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The World in the Satin Bag

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  • Shaun Duke
  • September 11, 2007 03:19:13 PM
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A Little About Us

A Blog and Novel by S. M. Duke. Writing discussion, genre fiction, reviews, tips, and more!

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My Worldcon 79 / DisCon III Schedule

Welp. In 14 days, I’ll be off to D.C., where I hope I’ll get to have a good time while avoiding COVID. *crosses fingers* And since I’ll be in D.C., I think it’s worth noting that I’m on programming because apparently people mostly like me! Here’s what I’m up to (all times are in EST):...

Welp. In 14 days, I’ll be off to D.C., where I hope I’ll get to have a good time while avoiding COVID. *crosses fingers*

And since I’ll be in D.C., I think it’s worth noting that I’m on programming because apparently people mostly like me! Here’s what I’m up to (all times are in EST):

  • Wed 4:00 PM (Older; Virtual): Not Just D&D: Great Tabletop RPGs
    w/ Patricia A. Jackson, Tao Wong, Vivian Abraham, and dave ring (mod)
  • Wed 5:30 PM (Calvert; Mod): What Makes a Classic a Classic?
    w/ Bradford Lyau, Iquo DianaAbasi, Suyi Davis Okungbowa, and Tochi Onyebuchi
  • Wed 7:00 PM (Lobby): Sip with the Stars
    w/ Elle E. Ire, José Pablo Iriarte, and Tom Doyle
  • Thu 7:00 PM (Lobby): Sip with the Stars
    Scott Edelman, Victor Manibo, Elle E. Ire, and Arley Sorg
  • Fri 7:00 PM (Calvert): Teaching and Analyzing Genre Fiction
    w/ Gregory A. Wilson, Lesley Wheeler, N.E. Davenport, Andrea Hairston, and Nino Cipri (mod)
  • Sat 11:30 AM (Blue): Is the Genre Too Big for Meaningful Hugos?
    w/ Arley Sorg, Olav Rokne, Jo Walton, Natalie Luhrs, and Vincent Docherty (mod)
  • Sat 5:30 PM (Congressional Room; Virtual): How to Star a Fan Podcast
    w/ Ali Baker (mod), Thomas Wagner, Dana L. Little, and Ana Rüsche

A quick note: these are current as to my schedule, but the names, locations, etc. may change on the day. In particular, I suspect “Sip with the Stars” will have an additional name each time as one of the folks originally listed had to cancel their attendance. Make sure to check your program book!

I did leave myself open to allowing other folks to take slots if they were able, so I suspect a big part of this VERY heavy Worldcon load is the fact that we’re still in COVID time. And why do I suspect that? When I helped with World Fantasy this year, we ran into a brick wall when a lot of folks who had intended to come in person decided not to, which opened a lot of in-person programming items. To be clear, those folks were justified in their decision and I am in no way judging them (really, I’m not; just pointing out a fact about what happened). So, I suspect this happened here, too.

Add to that the fact that I’m apparently notoriously easy to program for, and, well, here we are.

All that said, I’m very much looking forward to modding and participating at Worldcon, if for no other reason than I miss being in that environment quite a lot.

If you’re planning to be there, scream at me. We should catch up like regular people…but with masks and vaccines!


A New Joy Factory Monthly Podcast: Discussion w/ Alex Jennings on The Immortal Hulk!

A brand new episode of JFM just dropped. I’m joined by author Alex Jennings to talk about Marvel’s The Immortal Hulk! Together, we discuss this rendition of the Hulk, some of the series’ themes, and more! You can find the episode on Acast, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also...

A brand new episode of JFM just dropped. I’m joined by author Alex Jennings to talk about Marvel’s The Immortal Hulk! Together, we discuss this rendition of the Hulk, some of the series’ themes, and more!

You can find the episode on Acast, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also stream the episode below or right here on my website!


A New Joy Factory Monthly Podcast: Interview w/ Sarah Nicolas on Podcasting!

A brand new episode of JFM just dropped. I’m joined by Sarah Nicolas to talk about why we love podcasts, why we keep making them, what we’re listening to, and much more! You can find the episode on Acast, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also stream the episode below...

