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Blog policy

I'm back from my travels, and it occurs to me that there's something I need to say here.

People regularly send me links to interesting news items via the "Talk to me" link on the front page. That's okay, although if you're going to do it you should be aware that I track the online tech news sources voraciously — if you've seen it, the odds are good that I have too. If it interests me you may prod me into writing something about my thoughts on the matter — but that doesn't happen often.

Slightly less frequently (a couple of times a week) people write to me and ask me to talk about their pet hobby-horse or news item. And I almost never do that, because this isn't that kind of blog.

What kind of blog is it, then?

It's a nine-year-old blog, is what it is. It's a blog I originally started because I'm a compulsive communicator, and usenet was even then going down the proverbial shitter, and it seemed like a good idea to have somewhere else to thump my tub.

Over the years I've talked about this and that, gotten wildly enthusiastic about some topics and bored with others. I make no apology for being inconsistent in my interests over a period of nearly a decade: I'd be a close-minded fanatic if I didn't change. You shouldn't necessarily assume that what I say is what I believe (unless I explicitly say so) — I'm quite capable of playing devil's advocate in order to refine my beliefs by getting people to try to knock them down. And I use the blog to field-test intellectual frameworks I'm working on for the books I write. (Random examples: the previous blog entry, on technical trends in policing, is feeding into my current work-in-progress, a sequel to "Halting State". And The High Frontier, Redux — ostensibly about the implausibility of space colonization — was my adopting a devil's advocate position for the framework I rolled out in the space opera, "Saturn's Children".)

I'm quite happy to use my blog to talk about gizmos I'm playing with, politics, food, the phase of the moon, books and media, and anything else that catches my eye and makes me go shiny!

What this blog isn't: it's not a personal lifestyle striptease. You'd be ill-advised to use it as a source of news, rather than opinions. (And on the subject of opinions, I tend to march to a different drum from the mainstream.) It isn't a tech news site, even if I talk about weird technologies from time to time. It's certainly not part of the online science fiction community in any way, shape, or form (even though I write SF novels for a living and much of the stuff I say here speaks from a science-fictional outlook). I almost never pass on chain letters or random off-topic charitable appeals, regardless of whether or not they're worthy: they're noise in the information channels and make it harder for my readers to identify a genuine signal. (Also, if I started making exceptions to this rule, I'd be doing so on a many-times-daily basis: there are a lot of good causes out there.)

Finally, I don't take payola from the likes of Outersports dot com, who offer website owners bits of cheap garish jewellery in return for inbound links. (They're playing search engine optimization games — one step removed from spamming, and I'm only mentioning their name here so that you know who the marketing sleazebags of the week are who motivated this posting).

To recap: this blog is a soapbox where I bloviate about whatever interests me today. Nothing more and nothing less. You're welcome to hang out here and discuss things, or kvetch at me (but note: while I'm fine with disagreement based on differing evidence or opinions, I view this as my personal space and feel no compunction about deleting flames or abuse directed at me and lacking in actual informational content — see the moderation policy for further details).

29 Comments

1:

I guess I'm an early adopter. I gave up on USENET circa 1990. (-:

"I track the online tech news sources voraciously — if you've seen it, the odds are good that I have too."

Would you consider sharing your RSS feed with us? I'm always looking for better news sources...

2:

I find your blog to be variable and intriguing. I found you in a round about way, Amazon kept recommending you to me as an author I might like, and then I also noticed that someone named CStross made a post on another blog that I frequent, so I did a little googling and found this site. I have not regretted it. The discourse on the board is widely varying and while I rarely agree with most of the opinions here I do find them interesting and intelligent (for the msot part). I am definitely getting my monies worth. Heh. Thanks for sharing!

3:

That is exactly why I read your blog. It is also exactly how I write my blog. Thanks for all the compulsive communication.

4:

So you're saying that the online science fiction community is basically comprised of boutique sites such as the three you linked to (maybe with Scalzi thrown in for good measure)?

Your site *is* part of the science fiction community, as I've known it for 30+ years: a platform where an eclectic, insightful maverick holds forth on whatever happens to be on his/her mind today -- said maverick occasionally exhibiting more than a passing interest in the literature of science fiction, and also evincing some connection with the usual suspects who turn up at science fiction conventions in the bar.

The science fiction community would be (and may be on its way to turning into) a sadder place, if we now see it as a set of commercial or semi-commercial web podiums with the primary mission of delivering science fiction product, product reviews, and trendy news reports -- to a readership that may be smart and alert, but which barely knows itself. No slight intended toward the sites you linked. Two of them have instigators I've met and enjoyed talking to, and all of them have contributors who've demonstrated an ability to provide interesting content.

5:

To recap: this blog is a soapbox where I bloviate about whatever interests me today. Nothing more and nothing less.

You might like Scott Rosen's book _Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters_, which discusses some of the early blogs and the rhetoric around why and how people blog (see more about it here: http://jseliger.com/2009/09/20/say-everything-how-blogging-began-what-its-becoming-and-why-it-matters-%E2%80%94-scott-rosenberg . Disclaimer: the link goes to my personal site).

Bloggers seem to be almost compelled to define what they're doing. The ways they do so and metaphors they use vary enormously, although what that variation means I can't really say.

6:

Lenny, you seem to have wandered in here from fandom. I reckon that folks who are part of SF fandom (as self-defined -- I'm talking about apas, fanzines and con-going) are probably well under 20% of my readers. To them, the boutique portal sites are the SF community.

7:

I like how you put the Outersports dot com bit way down the page. They instigated the whole thing, apparently, but you don't give them satisfaction of making them central.

8:

Fine by me, "it's your dime" after all! I not only find your viewpoint interesting, I also like the Zen-like simplicity of your site. I'd probably go NUTS with all kinds of Bells & Whistles if I had a blog!

