Tag Archives: blogging

Quality Control

This morning I wrote a post and when I finished, I decided to set it aside, and maybe come back to it another time. The reason: it was a stinker. I’d say that 99 out of 100 times, when I write a post for the blog, it feels right to me and goes up without much second-guessing. But every now and then, I write something and think to myself, you are just trying to get something posted, regardless of how good it is. When I think that, it usually means I should set aside whatever I have written and revisit it later.

This kind of quality control has evolved over the years. If you go back to the early days of this blog (late 2005, but really, 2006 is when things started up in earnest) you’ll find that I wrote about anything that came into my head, no matter how trivial. Since then, I have grown more selective. There are plenty of posts that I have written but have never appeared because afterward, I didn’t like them for some reason. When it happens, it is usually because I was trying too hard to get something written and went about it poorly. That’s what happened this morning.

A lot more post ideas never even get written. I jot down post ideas all the time. Usually, they idea goes into the Field Notes notebook I have in my pocket, and from there it gets transferred to a list of possible idea to write about. But even in that step there are quality control checks in place. One of the best quality controls I have in my toolbox is time.

I’ll jot anything that comes to mind in my Field Notes notebook. Not all ideas from there make it into the ideas list I keep on the computer. Just flipping through the current notebook in my pocket, I see several ideas I jotted down that, thanks to time, won’t make the cut. (“Things I do to avoid maskless people” seems liked an amusing idea when I jotted it down, because there are silly things I do to avoid them, but there just aren’t enough of them to make for a good post.) I have another note about “Sleeping in your own bed” which I jotted down on the long drive back from Florida after being away from home for more than a week. Now, having been back home for a while, it no longer resonates with me.

Even when an idea from the notebook gets transferred to the list of potential ideas, time still works in my favor, protecting me against those ideas that seems great in the moment, but after some time has passed feel stale. Those will eventually get deleted from the list.

Some ideas stay on the list for a long, long time, mainly because there is a lot of research involved, or a lot of time required to put them together in a way that will satisfy me. (One idea, which appears on my list as “Bookstuffing” is an example of this.) Generally, though, if an idea makes it from the notebook to the “curated” list its chances of getting actually written as a post are much higher.

But maybe not right away. Again, time serves as an excellent quality control tool. Sometime an idea that excites me will make it to the list, and I’ll find that I’m not ready to write about it. I like the idea but some of the shimmer has worn off and I need time to find the right pieces to make it resonate with me again. Often this happens one two separate ideas are joined together. Other times, an idea is really just a great title with nothing behind it, and it takes time to find whatever it is that is behind that title.

Once I have written a post, it is rare that I decide not to post it. This is the final quality check I impose: does it feel like a good post? Of course, a feeling a complete judgement on my part, but it is my blog, and I have enough experience at this point to trust my gut. I can go through a number of reactions upon completing a post: Jumping up from my keyboard and pacing in a circle because I am so pleased with what I have written is one extreme. The other extreme happens just as quickly; indeed, it often happens before I finish writing. It’s a feeling I get that I know I just don’t like what I have written.

The most typical reaction is general satisfaction with what I have written. Nice job, check that item off the list and move on.

Today was one of those rare days when an idea made it from my notebook, to my idea list, and finally, into a completed post before I realized it was no good. For those who may be curious about what I’d written about, let me just give you the title: “RTFM Is So 1990s”. Yeah, it was that bad.

Thank goodness for some measure of quality control here.

Blogging in 2021

I published 51 blog posts in 2020, not quite a low water mark for me (that was 2018), but nothing like my heyday here on the blog. In 2012, for instance, I published 567 posts, and in 2013 I published 482 posts. I miss those days.

In recent years, I have been more selective in what I publish on the blog. Rather than post just anything that comes to mind, I’d wait for something I considered “post-worthy”–whatever that means. But I miss the days of just sitting at the keyboard and pounding out something that just occurred to me. And so rather than wait for what I feel is a “post-worthy” idea, I’m going to swing back toward posting here when things happen to pop into my head.

What this means for you is more posts in 2021. Some will be certainly be the essay-like pieces I have been writing here for the last several years. Others will be more ephemeral. I suspect not everything will think that is a good thing. But after a year like 2020, any kind of connection with the outside world, even through the posts on the blog, feels freeing.