A brand new episode of JFM just dropped. I’m joined by Sarah Nicolas to talk about why we love podcasts, why we keep making them, what we’re listening to, and much more!

You can find the episode on Acast, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also stream the episode below or right here on my website!


How to Make Twitter Suck Less

Twitter is one of those places that people hate and use at the same time. Millions upon millions of users log in every day to share photos and quick thoughts, talk to friends and random folks around the globe, and stream the feed looking for interesting articles, news, images, videos, and more to share. It’s...

Twitter is one of those places that people hate and use at the same time. Millions upon millions of users log in every day to share photos and quick thoughts, talk to friends and random folks around the globe, and stream the feed looking for interesting articles, news, images, videos, and more to share. It’s both a brilliant platform and a nightmare zone full of trolls, angry mobs, bot farms, organized harassment campaigns, and plain old assholes. And then there’s the cycle of negativity that Twitter seems to produce, both in its algorithmic structure and in the culture of “all engagement is good engagement” that exists there. If you’ve ever logged into Twitter and thought “my mood has taken a nosedive” or lost hours of your life to doom scrolling, then you know what I’m talking about.

As an avid Twitter user — it being my primary platform — I know exactly what it’s like to face some of these things. I’ve dealt with trolls, bots, a harassment campaign, and far too many assholes to list. By comparison to others — especially women and members of minority groups — I’ve had it easy, but that doesn’t mean the experience on Twitter hasn’t been destructive. Twitter tends to make us into worse people. But it doesn’t have to be that way…totally…

There’s likely no way to make any social network problem free, but there are some things you can do to make Twitter a less sucky place. Here are seven of them:

1. Tweak New Twitter

One of the things I noticed as Twitter’s web interface became a more cluttered space is the way its trending sections and other areas fed into my mood over time. The trending topics and hashtags section is overwhelmingly full of bad news, people behaving badly, and little else. Seeing that every day can take its toll, especially during difficult times. The last 4.5 years in the United States have been particularly miserable — from endless political misery to endless bad actors and hatemongering and so on.

Tweak New Twitter is the fix. TWT is a Chrome, Firefox, and Edge plugin that allows you to control the look and structure of the Twitter interface. With it, you can hide the sidebar content, place retweets in a separate feed, force Twitter into the chronological feed, and make other tweets to navigation items. Here’s what my Twitter looks like:

It is absolutely one of the best discoveries I’ve made as a Twitter user. Within a week of using it, I noticed that I was less likely to engage with the misery of Twitter in part because I simply stopped seeing a lot of it. Get it. You won’t regret it!

2. Block Liberally

One thing I wish more people on Twitter would do is use their block buttons. You get to set the terms of engagement on your account. That includes the topics you’ll discuss, the people you’ll discuss them with, the methods of discussion, and so on. And if people cross your personal lines, what incentive do you have to keep them around? Most of us know that Twitter’s “all engagement is good engagement” policy encourages people to engage in ways that are antithetical to honest discourse. If you find yourself stressed out by interactions on the platform — by troll behavior, by the willfully obtuse, by the assholes among us — you might benefit from simply blocking people.

Contrary to certain opinions, there’s no shame or cowardice in it. It’s your page. It’s your space. It’s your time and your energy and your mental stamina. Nobody else gets to tell you who you have to engage with, and they certainly don’t get to pull nonsense arguments about “free speech” to force you to put up with bad behavior. If someone violates your rules and you don’t want to engage with them anymore, you don’t have to. The block button is right there.

Think of this with the numbers. According to some statistics, there are nearly 300 million active users on Twitter. Statista lists roughly 100 million just for the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. alone, though the number of users writing in English could be somewhere around 50% (see this 2010 PARC study). Even if you speak each of the top 10 languages on Twitter, you’re unlikely to engage with more than a fraction of the millions of Twitter users. What exactly would you be missing by liberally blocking trolls, bad faith tweeters, assholes, and folks you just don’t want to talk to in the first place? There are millions of other people out there, and some of them might be worth your time.

