Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

The role of the beta reader: react, don’t revise

February 1, 2019

The role of the beta reader: react, don’t revise

I’m always honored when someone asks me (as an individual) to “beta read” the book or article they are writing.

What does that mean?

It means that I’m sent the manuscript (electronically, nowadays), read it, and offer my reactions.

The intent is for that to help the writer sculpt what will eventually be published.

I’ve been involved a bit in a discussion of this process on Twitter (in this case, I’m at https://twitter.com/bufocalvin).

The question started with how to take the comments beta readers make, and I think there was also one asking about how to best be a beta reader.

I thought I’d take this post to explain my philosophy of it.

Up above, I said I “offer my reactions”.

As a beta reader, that’s important. It’s not my job as a beta reader to tell the author how to change something. That’s the job of an editor, and that’s a very different relationship.

It’s my job to act like a test audience for a TV pilot: let the author know what I liked, what I didn’t like, and (this is key) where I was confused or bored.

I am an instrument, a meter.

Beta readers’ comments should, in my opinion, always be anonymous. The author should not know who said what. The interest will be more in the aggregate, where independent readers get the same impression.

That’s not writing by democracy: it’s a data point. The author may choose to keep things exactly the same, but they may also find a different approach or cut  or add something.

It’s a bit like when a doctor writes a “duty modification” note for a patient. The patient may tell the doctor, “Could you write a note saying that my Significant Other has to come to work with me to help me when I have to use the restroom?”

The answer should be, “No.” The doctor can write a note saying that the patient needs assistance when going to the restroom, but they can’t dictate to the employer how they should spend their money. The employer might (and probably not incorrectly) think it would be disruptive to have a Significant Other in the office all day. The company might choose to spend money on a professional caregiver…or say, “Stay home. We’ll pay you your full salary at home until you are able to come back and work unassisted.”

As a beta reader, I should indicate that I liked a character, didn’t like a character, loved a scene, didn’t understand a plot point, like a particular line….I shouldn’t tell the author specifically how to fix those issues. The author has creative energy to “spend”…it’s up to them how they do it.

It’s very, very hard not to make those specific suggestions. It’s very tempting to say, “Hey, you should write a scene where these two go to a restaurant so people can understand their relationship better! Ooh, maybe give them a kid from a fling ten years ago!” You are writing at that point, telling the author how to change it. Instead, saying that, “I didn’t really get why Character A and Character B didn’t trust each other,” is the information the author (and perhaps the editor, if they are working together by then) needs.

Do I do that perfectly?

Nope. 🙂

I suggested to an author that they move a scene to the beginning of the book…it was a great scene, like a James Bond pre-title sequence, and initially, the book started with a lot of exposition.

When I say this is hard, it reminds me of the government’s remote viewing program. Project Stargate was made public: the idea was that personnel could be trained to “psychically” see distant situations.

Ingo Swann (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

who was known to the public, supposedly worked on the training program.

The hardest thing for people to learn, as I recall, was to not come to a conclusion about what they were “seeing”. A remote viewer could describe something fairly generic, like a “building” (although a cube might be better), but once they decide it is a hospital, their imagination could start filling in details which are incorrect.

The public conclusion was that Project Stargate wasn’t effective, or at least, not cost effective.

The higher functions of your brain earn their share of the blood supply by interpreting data and coming to conclusions (and making plans based on them), so it’s very unnatural to not come to conclusions about something, and to then look for a course of action.

That, though, is what you should do as a beta reader.

Why am I making such a big deal about this?

Did you ever have a book as assigned reading in school, knowing you would have to write a paper on it? Did you hate the book at the time, but when you read it later just for fun, you enjoyed it?

Approaching the book knowing that you have to write the paper means that you look at it differently. If you are beta reading thinking that you are an editor (or even more complicating, a proofreader), your perspective shifts significantly. What you say to the author will be skewed.

Also, if you make those suggestions for changes, it can really throw off the author’s mental/emotional balance. Writing is hard. Imagine that you are going to walk a tightrope. When you get up there, someone starts giving you all these specific things to change: “Turn your left foot out more. Tilt your right hand up ten degrees. Be careful about wobbling. Keep your chin up, but your eyes down. Lean left…no, back right, straight up and down!” Remember that this happens as you are walking the tightrope. Even worse, picture five people giving you advice at the same time…and they often contradict each other!

It reminds me of this EDS ad, which I was first actually shown in my day job:

YouTube video

This may get easier in the future as artificial empathy continues to improve. Artificial empathy is the ability of software to tell how you are feeling (it combines sensory data with artificial intelligence, and a background knowledge of how human emotions manifest physically). Eventually, as you read that manuscript, something (perhaps your “auggies”, augmented/virtual reality hardware) will track your eyes, pupil size, respiration, and so on, to give real time feedback on how each paragraph is affecting you emotionally.

We aren’t there yet, though. 🙂

None of this is meant to discourage authors from seeking suggestions….it can be quite fun and useful to get ideas, especially from other authors. The main point is that’s different. Editorial suggestions should not be anonymous. There should be a back and forth, a discussion of why that proposal is being made.

So, that’s my take on beta reading. I know not everybody will see it that way, and I’m interested to know what you think. Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Should copyright be permanent?

January 22, 2019

Should copyright be permanent?

