Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Quality Alert? Writers and The Internet

A writer must consider quality content above all else.

writing on paperIt's a great statement when you first glance at it.  It is one of these 'think positive' type of messages we all love to hear or read about.  I agree with the statement, in the surface style it is given, but I don't agree writers must consider quality content above all else.

It's a very subjective thing 'quality' what I might feel is the best writing I have to offer, someone else won't.  What I think is not quality writing, someone else will.  A good example is the debate between myself and a writing friend of mine.  He adores John Grisham.  I myself don't like him, and I find because he has at least two books out each year, it's become a bit formulaic, I have nothing against the quality of his writing.  His argument is that it's quality writing, and Grisham can write fast so, what is the problem with a formula?

Nothing really, in this day and age nothing at all.  There is a need to have a lot of books written, or you won't be noticed as a presence online.  There is a need to earn income, not just for yourself but for the publisher of your book.  I am saying there is a need for quality writing, and the writers who do this have some form of success, along with a lot of advice.

Consider your content, and your audience, and more importantly how you can get what you have written to them in the fastest way possible?

Or, better still am I wrong in my assessment of other bestselling writers? I have to think about a very subjective term.

Quality Alert?

franz KafkaI'm sure you've heard this phrase as well, many, many times.  Usually it's when there is something wrong, or dangerous with a product.  If this is the case, why do we toss this term 'quality' around when it comes to writing on the Internet?
The great Internet, and this is by definition a great leveller. A number of years ago, when I was a far less mature writer, I planned to write on the Internet, and it seemed to be the easiest thing to do.  I won't argue about what happened, most people have heard of the downfall of the writing websites, but there was a reason, and this reason was quality.  For writers it was a good time to be writing, but they worked with non-writers, and this was the beginning of the problems.

The quality wasn't there.  I admit that at first glance, it looked like there was quality content, because it was hard to write a 400 word article, and then get it promoted.  The reality was, it was a short piece, and most of my new blog posts are longer than this.  The second problem was how people 'saw' the articles. Some saw them as being good, whereas others would point out the mistakes they saw.

Until a bigger player made changes to what they saw as quality, there wasn't a need to change much.  At least this is the first instinct of a writer.  If it works, don't change it.  Looking back means you can find out if your work is good - or not.

Quality Alert?

Back to bestselling authors.  John Grisham, and Stephen King.  Both of whom are bestselling authors. Both of whom my writing friends and I enjoy reading.  The point is, they both publish a large number of books at a fairly fast pace.  Stephen King has published 54 novels, and Grisham one a year since 1988.
I like King's writing, and I see it as quality writing.  My friend does not.  However, there is no 'quality alert' with either of these writers.

The same holds true with the Internet, there are very successful writers out there, however, there is a major difference, there is a lack of gatekeeping when it comes to writers and the Internet.  Since there is such a learning curve it is important there are other factors which will help a writer grow.  Finding your passion is the first step, the next is finding the technology which works best for you, and the last is finding the best way to share the best you have to offer.

One of them is working towards seeing writing as a means to be a business, and rebuilding parts which are failing.  It's a lot of work but not something that will hurt in the long run.  In this be your own quality alert system and be better than others.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tech Review: Mechanical Keyboards

Why on Earth would anyone pay $200 for a computer keyboard?!

My last blog post (which was actually my first ever post on a website) talked about speech to text Apps that would save you the trouble of typing.

They had their benefits but also some drawbacks. For those that actually prefer to type, here's a comparison between two different types of keyboards.

There was a time when computer keyboards were all expensive, heavy, and well-built.

If you grew up with computers, chances are you took for granted the way each key felt heavy and had a satisfying “click” whenever you typed. That's all you knew.
There really wasn't any cheaper (and cheap feeling) alternative to those robust keyboards. They also seemed to last forever.

They were known as Mechanical Keyboards, containing many more parts than today's average, inexpensive keyboard. Each key had an individual spring, rather than having all the keys share the same circuit.

This led to greater speed and accuracy when typing, and had satisfying tactile feedback.

In the mid to late 90's PC's started to become more and more affordable. Mechanical Keyboards were omitted to keep costs down, and were substituted with a cheaper and lighter type.

Dome Switch Keyboards, your average cheap type of keyboard used nowadays, helped bring down the cost of buying a computer in a bundle, with everything you needed in one or two boxes, also including a monitor. Costs had to be cut somewhere to make it more affordable for the consumer, so why not start with the keyboard?

The only advantages I can think of with using one of these standard, cheaper keyboards is of course, the price, but they also tend to be more spill proof, as the keys all sit atop a one or two piece plastic membrane.

If you love having a coffee or tea with you at all times when using the computer, and have had more than a few mishaps with a knocked over mug on or near your keyboard, stick with these easily replaceable, garden variety models.

You won't scream as loud when it stops working because you spilled something on your desk, and knowing Murphy's Law, that liquid somehow ends up on either the mouse and/or keyboard, your lap, and probably even the carpet below you! It won't hurt as much having to shell out twenty or thirty dollars to replace it.

On the other hand, if you want to be able to type faster, have more accuracy, and experience tactile feedback with your fingertips, and are not accident prone, maybe have a strict rule with the kids about not eating or drinking, or even sneezing when using the computer. Therefore need to practice what you preach, so you forgo quenching your thirst and/or hunger while typing, surfing the Web, or gaming, in case the kids catch you doing what you specifically told them not to do.

