International Dagger page, and statistics news

New page at Petrona.
I have created a page on this blog (underneath the header) to list the books that have won the CWA International Dagger award since its inception in 2006. In all but one case, I have read and reviewed the winning title, so I’ve included a link to that in the list. I have also provided a summary of the judges’ comments about each book, with a link to the CWA page for that year, so you can see the shortlisted books for that year, together with the judges’ views on them. For those who really are true collectors, I’ve also included links to the Euro Crime listings of all the eligible titles for each year from 2006 on – posts which include links to Euro Crime reviews of many of these books.

Amazon top 500 reviewer!
The other day, I achieved my longstanding goal of becoming a “top 500″ Amazon reviewer – an accolade that I believe means one’s reviews are more seriously regarded. I am not sure precisely how this ranking is calculated, but it is at least in part due to other readers marking one’s review as “helpful”. At time of writing, 87 per cent (597 of 684) of comments on my reviews are “helpful” (the rest are “unhelpful” votes, at least some of which will be from disgruntled authors and/or publicists!), so I’d like to thank everyone and anyone who has voted one of my reviews helpful, and hence propelled my reviews up the rankings. For those interested, here are my 200-plus reviews and nine “Listmania” lists of carefully filtered reading recommendations. Any further “helpful” votes are very welcome indeed!

Google plus and sharing
The icon “g+1″ appears on many blog posts (usually at the bottom) and newspaper articles now. If you’ve enjoyed reading an article, it is well worth clicking on the icon as this will increase the page rank given to the article by Google, and hence make it more visible in searches. You can just click on the icon, you do not have to have a G+ account or “share on G+” as prompted, a “+1″ is all that is needed to optimise for search. I have some time ago created a Google+ crime fiction page – when I like an article I add a link to that page and, in the persona of “crime fiction page” click on the “g+1″ icon there, as well (that’s two votes!). If you have a Google + account you can put the crime fiction page into one of your circles, then you can share your own or any other article (with the g+1 icon) to the crime-fiction page very easily. Google + may not have taken off as a social medium yet, but when it does, crime fiction is ready!
Google + crime fiction page.

Amazon Vine clarifies rules

Dear Vine Reviewer,

We are contacting you to let you know that there have been some changes to the Amazon Vine Voice Participation agreement.

Please note the following changes:

1) The ownership status of Vine products and the circumstances in which you may dispose of Vine products has been clarified. Ownership of Vine products supplied by Amazon or one of its subsidiaries (such as AmazonEncore books, AmazonCrossings books and Amazon Basics) transfers immediately to you upon receipt of the item and you can dispose of them at your convenience, but you may not transfer ownership to another person at any time. In the case of products provided by other suppliers, the product supplier retains ownership for six months from the date of your review, after which you may keep or destroy the product, but again you may not transfer ownership to anyone else.

2) You may submit Vine reviews on other websites, but not to any online or offline channel that advertises or offers the Vine product for sale except in the form of a link to a website operated by Amazon or its affiliates.

Please review the updated Vine Voice Participation Agreement.

You don’t need to take any further action to continue participating in the Amazon Vine programme. However, your continued participation implies acceptance of the updated agreement.

Thank you for being a Vine Voice.

Kind regards,

The Amazon Vine Team
Amazon.co.uk

The good, the bad and the Twitter

I have long had an ambivalent relationship with Twitter – I can write that because I joined it on day 1 of its existence, but did not use my account for a year or two because I did not see the point. Two things happened: Twitter began to attract more people/accounts of interest to me; and applications such as Thwirl and Tweetdeck were developed that made it nice to use instead of constantly crashing and being clunky. But using Twitter regularly bought up another problem that I am always experiencing on the Internet – dual work/non-work personae. I don’t feel the need to keep the two identities secret from each other, but I do want them to be separate and the Internet is making this harder and harder with every device you use seeming to be obsessed with hooking you up with all your “friends” by default, whether they are an actual friend or someone from whom you once bought a second-hand book via Amazon six years ago (or worse, your online bank). Hence this need for separation was not a point that seemed an uncontrollable issue* in the early days of Twitter, as this social media glue mania was not as fully realised as today. So I deleted my account.

