Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Spitting the dummy, 2010 edition

I think this is a great illustration to add on to my last post about unfollowing on Twitter.

The past week has seen a firestorm in a part of the net that I regularly lurk around. I didn't even notice it happening and only know those involved by name and reputation. So I am not pretending to know any details or to pass any sort of judgment on any of the players.

The fallout is interesting though. One of the players is relatively well known in the scene. It seems that someone upset him. A great deal, if this last twitter post is anything to go by:

And to judge by the link from the twitter profile, he was serious

I know children who would have trouble topping a dummy spit like that.

Gotta say, I understand the urge to pick up my marbles and go home. But surely a more sensible (not to say mature) response would have been to:

  • turn off comments on my blog (leaving the useful information there for those not involved in annoying me in the first place)

  • protect my tweets (perhaps blocking certain followers at the same time)

  • unsubscribing from offending RSS feeds

  • never going back to certain forums

  • Say nothing. Nothing at all.

All of which would at least leave the door open for a gracious return to the fold (if desired) once the fires have all died down. Rather that using the fire to burn all of his bridges.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

To Unfollow or not to Unfollow?

To the best of my knowledge, unfollow is not a real word.

On Twitter, it is. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that anyone really understands the importance (if any) of the word. I include myself in that statement.

To the uninitiated, when you follow someone on Twitter it means that everything they tweet (except for their replies to other people) shows up on your timeline. It doesn't mean that they see anything you have to say. They can (of course) choose to follow you and then they will.

Unfollowing on the other hand is simply the reverse. For whatever reason (and there are many) you decide you don't want to see that person's tweets any more. You tell that to Twitter and no more unwanted tweets on your screen.

One of the great things about Twitter (as opposed to something like Facebook) is that it can be as one-sided as you like (the term asynchronous gets used). If I'm interested in what @williamshatner has to say, I can follow him. I'm sure he has no interest in my self-obsessed tweets, so he is not following me. He could if he wanted to, but he has almost 190,000 followers so he'd probably get a bit lost if he followed them all back. And The Shat is a minnow of the Twitter world.

So here I get to the dilemma. If I am following someone and they are following me, I can unfollow them. And I have done on a number of occasions. But not without a great deal of thought. When there is a two-way follow going on, normally that means you have some sort of relationship with that other person. Even just a virtual one. And breaking it on one side only is one of those yet-to-be-defined areas of etiquette.

Here's a few examples (names change to protect... well, me. Mostly):

  • Daniel, who I met through twitter. Saw one of his tweets in a search in an area of interest and started to follow him. Through @replies he noticed me and followed back. We shared a number of interesting conversations. But eventually I realised that he was taking up half of my timeline and most of his tweets were retweets. With some hesitation, I unfollowed. The world has not ended.

  • Alison, who I knew pre-twitter through another online forum. Unfortunately, her behaviour on Twitter was much different to that on the other forum. Couldn't go two tweets without badmouthing someone. Unfollowed.

  • Davy, another Tweep who I share a common interest with. Only recently hooked up on Twitter, but unfollowed already. A rabid anti-Christian with a selection of tweets that really made me want to fight back. The last thing I need is to start a flame war. Unfollow.

  • And just to show my lack of bias: Acme Christian Ministry. Only followed for a short time before realising that they kept using a URL shortener that pulled up all sorts of annoying ads. Sent them a couple of @replies to ask them to change to something less obnoxious which were not even acknowledged. Too annoying. Unfollowed.

A little disclaimer: I did not write the above to show everyone how bad the above are. They're not. I was trying to illustrate the reasons why Twitter users might not want to follow others any longer. Some are personal, some are important, some aren't.

Since I discovered Twitter last year, I have regularly commented that it is fun. If you have people in your timeline that are interfering with your fun, then quietly let them go.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Head out the Bladesage Gate

The front gate to the magical fortress town of Bladesage is now open.

Please join me as I expand and explore a fascinating world of conjurers, dread beasts, brave adventurers and the marvellous spirit of a community rebuilding itself after apocalypse.

Our companions on this journey will be Swords & Wizardry, Mythic Game Master Emulator, National Novel Writers Month, Script Frenzy, Project52 and anyone else I can dragoon into service.

Bladesage is a graft from my personal blog, Can You Spell Cacophony? and you will find my initial posts over there (Here Comes The Bladesage, The Conjurers’ War and The Locusta). No doubt I'll transplant them over here eventually but I figure it's a bit of a cheat with respect to Project 52, so perhaps not just yet.

