People I met at BlogHer; and the swag

Here is a giant bigass post with links to all the people I met at Blogher. It was often a blur of meeting people who recognized me because I am recognizable with the purple hair and all. But then I would forget their names unless they had badges on or I already knew them from long conversations from previous years. And then people who I sort of know or felt like I should know better than I actually remember knowing. And already it’s been a week since the conference, so I’ve forgotten what were at the time very cool connections. YOU KNOW HOW IT GOES. (Talking to someone 5 minutes secretly thinking omg who are you who are you i totally know who you are but your hair is different now until it clicks, thank god because I often can’t fess up that I don’t know.) Sometimes, I was smart, and made a note on the business card of what we talked about and what I intended to do as a result. “email to her Sondra’s info” or “damn this guy is pushy” or whatever.

What I really want is for all these fabulous geeky women to come to BarCampBlock in Palo Alto, August 18-19. Come! I’m helping to organize it! Sign up on the wiki, on upcoming.org, on the Facebook group, and/or on EventBrite. Also, I’d like to see them all again at She’s Geeky in October, — Oct 22-23 in Mountain View!

First and perhaps illogically the people I already know. My amazing roommates at the W, SJ of I, Asshole who I have known online since my first days of blogging. And her friend Shauny whose name I only knew peripherally from years of seeing it in SJ’s sidebar as her web host and I think blog-mother — Shauna who is like a rock of sanity and interestingness and I could just wait for the next hilarious sarcastic thing to come out of her mouth. And I love SJ’s business card: “Generous Lover + Writer + Dope Bitch / Super Jive at your Service”. This year, we refrained from the secret topless photos of last year, but I could not help down-blousing her a couple of times. Someday the world will be properly at her feet. She will be like Molly Ivins, except boozier and dirtier.

Blogher

Annalee Newitz from Techsploitation and I hung out a lot. We did at SXSWi as well. There’s a funny balance at conferences between hanging out with new people and hanging with people you already know who are from your hometown. You want to be around the people you already know, and connect up with them because you don’t see them enough. But on the other hand if you do that too much you never meet anyone new! And then I’ll go through a process of thinking “Oh well if I want to see Mary then I can just call her the hell up, why don’t I?” and vowing to call her when I get back home. But with Annalee, because we know each other so well, it’s like being in a warm bath. So when I get overwhelmed by conference or need to process it all with someone super safe, you will find me texting the shit out of Annalee with “Where r u” until we meet up and can hang out and relax. I was super happy she came to BlogHer, and so proud to hear her being smart and articulate as hell at the keynote with Esther Dyson and Rashmi Sinha. Anyway, it’s a long way since the days when she would go “Blogging? Why! Full of drama! Just be a professional journalist and get paid!” And she kicks so much ass! And so I was happy to see her see that BlogHer is one of those places you can be all the parts of yourself at once, asskicking, geeky, and human. I really liked what she said about BlogHer; I feel the same way, and this sums it right up.

There were tomboys, mommies, punks, tarts, ladies, bitches, nerds, and girls. There were professional women in suits and perfect hair, and grubby rockabilly gals in tattoos and tight dresses.

Because so many of us were there, we stopped being women and just became humans. This is an incredibly rare experience in the tech industry.

I have three different cards from Mur Lafferty. I am totally going to stick my tentacles into Mur’s brain. We could not talk for more than 30 seconds without shrieking “NO! I must see that! Send me the link!” I vote her Person I Most Want to Be New BFF With. I will let her ride my bike, and chop the hair off all my Barbies, and post in my group blogs, and and and. I will also buy a “Mur’s Bitch” tshirt and wear it with pride. I wish I had spent more time just following Mur around, and especially with laptops open and the links flying, but the hanging out we did do was so nice it felt like we had known each other forever.


Possibly the nicest down time at the conference, me, Annalee, Barb Dybwad, Mur (whose novel thing you can find at Heaven seasons 1, 2 and 3, Gina, Jason from Lulu.tv, Marshall, and then later SJ, Shauna, and Susie. Beer in the sink! Computers at hand (but no good wireless)! Pizza on the floor! Conversation flying! Screaming laughter!

Onwards!

