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  • Seek not the favor of the multitude; it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of few; and number not voices, but weigh them.
    ~ Immanuel Kant, quoted by Alex.

    @Alex, it had to be said. Especially the part about editing our words.

    There are, of course, writers who just pour out streams of symbols, as if from the head of Zeus. Like Jack Kerouac. Some feel deeply that if they edit their outfall, they're not being authentic.

    That's cool. But there's a difference between letting it all hang out and writing a first draft. And even a tenth draft can be authentic.

    I've read and written stories here that I feel should have been more polished, even those small slices of life. I include poems as well. Poems are tough. I don't do them much because polishing a poem grinds me down. Also, when I am super eager to post a story, I usually fail to edit it well. I've learned that if I'm not in love with it I need to put it down and come back to it the next day. That always helps, even though a detail or two might drift away overnight.

    So, taking your time is one thing I would advise. Another thing you can do (and may well do) is not to compose text in the Cowbird editor. I think that's where some of the tell-it-now urgency comes from. I draft all my stories in a big old Word file. Besides serving as an archive of all my stories and images, in it I preface each story with a little note to myself that describes where it came from, when I started and when I published it, and its seed and dedication, if any. This helps me write more leisurely, unafraid to go do something else for a while, without that editor window shouting at me "Are we there yet?"

    As for the lust for hearts, my take is a little different than Alex's. I agree that the heart system can stimulate base instincts and episodes of strategic loving. Would we be better off without the hearts? Possibly. We probably would be publishing fewer stories. Given that a new story shows up on average every 10 minutes, throttling that stream back would be a courtesy to readers.

    But the real problem with hearts is that that's just about all Cowbird gives us in the feedback department. We can sprout and roll direct responses, like what I'm doing now, but methinks that's only an appropriate response under special circumstances. Seeing the faces of my lovers all lined up does gratify me, but it's not really feedback.

    Most of us don't have editors. Writers improve their stories and master their craft when they get feedback. But hearts are ambiguous, fickle even. Is a heart saying "I'm here, look at me too." Does it denote total admiration? Or maybe it's a simple "well said." Or did that person mean "hey that happened to me too," "I feel good/bad for you," or "beautiful picture?" That's the problem. Nobody except the heart-clicker knows what that click means.

    I suppose Cowbird could have icons for each of the above in place of the heart, but where would that end? I don't think we want to go there.

    Let's not expect hearts to carry such a load. Let's ask Cowbird to give ways for readers to share reviews with authors, so authors will know if they need to work on style, tone, punctuation, voice, structure or something else, and only when writers invite opinions.

    You know how authors can collaborate on fleshing out characters (that little checkbox that says Allow other authors to edit this character)? Suppose the story editor had a checkbox that said Allow other authors to make private comments on this story. If a writer selects it, he or she opens up the story for commenting to all readers, the writer's own audience, or specific authors the writer names. When reading someone's story in Cowbird, a Comment button or menu item would be enabled should you, the reader, be eligible to comment. No obligation attached, of course. It would be like sprouting, only just that one seeder would be able to read the sprout.

    To recapitulate my tedious arguments:

    • Take your time composing and finishing each story
    • Review and edit each story as many times as you need to
    • Put your story into the Cowbird editor at the end, not when starting to write it
    • Sprout to elaborate ideas that are relevant to Cowbird authors
    • Petition Cowbird for non-intrusive tools for responding to stories

    Let's help each other improve as writers and perhaps as people, which isn't done by stoking egos. But sometimes a pat on the back or the tip of a hat is just what we want. It's not bad to want that. But that's not all we should want. Cowbird, help us out here.

    @image: The six finalists in the 1958 Miss International Secretary contest
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