Geek As Citizen: Boost The Signal – The Basics

Paper And Stars

So as noted, if you want to Boost The Signal on good works (as opposed to complaining about the bad), you need to take an Ambassador mindset. You have to choose to represent good works or a good work in a human, connecting, conscious way – as opposed to evangelizing or being annoying.

But, what do you do as this newly self-designated ambassador? I’m glad you asked because I’m happy to order people around. Here’s the basics.

Leave A Review. Seriously, we’re often bad at this. Leave a review on a website about the work in question so people can see it. It takes a few minutes and its worth it. I know I could do this more myself.

Leave A Review II. There are sites like Goodreads or Yelp or LinkedIn that let you review, comment, or recommend books, things, and people. Leave a review there. That artist you met who did some work for you could use a LinkedIn reference, that great indie bookstore needs a Yelp review. Also keep in mind there are multiple review sources.

Tell People. Don’t be annoying (remember: Ambassador) but take a moment to tell people about the work when appropriate. You might be worried about overdoing it, so use your common sense. An example for me is that when a co-worker decried bad science fiction, I told him about Flight of the Vajra (and now that you’re reading this, I told you).

Tell People 2. Just found a great anime, bookstore, comic, etc.? Take time to tell people on social media. Again, don’t spam, but go out of the way to mention it and tag things properly. You never know how far a message can spread.

Gift Time. If something is good, and you want to share it, share it with others. That great manga series is a perfect birthday present. That fantastic movie in the Criterion collection is something you can toss to a friend who wants something to read.

(also notice I just plugged the Criterion collection)

Donate. Donate some of the media you want to promote if possible. Give it to libraries, schools, bookshops, use as prizes, etc. Some people promote themselves this way; you can promote others as well – again, just don’t overdo it.

Tell the Author. Liked a book or series? Tell the author. Write them. Let them know you care. They probably need the feedback and would like the boost, especially if they’re a bit obscure. Always offer to help give them a nudge or a boost.

These are basic things you can do now that you decided to be an Ambassador. But there’s more you can do if you really want take it far, and I’ll cover that next . . .

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

One Third Of Americans Have Debt In Collections

OK Econogeeks and non-econogeeks, this is interesting news.  One third of us have debt in collections, but the details on debt are fascinating and relevant to those of us who watch markets as well as careerists.

  • Consumer Debt isn’t easily distributed.
  • Mortgage debt is a huge part of debt – and isn’t evenly distributed.
  • Non-mortgage debt IS more evenly distributed.
  • Debt can correlate with income – but collection debt is also correlated with lower income.

Lots of useful information here!

 

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Meet Thomas Anderson of Schlock Value

There are great books. There are bad books. But then there’s those weird, obscure, strange, trashy-yet-intriguing novels we’ve all seen over the years. That cover that stuck in our heads as it was weird, that strange thing we think we read once.

Thomas Anderson of Schlock Value picks up these strange books, reads them, and analyzes them. However he’s not looking for stuff to make fun of or mock, he’s diving into these little unpolished gems and weird findings with an open mind and an inquisitive approach. Yes, in many cases he finds utter dreck that he’s glad to document, but he also finds half-masterpieces and hidden gems, and even some bad ideas that can be salvaged.

He documents this all at his website, exploring his findings in detail and discussing the adventures that came about in finding them. Each is a little, personal tale of his encounter with a book. This is Applied Geek, so of course I’m interviewing him!

1) OK, Thomas, with so much good stuff, what made you choose to dive into the odder, forgotten genre fiction?

Before I started reading cheap pulps and that sort of thing I found myself reading works that, on the main, were by masters of the craft. It was probably around my tenth time reading something like Dune or Stranger in a Strange Land that I realized that I wasn’t learning anything new about writing. I’d hoped that I could write some fiction of my own someday and realized that maybe it would be a good idea to read some real trash to find out what not to do. The blog developed out of that, mainly as a way of seeing if I could create a project from scratch and stick with it. You know Jonathan Coulton’s “Thing a Week?” I basically stole his idea.

