Democratization Can Be Dark… And Other Lessons from WordCamp US

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Among other things, I am a blogger. This thing that you’re reading right now is in fact a blog post…on a real-life blog! Mind blown, right?

To create this mind-blowing blog, I use WordPress, free and easy-to-use software that powers about a quarter of the websites online. WordPress has a great community that gets together all over the world. Last year, I attended and wrote about their first annual U.S. conference, WordCamp US, in my hometown of Philadelphia. WordCamp US was back in Philly this year, attracting about 1,800 attendees and a gang of dinosaurs to the party.

#WCUS Party Crasher Rex
#WCUS Party Crasher Rex at the wordcamp after party

WordCamp was a blast, obviously. I only got to attend the second day (Day 1 was Friday and would have interfered with my day job), but I listened to a few great talks.

Dennis Hong did a hilarious and yet scary (hil-scare-ious?) talk on the dark side of democratization. The idea is that while the internet has enabled anyone to publish, this may not always be a good thing. The sheer amount of content now produced promotes skimming over thoughtful reading, he said. Also, thoughtful, well-reasoned analysis often loses out to cat pictures and emotion-based pieces that get us all riled up — and may not even be true.

While there are no easy answers, Dennis had some advice to make the internet a more friendly place. When something online angers you, take a deep breath before you share it to your friends. Be stoic like Yoda, he said, and decide if it’s worth sharing — because all you’re doing is helping the video go viral. If someone is being ridiculous online, don’t engage in a shouting match. It’s better to be patient, empathetic and take the conversation offline. If you’re creating content, it’s okay to grab a reader’s attention with a flashy headline, but make sure the content that follows is thoughtful and accurate. You can read more about all this on Dennis’s website.

I also learned a bunch of interesting facts from Maile Ohye from Google. Did you know that 65% of India — or about 864 million people — are not yet online? That’s a lot of people still to join the internet! Not only that, but 60% of the world’s traffic is still 2G. It’s important to keep these facts in mind when building a website, Maile said. Also, here’s something to look forward to next year — she said Google will be demoting mobile website that display pop-up ads blocking your view of the content! Woo! Those sites are way annoying!

Which brings me to another fun fact from Maile — 53% of visitors abandon mobile sites that take more than three seconds to load. Sounds a little impatient, but thinking about my own behavior I probably do this as well. I guess with all that democratization of content, we just don’t have time to wait around.

For more possible dark directions for society, read my novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall.

Bender Novels Featured in SELF-e Indie Pennsylvania

Now free at your library!
Now free at your library!

As a local Philadelphia author, I’m thrilled to announce that SELF-e is now featuring my novels WE, THE WATCHED and DIVIDED WE FALL in its Indie Pennsylvania collection.

SELF-e is a curated collection of self-published works by Library Journal and BiblioBoard, and is available to participating libraries across the county. Because I’m from Philly, my books will be featured prominently in the Pennsylvania Indie collection. When you visit a library in any state that has BiblioBoard, you can access eBooks of my novels on library computers or on your personal mobile devices by downloading the BiblioBoard app from the Apple, Google or Amazon app stores. Since you’re getting them through a library, the books are free to borrow, though the app includes a Buy link if you’d like to add the eBook or paperback to your personal bookshelf.

I’m excited to make my books available to new readers! If your library supports BiblioBoard, please let me know your experience finding my book. And if your library doesn’t have it, ask them to look into it!

And don’t forget, you can also get WE, THE WATCHED free by joining the Underground, my monthly mailing list for fans.