Note: this is a re-post of an article which originally appeared in this blog on 2010/08/09. I am scheduled for major surgery on January 17th, and I don’t know how quickly I’ll be able to write after that. So, to keep the content going, I am pre-scheduling posts. It’s possible conditions have changed since I wrote it, but I’ll try to lightly edit these when that’s necessary for clarity. 

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution

This is going to be an unpopular suggestion.

I personally benefit greatly from copyright having a limited term.  A lot of the books I read are ones that are free to me, precisely because their copyright terms have expired.

Having a limited term undeniably benefits the reading public.

Why would I want to look at an idea that would take something away from you and me, something that has been in place in the US since 1790?

Times have changed, and I want to make sure that what was fair and logical when the Constitution was first written is fair and logical now.

That’s what the writers of the Constitution intended…that’s why there is the ability to amend the Constitution, and why it has been amended more than twenty-five times.

That’s the first argument I know I have to address.  The Constitution specifically says, “for Limited times”.  It would require amending it to make US copyright permanent, and that’s not likely to happen.

That’s why Jack Valenti reportedly suggested that copyright should be “forever minus one day”, so there was a limitation and it could be done without Constitutional amendment.

That is a trick of the “how”, though.  It’s not about the why.  I’m not going to try to suggest the how of making copyright permanent.  I want to look at if it makes sense.

Using the Constitution literally means one has to also question whether fiction should be copyrighted.  That’s not part of  “Science and the useful Arts”, as quoted at the top of this article.

What would happen if fiction couldn’t be copyrighted?  I think people would still write fiction, but you wouldn’t be buying it.  As soon as a book was released, copies could be made and distributed for free, under the law.  Essentially, you wouldn’t have professional authors.  If copies could be distributed freely, you wouldn’t have a business of publishing.

There are people are there who shiver at the idea of  a “business of publishing”.  They think art should be given freely, and be part of the culture.

If that’s the case (and there are people who argue this point), copyright laws shouldn’t exist.

However…

I think most people see the value of copyright to the society.  Let’s take an early driver of copyright concepts, the idea of making a map.  Maps of a coastline, for example, were difficult to make…even life-threatening.  Let’s say a cartographer took months carefully navigating a coastline, and made a map.  Once the technology was there, other people could easily copy that map and distribute it.  If the original mapmaker has no control over that, you are probably going to have a lot fewer maps made.  The drive to create the map may still be there in the individual, but what company will sponsor the expedition with no chance of financial return?  How is the mapmaker going to afford to take the time away from their normal profession to make the map?

I think that one seems obvious.  Does the public benefit if the map is given away for free?  Yes…assuming it exists at all.  If the map isn’t made because there was no one to finance the expedition and no one who could afford the time to volunteer to make the map, the public loses out on it.

I would suggest that the same thing applies to fiction.  Without copyright, the public would see fewer novels…they wouldn’t see zero novels, but fewer.

So, let’s accept that the idea of some copyright is justified for the sake of this article.

Why, then, should it be limited?

The concept itself seems odd to me.  When you set a time limit on a copyright, you give people a certain period where they can benefit from their own work.  We don’t do that with anything else (except patents, of course).

From a business sense, publishing a novel is somewhat like opening a restaurant.

People pay to enjoy the experience.  Most restaurants fail within five years, I believe.  Most paper novels went out of print within five years.

If you have a unique vision, though, a special experience, people can want to enjoy it for decades…centuries.

Imagine the government saying, “You have ten years to benefit from your restaurant.  At that point, even if you are fully booked every night, the public gets to take over your restaurant.  They don’t have to pay you any money to eat there.”

Some restaurants might take years to become popular.  If the restaurant is doing great ten years later, why can’t you keep charging for meals?

Let the public decide how long the value lasts, not the government.

I don’t think anybody made much of a flap over the original 1790 US copyright term being fourteen years because most works didn’t have a commercial value fourteen years later.

Technology has changed that.

We can now easily enjoy works that are decades old.  That’s certainly part of what has changed.

Many early movies have simply fallen apart.  In the early days of television, the shows weren’t recorded.  It either wasn’t possible, or it was too expensive.

Technology is not the only thing that’s changed, though.

When I liked listening to music from the 1930s and 1940s during the 1970s, that seemed crazy to a lot of people…certainly eccentric.  How many high schoolers in the 1970s listened to the Dorsey brothers?

How many high schoolers now listen to the Beatles or the Rolling Stones or the Ramones?  All decades before their time.

In the 1960s, nostalgia began to rise as an economic force.  You saw posters of W.C. Fields and Humphrey Bogart.  The Universal monster movies appeared on TV, and in the Aurora model kits.

Kids in the 1950s didn’t think fads of the 1920s were cool in the same way.

Star Wars is three decades old…Star Trek is four.  How many of the biggest moneymakers of 2009 were based on fiction more than fourteen years old?

Okay, not too many people want to go back to a fourteen-year term.

How short makes sense, then, if the economic value is still there?

A current widely used term (in Europe, the US, and South America) is Life+70 years.

The copyright lasts for the life of the author plus seventy years.

That is presumably to say that your children and grandchildren can benefit from your work.

That seems inherently unfair.  First, if I write something that people are willing to buy for two hundred years, why shouldn’t it benefit my descendants for that long?  Why does the government get to say my family can benefit for so long, but no longer?

Second, it seems ageist, and I’m somewhat surprised it hasn’t been successfully challenged on those grounds.

