Civic Diary 4/29/2016

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

Hey all! So what’s the latest on my civic diary – my efforts to be more of a citizen?

Not much happened since last week as I got insanely busy. There’s a good lesson here in that you cannot do everything all the time. Sometimes you have to take care of yourself.

I think this is a big reason some people don’t really “dive into” citizenship activities; it’s exhausting and hard to pace yourself.

A few insights:

  • I’m realizing a lot of people do not know how to discuss politics – they know how to argue and fight, but not actually talk. I clearly need to get better at the discussion part.
  • Still convinced I need to get more involved in political organizations or organizing, which is hard as I have to pick something. For now I’m staying aware I should be more involved, and looking for opportunities to do so. I like observing this publicly as it makes me more self-conscious – so I do it.
  • The above has made me realize that, though I may understand many things of the world, my understanding of the political establishment (in the broad sense of everyone engaged in organized politics) is really quite poor. My work with Civic Geek helped me see how many organizations there are doing good in the world, and in turn I now see how much of our world, our society, are these interlinked structures. Being outside them disempowers you.
  • I think the disempowerment people feel is often real – but the solution is being empowered and empowering others. Getting aware and involved. A lot of political rage we see is just people finding new ways to be enslaved by jumping on fads.
  • Haven’t found anything new to write my representatives on. I am never sure how much of an effect it has, but I figure enough pebbles forms an avalanche.
  • Finally, I look at my other social involvements – clubs, speaking, museums, and worry I’ll downplay those too much. THere’s probably a balance – or a continuum – of healthy, different kinds of civic involvement.  Maybe you can be too political.

– Steve


Way With World Update 4/28/2016

(This column is posted at,, and Steve’s Tumblr)

The update on my first book on Worldbuilding is . . . further along than expected.

After the long editing process, the formatting for print went well (probably as I had done a lot of the basics before sending it to the editor). I’m going to format the Kindle version next – not just to get it out of the way, but because doing so also acts as yet another read-through.  I actually will do that this weekend.

Once that’s done, I’ll set up the cover and a sample doc and start running print copies. I still plan to release in July even if this goes well, just because I have so much else on my plate.

Besides, Book 2 comes back from the editor end of May or so . . . and I still have the Sailor Moon book.

Though the big worry there is, as noted elsewhere, the cover.  Fan To Pro‘s cover was a total pain.

I’m pretty pleased with the book, but admit there’s times it comes off a bit artsy.  I think that’s the intention, but it contrasts with my usual instructional style.  It’s nice to see different voices in my writing – and I am hoping to broaden out even further.  I think I need to develop more “voices.”

The content is definitely solid.  There’s parts I’m seriously proud of, such as my exploration of worldbuidling sex, meditations on power, and my work on magic and technology.  I think people can learn a lot from this – even if they disagree with me (and there are places I see folks will differ).

And book two, well, that’s when I dive into some serious details . . .


– Steve

Sailor Moon Book Update 4/27/2016

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

Whew, haven’t had one of these in awhile. So where’s the book?

AT THE EDITOR.  Yes, I am so glad!

The latest copy, fully set up as a book, is also off to the pre-readers. Ok not perfect (it lacks the physical print format) but close.

This is a big milestone for us as the book is that much closer to being real. We get it back from the editor sometime in June, and then after an editing binge, it’s done. Finished. Ready to print.

I’m pretty proud of it actually. The final run on it, the formatting, getting the chapter titles right, the final edit, really brought it together. It finally feels like a book, and one with a unified theme and feel.

It just needs that thorough edit to make it completely ready to go.

Of course the print formatting and the like can be a bit of a pill. I’ve got it mostly done as a system, but the preprint work is the real pain in the keister – because covers can be a nightmare and print reveals all sorts of problems. But at least by then its just a matter of time.

We’re already planning to book at least one podcast near the time, and plan to reach out to more, probably pacing ourselves before and after it reelases.

If you want to review it, let us know!