At the end of the day, you get to set your boundaries. You’re on this beautiful planet for an astronomically short amount of time, and just as we do in our physical lives, you can say “nah, I’m not having you around.” If you wouldn’t invite that person into your house for a drink, you don’t need to feel any guilt about blocking them from your Twitter account. Block away.

3. Use Twitter Block Chain (Sparingly)

An extension of the “block liberally” idea is a Chrome/Firefox plugin called Twitter Block Chain. Basically, this tool allows you to select a Twitter account and block “all” (really just a portion) of its followers. Most of you won’t find this useful, but those who come in contact with “mobs” of Twitter accounts (especially trolls, bots, sock puppets, etc.) might light the ability to mass block with little more than a click of a button. I know people who have used it to deal with harassment campaigns. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it helps.

Be careful, though. If you use it too often, it can get your account temporarily limited. You may also run into Twitter logging you out of your account on nearly every use. But if you find yourself in a spot where you need to protect yourself from harassment and abuse, turn this thing on.

4. Don’t Engage with the Mob

The universal rule of Twitter is “don’t engage in the replies section.” Twitter, of course, wants you to engage, but if you’ve spent any time looking at the replies on a news post or to a famous person, you’ll know why it’s better to quote tweet or leave the topic well enough alone. There are two big reasons you should take a step back when thinking about reacting to something “bad”:

  1. If you’re concerned about how Twitter makes you feel, contributing to the negativity might make you feel worse.
  2. The mob mentality of Twitter can lead us to do real harm.

The first comes from my personal experience over the past five years. I found that two things were going on when I responded directly to controversial issues or people behaving badly: I got the feedback loop of Twitter’s negativity engagement cycle (yay, more engagement) and I found myself becoming angrier and angrier and angrier, so much so that I’d need to take days or even a week break from the platform just to get myself back to normal.

The second of these is a complicated, murky problem on Twitter. Because twitter is an engagement-first platform, it supports an environment of reaction over introspection and consideration. On the one hand, that is useful when it comes to calling out absolute bullshit; on the other hand, it can lead us to give attention where it isn’t deserved or support an environment of abuse even if we aren’t personally part of it.

This latter piece is part of the mob mentality’s horrid side effect: the tendency to suck people into its web. For whatever reason, our critical faculties take a break when we’re on Twitter. It’s a reactionary platform, and that means we can get sucked into doing harm even when we think we’re doing the right thing. A good example of this is story of Isabel Fall that recently dropped on Vox.

To be clear, I’m not talking about a particular political side of Twitter or even about the justness of some reactions on Twitter. There are some absolutely evil people out there, and we’re seeing now a justified tide of righteous justice in the face of bigotries that have been allowed to wander free in the world without challenge. These must be challenged and criticized. I’m talking about a tendency of Twitter users to leap into emotional reactions without pausing to think about it first. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. And we all need to stop doing it, not because there aren’t legitimate issues out there or because being angry about things is invalid but because there is such a profound ability for this to cause real harm to real people. Not just them, but ourselves.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage. Rather, if you find yourself falling into the trap of constantly feeding into the negativity even when it isn’t doing anything good, you might be better off stepping back. And if you have to talk about it, don’t engage with the mob of trolls or the people hurling abuse or the people who aren’t there to engage in good faith. Instead, take it to your feed. Twitter wants you to rage; it doesn’t want you to discuss. And if there’s one thing we’ve gotta do a lot more these days, it’s discuss.

5. Periodically Delete Your Tweet History

One thing some journalists and authors do is delete their Twitter history. Why would you do this? The biggest reason: to semi-protect yourself from trolls and bad faith grifters looking to stir up trouble. If you’re not popular now, you might be one day. And if you piss off the “wrong” people, they very well could go digging through your history to look for anything that might make you look bad even if the thing isn’t actually bad in context. The more tweets you have out there, the easier it is for them to find something.

The second big reason: some employers are now using services to search through social media history to determine if it’s a good idea to hire someone. Again, your history need not contain anything actually objectionable. The mere illusion of objection is enough.

Keep in mind, too, that things you might have tweeted 5 years ago may not reflect who you are now. By deleting those older tweets, you make it more difficult for people to troll you. You’ll also get some peace of mind by knowing that you don’t have to worry nearly as much about whatever nonsense you tweeted in high school.

