What’s Wrong With Every User Community Ever

Whoa – I did not expect that. On a side thread about keto dieting, I stumbled upon an answer to a question I’ve been asking ever since the late 90s. In three paragraphs, a justifiably-angry Redditor outlines what’s wrong with every user community ever.

This Sub Has Really Gone Downhill

This doesn’t just apply to people on /r/keto, or Reddit. Forum trolls are a thing no matter where you go. User communites are designed to support an interest, and the benefits of welcoming new members should be self-evident. Not so, in the day and age of trolling. As the Redditor brings out, working for the greater good seems to be in decline, and toxic behavior leaves many communities with a bad name, as people leave discouraged, and defeated.

But you already know this.

This isn’t another point-at-the-problem post. God knows you’ve seen a ton of those. The real question we should be answering is, how do you avoid this behavior? How do you pull back from this reality? Good user communities are good tribes, and good tribes come from good tribal leadership. Let me share this Ted talk on Tribal Leadership with you, and I hope you find it useful in your community-building activities.

 

 

 

 

Evil Genius – New Scifi Microfiction

Now it’s time for some new scifi microfiction – I wrote ‘Evil Genius’ in response to the writing prompt: ‘You are an Evil Overlord about to conquer the known world, but there is a catch: You are competent.’

Writing a good bad guy is harder than it looks. You find yourself mentally filtering out every movie villain ever, because they usually fail at the end, and you want to make sure you don’t set them up for failure.

In the end, I thought of a guy with the charisma of Barack Obama and the evil intent of Admiral Thrawn. After that, the story just flew out of my fingertips. I hope you enjoy …

Evil Genius

If You’re an Author, This is Terrifying

Sometimes I weep for the species. Jimmy Kimmel did a bit, where they asked random people if they could *name* one book (“The Bible, 50 Shades, whatever …”). You’d think that a question like this would be a lay-up, right? Not in 2018, muchacho. The conversations did not go well, and if you’re an author, this is terrifying.

 

Of course, maybe I shouldn’t worry – they were asking these questions in LA, after all.  It’s no secret that literacy is in crisis in America. As difficult as the problem seems to be, the answer is actually simple: Read. Pick up a book. Read Reddit. Read the paper. Read one viewpoint on an issue, and then go find another side and read that too.

Reading makes you happy. Reading is a relaxing habit. You can read anywhere: the train, the john, in line at the supermarket. You can make it into a gamified social experience. However you do it, just go read. It’ll make your life better.

Mesh Update #8 – Inspirational Schools

Ran across this story about the Midland School in California, and fell in love. For over a thousand years, education has been the root of every civilization. But how do you teach young people to be good people? How do you teach them the skills necessary to be successful beyond business, in life itself?

Midlands seems to have found the answer. What makes a school like this stand out is the level of life skills they’re giving to each student. “The students more or less run Midland, which has no janitorial or maintenance staff. They plant and pick about half of the food they eat on a 10-acre farm. They clean the windows, maintain the landscape, and sweep the old chapel.’

“‘We know we’re different and we know we’re a little crazy,’ said Christopher Barnes, the head of school. ‘The question for each student and for each family is if we’re your kind of crazy.'”

How does this tie back to Mesh? Our protags, Roman and Zeke, are going to visit a school like Midland when the Mesh is discovered. A school full of tough nerdy kids, ready to do battle against the bad guys? I can see them having a lot of fun. My hope is that you will, too.

 

Hitman’s Daughter – New Microfiction Part II

Some jobs are tougher than others. I saw the fiction prompt: ‘A retired hitman finds out that a contract has been placed on their kid, who disowned them years ago when they found out their profession.‘ and the story wrote itself. Real hitmen are guys you’d barely notice, people you’d run into the grocery store. I used that when I created Tomas, a retired professional killer who spends his twilight years selling ice cream to tourists. I hope you enjoy …

The Hitman’s Daughter

 

Stop Trying to Kill Hitler! – Microfiction Part I

I’ve been submitting short stories over in /r/writingprompts – today I’m going to share two shorts that I wrote this week. First one is in the morning, and the other will come out later today.

