In part 3 I discussed how the iPad has made it easier to take notes, using a science fiction convention as an example. Today, I’ll discuss how it works to help me keep up with my social networking.
You would think that, as a science fiction writer, I could simply find a nice quiet corner and do nothing else but write. I could turn off the Internet and focus only the stories that I have to tell. And on rare occasions, I wish that I could do that. But the truth is there are three parts to being a science fiction writer that I love:
- Writing science fiction stories. There may be people out there that hate writing, hate what they write, but still manage to sell stories but I’m not one of them. I love writing science fiction stories and seeing readers enjoy them.
- Making friends with other people who love science fiction. It is one of the fringe benefits of being a science fiction writer that you are welcomed into the community with open arms. I’m sometimes amazed at people who I call my friends these days, people like Barry Malzberg and Allen Steele, whose stuff I have been reading for ages. And people like Michael A. Burstein and Juliette Wade, whose stuff I’ve read more recently.
- Writer though I may be, I always consider myself a fan first.
All of this boils down to the fact that to have a career as a science fiction writer, even if that career is more of an avocation, as it is in my case, social networking is vital. It’s not just about keeping in touch with your friends, but like any other type of work, it’s about making connections, learning new things, and trying to improve your skills. The things that I typically do that are connected with social networking, therefore, are:
- Write blog posts, both for this blog, and for SF Signal
- Using twitter to communicate with the community
- Using various chats to keep up with people
- Participate in things like podcasts
Of all of the categories discussed thus far, I’ve probably had the most difficult time adjusting to these on the iPad as opposed to my MacBook. I think there are a few reasons for that, but let me discuss each of the above types of social networking and touch on the difficulties individually.
I usually update this blog 2-3 times a day. Often times the first post of the day is written the night before and then scheduled for later release. I have installed the WordPress app for the iPad, but I still tend to write these posts on the laptop. The reason for that is that the rich-text interface for WordPress is not available in the app, and does not appear to work in the version of Safari that runs on the iPad. Now, I know plenty of HTML, but having to write the HTML myself slows me down and I really don’t have the time to slow down in order to keep up with the blog posts. So while I have written one or two posts directly on the iPad, most of them are still written on the laptop.
Blogging doesn’t mean just writing posts, however. There is also reading and responding to comments, and for that, the WordPress app, as well as the web-based interface work just fine. I can respond to comments in almost real time regardless of where I am. If I happen to be someplace without wireless access (I have a wi-fi-only iPad) I just use my iPhone. I think it is important to try to respond in comments in real-time and both the iPad and the iPhone help me to do this.
For a long time, Facebook was my primary interface for social networking. In the last several months, Twitter has taken over. While I will check Facebook a couple of times a day, I am constantly aware of what is going on in the twitterverse. The Twitter app for the iPad is perfect for my needs in this respect. It will notify me when tweets that involve me come in, regardless of what else I might be doing. It runs quietly in the background and I can switch to it quickly, unlike on my iPhone where it seems to take a while to start up. I can filter my lists easily, reply to tweets easily, and send out new ones easily. And since Twitter also acts as the primary relay for much of my other social networking, tweets that go out to twitter are automatically relayed to a bunch of other networks as well (Facebook,LinkedIn, GoodReads, etc.)
There are only a handful of people that I do regular chats with. For a while I used Facebook chat, but that seems increasingly unreliable, and there is no native Facebook client for the iPad. I also use Gmail’s chat, but the web interface for that seemed iffy on the iPad. So I found a product called IM+ Pro, which has an extremely elegant interface for all kinds of chats, including Facebook and Gmail. I have used this fairly extensively since first installing it a week ago, and I haven’t yet found a flaw with how it works. It took will run in the background and I’ll get a popup when someone attempts to chat with me
I haven’t tried FaceTime yet, but I was just talking with the head-honcho over at SF Signal about attempting a FaceTime chat (he, too, recently got an iPad). After we go through with it, I’ll report back on the experience.
Recently, I have participated in a couple of podcasts for SF Signal. We typically record these podcasts over Skype, which as far as I can tell is not available for the iPad. And even if it was, I’m not sure if the built-in microphone would be good enough for recording purposes. So this is something that looks like will be staying on the laptop for the foreseeable future.
Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about multimedia on the iPad. In the meantime, I’d be interested in knowing your experiences with social networking on the iPad. What creative ways do you make it work for you?