My Instant Google+ Review

Folks have been asking me for my thoughts on Google+, the new Googlelicious social network, so:

I like it, for a few reasons: One, it doesn’t have an arbitrary cap on the number of people you can connect to; two, it’s easy to organize the people you connect with into buckets (Google calls them “circles”) that  better reflect your actual relationship to those people; three, the interface is clean and minimal but effective; four, it’s not yet clogged up with bots and announcements from games I don’t give a crap about that one or another of my connections has bought a cow or taken over a castle or whatever. So: Clean, easy to use, not obnoxious. Is it perfect? No, but from my point of view it’s better put together than other social networks, if for no other reason than the people at Google have had time to look at all the mistakes MySpace and Facebook made (and the previous mistakes they made with Buzz and Google Wave) and avoid doing those. So far: it doesn’t suck.

Will I use it a lot? Got me. My main online hangout is here, followed by Twitter; I update both of those several times a day on average. I put a post on Facebook maybe once a week, partly because Facebook irritates me enough that I wish to spend as little time as possible on it while still keeping contact with friends who like it (I’ve mostly stopped adding “friends” there because I only have a couple hundred friend slots left and I want to keep those for people I actually know — sorry people I don’t know who want to be my Facebook “friend.”). I notice myself going to Google+ more than Facebook (or MySpace, or LinkedIn, etc) because I find it easier to get about in and so far it doesn’t annoy me technologically and philosophically like Facebook does. Take that as you will.

Would I recommend Google+? If you’re in the market for a social network, sure, why not. I still prefer my own blog, followed by Twitter, but provided you can get enough of your own pals to join up with you, Google+ does the things social networks are supposed to do — make it easy for you to stay connected with people you like/know/have some passing interest in — without making an ass of itself. So far, anyway; we’ll see if it lasts.


Clarion and San Diego

For those of you who like these sorts of things, a recap of my last week.

Clarion: No real specifics here on account that I told the Clarion students that what goes on there stays there, and I would look like a real asshole if I turned around and blogged in detail about it. But I can say some things on a general sense. First, this year’s crop of Clarionites is smart and talented and I would not be in the least surprised if you see them selling stories very quickly (in fact one sold a story last week, so there you are), and I really enjoyed spending my week with them, both in the classroom setting and then outside the class as well — mostly at meals, which is one reason I gained a few pounds last week, ooof. But it was worth it. And the Friday Night Ukulele Hoedown will almost certainly go down in Clarion history. I will say no more about it. You had to be there, man.

Second, Clarion was a learning experience for me, which I regard as a positive thing. I have done the workshop instructor thing before, of course; I did three years at Viable Paradise. But there I was accompanied by seven other instructors, who shared the load of critiquing, lecturing and other sorts of student/instructor interaction. At Clarion, it was largely just me for a whole week. Before it happened I wondered how it would go, and whether I would be able to actually be useful to students flying solo. Clarion in itself is scheduled so that as an instructor you get a fair amount of time with each student, which helps a lot. But largely it’s on you. I decided the way I was going to be most useful was to talk to the students about the practical aspects of the writing and publishing life, which is a focus that will come to no surprise to anyone who spends any amount of time here. So I did that and generally it seems to have worked. Color me relieved.

I’m relieved that I think I’m a good writing instructor in the workshop setting. I think it’s interesting as well since to be blunt about it I would have been an absolute disaster as a workshop student, primarily because at the point in life where a workshop might have been useful, my attitude toward workshopping was “Are you an acquiring editor? Are you going to pay me for this story? No? Done with you.” In other words, I was a prick about it. Perhaps more generously to my former self, I think it continues to be true that workshops are more useful to some people than to others, with much of that contingent on a personal willingness to engage in the process. As an instructor, I’m working with students who have self-selected to be open to this particular process (generally; there’s always the chance the student doesn’t know themselves well enough and misjudged their ability to handle criticism), so that makes the process congenial, from an instructor point of view. I am glad I as an instructor never had to deal with me as a possible workshop student. I probably would have pushed that smug little jackass out a window.

So yes, Clarion: A very positive experience for me, and I hope a positive experience for the students as well.

San Diego: Well, I don’t think I’ve ever been shy about expressing how much I genuinely enjoy San Diego and its environs; it’s pretty much the perfect city for me. This last week reinforced that general opinion, since it was perfect weather all the time I was there, and walking past the eucalyptus groves on the UCSD campus reminded me why no matter where I live I continue to think of myself as a Californian in exile. I’m not in a huge rush to get back to California on a full time basis, mind you — I like where I am — but this is about mindset as it is anything else. But if I were going back to California, San Diego would be a prime destination.

That said, most of my time last week was spent on the UCSD campus, since that’s where Clarion was, and that’s what I was there to do. When I lived in San Diego for a summer in 1990, I would occasionally get onto campus to visit friends, but this was the first time I spent any real time there, and I have to say it’s a very nice place to go to school. I’m hoping California’s current budget crunch (another reason I’m not in a rush to get back, although it’s not as if Ohio is covering itself in glory on this matter either) doesn’t gut the place. But even if it does, it’s still in La Jolla. Dear UCSD students: You are lucky bastards. Remember that.

I was in San Diego to work, but Krissy and Athena were on vacation, so they did all the vacation stuff you’re supposed to do, including the zoo, the Midway, Sea World (see previous entry with dolphin pictures) and of course the beach, which I managed to accompany them to once. I’m pretty sure they had fun all week long.

My own non-Clarion big event was a reading at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, which was, happily, well attended (it was standing room only) and at which people seemed to have fun. It was fun for me since I had family there and also a couple of surprise guests, including one of my best friends from college who just happened to be in town and showed up; I had real moment of (happy) cognitive dissonance when I saw him standing there. He went to dinner along with me and my family and Greg van Eekhout, who also popped up for the reading and who I was happy to get to spend a little time with. The reading was also nice because some of the fans there noted my daughter in attendance, and as Zoe’s Tale was dedicated to her, asked her to sign the book as well. So here, for historical purposes, is Athena signing her first autograph:

And there you have it. San Diego and Clarion: Fun for everyone involved.


What the Other Scalzis Were Doing in San Diego

So what did Athena and Krissy do while I was teaching at Clarion? Commune with dolphins, as you can see from the picture above. I was all for this until they came back to the apartment we were staying at in San Diego and started moving around the room via echolocation; that gave me a headache after a while. But otherwise, it was groovy.

In other news, hey, we’re back in Ohio. The plan for Sunday: Sleep and lots of it. You can tell me this is not a good plan, but I won’t listen. Because I’ll be asleep. It’s foolproof.

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