How Do You Choose Which Projects to Pursue?

Maybe in some of my earlier days, I had some problems with asking questions on the Internet. Of course, even on my post lamenting this phenomenon, I got replies! It really is a case where, if you give people an opportunity and a place to reply, they likely will. So, I have one bouncing around in my head.

How do you choose which projects to pursue?

I think I’m going to go with a poll. However, the responses are based on some of my thoughts, so you may very well have your own! Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. We’ve been having some fun and success with polls on Comparative Geeksnot success like Patrick Sponaugle has with polls, but success.

Over time, I notice that my writing projects start to bleed together. There are definitely themes and ideas I want to write about – but as they merge, it gets harder to choose! It makes me really want to get SOMETHING written and out there, so that I know I have succeeded at getting some ideas out.

I wrote about my priorities the other day, and got some feedback – but would certainly still love more! I’m turning 30 tomorrow, so it seems a good time to be introspective. Well, more than usual. And to ask questions like, where should I be spending my time? What’s working and what isn’t? What has the most impact? So this is all just part of that exercise. Thanks for the input, readers!

N – Newspapers

NI think it’s safe to say it’s been a tough few decades for newspapers. I talked about how Journalism jobs seem to be becoming more specialized and in some ways this makes sense, as the news in general gets smaller and tighter as an industry. But what has led to the steady decline in newspaper business? The obvious answer is our old friend the Internet. But I see a few specific elements that are causing more trouble for newspapers because of the Internet than other industries are seeing – say, books versus e-books.

The obvious one is that the Internet provided a new means of accessing the news, forcing them to react and start to try and provide the news in multiple channels. And, to provide it at an Internet-appropriate speed: so, basically instantly. Not the easiest thing, and for getting your facts straight, for doing good editing, a deadline and publication schedule and time is kind of a useful thing. That changes significantly with the Internet.

And then there’s the fact that search engines arose – increasingly giving people the feeling that they can find things on their own, and don’t need anyone else to do that sort of work for them. All of a sudden, is there as much value in the person doing that work, digging up the stories, reporting on them? When all of a sudden, everyone feels like they can do this.

And then you get people creating the content, too! Bloggers and the like, doing the work for free, on their own time. Saying whatever they want, with no editorial standard. Eroding our expectation of there BEING an editorial standard.

But no, the number one problem facing newspapers, in my opinion, is the fact that people expect things online to be free. Oh, and we don’t really like ads. Why buy a newspaper when the same paper gives the news online for free? So then some of them add pay-walls, and we’re up in arms. Paying for something that costs money to create, and which we used to pay for anyway… I will also say that regularly, the most ad-filled, cluttered websites I have seen are news sites. This has gotten better with time, or else I stopped going to their sites: I’m not sure which it is.

I’ve given a few of my thoughts, and I think these things are hitting newspapers harder than a lot of other types of writing. There’s free fiction online, after all, but I still see the value in paying for a good book. However, the news? If I can’t get it one place for free, I’ll just look elsewhere until I can get it for free. Right? That’s what they’re up against. At least in my opinion – what do you think is their greatest challenge?

I – Internet

II think I would like to make the claim that few things have changed the craft of writing as much as the Internet has.

I mean, there are some things. The printing press. The invention of the novel. But really, even something like computers just let us write in a different way: but it was still just writing. Spell check is nice, but in the end, that’s what the editing process was for: now that process is just a background process.

But the Internet lets anyone publish. It lets you talk about obscure things, and be able to point people to information about those obscure things. From another angle, it lets you write about obscure things and be found by people wanting to read those things.

It gets everybody writing. The Internet lets your audience talk back to you, in unprecedented ways and to unprecedented extents. There’s more comments coming back in than can be read for anything that gets big or viral. There’s no way to read this much fan mail!

The Internet also helps break down major language barriers, with translation services. It opens up the world so much.

Unfortunately, what all of this means in a lot of ways is that it has also become infinitely harder to find the good stuff. I’m a librarian. We see this problem coming. At some point, we will have generations who have to deal with the fact that anything they search for is going to come back with millions of hits. How do we find what’s good? The point of this post is not to answer this. The point is to say that now, all of a sudden, everyone can write, and so very many of us are writing, and the world has gotten smaller, and yet also bigger, and more full of things.

It’s a brave new world out there. Write on!

H – Hook

HFor many of the letters of the A to Z challenge, I had ideas pouring out for what to write about, and I started organizing things to not overlap too much, discuss different topics, to be short, personal and opinionated, and of course writing-related. For a few letters, I was left hunting a bit for words. Just so with H, where I found the essential writing term “Hook.” I had forgotten this term, but it is of course one I know and employ, or even over-employ, in my writing. I know when I first did NaNoWriMo, every chapter started with a hook sentence, In Media Res, and the action caught up with it.

However, that got me thinking of the other sorts of ways the idea of the Hook comes up in our world today. What began its life as a writing technique has become something of a way of life in our information-heavy world.

For instance, in blogging, or other sorts of writing online. They say that for search engines, you really want to have your keywords in the earliest parts of your post. That effectively, the search engines are optimized to consider your hook. Also, in RSS feeds, you generally only see the first bit of the post, and this is the Hook that gets people to click-through and read more of your post. Thus, in blogging, the Hook is an essential tool to get read – without a good Hook, the post is likely dead in the water.

By this standard, I’m pretty sure this post fails!

Thinking about the Hook in terms of blogging got me thinking about it in terms of the rest of the Internet in general. And in particular, some of the ways in which the Internet approaches these things like a Journalist. That is to say, we think about webpages in terms of what is “above the fold” (like with a newspaper) – the content that you can generally see without scrolling down, as this is the most-seen content. And really, the first paragraph being the Hook is a heavily used Journalism approach to writing.

And what about Social Media? Twitter in many ways functions as a giant Hook machine – at least, any tweet with a link or picture or anything else you need to click. It has to be interesting enough that someone clicks! It has to Hook them, and it has to do it in under 140 characters. Less, really, with a link in there too!

So be thinking about what you write and put online. Yes, the first paragraph might be the first that you write. But it also has a pivotal role in whether you get read. So go back and look it over before you publish!

The Sunday (Tuesday) Re-Blog – Joss Whedon and the Golden Age

In honor of Agents of SHIELD debuting tonight, here is one of the most fun posts I’ve written over on Comparative Geeks. Check out the original and all of our stuff on Comparative Geeks here:

Alright, so I have to say: I think we are entering into a Golden Age of creativity in our world today. A world where we are running into new technologies, new ways of doing entertainment, new ways of approaching storytelling. A world where there is so much quantity, but we still value the quality so much.

I submit to you that this, the world we are moving into, the Day and Age, the Zeitgeist – for the geeks, the barometer of this has to be the success of Joss Whedon.

The shirt is from, but it's all over the Internet by now...
The shirt is from, but it’s all over the Internet by now…

A man who, constantly, has been shut down by the establishment. And who, when given the chance, creates the most beloved pieces of geekdom being produced today, outside of perhaps Doctor Who. Perhaps.

So join me for a few moments to consider where Joss Whedon has been, and where he has gotten to now, director of one of the highest grossing movies ever made. Read more of this post

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