Tag Archives: technology

Remote Cons?

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

With the coronavirus again in the news, I was talking with fellow author Dianne Dotson about COVID-19 and conventions. Obviously some cons are threatened by this disease and it’s going to be with us awhile. This led to a further discussion of how could cons go remote?

That at first sounds kind of impossible for large cons. I mean, how do you replace a get-together for 20,000 people? I’m not saying we should (I may blog on that at another time), but let’s look at how we could do it.

Let me theorize.

General

In general you want the con “feel.” That would probably mean:

  • A central website.
  • Communications tools like chats and forums.
  • Scheduled events.
  • Guests.
  • So on.

Really, none of this is impossible to achieve. But we think of cons as geospecific gatherings – we need the internet equivalent. Besides, that’s a central clearing point for other things . . .

Dealer’s Rooms

Well that’s pretty easy if everyone has an online store or can set one up. You make a list of dealers and perhaps arrange some con discounts.

But you could do more. People might have their own chats or discord servers. You might even be able to route things through an app so you can literally browse and socialize.

There would obviously need to be pre-screaming and so on. On the plus side, it means there’s less physical limits.

Green Rooms/Host Rooms/Parties/Social Events

These can be done easily as well – there’s many social programs folks can use. It wouldn’t take much to have these simulated with chat rooms, etc.

Of course they’d need to be moderated, but that’s something you can do easily – and by holding people responsible of course.

I’d strongly encourage these kinds of socializings at “Remote cons” because that’s part of the point!

Panels and Events

A lot of these can be done, again, with social media programs and chats. There’s things like Zoom, Webex, and more. it’s not hard to do them at all – I know, I’ve done them. Plus you don’t have to have physical limits of space.

These would need schedules and so on – just like other cons.

Guests

Well meeting guests and getting autographs and the like is kind of out here. People can hear them speak and see them, but it’s not quite the same. They can have events, but yeah some stuff might not work.

Maybe autographed stuff can be done by mail or something.

Costume Contest

That’s tough, but it could be done by video or with pre-submitted video. It might be fun to at least try, but I think people would have to experiment to find the best way to get this to work.

Membership

This may be challenging. Cons need to be paid for, and that’s memberships – so how do you make sure con events are exclusive?

I suppose membership access, passwords, and the like could be made for various things. The tech has to be there, using it on the other hand . . .

And That’s It

Really, I can’t see any reason not to try a virtual con. The thing is, there would be challenges.

Even though I’ve enumerated the tech and methods, I think this would have to be tried out. Maybe a minicon could be done, or another con could be partially online. There would need to be experiments and so forth.

But perhaps it’s time we experiment

Steven Savage

Beware The New Age Of Job Spam

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Lately I’ve been receiving a lot of phone calls and emails about job opportunities, and I’m not alone according to my friends. I’ve begun to realize a lot of this is due to technical changes and business changes – ones that it’s important as a sort of Geek Career Person to warn people about.

Now before I go into just what I found, a note that this isn’t bragging. I’ve been in IT for decades, my resumes have been sent all over the country for twenty years, and I’m in a ton of databases. I’m also in my 50’s, where people are experienced, start to retire (less competition), or die (also less competition). It works in my favor – except for that whole “aware of my own mortality” thing.

Now, onward – let’s walk through what happened and what I found.

THE SITUATION

So last six months or so I started getting hit up by a lot of recruiters. This wasn’t like previous experiences where it appeared to be people “raiding” California for talent that got tired of paying rent so high you could buy a gaming rig once a month. This was the usual combined with lots of samey emails, odd calls, and weird inquests that didn’t always seem to relate to my skillsets, often from companies I never heard of.

I didn’t think about it much, until some caller noted she was in a different time zone – one that didn’t fit the area she was listed as calling from.

So I began digging a bit and looking into all those emails.

WHAT I FOUND

First, the emails I was ignoring anyway looked real spammy – cut and paste jobs, search and replace issues, and sometimes repetitive. On top of that there were mostly companies I didn’t recognize.

Secondly, the emails didn’t seem to give a damn where I was. I mean, yeah I’ve seen people try to raid Silicon Valley for talent, but this didn’t follow any identifiable pattern. Previously I could note trends in what states were hiring, but this was more incoherent.

I also began looking at how to unsubscribe from them, and that was the real revelation. A lot of the unsubscruibe links sent me to the same kind of software setup – clearly different companies, but all using the same mailing list software.

Finally, I recalled how many people had mentioned they had me in a database, or saw me on Dice, or LinkedIn.

That’s when it came together for me.

WHAT’S GOING ON?

At the most basic, it’s a helluva easy to set up a consulting type company, get requests, spam out inquiries, and try to get people. So now plenty of people are doing that and outsourcing globally, at rate I’ve not seen before. And it’s annoying.

Specifically it looks like:

  • A company get set up anywhere in the world then route calls through a phone number in other countries. That explains the weird time zone issues I was getting from calls.
  • A company can use existing software out of the box to set up all sorts of HR and mailing systems. Then you can easily mail things out to people without thinking.
  • There’s all sorts of databases out there, and companies can fill them or just purchase data. Pretty sure some of my old resumes from fifteen years ago are sitting around somewhere in digitized form.
  • Dice and Linkedin and other sites are easy for dedicated people to scrape, especially if you have settings that allow people to see you’re looking, show information, etc.

So we’re now at the stage where you can basically spin up a consulting company or modify an existing one to pretty much run as a spam system. Sure, it sounds like it’s inefficient, but if you can throw out leads to a ton of people, you only need a small percent of responses. It’s pretty much like advertising.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

So what’s the takeaways from this for my fellow job seekers? I have a few.

