Information Avalanche

Years ago, when most of us crawled on line through telephone modems, the Internet was often called the Information Super Highway.  Forget that.  Today’s online experience is faster, vaster, a veritable Information Tsunami.  And I, for one, can’t keep up.

I’ve been making an effort.  My friends, most of them writers, dragged me into social media a few months ago, even as I resisted, clinging to tried and true excuses:  I don’t understand it, I don’t need it, I don’t have time for it.  All good excuses.  All valid.  I jumped in anyway.  And I liked it.

But I’m having trouble with Twitter.  No, not technical trouble.  The program is simple enough.  But I’m not really sure I see the point.  For a while I actually tried to keep up.  I followed my friends, local and cyber, a couple of local news sources, pictures of adorable animals, and so forth.  Maybe two hundred Tweeters.

I found myself watching personal conversations, sometimes both sides, sometimes only half, between people who apparently find it easier to tweet from their smart phones than to email or actually phone someone.  I saw pictures of lunches, children, sunsets and bookshelves.  I learned to my amusement (and sometimes amazement) that many of my women friends are extremely serious sports fans.

Many people I follow, particularly my fellow writers, post links to articles and web sites and pictures.  Interesting stories, valuable information, but I just don’t have time to go look at a quarter of them.

I can’t keep up.  Trying to follow Twitter during the day uses up far too much time.  I have a full-time job, but it would be just as much a time sink if I were home trying to write full-time.  And this with only 200 Tweeters in my stream.  Who are these people I see who are following hundreds, even thousands, of Tweeters?  Why would anyone do that?  How could anyone do that?

I don’t tweet  lot myself:  when I post something here, when I buy a book or review one on Amazon, when I see a particularly funny bumper sticker or billboard on my commute.  I’m trying to be interesting–after all, isn’t that the point of having an Internet Presence?  But I honestly don’t know why strangers pop up on my Followers list.  They are certainly welcome, I’m just not sure what, if anything, I’m giving them.

Yesterday afternoon I decided to organize.  I set up Twitter Lists and divided my contacts into various categories.  I unfollowed some of the news sources that were pelting me with things I’d already seen TV or in the newspaper.  I removed one person I couldn’t identify–she hadn’t tweeted since last fall, perhaps even more puzzled by the whole thing than I am.

The lists do seem to make information a bit easier to find.  I’ll add more to the Industry list so I can keep up with the agent/editor/publisher news and gossip.  I’ll check up on my friends and watch for new books from my favorite authors.

And I’ll try to tweet more interesting or amusing comments myself.  Once a day, maybe.

Excuse me while I send this post to Twitter.

Thursday Thoughts

I’m so pleased to report that Laurie Kahn’s Love Between the Covers project met its $50,000 goal this morning.  But you still have four days to become a backer, and pledges of any amount are welcome.  Under the Kickstarter system, someone raising money sets a minimum goal and an end date, in this case $50,000 and midnight on Monday (August 27).  If the minimum goal isn’t met by the closing date, no one’s credit card is charged, and no money changes hands.  If the goal is met, fundraising continues until the end date.  So it’s not too late to join in.

Maybe love has something to do with an odd phenomenon I’ve noticed the last couple of weeks at work, but I have yet to invent a story to explain it.  Every afternoon lately, around four o’clock, a car has parked in front of the Scorekeeper or next door, in one of the few parking places available on the street.  Same car, same Latino couple in it, she’s driving, he’s in the passenger seat.  They sit there, motor running, for fifteen or twenty minutes.  Then they get out of the car, trade places, and drive away.  On several occasions they’ve arrived while I was on my daily trip to the post office, forcing me to park two or three houses down the street, only to disappear by the time I get back to my desk.  What the heck are they up to?

I’m still on the fence about Twitter.  I’m not sure I want to know that much about other people’s daily lives, but on the other hand I’ve followed links to some interesting, and occasionally hilarious, web sites.  Try this wacky list of bedroom tips inspired by a certain notorious trilogy:  Ten Shades of Stupid.  Or this excellent analysis of changes in the publishing industry:  Publishing Is Broken.  So far I’ve pretty much kept up with the flow, since I’m at my computer much of the day, but when I look at profiles of folks who are following hundreds, or even thousands, of Twitter acounts, I have to wonder when they have time to do anything else.

Seen this afternoon on Highway 59 in downtown Houston, on the back of a pick up truck filled with furniture and boxes, a bumper sticker reading TEXAS : the balls of America.  Look at a map.  Then think about . . . Florida.

Catching Up

I’ve been home from the RWA Conference for almost three weeks, but I still feel like I’m trying to catch up–on sleep, at work, around the house.  Housekeeping is not my passion, but even I fall behind with a six-day absence.  I made a stab at catching up on writing, getting back on the “work every day” train, but I fell off that a couple of days ago.  I’ve gotten some rewriting done on the work-in-progress, but not as much as I’d like.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped at Office Depot for a box of my favorite pens, and noticed a rack of pocket-sized guide books, including Twitter for Dummies and Facebook for Dummies.  I’d been telling myself (for months now) that I’d look into more social media activities after the Conference, so I bought both books.  Twitter seemed simpler, and presented fewer privacy questions, so I spent part of a Sunday afternoon opening an account (@KayHudsonWriter).  I still don’t quite know what to make of it.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I did not want to follow any of the news sources Twitter had recommended during the sign-up process, and I unfollowed them before I could be swept away by the flood of tweets.  Instead I began following my writing friends–after all, they were the ones urging me to build a social media platform.  So I gradually added (I’m still working on this) friends from my local RWA chapters, West Houston and Houston Bay Area, and from my Golden Heart classes, the Firebirds and the Starcatchers, as well as a scattering of other writer friends.  That will probably total somewhere around two hundred women (I’m about halfway there), so it’s a good thing most of them don’t tweet a lot.  I seem to be averaging about two tweets a day myself.

The amount of trivia bouncing around the Twitterverse is amazing. with some folks seemingly throwing random thoughts out several times an hour.  Some are conducting conversations, some are promoting books (their own and others), some are telling jokes.  A lot of the friends I follow have followed me back, which is a nice friendly thing to do, but I’ve picked up other followers I don’t know at all.  They’re quite welcome, but I can’t help wondering how they found me.  Sometimes I feel like I’m eavesdropping, but I’ve also followed links and hashtags to some interesting articles, blogs, and web sites.

I’ve used the Twitter search function to look for some old friends from school and such, but haven’t turned anyone up yet.  Maybe they’re all hanging out on Facebook.  I did search for my own (very German) maiden name, expecting to find only a few people, one or two of them possibly my cousins.  I didn’t find anyone I recognized as a relative, but I was astonished to see far more people than I expected, many of them posting profiles in Portuguese.  Apparently I have a raft of (very distant) cousins in Brazil.  Who knew?

One of our Scorekeeper clients brought us flowers the other day, for no particular reason.  Mine are sitting on my coffee table, looking lovely.  I took pictures.  As you can see, I am still struggling with lighting.  Backgrounds that look perfectly well lit through the camera are much darker in the photograph.  Maybe because I’m fooling around with this indoors, and usually at night.  I’ll have to take some daylight shots of my horribly unkempt back yard, before I hire someone to clean it up.

I’ve been good (i.e. restrained) about buying books since I got home with two dozen or so from the Conference, so I was a bit puzzled the other night when I got one of those “your amazon.com order” emails and couldn’t remember ordering anything.  Even more so when I opened the email and saw the title:  A Cat Was Involved.  I like cats, but I still couldn’t remember ordering anything.  When I checked my Amazon account, I discovered that I had preordered the short story by Spencer Quinn last May.  I’m a big fan of his Chet and Bernie mystery series, and this promises to be the story that Chet, the canine narrator of the novels, has been teasing us with, the tale of how he washed out of K-9 school and became Bernie’s partner in the Little Detective Agency.  The fifth book in the series, A Fistful of Collars, will be out next month.  Meanwhile, maybe this weekend I’ll find out exactly how that cat was involved.

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