So thanks for your company. Please subscribe to the RSS feed and don't hesitate to leave a comment anywhere you feel the need.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

I really love vampires #fatfib

The above title was from a retweet that appeared on my timeline recently. It was tweeted by a literary agent and retweeted by another. Why would two people who are prone to receiving fantasy fiction have such a low view of such an important resident of Western fiction?
I got thinking about Vampires and their presence in literature last year when a friend tweeted a link to an this article: Why women love vampires and men don't.
There are two main points in the article that I'd like to have a look at:
  • Women love bad boys and the chance to change him, writer says
  • Writer says a vampire is a monster, who looks, acts, and talks like a man
Without getting into a debate about what women do or do not love, I'd just like to say that these particular points are somewhat contradictory. No, perhaps contradictory is a bit too harsh. Just that perhaps the second point is so much more significant than the first that the bad-boy-loving women don't realise how little chance they have of changing the monster.
A couple of years ago, I finally got around to reading Dracula (I love Project Gutenberg). Dracula is (of course) the archetypal literary vampire. A bad boy? Most certainly. Going to be changed by any woman? I don't think so.
Before we go any further, let's just make this clear: Dracula is Evil. Not just a bad boy, evil. Flashman was a bad boy. Heathcliffe was a bad boy (or at least became one). Wickham was a bad boy. Not Dracula.
Having said that, I can see how the tendency to move away from the monstrous and towards the sophisticated and beautiful creature of the night started with Dracula. He played the part of a Lord well. He was polite and clever and interesting. He was well dressed. Mysterious. He was also very attractive to women, but that was as much his supernatural power as anything else. But it was all just for show. He only acted and appeared like that so that he could live among his prey.
James Maliszewski reviewed Dracula in his Pulp Fantasy Library reviews. He said in his conclusion:
I find vampires to be both attractive and repulsive: attractive, because the idea of nearly-immortal damned souls stalking the night is a terrifying one; repulsive, because too few people nowadays look on vampires as unambiguously evil ... I think there's still a lot of punch left in vampires but most of that punch comes from contemplating their status as thralls of Hell (whether literally or metaphorically) rather than as forever-young demigods.
Wil Wheaton was a little less polite:
I'm so old, I remember when vampires were scary and awesome, and they only sparkled in daylight before bursting into flames
Before anyone else says it, I'm not trying to say that all vampires should be exactly like Dracula. Vampires (of various varieties) have existed in folklore for centuries and almost as long in literature. Dracula was just the one (thanks to Stoker and also to Bela Lugosi) that captured the public imagination. I haven't looked far but I haven't found any serious mention of vampires (recent literature excluded) that are just mostly bad and actually quite good on the inside, like an undead version of the Leader of the Pack.
I particularly like the vampires of the Dresden Files. While there are various breeds of vampires (the Black Court being "Stoker-standard") they are all monsters. They are all (as Butcher puts it) "supernatural predators" who are basically just out to eat us. On the odd occasion where this is not true (The Brotherhood of St Giles, the odd White Court Vampire like Thomas) they are really just the exception that proves the rule.
My point? If it's not broken, don't fix it. Dracula-stereotyped vampires are cool. They are true vampires. If you want to mess with the archetype, then do so in a cool and original way.
I'll leave you with another @wilw tweet that was just too good to leave out:
Lost Boys was a little silly but still ultracool, and Near Dark is the best vampire movie ever made. SUCK IT SPARKLEDORKS.
A disclaimer: I have neither read Twilight nor seen the big-screen version. I'm sure I shall one day (and, just like Harry Potter, I will no doubt do so in secret to preserve my precious reputation) but I'm one who tends to avoid pop-culture (of any sort) while everyone is still talking about it.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

I like... Apollo Up!

Carrying on from lasts week's post. The last.fm group is up and running and even has a few members. I've started a thread where we can put in our recommendations for music others may not have heard. In the interests of saving me from thinking of something new to post, I have stolen my first recommendation from there to put here...

Apollo Up! are a fairly straight forward rock trio. To be honest, there is nothing particularly imaginative or inventive about their music but I have loved it ever since I first heard Walking The Plank when it was featured on some mp3 blog.

The music is on the heavier side but still firmly in the middle of a "Rock" genre. No metal influence, very little punk influence and no electronics. Lead singer Jay Leo Phillips has a voice very reminiscent of Elvis Costello (only harder) and it was that suggestion that made me want to listen in the first place.

They have their own band page where you will find a selection of tracks from their albums to download to get you started. There are also some on last.fm to stream.

If you like them enough to want to spend some money on them, their albums are available on Amie Street and are still very cheap there (cheap as in just over $5 would get you everything!).

To get you started, my favourite track is "The Job's A Game" (a short but powerful song, not streamed or free I'm afraid) but of the free downloads, check out "Walking The Plank" and "Guilty Fever".