Tag Archives: writing

When speech becomes text, what happens to writing?


I successfully put down the baby for her late morning nap half an a hour ago. After running quietly around in sock feet trying to do things while she was out cold, I sat down to answer email and messages. As I entered this post into WordPress, she awoke again.)

It’s not easy to respond quickly and at volume using one hand or thumb, though I’ve gotten much better at both over the past five months with a baby daughter.

Over that time, I’ve been struck by how good the voice recognition in iOS on my iPhone has become. I’ve been able to successfully dictate a rough draft of a long article into the email interface and respond to any number of inbound inquiries that way.

That said, neither the soft keyboard nor voice-to-text on the device are a substitute yet for the 15″ keyboard in my MacBook Pro when I want to write at length.

It’s mostly a matter of numbers: I can still type away at more than eighty words per minute on the full-size keyboard, far faster than I can produce accurate text through any method on my smartphone.

Capturing and sharing anything other than text on the powerful device, however, has become trivially easy, from images to video to audio recordings.

The process of “writing” has long since escaped the boundaries of tabulas, slate and papyrus, moving from pens and paper to explode onto typewriters, personal computers and tablets.

Today, I’m thinking about how the bards of today will  be able to reclaim the oldest form of storytelling — the spoken word — and apply it in a new context.

As we enter the next decade of rapidly improving gestural and tactile interfaces for connected mobile devices, I wonder how long until the generations that preceded me will be able to leave decades of experience with keyboards behind and simply speak naturally to connected devices to share what they thinking or seeing with family, friends and coworkers.

Economist Paul Krugman seemed to be thinking about something similar this morning, in a blog post on “techno-optimism”, when he commented on the differences between economic and technological stagnation:

…I know it doesn’t show in the productivity numbers yet, but anyone who tracks technology has a strong sense that something big has been happening the past few years, that seemingly intractable problems — like speech recognition, adequate translation, self-driving cars, etc. — are suddenly becoming tractable. Basically, smart machines are getting much better at interacting with the natural environment in all its complexity. And that suggests that Skynet will soon kill us all a real transformative leap is somewhere over the horizon, maybe not this decade, but this generation.

Still, what do I know? But Brynjolfsson and McAfee have a new book — not yet out, but I have a manuscript — making this point with many examples and a lot of analysis.

There remain big questions about how the benefits of this technological surge, if it’s coming, will be distributed. But I think this kind of thing has to be taken into account when we try to imagine the future; I’m a great Gordon admirer, but his techniques necessarily involve extrapolating from the past, and aren’t well suited to picking up what could be a major inflection point.

That future feels much closer this morning.

[Image Credit: Navneet Alang, “Sci-Fi Fantasies, Real-Life Disappointments]


Filed under blogging, journalism, research, scifi, technology

Hired: I’m the new #Gov20 DC Correspondent for @OReillyMedia!

I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new job! Earlier today, I accepted an offer from Tim O’Reilly to be the Washington, D.C. correspondent on Government 2.0 for O’Reilly Media.

I’m hitting the ground running here in the District of Columbia, since O’Reilly’s upcoming 2010 Government 2.0 conference is only a few weeks away — and there’s plenty to do.

Over the following months, I expect to write – a lot – about how technology is being used to help citizens, cities and national governments solve big problems.

I also expect to frequently explain what “government 2.0” is, since the term is in my title! I’ve written before about the language of government 2.0, the history of disruptive innovation and the ways government adapts to technological change. That’s part of it. So is Tim O’Reilly’s concept of government 2.0 as a platform, naturally.

And so is writing about government transparency, the Open Government Directive, relaunches of .gov websites like SupremeCourt.gov or Reboot.gov, and the people behind the technologies that are driving change and innovation.

There’s no shortage of case studies to highlight, from the local town green right on up to the federal or international level. Just listen to the voices from the Gov2.0 LA unconference for a small sample of the perspectives on the issue.

O’Reilly’s goal in Washington D.C. is to “create a context in which people can think” differently about the role of technology in government, and the role of government in society. I look forward to helping to create that context.

In service of that goal, I’ll be blogging, conducting short interviews with government officials and industry participants, writing features and using the rest of the tools for digital curation I’ve been honing in the past several years.

I’m very excited to get started. I expect my new position to be challenging, engaging, rewarding, occasionally frustrating and never dull.