I hung a bit with Beth Kanter, whose blogging I admire and who is just Fun. She laid a whole bunch of stuff on me at my request about blogging and wikis and nonprofits and in fact she has some enormous wiki squirrelled away that explains it ALL. I will link to that and write it up separately when I have spare brain cells. Amusingly… one of her Moo cards was a photo I took of her lying on the floor upskirting me at the FIRST BlogHer. Yes we are very very rowdy when you take 95% of the men away. Women’s tech conferences are like a huge frat party but with more giggling and craft projects and light flirting. Just as you always suspected, guys!

I talked a bit (never enough!) with Dave Coustan and I’m linking to him even if it is a link to his benign corporate overlords. He is “extraface” on twitter if you want his personal life. And surely some of you do!

I hung out with my homie and fellow Woolfcamper Jen Scharpen, who works now for BlogHer Ads and for BlogHer itself!

And ended up with a card for Beth Blecherman who I know from meeting the Silicon Valley Moms Blog folks! Jill Asher was at the conference too I think, but I don’t remember seeing her. OMG maybe she changed her hair and I *did* talk with her and she’s one of the people I should totally know and yet only have met in person twice. I also don’t know Beth super well, but always enjoy talking with her!

Deb Roby – I do not have her card on me, but know where to find her! We sat across each other at dinner one night at the W hotel and had a grand old time with the gossip.

Georgia Popplewell from Global Voices and Caribbean Free Radio, someone I’d like to know better, and didn’t get that heart to heart talk with, but at some point I know we’ll do that! Oh, she’s fantastic!

You see the problem with BlogHer. It is full of amazing people to the point to where your head explodes. If you love to talk with smart, clueful geeks and writers, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop.

Laurie White of Laurie Writes. We talked at dinner at the W about education and community college teaching and social class. I was trying to recommend the book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” by Ruby K. Payne to Laurie. This is my reminder to do that! Or maybe she’ll vanity-technorati and find this and will make a note of it. Also, you should all buy it and read it. It’s a very good explanation of social class and of its hidden rules, and ways to translate culturally between classes.

Karen from Trollbaby/Vodkarella was so much fun at sushi… We and Queen Tureaud aka Erin (whose blog name for her kid is, get this, Queen Peanut Punk as Fuck) and whose writing I also read with interest elsewhere, Anyway my point was we were eating sushi and drinking sake and joking massively about bi-curious mommyblogger dynamics. I know what you are thinking … when do these blogging chicks NOT talk about sex? I’m not sure but not when I’m around that’s for sure. Seriously though, Karen rocks, and I am still very appreciative of the great blog redesign she did for me!

Okay, that is the people I already knew reasonably well, or at least the ones whose cards are right in front of me.

More later of all the other people, but this post is already way too long.

Just one more thing.

SWAG! The best stuff I got at BlogHer was the bags, as usual. The glowing martini glass entertained me for a while. And the AOL memory stick was also nice and made me feel warm and fuzzy, but I left it in a geocache at breakfast yesterday. Tiny hand mirrors and a couple of magnets, also good, and they’ll stick around rather than being thrown away. So I am left with some stickers and flyers, and the main tote bag, and the awesome AOL body (?) laptop bag. I don’t know what AOL body means, and don’t care, but I think kindly of them in a general way now, instead of hating them for the litter of “free online access” CDs that infested the world some years back. The cocktail party food at the Childrens’ Museum party rocked. That stuff was delicious!

Someone’s missing out big time on the geeky-slogan tshirt selling opportunity, and the fact that everyone wants to mod up and decorate their laptops, and have a fancy unique laptop bag. I also agree with Lisa Williams that if they’re going to give us hand lotion, which I like perfectly well by the way, it should have LEDs in it. YES. Just throw some girly shit at us, like laptop bags that look like robotic parts with rivets, AND sparkles, or light up hand lotion with a control panel, or futuristic star trek salt and pepper shakers that also have GPS in them. Ipod cases, etc. We are GEEKS and like gadgets, and little thingies to decorate gadgets, and useful things to put things into, at BlogHer!

I wonder how many tiny cute laptops and iphones Apple would have sold if they had set up something at BlogHer? What do you think?

Tools, also. Tools and gadgets that are cute and portable. I am thinking of how Radio Shack had a table at Maker Faire, and was selling fabulous small toolkits for 10 bucks. I bought one for the trunk of my car. NOW when I am trapped in an earthquake on the highway I will not only have moldering powerbars and boxes of raisins and bandaids! I will also have a full set of wrenches!

Cars were a really good idea too at BlogHer 2006. I bought a car last year, and I hated the process with white hot blinding passion and I had to deal with slobbering sexist jerks at the car dealership.