If a twenty-five year old writes a bestseller, it is likely (but not inevitable) that she or he will get more economic benefit out of it than a ninety-year old who writes a bestseller.  I don’t understand that.

Of course, a twenty-five year could die at twenty-five.  A badly-timed step off a curb or a drunk driver could see that.

“Sorry, kid…your grandfather could have provided for you, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time…so we say you can’t make any money from that classic he wrote.  Oh, I know your buddy can…but her grandmother lived to be 108.”

The other thing is that the “Life plus” means its harder to figure out if a work is in the public domain or not.  Let’s say you buy a book published in 1980 at a garage sale.  You’ve never heard of it before, but it’s great.  The printing company is out of business.  You’d like to make it available to other people.  You Google the author…no information.  You can’t tell if it’s okay to publish it or not.

It would save a lot of money and time if we weren’t in doubt about whether or not something was in copyright.

I’d suggest that rightsholders have to keep on file with the Copyright Office a way to contact them…that would make things simple.

One of the arguments I’ve had people make against this idea is that they don’t want corporations to control classic works of art.  “Would you want Sony to own the works of Beethoven?”

If it’s okay during the copyright term as it is now, why isn’t it okay two hundred years from now?

If Disney can own The Lion King now, why can’t it own it later?

What changes?

Is it great that college theatre groups can do Shakespeare without paying royalties?  Sure, that’s great for the community!  Wouldn’t it be great if they could do Wicked?  Um…wait, you say, Stephen Schwarz is still making money from that.

Right…so what would be wrong with Shakespeare’s descendants doing the same?

What would be wrong with the company that bought the rights from Shakespeare still making money on it?  What has changed about the relationship between the consumer and the work?

I’ve seen arguments that a permanent copyright would stifle derivative works.  Should Arthur Laurents (West Side Story) and Cole Porter (Kiss Me, Kate) have had to pay Shakespeare for Romeo and Juliet, and The Taming of the Shrew?

Why not, if Shakespeare contributed to the success of those works?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t have West Side Story: I just don’t see what is wrong with compensating someone (or their descendants or the company to whom they sold the rights) for their contributions.

The next obvious question to me is academic and research use.  Yes, I would considerably strengthen Fair Use (USA) and Fair Dealing (UK), as part of this package.

For example, I would let high school students get a book for free for a limited time (which could be done easily with e-books).  Maybe you get three months to read To Kill a Mockingbird when a teacher certifies that you are taking a class with that as part of the curriculum.  At that point, it deletes itself from your device…to get it permanently, you have to buy it.

Would that cut into some sales now?  Initially, yes.  When I managed a brick and mortar store, we did sell quite a few copies of Tom Sawyer when it got assigned.

I think that would be more than compensated by a permanent copyright term.

Colleges would not have to get clearance for even contemporary audio works to be used in a classroom…that’s more complex in the UK than it is in the USA, currently.

I want works to be available for academic and research purposes.

I think people should pay for recreational use.

Would this be difficult to establish?  Absolutely.  Not only would there be the US constitution with which to contend, there would be international agreements.  Some countries (notably Canada and Australia) have shorter terms than the USA now, some have longer (Mexico, for one).  If we did have the longest term on the planet, that would be a huge economic advantage for us in the forever environment of the digital age.  My guess is that other countries would quickly follow us, so as not to be left behind.

If you think permanent copyright is a bad idea, I don’t think you need to worry too much.  The obstacles are probably insurmountable, for now.

As a concept, though, what do you think?  Yes, it would be a big takeaway from the majority of people (even though many people don’t take advantage of it).  I think, though, that making the majority happy at the expense of the minority isn’t always the right thing to do.

Feel free to let me know what you think.

[2019 note: in the past more than eight years, I’ve thought about this a lot. I do think it could genuinely work…permanent copyright in exchange for greater Fair Use rights for study (and preservation). It seems like it would benefit society in a few ways: greater exposure to contemporary works for study, more incentive to create and preserve works…but I still don’t think it will happen or that many of my readers will agree with me. 😉 ]

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

The art and the artist

January 19, 2019

The art and the artist

Note: this is a re-post of an article which originally appeared in this blog on 2011/03/26. I am scheduled for major surgery on January 17th, and I don’t know how quickly I’ll be able to write after that. So, to keep the content going, I am pre-scheduling posts. It’s possible conditions have changed since I wrote it, but I’ll try to lightly edit these when that’s necessary for clarity. 

I recently reviewed a book, and talked specifically about how the way the book treated certain different groups of people bothered me.

However, I also talked about the good writing in the book.

A reader reasonably called me on that, and it brings up what to me is one of the classic questions.

I’ve written before about the problem of changing standards over time…about how something that is very offensive now may not have been as offensive when it was first published:

The Chronological Cultural Context Conundrum

This is a bit of a different question though, and I thought it was worthy of a separate post.

Suppose that you knew an author (or other artist) held an attitude that you found abhorrent?  Could you judge the writing fairly?  Should you?

What if an author wrote a really racist book…and other books that weren’t.  Should all of the books be ignored (or even censored)?

It’s a complicated question for me.  I honestly want to judge the art separately from the artist.

I think, for example, that Frank Sinatra was one of the great singers…his phraseology, his emotional content, was incredible.

However, I also know that he is at least alleged to have done things I find morally difficult.

