Friday, June 26, 2009
Upcoming Appearances and Internet Etiquette

So the power was out in my neighborhood today. This doomed me to an afternoon of stewing in my own juice. The weather in Wisconsin right now has been roughly equivalent to living inside a dog's mouth. It was not a good day to be without air conditioning.

Also, the power outage threw a wrench into my plan to fine-tune and post another blog about Europe. So, instead, I decided to pass along some news and answer a piece of fanmail I got yesterday instead.

First the news: I've just finished updating the tour page.

The busy part of convention season is fast approaching, and I've got a lot of events scheduled over the next couple months. From relatively small conventions and signings here in Wisconsin (I'm in Wausau this Saturday, btw) to big conventions in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Montreal, and San Diego.




(Rare footage of the elusive Rothfuss at his natural migratory habitat: the convention.)


At some of these conventions, I even get to be Guest of Honor. I'm not sure, but I think this means someone will be contractually obliged to fan me with a large palm leaf. I also expect to be given a shiny medal of some sort or at least a rather dapper-looking hat.




(The Rothfuss uses his bright plumage to lure readers into panels, where he devours them. )


So head on over to the page and take a look at where I'm going to be. I go to these to meet readers and hang out, so the more the merrier.


Now the piece of e-mail:
Pat,

I have a quick question I hope you don't mind answering. I saw you do that sometimes in your blogs.

After finishing The Name of the Wind, I called my local bookstore to see when the next book was coming out. They didn't know. So I called my local Library. They didn't know. So eventually, I gritted my teeth and borrowed a friend's internet and found your blog.

Over the next week I read all of it. Including most of the comments. I was a little addicted. I'm guessing it took me fifty hours.

I don't have a question about book two. Take your time. But as someone who doesn't spend a lot of time online, I am curious about this whole blog thing. Specifically about the comments you receive on your blog. After reading these, I feel like I know a lot of the posters.

Many of them are funny, and some of them are really clever... But some of them seem downright insensitive or rude.

What is up with that? Am I just oversensitive, or are a lot of the people commenting on your blog actually rather rude?

I'm tempted to say it's the former. I'm not really a blog reader. And I've always assumed that people smart enough to read your book would also be courteous and polite.

Sincerely,

Jen J.

Jen,

I've always assumed that people who read my book are not only intelligent and polite, but more attractive and better in bed than your average person. They also smell like fresh pie.

Unfortunately, the internet is like a great machine designed to make humanity look stupid. Oh sure, there are good things the internet does for us. Smart things. Noble things. But for every one person using distributed computing to cure cancer, there are ten people forwarding me a letter that threatens impotence and the death of a fluffy kitten if I dare to break the chain.

The problem is this. The internet is allows people to do things very quickly.

Now don't get me wrong, some things are better done quickly. Getting someone to the hospital. Mowing the lawn. Making my 7-layer burrito.

But many things are not improved by speed. Most things, actually: Backrubs. Baths. Getting a haircut. Writing a novel. Cuddling. Kissing.

And blog commenting. Contrary to what people believe, fast is not always better in terms of communication.

The problem is, language is a slippery thing. People have a hard enough time getting their point across when they're face-to-face. Over the phone is harder because you can't see body language or facial expression.

But pure text is the hardest. That's why e-mail misunderstandings abound, because you don't even have timing or vocal inflection to help get your point across.

This means when a person types a comment without thinking things through, it's much more likely that their intended message will get lost and they'll seem rude when they really didn't mean to be.

Take my announcement today for example. I know what's going to happen as soon as I post about my upcoming convention appearances.

I'm going to get people posting comments that say things like: "Screw Indianapolis! Come to Mucwanigo!!! We have a bookstore!!!1!!"

Now this person probably wants to say three things:

1. They have a lot of enthusiasm for me and my work.
2. They won't be able to make it to Indianapolis and this ensaddens them.
3. They'd appreciate it if I came to Mucwanigo.

But despite the egregious overuse of exclamation points, this is not what this comment actually communicates. To a lot of readers, this comment seems rude. Here's why.

Signings and conventions require a great deal of effort on the author's part. Doing a even a handful of events like this means an author will spend dozens of hours on planes breathing recycled farts, hours scheduling panels and e-mailing plans, then days at the event itself.

It's also expensive, thousands of dollars on plane tickets, taxis, hotel rooms, and overpriced airport burritos.

Knowing all of this, a courteous internet user can understand why a comment of, "Why don't you ever come to St. Augustine?" seems a little insensitive.

At the same time, rude is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, too. That's why I try my best to read comments in the spirit they were written. That means looking at them with a generous eye sometimes, trying to cherish the enthusiasm and ignore the fact that the poster didn't take the time to think things through.

Still, when someone writes, "Minneapolis is a whole 30 miles away! Come to Wanamingo!" it's bound make me feel like a cat that's been rubbed backwards.

Not only is it issued as a command (which is never endearing) but it implies that even though the author is traveling several hundred miles, leaving his pregnant girlfriend home alone for the weekend, and effectively skipping his own birthday, he still isn't doing enough to please you.

So that's what I think is going on in the comments, Jen. Sure there are a few mean-spirited or genuinely snarky people out there making posts. But the vast majority of the people that come across as rude are probably just guilty of posting without thinking things through.

Of course my readers. My clever readers. My clever, polite, sexy, apple-pie readers are a class of person quite above the normal internet rabble. They think twice before they post. Some of them even think three times. Right?

Right?

Later space cowboys,

pat

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posted by Pat at 142 Comments



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