I’ll write more later or tomorrow as this is part 1 of at least 3 posts on BlogHer. Part 2 will be the other people I met. Part 3 will be the panels I was on and that I went to! No wait. I need Part 4 for the Unconference in which I talked about wikis for like 6 hours. That’s it, peace, out.

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BlogHer conference coming up!


blogher party
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

I’m madly excited about the upcoming BlogHer conference – I’m on a couple of panels – Moderating “Does the Blogosphere need an intolerance intervention” with its somewhat ambiguous stance, and filling in at the last minute for Grace Davis on day 2 of the conference in “Blogging: The Voice for Silenced Communities“. I really, really, love a good juicy panel discussion with a ton of participation and ideas exploding everywhere that send you off thinking and inspired. That’s how it will be, the entire conference — with the added torment of knowing that in the next room something else just as interesting is happening and you’re missing it!

BUT THE PARTIES! Oh my god we’re going to have fun.

And the strange pajama parties at midnight in our swanky hotel rooms (fancy yet crammed with 4 of us to a room) with laptops and compromising photos and books and cameras! Our silliness will not be contained and must spill over onto your internets!

And the hallways where I will park myself and geek out and get to meet people I have admired from afar and they turn out to be just regular people with shy smiles who are nice.

I think best of all I like meeting amazingly witty shy people who have gem-like beautiful blogs and are not scrambling after fame and fortune or trying to Optimize for Business. It makes me think of how I love to make little xerox zines and distribute them for free. It is still a culture of DIY and abundance and love.

But on another level all the businessy social capital networky things are also beautiful. The first BlogHer conference gave me a lot of confidence and belief that my weird useless literary hobby was appreciated. I met so many people who continue to be useful to me, not like I call them up and go “Give me a job, and I’d like my own Lear Jet to the conference, cause i am internet famous” but just in that we know we exist, in awareness of each other, and that is comforting and inspiring. Just that I know all the people I met at the first Blogher conference still amazes me. Instead of being a lone wacko in my garage transmitting ham radio waves into outer space (as I felt while blogging solo) I am part of this amazing community and I have professional and literary colleagues.

I looked at my Facebook social timeline and saw how it is basically an explosion of friends stemming from BlogHer 2005. That’s so amazing. And as a feminist I appreciate, especially, the connections with other women, so often disrupted by capitalism, nuclear families, and all the pressures of our lives under patriarchy. BlogHer helps me live my life more the way I have always wanted to, with strong ties to other women.

Actually, Woolfcamp helped that too. And I still hope to see others do some decentralized women-blogging and tech meetups that are small unconferences, just get together with your laptops and start showing each other all your geeky stuff, even just how you blog and what tools you use. And I guarantee that among 3 or 4 people you will all learn something and be fortified and inspired. It is a sort of nucleation and sharing of information that makes everyone involved become bigger.

Back to the practical universe. I will be flying out on Wednesday, will stay with my sister-in-law and her family one night in Oak Park, and then off to the W Hotel. I am rooming with SJ of I, Asshole, one of my earliest blog friends. Actually I was her stalker for a while until she noticed me in her comments (as is so common with these blog friendships!). And with her friend Shauny who I don’t know but who I’m sure will be fun. BLOG PARTY IN MY ROOM and you are all invited.

I will miss Grace Davis a lot and will be thinking of her and extending magic tentacles to her this week and next… and I will save up a lot of fun for her and when she is ready I will go and bring it to her house and pour it in her lap. I was thinking that a Woolfcamp in the park would be awesome. I will find a beautiful place with lots of nature AND wireless and we will all go and have a blogging picnic specially in Grace’s honor.

Meanwhile, I am gearing up to write for BlogHer again. I took a 6 month leave, because I got a full time job and an extra part time job and could not handle so much work. But I am ready to get back to blogging about blogs by women from Latin America (including the Latin America that intersects with the United States, i.e. blogs by Latina/Chicana women). I miss all the blogs I used to read and the fun emails and am looking forward to getting back into it with a weekly post. If you have a favorite blog, in Spanish or English, and I will try Portuguese as well, please send me the URL and a description of the blog and blogger and I’ll add them to my feed!

