Hootsuite blog

Hootsuite, Vancouver’s vaunted social media management company, has helpfully updated the design of its already excellent blog. There are fewer listicles and more how-to cheat sheets (a favourite genre of mine, as my students know). A couple of days ago writers Kari Olafson and Tony Tran published “2022 Social Media Image Sizes for All Networks” – a superb cheat sheet that provides proper image sizes and aspect ratios for things like profile photos, thumbnails, feed photos, story ads, and banners, etc., for all the major platforms. The story also provides links to easy-to-follow templates and other resources. It’s going to save me a ton of time.

Unhappy addendum: Today Hootsuite announced that it was laying off 30% of its employees. Here’s hoping the company rebounds before too long. – 9 August, ’22

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The scale of a work

Our friend Jonathan Mayhew, on finding the right size (for a book):

I like saying that [my upcoming book on Lorca and music] is a medium sized book on a vast subject. 

So it is with scholarship. You are rarely the first to do something: you are almost always joining an ongoing discussion. If you are the last, that means that nobody else will even discuss what you have done. You want your work to inspire others, not be a dead end. You want to write something substantial (not too short) but at the same time not [necessarily] exhaustive. 

A lot of detail is good, but if the reader feels you are tellings them everything you found, without any selectivity, then the risk is a certain triviality. “Trivial” details are meaningful to me, as researcher, as a way of getting at the granularity of the subject matter, but a profusion of them in the text produces a sensation of excess, as though. The iceberg theory says that you should not reveal everything you know. Your writing has depth through a process of omission. 

Your writing has depth through a process of omission.

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The Paper Hound is “a new, used, and rare book store” on Pender Street in downtown Vancouver. “We don’t specialize in one particular kind of book, but we favour the classic, curious, odd, beautiful, visually arresting, scholarly, bizarre, and whimsical.” This blog’s founders have spent countless hours browsing and buying there. It’s a really beautiful place.

Last week I found myself on Pender Street and stopped by the store. I had a remarkable experience.

I found a book of correspondence – between poets Robert Creeley and Irving Layton – I had somehow never seen before. (I have a very large collection of works by Creeley, who was a professor of mine and then a friend back in my Buffalo days.) I noticed that the book bore a signature that looked similar to one on a book I purchased there my last time through – one belonging, it turned out, to San Francisco Renaissance and Vancouver poet Robin Blaser. (That earlier book was “The Rustle of Language,” by Roland Barthes.)

I asked the clerk to confirm whether this was Blaser’s signature, too, in the book I was holding. “Yes, that book came from Blaser’s library.”

I was thrown back 44 years. I had gone to a poetry reading by Robin Blaser at the University at Buffalo’s Rare Books Library; it was sponsored by Creeley’s endowed chair. The reading was completely enchanting. I decided, home in bed that night, I was going to devote myself, one way or the other, to the arts, and I have. (My goal before that was to earn a degree in statistics and have a career as a high-level actuary.)

The Rare Books Library printed up a broadside of a Blaser poem to give away to attendees that night. I had mine for years. God knows where it went. I lived in thirteen different places in Buffalo alone.

“We might have that broadside,” the clerk said. I got goosebumps.

“The poem was about Melville and the Aurora Borealis.”

“We definitely have it.” She opened up the big drawer, found it, and put it in my hands. It felt like a talisman.

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Good timing

University of Washington professor Kate Starbird and several of her colleagues just published “Repeat Spreaders & Election Delegitimization,” featuring an analysis of their 2020 Election Misinformation dataset, “including 307 false, misleading, exaggerated and/or unsubstantiated claims that sowed doubt in [the 2022 United States presidential] election procedures/results.” Helpful reading to accompany the House of Representatives Select Committee’s hearings examining the January 6 insurrection.

Here’s Starbird’s brief summary of the paper’s contents.

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Stanford University’s “Writing Matters”

My former haunt, Stanford University’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric, has taken down its old Resources page. Happily, though, you can still find online its wonderful “Writing Matters” series, interviews with Stanford professors and students describing “writing’s connection with academic and personal success.” Below Margot Gerritsen, Professor of Energy Resources Engineering, explains that “Writing stories is absolutely pivotal. If I can’t write a good story, sell what I’m doing, make cases and arguments for continued funding, I’m nowhere.”

Here’s a link to the professors’ videos, and to the students’.

And here is the new Writing Resources page.

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What could go wrong?

No Contest friend Chester Wisniewski provides the clearest précis I’ve read regarding the extravagant promises made on behalf of “decentralized blockchains,” in The Gospel of Crypto: A Solution in Search of a Problem. It’s concise, illuminating, and persuasive.

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Prime Yourself


There needs to be two of you: you and “you prime.” The latter is an heuristic entity brought into being by you for the purpose of protecting and orienting you.

Your “you prime” makes the hard decisions – saying no to friends, curtailing vampiric commitments, enforcing skeptical habits of mind, and keeping you safe – when you are, for any reason, disinclined to do so.

This little bit of as-if – this guardian phantasm, this editor – is a nifty trick, I have found, and good mental hygiene.

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I’m keeping in abeyance any decision I might make on maintaining my presence on Twitter. I’ve been tweeting away since 2008, though I have never been especially prolific. (That said, this platform completely redefined “prolific”!) The place had a few good years – people were helpful and tended, on balance, to be interesting – before it became the dreadful scene we have today.

I’ve bored witless the people I love with my complaints about Elon Musk, so I shall forbear here, dear reader (just don’t bring up the topic of self-driving cars!). I don’t expect he will make Twitter better. I can see how he might make it worse, though: Bringing back the 45th president would be the main way, probably.

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When I finally consented, two decades ago, to using the necessary phrase “passive aggressive,” I felt awful, and beaten, like I had fallen off the wagon.

But I am clean again! A dear friend employed the phrase defensive envenomater this fine afternoon to describe a snake that doesn’t seek to introduce sickening venom into its prey but nonetheless will when forced into a particularly vulnerable posture.

Defensive envenomater is better than “passive aggressive person” for many reasons (I won’t be pedantic and spell them all out), though I know it replaces only some of the latter phrase’s meanings.

I also prefer the noun phrase to an adjective phrase; I like a person to blame.

(h/t MH)

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It’s actually easy

… not to do this.

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