Back to: Lies and lying liars | Forward to: Zombies

MeTube: Infinite Loop

I spent a good chunk of July and August in the United States; while I was there, I did a number of readings, with Q & A sessions after the gig. Some of which were recorded on video.

One of the readings took place in Cupertino, in a training room at 1 Infinite Loop. The Q & A ran on for quite some time, so it's split into three segments (for YouTube's upload pleasure):

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

(Many thanks to Feorag for recording and editing this! Apologies for the poor sound quality on the questions — we're looking into a better mike solution for future gigs.)



The questions are a problem. One method I've seen used, imperfect but not needing any fancy tech, is simply to repeat the question. It doesn't need to be word for word, and a few times you were saying enough to set up a context without actual repetition.


Caveat: I've not watched yet, being at work, so I'm answering your general point, but ...

Yes - paraphrasing the question is also a good way to show that one has understood the question. If one has managed to get hold of the wrong end of the stick, then the questioner can quickly point that out. And if one is unsure, one can make the paraphrasing, and ask "Is that what you asked?"

The downside is that paraphrasing long questions is hard, because one has to do work that the original questioner should have done. And even for short questions, it does slow things down somewhat.

(Though not as much as at the Yokohama Worldcon, where some panels were dual language.)


I've spend more hours listing diverse podcasts of talks, often with Q&A, than I would like to admit. But I definitely prefer the paraphrasing option. Even when audio is excellent, after an hour or so of listening to a particular speaker, I'm used to his/her voice and manner of speaking that it is sometimes a bit hard to make the mental switch. (Which may take all of the 2-3 seconds the question lasts ...)

But even if everything is ok, the paraphrase sometimes highlights other ways of understanding the question.

P.S.: After several years of tip-toeing around I finally got a soapbox of my own that you may want to have a look at.


Just watched the 1st video. I'd swear that I saw a statement from Hillary Clinton that Stuxnet was, or might have been a joint US-Israeli project, but that got almost no attention in the media. Sorry too lazy/tired (8:30am at the moment) to search for it.

I'll save the other two for later.


The worst is when somebody assumes "question" means "long tedious statement". If you can't ask it in one sentence, STFU...


Yeah, the questions were difficult to understand - but not nearly as bad as many presentations I've listened to. I have to give you thumbs up overall.

I'm not sure why I'm so video resistant - but everything on video feels tl;dr to me nowadays.


... and the whole structure of Western thought crumbles as major thinkers attempt to speak for twenty minutes without drawing breath.

(Actually, I agree with you — such a talk is not the place for verbose questions. A PhD viva voce is another matter.)

My longest written sentence was a 300+ word English essay with no stronger punctuation than a comma. (I'm not sure I could have read it out, but in the context of the subject, the teacher actually marked it quite positively.) I would not want to be asked a question of that length — it would probably be more rambling than most multi-sentence ones.


Actually, the reading was in IL2. You had snacks at IL1 :).


That's great. I love the T-shirt.

I managed to infer the less-distinct questions from the answers, and your bit was clear, except - not quite sure, were you talking about "VBEdit" or "BBEdit"? BBEdit's great, imho, at least the older version on my antique PB Bronze.

Apple really need to get some non-slammy doors, btw.

A real privilege to be able to listen in on that talk. The Q&A seemed like people queing up at a Lords open day to pitch one ball at a first-rate batsman - who knocked each delivery for six. You're like, I dunno, a fully automatic answer gun.


I've downloaded Jubler, a GPL subtitler that works on MacOS (and most everything else) and am going to try and learn to use it so I can subtitle the questions, and any other vague bits, in future.


I still say you ought to write your non-fiction 'Charlie's Guide to Life the Universe and Everything' book . . .


I suppose one shouldn't watch this without having read Rule 34?

I was shocked at how English you sound.


I haven't read R34 yet and I didn't find it a problem.

Also, I was pleased to discover from this talk that Mr Stross post-processes ebooks he buys the same way I do, and for exactly the same reasons. I'll be sure to mention that to the judge if the occasion arises.


I would like to download this for offline viewing, and the methods I know for downloading YouTube videos aren't working with that particular video. Could you be so kind as to stick the mpegs somewhere? Thanks!


That probably something to do with me being English ...

