Penguicon 2022 Schedule and Books

The folks at Penguicon have released the schedule to presenters. It’s not public yet–it will be soon, promise!–but here’s my little slice of it.

4pm: DNSSEC in 2022 (presentation)
5pm: Covid and Creativity (panel)

11am: Trad vs Indie Publishing (panel)
12pm: Writing Workshop: Setting as Characterization (workshop, 2 hours)
3pm: Self-Publishing in 2022 (panel or AMA, there’s confusion)
4pm: Reading (with GoH JD DeLuzio)
5pm: TLS in 2022 (presentation)
6pm: Writer’s Block bookstore (staff, hangout)

12pm: Writer’s Block Bookstore (staff, hangout)

It might change. Things happen. But this is where you’ll find me.

The other question folks have is: will my books be there? Of course. The bookstore will have git commit murder, git sync murder, and Cash Flow for Creators. I could only pick three, and those seemed like the broadest interest. (I’m not knocking Penguicon for only taking three titles, I’m grateful they are taking any.

I’ll have a few copies each of these with me:

SSH Mastery
DNSSEC Mastery 2nd ed
Sudo Mastery 2nd ed
PAM Mastery
Ed Mastery
SNMP Mastery
The Networknomicon
TLS Mastery
Domesticate Your Badgers
Absolute FreeBSD 3rd ed

Immortal Clay
Kipuka Blues
Butterfly Stomp Waltz
Terrapin Sky Tango
Hydrogen Sleets
Aidan Redding Against the Universe
Savaged by Systemd (extra expensive if you make me touch it)
assorted chapbooks (all $5)

Might be paperback or hardcover. First come, first served. I don’t plan to restock until after covid.

Hope to see you there!

Kickstarter and Blockchain

The fact that I don’t support and won’t use environmentally disastrous cryptocurrency and distributed blockchains is not a secret. I’ve also said that I plan to start using Kickstarter more often. Kickstarter has said they have a blockchain strategy. Are my stances contradictory?

Not yet, but they might be in the future.

One of the many annoying things about large companies are the busybodies who don’t really know the company’s business or how the trade works, but have leverage and demand that the firm be buzzword-compliant. These busybodies include but are not limited to investors, brokers, and auditors.

“Blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” are buzzwords. Busybodies are demanding that all their firms have strategies for them.

When a busybody demands you become buzzword-compliant with something that’s irrelevant to your business, what do you do?

The first step is to see if you’re already technically buzzword compliant. Do you have an existing system or product that fits that buzzword?

About ten years ago, systems that let you identify and track intruders were big news. I was in a meeting where an important client asked if we had that ability. My employer had no intrusion detection system. Most of the corporate hosts had to reside on the public Internet, without even an external packet filter. We had invested zero in dedicated intrusion analysis capability.

Nevertheless, I answered “yes.” Truthfully.

I had not installed our flow sensors for the primary purpose of identifying intrusions, but I certainly used them as such. The boss picked up on it and said, “We employ the man who literally wrote the book on the topic.” The client shut up and moved on. Zero-effort buzzword compliance, there.

Suppose you don’t have an existing system that fits the buzzword? Further, suppose that the buzzword is utterly irrelevant to your business but the busybodies demand that you have a strategy for that buzzword? You engage in Performative Buzzword Compliance.

Figure out the minimum amount of effort that you can spend on the buzzword, and the minimum amount of resources you can “invest” in it. Take an employee who is temporarily dysfunctional because they’ve been diagnosed with cancer or have a newborn or care more about their side gig writing than your stupid job. Tell them to spend one hour a week keeping up on the tech and brainstorming what the company might do with it.

This lets you perform Performative Buzzword Compliance. You publicly issue:

  1. A press release
  2. A FAQ about your efforts.
  3. A statement that you have dedicated staff to the task.
  4. If the buzzword is actively harmful, all of these must address the harm and state that your approach will negate those harmful effects.
  5. A vague lie that it will revolutionize your business.

You tell your busybodies that you have a buzzword strategy.

And you move on.

I am not authoritatively declaring that Kickstarter has done this. I have no inside knowledge.

I will say that Kickstarter’s public statements show all the signs of Performative Buzzword Compliance.

They have a press release and a FAQ. They’ve said folks are working on this. The FAQ says that their blockchain is special, and won’t destroy the planet.

The last point is the most important here. When Kickstarter said that they were starting a blockchain project, the general reaction among users was “why?” Kickstarter’s FAQ lists the problems their blockchain will help with, and most of them are not technical problems with Kickstarter itself. Yes, rewards can be delayed. That sucks. Blockchain won’t help. Yes, spreading the word is hard. Blockchain won’t help with that either. And so on.

Can Kickstarter admit this? No. The first rule of performative compliance is you don’t admit you’re doing it.

But after decades in tech, my nose is highly attuned to performative compliance. This stinks of it.