Tarzan has been removed from some schools for being racist.  No question, Jane’s nurse in the first book is certainly a stereotype.  Tarzan refers to Tarmangani (people of European descent) and Gomangani (people  of African descent) as two different types.  It’s also been suggested that just the fact that Tarzan is a European who dominates the indigenous population is a racist stereotype.  However, Tarzan does have people of African descent as friends.

Even with the latter element, let’s say Tarzan is racist.  Does that mean no one should read any Edgar Rice Burroughs?  Should one not commend the excitement in the other series?

Let’s say you knew an author was a murderer…would that make you skip the book?

I can see taking that position.  This is a case where it would make a difference for me as to whether the book was under copyright or not.  I might not buy a book from an author who behaves in a way I find unacceptable, because I don’t want them to get the money.  For an odd reason, I didn’t watch the movies of a really famous actor while the actor was alive.

My Significant Other and I have stopped shopping at certain stores, because we disagreed with their policies.  I don’t buy books from companies that block text-to-speech access, because I don’t want to give them money. [2019 Update: I don’t eliminate an entire publisher, just books on which text-to-speech has been intentionally blocked…I decided that might encourage that publisher to stop blocking, since it gives them an internal sales comparison. Blocking TTS seems to have largely stopped]

However…

I still think the books from those publishers can be quality works of art.

I’m sorry if I offended anyone by both praising someone’s writing and talking about prejudicial portrayals in that author’s works in the same post.   My goal in doing that is to give you what I liked and didn’t like about the book, and to give you enough information so you can make the decision for yourself.

Should I simply not write about people who either write offensive works or who had…difficult personal lives?

I have to tell you, I’m not sure what books that would leave.  I think it might be hard to find an author never wrote about violence, had characters engage in chauvinistic behavior (or portrayed women as inferior), or who never used racial/ethnic/religious/sexual preference stereotypes.  An ethnicity might be called stubborn, or lazy, or unimaginative, or superstitious, or a host of other negatives.

My feeling is still that it’s best to alert you to what I find offensive, and then let you decide.

What do you think?  Can you separate the art and the artist?  Should you?  If an author has written offensively once, does that taint everything that author writes?  Does it matter how the stereotype is portrayed?  Should art be judged on its own merit, or should a work be rejected based on the author’s life?  I’m really interested to hear what you think about this one!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Is reading fiction useless?

May 29, 2017

Is reading fiction useless?

In this

Medium post

Charles Chu provides an interesting perspective (I found it well written…I recommend it).

I think many people have had this experience: being told at some point that they should “grow up” and stop reading fiction.

Chu’s response is what many of ours would have been (or was):

“Books were a beautiful thing, my only source of joy in a gray world I did not understand — a world full of bullies where I ate lunch alone.”

That never happened in my family, and never would have, and for that I am grateful. Books were considered as essential as food, water, clothes, and shelter.

I remember there being some discussion at some point about reading at the dinner table…but we weren’t stopped from doing it.

For geeks like me, the derision we got from other people (like teachers and friends) might not have been for fiction all together…but for fantasy and science fiction. “Serious” fiction might have been fine, but vampires and robots? Silly.

Sure, I heard that…but I was also lucky enough to have a great teacher (Mrs. Church) who taught an elective science fiction class. We studied it, read it, and even published a “magazine” (I might not be writing this today without that experience…or, perhaps, not writing it as well). 😉

The argument is that reading fiction is just entertainment…a “waste of time”. If you are going to read something, people say, read non-fiction, which has a practical use.

That’s not what I believe, and that’s not what the data I’ve seen suggests. Reading fiction has many practical benefits, and one of the most important is improved empathy.

However, even without demonstrable benefits like that, I believe there is a benefit in “wasting time”.

Let me illustrate. 🙂

I not only read more than the average person, and many people would feel like I have more knowledge than most people in a lot of areas (also due in part to reading), I also watch a lot of TV. I have it on as I’m writing this, for example (and not something “high-faluting”…it’s an old season of American Gladiators).

I like to say that I like 19th Century literature and 1960s TV…and I don’t really see why one is more respected than the other.

I had somebody say to me once, “You’d get more done if you didn’t watch so much TV.”

I didn’t believe it, but I am a data driven person. So, I didn’t watch television…for a year.

I tried to reasonably measure what I got done, and I got nothing more done.

How could that be?

Two things.

I never watch TV without doing something else at the same time…write, read, fold laundry, eat, exercise: it is literally multitasking.

The other thing is that television aids my transitions. I could switch my thought process from work to home more quickly by watching TV.

I used to wake up slowly (I’m not a morning person, even though nowadays, I wake up very early). I used to put on the news, and I figured when I finally understood a story, I was safe to cook. 😉

So, since watching TV doesn’t prevent me from doing other things, and since it shortens transitions, it isn’t a time loss.

If someone suggests to me now that I would get more done if I didn’t watch TV I can say, “I tried that experiment for a year, and it wasn’t true: perhaps you should try watching more TV for a year to see how it affects you.” 🙂

My experience is that it tends to be people who are less intellectual (not necessarily less intelligent, but less interested in thinking) who are less interested in fantasy. Since we’ve been talking TV, let me use a quote from there:

“The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.”
–Captain James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner
The Shore Leave episode of Star Trek: The Original Series
screenplay by Theodore Sturgeon

I think reading fiction can serve a purpose to some extent similar to dreaming. Prevent someone by dreaming (by waking them up when they hit REM…Rapid Eye Movement) but still let them get enough sleep, and they may start hallucinating in just a few days (from what I’ve heard). Dreaming clearly serves some useful function (I think it is like defragging a computer disk…you run programs to see if they are working well and useful, and prioritize what is in the “front” of your memory, and what can go to deep storage). Reading fiction is similar: it lets us explore situations before we encounter them, and lets us see things from another perspective.