Some time later, owing to a request from my employer, I invented two new accounts. In one I tweet in one of my work roles; in the other I tweet as myself (@Petrona_) – which is the account you can follow and read as a mini-blog on the right here. (I wasn’t asked to tweet as myself by my employer! But I took advantage of setting up the work account to also set up a ‘home’ one.)

All this preamble is getting around to me saying that I’ve been on Twitter for as long as it is possible to have been on it, albeit intermittently, and I have some ideas about what makes someone an interesting person or organisation I think worth following, and what does not. (The learning process never ends. I have recently “unfollowed” two accounts and my Twitter experience is immeasurably more relaxed and less irritating as a result). And this is why I decided to write this post (rant?) about my own Twitter likes and dislikes. I find that the only way Twitter is bearable or even pleasant is to be ruthless about filtering! So here is what I like/dislike, and hence who I follow/unfollow.

- I like a neat, personalised summary tweet (with a link to a full article if tweeting about an article) – not a link with no information about what it is or why it is of interest.
- I like tweets about something your readers might be interested in – not a stream of consciousness of each minute of your day. I don’t want to read about your every cup of tea, etc, however much I may like you otherwise.
- I don’t like very frequent tweeting (I prefer reading someone’s ten tweets a day to reading a hundred).
- Promoting yourself is fine if done in moderation, especially if you are funny about it; constant self promotion is boring.
- Promoting your product is fine – if done in moderation and not exclusively, and your affiliation openly stated.
- I like humour and jokes, but not frequent swearing and use of obscenities.
- Tweeting the same post two or three times to catch different time zones is fine, constant repeats are not.
- If you join in “me too” waves of Twitter-hate against a person/organisation, or other momentary hysteria, I’m unfollowing you however justified your cause.
- If you are tweeting on behalf of an employer or organisation, I like it if you inject a bit of personality and don’t come over as too “party line”.
- Tweeting about events you’ve attended in a way that excludes followers reads like boasting, I prefer either not to know or to know something that shares the experience.
- If you want to moan about your hard life, fine, but not too often and vary your complaints with other material – it’s tough for everyone!
- I don’t like “follow Fridays” and other clogging-up activities (eg 20 simultaneous tweets about the page you are on on 20 different books, via GoodReads wonky RSS export!). I have never yet clicked on a link in someone’s FF list and I don’t know why I’d want to read a tweet about what page of a book someone is on.
- On the other hand I’m happy for you to tweet your blog posts, so long as that’s not all you do on Twitter (because if so I won’t follow you on Twitter but will use my RSS reader where they are all saved up for when I want to read them).
- I quite like it when someone decides to do a live-tweet of an event and warns followers in advance so that one can temporarily unfollow until the hashtag-fest is over!

Twittering is like a conversation as many have said – it is a two-way street. So the twitterers I like best are those who behave like human beings – who vary their links to their blogs or books they are publishing (say) with other material, and who interact rather than broadcast. Take all the above with a pinch of salt, though, it’s just my view and I’m probably not a typical Twitter user. Each to his/her own.

Lots of people write books, Storifys and all kinds of things about Twitter of course and this post is but a minidrop in the ocean. However, it is worth drawing attention to Nicola Morgan’s blog and associated upcoming e-book Tweet Right – aimed at authors but I am sure will apply to anyone.

———————
[* Which is it is now. I've recently been given a smartphone but it is too smart. I haven't been able to work out how to use it as a phone, but it automatically has merged everyone I've ever interacted with on email and every social media site out there and gives me all their updates, "likes", etc... aargh! - and I am definitely not "smart" enough to find the delete option - yet.]

What kind of a (mystery) reader are you?

