” feature to send articles to my Kindle—I seldom share links to Facebook or Twitter this way. I prefer HootSuite for that. But that is fodder for another post.

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20. Two Points of View

The next time I read a website
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21. Google Reader to be put out to pasture

Can you see this post? I’m hearing that some folks can’t get my site to load. Has been a problem all day; we’re looking into it. I’m bumping the Ballet Shoes post yet another day until I’m sure the problem (whatever it is) has been resolved.

Meanwhile, noooooo! Google informs us Reader’s days are numbered. Those of us who rely on a good RSS aggregator to make the web manageable are crushed—there’s no better feed reader than Google Reader.

Some alternatives, none of them quite perfect (but I’m confident someone will rise to fill the void):

Feedly—this is probably what I’ll wind up using. Not quite as streamlined as Reader, but it offers many options for customizing the look and function. In “Full Articles” mode, it’s a decent Reader substitute:

Feedly screenshot

 

(I subscribe to way more book blogs than are visible in that list. I think it only shows the top twelve.)

If you click on the gear icon, you can toggle to different layouts: mosaic, list, magazine-style, etc.

You can export your subscriptions at Google Reader and import them to Feedly, or simply connect Feedly to your Reader account, which is what I did. For now Feedly runs off Reader’s API but it is going to “seamlessly transition” to another source before Reader bites the dust in July.

A Feedly plus is that it has mobile apps as well, with syncing between your desktop, iOS, and Android devices. And if you connect it to your gReader account, it’ll sync with that, too, as long as gReader lasts.

You can share posts from Feedly directly to Facebook, Twitter, G+, Delicious, and other platforms. Diigo isn’t one of the preset share options and I really hope you can add it manually—haven’t figured out how yet but it’s early days—because Diigo is how I share links in my sidebar here. I suppose I could switch back to Delicious if I have to.

Here’s Feedly in “magazine” view:

feedlyscreenshot

 

Other options: Bloglines (what I used before Google Reader came along). NewsBlur (after a certain number of subscriptions, there’s a fee). NetNewsWire for Mac. The Old Reader. Pulp (a paid app for Mac). Flipboard for iOS devices (no good for me, as I need a desktop interface).

What’s your poison?

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22. Submitting via Email

Agent Jill Corcoran tells all you need to know about submitting a manuscript digitally. 

http://jillcorcoran.blogspot.com/2011/01/how-to-sub-queries-full-ms-in-digital.html

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23. Tracking Mentions on the Internet

These tools will help you keep track of where/when your name and your book title(s) are mentioned on the Internet. 

http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/10-must-have-tools-for-tracking-brand-mentions/

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24. Your Online Presence

What do literary agents want to see when they Google you?

http://thewritelife.com/what-does-a-literary-agent-want-to-see-when-they-google-you/

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25. Terror

By Yair Amichai-Hamburger


On the Internet, terrorists can find a wide-open playground for particularly sophisticated violence. I have no doubt that the people at the US Department of Defense, when they brought about the inception of the Internet, never thought in their worst nightmares that come 2013, every terrorist splinter group would boast a website and that all the advantages of the Internet would be at the service of terrorists for organizing, planning, and executing their attacks on innocent people.

The Internet helps terror groups in a variety of activities: recruiting members, establishing communication, attaining publicity, and raising funds. Terror organizations direct their messages to their various audiences over the net with great sophistication. The primary audience is the central core of activists, who use the website as a platform for information about various activities. Messages are disguised by pre-agreed codes, and if you’re unfamiliar with the codes, you won’t understand what’s being talked about.

Fingers on the keyboard

By means of such encoded messages, a global network of terror can operate with great efficiency. It can manage its affairs like an international corporation: the leader passes instructions to various operations officers around the world, and they pass instructions onward to their subordinates. Using the Internet for information transfer, the organization can create a compartmentalized network of activists who cannot identify one another. Even if one cell is exposed, the damage to the overall network is minimal. Ironically, that survivability was exactly the factor that guided the US Department of Defense when it set up the Internet in anticipation of a doomsday scenario.

The second audience that the terror websites speak to is the general community of supporters. Messages for them are open, not disguised, and the operational side is toned down a little. At the site for the general public, the focus is on negative messages regarding the terror organization’s target, and on legitimizing attacks against it without going into specifics. The site presents history in a way that suits its agenda, and often it tries to attract legitimate contributions for its activities by concealing them behind various charitable fronts.

Some of these sites sell souvenirs with the terror organization’s logo, as if it were a sports team. Thus fans can buy scarves or shirts that give them a strengthened sense of identification with the terror organization. The site allows visitors to join discussions, and in some cases it also tries to attract people from the community of true believers into the community of activists. Of course such a process is undertaken with much caution in order that spies not infiltrate the organization. When new volunteers are recruited, there is a great advantage to enlisting people who don’t fit the terrorist stereotype, since such people can serve as couriers without immediately arousing suspicion. On the other hand, the less the new volunteer belongs to the community from which the terror organization sprang, or resembles a member of that community, the greater the suspicion of untrustworthiness. So such a new volunteer will be performing under close watch, or will be assigned to a one-time task that is to end in the grave.

The third audience is the group to be terrorized. In addressing this group, the organization has the objective of arousing fear, and it publicizes its terror operations in order to “win” the audience to the idea that each of them, including their family and closest friends, is likely to be the next terror victim. This baleful message is accompanied by an ultimatum to the audience: if all its demands are not met, the terror organization will make good on all its threats. The terror organization will try to show that because it’s fighting for absolute justice and has no mercy as it makes its way to that goal, it’s unstoppable. It immortalizes its terrorism in well-concocted documentary films that portray successes among its deadly operations, and by documenting executions performed on camera.

Examining the way that terror organizations address their audiences over various channels, we can see that most terror organizations deploy a rather impressive public-relations corps. Many terror organizations, not satisfied with a website alone, expand onto social networks and use other net-based avenues such as e-mail, chats, and forums.

The language of terror is quite interesting. Terrorists lay all the blame on the other party, which they label the aggressor while they present themselves as the real victims who speak in the name of human rights and who champion the oppressed. Take for example the international terror organizations. They explain that terror is the only method they have for striking back defensively at the imperialist aggressor. The terror organizations delegitimize their opponents and describe their enemy as the ultimate aggressor, a perpetrator of criminal actions such as genocide, slaughter, and massacres. Sometimes the fight is considered part of a continuing religious war and the messages bear a religious aura. For instance, a jihad with the prophet Muhammad as the commander in chief, in charge of the courageous legions that the organization represents.

Terror organizations tend to describe their murderous activities as self-defense by a persecuted underdog. They ignore the human side of their victims and use the psychological tool of dehumanization against the opponent, defining it as a group that has no human face. Thus for example, after the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001, the Al Qaeda organization completely ignored the thousands of murdered people and chose to focus on the indignities that the capitalist Americans had wreaked, and were continuing to wreak, and on the importance of the Twin Towers as a symbol of the western world’s decadence.

Yair Amichai-Hamburger is Director of The Research Center for Internet Psychology, Israel, and author of The Social Net: Understanding our online behavior. This article originally appeared as part of a series on Psychology Today.

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