Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Goodbye Google Plus

I've always liked Google+. A friend of mine managed to get into the launch "beta" and gave me a code to join. The UI was clean, the concept of Circles for different content meant multiple focused timelines, and most of all it was a pretty booming place to be.

A lot of people are going to put different reasons why Google+ failed. It is true Facebook took most of the best features, like Circles. It is true that Google launched with no real plan. And to a certain extent, it is true that Google+ was a solution in search of a problem.

Google did their best to try and jam Google+ in places to artificially make it indispensable. They implemented a "real name" policy that they later ignored. It was the "one sign-in" for all their services. To target the younger demographics, they made it a requirement to have a Google+ account for YouTube, which borked the comment system for a long time. The mission of Google+ changed here too. It was the place to post and then cross-post to other social media. Then Photos, the bright spot of the service (still is), was spun off to its own thing. Then YouTube integration was decoupled.

They also never dealt with spammers and bots. It's the worst. Even on official Google pages and posts. Look at when the post about feature additions, and you'll see spam for sex and free movies. At that point, you can't respect them for not cleaning up the trash that was right in front of them.

Here's a rant from Steve Yegge, former Google employee, about why Google can't understand what building a platform means.

All these points are correct. Google+ had issues that an institution like Google never knew how to correct, which meant the individuals could never actually fix anything. It wasn't until a year or so ago that Google opened the API for apps like Buffer and Hootsuite to cross-post on. Originally, Google allowed "pages", but by the time people built up a following, they didn't want to shift everyone over so they can make their life easier. By the time they fixed this, it was too little that was far too late.

But even in a rough form, it had good points. A nice look. Good search on posts and users. Communities. Collections. The perfect way to portray posts, or images, or just share links. And I mean this on desktop and on mobile.

Who can forget, no ads.

Still, the loss of Google+ is another sign we live in the monopoly of Facebook, which owns the most popular social media platforms. Facebook cleaved individuals and small businesses when they changed the algorithm to extort money from them. Facebook determines what you see from friends and family, instead of, you know, letting you decide what you want to see. I'm not going to mention the social experimenting they do on people, or the fact they were weaponized by foreign agents. This is not a healthy industry, and it's not getting any better.

I blogged about taking back digital real estate, and hopefully the demise of a platform held by one of the most powerful companies in the world is a wake up call. Facebook will use users. Twitter will ignore users. And everyone else is too small to do anything else.

Strangely enough, email is still around. WordPress now powers a third of all sites on the Internet. Newspapers are seeing an increase. Physical book sales are rebounding.

Last point, from the places I frequent, the demise of Google Plus has been little to nil. Some places don't even recognize Google+ anymore. Others gave a passing mention with a low comment/post count in tow. No one cares anymore.

But silver linings, because they always exist. Like the Google Photos example mentioned before, Google is good about taking what works and expanding on it. Google+ will be used for enterprise use. This seems to mean turning it into a Slack competitor, so something about the core architecture will remain.

My recommendation is the same from an earlier post, have all your social media lead back to the home you own (your domain). Personally, I use Buffer to post to my Facebook page, Twitter account, and Google+ account. This helps me especially with Twitter. I still receive notifications, but the day-to-day mess that is Twitter is draining on every level. Facebook barely lets me see what my friends are up to in a chronological, and let's face it, logical or intuitive level.

It's all a mess.

What I loved about Google+ was I could switch to friends, to art, to news, all on one account, with very little funny business. The times are over. The Internet is getting smaller, not bigger. I'll miss it. It has the features and control we all want from its competitors.

I can always be found here. Social media is for readers to reach out for me wherever is reasonable. If you want to talk about Tyyr, or what Alana and Karlyn are up to, or whatever other books release. These things are here for you. There's always an old-fashioned email listed as well. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

SPFBO4 99cent Sale!

The major news for all of you is a gigantic 99c sale going on for SPFBO4!

The SPFBO4 is organized by author Mark Lawrence, and ran by a very lovely panel of reviewers. They run this each year, and each year some incredible looking stories show up.  Since Fragile Nights is a contestant, it is included in this sale. All participating authors involved in the contest are listing their books for $0.99. With a contest of 300 books, that’s a lot of money to spend at full price. If you’re interested in reading fresh fantasy novels, comb through the page here to put in your online basket.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Digital and Minimal

Summertime cleaning is underway.