9:

I'm just glad you respond to this stuff once in awhile. :)

But don't take too much time away from writing your kick ass books!!!!

11:

Keep the opinions coming, they always provoke thought.

I may find some of the responses irritating, but I don't hold you responsible for them.

12:

"this blog is a soapbox where I bloviate about whatever interests me today."

Can I just say I am currently in the middle of a short term love affair with the word "bloviate." I don't know if I'm just seeing it everywhere because of my current word-crush, or if it's making a comeback into everyday vocabulary. I'll stop before this turns into a midnight drunkdial.

And cheers to your sentiment and all that. Seems appropriate...and odd that it has to be said from time to time.

13:

Mmmmm, Meta-blogging...

14:

That's okay, although if you're going to do it you should be aware that I track the online tech news sources voraciously

Hmm, in retrospect I could perhaps have looked up the Lego thing to check if it had been on Slashdot - I see it has. But I hope you have better things to do with your time and ego than be offended by the implication that you might have missed something some thoughtless person sent you just in case, though I realise that's several seconds of your life you will never get back etc. etc.

15:

You're a SF writer with a blog, and you insist you're *not* part of the online science fiction community? I can see why: most of those sites bore the living hell outta me. Yours is always interesting, so I'll keep reading as long as you care to blog.

Rt

16:

Charles: I lost a whole comment due to not previewing it. I'm evil. Anyway, instead of rewriting my comment I'll just bitch. Can you adjust the relationship betweent the Name/Email Address/URL labels and fields for the comments? Currently (in Firefox 3.5) it looks like the first field is for email and the second is for a URL. The third is for "Remember personal info? Comments".

17:

Craig: a major site re-design is in progress, but due to the risk of data loss and the size of the job I'm being vewy, vewy cautious. (Also, I'm not the graphic designer. I gave up on HTML circa 1996.)

18:

Oh dear, do not tor currently offer the shiny shiny incentive from affiliates? Still, it appears somewhat different to the spam fritters you mention at the end. I like tor though, they always seem to have interesting stuff on there, particularly the current serialisation of cory's makers.

On a different tack, how great is missile gap. Not read it before but i wanted more of that story. It sounds preposterous trying to describe it to someone but i don't think many writers could get away with it as successfully; which i knew from past form anyway. Thoroughly enjoyable. I thought i noticed parallels with the eschaton stories but i could have sworn this predates them.

19:

tim: no, "Missile Gap" was written in 2005. The Eschaton novels were mid-90s vintage (although "Iron Sunrise" was re-written in 2002-03).

20:

Mid-90s! I did not realise they were so far back; i do mourn for that broken universe. Thanks for replying.

21:

Yep, usenet was pretty broken, even at the turn of the century. At least, if your options were limited to rec.arts.sf.* groups or swhi(looking at two of them just now, they're the same people as in 2000, and they're doing exactly the same topics, with exactly the same excessively political slants.) But back then, what could you do?

Thank God for emergence of blogs and blogging. Hmmm . . . it's not just the greater variety, there's also the light and mostly reasonable - but firm - moderation policies that were usually unavailable in the old forums. No incursions by, say, He Who Must Not Be Named, JnBr.

22:

Tim (Charles): I too wish for a return to that universe.

23:

I like reading your blog. Most of the blogs I read are soapboxes, and yours has usually interesting stuff.

For me this post was probably good to read - I tend to assume people defend their own views, usually, so the reminder that you can play the devil's advocate is good.

Anyway, thanks for your writing, both this blog and your books.

24:

while I don't read here for news, I've found the blog to be a useful source for it at times. For example, the recent post about India's nuclear program encouraged me to look into that topic some more, in addition to reminding me about David McKay's "Without Hot Air".

25:

I second many of the comments above. I read your blog because it's an interesting conversation. I don't care what you had for breakfast in the morning or where you shop for shoes. Unless of course those shoes now come with RFID chips built in that allow for easy payment of tolls on privatized sidewalks.

26:

Wow, there's one online science fiction community? No wonder sales are falling. There should be dozens of the damn things.

Seriously though, keep the soapbox foaming. It's fun.

27:

@25-Tolls for Walking! Jeez,wayward there maybe politicians reading this :-0

28:

Makes perfect sense to me, sir. Also, by extrapolation, it supports your reasons for not doing Facebook.

On Facebook, I find myself making grumpy comments when someone posts the same hotlink / headline / thumbnail that I did, but I've added genuine commentary and URLs of real experts' opinions. Example:

In response to:
Jesse Dylan Insight. I wonder how long it will take it to being a drug?
Scientists discover gene that 'cancer-proofs' rodent's cells
Naked mole rat, the only known cancerless animal, has 2-tier defense against cancer
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-10/uor-sdg102609.php

I wrote:
Jonathan Vos Post
You're missing the point -- they are DIFFERENT from us in this respect. "Like many animals, including humans, the mole rats have a gene called p27 that prevents cellular overcrowding, but the mole rats use another, earlier defense in gene p16. Cancer cells tend to find ways around p27, but mole rats have a double barrier that a cell must overcome before it can grow uncontrollably." So no drug for US based directly on that. You've got to READ and think about the stories, not just post them and get into knee-jerk hype. Please.

You see, I am mid-range popular, with (as of this evening) 441 Facebook "friends." Currently they allow no more than 5,000.

So I see the same damned thing that I've been tracking for years maybe a half dozen times in the same day in my "news feed." *sigh*

Stay off Facebook as it is now, Mr. Stross. It would drive you nuts.

29:

RFID chips in yer shoes would make for interesting buidling security solutions.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 25, 2009 8:52 AM.

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