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Maker faire: Computer sculpture

I saw countless cool things at Maker Faire today. The Computersculpture.com booth was one of the coolest. The dude there, Andrew Werby, let me sit there and play with a demo for a while. There was a pre-defined 3-D object on the screen, a sort of smooth, soft, spongy blob. With a pen on an articulated arm, like one of those adjustable desk lamps, I could “feel” the object’s surface and by pressing a button, push into it and sculpt it.

This was uncanny! The kinesthetic sense, the resistance in the pen in my hand, was just perfect. It was as if I was feeling and manipulating a real object. It was a bit like punching a blunt tool, a stylus, through thick foamy stuff; I thought of hot wire and foam carving kits.

At some point, I carved through the blob into the center, and the tool fell through into a sort of cave. I could feel around inside the object and visualize it in my head. There were multiple exit holes in the back, where I couldn’t see, that other people doing the demo before me must have made. The sensation reminded me uncannily of the numb feeling of pressure that I have had during surgical procedures. The tool also looked like and behaved like an instrument i held in my hand — except I could pass it through the object. So the tip had all the sensation and the handle was ghostly and non-existent. I had sensation, without having any hands. I could imagine surgeons really doing “Fantastic Voyage” type of operations this way. But it should also be a tool that game designers use for character and world building. I can’t imagine artists not loving this tool!

I have never felt something on a computer, a thing that I couldn’t see. My head exploded with thoughts of designing cool video games for visually impaired people. Mazes and thought puzzles and art pieces.

There was more to Andrew’s set of tools; you could sculpt, and then 3-d print your objects. I was blown away so completely by the kinesthetic 3-d modeling, I didn’t pay attention to the rest.

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SuperHappyDevHouse: Serial enthusiasm

I’m at SuperHappyDevHouse cussing up a storm as my wireless connection goes in and out. I’ve been messing with Kayuda, with Pipes a little, writing up notes, and talking with people who are all showing me nifty software. I just tagged about a dozen mindmapping and brainstorming apps in del.icio.us from my conversations with Ben Suter and David Montgomery. Tried a few of them… Ben showed me his Narrator software, which does something mysterious with architecture mapping and has a component that generates diagrams that then can be viewed as 3-D models. But with a mindmap-like interface, drawing and defining links between objects. When I got him into trying Kayuda he squeaked with glee.

Tantek and I talked briefly about wiki gardening. I also got into a conversation in the line for the bathroom (before I discovered the secret bathroom) about it. As more and more people get into wikis, as they have been doing with blogs, we’ll need more and better wiki gardening tools. I need them right now for multiple wiki platforms, and I don’t have them, and I don’t think anyone does. I wonder if there will be interesting visual representations of wikis as networks, and ways to fiddle with that, and better batch editing of wiki pages, and ways to run stats that will hook straight into wiki manipulation and administration tools. This could also have a crucial social and community component; ways of representing stories about the ways people are interacting, patterns and clusters of interaction exposed could give ways to deal with problems of group dynamics that arise on wikis big and small. A bunch of people talked with me tonight about throttling down the speed of web interaction, adding limits to the volume people can contribute, maybe especially toning down “noisy” people, adding “friction” — same stuff Kaliya Hamlin was talking about at SXSWi.

A ton of people are here from startup school. They’re all starry eyed right now so it must have been some super powerful koolaid over there.

Whump and I and Les Orchard were talking about people who are serial enthusiasts. (Us.) We love some nifty new software for a week and talk about it all over the place and blog it and poke it and then run off after something else. I wonder what our actual rate of new-software-adoption to “ooo shiny”. I accused whump of feeding me a constant stream of interesting new things and of knowing everything about new stuff AND actually using a high percentage of it and knowing it in more depth than people who burble about shiny new things usually know. He denies this and feels ashamed of his inability to adopt all nifty software orphans. Les says he is known for being the person to ask if anyone wants to know, “Hey, is there a Web 2.0 company that does X thing?” and he always knows, because for a while he was reading 1000 feeds. That’s what happens if you snap your achilles tendon while getting off the bus. I pointed out that “evangelist” might not stay in vogue forever as a job title, because the oo shiny people who get hired for that, well, if you’re that way, can you possibly sustain that feeling about a single product for years? So we all three were sitting here wishing there was a job for serial enthusiasts, who are maybe an intersection with early adopters. My theory is that there are people who have excellent “nifty filters” and are tormented because they recognize niftiness unusually well, so well that they notice the potential and niftiness of so many things that it’s not humanly possible for them to use all of those things. This might also be seen as (or might be) sluttiness, or a lack of discrimination and ability to recognize what’s truly nifty and useful as well as the lack of going deeply into those things. Perhaps both qualities combine to make the deepest serial enthusiasts. A level of quick insight and holistic grasp of possibility is good, as well as the ability to generate different idea-pathways quickly, like a chess player foreseeing future developments. Whether or not that sort of person is useful in the real world, I value that quality in people.