Am I alone in feeling permanently guilty for not commenting more on people's blogs? I am always so thrilled when people comment here, so feel doubly at fault for so rarely commenting elsewhere myself. I do read a lot of blogs, courtesy of Google Reader. (The reader is hooked up here so that it is also Petrona's blogroll, therefore if you look to the right and scroll down, you will see I am not telling a lie when I write that I read a lot of blogs!) But somehow, I only comment on the statutory 1 per cent of posts that I read, fulfilling some statistical observation or other. Most of the time this is because even when I have enjoyed a post I can't think of anything interesting to write Reading about it – or if I do have a thought, I go to the blog and find out that six other people have already written it. Some of the time I just can't face going through all the palaver of trying to comment, crashes, signing in or other slowing-down factors. I am around a bit on the internet (see my Google profile for where) and  I do comment quite a bit at the Friend Feed crime and mystery group (for online discussion of crime novels), but I am aware that a comment there is not the same as a comment at the actual blog itself. I will try to improve.

I don't really know why I wrote all that, because what I intended to do when I started this post was to highlight a discussion at Martin Edwards's excellent blog (Do you write under your own name?) about how one reads a mystery. (It was probably my awareness that I have not commented there for a while, and feeling bad about that, that made me write the first paragraph above!) Martin divides such readers into two groups, "those who like to try to solve the mystery themselves, before the solution is revealed, and those who simply enjoy the story and make no serious effort to work out what is going on." He's in the former group, and of the people who have commented to the post, about half are in each.  Here is the gist of my response:

Martin, I am in your camp. Well I think I am. I started out with Sherlock Holmes and ever since have enjoyed the "race" to see if I could work out the solution before the author. But now that I am (a lot) older and have read so much crime fiction, I am not so sure. For example, I have recently finished a really wonderful book, An Empty Death by Laura Wilson (Orion, 2009). It is such an absorbing book, written by a talented author who is so enjoying the universe she has created and conveying it to the reader, in three main plot lines. However, the actual main mystery at the heart of it is not that difficult to work out, mainly because of the dearth of suspects. Yet I found myself deliberately not trying to second-guess the author, because there were so many aspects of this rich book to enjoy, and I was just happy to go with the flow.

So, eeek! I became of the second category without meaning to. 

On the whole, though, I like to try to work out the puzzle before the author reveals all. In addition, if a crime book is not that well written and/or not a lot of effort has been put into it, I like to guess who did it before the author tells me – to get even! How sad or bad is that?!

Goodbye Vox, hello Typepad for my archived book reviews

Not surprisingly to me, but somewhat annoyingly, I went to archive a book review the other day only to find a notice on the blog concerned that it is closed to new posts. Vox is ending. Six Apart is no longer supporting the platform, and have asked users to export their blogs to Typepad (their other platform, which supports this blog). The old blog archive will remain for now, but will disappear, it seems, at the end of this month (30 September 2010).

I have now done as Vox advises, and exported the blog, so my book reviews are now archived here, at Petrona, on a linked blog with the original title of Book reviews by Maxine. I am in the process of updating the links wherever they appear. 

I am not surprised about this because it has been clear for some time that Vox has been left to moulder a bit. It was never much of a blog, as one could not have a blogroll or use a dashboard. So I am not that sad to move away from it. However, it did have one feature I liked, which is that one could easily create a book library and display cover images of books as one read them, via a service hooked up with Amazon. (This was extended to videos, photos, etc). I have fairly recently opened an account at Goodreads which has a similar function, but it isn't quite as neat as the Vox service. (Goodreads is geared up to people who want to share, review, rank and discuss the books they read over at their site, and for me, life is too short to repost all my reviews manually over there.)

Another reason I am sad about the demise of Vox is that  all my archived book reviews are tagged by country. Exporting the blog over here is fine for the blog posts themselves but, as usual on these occasions, not so good for metadata. So I'll have to tag up all the posts again by hand. I have done this for the first 30 or 40 archived reviews, but there is some way to go as I began my archiving back in 2006. I'll keep up the tagging as a background activity, but for the time being, my review archive tags won't be complete. On the bight side, though, I have made the tagging much richer now, so I (or you) will be able to retrieve posts by country, continent, genre, whether the book won an award, if it is a classic, etc, when I've finished. Which may take some time as tagging is clunky (can only be done for each individual post) and is somewhat boring. However, should you so wish, you will be able (apparently) to subscribe to the RSS feed of the review archive blog by category, so if you are only interested in books from a certain region (or other tag) then you can sign up to be alerted just to those posts.