– Steve

Who Owns Geek Culture? Not The Gatekeepers

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

The trailer for Star Wars: Rogue One dropped while ago.  Much to my surprise it intrigued me – a Star Wars heist movie.  Just as I felt TFA was flawed and cautious, but had a fantastic cast and amazing heart, this film had something that hit me just right.  Seriously sign me up.

Of course this was also a time for various people to complain about the female lead online. The word Mary Sue was tossed around by people who ignore the legion of male power fantasy characters.  Of course there was talk about Women Invading Geek Space as if women can’t be geeks and aren’t as opposed you, you know, history.

There’s a peculiar thing that’s popped up on and off over the years of who “owns” geek culture.  To an Elder Geek like me, that seems kind of weird.  Geek Culture to me sort of “is,” and the idea of people raging about owning it seems odd at best, pathological at worst.  I know this clearly means I missed a quite a lot of stupidity, but I’m probably lucky for it.

And usually it’s that geekdom is owned by people of a specific gender and at times race – which is ridiculous.  The idea of a culture that’s often been freewheeling, weird, experimental, and pro-intellectual (at least on the surfacee) being afraid of cooties seems . . . bizarre.  As an Elder Geek it seems even weirder – geekdom has not been free of racism or sexism or bigotry or stupid gatekeeping, it has often been worse than we want to admit, but I don’t recall this bizarre and outright whiny territoriality when I was younger, or for that matter older.

But this made me wonder – who does “own” geek culture?  Can we discuss it as something anyone can own?  Maybe this is a discussion worth having, if only to hopefully turn down the volume on the whining.

Who Owns A Culture?

I began speculating on cultures and how people experience them.  First up, there’s the question of ownership in an enforceable sense.

Legally, people can own part of a culture.  Disney owns the hell out of Star Wars.  Someone can own a copy of a book.  People can have legal rights to certain things.  These laws and policies may be stupid or immoral or dysfunctional, but we do recognize some sense of ownership of media.  Geeks are often about media.

However, this ownership is, let us be frank, tenuous and only a small part of the culture.  Culture is something that people participate in – and Geek Culture with its tendency to self-creation the “culture” is embodied far less in owned artifacts than it would seem.  These owned artifacts are important, as rallying points, triggers, and bases – but what goes on with them far outstrips them.  The ownership of culture is not in the artifacts.

There are fans of things in the public domain or that might as well be.  Harry Potter could vanish tomorrow, and Potter fans would go on, and carry many of their values with them.  Hell, I still think someday someone will make a fandom where it and the property are the same thing, owned by none/all – some My Little Pony spinoff fan works approach that now.

So, ownership of the legal variety isn’t ownership of a culture.  You can witness fan culture rebel against the “powers that be” quite a bit.  They rebel against the owners – in a legal sense.

That’s when I hit upon it.  To discuss who “owns” a culture, let’s explore an organization with a shared culture.  I choose a church.

Church Time

So let’s imagine a church.  Where does the culture reside?  The minister in a way relays it.  But the culture is in the attendees, and the people who raise money and maintain the grounds, and do the charities.  Though a church is quite a hierarchical organization, there’s a lot of people in it maintaining it, and you know they have a say (especially if you’ve been involved in local church politics).

Geekdom is often the same way.  It’s even more distributed than your average religious organization, and also can involve elaborate costumes.  There’s major voices, some useful, some annoying as hell, but geekdom is distributed “among” people.

Geekdom has persisted through changes, new media and old, history and tragedy.  A church can swap in parishioners and out, get a new minister and endure.  So who owns the culture of something?  Who can say “this is mine?” when the organization (and its culture) endures.  Something passes around and through people however to keep that culture going.

These people are not owners, not necessarily authorities.  They are people who embody the culture and carry it on and make sure it continues.  They are Custodians, not so much owners, but maintainers and supporters and even improvers.