(Hint: my bio says I live in Edinburgh, not that I was born in Edinburgh.)


Could you be so kind as to stick the mpegs somewhere?

Not on my server's bandwidth! (They're rather large.)


He maybe was not referring to your server, unless that's a euphemism?


Charlie, I promise that this is not intended as an insult:

You come off as quite charming in person in this type of setting. Interestingly, this is not always the impression I get from you based on your interactions with commenters, and sometimes posts themselves, here on antipope.

Again, I say this mostly due to my interest in examining how our online (specifically, textual) personalities often project quite differently than the personalities that employ multidimensionality -- body language, voice, etc.

Great Q&As, thanks much for posting!



There is something to be said about your Englishness.

As per 16.

You say:

"That probably something to do with me being English ..."

Why the desparation?

You do it all the time.

No-one gives one, about your Englishness, we admire you for your SFness.

It is only you that would prefer to be back in Leeds and be a perfect Englishman. 'Course, that would be a hard rain to fall....

Seems to me you are a perfect Englishman, just that you are living in a perfect place where perfect Englishmen have to, at the very least, prove that. Y'know, be that good or summat!

This post will probably last, perhaps, seconds in the whirlwind of Mr Stoss's ideas about reality and stuff.


RE: Apologies for the poor sound quality on the questions — we're looking into a better mike solution for future gigs.

This might work for you: The camera should have two audio lines. Get two mics.

1. Wireless (or not) lav clipped to your shirt. 2 Shotgun mic aimed out into the audience.

You can then edit back and forth from audience question and back to your mic line for the answers.


What's desperate in his post?


Agreed; I was shocked—pleasantly shocked—at how nice Charlie seemed in Portland.


If this sounds like I'm bandying semantics, it actually means that you don't understand it and it's probably inexplicable to you, but there is a difference between "being born in England" (which you were) and "being English at people" (which my Godmother's second husband does at her Scottish cousins on a regular basis).

I've never noticed the English born people on this site "being English at people".


Two points:

Firstly, textual communication on the internet strips a whole bunch of social nuance out, so that it's very hard to tell the difference between mildly asperger-y focussing-on-irrelevant-details and a passive-aggressive attack by a troll looking for lolz, for example.

Secondly, this blog is an attractive nuisance: it attracts ass-hats on a daily basis, and after a few years of that you learn to develop a thick skin and wield a big stick. Worse: the more interesting the blog posting, the more folks will be attracted to comment on it -- and an irreducible proportion will be ass-hats, because interesting posts get linked to from places like HN and Slashdot (higher than average proportion of non-neurotypical obsessive-compulsives with an urge to score points off the Famous Author to prove ... something or other) or from Reddit (say no more).

I've never noticed the English born people on this site "being English at people".

As one of those (Oxford in my case), and in order not to break things by accident, I have to ask what is "being English at people"

(From context, I'd take it as being insufferably arrogant in other places.)


That's pretty close, certainly close enough that I think you'll understand it, where those who are just plain don't. It's more or less "being insufferably arrogant and superior, even to the point of being rude, at people 'because I am English, and you aren't, therefore I am a superor being'." It's the sort of thing that's often exhibited by people who do things like saying "Sarf Larndarn" instead of "South London" in normal conversation. Also, it should not be confused with the sort of mutual leg-pulling that goes on beween Scots and Geordies about how Geordies are just Scots with their brains knocked out and vice versa.



To be honest, those that are like that are probably a waste of space. Those of us who know just how superior we actually are see no need to rub other people's noses in it all the time.

Why, is that my coat ...


I suspect that people 'being English at others' are those have not been properly socialised by mixing with people from other backgrounds. Given the international nature of a forum like this, I'd be rather surprised to see it at all.


Don't bother with answering - he's probably some kind of colonial, maybe even a rebel or a descendent of a convict.


South London is the epitome of the "vibrant multicultural community" in all the worse ways and deserves everything it gets. A generally all round horrible place where I spend too much time.

32: 28 thro 31 inclusive - LOL!

Oh I knew that going in. Somehow I had it in my head that I'd be able to hear you live in Edinburgh (as often happens with immigrants).

