Forty Years, Forty Posts #39

So far I have been fairly restrained about tooting my own horn. For example, I didn’t mention that I was Time’s Person of the Year in 2006. Imagine my surprise when I saw that magazine on the newstand, with “YOU!” shouted back at me and a little ineffective mirror reflecting back my distorted face.

OK, so you were also Time’s person of the year. Congratulations, by the way. Time was doing a gimmicky thing out of respect to the new age of the Internet, “Web 2.0”, what I was calling “The Second Generation Web” for three years before that and had to reluctantly give up when “Web 2.0” won in a fair fight.

Like a lot of people my age, I majored in something non-technical in college but was swept up in the professional possibilities of the tech boom of the 1990s. I developed websites and whatnot, but found that all the HTML and Authorware I’d learned was becoming irrelevent as websites when all dynamic on me, meaning the content lives in a database instead of static web pages and web pages are assembled on the fly, dumping content into premade template pages. Maybe I just lost you, but most of the websites you see now, from blogs to wikis to news sites, are made that way. The programming side is largely outside the learnability of everyday users, but it doesn’t matter, because the technology exists precisely to let anyone easily create and update all kind of websites, and/or participate in creating content on websites. So in realizing one skill set was becoming increasingly useless, I became an expert on Web 2.0 — blogs, wikis, social networks. This is what I tend to present on now and write about for my day job. It also synchs up pretty well with my night and weekend job.

For all the hype, I guess it’s true that Web 2.0 changed my life personally as well as professionally. I picked up a livejournal blog in 2003 and have been regularly blogging ever since (I call this my professional grown-up blog, and LJ my not-that-secret other blog). I quickly found and “friended” other writers, started moderating a community for young adult and middle grade authors, and believe pretty strongly that the combination of writing regularly and peer support helped me succeed as a writer. Coincidentally, one of the other moderators is also launching her publishing career next year. When I gave my first and so-far only presentation as someone knowing anything about writing, my only recommendation to people was to get a blog. You learn by journaling, the networking potential is great, and it’s fun to read back down on entries over three years chronically the writing and revising of Mudville, the search for and wooing of an agent, and the subsequent celebratory announcements that I’d done so and then, a stunning few weeks later, that she’d sold the durned thing…. then the editorial letter, the revisions, the setbacks, and so forth.

There’s also a nice little community for debut authors over there, which you might check out… they’re giving books away from time to time, and there’s a lot of good books coming out next year.

I wonder at times what all this will mean when it transcends marketing, networking, practice, and support for the publishing industry and starts to… gulp… replace it. I’m intrigued by the possibilities for participatory novels in wiki form, for multiple writers blogging as characters in a miniature blogospheric narrative, and for the emergence of more silly words like “wiki” and “blogospheric.”

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