The Custodians put things into practice and keep going.  They ensure the culture goes on.  They care about it and for it, often nurturing it or fixing it or innovating in it.  They might not even know they’re custodians because they’re too busy or don’t notice people look to them for advice or help.  However they’re the ones to respect, and the more you’re a Custodian, the more you keep things going, the more you really have a say in the culture.

Custodians don’t “own” a culture, but they’re to be listened to.  Which is what the whiners seem to want to be.

In a church a Custodian can be a minister – or an elder.  It can be the person who manages the finances and keeps it running.  It could be distributed, it could be concentrated.  No one owns a church, but the church exists because some people (at times unwittingly) keep it going.

The Custodians also, often, have skin in the game.  They’re there in the thick of it.  They’re “authorities” to many because they know it and they do stuff.

You’ll notice “rampant complaining” really isn’t a Custodial duty.  Custodians may complain, but they’ve got skin in the game, they keep stuff running, they do things.

The people to respect in geekdom are the participants.  Those who run cons and make costumes, those who maintain sites and write.  The people that make stuff happen are the ones to respect and listen to.  The people who ensure there’s something thre – and there is a tomorrow.

The Custodians.  They don’t own it, but they are people who should be respected and listened to.

My late grandmother maintained her Church’s flowers.  You can bet she got listened to.

Participation Matters

So the people who think that Star Wars is ruined by a female cast, the people interrogating someone to be a true fan, true gamer, true comics reader are gatekeepers but not Custodians.  They’re People throwing out a meaningless trivia in order to keep people out as opposed to being Custodians for what’s important – and finding common ground that helps maintain and grow their culture.  They are the church equivalent of the person who quizzes you on theological minute just to assert themselves, but won’t even put money in the collection plate or help with the church lawn.

They aren’t participating, they’re at best annoying as hell and at worse actively harming the culture by driving people out while not doing anything to maintain what they supposedly care about.

But they have no credibility.  They are not Custodians.

How many comic geeks complaining about Squirrel Girl or whatever actually live the values of the heroes they value?  Few.  Why listen to them?

How many sci-fi geeks ho are supposedly all pro-science actually act with any scientific analysis before they decide Daisy Ridley destroyed western civilization?  They violate what they say they stand for?

How many people complain about how video games must be X or Y don’t do anything but complain, wasting the time of forum mods?

The complainers aren’t Custodians.  They’re what the Custodians have to deal with.

The Gatekeepers Aren’t The Keepers Of The Flame

Right now there’s a little girl loving Star Wars because of Rey and she’s playing with a toy lightsaber.  She is more of a geek right now than some guy bitterly complaining about Rogue One having a female lead.  Because she got this vague idea to be a hero and is having fun and setting a foundation for geekdom, whereas someone else is just complaining.

Right now there’s a cosplayer making outfits and possibly launching a career out of it.  She’s more of a geek than the person complaining that  A) she’s too sexy, and B) she won’t sleep with him.  She’s doing something and giving panels.

Right now there’s someone running a website in a thankless job that is doing more than the people complaining about the latest column on anime.

Right now there’s a comics geek who should be a hell of a lot more like the heroes/heroines and less randomly interrogating people on Twitter.

People do not truly own geekdom – geekdom is a culture, and thus this amorphous thing of information.

However there are people who are experts, who are credible, who are authorities – and these are the people that actually run the culture, embody the values, and do shit.  The Custodians.

The complainers are at best minor participants – and at worse, toxic, going against the values of their culture and sullying their communities.

Hopefully they can realize it’s a lot more interesting to get your hands dirty, a lot more fulfilling to connect, then to just complain.

– Steve

Civic Diary 4/24/2016

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

OK I got off a bit on posting on my Civic Diary by a few days.  Pretty crazy week.

So if you’re new to this, this is my experiment in being a better citizen.  I’m posting once a week.  My current major efforts are to be more aware via joining organizations and following them, writing my representatives, and in general contemplating and analyzing what to do next.

