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Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog 
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Post Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
As a platform for longer-form discussion and analysis, I have started a RAH blog. If you are interested in publishing more complex pieces than might be suitable for this Forum or Facebook, I would be happy to add you as an author. I'll just need a Google account to send the invite to. Have a look:

http://heinleincommentary.blogspot.com/

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"There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk 'his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor' on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else."


Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:30 am
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
I beg forgiveness in advance and needlessly remind you that you don't have to give a microgram of weight to my opinion... but.

Perhaps my biggest objection to this whole web thingy is that it's been used to diffuse, dilute and dumb down what used to be fairly intelligent, focused discussions. The net more or less started as Usenet, and for all its faults, it did connect communities - some so micro as to be invisible - and fostered very deep, very long, very persistent discussions at least as much as it fostered triviality and flame wars.

Forums are a step down and back, back to the days of individual BBSes - you have to go to a specific location to read, participate or even know the community/discussion is there. The loss of the 'aggregator' Usenet provided is immense and, to me, inexplicable. (No, Google Groups is not one-tenth as useful or functional... mostly because it's used almost 100% for fluffery and it lacks the personalized interface available with newsgroups.) And forums are a slowly dying institution - just too too retro to take seriously - in part because it's so hard for would-be members to find the communities.

That we have devolved from that model to tweets, grunts, farts, blogs and that fingernails-across-the-blackboard-of-your-mind irritation of the link-post is disheartening and inexplicable (to me, at least). I can't think in 140-character bitty-bytes and I loathe into convulsions trying to chase a "discussion" across five different platforms... so, largely, I've given up on online communities.

To bring this around to your post, one of the things I am most bothered by is the replacement of the forum - a truly democratic platform - with the blog, which is not only one of the ugliest words I can think of, but inherently of the anointed few (or one) for the masses. The conversion of every news site in the world to a bloggy thing in which peabrains can rant and spew nonsense is only a glaze on the fundamental flaw of the blog format. Between tweets and blogs and the unfortunate lack of the slightest hurdle to climbing aboard either vehicle, we are absolutely smothered in the rantings of every dork who bought a new smartphone. Both are one-way broadcasts, and frankly, there isn't one broadcaster in 10,000 whose wit, brilliance and insight make their emissions worth the bandwidth. The folks who do have things worth saying and can say them well are not only lost amid the twittering thunder, but have often devolved to that level from either a sense of competition or sheer laziness.

It literally all brings me to tears sometimes - the loss of that wonderful, wonderful world of FIDOnet and then Usenet and the people I knew there and the millions of words I wrote along with members of separate, focused, largely intelligent and always entertaining communities. That no equivalent has arisen from all this glitz and flash and Web 2.0 and orders of magnitude more computing power is just fraggin' weird... or just points up that once it's accessible to morons, everybody starts marching.

To bring this further to point, I can't see how you see a blog as fostering any deeper degree of complexity in discussion. Yes, there are some more advanced formatting capabilities, but most people never bother to use them (and, Cthulhu help us, some do). It is just as possible to post very long, detailed and complex material in this forum... and those posts are placed in a democratic venue where readers can quote, reply and comment at equal length or longer... not in a clearly subsidiary, limited, unformatted "comment" that rarely permits even simple text enhancement and is often limited to a few hundred words. There is no way to carry on anything like a discussion with such unequal tools.

I won't say blogs are the Antichrist (maybe Twitty is) but they are about as far from forums as you can get... and that's a bad, bad thing. IMVHO.

And to bring this all the way down to the immediate point, you might have noticed that, despite decades and many, many attempts and the rotting leftovers almost anywhere you care to look, there is exactly one surviving Heinlein discussion venue... and this is it. There have been hundreds of bloggies and sites and the like and they all remain microscopic and invisible until the proprietor moves on to other things. The sad and sour fact is that, despite how much we all love old Bob, there is just not that much active interest in him or his works... we're it, pretty much. This forum has been in existence for at least ten years and with the diminishment or disappearance of all other venues - the old THS forum, AFH, a few alternate sites - this is the Heinlein nexus. We're it. All of it. So diluting or dividing the discussion is (1) a bad idea that (2) does not improve the situation in any way and is likely (3) an automatic failure at launch.

I don't much care - I stop by maybe once a month and, usually finding the things I dislike* still prevalent, move on. But I'd suggest that one way or the other, all efforts to focus and foster Heinlein discussion be concentrated in one venue. Dividing it up is a bad idea. If this tool isn't doing the job, replace it or extend it... but keep the community in one place.

This has been a public service announcement. We now return you to regular programming.


* In a word, link-posts.

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:00 am
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
RobertPearson wrote:
As a platform for longer-form discussion and analysis, I have started a RAH blog. If you are interested in publishing more complex pieces than might be suitable for this Forum or Facebook, I would be happy to add you as an author. I'll just need a Google account to send the invite to. Have a look:

http://heinleincommentary.blogspot.com/


I was disappointed that the LeFevre post was so short. I felt Robert was just warming up to the subject when the post ended.


Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:14 pm
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
Jim, I think you're being too harsh on Robert, especially to direct commentary equal in volume to the sum of everything you've posted here for several weeks in reaction to his lighting another candle to curse the darkness, just because you don't like how candles flicker. He's not blogging about cupcakes.

There is much I agree with you on, as you know, but first I must point out that there is another Heinlein discussion arena in existence, it's the Facebook group curated by the Rules, and even though I rarely post there, I see it getting something over five times the traffic we do.

The main difference between a blog and a forum is that discussions can only be started by registered authors. Everything else is an isomorphic mapping with fungible appearance. I don't see any reason why Robert's site should attract any less thoughtful and eloquent discussion than ours.