Book-review archive. Please bookmark and/or subscribe!

As well as the blog you are now reading (Petrona) and this new book review archive, I have one other blog, called Filament, where I bookmark interesting articles and reviews that I find – often reviews of books that I intend to read one day. Like Friend Feed or Twitter, Filament is a microblog, i.e. just for posting quick links or comments. 

Online social networks, 2: getting it right

Ladybird_ITA2 If you are a user of a social network, you aren't interested in whether or not it makes money, you just want it to do whatever it is you need. This may seem obvious, but I think it poses a problem for social network "owners" – users will just go off somewhere better on a whim (as happened with MySpace). Stuffing the network full of advertising, even if that were a viable business model, is not appealing to many users either.

Of course, for a user it is easy to say what's right about a social network. It should enable you to do what it is you want to do, easily, without distractions but with "targeted serendipity". I am increasingly aware that the power of the internet is not to do with speed – these days, if there is a world-shattering event or someone famous dies, I duck. First Twitter, then blogs, are instantly filled with many identical observations. In my opinion, there is no news that can't wait for a day to be read at leisure in the newspaper. I, like everyone else, am very busy so I don't want to read the same thing over and over again, usually with no added value or insight to the other people's posts.

So, what the internet is good for is filtering. This is why for me, the best social networks are Friend Feed and Nature Network, supported by an RSS reader (Google Reader), Twitter, and, recently, this Typepad blog. Other people will prefer other social networks depending on their needs. There is no relationship, from the user perspective, with the number of people on a network and its success. What is important to the user is the quality of the other users, not the quantity. That way, you can have what I've called here "targeted serendipity", eg "I know I like Bernadette's book reviews so even though I've never heard of this author I'll read this book on the basis of her review" or "I really don't need to add another blog right now to my reading list but Kerrie recomends Margot's blog, so I'll take a look" (that's how I discovered one of my very favourite blogs, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist).

Why do I like the networks that I like?

Friend Feed is a microblogging service that, unlike Twitter, allows you to aggregate posts into groups or "rooms" based round a common interest. Friend Feed also allows you to integrate much of your online activity into one place (your profile), and to see other people's activities on those platforms. If I don't use any of the 40 or so websites that FF supports, but I am interested in you and you do, I can use FF to see your activity on those platforms. If I don't like your contributions to FF, I can block you specifically so that I don't see anything you write. If I visit another social network so don't want that duplicated on FF, I can block that network. The end result is a highly personalised web service which I primarily use to discuss books and reviews of those books with a small group (172 at last count) of people round the world who (mostly) like the same type of book.

Nature Network is a group of blogs and forums whose content is entirely provided by users, most of whom are scientists or interested in science communication of some kind. it is free to use. It is not as technically sophisticated as some of the other platforms, but its main pleasures are the concentration of scientifically minded people who share interesting opinions, and the personalities of those people, most of whom are charming, witty, argumentative (in the nicest sense of the word!), creative and friendly. What NN lacks in technical sophistication it more than makes up for in its customer service: the NN team of about half a dozen publishers, editors, community managers and programmers are always at the end of an email if anything goes wrong, and regularly take part in the conversations. What a breath of fresh air in an increasingly "outsourced" world, to know that one can ask Lou, Matt, Jo or Ian (say) something, and get a thoughtful answer from a real person.

Google Reader. This isn't a social network really, though it tries to be. It is the way in which I read and comment on blogs – all the blogs I regularly read are delivered to one website (Google Reader) so I only have to access one site instead of every single blog I read. GR is introducing more and more social features, eg you can see your "friends' " choices of blog reading, you can "like" someone's blog posts and see how many other people feel the same, you can easily email posts to people. However, I don't see my use of GR changing significantly from being my window to blogs and to keep me in touch with what those bloggers are writing and conversing about at their own sites.