  • First as always I recommend people always ask what the next stage of their career is. It may well be “more of the same,” but a review now and then is good. I evaluate my skills and plans once a month.
  • If you’re at all concerned about job stability, you should have a regular job search going on, from once a week to once a month.
  • Job searches by now are going to need to be selective. So be aware of who you’re applying to.
  • If you’re looking at temp or consulting companies, research them before applying. Build a list of reliable companies over time (and share them) so you know when trustworthy leads come in and you build good relationships.
  • If you have specific companies or organizations you want to work for, then I’d apply at their websites specifically. Now and then, do a “deep dive” and go back through listings to apply to past jobs, not just new ones.
  • Be careful how you set yourself up on job sites, LinkedIn, etc. You might be accidentally asking to be spammed.

Hope that helps. Let’s see how this evolves in the future, because I’m sure there’s more changes to the job market and technology to come . . .

Steven Savage

A Bridge To The Quiet Planet: Technology

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Let’s get to know more about the setting of my upcoming novel, A Bridge To The Quiet Planet.

Technology

The humans of the worlds of Avenoth find the division between Technology and magic to be very clear.  This is probably why some people talk about it too much.

Magic is defined as that requiring direct human involvement to exist, calling upon the magic in the world.  Items created using magic (enchantment or alchemy) are also considered magical if they rely on magical sources or power or magic to channel power.

Technology is defined as that which does not require a human to invoke and rely on the magic in the world or magic to power an item.  If magic doesn’t touch it it’s probably technology.

Of course, this area leads to assorted debates.  Is piece of equipment incorporating an enchanted component magic (most say no).  Is something manufactued via magic as many things are magical (most say no).  Does it mess up other enchantments or screw up hard-cast spells (it better not).

Thus the debates continue, though the larger population probably doesn’t care, and wishes the debates would slow down.

Magic and Technology are unavoidably intertwined.  Much technology originated by scholars studying items created or altered by magic.  Technology has helped created testing devices and training tools for magic.  Enchanted components are common in exotic technologies – or in some cases cheaper.

The supposed separation remains an area of debate.

The Involvement Of Magic And Manufacturing

Magic has been involved in manufacturing for centuries or perhaps aeons.  Trained mages can easily shape stone or metal, lift objects, and stoke fires.  There are mages and magical practices that focus only on practical applications – mages that do this often practice only a single element, and are often called “Fab mages.”

Over time, manufacturing has become more and more automated and less and less magical.  Science has figured out how to duplicate magical creations – without the issues of creating enchantments sensitive mages may feel.  This has accelerated in the last century or two, and is producing disruptions in both the manufacturing and magical communities.

Magic is still very prominent in construction, where Lithomancers shape and mold stone and stone derivatives like concrete.  They can very quickly raise buildings with the help of others.  Such shaped stone is called magestone.  The guild Crimson Cornerstone is the largest Guild of construction mages.

More exotic technologies may use enchanted or specialized mage-manufactured components, such as unusual weapons or special slate components.

Common Technologies

Aerobarges – Extremely large Flyers relying on anti-gravity technology – large, aerial platforms akin to ships of the air.  They are slower than Flyers, but their stability, safety, capacity for cargo, and ability to offer a less confined experience.

Autocoaches – Powered vehicles for transport – what we would call cars, trucks, and buses.  The term is used for  any powered human transport, but terms like “bus” or “hauler” may also be used.

Bridges – Bridges are teleporation devices used to travel between planets, large platforms powered by techno-magical creations to instantly send people and cargo between worlds.  This requires two Bridges to syncronize – and between orbits, timing, breakdowns, and planetary rotations, schedules can be notoriously unreliable or strange.  Bridges are run by an organization called The Bridgers, a non-religious but very philosophical organization that takes their job as serious as any creed.

Clackers – Flashminds bonded to mechanical bodies, usually used in combat during the War and at times for executions.  Clackers are, like AI, forbidden technology.  As many were designed for hardships, however, they can last for centuries – and recovering them is a sure insight into past technologies if one doesn’t accidentally reactivate one . . .

Flashminds – Artificial intelligence, often ones made by magically copying a human mind. All AI is forbidden on Telvaren due to past experiences and disasters.  Attempting to use or create them is met with stiff penalties – often fatal (if unproveably fatal)

Flyers – Aerial transport devices – what we would consider airplanes.  Many use anti-gravity technology for takeoffs, landings, and stabilizing the passenger.

Slates – Slates are portable, flat screen devices used to access the Network.  They are used most commonly for email, video calls, and research.  They are similar to cell phones and tablets in our world.

The Network – The Network is a world(s) spanning communication tool for transmission of information.  It had existed in several incarnations, and is now on version 3 – the former versions having fallen to magical problems and strange technical problems like Flashminds.  It is usually used for email, video calls, and visiting “sites” of information.  It’s obviously similar to the internet, though the heavy need for security and caution over technology mean it tends to be used more practically and cautiously.

Variable Weapon – A term for customized weaponry, often weaponry that transforms between multiple states, at times in ways that seem to violate the laws of physics.  This functionality is due to magical components that many contain – or components based upon magically created templates.  Variable weapons are carried by technics, members of Warrior Lodges, and some military specialists – but are looked down on as flashy and hard to maintain by many Constables and members of the Military.

 

The god of technology and engineers is Xomanthu, who is the arguable head of a large gaggle of gods and goddesses involved in the spheres of technology.  He is not the oldest of the gods, but seems to be the most forward thinking and social of his company of deities.  He’s usally portrayed as male or gender-ambiguous, with multiple arms – “Xomanthu’s many hands” is a common invocation, oath, or curse.  Xomanthu likes to be involved in people’s lives, though at times his involvement can be complicating.

– Steve