So what did I learn

  • First it’s easy to think our representatives do the right thing, but sometimes they do stupid ones.  To wit, Feinstein, one of my reps backed a pretty badly thought out security bill in Congress.  So I wrote her specifically on that.  Gotta take the good with the bad – and I’m glad my continued awareness led me to figure this out.
  • Secondly, as I follow politics the truth of the matter is that to affect politics you have to be in an organization or be involved in one.  That’s it, end of story..  When you watch the protests organized by Democracy Now, or realize how people are involved in awareness and get-out-the-vote efforts, you realize people who get stuff done make the difference.  Yes, these people may be “the establishment,” but you’re not going to change that establishment until you get involved and make a counterpart or become part of it and change it.  Anyway, I think I need to ask more on how I can do my part organizing or being part of an organization – and Martin Longman puts it best, so just read this column.
  • Third, that question of “what more can or should I do” makes me realize the limits so much of us have – time.  There’s a lot of different tensions in our lives, which is a pain, but at least we can be aware of them and find a resolution.  Maybe you want to be an engaged citizen but can only do so much as you’re damn busy – at least you know it, admit it, do what you can, and maybe change what you do when life is less crazy.
  • Fourth, political activity is not a substitute for social activity.  Community work, your friends, family, city, clubs are also important.  I think there’s a kind of continuity we need to find between all levels of our lives to be good citizens . . . and it’s different for each of us.
  • Fifth, the more I pay attention to news the more I realize how much B.S. is out there.  The news is a product and it’s meant to get your attention.  Be selective in your news consumption, and look for real information.
  • First and foremost it’s about Citizenship as Nancy LeTourneau puts it.  Read that column too.
  • A lot of these realizations are pretty humbling.  Asking how to be a good citizen kinda makes you realize where you fail or are ignorant, and suddenly you don’t get so arrogant about your fellow citizens activities.

That’s it for me.  Have you started your Civic Diary yet?

– Steve


Job Skills For The Future: Vendor Management

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

In a recent meeting, a manager much higher than I said something that blew me away: Vendor Management is a job skill of the future.

First, because I realized she was right and I hadn’t thought of it.

Secondly because I realized that’s an issue I’ve not covered here, and if I’m going to be the geek job guru I need to cover skills we progeeks need for the future. So welcome to my latest series – Job Skills For The Future.

I can’t claim it’s the most original title. But anyway, let’s talk Vendor Management, because we should.

Vendor Management – You’re Going To Need It

What do I mean by Vendor Management? Pretty simple – Vendor Management is working with a company outside of your own to get goods and services.

OK, it’s not simple because it involves negotiation, contracts, communication, money, and of course inevitable complex legal agreements. I’ve been on both sides of the equation and trust me, Vendor Management is a complete skillset of its own. There are people that specialize in it as part of their other job functions, and for some it’s most of their job function.

(which is also a way of saying if you can do it and have done it, put it on your resume, people probably need it.)

But why is this a job skill that’s important for the future? It’s pretty important now, what’s the deal?

It’s important for your future: As you move up in your career, it’s more and more likely that you’ll have to interact with vendors. So for your own sake, look for opportunities to learn it.

People are outsourcing more than ever: Ever feel like a lot of your company’s functions are outsourced? That’s because they are – its’ easier to do than ever and in a complex, more necessary to do (because of the need for specialists). In the future there will be more outsourcing – I used to joke I could make a triple A game with a five person staff by outsourcing, and its not as funny as it was.

By the way outsourcing isn’t just contractors. It’s software or it’s meal services or whatever.

You’re inevitably getting something from a vendor: You company or yourself as a freelancer is going to inevitable interact with a vendor. Sure, it may not be many, but vendors interact with other vendors and so on. You might as well get those vendor management skills together because like it or not, even a few vendor relationships probably spiderweb into fr more tan you realize.0

Vendors change: Right now how many people get important software services on the web via subscription? I recall a time when that seemed odd or impossible. That outsourcing/insoucring strategy that seems good today will change in a few years. Vendor relations and needs and services change – so getting good at Vendor Management gets you ready for transformations.  Even if it’s not your job now . . .

It’s only going to get more complicated from here.

So How Do I Get Good At It?

So how do you get good at Vendor Management? Well most of my experience was a mix of accident and “call Steve he likes to talk to people.” But here’s what I found and what I’ve seen.

  • First, be aware of Vendor relations period. Don’t tune it out, or ignore it, or pray it goes away (not that I haven’t done those things). Listen and learn. As of late just paying attention helped me find out how some Vendors have changed (sadly, for the worst).
  • Second, find an edge for dealing with Vendors – are you good at talking, good at the law, good at analyzing proposals? Find where you’re good, because unless it’s a major part of your job, you should develop the part you need.  (My advantage is persistence and friendliness).
  • Third, go and try it out. One of my major realizations lately is that as my experience is piecemeal, I need more. The people really good at Vendor Management seem to dive into it and learn – so seek it out.
  • Fourth and finally, and though I say this often, pay attention to the news. Knowing what vendors are out there is helpeful. Many’s the time I’ve found some new service and wished I’d known more about it.

As I said, I could be a bit better at this – but I hope my advice helps you.  I’ll share any more insights I have.

If you’re a Freelancer? Then you’re gonna have to deal with a lot of Vendor Management, so get good at it now.

– Steve

No Man’s Sky – Release The Coding

(This column is posted at,, and Steve’s Tumblr)

Last time I speculated on what would come next for No Man’s Sky. My take is that though it may have a good life (5-10 years) it’s going to end eventually. The comparative lack of interactivity is probably the killer.

My friend Serdar noted something that jumped the gun a bit in my analysis of the future – namely, that the studio should consider releasing the code. I was going that direction and wanted to expand on it.

So at some point I think NMS will end-of-life, and I’m leaning towards five years. But in that time – and at that time – Hello Games could do a few things.

First, I think they should release a planet generator that allows people to tweak various parameters – or randomize it. Serdar referred to the idea as a generator for Roger Dean Album Covers. I heartily concur. People might even pay a few bucks for it.

Secondly, the above planet generator? Pair it with some non-interactive exploration and music. After seeing what could be done on Panoramical, imagine what it’d be like to just jam to procedural music and scrolling alien landscapes?

Third, and foremost, at some point they should release all or most of the code of the game. Maybe license it, maybe free. Have the final legacy of No Man’s Sky (which will truly be foundational if it’s what they say it is), be the launching of even more children. It would doubly cement Hello Games legacy, and give innumerable people and groups and games a boost.

NMS could truly be world-changing. However there’s one more thing . . .

I think there will inevitably have to be a No Man’s Sky Next. No Man’s Sky-er. The Noer and the Manner Skye. Whatever.

Hello Games is going to learn an enormous amount of lessons from this. They will learn more about their code. They will learn more about players. They will release patches and updates and experience the limits of what their engine can do. They will, in short, be equipped to create a sequel that would outstrip what the original could do.

So, with NMS having a probable limited lifespan, my thoughts are this:

  1. Begin research for No Man’s Sky Next immediately.
  2. After a year or two release the “Roger Deanifier.” It’d also probably give any cooperative coders and 365 days of static a boost yes, I want them to team up with the guy behind Panormalical, OK?
  3. 3) As things calm down, begin work on No Man’s Sky Next – using the current NMS as a bit of a testbed.
  4. 4) When ready to release No Man’s Sky Next, drop the code of the original game on the internet.

Would releasing the code empower competitors? Doubtlessly, but you can be pretty sure they have and will have plenty. Releasing the code just cements the possibility of it.

And of course if done right, NMS Next would live on far longer than the first, becoming a doubtlessly deserved fixture.

– Steve

My Kraken-Con Promotional Sale!

Hello everyone, I’ll be speaking at Kraken-con on April 23rd – I’ll be doing a geek networking event, and speaking on the Sailor Moon book!

