Can Facebook please all its users all the time?

I’m starting to think that it’s not Sunday unless the New York Times has an article on Facebook.  This week’s story gives a pretty balanced view of the latest controversies with the young whipper-snapper, the absolute latest being Facebook’s lovely (not!) new layout.

But, first, what’s great about Facebook?  Well, the opportunity to rebuild families, as in the case of Karen Haber, whose relatives were torn apart by the Holocaust; and the chance for someone like a schoolteacher in Denmark to friend his prime minister and then get the guy to come and speak to his class of special-needs kids.

What’s not so great?  The fact that too many users still don’t adjust their privacy settings, leaving their profiles (and virtual underwear) out there for anyone and everyone to view.  What’s wrong with that?  Read the story about the guy who got fired for what he wrote in a status update or the kid who got nailed by his dad for underaged drinking.  (After reading this article, I immediately checked my settings to make sure they were still at “Only Friends.”)

People have to take responsibility for their own reckless behavior on the internet, but a poor vision (in this case, by Facebook itself) just exacerbates the willfulness of some to bare all, even the most mundane: “Chris Cox, 26, Facebook’s director of products and a confidant of Mr. Zuckerberg, envisions users announcing where they are going to lunch as they leave their computers so friends can see the updates and join them.”  I don’t know about you, but most of my Facebook friends would not be able to join me at lunch even if they wanted to because they live in other states!

Sigh.  I would be very sad to see Facebook become a glorified text-messaging system or just another Twitter.  Right now, it’s so much more for me:  I stay in touch with friends and family who are scattered across the US; I can follow my favorite writers as a fan; my blog is seamlessly updated to my profile so friends who wouldn’t otherwise visit my blog, can still read my stuff; and I can follow other blogs.  All in one application.  I just hope that Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t lose sight of the real utility of Facebook.

The Future of Writing

Want to see what the future holds for the writer?  Check out The Writer’s Guide to Making a Digital Living or its fun interactive companion, the New Writing Universe. The constellations are endless, giving hope to the discouraged writer.

A Kick-Ass Tool for Writing

Here’s one of the side benefits of Twitter:  The discovery of writing tools proven to do what they profess to do:  get you and keep you writing.  (Is it OK to have two colons in one sentence?)  Check out Dr Wicked’s Write or Die, a web-based tool for writing.  It did take me a moment (actually, several) to realize that there was nothing to download, that instead you launch the tool right from the website.  You can set your own parameters to have gentle reminders or more heart-stopping reminders to keep writing whenever you pause for a few or even one second.  I’ve tried several modes now.  The kamikaze mode is a bit frightening for me (imagine seeing the words you just wrote start to disappear if you pause for too long), but I am amazed at how fast I could type … as if my life were on the line, which it sometimes is since I have to write on deadline at times.  You can also follow Dr. Wicked on Twitter … see, Twittering does pay off 🙂

Intelligent Tweeting

As a Twitter newbie, the blog posts catching my eye these days are the ones about how to use Twitter efficiently.  I have enough social networking drains on my time as it is (Mafia Wars in Facebook, anyone?).  But my gut tells me that Twitter can be a powerful and positive force in my writing life if I use it wisely.  Case in point:  this blog post that I came across today while on Twitter:  “The Top 5 Ways Smart People Use Twitter” by Sharon Sarmiento.  It’s an old post (2007) but not outdated in the least.  Here’s a taste:

“As for those people who have been completely turned off to Twitter because of some of the more frivilous, immature uses of this global communication tool–I hear ya! There’s only one way to deal with those annoying folks: Ignore them. Instead, imitate the people who are using Twitter intelligently.”

Now, go read the rest of the post.

Tweety Bird

My good friends at ShesConnected set me up with a Twitter account, and I’m hooked.  I now have absolutely no excuse not to be up-to-date on all that is happening in the writing and publishing world.  [I’m not sure (yet) if that is a good thing :-)]  If you’re already on Twitter, you can follow me @1writeway.  If you’re new to Twitter or thinking of about joining, check out these blogs for advice and guidance:

Twitter Tips for Writers

12 Reasons to Start Twittering

The Newbie’s Guide to Twitter

Smash your words

As tweeted about by Maria Schneider, Smashwords.com is encouraging authors to “give away 50%” of their books.  What this means, literally, is that for many of the books offered on Smashwords.com, the reader can read about half of the book before buying it.  I see this as the same as readers who “browse” through books at their local bookstore, often reading them while they enjoy a latte and scone for an hour or so, and then putting them back on the shelf (or, most times, leaving them on the cafe table to be shelved by the staff).   If that’s acceptable, then why wouldn’t an author allow up to 50% of their book to be read online?

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