It both allows you to reset and gives you new and enhanced skills.

That’s my opinion, but I am curious about yours.

As always, you can let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post, but I also wanted to do a poll:


My current Amazon Giveaways

NEW GIVEAWAY TODAY!

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

the award-winning, highly-rated mystery by my sibling, Kris Calvin!

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/2114e3e0b5fc4832

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Kris Calvin on Amazon (to my knowledge, all that you’ll get is a notification when Kris publishes a new book in the Kindle store, although I don’t know that for sure…that’s all I’ve ever seen for authors I follow, I think. Kris is working on the second book in the Maren Kane mystery series.
Start:May 28, 2017 5:20 AM PDT
End:June 4, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Thanks to the hundreds of people who have entered my previous giveaways for a chance to win Kris’ book! I don’t benefit directly from Kris’ book, although we have had a lot of conversations about it. 🙂 Congratulations to Gordon H, who one the last OMM giveaway!

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3e6a60b4814649a3

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

===

Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Giveaway:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ce7b24b32a4a670

Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

 

Amazon and bibliodiversity

May 27, 2017

Amazon and bibliodiversity

Bibliodiversity is the idea (perhaps originated in Chile as bibliodiversidad) which parallels the concept of biodiversity. The argument is that having greater variety available is beneficial.

That seems simple, and there is evidence to support it in biodiversity. If you have a population with relatively little genetic variation, and if there are few species available in an environment, there is great risk if something changes (a disease arises, a natural disaster, climate change…). A recent example would be DFTD (Devil Facial Tumor Disease). I’ve been saddened to read about it: Tasmanian devils (yes, they are real animals, not just a cartoon) bite each other on the face socially. They are able to transmit what becomes cancerous tumors (I was surprised to see a contagious cancer, even if that isn’t exactly what’s happening) which prove fatal.

 It’s been devastating to the wild population: I’ve seen estimates of a 90% total loss, and many populations have reportedly been completely lost. This has happened in just a couple of decades.

Some devils, though, have shown resistance…very few, but they do seem to be genetically different.

If these marsupial predators were all the same, it would probably have been over already. Thanks to diversity within the population, it’s possible the species will survive in the wild.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_facial_tumour_disease

I’ve read a couple of articles recently citing Amazon as significantly reducing bibliodiversity, with the implication that they could be the cause of a least a massive die-off in publishing.

One concern was about Amazon changing the way the Buy button works, where a small publisher might not find that its own book is the first option for buyers (it might be a third-party seller). I wrote about that one about three weeks ago here:

HuffPo article: Amazon is “potentially terrorizing”

The other one is another

HuffPo article

by Maddie Crum.

Here’s the title: “Amazon’s Grip On The Book World Could Silence The Stories That Matter”.

This one focuses on one of Amazon’s new brick-and-mortar bookstores, and how the store use rankings from the Amazon website, in part, to determine which books appear in the store.

The article is correct, in my experience, that classic literature tends to be lower rated than now, popular books. Most people just don’t go back and rate a book they read years ago.

That, in turn, Crum suggests could lead to a concentration of titles.

My opinion?

Nobody else has done more to increase bibliodiversity in the past ten years than Amazon.

E-books existed in a minor way before the Kindle launched in 2007, but they exploded after that.

Amazon introduced its own digital publishing platform, and thousands of people have published books to it on all kinds of topics. It’s hard to imagine that readers have ever had more options and had the ability to hear more voices. The barrier to entry is so much lower.

There are well over FIVE MILLION titles in the USA Kindle store…no physical bookstore comes close that.

No, authors and bibliodiversity are doing fine.

What is being hurt? Traditional publishing of paperbooks, especially by small publishers.

When you needed a book factory to get a book to readers, and when physical bookstores needed to carry you (I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager), authors needed the publishers to crack the market.

Now, that’s not necessary…which reduces the need for publishers, so some extent.

There may be less…um…publishersity, I guess.

Publishers have definitely added value. They’ve discovered authors, nurtured them, promoted them, and improve the quality of the books themselves, through editing, lay-out, proof-reading, and promotion.

Some of what publishers traditionally did will shift to other places, including agencies which will edit..and artificial intelligence may eventually play a role.

It may also be that some people won’t be able to  make a living as an author who could do so before…and that arguably could mean fewer books…as could the loss of some publishers.

However, that will be more than offset by authors who can make a living as indies (independently published authors).

Look at who is quoted in articles decrying Amazon’s practices…they will tend to be people who are in the space between authors and readers. That’s what Amazon really threatens, and it will seriously remold the experience of discovery and cash flow.

Fewer books and less diversity, though? That seems unlikely to me.

What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.


My current Amazon Giveaways

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

the award-winning, highly-rated mystery by my sibling, Kris Calvin!

