Some thoughts post-Reddit

So I did the AMA Reddit thing last night and it was a lot of fun.

It was also exhausting.

Preliminary stats showed something like 500 unique posts in two hours, which they say comes to about 5000 words posted in that time. Oof. There were a lot of people contributing to that, but when you consider a lot of the questions had been posted in advance…yeah, oof.

But don’t worry: I’m not posting this to complain. Rather, I’m going to talk a little bit about what it was like, both since it was new to me, and I figure there might be three other people out there who are interested.

First, some background:

The AMA Reddit is basically a message board where people can post a question and (in this case) the various featured authors can respond. Naturally, other people respond to those responses, creating a dialog. Not exactly revolutionary if you’ve been doing anything on the internet (ever), but a nice format since it also tends to keep thing compartmentalized well. It was also a nice bit of reminiscence for me: I cut my e-teeth on and old intra-net system back in the ’80s called PLATO, which basically worked on a file type set up. Not quite the same, but close enough that this felt familiar. And, of course, I know there are still plenty of bulletin boards and the like out there still running, so this is nothing new.

But here’s the thing: in an age where we text and IM and, yes, even do face-to-face chats via our phones, you forget about some of the idiosyncrasies of a BB style system. You forget that you have to refresh to see new posts; that it takes a good amount of mental work to parse the various threads & see if a new response or question has gone up; that its easy to forget other people are contributing at the same time you are because you aren’t getting the instant feedback we’ve all grown so accustomed to. When you’re doing this at your leisure, checking in now & then, it’s no big deal; but when you’re trying to keep up in the moment? When you’re, essentially, one of the hosts of the party, trying to electronically mingle and chat with the various conversation groups scatter about the electronic room? Then it’s a different story.

I was very lucky last night in that I had nine other hosts to lean on. They both helped cover spots in the conversation while I was busy “chatting” elsewhere, and picked up the ball in sections I still haven’t made it to yet. They also helped spark new points of conversation and provided insights that, alternately, let me examine something deeper, move off in an interesting tangent, give me pause for reflection, of simply say, “Yeah, me too.” It very much felt like a party at a con, with lots of insights and laughs and fun circulating in the mix.

But it was still very much work. After two and a half hours, I felt myself flagging. My brain was getting mushy, and my typing (while never fast nor accurate) was becoming a downright disaster. Fortunately, we were told that two hours is about the peak initial range for an AMA, and I was able to duck out after a bit without feeling too guilty. There are still questions I need to go back and answer, not to mention answers I need to read (there wasn’t time to follow every thread, or at least, not for me), and I expect I’ll be poking away at those for the next couple of days when I need to take a break from revisions.

Overall, I think it was both a fun and successful first outing for us all, and I expect the other authors involved will tell you the same. I loved interacting with the readers, and now even feel closer with the “graduating class” of 2011 debut authors I’ve been hanging out with electronically for the past year-plus.

Sometimes, you hear authors complain about the non-writing work that comes with being a published author: the marketing, worrying about sales, wrangling with your publisher over [insert issue here], answering the same interview question for what seems like the 52nd time, and yadda yadda. And yeah, it can be a pain. But while last night’s AMA was work (and more/different work than I expected), it was also a pleasure.

Will it generate more sales for me? Will it get me a wider audience? Maybe. As with all things like this, there’s no way to know for certain. But ya know what? At this point I really don’t care because, at base, it was a lot of fun–and that’s why I write stories in the first place. So, yes, reddit AMA=work; but it’s very much worth it.

(If you want to check out the AMA reddit thread in question, it will be up here for, well, almost ever, I’m told. )

5 thoughts on “Some thoughts post-Reddit

  1. I loved interacting and answering questions, but I agree that the constant refreshing/rereading for responses was exhausting. Can’t think of a better system, though – in a chat, too much would get lost, and other options would be too slow. Loved bonding with my graduating class, and kudos to Justin Landon and Steve Drew for setting it up.

  2. Thanks, Doug, for your thoughts

    I’m not a fan of message boards, especially threaded ones that make it difficult for me as a user to figure out what’s new, what’s not and where I should be paying attention.

    Reddit does seem to have its fans and advocates (Justin Landon has even done Reddits to discuss SF Signal mind melds instead of using its own commenting system). I guess all discussion is good…

  3. I agree with Maz – a chat room would have been crazy! I can just about keep up with Twitter, but could never get the hang of IM. And if you think it was tiring at your end, you should try doing it 1-3am, which was the main timeframe here in the UK!

    Lots of fun though, and it was great to catch up with more members of the Class of 2011/12. Hope to see more of you guys at WorldCon in a few weeks’s time (so excited!!). Good to meet new fans too, of course, and I think we all sold at least a couple of books for certain – and maybe spread the good word to a few more who might pick our books out of a lineup on Amazon now :)

  4. I took a leaf out of Peat’s book and spent a couple or three hours of my evening typing up answers to questions before the kick-off, so that when the AMA proper started I could copy & paste my answers in and gain some breathing space, but I was still overwhelmed by the pace.

    Still, it was extraordinarily good fun and I learned a lot about the “class of 2011” that makes me think at least two or three of you are actually related to me . . .

  5. Love the free-flowing download of the experience, Doug and really glad that the gang enjoyed the experience. This was a risk for you and the other authors and one that I’m glad you were willing to take. It took a bit of trust in Justin that he knew what might work out. (And he did.) Also a bit of trust in diving into a new, zany social environment – one that can benefit an author with the right turn of words or cause incredible damage with a misstep.

    The AMA is right at the 900 comment mark and will likely climb from there. My best estimate is that around 2,500 people read it last night and that a similar number will come through the following day. It was the draw of having this group there and the pull that each of you have in your circles that drove the volume. Great thing is that the ‘upvotes’ on the AMA are still climbing – meaning that people who are reading it today for the first time love what they see.

    I can’t put my finger on why certain online social sites do well while others fall by the wayside. It’s certainly not the technology – there are sites that are much more user friendly than Reddit and better adapted for chats. Reddit itself is advancing due to the various interest groups run by volunteers. For Reddit Fantasy, we’ve been able to build an attractive community for fantasy novelists who, in turn, help to further build the community. One of those small, healthy internet microcosms that keeps building upon itself. (Well…17,000+ fantasy fans might be small compared to the internet as a whole, but it’s not bad for the world of fantasy.) The approach of “we’re in this together – fans and authors” seems to be one worth continuing.

    There are comments and an overall tone in the AMA around people wanting to know more about each of the authors and having a desire to buy your works. Fun experience for sure – hopefully something that also helps to bring in more readers.

    Nicely done!

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