I also expect the process of writing about government 2.0 case studies to be a reciprocal process, as readers help me to understand more about what stories are important to them and which voices deserve to be heard.

I hope that in the days and months to come that you’ll share your perspectives, ideas and suggestions with me.

The story of government 2.0 is already being written every day by citizens, civic hackers, advocacy groups, government employees, researchers and technologists.

As a digital pilgrim, I look forward to chronicling that progress.


Filed under journalism, personal, technology

Science Fiction Writers on Twitter

alien_fish_memorial_day_2008Since I had an epic geek FAIL earlier today, thinking I’d found Orson Scott Card on Twitter*, I felt like I needed to make up for my mistake in some small way.

The best approach to that sort of thing, in my experience, is to try harder. Do better due diligence. Look deeper. Have some fun — after all, this is science fiction, where space opera, phasers, nanites and scantily-clad aliens that somehow manage to show up in luscious female humanoid form are the norm.

(Yes, I know that’s precisely the sort of thing that make high-minded literary critics dismiss the genre. As serious fans know, however, there’s much more to be found than the cliched pulp covers might imply.)

If anyone finds more, please do add them in the comments. I’m absolutely certain I missed many wonderful authors and will add more as we go.

Cory Doctorow (@Doctorow) may be the most public science fiction writer on Twitter, given that he’s part of BoingBoing. Cory has earned a well-deserved reputation for his science fiction which you can find and often download from Craphound.com.

William Gibson (@GreatDismal) joined Twitter after I posted this, on April 1st. No matter — and no April Fools! Given that he’s one of my favorite science fiction writers, I went ahead and added him to the top of the list. He defines cybernoir. (A fan has reserved @WilliamGibson for him but he hasn’t moved there). You can read what he thinks of twittering at his blog on WilliamGibsonBooks.com.

Bruce Sterling (@bruces) alas, protects his tweets. You can read him at Wired at his Beyond the Beyond blog, where he keeps an eye on the spread of spime. That’s much better than spam, if you’re wondering. It’s an “imaginary object that is still speculative.” [Watch spime on Twitter]

Neal Stephenson (Neal Stephenson), author of Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle, Anathem, REAMDE and more. He didn’t tweet much for the first three years on Twitter but has sped up in recent months.

Greg Bear (@Greg_Bear) has written over 30 books, including Darwin’s Radio and Forge of God, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Neil Gaiman (@NeilHimself) has won oodles of awards and written many wonderful books, including The Sandman comic series, Stardust, American Gods and Coraline. Gaiman is currently enjoying well-deserved attention as the film-adaptation of Coraline spins 3D marvels on the silver screen.

CJ Cherryh (@CJCherryh) has written more than 60 books since the mid-1970s, including two Hugo Award-winning novels.

David Brin (@DavidBrin1) has picked up nearly every honor a scifi author can be awarded and turned out some marvelous fiction in the process. The Uplift trilogy is excellent but Earth and Kiln People may be my favorite novels by Brin. (Sadly, The Postman did not convert well to film.)

Neal Stephenson (@NealStephenson) is one of my favorite authors, period. As I update this post, I’m downloading Reamde. While I didn’t find the mammoth Baroque Cycle to be Stephenson at his best, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon and Anathem stand as some of my favorite books of the past decade. Stephenson’s account (which appears to be managed by a third party) hasn’t tweeted since January 2011. “Don’t worry… I won’t actually be using this, except possibly to make the occasional announcement” was his first tweet.

Margaret Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) is the author of The Handmaiden’s TaleOryx and Crake and many other works of poetry and prose that extend well beyond the science fiction genre.

Charles Stross (@cstross) is the author of several of my favorite science fiction books ever, including Halting State, Glasshouse and Accelerando, along with the excellent Merchant Princes series. He joined Twitter in September of 2011.

Elizabeth Moon (@emoontx) is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Speed of Dark and and many other excellent space-based sagas.

John Scalzi (@Scalzi) may get the nod, after Cory, for most prolific blogger. (I’m happy to be proven wrong — Stross is after him. See below). Scalzi has written Old Man’s War, Agent to the Stars, The Ghost Brigade, The Android’s Dream, The Last Colony, and Zoe’s Tale.

Jonathan Carroll (@JSCarroll) has veered into fantasy, horror and even romance but I think he belongs here. Editorial discretion.