Typepad. Six Apart, the company that makes the Typepad blogging platform, have introduced a lot of changes over the past year. One of these is that the blog dashboard is now a way to connect to and follow other Typepad bloggers and people with a Typepad profile. When I log on now, I see posts and comments from the people I follow. I use this service a bit – i.e. I follow five people, only two of whom have Typepad blogs. I think this service would be more useful if I read more Typepad blogs, but most of the blogs I read seem to be on Blogger – Typepad and WordPress are in a minority. The Typepad system does work, though, because I do comment on Kim's blog Reading Matters more frequently through seeing her posts and comments every day in my dashboard, and similarly for Ben of Material Witness. I'd do the same for It's a Crime! blog and Random Jottings blog also, but their bloggers don't seem to be part of the new system, as yet. (Incidentally, I like Typepad very much, not strictly on-topic for this post, but their customer service is also great, once again staffed by real people who go the extra mile, totally unlike Google's automated forums.)

Twitter. I do see the use for Twitter now, but again, I am so pressed for time that I don't follow anyone who uses the service to "chat" about their daily comings, goings and musings. I follow two or three individuals who share common interests, a couple of lists, and apart from that, organisations (eg publishers, publications) who post links to articles or books that I am likely to want to read. Twitter is a similar service to Friend Feed but its aggregation is by hash tag (created by all the users interested in one topic, eg a conference or a TV programme or a joke on a theme) rather than by "rooms". You can't build up a conversation on Twitter in the same way that you can on Friend Feed, but it is increasingly popular as a way to communicate about or during a mass event.

Facebook. I think this is the world's most popular social networking site, and the one that seems to be making the most out of the current fad for mobile applications. I don't use it myself apart from maintaining a presence there as it does not fit any of my lifestyle needs, but I can understand why it is very popular when I see how young people I know use it to keep in touch – with year groups from school or college, to share photos, to arrange events, share mutual jokes,  and so on. It's cheaper and more efficient than the phone. It is carrying an increasing amount of advertising, and it will be interesting to see if it goes the way of MySpace and becomes essentially unusable because of the quantity and quality of ads. It will also be interesting to see if it continues to annoy its users by introducing new features without asking them first, then having to backtrack (as happened to Google with Google Buzz).

Well, this post is a bit of an incoherent information dump, but I enjoyed writing down what I like about certain social networks. I doubt that any of them will make money by following my advice, but they will have some happy users!

Disclaimer: I am aware there are lots of other social networks out there, and have even used quite a few of them. I'm just focusing here on the ones I like, and return to regularly.

Earlier post: Online social networks, 1: getting it wrong.

Online social networks: 1, getting it wrong

Flowers In the light of the new service Google Buzz and the announcement a couple of days ago that Google has acquired Aardvark, I thought I'd attempt to write a couple of posts about getting it wrong and getting it right about online social networks. I'm starting today with "getting it wrong". I'm not going to link to Google Buzz and Aardvark, but you can easily find them via a web search.

Google Buzz is automatically part of gmail (googlemail), so if you use that you will see a GoogleBuzz icon in the list of "inbox", "compose message", etc. This means you are "opted in" to a network of anyone else in your contacts list who has a gmail account. Via a pop-up window in  
the middle of your screen you can see what these people are doing on the internet and they can see what you are doing. I've immediately deactivated it because most of these people in my contact list are unknown to me, my dealings with them being limited to things like ordering goods from them or having them comment on my blog. At least I am not like the person who wrote a long rant because unknown to her, Google Buzz had put her ex-husband and her (secret) new boyfriend in direct contact, but you get the picture of what can go wrong with this "automatically opted in" method. Google, this is called "doing it wrong".

