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don’t forget to love

I love my partner and the above card from meish.org is why. Sickening isn?t it. But it captures my feelings about V-day perfectly. The following rant, however, rambles a bit and I apologize for that.

Once again, another date looms dictating how we should be feeling. Having just clawed our way to sobriety after our joyful blow-out of the Holiday Season, it?s been decreed by those forces from the chocolate/greeting card/flower mafia that this month?s feeling is: Love.

It?s time when everything from your drugstore to your dentist’s office is draped in hearts and cupids, telling us that we should be thinking about romance, love and all that other stuff.

I am so glad that our year is divided into monthly parcels of emotion by those loving corporations. I?m glad Valentine?s Day is here to tell me to love my partner. Without the good people at Hallmark to give me the nudge, I would never express my love for her.

And when we?re all loved out and the 14th is just a memory, those hearts and cupids turn into shamrocks and leprechauns telling us to be thankful that we?re Irish ? even if you?re not. And let me tell you, there is nothing more annoying than being Irish on St. Patrick?s day. In March everything is green (and no one hears the Irish scream.) It?s time to buy green greeting cards, green chocolate and green beer.

March?s shamrocks become April?s eggs, and even if you are not Christian ? it?s time to celebrate Easter. If Jesus ain?t your style, thankfully we?ve been given a little bunny to help us buy cards, chocolate and flowers again.

When we?ve gorged ourselves on christ and chocolate, May rolls around and the big stick comes down from the sky (or maybe it?s from Hallmark?s HQ?) to whack us into thanking our mothers for being around. How do we show our love: cards, chocolate and flowers.

Dad gets his turn in June and that?s great, because you probably haven?t thought about him in last 12 months. This time chocolate and flowers take a break but the cards still make a strong showing.

We?re only halfway through the year, but you get the idea.

I hate being told who I should love each month. I love my partner, my parents and that little damn bunny all year round. I feel I display that every time I see them (well, maybe not every time.) These fixed dates of love and recognition only serve as ritual bowing and scraping at whichever altar the card/chocolate/flower companies have decreed for that month. How different will this afternoon?s rush to get a last minute gift be from my last minute rush to the store on December 23rd?

I know, I know, there?s an easy solution: make a card, bake a cake. Reclaim the holiday from the corporations. It?s our laziness that keeps us buying their pre-fab, we-planted-trees-to-replace-this-card cards.

You?re right. I?ll go do that. Sorry for bothering you.

internal editor be gone!

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from your novel at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.”
– What is NaNoWriMo? – from nanowrimo.org

50 000 words in a month?! That?s crazy but it sounds like fun. And that?s the idea behind the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo ? to you and me.)

I first heard about this idea from Richard MacManus (whose 2003 NaNoWriMo effort is on my hard drive waiting to be read) and I immediately loved it.

Writers are in constant battle with that nagging internal editor that shouts, hisses and spits ?This sucks, that sucks, you suck!? with every punch of every key. He?s whispering in my ear right now, if you?re real quiet you?ll hear him ? shhh, listen.

The bastard.

NaNoWriMo shuts up the internal editor and lets you get on with the job at hand ? producing your masterpiece. Okay, it won?t be a masterpiece. Chances are it will suck. But it?s a 1st draft. A start. Something to build upon. (Alternatively, you could screw the rewrites and just publish it as an ebook, as everyone else seems to do.)

If you?re a writer (even if you aren’t) and you have an idea just waiting to get out, November is your chance. Unplug the phone, cancel the cable, buy some whiskey and get writing.

star-bellies revisited

After much debate and much snooping over my partners shoulder, I?ve decided to accept her invitation to Orkut.

You want stars like a star-bellied sneetch? My friends,  you can have them for three dollars each!
Despite my Sneetches rant from the other day, I still feel a bit weird about being in something that is ?invite only.? But after seeing some of the other people in there, I realised that exclusive is not a word I?d use to describe it.

What really got me were the Communities. I thought Orkut was simply going to be a database of people like LinkedIn (which I haven?t really explored either) or Friendster. But I was wrong. In addition to profiles, friends, etc there are forums that are open to discussion. Now that I can get interested it.

