By Lisabet Sarai
Like many of my generation, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I'm a geek. I'm a Luddite. I'm definitely not "wired".
I make my living working with computers, designing and writing software, and teaching other to do the same. This isn't the career for which my extensive education supposedly prepared me, but the after burning out in that field, I discovered, almost by accident, that software is magic. Shazzam! You begin with nothing but abstract concepts, yet the finished product profoundly affects the real world – controlling airplanes, monitoring vital signs, fighting environmental degradation, connecting people in disparate parts of the globe.
In a way, programming is like writing. You begin with ideas but end up with an artifact that can move people to tears or stimulate them to the point of orgasm....
Anyway, back to technology. My knowledge and skills are pretty useful tools for an author, at least these days. For instance, back in 2006, before EchoSign and other on-line contract sites existed, I wrote a web script that let the forty plus contributors to Cream: The Best of the Erotica Readers and Writers Association create customized contracts they could print out, sign and return. I maintain my own website, coding the HTML by hand. This saves time, aggravation and of course money, when I want to do an update. I have tools for managing and resizing images and can make rudimentary covers (though I'm a total novice when it comes to Photoshop). I can turn a spreadsheet of reader information into a mailing list in ten minutes. I even understand (more or less!) how to make Blogger do what I want (most of the time).
Given this apparent sophistication, it may surprise you to learn that I don't own a smart phone. I don't use Facebook for marketing. I don't Tweet. I finally got a laptop with a web cam, at the insistent urging of my siblings, but I still haven't gotten Skype video to work correctly.
I read ebooks in PDF format on a cheap seven inch tablet that doesn't even have the ability to connect to the wireless Internet. I don't play computer games (other than an occasional guilty round of Fruit Ninja!) I still write personal letters long hand. When it comes to technology, I am definitely not on the bleeding edge.
Part of my reluctance to get involved with the latest gadgets and online fads is financial. I can't afford to carry around a device worth five hundred smackers, given my propensity for being absent minded. I'd lose the darn thing in a week – if I didn't drop it into the toilet! Another factor is time. As you might have noticed, whenever you add a new electronic tool or toy to your arsenal, you end up spending hours, days or even weeks learning to use it, customizing it to your needs, and (in some cases) trying to make it function at all.
On top of all these practical factors, though, I have a deep mistrust of technology. You know what they say about people who work in restaurants: when you know what goes into the food, you lose your appetite. I know from first hand experience how messed up software can be. Even with the best intentions and the best management, it's not possible to write bug-free programs. In the real world, software is written by teams under tremendous pressure to get their product to market. They're forced to cut corners and take shortcuts to meet their deadlines.
Meanwhile, it's all too clear to me that all the supposed technological advances and exciting new trends are driven primarily by the profit motive. Social networks do not exist to connect you with your friends and loved ones. Their primary raison d'être is to sell advertising and make sure you see it, with the secondary goal of gathering as much personal information about you as possible. Sure, e-commerce is convenient for customers, but most importantly it allows sellers to cut their costs, reduce the amount of required staff, and capitalize on impulse buying, based on the data they collect about your history and preferences. Google Maps? Sure, it's fantastic to be able to look up the route to someplace you've never been (though I've found dozens of location errors in my own searches), but you'll have to screen out all the irrelevant commercial entities who've bought listings.
Then there are the true criminals – hackers and gangsters who profit by stealing your personal information and selling it to the highest bidder. Viruses, worms, trojan horses, botnets, spam, adware, key loggers, network sniffers, password crackers, phishing.... It's downright scary. Have you heard about the virus that locks up your computer until you pay a ransom? Creative, I must admit. But honestly, these days you have to be more careful venturing out onto the Internet than you do having sex. Too bad there are no condoms for web browsing.
But back to the topic...
It's an unfortunate truth that if you're an author, and you have any interest at all in selling your work, you can't hide from technology. There are many potentially useful blogs and articles about how to use modern media to market your books. Believe them or not, as you choose. It's far more difficult to find straightforward, readable explanations about how computer and internet technology works, with enough background to help you weigh the benefits and risks of different approaches.
Here's where the Erotogeek – my alter-ego – comes in. I've written a book on this topic, called Naughty Bits: The Erotogeek's Guide for the TechnologicallyChallenged Author. You can download it, absolutely free, by clicking on the link above. The book is a compilation of a year of columns I did for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. It's full of examples as well as my admittedly jaundiced opinions about technology hype.
Reading Naughty Bits may help you deal with your own technical conundrums. However, it will also make my personal ambivalent feelings about technology abundantly clear.