(Somewhere in here I looked at Rohit’s Angstro thingie, challenged a bit of the “what would be useful” concept of it, marvelled at Plasma Pong’s silliness and beauty, and talked to a dude who’s part of a Linux TV company which I’ve forgotten the name of but he was screaming with delight about Angela (?) something, his CEO, who rocks and is an enormous genius, and how they’re a tiny quiet company that is about to take over the world; and at Eric Tiedemann’s Monome tuning application which he nicely explained to me though he could barely contain being appalled that I didn’t know anything about the mathematics of tuning; and I started installing Planet Venus on my server, and then went on an extended bitter rant to Whump about how and why nowhere ever exports me a decent opml file, or imports it right, and all my effort is lost when I switch platforms or accounts, so I’ve become disheartened about feed readers. Whump had a neat setup that he promised to write up later in his blog, with Planet Venus running every once in a while and then pushing up to a server. Later in the night, I looked at the sort of messy tangle I made on Kayuda and I think that it’s not a good representation, and it might not even be useful, and I wonder how to restructure it so that it would be. Strict limitations on number of nodes to convey a central idea, with baroque flourishes and digressions allowed in a sort of overlay? )

I can’t believe how many people are crammed into this house. It’s nuts. But I have the feeling I don’t want to leave… it’s all cosy… I have a spot on a couch… the network is working again so I’m all happy. I have contradictory impulses to go talk with people and then on the other hand to lurk on the irc channels and “talk” the way normal people do, on the internet, without this weird “moving your mouth” or “looking at people in the face” component to it.

Some dude came up to me and said “This is your house, right?” “No… why do you ask?” “Because… uh… because you’re cool?” I think that was either meant to be several layers of irony more than it came off as, or else he was a bit drunk…

Okay, it *was* all cosy until I read some really gross and annoying posts on Valleywag about SHDH and women. At least there are nice people like whump and cyn and Ben and Tracy. That don’t make a person feel like there’s women who count as human, and other women who don’t, and as if there are only a few slots for the humans and a perpetual struggle to prove oneself worthy, and the perpetual need to represent for one’s entire gender… at all times… It’s a bad way to set up a frame for the universe. I get so pissed off reading stuff like that and want to respond in kind, or at least by regendering it or being “funny” right back by objectifying guys, which doesn’t work anyway because the power dynamics are different. Anyway, grrrrr.

My uncle just got home – he went to the Mermen show at 12 Galaxies and loved it and also loved the Extraordinaires. Maybe I should have cut out early from shdh when I stopped being productive, and gone to the show.

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Fictional layer on social networks

Here’s a fabulous idea! On social network profiles, there will be space for one’s fictional alter egos. In other words, my profile on orkut or friendster or tribe or even LinkedIn should include my past role-playing game character information. One could suck in data from one’s Everquest or World of Warcraft or MUD characters, and manually put in data about tabletop rpgs.
It’s important, because who you like to pretend you are is important. Among role-playing gamers I certainly know people who think about the patterns in their game-playing, and who consciously use the characters to vary their real life persona, to experiment with ways of being, as well as to play to their real life characteristics and strengths.

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Some amusing ideas around Twitter

Part of the fun of Twitter is in making up stupid words with tw*tt- as the prefix. Make up the ludicrous dot-com word and the idea will follow. I am very fond of words that have sprung into being like “multiblogular,” “polyblogular,” “hyperblogulating”, “twitterlibrium“, “computerbating” or “wikibating” and now “twitterbating”. The -bating suffix is particularly interesting because it carries all sorts of associations of feelings and irony around the activity. Perhaps a slight tinge of guilt and discomfort or uncertainty towards the degree to which one is engaging with people (or no people) online rather than “real life” (which of course we must put irony quotes around because talking to people over the net is real life just as much as talking face to face.)