So expect more of what I have been writing in recent years, along with a casserole of other posts, some one technical topics (I may revisit some Evernote ideas and personal archiving), others on writing and reading, and other non sequitur posts on whatever happens to be on my mind at a given moment.

And since I haven’t said so in a while, if there is a topic you are interested in seeing me write about here, send me a message at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin dot com and let me know what is.

Finally, thank you for stopping by and continuing to read and comment on posts here. It might seem cliche, but from the feedback and comments I get here on the blog, I’ve got the best audience I could ask for.

Wishing you all a happy new year in 2021. Here’s hoping for a better one than 2020.

Isaac Asimov: Proto-blogger?

I have been reading some of Isaac Asimov’s essays on science fiction over the last few days. Over the course of his prolific career, the Good Doctor wrote thousands of essays ranging a wide variety of subjects. I’ve probably read most (although certainly not all) of these essays and it occurred to me yesterday that one might consider Isaac Asimov one of the earliest bloggers–or at the very least, a “proto-blogger”. In honor of his 91st birthday today, I thought I would discuss this in more detail.

There are some common features to most successful blog:

  1. They have an audience
  2. They are updated with some degree of regularity
  3. They often contain commentary on a specific topic area, although some run the gamut
  4. The engage readers in a discussion or dialog through the comment system

In the world of science fiction, blogging often involves any or all of the following:

  • Reviews or critiques of science fiction
  • Discussions of the writing process or the business of writing
  • Social commentary from the perspective of a science fiction writer
  • Occasional discussions of science as it relates to society (or science fiction)

And every now and then, the blogger will write about his or her personal life.

Isaac Asimov’s thousands of essays meet almost all these criteria and then some:

  • He had a huge audience, one that continued to grow from the mid-1950s (when his essays became more regular) until his death.
  • The essays appeared with an unprecedented degree of regularity. He wrote 399 consecutive monthly essays on science for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; he wrote columns for American Way for a decade or more; he wrote columns for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate; and he wrote editorials for each issue of Asimov’s for more than 15 years.  In addition, he had essays appearing in all kinds of other places from TV Guide to the New York Times, to say nothing of the hundred of introductions he wrote for other people’s books.
  • Several of his columns focused on a broad area, such as science. Others were political commentary, or literary critiques, or personal essays about writing or about science fiction.

The most significant difference between Asimov’s essays and blogs today lies in the discussion aspect. And even there, readers of the essays could and did write to Asimov to engage him on various points and opinions in his essays. And where he could, Asimov responded (there were more than 100,000 letters in his files, according to his brother).

Reading Asimov’s essays on science fiction (many of which appeared as editorials for Asimov’s Science Fiction), I can’t help but look at them as a primitive form of blogging, a kind of Whatever, twenty years before Scalzi’s pioneering blog appeared. They often talked about science fiction or the writing of science fiction, but they sometimes also commented on some kind of social or political issue, and his views were discussed by fans in the letter columns, a kind of primitive comment system. He was what I call a proto-blogger.

I wonder what would have happened if he had lived into the early 21st century. Would he have become a full-fledged blogger? I suspect not? He was set in his ways and already had a vast audience for the essays he wrote. I think he would have approved of the notion of blogging, but I don’t think that he personally would have embraced it (in the way that, say, Frederik Pohl has).

Happy 91st birthday, Isaac!

Changes

I was at RavenCon this weekend (about which I will have more to say in a subsequent post) and while there, I attended a session on Blogging for Writers.  Among the panelists were   and Edmund Schubert, both great guys (and during this particular session, bon vivants). The discussion revolved around why writers blog, and the pros and cons thereof.  It so happened that I had been thinking about this topic for a while, and the discussion that took place convinced me of a decision that I had, perhaps, already subconsciously made:

I have to cut back on my blogging.

There are several reasons for this, but first and foremost is that I now have the feeling (as many writers before me have discovered) that most of the writing I do should be on stuff that I am trying to sell.  Granted, I write short stories.  Yet up until now, I’ve written two or three a year at most.  My aim is much higher now.  One might reasonably ask how a brief blog entry each day can really impact short story writing.  Let me answer in terms of real number.  Since I started my blog in January 2006, I have written just over a three-quarter of a million words.  That’s the equivalent of producing 8 or 9 science fiction novels in the span of three years (or two fantasy novels of the same amount of time).  Now, I don’t yet write novels.  And I certainly couldn’t write a quarter of a million words in short fiction.  But I can certainly use some of this time to do more fiction writing.

