Thursday, October 28, 2010

Continuing Education and Augmented Reality

I spend a lot of my free time involved in the Victoria Writers' Society, and a lot of that time involved in Island Writer, a literary magazine based around Vancouver Island. We only accept stories from the Island and the Gulf Islands. I do a variety of interesting things, none of which involve selection. It's kind of fun how much of that there is. As the Editorial Assistant, I accept and blind all the submissions, convert them all to Google Documents, format them for the genre editors, and pass them on after the deadline has closed. I also verify that they're from the Island, keep track of a multitude of spreadsheets, and answer questions. Today I sent out the rejection letters for the upcoming issue, which was slightly less fun, as I know it will disappoint some people. The acceptance letters will follow shortly, but they're pe4rsonalized, and from the genre editors, so I don't need to do anything more until we do the copyediting.

It's been an education being involved with the magazine. When I started on the last issue, I'd only helped with selection for my high school literary magazine, and that was a dramatically different experience. This issue has been more of an education, as I've been involved since the beginning, including posting ads on Craigslist calling for submissions, and my duties have grown in other areas.

So I'm really looking forward to the launch of this issue, and working on the next one. I hope I'll continue to be able to work with a great team and learn a great deal about the publishing industry.

This bout of sentimentality brought to you be a meeting earlier today; no, I most likely won't be the next Editor in Chief, but we're hoping that I'll be able to do some definite training with the next Editor in Chief about production schedules and the other duties of the Editor in Chief.

As I've been typing this, I've had MuchMusic on in the background: music and 3-minute videos make good company later in the evening. One of the persistent commercials is one by Doritos about the band Down With Webster. One part of the ad focuses on the special edition bags of chips that have a spot on the back that you can hold in front of your webcam to get a free music download.

The MuchMusic website having that capability means that the spot is electronically coded, like barcodes, but in a different shape, which brings home far more that augmented reality, that 90s sci-fi darling, is very much a physical reality.

Video games that take place half in the real world and half electronically have popped up with regularity for the last while; my favorites of the genre are Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, which features a virtual scavenger hunt over physical San Francisco as a minor element, and Invitation to The Game by Monica Hughes, which approaches it from a different perspective; the involved subjects continue to think they are playing an electronic game even after the game becomes their reality. The blurred lines between the electronic and the physical makes this an interesting time to be experimenting with technology. And the blurred line is becoming increasingly more prominent; it's more than just sales, like barcodes, and some electronic games for teenagers; the British postal system has come out with new stamps that, if you put your smartphone camera over them, will bring up a video presentation about the historical place or event depicted in the stamp. And if the British post is doing it, you know for certain that it's no longer a fringe technology.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Know Your Audience

Having recently quit my office job, I am devoting most of my time to applying for jobs and my most recent copyediting client.

And obsessively checking my stats on here. Not many of them, but they're there, and the statistics I get are fascinating: I wasn't even aware that there was a browser called Flock. Nor do I have any idea how someone from Israel would have found my blog. Most of the statistics are as expected, but it's the outliers that are fascinating. For instance, 3% of my pageviews are from China? That's an interesting statistic.

It's a bit reminiscent of the resume process; you have this collection of information, of stuff, and you put it out there and hope for hits. And, unless you get the job, or someone commenting, you will never have any idea as to why.

But the outliers, while the most fascinating, aren't the primary audience. My primary audience is people local to the Victoria writing community and people from the online forums where I discuss writing. Predictably, the sites my target audience uses are the top referring links to come here. That means I'm doing a decent job of being visible. I'd be extremely worried if I was getting most of my referrals from my Facebook page, considering that Facebook is more social and familial and I hardly discuss writing or the writing community there. It would mean I was making some kind of mistake on the other places I post links to this blog.

So, thanks for clicking over, wherever you came from.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spreadsheets Are Amazing

I recently quit my job, and am on the hunt for a new one. It makes me particularly glad that I live in Victoria, where the job climate isn't quite so dire as in many parts of the U.S.. Maclean's recently ran a front-page article on the way a lot of the U.S. is deteriorating into circumstances comparable to a developing nation. It's terrifying; as a citizen of the U.S., as a citizen of a country that borders the U.S., as someone who will be in the job and political arenas for decades to come and dealing with a shifting reality no one expected. The U.S. is such an international standard that even BBC reports in pounds and USD - usually with the pounds in parentheses, not the dollars. But, even with the recession officially over, the U.S. continues to slide slowly; I was in the market last week and American tourists, while still allowed to pay with USD (we're a port, after all), were paying on par.

But one to happier subjects: spreadsheets.

I have a deepseated love of them. They make organization simple, clean, and direct. With Google Docs, they're also shareable, and so even more useful! Everything it makes sense to organize via spreadsheet, I do.

Surprisingly, then, it wasn't I who proposed that my latest project be organized via Google spreadsheet. Mason Kochanski and I share a mutual love of music and desire to expand our musical horizons. This project was born out of that mutual love, and an evening when I visited that was spent listening to 90s grunge we'd forgotten about and adored. We started a spreadsheet keeping track of bands we like and why. Having a goal - expanding the spreadsheet with more information - has helped us both find interesting new music we wouldn't have come across under the normal circumstances of itunes and internet playlists. It's a fun project, still underway.