While I was driving to San Jose the other morning I was considering twitterzines – what would they be? I think a way of creating sophisticated “favorites” lists or sets. Twittidors would drag and drop other people’s tweets onto interestingly-themed twitterzines; they might turn out like poems or tiny magazines or scrapbooks made of snippets of other people’s lives. Being able to look at or collect tweets based on keyword would be nice, but then adding in a human editorial function would be nifty. One’s amazing words of wisdom about chicken tacos or the future or toenail-painting at sunset could then be collected by others… and perhaps you get props of some kind for the mention or for being anthologized (twitthologized? ugh!)

The timeline concept could be pushed way further & with tons of possibly pointless data so that you could look at your own or other people’s distributions of twittering – Does one tend to tweet at particular times, like during commute… at dinner… Or what? And with particular keywords associated? Just as various events have been highlighted on Twitter (Macworld, etc – and imagine the mass twitterbating that’s about to happen at SXSWi; it’ll be nuts) We could mark up or tag important moments. Like being able to collect what people were tweeting during the Superbowl. I don’t give a fuck about the Superbowl and in fact don’t know who played or won, but maybe other events would give nifty information to… someone. My mind hovers between thinking of historians and advertisers… but probably it would be the dilettantes who look.

Dragging & dropping would be a nice concept. Rather than batch editing (Okay I’m assuming anyone ever bothers… But they might… ) you could drag and drop your (or someone else’s) twitters onto a tag or into a collection (the twitterzine – which again would be a bit like a Flickr set.)

A probably easy & fun Twitter extension: A mood index or indicator that depended on various factors. On contemplating my own collection of tweets I am heavy on the “fabulous” “Yummy” “yay” and the gazillion exclamation points. Clearly my mood index would tend towards the “Give this woman Ritalin, stat” end of things. The mood index could be as simple as good mood / bad mood but I suspect that more complex would be more fun. The lists of keywords indicating mood, or the connections between word and mood could be built collaboratively, and I think keywords would be a fine way to do it (Unless there is someone out there typing “Yay, I’m fabulously pissed off and want to kill myself, omgponies!!!”) This could be pushed even further into, what’s that test that people get so obsessed with? The one where I’m like ENTJ or something? That thing. You could associate keywords or patterns or data with various of the qualities and then predict.

One could look at patterns of whether groups of friends or followers tend to twitter in clumps. For example, if after Tara Hunt twitters about her day, half her friends obliquely respond by twittering about their day, that could turn out to be interesting information. An algorithm like… the # of followers you have, in relation to how many of them tend to twitter within a certain time period after you twitter. That might be pointless because it would lead to a level of self-consciousness and avoidance of posting immediately in response to someone or else – the other direction – gaming it deliberately. On the other hand that might be amusing as well.

Twitter is lovely for flirting and webstalking – you can see what your crush is up to or obliquely let them know as well without directly communicating or possibly intruding on their day with an IM or email. So what many dating sites haven’t achieved, Twitter does perfectly without intending it. Flirting is all about plausible deniability and Twitter offers that very nicely. I’d like to hear some cool twitter-flirting true confessions from people…

Anyway, I picture this sort of stuff being built on top of Twitter, much like the nifty and addictive little apps people build for LiveJournal. Like LiveJournal, Twitter is *fun*… And people want to play with it and poke and and mess around, which could turn out to be productive in unpredictable ways.

I shouldn’t say this, but given the level of eye-rolling some people exhibit over “those people obsessed with Twitter” with the implications of pointless narcissim & wankeriness… I’m surprised no one has made the obvious tasteless parody: Twatter.

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Why I like LibraryThing

I was trying to explain tonight to Annalee why I like LibraryThing. “What’s it FOR? Is it a book recommender? Or is it data about a book?” No… no… it’s for building a picture of knowledge and of people. When I first walked into Annalee’s house, for example, my head went sideways and I muttered off into all the rooms reading the book titles. I could see evidence of interests past and present, clusters of information, and could extrapolate meta-interests or things like “here are sets of books that indicate grad school classes very similar to ones I took or browsed.” So now I know without having to ask that she has a mental foundation or familiarity with Spivak and Bhabha, Derrida, Sontag, Delouze and Guattari (“Spavin, Babble, Dada, Snotrag, Deloser and Guitar”) and that sort of cultural studies/literary/historical theory way of thinking as well as science books, tech books, monster movies, pulp, tons of good science fiction, and the same sort of 19th and 20th century sex and gender information books that I also collect.