To celebrate I’m putting three of my career e-books on sale!  From Friday morning before the con to the evening of the Monday after, these books will be on sale for 99 cents:

So if you’ve wanted to get your hands on my career books and money was tight, or if you’re curious, or if you enjoyed seeing me – you get a discount!  Enjoy, and see you at the con!

– Steve

Civic Diary 4/15/2016

(This column is posted at, and Steve’s Tumblr)


My latest voyages into being more civicly engaged continue. So as noted my latest venture in being a civic geek were following important organizations, trying to write my congressbeings regularly, and looking for opportunities to be more engaged. I also had focused on the importance of any organizing to promote civic behavior.

SO what’s my findings this week?

  • First, writing to my reps – specifically over the Panama Papers calling attention to tax shelters around the world. Though the (incomplete) Panama Papers didn’t implicate many big US names, it still calls attention to tax dodges, and I figured it’d be good to prod them to do the same.
  • I should probably follow up on NC and Missisippi’s idiot Bathroom Bills as well. As there’s talk that NC may have suddenly made itself ineligible for federal funding, it might help to push that.  Note – I wasn’t aware federal funds could be withheld under conditions like that, so I learned something.
  • Following all these organizations makes you feel less alone politically. That’s a great benefit – but I can see where people get into cultlike devotion even to good causes.  Just realizing someone thinks like you do is something.
  • Once you start following organizations that keep you politically informed and find ways to be active, they often refer to other organizations and so on. Politically active organizations network and refer to each other, so you’ll find new and interesting was to stay informed and get active.
  • On the subject of being civicly active, it only took a few weeks for me to realize if I followed every lead I’d never have time for anything. I’ve had this happen before, so be warned – diving into being civicly engaged may be overwhelming. Pace yourself.
  • Since I started doing Civic Geek, and more and more as I do this, I realize a lot of the world survives on diverse, networked groups. From charities to political groups, official organizations to unofficial networking, there’s a huge amount of people keeping things going. It’s kind of hopeful, to be honest.
  • I’ve also come to realize how many people think just commenting on things is “activism,” as if leaving a sentence of feedback actually does anything. I think “protest” of any kind has become enshrined as something that’s always good as opposed to its potential to be wrong, annoying, or terribly misspelled.
  • A lot of people don’t appreciate the value of voting locally. So do it, damn it.
  • I’ve noticed my civic posts get some attention on Tumblr. Thinking Tumblr may be an untapped source of networked political engagement, like Twitter.

– Steve

– Steve

Career Idea: Training, Certification, And Retention

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

In a recent discussion with some people on retaining and training workers, I noted a simple solution to getting people trained and getting them to stay.

“Why not support them in getting certifications?”

My logic is simple

  1. You need to train people.
  2. Training isn’t always fun.
  3. Certifications are seen as valuable to one’s career.
  4. Certifications often require training – and that’s probably more interesting than just some class.
  5. So a company that supports certifications gets people educated, and if those people aren’t big on training, they may like a certification better.
  6. People getting the certification feel valued (and trusted as certifications would make it easier to look for a job).
  7. People will feel confident because in case of a layoff or something they’re still more valuable. It’s insurance.

Imagine a workforce that knows it’s going to get valuable training and certifications? That they’ll have that extra information on their resume or in their job review? Even if a new job may be tempting, why leave a place that recognizes you and helps you improve?

(Besides, the longer you’re there the more loyal you may be.)

I had two companies support me in certifications, and it certainly affected my attitudes towards them – in a postiive way. Someone shelled out the money to get me certified, and both allowed me to get trained on their own time. It’s hard to turn that down, and I stuck with them both untilthe bitter end.

So consider that next time you’re trying to figure out how to get better employee retention, or get people trained, or even boost morale. Guaranteed certifications may be something to ty.

Though I’m still getting my acquaintances to try it out at least they’re listening . . . though maybe you’ll have more luck.

– Steve