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/398897583537603c

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Kris Calvin on Amazon (to my knowledge, all that you’ll get is a notification when Kris publishes a new book in the Kindle store, although I don’t know that for sure…that’s all I’ve ever seen for authors I follow, I think. Kris is working on the second book in the Maren Kane mystery series.
Start:May 20, 2017 5:20 AM PDT
End:May 27, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Thanks to the hundreds of people who have entered my previous giveaways for a chance to win Kris’ book! I don’t benefit directly from Kris’ book, although we have had a lot of conversations about it. 🙂

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3e6a60b4814649a3

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

===

Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Giveaway:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ce7b24b32a4a670

Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

 

 

 

 

 

From here to profanity: to link or not to link

April 5, 2017

From here to profanity: to link or not to link

While the blog will ultimately reflect my sensibilities (and I think that’s really what people want with a blog like this), I do take into account what my readers think.

There’s something where I’m a bit uncertain, and it affects you, so I thought I’d ask. 🙂

It has to do with linking to stories.

This mainly comes into play with my

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

magazines, including the

ILMK magazine at Flipboard

which is effectively a sibling publication to this one.

Regular readers (and people who know me “in real life”) know that I don’t use profanity.

Yes, even if I stub my toe, I just don’t. If I’m suddenly, emotionally mad at somebody (which is very unusual), the worst thing I might say (and only if they can’t hear me) is to maybe question their intelligence (which I know is unfair), or to say something like, “Nice signal, pal!” That’s right…I literally say, “pal”. 🙂

That said, I have no objection to profanity in literature. I don’t want to see anything censored in fiction for sure. I read books, for example, knowing that they will have “the f word” in them.

Here’s my conundrum.

Sometimes, when I link to  an article, it contains a profanity…often without me realizing it first. I don’t read every word of every article before I link (it would take forever…I’ve flipped more than 40,000 articles in the ILMK magazine alone). When I read some of them later, I’ll run across something.

For example, I recently linked to an article by Stephen King. Partway into it, King uses the word “motherf***er”, without the asterisks I used.

I was torn. King is such a popular author, and many of my readers would be interesting in the horrormeister’s opinion. I think some of my readers would not be happy to have that word there, though, and it could even cause them problems if they were reading it at work on work equipment.

I felt like this was an important piece, as it commented on the current political situation. Also, people who are familiar with King wouldn’t be surprised by the language. I did leave the link**.

In another case, a tech site was writing about new filters (this was for another Flipboard magazine of mine based on another blog of mine,  The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard). I thought it was a great piece…but it used “f**cking” as an adjective. I ended up removing this link, because it seemed like a less important article (that’s subjective, of course), that people would be “hurt less” by not having it included. It was also before the King piece, and I was tending to remove all of the links I noticed.

Then, there’s the question of just what counts as profanity. I now hear the “s word” pretty often on television (although it might be basic cable rather than over the air, so regulations are different). The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) cares about context…they are more lenient with the “f word” as an adjective than as a verb. Somebody on a talk show would be more likely to get away with “We’re all f**ked” than with “I f**ked so-and-so”. I remember them not levying a fine on an award show when somebody said it in celebration

I also get concerned sometimes about sexual content…nudity, for example. If there is a naked dorsal view of someone in a photograph…should that be a link killer? What about if they are talking about human sexual desire? I include health-related articles in The Measured Circle, and that sometimes happens there.

I suppose some people would also prefer that I don’t link to anything that expresses an opinion about the current President (whichever President it is). If Stephen King does it, I consider it an article about Stephen King. I’ve linked to things which are both positive and negative, if the story has to do with an author or possibly another type of celebrity for TMC.

Well, I think that lays out the issue. Let me see what you think:

Well, creating that poll was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done! 🙂

Feel free to make more suggestions to me and my readers by commenting on this post (although I may expurgate some words). Oh, I haven’t said yet…warning on a case by case basis is just not practical.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)

**The Stephen King piece…and now, you’ve been clearly warned 😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Do readers have to worry about a war on porn?

July 16, 2016

Do readers have to worry about a war on porn?

Reading is freedom.

You can go anywhere, be anyone, do anything…if you have a book.

In a grey area, I will tend to be on the side of greater freedom of expression.

I want people to be able to march and speak in support of ideas I find absolutely antithetical to my personal morality…there are things I support that would have gotten people thrown into prison or tortured for supporting a century or more ago.

When there was a concerted effort to suppress comic books, as well documented in

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

there were people who thought it served public morality to keep comics away from children. There were literally public bonfires to burn them. It’s one reason why some older comics are so valuable today.

Certainly, there were people who classified them the way that some people classify pornography today.

I’m talking, at this point, about legal, consensual, adults only participating explicitly sexual material. Not coerced, not children, nothing like that.

That’s why it is chilling to me when I see efforts to suppress pornography.

Lately, there have been stepped up efforts in that area.

One of the political parties recently said that pornography was a public health crisis. During a public health crisis of certain kinds, people can be involuntarily quarantined. It’s a powerful terminology, not just a literary review.

Starbucks and McDonalds are talking about blocking pornography on their Wi-Fi networks that customers use in the stores.

Now, understand: that doesn’t mean that I want a child being able to see porn on someone’s tablet. You should have to keep it not visible (or audible) to other patrons…and I think that’s true regardless of what you are watching. A lot of parents don’t want their kids watching violent content. The same could be said for some political material. There are privacy screens you can put on a monitor, which makes it virtually invisible to people not directly behind it…we used that in medical areas where I work to protect patients’ medical information.

That’s where some people might right away see a divide. Pornography doesn’t typically refer to the written word, it usually means something visual. However, there is no reason why it can’t, and books have been banned or restricted because of their words.