The first story is in response to the prompt: You are getting seriously fed up with all the time travelers from the future constantly trying to kill you. I channeled my inner Mel Brooks and started banging out prose. Hope you enjoy …

Stop Trying to Kill Hitler!

Elon Musk: Tony Stark Gonna Tony Stark

The news this morning made me realize that I needed to talk about Elon Musk, the universe’s answer to ‘What would happen if Tony Stark were a real person?’ Musk embodies many of the ideals behind Geekquinox, so let’s discuss what the non-nerd media isn’t getting about Tesla, Musk and innovation as a whole.

First, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the average guy in 2018: he’s struggling. He’s aware of the challenges facing life on planet Earth. Plus, he knows the increasing disparity between the needs of the many, and the needs of those in power. He’s rightly asking, where is all of this taking us? When will it start to get better?

Enter Elon Musk. Like Tony Stark, he’s been a maverick his entire career, disrupting industry after industry. Long before we knew what hyperlocal media was, Elon Musk gave us Zip2. Long before we understood the implications of e-commerce banking, Musk gave us Paypal. Any time institutions said ‘you can’t do that,’ Musk’s response was: “Hold my beer.”

Now flash forward to 2018. Tesla production, making cars people buy in California in the 21st century, it’s a tough nut to crack. It involves work, innovation and persistance. Wall Street starts acting like a spoiled teenager, and Big Daddy Musk is like “Uh, yah … no.”

Good for him! In the movies, we champion a maverick. Think about how crazy Tony Stark seemed to be in Iron Man in 2008 when he announced, ‘no more weapons.’ In the movie, as in reality (both including Jim Cramer, like the line between movies and reality isn’t blurry enough), the stock market reacted wildly to his announcement. We didn’t care. We loved that a powerful guy was willing to stand up for what is right. Why would you be surprised that we don’t care about Tesla’s stock price, either?

Let me clue you in: you don’t have a clue. Between Michelle Wolf calling the media out, and Elon Musk not caring if you buy his stock, it’s a heapin’ helping of justiceporn to anyone who despairs of the dystopian status quo.

Here’s another pro-tip – Musk knows you won’t get it. Like every great innovator, he’s prepared to be misunderstood. If you couldn’t understand why SpaceX was important in 2001, why would he bother trying to impress you in 2018? This guy is changing the world. This guy is saving the world. Musk makes things happen, while Wall Street wonders what happened.

In a way, it reminds me of a grandma trying to backseat drive her son. Everyone knows grandma can’t drive herself, but she yaks and complains because she wants everyone to pay attention to her. At some point, someone’s going to tell her: If Grandma don’t like how daddy drives, there’s plenty of room on the Senior Trolley. That’s what Elon Musk just did to the media.

Musk is here to save the world, not the stock market. He’s a geek, and for once in your life you’re dealing with a geek who doesn’t care what you think. If you aren’t willing to come along for the ride, then please make room for another passenger. It’s a positively refreshing response in an increasingly craven world, where the priorities of few override the needs of many.

Good for him, I say. Power is taken, not given. Musk’s comments send a very clear message to those that think human innovation and progress are only seen through the lens of a stock price. Those people are wrong, and it takes a guy like Elon Musk to point it out. Only a person at that level has the ability to say: “I don’t have to play your game. I can succeed without you.”

Elon is keeping his geek hand strong. More power to him.

Making Better Stories With Diagrams

While working on Mesh, I noted some gaps and opportunities to improve my story construction so I wanted to take a blog post (or two, who knows) and talk about story diagramming. Movies, TV shows and other projects benefit from storyboarding or other forms of story diagramming so I wanted to see if it would help me build a better novel.

How do you go about story diagramming? I decided to start with another novel to see how it worked, so I picked one of my favorite technothrillers (and inspirations for Mesh), Day of the Jackal. Continue reading