J. G. Ballard wrote Crash, Empire of the Sun & The Atrocity Exhibition. Given that more tweets came from @JG_Ballard after he passed away in April 2009, however, it’s probably safe to assume it wasn’t really him. The account has been closed but you can still find traces of users referring to him and his work with a search for @JG_Ballard on Twitter.

Scott Edelman (@ScottEdeleman) is a Stoker Award-nominated writer and Hugo Award-nominated editor of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Mike Resnick (@resnickmike) — Via commenter Catherine Jefferson: Resnick is “the author of “Santiago”, “Paradise”, and a bunch of space-based shoot-em-ups and some amazingly lovely stories set in alternate Africas. Also the editor of a number of excellent anthologies.”

Alexander Irvine ( @AlexIrvine) has written Buyout, The Narrows, The Life of Riley, One King, One Soldier, A Scattering of Jade, along with many other shorter works.

Steven Gould (@steviechuckles) wrote Jumper, Wildside, Greenwar (with Laura J. Mixon), Helm, Blind Waves, Reflex, and Jumper: Griffin’s Story, which are all evidently much better than the recent film turned out to be.

Jay Lake (@Jay_Lake) has written four novels, including Mainspring, Green, Madness of Flowers and Death of a Starship and 240 short stories.

Gregory Frost (@gregory_frost) recently published Shadowbridge. He’s also written Fitcher’s Brides and Attack of the Jazz Giants.

Eileen Gunn (@eileen_gunn) writes terrific scifi for Eclipse One, Wired, Hayakawa’s Sf Magazine, Nature, Asimov’s Magazine and is the publisher and editor of The Infinite Matrix.

I found Tim Pratt (@TimPratt) was new to me but his work shows he’s bonafide. Check out Tropism, his online journal, or the rest of his bibliography.

Joe Hill (@Joe_Hill) updates from somewhere around New England. He’s the author of Heart-Shaped Box, 20th Century Ghosts, and Locke & Key

David Marusek ( @DavidMarusek) recently published his second scifi book, Mind Over Ship, the sequel to Counting Heads.

William Shunn (@shunn) has published a series of novellas, novelettes and short stories.

Michael Marshall Smith (@ememess) is the author of The Straw Men, Only Forward, Spares, The Servants, The Intruders and Bad Things.

Paul Cornell (@Paul_Cornell) wrote Something More and British Summertime but is far and away best known for his work on Doctor Who fiction and as the creator of Bernice Summerfield.

Paulo Bacigalupi (@PaoloPacigalupi) wrote The Drowned Cities, Shipbreaker and an excellent novel entitled “The Windup Girl.”

Who’s (still) on my wish list?

Stephen King. Terry Pratchett, though his Alzheimer’s might preclude it. George R.R. Martin – it would be glorious to watch him interact with the 59,000+ @GameOfThrones fans who have already started following @GeorgeRRMartin on Twitter.

Of course, if they join Twitter and find it alluring, they might end up writing less. Wishing they join may be a dangerous whimsy. Even so, here’s hoping.

*Postscript:: Orson Scott Card,the author of Ender’s Game and dozens of other novels, did eventually join Twitter at @OrsonScottCard, although only tweets signed -OSC come from the author himself.

Disclaimer: I didn’t try to list any of the Twitter serials that have been going online of late. I aimed for authors who have published work that Isaac Asimov would reasonably recognize as science fiction writer in something resembling a book or journal. Quaint and terribly retro, but there it is. We’ll never be able to follow Heinlein, Asimov, and Verne on Twitter, sadly.

Disclaimer 2: I didn’t realize that the talented and lovely Felicia Day (@FeliciaDay) had gathered and posted a list of Twitter authors until I was finishing my final edit to this post. On the one hand, I’m smiling that someone else saw a need to list something other than tech, marketing, government or PR accounts. On the other, she did an excellent job finding people. Fortunately, I had only missed one on her SF list (@matociquala) so I imagine this is still worth publishing. I noticed she’s been reading Tim Pratt’s work. Cool.

Disclaimer 3: This was a fun project that distracted me from being rather ill. If I’d noticed that Thaumatrope had created a dandy Web-based form that authors or editors of science fiction, fantasy or horror could add themselves to at Greentacles.com, perhaps I wouldn’t have created this page. But then, of course, I might not have enjoyed finding and  the tweets of all of the fine authors listed above — and that would be a shame. If you are such an author, please do go add yourself to the Greententacles list.

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Filed under blogging, Twitter