I know some people probably think I’m a prude. I don’t write the word d*mn in this blog without the asterisk…and I don’t use language like that in my real life either. I don’t have a problem quoting someone else who has used it. I don’t have a problem with reading sexually explicit content, although I like to know it will be in the book. That’s why I warn people…it should be up to you if you read it.

Not up to a store or a political party.

That’s my opinion, but what do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The value of neutrality

June 10, 2016

The value of neutrality

I can be as sarcastic as the next person.

In fact, I can be devastating and clever (so I’m told). I had to realize that at one point…I was quite interested in a real group called “Sarcastics Anonymous”. I explained to our now adult kid that they (who can do what I can do) basically have a super power. We can reduce people to a blob of quivering protoplasm with a cutting comment…so you can only use the power for good. 😉

I think it comes, in part, from being empathetic. If you don’t understand people, if you can’t get a sense of how they (and the other people around you) are feeling, you won’t come up with that exact point which cuts the deepest.

I can be sarcastic…but I’m not.

Not in public.

Not to that person.

Not to other people who know that person.

I will use self-effacing humor, but I won’t take someone else’s face. 😉

The only time I tend to do it now is when my Significant Other and I are watching competition TV…and then it’s just for fun, and won’t go beyond that room.

That’s not to say that I don’t love a witty remark, even at the expense of someone else. It may combine snark and sarcasm…let’s call it “snarcasm”.

I was reading a summary of an inexpensive movie with dinosaurs a long time ago, and have always remembered their reference to the characters encountering “plasticasauruses”.

That said, I always especially love opinion-free reference works.

That doesn’t mean I always want it to be what is sometimes called a “seed catalog”: a database before databases were electronic. I like those,  too, but my perfect reference works objectively gives me context…relates what I’m reading to other things. For example, if I’m reading about an author who never had a successful book after the one being covered, that’s good context. That can be done without being judgmental. If we base it on sales, it’s objective.

This came up recently when I wrote about an amazing sale in the USA Kindle store:

McFarland books for $3.99 (at AmazonSmile*)

The sale, by the way, is not only ongoing, it has expanded…it’s now over 1400 titles, and I’m buying more. 🙂

Some of my favorite p-books (paperbooks) in my library are reference works: Walt Lee’s Reference Guide to Fantastic Films; Vincent Terrace TV reference books (some are in this sale…others are not part of the sale); and some Jeff Rovin books (for example, on superheroes and supervillains).

Certainly, the first two are really objective…more the seed catalog type.

When I’m reading some of the ones I got on this sale, they are quite critical and opinionated.

Again, I can like that. Clever writing, labeled as opinion, is fine. I don’t extend that to when you criticize the fans of the material, but I’m more than happy to hear your opinion of something.

However, I just wanted to say that I like neutral references as well.

I’ve decided with

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip 

not to put in my own opinions there. I will link to articles I write about the books/TV shows/movies and so on that you can get to through TMCGTT, but I wanted the timeline itself to not be about my opinions of the works. I’m hoping comments can eventually be made there by other people…but I want it to have a neutral stance.

Sure, there is unavoidable bias on display in what gets chosen for it, but that seems different.

I think, though, I’m seeing fewer neutral works…maybe the ability to do the research yourself instantly on the internet is making that sort of reference work seem to have less value.

Well, that’s just my opinion about writing without opinions! What do you think? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

My biggest disappointment with Amazon to date

May 27, 2016

My biggest disappointment with Amazon to date

I haven’t agreed with everything Amazon has done over the years. Overall, though, I have felt like they have had reasonably good motivations…oh, sure, they’ve been clunky and awkward at times, like the famous time when they deleted George Orwell books from people’s Kindles. The copy wasn’t authorized for the market in which it was sold (the USA). From what I’ve read, the most likely scenario seems to be that the company had intended it to be released in Australia, where the books are in the public domain, and Amazon accidentally released it in the USA, where they aren’t.

Amazon recognized their error. They apologized. They more than compensated people for the loss. Jeff Bezos called it “stupid”,  and the company said they would never do the same thing again.

While they don’t always give everybody everything they want, they eventually seem to come around to something which recognizes desires, and respects their customers’ beliefs, while not advocating for one position over another.

I believe that they will eventually resolve this current issue…I am disappointed that it is taking so long, because it is a simple fix and Amazon is clearly aware of it.

What’s the problem?

Amazon’s newest iteration of the Kindle, the Kindle Oasis, sounds very intriguing to me. People I respect have written of their great impressions of the device.

However, you can only buy it with an animal leather cover.

I mention “animal leather”, because many covers at Amazon are “synthetic leather” (they’ll often say they are “all man-made materials”, or something like that.

I don’t use leather.

I’m not the only person. On the device’s Amazon product page (I’m not linking to it, similar to the way I don’t intentionally link to books which block text-to-speech access), the third highest question has to do with the animal leather issue.

There are a number of reasons people choose not to use animal leather: it can be moral, ethical, religious, ecological (raising cattle takes a lot of land, and in some parts of the world, that land is made available through replacing forests and jungles, as I understand it)…it’s a variety.

For myself, I don’t have an objection to other people using leather. It’s a choice.

My choice is not to do that.

So, I don’t want Amazon to stop offering animal leather covers for the Oasis.

I just want the choice to buy an Oasis without a leather cover.

I would actually pay full price for it, with no cover at all.