Anyway, it was a dumb comment, I didn't mean to attack your heritage...


sorry how is that harder to understand than english?

that's pretty much as clear as day this basic geordie in action

and its nothing on guys from south sheilds!


when you say oxford - are you actually at oxford, went to Oxford or are just a townie?


I've seen US TV progs where English regional accents are subtitles


In Trawlermen, the Peterhead men's Doric accents are occasionally sub-titled. It's very bizzare, because they're not actually speaking Doric, but English with the accent. Jamie Buchan put some actual Doric in his auto-biography for comparison though.


'went to Oxford'?

The horror! I'm a Cambridge man who escaped Oxford at the age of a few days. I certainly wouldn't count as a townie, having slept a mere few dozen nights there in my life.

I mentioned Oxford in the context of 'English born'.


Tangentially related (insomuch as were I an Apple employee I would have asked this and been recorded): there's a bit in Rule 34 wherein Liz's inner monologue talks about solving something in NP-time, and mentions that she doesn't know what that is. It seems like it should refer to polynomial time (or non-NP time if you aren't afraid of double negatives). Was that intended to indicate her lack of handle on the subject matter, or was it a gaffe at some level of the book's production? [You seem usually very careful about these things, and about getting details in books that can be looked up right, so it jumped out at me in the way that the same kind of statement in someone else's novel would not]


So "Sarf Lardarn" is just to make them sound important? In the US we have a lot of those types of names for places, mostly because of the local accents. For example, Norfolk is usually pronounced "NAW fuck" with the u moving very quickly. How do you guys pronounce Norfolk?

(When the new DC NBC weatherguy started talking about Irene, he pointed to a bit of land and said "this peninsula...." and I'm sure someone told him because the next time he said Delmarva.)


Norfolk= Norf'k. I think that's correct, but my folks come from about 60 miles away, which is a long distance for accents in the UK. Incidentally, I've heard Chicago (USA) should be pronounced "Chin-gach-cook" or similar?

Dunno about people using Estuary English to sound important. I'd always thought that they (we) talk like that because it's where we grew up, except for a small minority of ex-public schoolboy "mockneys", who are possibly using Batesian mimicry (or switching to a more sucessful mating call?)

I've been to Oxford, and I was the only person I know who went saying things like "but that puts the mockers on the whole proof" in seminars. Most people there seemed to use RP, my refusal to adopt same was my resistance to those who were "being English at people", I have no teddy bear and none of my college friends had estates (though some came from council estates). One girlfriend had a chateau in the south of France, but she was an exception in that and many other ways. Besides, it was a rubbish chateau. Didn't even have a roof.

I agree with the main point though, which is that it's never a good idea to upset the Scotch.

(ontopic) Definitely BBEdit, now I've listened again.


When I hear Estuary English my snobbish kneejerk reaction is to think "moron", even though the evaluation is often wrong. Innit.


Well "Sarf Larndarners" frequently are self-important, but that's not why they say "Sarf Larndarn". That's just an inability or unwillingness by the speaker to render vowel sounds correctly.

41 and #42 - I'd associate "Estuary English" more with East London North of the Thames, and with Essex. To my ears its 2 different accents, and EE is less unpleasnat and more comprehensible than SL.

Yup. Often. Sometimes it's a signifier for a working-class meritocrat who has been through the grammar school and Redbrick experience and resisted social assimilation. Talk like your old mum/dad, even if you earn more in a year than they did in a lifetime.

@paws "correctly" - English is wot the English says, so impossible to be wrong. Grammar theoria is all very good but it don' work in praxis.


My objection to Estuary English is its spreading to those who have themselves rejected their native regional accent ie the accent of their mum and dad. A kind of ugly reverse snobbism.


I see the main point that I was going to comment on has already been brought up and discussed, but I too was surprised at your accent. I was well-aware that you are English and not Scottish but was surprised at how BBC, as you put it, you sounded. Although on the World Service at least I hear more of the intrusive /r/ of full-on RP (as far as this Yank can identify it).

It threw me for a couple minutes but as I got used to it the cadences and turns-of-phrase matched up with what I'm used to from the blog. You have a much more pleasant speaking voice than many authors I've heard and are an engaging speaker to boot.


I've never heard Chicago said that way. It's Sha KA go.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 30, 2011 12:16 PM.

Lies and lying liars was the previous entry in this blog.

Zombies is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog