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    Tag suggestion: Writing meta

Like it or hate it, we do a lot of it. It’s a major part of our job. It’s also something where one can always stand to be better at it.

While I probably wouldn’t post something to Lobsters if it were entirely about fiction, I think that there’s value in making “writing” a Lobsters topic and giving it a tag.

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    I don’t feel that writing is on-topic for lobste.rs.

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      Fiction writing, no. Technical writing, I would argue, yes. Maybe I’m off the mark, though.

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        What would distinguish “technical writing”?

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          API documentation, tutorials, contributor guides, new product announcements, product upgrade announcements…

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            Right. The large amount of natural-language writing that we end up having to do in this job.

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      What kind of articles are being shared that would use this tag?

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        Usually when a tag is proposed the author is asked to provide a list of entries that would fall under such tag. Can you present a solid subset showing that stories fitting such tag were previously submitted and well received?

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          This is potentially unrelated, but I’d certainly be interested in a lobste.rs-like link aggregator for writing, fiction or otherwise. Does anyone know if such exists?

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              OK. I’m working on it.

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                Make sure you show it here when it’s done, I’m definitly interested in this

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                  Here we go https://write.narwhal.space/

                  It’s running on a very small server and using default everything but it exists!

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                    Brilliant! Now you just need to make a Freenode IRC channel so people can beg for invites. :)

                    Also, as I discovered when I did a little of this myself–do yourself a favor and edit the menubar partial to hide search until you get it working.

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                      Cool - It’s #write.narwhal.space on freenode. I think invites are by email address so you can either send me a lobsters message, email, or irc message

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                        It’s probably worth a full show post so that it can be found without reading this thread.

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                          A man seeks an invite.

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                            BOOM! That’s the initiative I was talking about in another thread. A few of the titles look good to me already. Good work.

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                          If have any any random questions about running the codebase, feel free to grab me on IRC. Good luck.

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                        Excellent question. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I don’t think so. I think it could be built and, furthermore, I think that it could fix some of the problems in the publishing industry. (We need ways for writers to get themselves out there other than (a) querying a bunch of snobby Ivy Leaguers in New York, or (b) self-publishing and hoping for the best.) There’s no hyper-growth startup in fixing publishing (which is why only Amazon is trying; VCs wouldn’t be interested) but there are opportunities. The agent/publisher model is 50 years old and ridiculously out of date.

                        It’s actually very hard to build a community around writing because, to be frank, most people in them want to be read more than they want to read– I’m not saying that they “don’t want to read”, but only that most people would rather have 10 beta readers than beta-read 10 unpublished manuscripts– and because there are wide disparities in writing ability and interests. My father is intelligent and can write well enough, but he reads Grisham novels. (Nothing wrong with that. It’s just not what I do.) I’d be glad to have him beta-read for general enjoyment factor, but I wouldn’t consult him for character edits.

                        The top 10% of comments on r/writing are quite good. That said, the bottom 30% are painful and there’s an issue with problem downvoters right now.

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                          I don’t know of any beyond some subreddits, but I’d be interested in one that catered to a Lobste.rs-like audience. (I write both novels and non-fiction in my spare time, such as it is.)

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                          You’re usually writing about a specific topic. The topics are what we tag. Writing is just one of the many mediums they use. It’s actually the default that I see where we just tag the ones that stand out with good reason to look out for them. Some sets of people avoid PDF’s, audio, and video. We tag those. Writing is just text or HTML, though.

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                            I meant posts about writing (in particular, in a technical context). Not posts that are writing.

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                              Tag them as “practices” for now. I could see why you’d consider a writing tag, though.

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                                Maybe tools like the recent post about the Hemingway editor? Or were you thinking about tech writing like content from the WTD community?

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                                  The Hemingway Editor was what gave me the idea.

                                  I actually think that there’s an interesting space opening up, applying text-mining and data science to questions of “What is good writing?”

                                  Obviously, nothing can replace human review and it’s subjective, but there are uses for, say, a classifier that determines publishable work from unpublishable work. It would save agents time and get them back to doing what they enjoy.

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                                    Your last recommendation reminds me of early warnings about the Aladdin system at Blackrock for predicting whether they should invest in or dodge stuff. The warning video I saw pointed out that such AI’s worked better when things stayed relatively static. Stability would be the focus of their investments. Yet, the major innovations are called disruptions because they do the opposite. So, systems that evaluate and reinforce what’s “good* today may prevent what’s “good” in the future by filtering it. There’s also no way for them to know it ahead of time to avoid it.

                                    For that reason, we have to choose between optimizing for what’s popular now, optimizing for the future, or some middle ground (my preference). I think the “What is good writing?” systems should be treated carefully since they’ll probably lean toward non-innovative in style much like academics or business types often force some bland style as correct. I’ve been hit with that myself when I was in college over lots of trivial stuff including funny analogies to express concepts. The papers were so dry under some people but innovative under others. I’m highly skeptical of this idea unless we’re weeding out the crazy stuff but even that might miss the writing equivalent of a moonshot.

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                                      This is a very good point. These sorts of systems are only as good as their training data.

                                      The problem in publishing is that the world is just full of terrible manuscripts, and that wrecks things for the good writers.

                                      You still have to wait 6-12 months, as a talented no-name, to get an agent. You also have to overcome unfavorable inferences. You don’t get a real read, most of the time. Your manuscript gets pulled out of a “slush pile” at 3:47pm and at 3:50pm, the agent decides she doesn’t like your main character’s name and 7 months later you get a form rejection letter. There’s a 50% chance that you’ll get the courtesy of having “[Name]” replaced with your name in the form letter, though.

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                              I don’t think it comes often enough. I would put an article about technical writing in practices in the meantime, myself.

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                                It’s a major part of our job.

                                Obligatory plug for my spare-time project: Prose for Programmers