2) How do people react to your hobby and your site?

My roommate is as enthusiastic as I am about it and chews me out if I’m late getting a post up or if he catches me not reading when I should be. Another friend of mine is convinced I’m a masochist and wonders when I’ll move on to some other kind of self-torture. My mom is proud but confused at her son’s choice of hobby, as is often the way motherhood seems to go. Other people, especially when I first tell them about the books I review, seem to react generally positively. Occasionally somebody catches me on the bus or in the breakroom at work with a particularly juicy piece of trash. That has led to some good conversations.

3) Has anyone who wrote one of these books ever contacted you, and how did they react?

Not yet, and that’s something I both hope for and dread. I figure if any author ever finds me and responds, it’s probably because I reamed them for being a hack when, in their mind, the book was their baby. Since I tend toward books from the fifties through the seventies, though, it turns out that quite a few of the authors are dead by this point. There are plenty of exceptions, but I guess they either don’t have a Google alert tied to their names or they just figure I’m not worth it. One author I fantasize about meeting and having a beer with is Chet Cunningham, one of the authors of the Penetrator novels.

4) It seems you find, frankly, some terrible stuff. What is the most common lessons writers can learn from your worst findings?

One thing that tends to get me really riled up is when an author throws in a random sex scene that has no point and, worse yet, is completely juvenile and clueless. It happens a lot. Sometimes it’s horrifying.

The other thing that I complain about a lot is when the protagonist of a book has absolutely no agency. Things just happen to him or her. They get bounced around from scene to scene like that psychology experiment where you don’t see the guy in the gorilla suit. Sometimes that’s okay. I understand that sometimes all you need is little more than a viewpoint character. But when the narrator or the other characters in the book go on and on about how skilled and smart and awesome this person is…then it begins to enter the realm of the awful.

5) You also find some things that have great ideas, if flawed issues. What are some of the best ideas you’ve seen in these odd books?

A recent one that stands out comes from Behold the Stars by Kenneth Bulmer (review). It featured a long-range matter transmitter that was used to colonize the galaxy, although the transmitter needed a receiving station so they still had to send out spaceships. Pity the book was so boring. House of Zeor (review) and its sequels by Jacqueline Lichtenberg feature a future humanity that has become split in a way rather akin to the sexes. It was more complicated than that and often pretty squicky, but it stuck with me. And then there’s one of my favorites, S.T.A.R. Flight by E.C. Tubb (review), which features a world dominated by what everybody thinks are aliens but, in fact, turn out just to be humans from a parallel universe. That book was fantastic.

6) If there was one book you reviewed that you think deserves wider attention what would it be?

That honor would probably go to a book with the unlikely name of Black in Time. It’s by John Jakes, the guy who wrote the North and South trilogy. It’s just some genuinely good time travel fiction that takes on issues like bigotry, fundamentalist Christianity, and revenge with a solid lesson of “Hate is not the answer.” It also had some good history in it. I was genuinely surprised by that book when I read it and I think that John Jakes needs to be re-recognized as a science fiction author as well as a writer of sprawling historical romances.

7) As a dedicated reader, what lessons do you want to share with writers?

When I’m reading a book, the thing that catches me and keeps me wanting to read whether the book is great or awful is the author’s individual voice. I’ve only just started thinking about this in detail, so hopefully I can make it make sense. All too often a book just has no soul, and that’s because the narration and the dialogue and the characters are all flat and listless. Some of the worst books I’ve read were also enjoyable on some level because the author injected some personality into the writing. Sure, sometimes it’s just awful, like somebody trying to write a par-boiled science fiction story in the style of Raymond Chandler and just doesn’t have Chandler’s eloquence, but at least they tried. So my advice to writers is to make your work an extension of your personality (or an extension of a fictional personality! That works too!). Don’t just tell me what happens, try to make me feel what happens.

