Alternatives to Antisocial Media

Alternatives to Antisocial Media

You could just smash all electronic devices and toss ’em in the nearest Port-a-Potty. That might be a little over-the-top, though, if you’re just disgruntled and seeking alternatives to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other commercial, profit-driven, antisocial social media platforms. I have some suggestions that don’t involve flouncing off in a huff – at least not until you have alternatives in place.

Stop Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket

Some of the excuses I hear for not leaving the predominant social media platforms are:

  • It’s how I keep up with what my [friends | kids | grandkids] are up to;
  • I don’t get out much – it’s how I stay connected with other people;
  • I have 10+ years of photos there;
  • It’s how I get most of my news;
  • I depend on it for my [work | my business | book promotion | professional connections].

It Makes Me Feel Dirty, But All My Friends Are There!

I don’t recommend going cold turkey on the bluebird or those other sites we love to hate. We all have our “ethical line in the sand,” which more and more people are refusing to cross for big social lately. But I do recommend moving – and bringing the people who matter with you – over time, if at all possible. If the connections are real, they’ll come. Or you’ll find other ways to keep in touch, be it phone calls, texts, emails, or a different site. The bottom line on social media? You’re not the customer, you’re the product. Your information has been carelessly handled, beginning with you.

I have fully deleted my MeWe and Tribel accounts. MeWe does not offer any way to download your data. Tribel… well. There are other reasons I can’t recommend them (along with many mobile-app-based platforms like Minds):

So, about that last link… The last time I was livid and ready to #deletefacebook, this popped up. Great timing! I did not engage my critical thinking skills and do any further research – I just joined to see what it was all about. I stayed on MeWe and Tribel just long enough to realize that disillusioned émigrés from other social media platforms don’t always make the best social media communities – no matter where they go. They’re surly, biased, and feeling mean. And let’s face it: trolls and propagandists of all stripes need an audience, too. You don’t have to leave out the welcome mat and throw the door wide for them.

In hindsight, we also don’t always make the wisest decisions about which companies or platforms to support. We go at it with a herd mentality. “All of my like-minded friends are there…” instead of challenging ourselves to listen to a variety of views.

Ask the insurrectionists who provided such a mountain of evidence against themselves via Parler. Along with copies of their government-issued photo IDs. Bless their hearts.

I didn’t mention TikTok, Snap, YouTube, and many more. But this is also interesting reading as you think about where to share your thoughts, photos, and opinions:

Back to the Backups

This is for the folks who cry, “But all my kids’ and grandkids’ photos are on Facebook!” I’m not going to say, “For God’s sake, why?” But here’s how you get them onto your own hard drive: Before deactivating or deleting any of your social media accounts, download a copy of your data, if the option exists. Here are a few shortcuts; these are usually located somewhere in your Account Settings under Security and Privacy Settings:

Take a look through your archive, after downloading and unzipping the file. It may be eye-opening, as it usually includes your “likes” and your interests used in targeting you with advertising or in determining what posts you see in your feed by the algorithms. You may be able to delete or alter your interests – they may, in fact, consist of a whole list of things you’ve never heard of. There were names I had to Google, on mine. Never heard of them! I left the list alone, on Twitter. My interests are wide-ranging, but that list is ridiculous. If anyone uses it for “targeting,” it’s like trying to nail down my favorite word by throwing a dictionary at the wall to see what sticks.

Make sure those precious photos are there, in a folder on your own PC. Now it’s probably safe to delete your social media account, if you want to.

News – Where Will I Get My News!?

You may remember “feed readers”? I recommend Feedspot (yes, it’s still there!) or Flipboard. Set up your own newsreader with your favorite RSS feeds. Most news sites have one! (Even this site has one. When you “subscribe” to my blog, you get updates from my “feed.”) If you don’t know a lot about RSS, don’t worry. You don’t have to understand RSS to get this to work.

Free RSS Readers – How to Choose the Right One For You – RSSMasher Technology

To discover the RSS feed address from any site that offers one (or more), add this plug-in to your browser (Chrome or Edge):

Get RSS Feed URL – Chrome Web Store (google.com)

On this site, you would see:

Here are a few sources to get you started. If they offer an RSS feed, you can add it to your feedreader.

Online Newswires and News Monitoring Service – EIN Presswire (einnews.com) – click here, then select specific countries or states, or regions within each large regional group (e.g., “United States” within North America).

