Tag Archives: crowdsourcing

Books, etc.: Remembering Suzette Haden Elgin

A few days ago a friend informed me that Suzette Haden Elgin had died. This was not unexpected. She was almost 80, and had been in ill health for a while, and suffering with dementia, along with other disabilities.

I never met her, except through her work, but I mourn her passing.

Suzette was a trained linguist, a language maven, and a writer. She is perhaps best known for her books in the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense series. Though not as well-known as Deborah Tannen’s or John Gray’s works, Suzette’s are practical, straightforward, and supremely useful.

She was interested in many aspects of language. She thought and wrote about language and religion, language and politics (especially framing), language and women’s issues, language and perception, language and culture, and more.

For many years she kept up a Live Journal and two newsletters. Under the LJ name Ozarque, she stimulated thought and discussion of her many fields of interest. These were lively, educational, interactive, and fascinating forums in the way that Live Journal blogs are meant to be and seldom are.

She was a writer of science fiction novels, stories, and poetry. I was astounded by her Native Tongue series. (Who besides me could possibly be interested in feminist linguistic science fiction? Many people, it turns out.)

In the Native Tongue series, Suzette described a newly created “women’s language” called Láadan. She and others pursued the idea and constructed a grammar, a dictionary, and lessons available online – way before anyone tried to do the same with Klingon.

She worked on new fiction until the dementia descended. In her LJ, she would sometimes post poems and songs (particularly Christmas carols) and solicit feedback from her audience, sometimes incorporating their suggestions into the piece. The Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Elgin Awards are given in her memory.

She attended science fiction conventions, where she could meet and interact with her readers. One she often attended was WisCon in Madison, WI, the premier feminist science fiction convention, and in 1986 was one of their Guests of Honor.

On a more personal note, she once took the time to give me feedback on a piece I was writing about bullying, also a concern of hers.

She was a kind, humane, quirky, quick-witted, creative, varied, engaged, humorous, brave lady and a brilliant scholar and writer. I will miss her and her work. The world is poorer for her passing, but richer for her legacy.

The Hive Mind and Signal Boosting

Lately I’ve been involved in a number of grassroots efforts, crowd sourcing, and increasing the bandwidth of various projects (other people’s, not my own).

It’s the modern version of networking. I can’t increase the sales of a friend’s book or a favorite local restaurant, but I can let people know where to find it. I can’t rescue a stranger from poverty or foot (paw?) the vet bills for someone else’s cat, but I can contribute something. I can’t speak authoritatively about a lot of subjects, but I’m a whiz at knowing where and how to find information.

In a way, it’s like the Six Degrees of Separation (or Kevin Bacon) theory – if I don’t know how to do something, one of my friends or one of their friends does. It’s one of the reasons I’m on Facebook, despite its many flaws. It’s similar to a giant “Phone-a-Friend” lifeline from the old version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

“The hive mind” is just another way of saying “brainstorming.” “Signal boosting” is tech-speak for “spreading the word.” “Crowd sourcing” is the modern way to “pooling our resources.”

It’s an answer to the question “But how can I, one small person, make a difference?” And it’s a way to “stand on the shoulders of giants” to see farther. Come to think of it, it’s a lot of the reason we have WordPress blogs.

If you’re interested, here are some groups that do crowd-sourcing:

Kiva.org (rotating micro-loans to help alleviate poverty)

DonorsChoose.org (funding for individual teachers’ classroom projects)

Kickstarter.com and GoFundMe.com (fundraising for creative projects or personal needs)

I’ve made donations through all of these and never regretted it.

And while I’m at it, here are a couple of friends of mine whose signals I am boosting:

TomSmithOnline.com and thefump.com, for those interested in Dr. Demento-style music (FuMP = Funny Music Project)

Rejectedprincesses.com, neglected kick-ass women of history and myth who would never make it in a Disney movie

What organizations or projects would you like to promote? Just leave a comment below. No waiting for the beep.



Crowdsourcing Cat Names

My mother-in-law has two new cats and really needs help naming them.

One is a little black male cat (with the required ten white hairs), 18 mos. old, and very affectionate. He needs a name because what she calls it is archaic, but not really a good idea in modern society, if you get my drift.

The other is another male, four years old, buff-colored with blue eyes. She calls it Buffy, which makes one think of a girl who slays vampires. It follows her around, but will not yet allow petting.

In the past, she has had cats named Frisky, Dilly Sue, and Bingo (Dan and I always called Bingo “Mr. Woo,” but that’s another story.)

Also, she also used to call our cat Matches by the name “Checkers,” which we decided was his evil twin.

Just for reference, our cats have been named Matches, Bijou, Anjou, Chelsea, Shaker, Maggie, Julia, Laurel, Garcia, Louise, Jasper, Django, and Dushenka. Plus two fosters named Joliet and The Devil Kitten From the Crawlspace of Hell, but that’s another story too. (No, not all at once; just a few at a time. I’m not that crazy. Yet.)

If I had pictures of the new kits on the block, I would post them, but so far I don’t.

So here goes my experiment in crowdsourcing cat names: Please help!