Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “search-engine”

The Magic Never Grows Old

This is actually the eighth time that I am on the cusp of a book being published. This count includes a couple of self-published books that were picked up by Three Clover Press and repackaged with new covers, titles, and an extensive round of edits. A face-lift and open heart surgery never felt so good! But today I am as excited as I was the first time, and the second, and the third… You get the point. Sometime in the next two weeks, Ashbar, sequel to The First Decree, and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award YA category, At The Walls Of Galbrieth, will be officially released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar front cover I wonder how it is for the big fish? When those A-list authors have their 20th, 30th, or 40th novel released, are they just as excited? Yes, I’m thinking of you, Terry BrooksGeorge R.R. Martin, J.K Rowling, Terry Goodkind. Are these authors and others coolly not checking their email every hour for the official notice from their publishers? Do they accidentally type their name into the Amazon.com search engine and browse down the list of books on their author’s name? I am, of course, way to cool to be checking every hour, myself. In order to be productive at work and give my sons the attention they deserve, I have set reminders for four times a day – I’m awake for eighteen, I figure that’s too compulsive! I have not yet held my review copy – it is on the way, I am promised, though this might have been a desperate ploy to shut me up (can’t blame them) – I remember each time it happened with almost the clarity of holding my newborn sons. The books, I have to admit, were not as slimy or noisy. I am currently 50,000 words into writing a fantasy novel for adults that I hope will be a series alongside the Wycaan Masters. I believe authors who keep two series running (Terry Brooks is my role model), then both series’ remain fresh. But I have promised to start the editing process for Book 4 (actually started with my writer’s group over the summer) before sending it off to Tourmaline’s wizards) so that they receive it by the end of 2013.

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Where it all began: Writing Book 1 with sons in an ancient Redwood forest.

The process is ongoing. Each magical, landmark moment: finishing writing the last page, sending the book to the editor, seeing the cover for the first time, receiving the review copy… these are all just stages in a journey to build not only a world, but a dynasty – a multi-generational world with a history of its own.

But that never stops these special moments of holding a real copy of your book for the first time being magical – and it never should.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Google Personalization, the News Media and Politics

Almost every day, I hear and see more evidence that we will soon be free of the burden of receiving news we don’t really want to hear. You can now choose media sources based on their ideological slant. If you’re a so-called conservative, it’s Fox “news”, Rush Limbaugh, and an endless stream of conservative websites. If you’re a so-called liberal, it’s MSNBC, and an equal supply of web sites.

But the big smoking gun is Google. Google is now offering ever-improving personalization in your searches. Google says it will now use your web browsing history in order to refine your searches and present you with the options for which you have shown a preference. In other words, you will be shown more of what you already think.

For example, a person who frequents Fox “News” on the web and/or conservative blog sites will likely see this page: Limbaugh: ‘Obama has yet to prove he’s a citizen’ at the top of his search and not this one on Snopes.com: Birth Certificate . Sure, the other result will probably still be in the search results, but it’s well known that people don’t typically go too far down the list – most take what’s near the top.

So now you won’t have to worry about information contradicting your own opinions. You can think whatever you thought yesterday, and probably find some information source to back you up. Of course, it’s long been known that the internet is a place (in cyberspace) where you could do exactly this – look only at the sources that you prefer. But now Google is making it that much easier. Google’s personalization mechanisms have actually been in place for some quite some time, but the system takes a while to “learn” whether you’re a redneck or a longhair (or whatever delineation you like) so the effects are probably seeping into society slowly.

What will be the psychological effects of search-engine personalization (that is, beside the creepy sensation that you are being watched – you are!)? It seems to me that if what you already expect shows up in all the highest-ranked results of a search, you might start to feel like there simply is no reasonable, intelligent alternative to your version of the truth. Because you have seen lots of “hard evidence” backing up your views, people who think otherwise must be stupid or crazy or both, right? They obviously haven’t done any real “research”.

So what about the “mainstream media”? How do they please those who like to be pleased and, at the same time, anger those who like to be angered? Well, the major networks’ news departments seem to have adopted a teeter-totter approach, with a story that sounds liberal (like that people die in wars) followed by a story that sounds conservative (like that people are angry at the government over unemployment).

It now appears that the profession formerly known as journalism has been infiltrated by politics. When I watch the news, my neck gets sore from watching the ping-pong ball go back and forth: “Since we just offended the half of our viewers who think that facts are partisan, we will now offend the other half with this story about a senator, an underage girl, and a member of different species.” I’m offended, all right. I’m offended by the game itself.

Welcome to the new America – where the cows run free (at least some of them) but the people have their feet stuck in partisan cement.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

Tom also posts on thrustblog.blogspot.com

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