You can make an RSS feed out of news on Google. Just type the following into your browser address bar:

https://news.google.com/rss/search?q= then type your search query after that. For example, if I wanted social media news items, I could use the RSS feed: https://news.google.com/rss/search?q=social+media (if you click that link, you’ll see that it’s not formatted nicely for human reading – that is why you want to use a feed reader).

Just add each RSS feed URL to your selected feed reader to build your own newspaper!

Security and Privacy Matter

If you care about security and privacy, corporate ethics, or community standards, you can use the following searches as a good starting point for further reading (Google is used here because it returns the most complete results; you can copy the search terms and, with only minor alterations in most cases, use them on any search engine):

I Don’t Like Moving, and Anyway, Where Would I Go?

Build your own platform. Web hosting isn’t terribly expensive; there are far more costly hobbies and places to run a business.

PeoplesHost Web HostingThat’s the web hosting company I use, and the only one I currently recommend. That’s an affiliate link, by the way – you can use it or not. If you don’t need much space, you could even get together with family or friends to build a site or multiple sites under one account.

Fellow creatives – authors, artists, photographers, musicians – PeoplesHost even modified their terms of service to narrow the rights they claim in our copyrighted work when I pointed out that the standard boilerplate was disconcertingly broad. That, and their always-responsive tech support have earned them my loyalty.

There are many choices out there, and I’m not the boss of you. But I do recommend paying for web hosting rather than going with a “free” Blogger or WordPress account, because paying for it makes you the client – not the product. A free Blogger or WordPress account can be a good place to start – it lets you “try before you buy” – you can learn how to use the platform but remember that you don’t control it. Paying for your own independent web hosting lets you choose whether to display ads or not, and lets you earn some revenue from them if you do.

I suggest avoiding the easy, cheap options – such as the EIG-owned web hosting companies – but that is because I dislike monopolies and have had bad experiences with several of these, personally. See

Bring back the “blogrolls.” If you want to be read, you have to get the word out that there is something to read. And it helps to read and comment on the things others create. What is social media if it’s not social? Just antisocial media, if you ask me.

If you want to bring people to the table, so to speak, you have to get the word out that there is something tasty and nutritious on offer. But does it have to be broadcast on big social media? Even if you have a decent number of followers, friends, or connections, the platforms’ algorithms largely determine who sees what, and when. A number of them will be bots, spammers, frauds, and trolls. If you aren’t reaching real people, there is no point in bumping up the numbers. They’re just numbers.

On this blog, I’ve added a plug-in that is part RSS newsreader, part dynamic blogroll. You can see it in action on the page Recommended Reading by Friends. Blogrolls ran out of fashion around the time the “make money in your sleep” bloggers started fearing the idea of “sharing the link juice.” They gave over their power to Google and other search engines. They have been chasing the magic SEO formula and scrambling to keep up with the search engines’ efforts to thwart them ever since. This only matters if you’re running your business on your blog, or your blog is your business. For most of us, trying to game the search rankings is a waste of time.

Social Media with a Sense of Community

Be more sociable: Be open and decentralized! Try one of these “decentralized” and “open source” social media platforms, known as the “fediverse.” To get started, visit Fediverse Observer. Choose one of the recommended pods (also known as nodes or instances) or look for one by software type (e.g., diaspora, mastodon, hubzilla, plume, etc.) or by location (choose one that’s closer to you for potentially faster processing, or one located in a country with privacy protections that you like). Each is run on a server by volunteers. These are not ad-supported networks. If one is not a good fit, you can move to a different one. But all of them are capable of sharing and talking with the others that run on the same software type. Most of them feel like a real community with international perspectives, respect, and kindness. Some are very general in focus, and some are geared towards specific interests like tech or art or society. There is very little rancor.

At first, you may miss some of the many features you’re used to on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms. But are all those bells and whistles really adding to your experience? Or do they merely serve as time-consuming distractions and get in the way of communicating? If you join diaspora, use the hashtag and search features to follow #newhere (to meet people) and #checkin (for a daily conversation on a topic – with lots of digression.

If you were ever on Google+, you can think of diaspora’s “aspects” as “circles.” These platforms are free, but donations can help keep them running smoothly. Consider supporting your favorites, if you enjoy them.