Every company will have a blockchain strategy. Ford Motor Company has one, Fiat has one, and General Motors has one. Blockchain is wholly irrelevant in automotive, but the busybodies demand a strategy. Amazon’s blockchain strategy is to sell managed blockchain services–they know the tech is not useful to their business, but they’re gonna make money off the suckers and simultaneously satisfy the busybodies.

Don’t dismiss an organization for buzzword compliance.

See what they’re doing with the buzzword.

At this time, I see no sign that Kickstarter is actually doing blockchain. Like many businesses, they are miming blockchain.

Given current knowledge, I intend to run three Kickstarters in 2022. If Kickstarter’s blockchain strategy starts spewing carbon and heat, I will change my plans.

Software Recommendations

I’ve recently gotten a spate of emails asking what software stack I recommend. I suspect someone’s attempting an argument from authority, or trying to catch me contradicting something I said decades ago, or… or who knows what. I’ll be adding this to my FAQ, but here’s the long answer. Ahem:

Use whatever you think will work.

Software is terrible. Operating systems are worse. Some are worse than others.

I tend to put databases on ZFS, because databases are even more terrible and I want automatic snapshots. But: jails or chroots? Pffft. Everything is terrible. Choose your doom.

What do I recommend? I recommend abandoning technology, moving to a colder climate that won’t be flooded as the oceans rise, and dedicating yourself to improving the soil as you learn to farm enough to feed yourselves and those you love. Or, if that’s not your style, stop wasting more electricity than many countries to perform useless computations for deflationary pseudomoney. I solidly recommend that.

DYB Auction for Clarion 2020 Students

A “Domesticate Your Badgers” reader had this to say

Forty-odd books ago and in a previous millennium, I attended the Clarion writing workshop. I had the privilege of spending six weeks locked in a Michigan State University graduate dorm with half a dozen pro writers and about thirty wannabes like myself. It was my first taste of what it was like to live as a working writer, down to and including immediate abject humiliation. Many of my classmates have gone on to win awards, be voted in as science-fiction grand masters, and routinely terrify otherwise hardened adults with a freaking village of Stoker awards. Meanwhile, I became best known as an author of satirical Linux erotica. A few have returned to Clarion to teach. I won’t be doing that — the kind of writer I’ve turned out to be isn’t exactly what they teach at Clarion — but the education I received was vital and the social connections even more so. Clarion was such a formative experience that I still call them my “Alma madder.”

And now, I have a chance to give back.

The Clarion class of 2020 never really happened, thanks to COVID. They’re hoping to gather this year, and are running a fundraiser to support students suffering from hardship.

I happen to have a printed proof of my brand-new first (and probably last) book on writing.

The only difference between this proof and the final book is the banner printed across the front. (Print proofs are a traditional publishing item that were handed out to early readers in the days before e-books, and publishers didn’t want them appearing on bookstore shelves, hence the banner.) That makes this a unique artifact, and a good piece of charity auction bait.

I want Clarion to continue. I want a future generation of speculative fiction writers take on the world’s problems, and do better than we did. Plus, when my brain finally gives out and I stop writing, I want good new books to read while I eagerly await my inevitable death from Not Writing. Please help these youngsters embark on the glorious, horrific, delightfully appalling literary life and bid on this auction.

The auction rules are:

Comment on this post to bid. All bids in US dollars. I advise bidders to click the “notify me of new comments by email” button, so they can see when they are outbid.

The auction runs from now until 5PM EST 28 March. If the bidding goes nuts in the last few minutes, I’ll leave it open until it settles down. There’s no sniping this auction at the last moment, as I want the bids to escalate beyond all sensible limits.

Once the auction closes, send your donation to the Clarion 2020 fundraiser within two days. (They offer many writing-related rewards, but you don’t need to take any.) Send me your receipt. Once I have the receipt, I will sign the book and mail it to you.

If you don’t donate within a few days, or don’t send me your receipt, the number two winner is declared the winner.

Remember that you don’t need to win a silly auction to donate. Many of you are perfectly capable of being a generous and worthwhile person without any bribes from me.

New Sponsorships Open, and More Crowdfunding

The subject says the exciting bit. Now that I have shipped out the print sponsor gifts for the new DNSSEC Mastery, I can open sponsorships for the next tech book–OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems. I expect this to be large for a Mastery book, so the e-book sponsorship is an extra five dollars. Sorry, folks, the price of gelato keeps going up. I know this isn’t real inflation, it’s the gelato oligarchs pushing for even greater profit, but a writer needs his delicious cold dairy fix.

Print sponsorship pricing hasn’t changed, except that it has. When I first started doing sponsorships several years ago, I thought that nobody would buy them. I also thought shipping costs would be negligible. How much time and money would mailing books to one or two radical fans take? I was wrong — not once, not twice, but three times simultaneously. (That’s not a record. I once managed to be wrong in five ways at once, but three is still decent.) I’m delighted and grateful that so many of you want to make it easier for me to write these books.