8) How long are you going to go on with Shlock Value? How far are you going to take it?

When I first started in January 2013 the plan was to go a book a week for a year. It was my grand experiment in seeing if I could actually do anything besides play video games and work my crappy grocery store job. When 2014 rolled around I noticed two things: I had a big stack of books I hadn’t gotten to yet, and that I was having a lot of fun. So that said, I don’t really have any end in sight. Maybe one day I’ll get bored or too busy to continue, but I sure hope not.

9) OK, as a man with his own special reviewing focus, what do you want to see in review sites?

One thing that gets me in a review site is when they try to be the end-all-be-all of some very broad category. They’ll review comics, movies, books, shows, music, toys, lolcats, and things they heard at the bus stop this morning. The problem with this is that the site doesn’t make much of a name for itself because it doesn’t have any content that you can’t just find anywhere else. Nobody can cover it all, and they shouldn’t try.

On the flip side, there are the sites that get into a niche they like and stay there. I guess I fall into that category. The thing I try to do with Schlock Value is to share the joy of finding things out with people. I really don’t want to turn into some kind of hipster-type who excludes people for not having my interests. It’s an easy trap to fall into, resorting to in-jokes and references that leave new visitors alienated. Don’t do that.

Thanks Thomas, keep up your brave adventure!

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Geek As Citizen: Boost The Signal – Be The Ambassador

This little guy really doesn't want to hear any more about that one anime you say we should watch.

This little guy really doesn’t want to hear any more about that one anime you say we should watch.

So, you want to get people to notice good works out there. Being a Geek Citizen you want to “Boost the Signal” as I’ve unoriginally named this series. You want people to know what’s worth your time – and of course there’s the side effect that if they enjoy the things you found they’ll waste less time on crap.

Or what you deemed crap, but I’m going to trust you.

The first thing you should do is be an Ambassador for the work(s) in question, the things you want to promote.

I say Ambassador for a reason.

Meet Your New Role

Consider what an Ambassador is in the ideal sense – a representative of something who crosses boundaries, engages people, advocates for others, and builds relations. That’s what you need to be to Boost The Signal.

  • Cross Boundaries – For that which you care about, you need to sep outside your confront zone, and meet people on their own ground. This helps you relate to them – and makes the first move.
  • Engages People – If you want to show folks what’s good, Boost The Signal on good tech or good comics, you have to talk to people directly. You engage and connect with them.
  • Advocates For Others – You need to speak for the work(s) in question. You need to be their advocate – to say what is good for them and help them speak. It also helps that when speaking for others, it’s less likely your ego will get (directly) in the way.
  • Builds Relations – You Work to build relations with peoples, groups, etc. Flash-in-the-pan doesn’t cut it for most people, viral marketing be damned. You establish relationships.

So if you want to Boost The Signal for something, this is your new role – Ambassador.

Avoid The Annoying Parts

Notice I specifically chose the word “Ambassador” to describe the mindset you need to take. I did it because of what it represents, what it says – and what it’s not. I’d like to explain the latter subtly, but let me put it this way.

In too many cases people advocating for various works are annoying and do no good work or even cause damage. I can say just for myself that I ignored Harry Potter and Serenity because I was sick of hearing how great they are. The people trying to sell me on them ended up delaying me actually paying attention.

We’ve all been there. It can be a marketing campaign ramming a new round of stupid into public consciousness. It can be the annoying person who keeps telling you about a new novel. It can be anything that turns encountering something new and worthy into a belittling, one-direction experience that won’t end.

We’ve met various people who should have been Ambassadors, but were instead:

  • Would-Be Evangelists – Preaching away in a one-directional way and a slight sense of superiority, never realizing that though they may be preaching, we weren’t the choir. Also they got on our nerves.
  • In-Your-Face Advocates – Who decided good relations were built by constantly bugging us as opposed to you know, actually connecting.
  • Persistent Fans – Their dedication was obvious, only after awhile we kind of got tired of seeing it and hearing about it.
  • Frothing Pundits – People ranting about something on TV and in newspapers for money is bad enough – doing it in private is worse because you’re a non-profit pain-in-the-ass.