You can find me on these two:

UPDATE (11/01/2022) Counter.Social: Another that I just joined ;this morning (11/01/2022) is Counter.Social. It is run on the same software as Mastodon, so if you’ve tried and used Mastodon in the past, the UI will feel very familiar. It is not part of the “fediverse” now, though – and here’s why: The Short History of CounterSocial and Mastodon (documize.com) If you have “heard bad things about it” in the past, that explains why, and most importantly, why you should ignore the negative press now. Want to know who runs it? Read CounterSocial | Who Is Jester? And here’s a user’s guide to help you get started: userguide.pdf (counter.social)

Be patient – as with the “fediverse” sites listed, above, this is a small but growing operation that is struggling under the weight of a very fast influx of new users. You can find me here: Holly J on CounterSocial (CounterSocial)

What About Private Messaging Apps?

Try Telegram instead of Messenger or WhatsApp. Telegram has come a long way since Morse code. Signal is good, too, though it has fewer features; simplicity can be a good thing, sometimes. With Telegram, you can have a blog, a group, a broadcast channel, or 1:1 end-to-end encrypted conversations. Telegram was built with security and privacy in mind, and it’s free. See Telegram FAQ and Telegram Blog for more features and how to use them.

I set up a channel here: https://t.me/positiveperspective and a group here: https://t.me/positiveperspectivegroup Feel free to join; what you can post is limited and “be nice or be banned.” The features of Telegram are overwhelming; it pays to get familiar with them. It could probably replace 90% of everything you’re on, today, including Zoom:

You can get even more features with Telegram Premium at just $4.99/mo., but founder Durov has promised that free will always remain free and ad free. Elon wants how much, again, for Twitter Blue and a checkmark? Yeah, I don’t think so. It wasn’t worth it at $4.99, it’s sure not worth close to $20.

In Conclusion

You don’t need big social media; big social media needs you. You may be addicted to it, but you can kick the habit if you try. You don’t even have to kick it, just resolve to be more intentional in how you use social media, what content you provide it, and where you spend your time. Are you there to make the rich richer? To “own the Libs” or to tell Republicans they really are “deplorables”? Or are you there because you enjoy being sociable? People and businesses got along just fine before things went digital and they’d get along just fine if digital went dark. It won’t, of course – but maybe if we all signal to big social media that we’ve had just about enough of the nonsense, they’ll settle down and put humans first. I’m not holding my breath, but maybe – if we work at it together – we can lead the way.

Traveling South Dakota:Wind Cave

Traveling South Dakota:Wind Cave

Wind Cave, South Dakota

This is a sacred space for the Lakota people, as it is part of the Lakota creation story. Here, the earth itself seems to “breathe,” inhaling or exhaling according to the barometric pressure. Standing right here, on a hot day, you can feel a cool wind coming from that small hole.

Have you ever stood in complete darkness? Normally, even in the darkest room, your eyes will eventually “adjust” – your pupils will dilate to take in the minute amount of light around you – and you will be able to see objects or shapes. Not so, here in Wind Cave. When you tour the cave, your guide will turn out the lights and you will momentarily stand in total darkness. No light reaches these depths. If you spent too much time in the cave, you would eventually go blind. Your eyes would no longer react to light, at all.

Now, imagine you are 17-year-old Alvin F. McDonald. Your family lives right over the cave, with a trap door into it. You become obsessive and entrepreneurial – exploring nearly ten miles of the cave structure, taking intrepid visitors on candlelit tours of the cave, and selling mineral samples taken from the depths. You grow “homesick” for the cave when illness keeps you from it for a day or two.

One of the stories our guide told us involved Alvin selling half a candle to the cave tourists for a nickle. There was no electric lighting in the depths of the cave, back then. Once down there, and several chambers into the cave, how much would you pay for the other half of that candle?

You can read Alvin McDonald’s journal for detailed information regarding his exploration of Wind Cave.

Astonishingly, Alvin’s life and explorations were cut short – not by a collapse of any part of the cave, but after he contracted typhus at the World’s Fair, at the age of twenty.

Wind Cave contains the best examples of the mineral formation known as boxwork.

Boxwork is found in small amounts in other caves, but perhaps in no other cave in the world is boxwork so well-formed and abundant as in Wind Cave. Boxwork is made of thin blades of calcite that project from cave walls and ceilings, forming a honeycomb pattern. The fins intersect one another at various angles, forming ‘boxes’ on all cave surfaces. Boxwork is largely confined to dolomite layers in the middle and lower levels of Wind Cave. (From Boxwork – Wind Cave National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov))

If you’re interested in geology, as I am, you can read more about how the caves of South Dakota were formed. It’s a fascinating story going back 350 million years. It can be hard to imagine South Dakota as a tropical sea, but it gets easier as you drive through The Badlands.