Recently I've gotten back to putting several products worth (some) value on eBay. This is in an effort to declutter my life, and earn a little extra scratch on top of that. Not everything I own is valuable. So many things picked up are disposable. They lose any sort of value right away, which makes selling them online not worth collecting the pennies and dollars over them.

It's times like these where I appreciate turning digital a few years ago. A Bookbub enters my email. I read through it, see a book that looked promising, and then buy it on my Nook. My Nook collection is over 180 titles. Combine that with over 100 on my Kindle, the dozen or so books on my Kobo account, and the collection I have on Smashwords, and you have more books than you know what to do with. And that says nothing about the physical books stacked on top of one another in the house.

But my Nook never gets heavier. A few years ago I had to reorganize my books. It was on that day I vowed never to do it again.

Going digital wasn't that hard. I mean, I've already done it in several areas of my life already. Netflix and Hulu make sure I'm not storing a stack of Blu-Rays for films I never truly cared for. There are 197 titles on my Steam account, and 147 on my GOG account (Huzzah for no DRM!). I listen to music through my phone.

That isn't to say I no longer buy physical things. There's a nice copy of Blade Runner 2049 sitting on a stand. I collect all things Lupin the 3rd when Discotek releases a new DVD. Some comics never made the Comixology jump. So yeah, I still collect 'stuff', but these are objects with more sentimental value.

This still-sealed limited edition of Stranger of Sword City gives me no sentimentality whatsoever. Also you can buy it on Steam for $10 when it's on sale.

Digital has given me more freedom, space, and saved me quite a bit of money too. It also helped me see what is valuable. Truly valuable. Books is one of those things I consider always a worthy investment. It's difficult to say that with games, movies, or even music. The minimal startup costs associated with a book (time and a computer) make it far more accessible to experience a more diverse and interesting spectrum than other mediums.

Which is a reason I carry my Nook everywhere with me. It's the reason I read comics on a tablet now. If Marvel didn't loss lead with Gwenpool Vol 1, I may not have ever read it. And what I would have missed out on!

Just my thoughts on the matter. The past week or so I wake up a few hours earlier due to my body learning a new sleep schedule (???). This has allowed me to catch up on some much needed reading due to the Nook Glowlight 3's night mode when it's pitch black outside. Easy on the eyes and easing up on the backlog.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

RIP Harlan Ellison

A world without Harlan Ellison is not a world worth living in. Thankfully in our timeline we do have Harlan Ellison.

Harlan Ellison was a lot of things. You can absolutely scour Twitter and all kinds of interviews that fill out what you think is important. Lots of good stories about the man Harlan Ellison was. But if I can have a moment, one second of time to tell you an important part, maybe the most important, is that Harlan Ellison was honest with himself.

As an aspiration for fellow writers, Ellison is the gold standard. Not because of his prose (although it's quite good). Not because of his attitude (although it was quite loud). But because of his honesty. He was able to delve right into his soul that made him tick. Some people lose their imagination or creativity as they grow up. Not Harlan. All of those things were on tap. It seemed at the press of a button, he could create a story out of thin air. And not just any old story, but a damn good one!

I recommend those videos, interviews, and his own writing because they get to the biggest part of his personality. Himself.

Harlan had big opinions on video games, on collectible card games, on fiction. On life, really when you think about it. He filled himself all the movies, and music, and art, and whatever else you can imagine that made Harlan feel the way he felt.

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite parts in Harlan Ellison's Watching, where he discusses the animated film Mr. Bug Goes to Town. You can find it in the introduction.

[I never did get to see the complete Mr. Bug Goes to Town until something like the mid-Sixties when it became available on videocassette. Today I have it in my private collection, and every once in a while, far more often than the quality of the film commends, I take it down and watch it. My wife has emerged from sleep in the wee hours to find me sitting cross-legged on the living room floor, watching insects.]

He was an example of being true to yourself. We are all better from his presence, because his presence meant that we could do better. We can be better. Harlan Ellison's passing leaves a hole, not because of what we lost, but because of what we had.

If there is one lesson to be taken from his life and body of work, is that to let your loves flow through you, and don't compromise on who you are, because there is only one of you.