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JR Holmes
Racing to the future on the Central Coast of the U.S.
Racing to the future on the Central Coast of the U.S.

JR's posts

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Writers are advised to analyze existing books to see how they are put together, but few people were taught how to do so.

This article has some good questions to ask yourself when reading (or re-reading) a book to see how it is put together.

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Just found this site that uses a neural network to create words that could sound like English.

Just a quick few and they don't appear to be too bad.

Posting this just so I'll remember it.

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Just an epic response.
The back-and-forth among the punditocracy about whether the US should ultimately ally itself with rebel forces or with the Empire has escalated again, with Sonny Bunch's op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that the destruction of Alderaan -- so often taken as the ultimate proof that whatever its benefits, the Empire was evil at its core and cannot be allied with -- was actually a justified military operation, and in the long run saved lives.

I remain unconvinced: while the Empire may remain a darling of conservatives, with Jonathan V. Last recently rising to its vocal defense in the Weekly Standard, the fact remains that the "meritocratic force for order and stability led by a more-or-less benevolent dictatorship" (as Bunch puts it) is considerably more meritocratic and benevolent if you're within the Empire's in-group -- white, middle-class, bipedal -- than for the Empire's population as a whole. It's easy to mistake one's in-group for the general public, but that's not an error you can really justify when the fates of entire civilizations are at hand. 

I concede that there is little to no evidence that the rebels would form a better government, however, and Bunch's warning of the risks of the formation of a Jedi State in the Alderaan System (JSAS) should be taken seriously. Just because the Empire is bad doesn't automatically make every alternative better -- and in a decomposing empire, genocide moves from being a risk to a near-certainty, as tribal groups fight for dominance and to settle old grudges.

So I think that our interests, as well as the interests of Imperial citizens everywhere, continue to be best served by working on the systematic restructuring and opening of the Imperial government, rather than by revolution. Revolution solves a few problems but creates far more, as bloody experience has shown.

via +Eoghann Irving.

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Love the writer's voice in this article. Just the right amount of snark.

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An interesting question and something that may have a great impact on both Twitter and the general social sphere.

One thing that is ignored by most of the articles about Twitter increasing the number of characters per tweet is that this limit was originally in place because Twitter was founded on quick messages flowing into their system via SMS. With the SMS limit of characters a bit larger, Twitter was able to receive incoming SMS messages and broadcast them to your Twitter followers.

That this is no longer a concern for Twitter shows how the platform has evolved and is now using dedicated apps rather than SMS as the predominant source of messages.

But Tweets have become their own creatures and the 140 character limit strongly encouraged brevity and a good hook that is a hallmark of Twitter.

My recommendation is that they keep a piece of the 140 character limit by making that the default of what is showing in an individual tweet. A user would then need to tap/click a More button/link to see the additional text of a longer tweet. That would retain the values of a brief tweet and strongly encourage retaining that brevity, but still allow longer tweets to flow without interrupting the pace of a Twitter stream.

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Welcome to the science fiction future
And multiple turrets controlled by a single soldier using what appears to be a conventional game controller.

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Now here is a good idea.

The position of Librarian of Congress is about to get its first new person after the previous person has served for 28 years. Some people are recommending Brewster Kahle, one of the inventors of early search engines and the founder of the Internet Archive.

Worth the read. 

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A really good article about how to get traditionally published in the Science Fiction & Fantasy market.

What I found amazing was, while the traditional SF&F publishers continue to be open to unsolicited manuscripts (such a thing almost unheard of elsewhere in traditional publishing), there was no mention of self-publishing in this article.

There was also some welcome candor in the quotes from several prominent traditionally published authors about how they had little idea about how to go about getting published today. All the same, the recommendations in the article are still remarkably similar to practices of 30 years ago.

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I ran across the below article from Jane at Dear Author. It has some good thoughts about the impact of high volume readers, like the passionate romance readers, on the sustainability of subscription services. Jane was specifically highlighting the recent change at Scribd which dropped about 70% of its romance books and the recent change to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited payment system.

I had to respond to make it clear that the changes at Amazon were in response to a very different situation than was the case at Scribd.

Here is that response:

The real problem has to do with how the various subscription services are compensating the authors. The change at Scribd had nothing to do with the change at Amazon because their payments for stories read worked very differently.

Scribd was paying the author the full retail price of the book/story for each reader. When high-volume readers, like the passionate romance or erotica readers, took advantage of of the service, that resulted in too high a cost to be sustainable for Scribd. Their solution was to drop most of the category that was costing them unsustainable charges. The problem for Scribd is just as you point out, the people most likely to subscribe are those interested in high-volume reading and if Scibd doesn't have what they like to read, they will stop subscribing.

Amazon's first version of Kindle Unlimited, which paid authors from a relatively fixed "pool" based on a reader reaching the 10% point in a story. That avoided the cost situation that Scribd faced. Amazon was only on the hook for that fixed pool no matter how many books the subscribers read. The downside was that with high readership of all the books in Kindle Unlimited, the payments to authors became smaller and smaller. Further, with that payment being triggered at 10% of the story, there was an incentive for authors to write short (and often very short) stories for Kindle Unlimited to trigger that threshold after only a couple page turns. During that time, Kindle Unlimited became the best-paying market for short stories or children's books that authors had ever experienced.

The new rules for Amazon's Kindle Unlimited changed so that while still paying from a relatively fixed pool, the payment was determined by the pages read (and Amazon came up with a standardized Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count, KENPC to go with that) and simply divided the pool by total pages read in that month. That removed the incentive to write short works that quickly triggered the payment to the author, but it also hurt those short story and children's book authors who loved the previous system. Under the new payment system, some Amazon authors find that they are making more when a Kindle Unlimited author reads their entire story than when they sell that same story. in this new system, Amazon is rewarding authors for writing page turners that readers keep reading.

That "fixed" pool for payments from the Kindle Unlimited program is the key to things working for Amazon. There is no open-ended payout going to authors as happened with Scribd. The downside is that if Kindle Unlimited becomes more and more popular the payments from that "fixed" pool don't increase and the authors get paid less and less. In reality, Amazon has been increasing that pool every month and was trying to keep the per story payment under the previous system in a small range of payment (about $1.50 down to $1.35) and, though the new Kindle Unlimited payment system has only been in place for a month, it is expected that Amazon will do similarly with the payment per KENPC pages read.

Whew! That was a long post, but it looks like Amazon is still sustainable and removes some of the unwanted predominance of short works while Scribd still has problems balancing offering value to high volume readers while still being attractive to authors.

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Here is that rare video of the prototype Boeing 707 doing a barrel roll.

The 707 was Boeing's first commercial jet aircraft and the company had spent nearly every penny of profit they had earned for 10 years on developing it. This was one of very few prototypes and Boeing was having trouble convincing airlines that jets were safe and worth the expense. A crash would bankrupt the company.

The rest is history. Well worth the read.
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