Aardvark is a good idea in principle – a semi-automatic question and answer service. I joined it because I received a recommendation from a colleague (now an ex-colleague!) who had told Aardvark three key areas of expertise that I have (in his opinion). I accepted Aardvark's invitation to join. The idea is that people who want to know the answer to a question ask Aardvark. If the question relates to your area of expertise (all users provide three), Aardvark passes the question on to you via a little pop-up window. You answer it. I have to admit that one reason I joined is that I was looking for an Italian tutor and could not find one, so I asked Aardvark but never got a coherent answer. But, I myself began to be bombarded by all kinds of questions on topics I know nothing, or very little, about. On the odd occasion when I received a question on one of my specialities, I found myself embroiled in silly responses about, eg, the relationship between science and religion, from questioners who simply would not go away and whom Aardvark could not or would not block. Pretty soon, I unsubscribed -not easy to do, and I still get auto-email messages from the organisation even though I attempted to remove myself completely from their database.

I assume that by its acquisition of Aardvark, Google will be integrating it into its Buzz feature, leading to a life of hell as one is constantly interrupted by lunatic questions and arguments from people who don't like one's answers. I hope I shan't have to find out anything about it, as I have no interest in signing up to it in its new incarnation, but I hope that the filtering functions are improved so that users receive relevant questions, and I hope that there is some system for blocking/reporting inappropriate and abusive questioners.

The key issue is that if a company wants to introduce a social network onto an existing service, the users should be invited to join it, not automatically signed up to it, and the users should be able to control how they use it. The Internet is full of rubbish and distractions, and the art of making it useful is to filter it. Anything that introduces a lot of unwanted information into one's screen is just not only annoying, but positively harmful to the delicate balance between being enlightened and being swamped.

The next time I write on this topic, I'll write about social networks that "get it right".

[The image is not relevant for the post but it is nice and calm.]

Happy about computer and blog

I'm very pleased with my new computer (PC), a Toshiba Satellite something or other. It was half the price of the computer I bought a couple of years ago, and does more. Such is the world of computers. It has Windows 7 installed, including IE8, and I love that compared with IE6 and IE7. (I have not quite worked out how to stop its security obsession which means I can't use bookmarklets very easily but I'll get there on deactivating all its many controls, eventually.) Mainly, it is so quick compared with IE7 (or something), and IE8 has nice features (nicked from Firefox) such as the favourites bar across the top of the screen so I can get to all my favourite places at one click.

I'm also very pleased with SixApart/Typepad, suppliers of this blog for a very reasonable fee. (A few dollars a month.) All year Typepad have been upgrading their software in a big way, introducing many improvements and social features to their blogging platform. (One of these is a free microblogging service, which is fun – why not try it?) The other day the SixApart people wrote a post to ask users what they thought of the improvements and calling for suggestions. What the heck, I thought, and wrote a comment to thank them, saying that all I wanted now is a way to integrate my RSS reader into my blog sidebar so that my blogroll is dynamically updated as I add and drop subscriptions. I follow a lot of blogs and am a bit impatient about dropping them when they are tedious, so it is a bit of a drag keeping Petrona's blogroll vaguely up to date. Imagine my delight when two of the support people at SixApart emailed me to explain how to import Google Reader blogs into Typepad blog sidebar widgets. You can do it for the blog itself (as I've done) or as a real-time service in which the latest posts on the blogs show. I have so many blogs in my blogroll that the second option would take up far too much space. I am now very happy in that when a blog goes dead or dead boring and I remove it from the reader at a click, it vanishes from the blog at the same time. And equally, when I find a new, fascinating blog and add it, it appears on the blogroll!

Thank you Typepad for this great service – really, the customer service aspects of Typepad are beyond compare, I am consistently impressed with the helpfulness and patience of the SixApart support team. And I thank myself for finally dipping into my savings and buying this new computer. I had been telling myself I could not do it because the old one wasn't old enough – but the fact that the Norton antivirus ran out and wanted another ton of money from me for next year made me finally act. A nice person in John Lewis showed me this Toshiba (with a half price Microsoft Office thrown into the deal) and the rest is history, Internet style (ie the computer is now a week old).