But what if you have money to burn, or like to live dangerously and will risk getting moisture on your expensive peripheral because your drink is important to you?

You deserve to have really nice things. You know a cheap keyboard can do the same job almost as good as a high end one, but sometimes it feels good to splurge.

A Chevy Impala can get you to the same places that a BMW M5 can, but they're just not made the same way. (No offense to any of our readers that drive Chevy Impalas. They've come a long way and are quite decent). Sorry for the car analogy. I've always wanted to do one. Maybe I'll save it for my future car blog.

Gamers have been enjoying the return of high-end mechanical keyboards for years now, and have made them popular again. When milliseconds mean the difference between winning and losing, their faster-responding keys come in handy. When the look and feel of a heavy, colorful, metallic, and sometimes fully back-lit keyboard is needed to go with their custom made computer tower, they shell out the extra money without batting an eye.

But why would you need a more costly mechanical keyboard if you are not a gamer? Please refer to my car analogy above, and also take note that they're not as noisy while typing, last 5 times as long, and just feel better than your standard, basic model.

Don't worry about the $200 price of admission. There are plenty of models ranging anywhere from

$65 up to $265. Here's some examples below:

Entry Level:

The Noppoo Lolita Spyder 85 [Kailh Blue Switch]

Mid tier:

Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard

This high-end model works with both PC and Mac:

Kinesis KB500USB-BLK Advantage USB Contoured (Black)

This blog post was typed using the standard keyboard that came with my PC, and although you as a viewer wouldn't be able to tell the difference, I can assure you I would have had even more fun writing this piece if it had been with a mechanical keyboard!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go ask my wife for permission to get one of these bad boys...

Book Review: Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book by Johanna Basford

Growing up I loved to color. We had video games and a television but I grew up in a time when only about an hour of screen time was the average for the day. No Internet, iPads or cell phones. My younger cousins call it the dark ages.  

It was one hobby that I had that we could always afford. When you grow up in government housing, getting a hamper from the food bank to have Christmas dinner, there were not many luxuries.  

In the Summer I would spread a blanket out on the grass in the backyard, take all my supplies out, and kick off my shoes. I was a pastime I took everywhere. 

I even got in trouble for leaving my crayons on the back window ledge of the car. It was a hot day and they melted into the fabric. I was more sad that my crayons were gone rather than my father being mad at me. Coloring in the car, with crayons at least, was forever after a banned activity. I always so excited to get new markers, pencil crayons and coloring books. My birthday and at Christmas, I always got new ones.   

I had Jem and The Holograms, The Care Bears and a variety of Disney ones. 

I'm much older now, with children of my own. My daughter loves to color. My son, not so much. 
Very much tired of coloring Dora and Disney Frozen characters, I was introduced to Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book, by Johanna Basford. 

This wonderful book in a series of adult-like coloring books, is enchanting.  

Not only is there intricate pictures on every page, but as you color, hidden pictures are uncovered.  
At the front of the book it outlines how many creatures of the forest are hidden. Only by coloring will you uncover them. 

Since I didn't want to share my new book with my daughter, I'm not selfish but wanted to have one for myself, I waited for her to be in bed, asleep.  

I had to hunt high and low for markers and pencil crayons that were in somewhat useable condition. 

Once I had everything laid out before me, I started to color. 

Experts say that repetitive tasks are great at reducing stress. Coloring should be added to the list with vacuuming and dishes (yes I know the irony that doing housework is a stress buster, they just haven't spent a day in my house). 

I was fully concentrated on the coloring.  

Browns for the branches and a wide variety of greens for the leaves. The owl and his large yellow eyes almost glowing on the page.   

The pictures are of your journey through the Enchanted Forest. You meet gorgeously detailed owls, puffy tailed squirrels, and the further you travel in the book, the more magical the animals and the forest itself, become. 

I colored for just shy of two hours and I am still not done the opening page. Everything is so full of detail that you must be careful not to go over the lines. If I had given it to my son he would have grabbed one color and scribbled over the whole picture and said he was done. I have put it high up on one of my bookshelves.  

Easily hours of enjoyment. 

Besides being a wonderful book to break out on rainy days, there is another use for this book. 
When I was in the hospital overnight after my surgeries, I couldn't sleep. They could only give me something to take to help with the pain but not enough to help me sleep. I read countless magazines, books and did word searches until my breakfast tray arrived. 

This would have done me wonders to help me relax. The simplest things make a big difference. Going forward when I am the one supporting a sick friend (like so many of my friends did for me) I will make sure this book, and some freshly sharpened pencil crayons, are in their care package. 
The Secret Garden coloring book was out first in 2013. Another hidden picture coloring journey was through an elaborate garden. I will be getting this one when I have completed the Enchanted Forest. 

I would like to see the next installment a little more gender neutral. The garden and forest are very geared to women. Perhaps a journey through caves, rain forest or a castle. 

Overall, I am no where near finishing this book. I won't be anytime soon. That being said, with the amount of joy this book has brought me, I don't want it to end. Or least they can come out a little faster than every two years. 

Once I get one scene completed I will put it up on my Twitter feed so you can see.  

Until then, happy coloring.

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