Saturday, April 9, 2016

TWIC: Sci-Am, Quora and Boingboing

In the previous post, I introduced my growing addiction to Quora a well-done Q&A site.  Here are some of the things that caught my eye there:
POV in Fantasy novels.
HOW CAN I MASTER POV? (Head hopping included)
There are a lot of facets to improving one's understanding of POV:
1. Syntax - the grammar and language rules of POV
This is the type of book learnin' foreign to many non-schooled writers.
2. Mode - the choices you're free to make WITHIN the rules
These are the different POVs, and different modes have different impacts.
I think 'head hopping' is changing the Point of View too often in a scene.
A link to the Creative Writing feed.
There are currently questions about routines, writing classes, cliches and flaw and one person looking for help in telling his/her 15 year old daughter she is a bad writer.  For this latter request, I was impressed with the sympathy in the answer:
You want what's best for your daughter.
The writing students who go on to publication and success often aren't the ones you expect. Talent by itself doesn't mean much (although it helps).
Teachability is what's important -- it doesn't matter how bad you are in the beginning if you keep on learning and improving, if you develop a strong feel for your audience. You don't have to be gifted to achieve a clean, workable prose style. What's more important is an ability to understand the elements of story and how to construct a good one. (There are many amazing prose stylists who are lousy, boring, incompetent storytellers. Writing and storytelling inform each other, but are not the same thing.)
Sympathetic is my keyword for describing the writing at Quora.  People do give thoughtless responses but it feels they are less common there.  My writing has improved in trying to honestly and clearly answer questions there.  Of course, as a white, middle-aged English speaker, I figure I have all the answers anyway so the site is perfect for me to educate the world.

From Sci Am, does creativity decline with age?
 First, the precise relation between age and creativity depends on the domain. Some creative types—such as lyrical poets and mathematicians—tend to have early peaks and relatively rapid declines, whereas others—among them, historians and philosophers—are prone to later peaks and gradual, even negligible declines.
The article seems to look at when people have their creative peak, which is different from when their maximum creative ability is.  I took up wood carving in my forties and my peak is likely to be in my fifties but that doesn't seem to equal when my biological peak should be.  To put it coarsely, if a man or woman is celibate until they are sixty, his/her actual sexual peak will be in his/her sixties but his/her biological peak would be long past.
Sci-am on designing buttons and options on websites:
Step count matters. One click is always easier to learn and remember than several.
A classic example: If there are only two or three choices—say, Sleep, Restart and Shut Down—don't put them in a pop-up menu. Lay them all out on the screen; you have the room. Pop-up menus in general should be a last resort because nobody knows what options are in one until someone thinks to click it. And that's another step.
At a university I worked at, to enter each grade score for each student required four mouse-clicks. I understand that some operations - Delete All - need an extra warning step, but most operations do not.  I had hundreds of students and four or five scores to enter for each one.  It was better than handwriting the details, but not much and so much better was possible.
Moving to Boingboing on Design Discipline. They link to and rules for design.
8. Feedback mechanisms.
It is hard to negotiate with algorithms, and most platforms do not have HR departments for handling everyday issues workers encounter, from late payment to unfair reviews. Platforms need to establish feedback mechanisms and equivalents of customer support services for those working on them. “If I were starting an Internet company or designing an app for something,” one of our respondents commented, “I would say that we must have phone customer service 24/7.” As platforms come to dominate more sectors of the economy, customers and workers alike will come to expect effective means for providing feedback.
B'Boing also tells us how to make Escher-style tiles.
B'boing also has news of unusual sources for research.  A motel owner spied on his renters for 30 years! - and kept meticulous notes.
True to his word, Foos had taken meticulous notes, filling reams of paper with his observations of cheaters; closeted gay people; swingers; forbidden interracial couples; gigolos; feuding holiday makers; fetishists, and more, across a wide swathe of human sexuality. Foos's notebooks -- which he began to send to Talese -- were full of self-serving and increasingly cynical and detached observations in a mock-clinical style that chronicled Foos's slide into a kind of obsessive misanthropy that left him hating the people he couldn't look away from.

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