Writing on the Ether | JaneFriedman.com

iStockphoto / Uchar
iStockphoto / Uchar

By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson


From January 12, 2012
Part of my series of columns on pub­lish­ing, Writ­ing on the Ether, appear­ing Thurs­days through the kind (and brave) benevolence of Jane Friedman at JaneFriedman.com


The second word is ‘jerk’

And in fact, why don’t we get down on our patellae and pray?

In his decades in the Methodist pulpit ministry of South Carolina, my father, surely a closet publisher, loved producing the Sunday bulletin. Think Playbill. It contained what we called The Order of Worship for the main service, listing the hymns to be sung, creeds to be chanted, prayers to be made, and, of course, Daddy’s big sermon title of the week. The monologue. On its back page, the bulletin carried a listing of Fellowship Ahead. Coming attractions. All put together by a local print shop with less than extensive proofreading forces.

And on a sweltering August Sunday morning at our red-brick church in Denny Terrace,  everyone turned at Daddy’s request to follow along as he read aloud from the chancel the Fellowship Ahead and found himself intoning:

4:00 p.m. TODAY:  Church-wide panic. Please be prompt.

That typo, my mother the schoolteacher claimed, produced the best-attended church-wide picnic of Daddy’s career.

Today, it wouldn’t hurt our congregation of publishing to catch a church-window reflection of how we look engaging in one industry-wide panic after the next. Our energetic knees-up exercises of feverish fellowship seem so frequent nowadays that we might as well schedule them.

That way, we wouldn’t be caught off-guard by knee-jerk reactions when Twitter lashes out at Google search changes (Alexei Oreskovic, Reuters) … only to learn that Google+ enhanced searches can be turned off and on by users as update continues rolling out.

Before you scoff and get all knee-jerky about that one again, note that Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You, told Steven Levy:

It’s definitely a big step in terms of transparency and control. It’s kind of awesome to see them do this.

Pariser, a major analyst and critic of our philosophical echo chambers on the Web, believes we may be seeing transparency from Google? Oh. Hm. Well. Gosh. As you climb down off the ceiling, you can read Levy’s Epicenter post: Has Google Popped the Filter Bubble?

Oh, and Twitter didn’t renew its agreement with Google to have real-time feeds of tweets included in search results. Which might indicate a certain amount of chutzpah in Twitter’s complaint that tweets may not top search results. Oreskovic reports:

Google also said it was abiding by code embedded within certain Twitter messages instructing search engines not to rank the messages within their search results.

Oh. Hm. Well. Gosh again.

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And maybe we weren’t staring into the edge of night a week ago, after all, when Jenn Webb at O’Reilly Radar was among the few sensible enough to ask the logical question, Can the Nook be a viable business by itself? Lots of artful alarmists had enjoyed foretelling Barnes and Noble’s collapse, Arctic ice melting in the nonfiction section, Bezosian storm troopers invading our living rooms and raking the last “real books” right off your sainted handmade bookshelf.

The site for this year’s January 23-25 Digital Book World Conference & Expo — #dbw12 to your Twitteresque neighbors — leads with the line “When change is the only constant, it’s time to get with the program.” Not bad advice for all of us. It’s really all Dad was ever saying, after all. Different program. Same problem.

Lots more fun to go astray first and ask forgiveness later, lots more fun to pitch a fit about the latest publishing hiccup and later act as if you never believed for a minute the Armageddon you said it was.

How many people have tried to predict what Apple would say in its “event” this month? –before Ingrid Lunden and some others gave us the merciful word (and burst a few fat filter bubbles): Apple Event In New York This Month Will Focus On Education. All we had to do was wait. No church-wide panic was needed.

Our program is change. We’re going to hit a lot of bumps, surprises both happy and otherwise. And we’re going to wear ourselves out if we let the hotter heads among us call the dynamic shots. We need to leave DEFCON to the Pentagon. We have smaller fish to fry.

I’m going to look at several items in this particular snootful of Ether with reflexive knees in mind. Join me. Wherever we’re headed in publishing, you’ll look better when you get there with your Sunday-go-to-meetin’ hat still on your head.

So cool your knees. Enough panic.

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Click to read this week’s full Writ­ing on the Ether col­umn at JaneFriedman.com

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