Hot Springs

Travel Tip: Evans Plunge in Hot Springs is closed on Tuesdays, so we didn’t get to take a dip. But the town is pretty. We saw a small waterfall there.

Rapid City

Rapid City is the perfect place to stay while visiting the national parks and monuments of South Dakota and nearby Wyoming. The airport is small – easy in, easy out. The city itself isn’t tiny, and there are good accommodations. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, which is home to the 30,000 sq. foot WaTiki Indoor Water Park – a great place for families traveling with children. It’s next door

We ate dinner at Murphy’s Pub & Grill, where we enjoyed Chips with Pulled Pork, and Bacon-Wrapped Buffalo Meatloaf.

After dinner, I got a photo with former President Franklin Pierce, arguably the second worst President in US History. I tried to wrestle his cane from his grasp, but he held fast to it, just as he did to his wrong-headed beliefs in life.

Pierce is part of the City of Presidents, which consists of statues commissioned of all US Presidents in 2000.

Stay tuned… Mount Rushmore is up next!


When you get tired of reading my posts, I encourage you to check out my old-fashioned blogroll – it’s a dynamically updated reading list from friends’ blogs. I’m happy to share the spotlight! Even when I’m going through a Long, Hot Summer Dry Spell and there’s nothing new here, you’ll find new things on my recommended reading page. Everyone included there tends to forget that “build it, and they will come” doesn’t work for blogs. We’re not all talented promoters of our own writing, and most of us – because we’re writers, not one-trick ponies – refuse to stick to a single “niche” or topic. You get what you get – a never-ending grab-bag of eclectic writing. Surprise! Do leave us comments. We don’t earn a lot of pennies, blogging, but your comments are gold.

 

Imagine…

Imagine…

A few days ago, I fell down the rabbit hole called Midjourney. My curiosity was piqued. “But is it really art?” asked artists and photographers, as AI text-prompt-generated art sparked conversations musicians and writers have been having for years, ever since the first “article spinners” and “plagiarism checkers” hit the internet and we realized it would only be a matter of time before someone proved the old theory about an infinite number of monkeys banging away on an infinite number of typewriters churning out the collected works of Shakespeare. Contributing to the Library of Babel. Now it confronts artists.

But is it really art?

Rapid Prototyping

So far, it seems to be a decent way to do rapid, visual prototyping of an idea. And the element of surprise, which is undeniably a part of its charm, also renders it slightly less useful. For example, it’s not quite capable of illustrating a whole children’s book. But it could be used to convey character ideas, or even to assist in the design of cover art.

Now and then, the AI suggests ideas of its own. I prompted it for an image of the Titanic sinking in a glass of ice water, in front of a detailed kitchen window garden. This is sort of what I had in mind, but it turned out a little more ghostly and sinister.

Then the AI surprised me. The ship broke free from the “iceberg” and broke the glass, leaving icecubes and sparkling shards all over the windowsill.

Will we make ourselves obsolete? If we can generate all possible stories, music, and art using a computer, will we render imagination and creativity irrelevant? Will our spirits wither and die? Will we pay for processing time and resources while others claim ownership of our work, just to entertain ourselves and not die of boredom? I think it’s possible, though probably not in my lifetime.

Mixed Media “Art”?

You’re not limited to one artistic medium, either. I tried using it to generate fiber arts, clay, semiprecious stones, seeds, flowers, and more. Now I just need it to generate the pattern for these cute crochet owls, as well!

Your Turn: Is It Art? Is It a Writing Prompt Generator?

What do you think? Is it art? Leave me a comment, let me know what you think of this new form of “art.”

As for it working as a writing prompt, I’ve written collaborative posts with my smartphone, Finngelo, so why not collaborate with an AI illustrator? For now, though, I’ll leave my fellow creative writers a prompt in the form of the following image.

Have fun! Be sure to post a link to your story in the comments here when you’re done so that I can come read it!

Stupid Games, Stupid Prizes

Stupid Games, Stupid Prizes

“We want to level the playing field,” said George Scootch, CEO, at the inaugural meeting of the Committee for Mandatory Fun. The executives present nodded agreement as George broke out the libations and snacks. He wasn’t much of a stickler for his own zero-tolerance policy on alcohol, but having one he could break and enforce against anyone who dared to challenge him gave him pleasure.