About my Twitter feed on Petrona

I first signed up to Twitter a couple of years ago, pretty much from its start, thanks to Debra Hamel*, who spotted its potential and was one of the service's early adopters. I didn't use Twitter, though, as I didn't find it useful or interesting for anything else I was doing.
Time went by, and not only did Twitter become integrated into other web services (eg if you post a blog post or contribute to Friend Feed or Face Book, your words can automatically be posted to Twitter or vice versa); but also secondary services allowed one to read Twitter in more useful (and less clunky) ways – notably Tweetdeck (mainly) or Thwirl in my case.
I've now installed a Twitter feed into my blog (see left) and am using it as a mini-news and information service. That is, if I see an interesting article in my RSS reader or via someone else on Twitter etc, I will post a link on Twitter or "reTweet" it, as appropriate, and the result will appear in the "Twitter feed" window of this blog. If you think one these articles, which are mostly about the subject-matter of the blog as described above in the subtitle below the word "PETRONA", looks worth reading, then click through to an individual article of interest. The five most recent links show up in the Petrona window. If you want to track all the articles I link to, then "follow" me on Twitter (@Maxine_Clarke) or if you prefer Friend Feed, at my "home" Friend Feed account, where these same links also appear.
If you want links and conversation exclusively about crime, mystery and thriller fiction, you are also welcome to join the FriendFeed room for the purpose. There, I and others who share similar reading interests post links and discuss the articles there and each others' blog posts (which automatically feed into the room). It is not (yet?) possible to integrate a FriendFeed into Petrona.
Any "inconsequential chat" (also known by some observers as "drivel") that I indulge in on Twitter will be in the form of "direct messages" to individual users, so will not show up in the Petrona Twitter feed. All you'll get there are links to articles I find stimulating or otherwise worthy of note but which I'm not writing a blog post about for one reason or another.

Lots of other people use Twitter for many reasons, but this is how I'm using it. In a nutshell: to share links to articles that interest me and that might interest you, with the odd comment about them thrown in.

*Debra is omnipresent on the Internet but you can easily find her various personae via her blog, the Deblog.

Sunday Salon: enchancing the reading experience

TSSbadge3 Clare Dudman, on her blog Keeper of the Snails, writes about the ways in which the internet can enhance the experience of reading a book. In addition to her list, there is an interesting group of suggestions in the comments discussion, as well as a debate about whether the pleasure of reading is best limited to the book itself, rather than including secondary activities such as looking up the location of the setting on Google maps.

For me, the main way in which the internet enhances the reading experienceis to use the plethora of online book reviews. If I am deciding whether or not to read a book, I might search for the title/author and then skim reviews on blogs or other websites (eg newspapers) - but not read them very thoroughly as I don't want to know too many details or opinions at that stage. After I have read the book, however, I very much enjoy reading other people's review of the book to see other perspectives on it  - and, if there are online comments for the review I'm reading, I like reading those and perhaps joining in the discussion.

Our Friend Feed crime and mystery group (which anyone is welcome to join – if you are quick you can be the 100th subscriber as we reached 99 this morning) is an extension of this process. Links to reviews of books are posted, either automatically or manually. The stimulating book-focused discussions that develop, either at Friend Feed or at the linked article, can either persuade me to read the book (or not to read it!), or bring out aspects of it that had not previously occurred to me.

The internet is so good at enabling one to discover books and to read them, either by visiting good book websites (my favourite is Euro Crime as I am becoming increasingly taken with translated fiction) or by general searches. Buying the chosen book online is also a huge advantage on the old days (pre-Internet) of traipsing round bookstores and not finding a desired title in stock (but being tempted into buying other books in the process, of course). Although Amazon does feature "customer reviews" of books, I don't usually find these as useful or engaging as the reviews I read on blogs (particularly the blogs I regularly visit) or via an internet search, which identifies newspaper or magazine reviews as well as reviews on blogs I didn't previously know about. So I tend to use Amazon (or other bookselling site) mainly for the purchasing function and not for the reviewing/recommending option.