Micro.blog: a response to Manton and others, on finding topics of interests.

A reply to @manton and this thread about improving M.B.

Manton said:

There are really 2 parts to this: finding posts that already exist, and encouraging new posts in different topics. Micro.blog is still small, so the most value comes from solving both of those together.

Livejournal is the example that I thought of (and have experience with). Everyone who joins LJ automatically gets a personal blog which functions as their identity account. Furthermore, you can also create community blogs about any topic, but you need to have that requisite personal/identity blog to do that. Anyone can either “watch” a community blog without prerequisites, or fully join to get posting privileges. Your posts to the community blog reside there, but are identified by your LJ identity; your personal blog is separate to this.

I can see something analogous working on Micro.blog. Everyone already has a personal blog/domain. Perhaps there can be a way of creating the M.B equivalent of LJ’s “community blog” — a particular topic specified by user(s), which other bloggers can then “post” under. The blogger still owns their post on their blog, but M.B can congregate them based on these user-specified topics.

This is along the lines of @Cheri‘s suggestion of “tagmoji ambassador”. Yes, user-specified, user-owned, public, unmoderated tagging and community-building starts moving in Twitter’s direction, but perhaps this can be steered more towards Livejournal (private, moderated)?
** Bolded words were edited in later.

While tagmoji works well for general/functional categories, I’m of the opinion that they’re incapable of communicating the kinds of specificity that users desire; I already find Cheri’s examples of “writing”, “programming”, etc, too general to be of sustained benefit; one has to resort to a text search to supplement tagmoji’s limitations. That, and the inability to customize text-tags and/or tagmoji, already limits identification and retrieval of specific posts on M.B (and thus, finding like-minded users on M.B), as @bradenslen pointed out.

I suppose the next question is whether this kind of Livejournal-esque method of aggregating topical interests suits the vision and direction of Micro.blog.

(Apropos of writing a post on Bullet journalling…)

The sum total of my life can be measured in the volume of notes I’ve made over the years. I’ve generated reams and reams of notes about every aspect of life, both in analogue and digital form. All of it is ephemera: important in the moment, inconsequential in the long run.

This isn’t counting my novels in various states of completion, the “meta” notes and outlines surrounding those novels, my world-building encyclopaedias, and a decade of private hand-written journals.

The digital ephemera alone makes a memoir. It’s a totalizing record of my personal life. Someone can look through all of this, and know me so intimately. I’m glad none of this is online or accessible to anyone else.

There’s a scripture in the Bible that goes:

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which, if they were written one by one, I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would be written.

Book of John, chapter 21, verse 25

Boy I get it now. Jesus isn’t the only one doing that many things. The written records of my life are filling books already. And I’m still in my prime years.

The world cannot contain the fullness of a single human life.

Storycraft learnt from recent novels read. 🖋️

(1)
From Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: the gradual character revelation. Bardugo dribbles character development and revelations out across the entire novel. When one character trait is fully revealed, the same scene hints at a new character trait. And when that is revealed, a new one is hinted at. This continues for all the POV characters, well past the novel’s halfway mark; even into the climax and denouement are new character traits being revealed. This slow, “nested” revelations of character are the hooks that keep the reader engaged and engrossed, wanting to discover something new.

So I’ve been reviewing the character arcs in my novel. How can I stretch out the details and revelations of a character arc over time? Make a note of each scene where character development takes place, and structure the reveals/facts to reveal one thing but hint at the next.


(2)
From The Ladies of Mandrigyn by Barbara Hambly: how to introduce memorable characters and embed them in the reader’s mind from the first few words. Hambly is brilliant at writing vivid, memorable character introductions. The characters’ personalities shine through powerfully within the first sentence of their introductions. They’re unforgettable from the get-go… what’s more, their personalities continue to be strong and vivid as the story progresses.

I want to learn this sort of kick-ass character introductions. Does it involve developing 1-2 quirks for each character, and then amping them to the Nth degree? I’m still reading this novel, plenty of chance to study how Hambly does it.


(3)
From Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: project management for a creative endeavour, especially Kleon’s advice on maintaining analogue vs. digital workspaces. This dichotomy is extremely powerful for segregating different sets of information, and more importantly: the mental gear-switch required to operate in those disparate sets.

