One-Minute Book Reviews

April 25, 2010

Are We Hard-Wired for Conformity? Virtual-Reality Pioneer Jaron Lanier’s ‘You Are Not a Gadget’

Filed under: Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:14 pm
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The risks of defining ourselves by templates

You Are Not a Gadget Review: A Manifesto. By Jaron Lanier. Knopf, 209 pp., $24.95.

By Janice Harayda

Is the flowering of the Internet is turning us into a nation of container plants? Virtual-reality pioneer Jaron Lanier thinks so. In this polemic, he argues that we believe we’re expressing our uniqueness when we launch blogs, join Facebook, or leave comments on websites.

But too often, we’re pruning our personalities to fit programming decisions made decades ago and the software designed around them. And the cost is steep for people who give away much of their best work online – all those “journalists, musicians, artists, and filmmakers who are staring into career oblivion because of our failed digital idealism.”

Lanier at times wanders into abstruse topics such as the difference between Bachelardian and Goldingesque neotony or seems to be auditioning for a spot on Oprah’s couch next to Eckhart Tolle. But he salts You Are Not a Gadget with enough life-giving anecdotes to find an appealing middle ground between writing for science-fair winners and for owners of PCs for Dummies. Yes, he tells us, it’s true: Computers scientists really have figured out “how to hack into a pacemaker and turn it off by remote control” in order to kill someone.

Best line: “The phase of life we call ‘childhood’ was greatly expanded in connection with the rise of literacy, because it takes time to learn to read.” “Am I accusing all those hundreds of millions of users of social networking sites of reducing themselves in order to be able to use the services? Well, yes, I am.”

Worst line: “Consciousness is attempting to will itself out of existence.”

Published: January 2010

You can also follow Janice Harayda (@janiceharayda) on Twitter. She satirizes American literary culture, such as it is, on her FakeBookNews page on Twitter, www.twitter.com/FakeBookNews. bit.ly/DKTolle

© Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

October 8, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda – The Most Important Thing Every Blogger Needs to Know (Quote of the Day / Aaron Brazell)

Filed under: News,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:29 am
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Tonight I was going to wrap up my report on WordPress’s New York WordCamp 2008 by writing about what the speakers said about marketing your blog and using video on WordPress. But in going over my notes, I realized that I had too much material about these for one post, so I’m going to save some of it for later this week or early next week.

For now I’ll just quote perhaps the most memorable line of the Sunday meeting, which came from Aaron Brazell, the editor of the popular Technosailor www.technosailor.com, in his talk on “Making It Into the Big Leagues”:

“Remember that readers don’t care about you – they care about what you can give them.”

Brazell didn’t say that is the important thing every blogger needs to know – only that it’s vital to moving beyond the long tail — but what point comes close to this one? (Does anybody care what the creators of I Can Has Cheezeburger? think about the bailout en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Can_Has_Cheezburger%3F?) Thanks for the reminder, Aaron.

You’ll find more WordCamp New York at wordcamp.info/2008/10/05/october-2008-upcoming-wordcamps/ and on the New York WordPress Meetup at wordpress.meetup.com/169/calendar/8858860/.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

September 2, 2008

Are Blogs Inferior to Books? (Quote of the Day / Sam Anderson on ‘Ultimate Blogs’)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:38 pm
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Snobs and throwbacks may see blogs as inherently less worthy than even the worst books. But the gifted critic Sam Anderson made a sturdy counterargument in a review of Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks From the Wild Web (Vintage, 368 pp., $14.95, paperback) nymag.com/arts/books/reviews/44480/, an anthology of writing from 27 sites that captured the interest of editor Sarah Boxer. The lesson of Boxer’s book, Anderson said, is this:

“The best blogs set fire to the dry abstractions of official culture — Greek myth, affirmative action, cosmology, presidential politics — with the spark of immediate, personal enthusiasm.”