Right now, it seems that everybody is leaving their A material for their blogs. Some communities have 65 members and only one topic thread. Hopefully some interesting debate will be created (I know things in the Tron forum are really heating up!)

So, it is with a bit of humility that I step off my soapbox and into the world of Orkut. I?m on the 30-day trial version, so we?ll see where it goes. So far I?m impressed with the topics but not with the calibre of conversation. If it doesn?t pick up, I think I?ll drop out and buy a cat.

access is king

Jumped over to Douglas Rushkoff?s blog today and that led me to this interesting article he wrote for TheFeature.com about owning data.

The traditional view held that when you buy a book, CD, DVD or any other form of content, you own that content (and are thus responsible for storing it.) But the truth has always been that what you are buying is the right to access that text or those tunes.

And while this truth hasn?t changed, delivery methods have. This is dispelling the illusion, and hopefully the appeal, of data ownership and management. Having access to data, becomes more desirable than actually having the data.

The point of access over ownership is driven home by millions of Kazaa users everyday and now by some major players in the music industry. By emphasising access over ownership, Peter Gabriel?s Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists seeks to define the music label of the future without trying to own the music.

Cory Doctorow is doing the same with print. By downloading his latest book online readers don?t get any less ownership of the book?s data as they would if they paid money for the nicely printed and bound version at a traditional retail bookstore. Same data, same rights, different delivery method.

As a freelance writer, I am constantly dealing with rights, but I am only realising this very recently. And I?m wondering how I can use these new delivery methods to my advantage. As with the old delivery systems, wide distribution is still the key to success ? people will only download if they know where to find you (and who the heck you are.)

A few posts ago, I gave ebooks a bit of a bashing despite the record growth in sales they experienced in 2003. I do respect ebooks for the way they address ownership of content. When digital delivery systems are more refined, ebooks, libraries and publishers will be able to take full advantage of data access over ownership.

The libraries already have a head start. They were built on access over ownership. Publishers were too. They just never wanted to break it to the customer.

orkut?s star-bellied sneetches

Today my partner got invited to Orkut. And it has raised some interesting questions in our blog-filled home.

Of all the first-generation social software knocking around web, Orkut has received the most flack. From Danah Boyd to Cory Doctorow, Orkut has been much maligned and bashed. But why?

I think the main flaw is that membership to Orkut is by invitation only.

Like the star-bellied Sneetches of Dr. Seuss?s short story, Orkut is dividing the blogosphere beach into two camps: those who are ?in? and those who are ?out?.

Invitation only clubs, like Orkut are, by their very nature, built upon an agreement of exlusivity. As long as everybody who is “in” agrees to believe in the value of being “in”, being “in” remains valuable. It all fails when people like anti-mega get “in” and offers to pass on an invitation to anyone who asks for it. When the door is jammed open, the agreement is broken and the party starts looking pretty stale.

What happens when everyone gets a star on their belly and can proudly claim membership to Orkut? Will not belonging Orkut be cool? Maybe not, but I?m sure its e-bay value will plummet.

I?m not writing off all social networks ? I can see their purpose. I?m LinkedIn and I think it?s a good service because it’s honest in what it’s about: networking for business creation (whether that?s selling art or selling homes.) I know the others have business possibilities, but they wrap it up in that “meet cool people, be cool people” hype, which is as juvenile as the software’s first-gen status.

Personally, I think my RSS feed is a great social software tool. I think Dave Pollard’s vision of the second-gen social software will operate closer to that model. In the short time I?ve been blogging, I?ve met some pretty interesting people and read some great writing via my blog. Already a few familiar names pop up in my comments box, and mine in theirs, and I feel a connection growing. Isn?t sharing ideas and contacts the essential goal of social software?

I?m very proud of my star-bellied Orkut partner and I don?t resent her invitation in the least. From the day I met her, I knew she was smart, sharp, cultured, activated, turned on, jacked in, linked up, kind, warm, fun, one of a kind and my favourite person on the planet. And her invitation to Orkut is not surprising.

With her signed up, Orkut doesn?t know how lucky it is.

Star-bellied or not, she?ll always be the heart of my social software. Hers is the only exclusive club to which I want to belong.