“Mm. Level playing field. What does that look like, George?” asked Lynn, his Chief of Staff and long-suffering agelast, always tasked with secretarial or note-taking duties. Lighten up, Lynn. It’s because you have the best hand-writing, of course. Not because you’re a woman. Every time George said that, he winked at her. She was beginning to wonder if he had a nervous twitch.

George pondered the problem. Not everyone at AltparaCorp had courtside seats to the NBA basketball games. A few of his pet managers had attended respectable schools on athletic scholarships; Joey had even been a point-guard, if memory served. But that was decades ago. On the upper end of middle age, most couldn’t find the hoop without a seeing-eye parrot to light the way in neon-colored plumage. And if one twisted a knee, pivoting too fast on the hardwood, AltparaCorp couldn’t afford the hit to its self-funded insurance program.

That said, pride would not let George accept anything that might allow the junior execs to show up the senior leadership. They would have to invent a new game, with new rules: one that stacked the odds in their favor.

“How about rugby?” suggested Neil. Neil was decidedly on the low-end of middle-age. George raised an eyebrow, contemplating his self-appointed “Czar of Marketing.” He was fairly sure Neil wouldn’t know rugby from a nice, civilized game of soccer, and was tempted to watch this idea play out. Maybe on the parking lot. Then again, the corporate games were co-ed. Maybe Neil understood the physicality of the sport, after all.

“Young people are bored with rugby,” muttered Liz, rolling her eyes. “How about golf?”

“Always with the sarcasm, Liz?” said Neil, pounding a fist on the table. “Isn’t golf a bit too violent for you?” He narrowed his eyes, his lips curling in a slow gotcha-grin as he savored the memory of Liz somehow managing to lose her grip on the driver at the sixteenth hole, four years ago. It had flipped into the air, slow-motion falling back to earth as stunned and horrified onlookers cringed. The driver struck Liz in the head, leaving her with a permanent, bald ridge where a titanium plate fashioned from the murderous club now held together pieces of her cranium.

“How about the traditional game of beer pong?” offered Lynn.

“Are you serious?” After the initial shock and outrage, the other members of the committee warmed to the idea. It had some merit. Most could drink their juniors under the table without slurring a word.

“With one small twist, of course,” said Lynn, leaning back in her reclining conference chair with her fingers interlaced over her chest, “After a couple of rounds of beer pong, you hit the tennis court out back and see who can tell the most daring tales of derring-do while dribbling a ping pong ball around the clay. First to sweat a meldrop loses.”

The men looked at Lynn with newfound respect. “Vicious, man,” murmured Neil, nodding. And just like that, Lynn was one of the boys.

George poured Lynn two fingers of 30-year-old McCallan. One corner of Lynn’s lips curled upward, slyly, as she tossed back Scootch’s ‘spensive sippin’ Scotch like it was swamp water. “Welcome to the team,” he said.

His newfound admiration would turn to terror, soon enough. Lynn knew that the pot-valiant Scootch and his cronies would brag about their illicit boardroom exploits, regaling the entire company and AltparaCorp’s visiting shareholders with tales that were sure to hold up on, and in, court.

Lynn’s game of choice was Chess.


Today’s story brought to you by Creative Copy Challenge #676 | Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge (wordpress.com) and the words Athletic, Basketball, Courtside, Meldrop, Dribble, Agelast, Pot-valor, Hardwood, Hoop, and Point-guard.

Twittling My Thumbs

Twittling My Thumbs

Two years ago, I joined the Poetry Society of Texas. If you ask my friend Rasheed, I joined it for the contests. That’s how they get you hooked. Later, when lockdowns lifted, I joined the local affiliate group: Poets Northwest. Ask anyone who knows me: I’m not much of a “joiner” but now I’m regularly meeting with people. In person. First Toastmasters, now this.

Alliteration

Last month at PNW, we wrote poems demonstrating alliteration. I knocked one out, sleep deprived, and attended the meeting via Zoom from the Lisbon airport while drinking free gin and tonics in the TAP Lounge. This is what happens when you write half-drunk and 110% sleep-deprived:

Alliteration in the Algarve (Reflections on the Family Reunion)

Send sultry summer sun, sea, sand, and wind
To sap strength, slowly, from my languorous limbs.
Three hours’ sleep in twenty-four;
I’d gladly take another hour, maybe more.

Soft susurration seeps as Faro wakes
With sleepless somnolence at 4:00 AM
We wait, and watch with fellow travelers
Dismayed: departures canceled, flights delayed.