People say, “Well, can’t you just buy it, throw away the cover, and buy a non-leather cover?”

The issue is that I don’t want to encourage the production of leather covers by buying one. I think I may actually be unusually calm around dead bodies. I’ve dealt with deceased pets, found dead wild animals (and disposed of them, when appropriate), been to funerals, and so on. It’s not handling the animal skin for me, it’s the production of it, and if I pay for it, I’ve rewarded and encouraged (for the future) that behavior.

Another less important thing is that the super long battery charge life only works with the cover…and Amazon hasn’t produced a non-animal leather cover yet with the battery capabilities.

I’d be fine with no cover…I’m interested in getting the Oasis and writing about it, even with the relatively shorter battery charge life.

I am not asking Amazon to produce a non-animal leather cover, or even to allow other companies to do so (although the latter seems to make a lot of sense to me…there are manufacturers who sell covers on Amazon who are already quite good at non-animal leather covers). I just want the option to buy this evolution of a device I love without something which I don’t buy.

I think I’ll eventually get that choice…it just feels like Amazon is so set on having this perceived as an elite item that they don’t want to sell it without something which has been associated with luxury.

I feel like some of Amazon’s customers are being ignored…and again, this doesn’t seem like a complicated fix. Just offer the Oasis without a cover.

We can already buy “vegan” leather covers that will fit the Oasis from Amazon:

USA Kindle store search (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’m not leaving Amazon over this, certainly, and overall, they are still best company with which I’ve had a relationship.

I’m not mad.

I’m disappointed.

They’ll  fix it eventually…I’m just sad that it is taking such a long time, and with no acknowledgement of the issue.

Just my opinion, of course…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

What should a robot read to understand humans?

May 22, 2016

What should a robot read to understand humans?

I speak to a robot every day…more than one,usually.

No, I don’t work at Westworld. 😉

This is how I define a robot at another blog of mine, The Measured Circle:

robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship). 

The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.

So, certainly, Alexa, whether on our

definitely qualifies. I talk to our Echo (family room) and Dot (bedroom) every day, and I bring our Tap to work, so five days a week on that. I rarely talk to our Fire TV or Fire TV Stick  (we have both), but that may change when we can ask Alexa to open apps or show us shows.

I also talk to “OK, Google” on my Samsung S7 Edge.

They are all getting better…but I have to adjust my conversational style to fit what they understand best.

There’s a giant…well, let’s call it a “charms race” rather than an “arms race” to get digital assistants to have more natural conversation.

Progress is rapid…but there is a long way to go.

IBM’s Watson read all of Project Gutenberg (which prove to be confusing later on about what was fiction and what wasn’t, as I recall from reading a book on the project).

In this recent

Huffington Post article by Maddie Crum

it’s reported that Google used romance novels to try to get a bot to figure out how to put sentences together.

Why romance?

They liked that it was “formulaic”, and thought it was between the complex sentences of literature and the simplistic construction of children’s books.

It’s an interesting choice.

They aren’t really trying to get their bot to understand humans…just to be able to construct more natural seeming conversation.

They want it to see what type of response follows what, that sort of thing.

What would I have a robot read if I wanted it to make good conversation?

I think I’d go with Stephen King.

I’ve found that King writes people in a way that seems familiar to me, realistic to me.

You might have to pick and choose a bit…not every Stephen King book would work, or character.

You could approach this several ways.

You could have your bot memorize millions of books, and search for actual matches.

That’s going to produce some bizarre results from  time to time. 🙂

Another way would be for it to figure out patterns…if the response to a question is “article, adjective, adjective, verb, noun”, that’s something a robot could learn. It would have to be able to either group words within that pattern by understanding their meanings to some extent, or just by grabbing groupings (a “gaze” might be “longing”, “intense”, or “steady”, for example).

My guess is that we’ll  see rapid progress in the next two years and achieve bots passing the Turing test (basically, being convincingly human in conversation) within the next five.

I don’t think that means they need to think like us or feel like us. I think a way to fake that will be found by someone, and probably more than someone.

I would venture to say that most humans don’t think through everything they say, or even anywhere close to most of what they say. “How are you?” “Fine.” Much of it is rote, and more about social interaction than actual meaning.

That’s what bots will need to do, while still answering your question or performing the task you requested.

I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but I think it will.

Once they can handle conversation, they’ll be much better able to write fiction. They are getting there…not great fiction, but passable.

I found myself repeating the same stories over and over again. I use some of the same phrases repeatedly in this blog…sometimes by actual copy and paste (the introduction to my look ahead to the next month’s books, for example, tweaked each month. The statement at the bottom of each post is another).

Most of what I write here is new and spontaneous, but a blog like this is different from training a topic or answering a question.

I know some people recognize that I am telling the same story to make a point…and they are okay with that. I’m not trying to fool people…if it’s a good explanation, it’s a good explanation.

However, I don’t say it exactly the same way, mostly. I deliberately change a word or two, or word order, so that it doesn’t become monotonous.

This post, honestly, is just me musing. 🙂 I suppose, if I were a bot, it would have been more focused…and stiffer, most likely. 😉

What do you think? What would books would have a robot read to learn how to sound human?

Bonus deal:

Here are some more Goodreads deals:

Check the price before you click or tap that Buy button…may not apply to your country, and may have changed. I continue to be very impressed with these Goodreads deals, and I’m happy to be able to share them with you!

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*When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)  This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 


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