Anderson added:

“A print anthology of blog writing seems, at first, to be a deeply paradoxical genre — roughly the equivalent of a cave painting about digital photography, an eight-track guide to ripping MP3s, or a Claymation documentary about the high-tech magic of CGI. In a book, hyperlinks are dead on arrival, animation is frozen into grainy stills, emoticons are ruthlessly suppressed, comments are disabled, and updates take years instead of minutes. And yet, for some of us, the combination makes a certain intuitive sense …

“Most of Boxer’s selections don’t read like a new species of writing, but very like close cousins of the once-venerable print genres that have been forced out of public discourse by the shrinkage of major American media: passionate arts criticism, critical theory, colorful polemics, and above, all the personal essay. Sometimes it seems like blogging is just the apotheosis of the personal essay, the logical heir to 500 years of work by proto-bloggers such as Montaigne, Charles Lamb, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Parker, and E. B. White. I see no reason for drawing an artificial line between screen and print.”

Read more about Ultimate Blogs here www.randomhouse.com/vintage/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307278067.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

July 16, 2008

Twittering About Books

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:31 pm
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This week I’ve had a few technical problems with this site — yes, that’s like saying that Ferris Bueller had a few problems with school attendance — that seem resolved for the moment. But in the crunch I set up a Twitter feed so that if the glitches recur, I can send out a line or two on it. At this writing my feed is open, and if you’re on Twitter, you should be able to find it by searching for “Janice Harayda.” Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

January 19, 2008

Are You Undercommunicating the Vision of Your Blog ‘by a Factor of Ten’?

Filed under: How to,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:17 pm
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Explaining your goals more often or clearly may help you build your site

 

By Janice Harayda

Not long ago, I wrote about a paperback on how organizations change, which I recommended as a holiday gift for managers. But the more I’ve thought about the book, the more it’s seemed that the Harvard Business Review on Change (HBSP, $19.95) www.hbsp.harvard.edu makes a point that could also help bloggers who want to build their sites by attracting more visitors, gaining more links, or generally becoming more competitive. The point appears in an article by John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School and an expert on corporate turnarounds. Kotter lists eight reasons why organizations fail to make changes that would help them stay competitive, including “Not Establishing a Great Enough Sense of Urgency” (Error #1) and “Declaring Victory Too Soon” (Error #7).

But the point that caught my eye was “Undercommunicating the Vision by a Factor of Ten” (Error #4). Kotter argues that the leaders in any field don’t spell out their vision once or twice and hope that people will buy into it (or worse, fail to articulate a vision at all and hope people will figure it out.). Leaders “incorporate messages into their hour-by-hour activities.”

Kotter’s advice might sound comically absurd to many bloggers. How can you weave your vision into your “hour-by-hour” activities if you post once or twice a day, as I do, or less? And yet, Kotter has a point. Most bloggers seem to convey their vision pretty much the way I did when I created One-Minute Book Reviews http://www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com: I described my aims on my “FAQ” and “About” pages and hoped that visitors would click on the links to them.

But these pages got much less traffic than others on my site, far less than 10 percent of the most popular posts. Based on that figure, Kotter was right: If I wanted people to understand my vision, I was undercommunicating it by a factor of 10. Worse, I can’t compensate for this adding information to the header on my blog, because I can’t customize the template.

So after reading the Kotter’s article, I made a few changes with the aim of conveying my vision better. These three seemed especially helpful and might work for you, too (though if could customize my header, that might be best of all):

1) Add a regular tag line to the bottom of posts, explaining what your site is “about.” Mine consists of just one sentence, “One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation.”

2) Update your FAQ and post the changes both on the FAQ page and as a regular post, so visitors to your site will see the questions without having to click.

3) Keep visitors up-to-date on changes in your mission. If your thinking about your vision has evolved since you put up your FAQ or “About” pages, explain the changes in a regular post.

Have you taken any steps to communicate the vision of your blog that you think would help other bloggers? If so, why not share your views by leaving a comment?

Janice Harayda recently was named one of 25 “Women Bloggers to Watch in 2008″ by the site Virtual Woman’s Day virtualwomansday.blogspot.com/2008/01/women-bloggers-to-watch-in-2008.html. One-Minute Book Reviews is the sixth-ranked book-review site in the world on the Google Directory of top book-review blogs www.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/Reviews_and_Criticism/.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

The Rubric Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

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