A second reason is obvious to anyone who follows this blog:  we have a baby coming soon, and caring for the baby will take lots of time.  Some things have to be sacrificed, and I feel that I can sacrifice the blog writing.

Finally, most of what I write on this blog amuses me, but isn’t really useful or interesting to anyone else.  So in that sense, why bother?

This doesn’t mean I’m quitting blogging cold turkey.  On the contrary, I am redirecting my aim.  Those blog entries I do write should be useful not only to myself but to others too.  It’s my idea that I will continue to blog about a few topics, primarily writing and science fiction.  Both of these are relevant to me, because they tie into my ambitions to be a science fiction writer.  But they might be useful to other writers as well.  I’m still a fairly new writer, and it’s my idea to write about those things that new writers experience and deal with.  Maybe this will help someone like me.  I can’t say that I won’t write any entries about the new baby or an occasional entry about some other topic, but going forward, the main theme of this blog will be on writing and science fiction.  And it won’t be everyday.  I imagine at first it will be several times a week, and eventually, fall into some regular schedule.

For those who do follow everyday, I’m sure most of you will be greatly relieved by this change.  For those who enjoyed all of the mundane stuff I wrote about, fear not:  I will be continuing to micro-blog on twitter (follow me) and these get relayed to Facebook.  Since these are fast and easy to do, I see no need to give these up.

Also, I will continue to read all of my friends blogs.  I couldn’t dream of giving that up at this point.

Word Press

Tonight, I installed WordPress on my domain server.  I did this primary as a content management tool to make it less time consuming to manage my new website.  However, the more I looked at the features and capabilities of Word Press, the more impressed I became.  And so, I’ve decided to give it a chance as a primary blogging tool as well.

This does not mean I’ve given up on LiveJournal!

I’m still heavily invested in LiveJournal as a social networking site.  I still read lots of blogs there and I plan to continue this.  I found a Word Press plug-in called LJ-XP that allows me to cross-post my blog entries at jamierubin.net to LiveJournal automatically.  This post, in fact, was automatically cross-posted.  You can still leave comments on LiveJournal, but you can also leave comments here.  Over time, I hope to make this my main site, although I plan on continuing to cross-post to LJ for the foreseeable future.

There is an easy import tool to get LJ posts imported into Word Press and I’ve done that for all my posts for 2009.  I’m still fooling around with things so the new site and new blog are not perfect yet.  They’ll get better over time.

Originally published at From the Desk of Jamie Todd Rubin. You can comment here or there.

Up for air

Fourth day in a row in which I’ve gone into my office, closed my door and worked without taking a break. Today, I didn’t stop until after 2 PM, and then it was only to get something to eat before moving on to some document review I needed to do. I’m now wrapping things up and can I just say I’m exhausted! It’s a good thing everything is re-runs. There’s absolutely no need for me to stay up and watch TV tonight, even though Tivo would be recording it anyway. I’d like to try and get some writing done today (I only managed around 800 words yesterday), but I’m pretty beat.

This week has flown by. Tomorrow is Friday! On Saturday, I’m going paint-balling with Kelly and a bunch of her friends. I’ve never done it before and it sounds like it might be fun.

I’m fast approaching the end of the B’s in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. I looked at my reading list for this year and it’s pitiful. My worst year ever in terms of total books read and total words read. It’s pathetic and will remain so, unless I finish the Encyclopedia before the year is out (which I doubt).

I’ve been working on a project to consolidate the tags that I use on my blog. I’ve used over 800 tags in the 2 years that I’ve been at this regularly. I’ve come up with a taxonomy and have been working on mapping old tags into the new taxonomy–which should be something much more manageable (one-eighth the number of tags). More on that once it’s been implemented.

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Six months of blogging

The end of June 30, 2006 marks 6 consecutive months of blogging in which I have not missed a day. In 6 months I’ve got 572 entries, which averages about pi entries per day (3.14).