I used to keep both the manuscript and the revision meta in the digital space. I’m typically well-organized, but for a long time couldn’t figure out why my creative projects always ended up in organizational chaos. Creativity can’t be fully tamed into a structure — I’ve made peace with that — but this chaos was actually crippling my productivity and causing much discouragement. Then I started handwriting novel drafts last year, and had an epiphany about coupling mental processes to physical ones.

Now, my novel manuscript is in the digital workspace, while the the notes that guide the revision process (the “meta”) is in the analogue workspace. Doing the project vs. analyzing the project’s progress involve different mental processes. Hooking the mental gear-switch to the physical, visceral movement between analogue and digital workspaces is incredibly powerful. Now that I’m physically recording the meta with pen-and-paper, I’m way more organized, and no longer struggle with switching mental gears.

I think I write about as many words in the meta as I do in the novel manuscript, if not more. But now it’s helping, not hindering. Just have to make sure that it doesn’t metastasize and overwhelm the creativity.


(4)
From recent, inconstant attempts to post handwritten quotes from my current novel, A Dirge for the Amphiptere: Dear God, my handwriting is atrocious. And the photos aren’t even straight. So woeful! Time to practise penmanship again!


Part One of A Dirge for the Amphiptere is finished. 30 days to revise 17,000 words. It’s light-years better than the previous draft. And I’ve learnt so much about editing and the craft of weaving the myriad strands of character, plot, setting, and voice altogether into a coherent story. Lessons on how to not reveal character backstory too quickly, but drip-feed it instead. How to saturate the storytelling with setting/world-building — and just when you think you’ve soaked it properly, just how much more that you can still do. How hard it is to create idioms and proverbs from scratch that reflect the gestalt of an entire culture. And much more.

Part Two is next. It’s three times as long as Part One. I’m sitting at the opening chapter, seeing at myriad ways I can change it to make everything — character development, world-building — richer. Didn’t someone say that editing was a bottomless well? Where you can keep fishing in, at the expense of finishing a novel and moving on the write new ones?

Must keep going. I’m not going to meet my February deadline for finishing the full revision. Shooting for end March. Camp NaNoWriMo is in April, and I want to begin something new by then.

On this day.

Currently editing. A Dirge for the Amphiptere, ~68,000 words. Edit into Draft 4. Daily target: 3 days per chapter, for 27 chapters. Deadline: end February.

Now reading.
Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo. Heist caper in a lush fantasy world. The kind of book that is simultaneously intimidating (would I ever be able to write something this good?) and stimulating (of course I can, just keep writing), and a great story to analyze and study for craft. 5 stars.

Show Your Work!, Austin Kleon. It’s given me a new perspective on how to use social media for showcasing creative work. I have an idea of what to do with my blog now. 4 stars.

Now playing.
Fallen London, and looking forward to the very-soon release of Sunless Skies.
Slay the Spire, roguelike deck-builder. Great for quick, fun gaming fixes with endless variety in each run. 4 stars.
Riven: Sequel to MYST, puzzle adventure. The first PC game I ever bought and played (when I was 13 years old), and has remained evergreen and beloved. I’ve finally discovered all the “endings”, and enjoyed the exquisite sound design and superb live-acting. 5 stars.

Great world building resources. A Manual of Gesture. An Outline of English Speech-Craft. (Both courtesy of @ayjay) The History of English podcast.

Recently learnt. Cynghanedd. Old English alliterative verse. Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie by Longfellow, written in epic verse (viz. discussion with fellow writer about poetic metre and conventions).
The Winchester rifle; must study firearm tech & dev over time. The Diolkos, a rudimentay railway in Ancient Greece.

Newly discovered. The joys of using fountain pens. I’ve never understood the obsession with stationery, but having tried out a fountain pen and inks over Christmas break, I get it now. Nevermore will I use cheap ballpoint pens again.

Weird dream.