When I was looking at Timmi Duchamp‘s books I wrote that it was like being together with her in a beautiful cathedral. The way she organized them was beautiful, but it was the combinations of ideas and the depths of certain areas of knowledge that were amazing and I felt happy and honored to understand some of that, and what it meant to my knowledge of her as a person and of her work as a writer and critic. Seeing someone’s books, if they are a very booky person, with their brain deeply intertwined with what they have read, very intertextual, then seeing their books gives you some knowledge. It’s not like any two people, reading the same set of books, have the same reactions to them. But because we’re in this post-Golden-Bookshelf age where we have no literary or cultural canon, it is reassuring and interesting to see someone’s (nongolden, or golden only to them) bookshelves. If it was important to have (and to destroy) the golden bookshelf, then it’s important for us that we’re developing ways to make each others’ bookshelf compositions transparent.

Since I have read quite a lot, and in areas I can’t expect someone else at random to have read, I get very happy when I met with people whose bookshelves intersect. Right now the person with the closest books to my books on LibraryThing happens to be one of my best friends. That was a funny feeling, like confirmation of our unusual common areas of deep knowledge. I look at the people I don’t know (and I know many of them from their blogs, mostly from LiveJournal) and figure that, the way my life is going, and with tons of social software stickly spreading around through everyone I know denser & denser, I’ll probably meet them within a year. And when I search on a few of the rare books — anthologies of Latin American poetry from 1910 — and then later am searching on some incredibly hip or trashy science fiction book published last year — Then I swoon a little bit and fall in love with that person who is in the tiny club of the two of us who like those two very different books. (We don’t just own them: we gloat over them and bothered to enter them and tag them up.)

Who has this book? Only 2 other people! I feel a new pleasure; that of snobbery and pride. I look at their tagging of that book and I learn something – and maybe go back and put my tags more in line with theirs, which might make more sense. Or I like mine better and keep them as they are. Together the three of us built something, a small consensus. Then I can look at their personal library tag clouds:

Another pleasure is in the tag clouds. I can follow a few tags of marxist feminism and find strangers, then browse their tag clouds. (Here’s my tag cloud, but that’s only about 2% of my books.) What other tags does a marxist feminist reader tend to gather? Wandering around in that information is fun and I feel like I’m learning a meta-something from it. What, I’m not sure.

I look for the people who have eclectic collections, and who have certain areas of depth of knowledge – who are geeky and expert about a few things, but then whose interests scatter interestingly. It’s not like I am dying to write them messages, I’m busy enough… but I feel less intellectually lonely because I know they exist. And again, odds are in the techno-bohemian world I’ll meet them at some point and then feel instant friendliness.

I start to feel I want to introduce certain readers and LT-ers to each other; and I see gaps that inspire me as a critic, that make me see “Wait. All these people should also have A Certain Glorious Book; they’d love it, based on what they own and tag heavily.” And then I resolve to write a review, give a book as a present, or just give a recommendation out of the blue.

It is not just social and about stalking… it is a method of creating cultural meaning.

But that is not all of it… I’ll have to return to this thought. Meta-information structures laid in place… underpinnings of possible conversations…. people seem more real to me than they ever did… strangers hold more possbilities… It is a general feeling of hope, connection, interest, pleasure, curiosity. I think that when you drink the Web 2.0 Koolaid it’s not about believing in hype – it’s a fundamental shift in how we think about each other as people with depth, with books and feelings about them, with wishes and goals and places we want to go to or that we’ve loved (as on 43places and 43things) and with social ties laid out with at least an attempt at clarity. When novels became popular, it provided an opportunity for people to think about each other as characters in novels, as protagonists even, whose thought processes could be revealed, imagined, chronicled. I think Web 2.0 and blogging and rich social information environments, which will surely develop intertwinings more complicated than we’ve imagined, are in the beginning of a shift in the way it is possible for people to think about each other. There are of course utopian and dystopian results from that shift. But lucky for me I was born in interesting times and will not be bored, ever.

LibraryThing has inspired me several times so far to get rid of books that I think are embarrassing, too embarrassing or dull to add to my public bookshelf. Do I want this on my shelf? I didn’t want it in my brain. Then… throw it out!

Just as certain people are peculiarly charming and witty on Twitter, but dull on their blogs… or vice versa… I think some people’s libraries will function like registers of complicated conversation. Registers of speech or media for speaking can result in very different output from the very same person. So as a mode of self expression, art, and culture, LibraryThing and social media let us see each other saying things we might not have said, or been able to see being said, before. They provide an extra conversational layer.

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