Even if you don’t fall into the categories above, your advocacy for something can trigger negative reactions. We’ve all gotten tired of the Next Big Thing, The Must See Movie, and The Song I Really Want You To Hear. Like it or not, promoting a work or a technology means crossing a minefield of bitterness, boredom, and mistrust.

But by deciding to be an Ambassador, to meet people and connect with them, you adopt he mindset that can promote what you care about. When you do that, you Boost The Signal and more people pay attention to the good works important to you.

But What Do I Do?

Well, you’ve deemed yourself ambassador for some book, band, film, show, comic, software, whatever. What’s next?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Because that’s next . . .
Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Mile High Not Happy With San Diego Comic Con

The famous Mile High Comics is going to start ditching Comic Con.  It’s just not financially viable to compete with the very publishers they support.

I find this interesting as it seems Comic Con has come under fire for being too big, too corporate, etc.  It seems there’s a lot of complaints aimed at the huge event.

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.

Geek As Citizen: Boost The Signal

Direction Sign

“Ho ho ho. Isn’t it nice we hate the same things?”

Principal Skinner, “Principal Charming” Simpsons episode 7-15

Complaining about things is a popular past-time for people. We complain about movies, about music, about comics, about television, about politics. Complaining is practically a cause for some people – in fact, a few of them made it into a career, disguising it as punditry or critique.

We geeks do like to complain. We’re passionate about what we love, do, read, speak on, and so on. That, in turn, means we may be critical of things for the very reasons of that passion. The problem is complaining doesn’t address what we’re critical of.

Complaining doesn’t solve things. Saying how bad a cold is doesn’t make it go away, expressing annoyance about a tacky shirt doesn’t make it change its color, and complaining about a bad movie means it’s still a pile of dreck. Complaining at its best warns people off of something – and possibly warns them off of you as you’re a jerk because you won’t shut up.

Too much complaining, even for legitimate reasons can backfire. This is what I’ve head referred to as the “bigger a-hole” theory – talking all the time how bad something makes you look bad. If you look bad, even your legitimate complaints are disregarded because you’re the bigger a-hole and people assume your legitimate concerns originate from your own being a jerk.

Sometimes the messenger is the message, like it or not.

Now I’m all for complaining, or at least tolerant of it (I do it myself), but when it comes down to it, if we want better movies, technology, comics, and anything else, we’ve got to do something else. Complaining solves little.

So when I asked some of the Crossroads Alpha gang what we could do different, the best action became obvious.

Want something good? Boost The Signal.

Boost The Signal (Insert “Can’t Stop The Signal Joke” Yourself)

Complaining as noted does little – at best it warns and at worse it annoys. Complaining rarely results in better works, better tech, and better ideas.

But what we can do is boost people’s awareness of the good things out there, of the wonderful things we find, of the things people should say attention to.

People have a choice in how they spend their time, their money, and so on. When we make them aware of good things, from a friend’s recommendation to writing a review of something great for a major website, we’re making people aware.  When they’re aware, they are more likely to focus on the things we’re promoting.

In short, let’s spend less time complaining and more time making people aware of the good things so they choose them, or helping out those promoting the good things. Those good things are out there, but often obscure, unknown, disregarded, not understood. We can make people aware, we can do our part to get them out there – we Boost The Signal

Its also better than criticism. Criticism as noted can backfire, and I’d also say criticism is something we’re awful numb too. It pours out of TV and talk radio and the like all the time, and most people aren’t good at it.

But how do we Boost the Signal? I’m glad you asked, because over the days to come I’m going to be summing up ideas I found – and wanting to hear about your own.

 

Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.