The main problem I have with Facebook is that it has no attention span. Older posts are so hard to find they are effectively nonexistent. Blogs and fora are better than that in equal measure. The post du jour is front and center and the others are hidden behind a welter of "previous" links. But they are, or can be, equally accessible between the two media. No self-organizing group can do better. It takes a librarian and editor to improve on it, and that is the province of the Journal.

But Usenet certainly did not do any better. You want to go back to hunting back for old articles to find they had expired from the local spool? The only reason that people are nostalgic for Usenet - I was on it from 1988 - was that at the time it was populated exclusively by smart people, as was most of the Internet. Although the flame wars were at least as bad due to the concentration of Asperger's. Its inhabitants mourned its passing when AOL gave access to it in, what, 1993? Although the mourners were also the ones who lamented before 1993 that Usenet became less intelligent every September when new frosh gained access. Hence the label of the post-AOL era as the "eternal September."

Both fora and blogs are not restricted to 140 characters - res ipsa loquitur - and I share that loathing of Twitter. You can wax encyclopedic here (and often have). So some people (vide supra) choose to make short posts. T'was ever thus on Usenet also (c.f. "Me too"). The medium is not imposing that limitation. And if my screeds are anything to go by, not encouraging it either.

I wish there was a common global water cooler to gather around instead of this feeling of thousands of isolated sippy cups. If things felt different when Usenet was around, that's not because it was such a global community but - just as the Big Bang didn't expand in space, but expanded space itself - because the larger community didn't exist yet. I bet that Usenet is as crowded as it ever was. More people have come to the Internet party, and they are hanging out at different bars. But as appealing for ease of use as the idea of a single massive community is, that's also described by terms like 'monolithic' and 'centralized', and hey, the world just isn't going in that direction. Probably just as well. I suspect you're like me - trying to figure out how the heck young'uns decide where to post anything and not understanding the answer.

So the situation is neither simple nor ideal. But Robert has created a new altar for Heinlein fans to genuflect at, and that is never a bad thing, not for him, not for us, and not for Heinlein. Thank you, Robert.


Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:27 pm
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
James, holmesiv and Peter: Thanks for the feedback. Briefly, what I'm trying to do is perhaps best described as amateur Journal--I have enjoyed the Facebook page but Peter has described its limitations well. These first few posts are just to have some content for people to see if they stop by.

I agree "blog" is a somewhat repellent word ;). What I would like to publish are longer, thoughtful pieces abut RAH, especially the biography. Volume II will come out in (I hope) a few months and there will be a lot to analyze and think about.

Meanwhile, this forum is certainly worthwhile, useful and fun, but I think blog posts get found by searches and internal posts to the forum don't. At least, when I google Heinlein topics I very rarely see posts from here in the first few pages. So I'm hoping that interested people can find something they want to read and discuss. I would be happy to cross-post the main articles here, in fact that's a fine idea. I'll also get a link to the forum up.

Again, anyone who would like author privileges is welcome.

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"There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk 'his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor' on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else."


Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:34 pm
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
First, Robert, understand that none of this is personal; please take away no offense from my objections.

But I'll maintain that dividing a tiny, growth-resistant community is a bad idea. I've been observing it from something like a command seat for a long, long time... and there is not the head count nor total interest to support more than one community focal point, not without drawing down and damaging the others. The battles between THS, squatting in its manger, and everyone else, for a decade, did irreparable harm to the community. With that dark age thankfully behind, we should be focused on cohesion and growth.

As for FarceBook, even when run by those as dogged and dedicated as Da Rules, the platform and the user base represent everything about the devolution of the net community. Go count all those posts, Peter, and come back with average word count... if it's over 100, I will double that $10 I owe you on the gold bet. If it's under 50, I get to keep my $10. FB is already souring and I predict (no, I won't bet another tanner) that by this time next year it will be as moribund as MySpace, if not GeoCities.

Not that the traditional web, here, is on any pinnacle any more, but at least it's an open platform and we can run this hoary old forumware and not whatever Zuckerbergians dictate.

All your other points are good and I can't disagree... but as the guy who wore out holding up flickering candles and keeping them lit, year after year, I maintain my right to cuss the darkness a little.


Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:11 am
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
Oh, I wasn't defending Facebook by any means, only pointing out that it violated your "last forum standing" claim. I'll join you on all the disparagements but sit on the fence about longevity predictions.

You see Robert's blog as taking a slice out of the Heinlein community pie. I see it as adding another pie. That's our difference.


Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:42 pm
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
PeterScott wrote:
Oh, I wasn't defending Facebook by any means, only pointing out that it violated your "last forum standing" claim. I'll join you on all the disparagements but sit on the fence about longevity predictions.

You see Robert's blog as taking a slice out of the Heinlein community pie. I see it as adding another pie. That's our difference.


I'm for more pie, too.
Facebook is what you make of it. I use it -- and Twitter -- to sell my e-stories.


Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:21 pm
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
Just googling around, I found this:
http://www.nndb.com/people/710/000023641/
Wouldn't have posted anything about it, except that the short bio section gave a listing for RAH's supposed sexual orientation (straight).
Don't know why whoever put that up thought that was important, but I would like to know why they thought that. What proof?

Listing of the works also stopped at Podkayne.

Also found a site owned by James, not updated since 2004.


Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:28 pm
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Post Re: Robert A. Heinlein Commentary Blog
PeterScott wrote:
You see Robert's blog as taking a slice out of the Heinlein community pie. I see it as adding another pie.

Lovely imagery, but the established historical fact is that it's Spider Robinson's apple.

All best to the pie lovers, though.


Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:39 am
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