Last night I dreamt about Serbian guerilla fighters in a muddy field beneath a looming cliffside containing a network of caves. The sky was cloudy and overcast, and it was all damp and probably drizzling. I was in the field, dug into the grass and mud, and then I was inside the cliffs with the soldiers, who were all dressed in blue uniforms, tramping through the tunnels, talking about Skopje and strategizing about some important mission there.

M. and I. were in the caves with me. They’ve been on my mind recently, and M. comes from a European country but is decidedly not Serbian. Apart from that tenuous link, I have absolutely no connections to the Balkans.

Sometimes, a weird dream is just a weird dream.

Appreciation for Micro.blog.

(I ended my M.B hosting subscription before I thought of making a final post on vega.micro.blog, so this will have to do.)

I’ve moved fully to my own domain. Now blogging at v.hierofalco.net, which includes the posts that were originally on vega.micro.blog. That M.B blog has been mothballed, but I’m still on the M.B social-media front.

Many thanks to Micro.blog for hosting vega.micro.blog for a short while. A few months, but they were important ones. If I hadn’t found M.B, I probably would’ve remained adrift in social media, ignorant of the Indieweb and the decentralized Internet, for a long while yet. If M.B hadn’t hosted me first, I wouldn’t have regained the desire and drive to have my own domain/website again. In a way, M.B was a midwife to reviving my webmastering hobby, and continues to prompt conversation and personal reflection on what social media means to me, and what goods and ills it brings into my life.

Thank you, @manton and Micro.blog. Keep up the good work; you don’t know what kind of impact you’re making on people.

💡 Things learnt today: Kandyan dance.

I work with a Sri Lankan colleague. What began as a discussion about Bollywood’s popularity in Sri Lanka (last night’s radio show still on the brain) ended in her describing Kandyan dance, a classical dance form indigenous to her home region. (The Kingdom of Kandy was one of the last sovereign kingdoms in Sri Lanka to fall to Portuguese colonists.) She called it “the king’s dance”, and it was a religious ritual performed by vassals before the king. When she learnt Kandyan dancing it was in the form of story. Every movement has a meaning, and together the movements form a story that makes the learning memorable.

Some YouTube videos. Fascinating. It distantly resembles classical Indian dance forms, with their intricate, symbolic gestures that each have a sacred meaning.

Weird Indieweb idea of the day: guestbooks.

If the Indieweb is reviving “Web 1.0” artifacts that foster a sense of community, such as site directories and webrings, I’d like to see a comeback of guestbooks. I remember how you could sign up with a guestbook host — they did all the scripting/hosting, and you pasted a link on your webpages to “sign guestbook” and “view guestbook”, and watched as visitors signed in over time. In the days of static websites, those were delightful methods of public, mutual discovery, through leaving a mark on someone’s website while also including a link to your own. At least, they were delightful before the spammers and big commerce arrived.

I suppose it’s still possible to make a “guestbook” by pinning a static page on your blog that people can comment on. Comments on a blog’s post seem to be the present-day equivalent to guestbook signings on a static, mute website. That doesn’t have the same feel as “sign guestbook” and “view guestbook”, though.

Something to try out one day when the site has gotten off the ground. But I’m a little doubtful that guestbooks will catch on. For one, the Internet is a very different place, and when the manual act of signing guestbooks has been replaced by automated metrics and anonymous trackers, this “neighbourly” practice has been lost. But it’s worth a go to see what kind of people might bother to sign a guestbook.

Hugo is a winner.

Installed Hugo and playing with it. This is incredible. All the laboriousness of coding webpages has been automated. Hugo can handle all the rote tasks, and I can get on with making content in markdown instead of stuffing around with markup. Most of my online presence is suited to static webpages, but has been spread around social media because I didn’t quite have the tools to build everything I wanted. Hugo offers a way to do that. Consolidation FTW. The days of finally leaving Tumblr, WordPress, Wordnik, Instagram, and Twitter are on the horizon.

Things to do:
Find a good website theme, or learn how to make one. How to make one theme adapt to different content types.

How to syndicate a static blog/site on RSS?

How to integrate Hugo into my existing creative workflow, and then publish everything online, with the least amount of friction. FTP is too much friction.

Hugo’s local server, and Writemonkey‘s abillity to bind its database to independent files, may be the keys to some of my writing workflow problems.