There are several platforms that do this. TweetDelete, which costs a one-time fee of $15, allows you to upload your Twitter archive, delete as many tweets as you like, and set exclusions for tweets you want to keep, etc.

6. Purge Your Follows

If you find yourself disliking the experience of your Twitter feed because of the content that keeps showing up there, you might need to purge your follows.

Look. Some folks love to post endless seas of negativity on Twitter. They love the attention, and negativity brings attention in droves. But if you’re trying to make Twitter more enjoyable for you, you might find that following people who do little more than Tweet about bad news, quote tweet trolls and assholes, and generally spread misery just isn’t worth it. And the easy solution? Purge them.

I’ve done this a few times over the years for precisely this reason. I think it’s important to be informed, but I also think it’s important for Twitter to be a meaningful platform. Wading through seas of misery doesn’t make Twitter meaningful to me. It just makes me want to do something else. We all probably should unplug once in a while and read a book or something anyway, but if all I’m going to do is log on and say “nah, no thanks,” there’s really no point in keeping it around. And so, I occasionally purge my follows to figure out who I really want to engage with and who just isn’t helping me find meaning in the experience.

There are a couple of ways to do this:

  1. Manually go through your follows
    If you’ve got the time, you can go through each and every account you follow. Obviously, this can be time consuming, especially if you follow a lot of accounts.
  2. Use a “who doesn’t follow” Twitter app
    Alternatively, you can use something like Who Unfollowed Me? to identify accounts that don’t follow you back. In my experience, big accounts have a tendency to fall into the negativity trap more than smaller accounts; naturally, big accounts often don’t follow back.

If you still want to keep up with certain folks but don’t want to see their tweets all the time, use Twitter’s list feature instead. Many people use lists to create specific feeds they want to see without needing to take a break from their main feed. All it takes is a little time.

7. Dump the Phone App

Almost everything wrong with Twitter is amplified by its phone app, which doesn’t grant users any real control over the interface or content. The app comes with all kinds of frustrations — from its tendency to switch to the non-chronological feed from hell to its constant feeding into the endless cycles of rage and mobbery and misery I’ve mentioned throughout this piece. Then you add in the user’s tendency to stick their noses deep into their phones, and you’ve got a recipe for doom scrolling and grumpiness.

If you know you’re the type of person who loses hours in their phone on social media and the type of person who feels particularly miserable doing it, then you probably should cut the cord and delete the app. This goes hand-in-hand with advice to limit your social media time to X hours a day.

If you absolutely must have Twitter on your phone, limit your time on the app (seriously) OR look for an alternative that grants you more control over the experience. There are tons of third party Twitter apps, including Tweebot and Twitterific for iOS and Talon and Owly for Android. Some may offer tweaks to control your experience on Twitter, so look closely at the features!


Alright. Now that I’ve offered seven of my tips for making Twitter suck less, I throw it out to the world. What tips do you have to make Twitter a more enjoyable place?


A New Joy Factory Monthly Podcast: Interview w/ The G on Synthwave and Wanderers!

A brand new episode of JFM just dropped. I’m joined by The G to talk about the joys and wonders of synthwave AND his new album, Wanderers. If you’re at all a fan of the genre (or you’re curious), check it out!! You can find the episode on Acast, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you...

A brand new episode of JFM just dropped. I’m joined by The G to talk about the joys and wonders of synthwave AND his new album, Wanderers. If you’re at all a fan of the genre (or you’re curious), check it out!!

You can find the episode on Acast, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also stream the episode below or right here on my website!


A New Joy Factory Monthly Episode is Here!

A brand new episode of JFM just dropped. I’m joined by Alex Brown to talk about the 1977 Disney musical, Pete’s Dragon. And it’s a good one, y’all! You can find the episode on Acast, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also stream the episode below or right here on my...

A brand new episode of JFM just dropped. I’m joined by Alex Brown to talk about the 1977 Disney musical, Pete’s Dragon. And it’s a good one, y’all!

You can find the episode on Acast, iTunes, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also stream the episode below or right here on my website!


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