Not ours! At last, we land in lovely Lisbon:
Lazing, languid, in the Premier lounge (a splurge!)
To kill six slowly passing hours, reminiscing
On experiences shared the week before.

Ideas already in the offing, know
That, joyful, we will shortly meet again
Perhaps, we’ll change the pace – melt winter’s sparkling ice
With our extended families’ warm embrace.

Terrible poem.* Great demonstration of alliteration. I did not sleep again until we reached Newark. Think of all the awful poems I could’ve written but spared you. You’re welcome.

Persona Poem & The Villanelle

This month, we focused on the persona poem, with some lively discussion about who defines the “rules” of a form; the differences between personification (or anthropomorphization) and “persona”; whether a dramatic monologue could be written in anything other than first person point of view (clearly, yes, according to Persona | Academy of American Poets); whether the “persona” had to be human or even alive; and more. I read Toxic Avatar, a poem written to an audience of one, but we’ve all met this one at some point or another.

Formal Verse

Somehow, we ended up sharing Villanelles and the general consensus was, “That’s just not a ‘fun’ form to write.” The first time I wrote one, I was leading an online poetry workshop and felt compelled to learn the form in order to teach it. That’s what a good leader does, right? Never asks more of their followers than they’re willing to do, themselves? I’d like to say, “I won’t be asking anyone to write one of these things.” But I read Villanelle the Vote at Saturday’s meeting. It seemed appropriate, with elections coming up in the fall. And if you read that whole post, you’ll see that I will ask people to write them – as a dare. A bet. A challenge. You show me yours…

Some poetic forms work better in their original language, but don’t always translate easily to others – for example, does the traditional Haiku work well in English? There are a million of them, but are they any good by the standards of traditional Haiku, or ought they to be considered a whole new form? How about the Villanelle? My theory was that it lent itself to French, not English – but it originated in Italy, danced its way to France, and the form as we know it, with its fixed rhymes and repetitions, did not exist until the 19th century and never really caught on in France! Maybe we ought to take the form back to its roots! The Shakespearean sonnet works particularly well in English because the rhythm is that of natural, conversational speech – in English – but how would it do in Mandarin, I wonder?

Does faithful adherence to any form matter to the poet? Or only to the erudite reader who insists on analyzing it later? In the end, it either conveys the meaning and emotion that the poet intended, or it doesn’t.

New Forms & Brain-Benders

There are poetic forms that I sometimes think are not so much poetry as puzzle. As Sudoku is to math, so Twittles are to poetry. What are Twittles, you ask? Click the link! You be the judge while I explore the Twittle form, which near as I can figure, originated with Carolyn Hastings on Medium and Twitter. Yes, any of us can “invent” a new form! I was a little dismissive of the Twittle, at first. But a small voice said, “Write one, then.” And so, I did.

Poetweets and Twittles

Why this 100-character twittle-twattle form?
Why such silly, fatuous verse?
Isn’t Twitter, with its 280, a
sufficient literary curse?

Writ in haste –
I’m torn:
Studying endless, pointless forms,
Wondering,
Can wordplay ever be a waste
When defying poetic norms?

Would Elon take this fiddle-faddle
Twittle up to Mars?
Would that be far enough –
Or should he shoot it past the distant stars?

I started out dismissive of Twittles, but they grew on me. They are, at their core, an exercise in packing punch. In editing a short message to its essential core. It requires making conscious word choices, trade-offs, and compromises. Because of the odd rule that they be 100 alphabetic characters (don’t count spaces, punctuation, or numbers), don’t even attempt it without using Character Count Tool – The Best Character Counter, which will give you character count in all sorts of ways, in addition to your readability score.

If you want to hone your editing skills, go over to Twitter and practice composing meaningful, grammatically-correct tweets that are exactly 280 characters, including spaces and punctuation. If you make a habit of it, I think your writing and editing skills will improve.

The short answer to, “Who makes the rules of formal verse?” is “The poet does.” I think of any form as a hat-rack or a coat-tree; something fairly standard from which to hang the words so they don’t get all mussed and wrinkly. But who’s to say that a hat-rack can’t be a coat-tree, or vice versa? Who’s to say that you should only hang hats or coats from it? Only the reader can say whether a poem is “good” or not, and one hundred readers will never agree.

* In the end, whether readers judge a poem to be “good” or not is really none of the poet’s business. Our job is to play with words, excite brain cells, and pluck heartstrings.