I’m now budgeting $10 on postage for each sponsor gift, and am asking overseas readers to pick up the overage. It costs me about $20 to ship into Canada, so those sponsorships are $110. Sorry.

Some of you have requested an option for faster shipping. That’s now a choice.

If all you want is this news, you can stop reading now.

Still here? Sorry. I’m going to talk crowdfunding for a moment.

I appreciate everyone who buys my books or supports me writing them. It doesn’t matter if you just bought one or two of my books from your favorite store, if you’ve methodically collected every word I have ever put in public, or if you send me money every month even when I released nothing. If you give me money for my work, I am grateful.

This post is not about you individual readers. It is especially not about extracting more money from individual readers. (The way to get more money from individual readers is “write more and better books.”) I’m looking at crowdfunding to expand my readership.

Today I have two crowdfunding channels. There’s my Patronizers program, both through Patreon and direct to me via my e-bookstore, where people send me money every month for no good reason. Sure, there are Patronizers levels where I send you every book I write, but it’s still a terrible deal. For every month where I released three or four books, there are several months where nothing comes out. Patronizers are the hard core Lucas Loonies.

Then there sponsorships. Sponsors, wisely, want an actual reason to send me money. If I’m writing a book that interests them, or that they believe should exist, they pay me to work on it.

Recently, I tried Kickstarter. And here is where things get complicated.

Kickstarter works, dang it. I tried it on an off–brand book, something that didn’t fit into any category I’m known for. I needed to write this book, mostly so I had something to give to people who asked about the topic, but it’s not a field I intend to become known in. I have no desire to build a career writing books about writing; I just want to write books. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of Domesticate Your Badgers. I think it’s a decent book. I did the best I could on it. But it’s decidedly off-brand.

Badgers also had the most successful launch of any book I’ve published independently.

Forget the $8843 Kickstarter. Forget that I had to learn how to produce freaking shipping manifests to mail the hundreds of books. It’s my best-selling title on every platform, from Amazon to my e-bookstore. In February, DYB print pre-orders outside of Amazon were greater than non-Amazon print sales of all other books combined. I am not the only author who has experienced this. I’ve talked with a bunch of them, and my working hypothesis is that Kickstarter builds word-of-mouth. I could babble on about social proof and so on, but it all boils down to word-of-mouth.

When I started the Kickstarter, I guessed that most of the backers would be people who had directly sponsored me previously. I saw several familiar names on the list of backers, but most of them were people I had never heard of. The social aspect of Kickstarter brought new readers to me. Many of them went on to pick up other books I had written. If I want to keep making a living, bringing in new readers is everything.

I need to add Kickstarter to my crowdfunding strategy.

I must also keep my Patronizers and sponsors happy. I cannot offer unreasonable benefits only for Kickstarter users, leaving early backers and longtime supporters out in the cold. I have some thoughts on how to do this, and I’m putting them out so that Patronizers, sponsors, and Kickstarter fans alike can poke holes in them.

Patronizers and sponsors get credit in books. That’s a benefit often added in a Kickstarter. I will put sponsors and Patronizers in the acknowledgments in the front of the book, and list Kickstarter supporters in the back.

Some folks support me to get signed books. Sponsors and Patronizers will get books made out to them by name. Kickstarter books, I will sign but not personalize.

Any backer – exclusive benefits will go to everyone who helped crowdfunding the book. If I hit a Kickstarter stretch goal that says I will write an exclusive article, that article will go to Kickstarter backers, book sponsors, and Patronizers alike. If a campaign hits a goal where everyone gets another book free, everyone who normally gets books will get that bonus book as well.

I use patronage and sponsorships to support me as I write the book. I will use Kickstarter funds to improve the book. I would love to have chapter header art in the Mastery books, but that has been cost-prohibitive. I would like to offer slipcases and fancy binding but, again, that’s expensive. If Kickstarter expands my readership, expensive projects become doable.

For folks who don’t want to send me a hundred dollars months ahead of time, Kickstarter will offer a more modestly-priced way to get me to sign a book and mail it to you. It’ll even have your name in it — in the back, but there.

I can’t see Kickstarter replacing either Patronizers or sponsorship. One of my business goals is disintermediation, and Kickstarter is another middleman. It’s an effective middleman so I will use it, but I will also be doing my best to convert readers who discover me through Kickstarter into sponsors and Patronizers. Will it work? Dunno. But finding out is gonna be a trip.

Before I run a Kickstarter for this book, I’ll be running a couple of small fiction Kickstarters. I need to learn more about the platform before I rely on it.

If you are a regular sponsor or Patronizer, do let me know if you have any concerns or things you’d like to see. I have many thousands of words left to write on this book, and a Kickstarter is months away at best. And with that I better go write.

DNSSEC, Badgers, and Orcs, Oh My!

Talk about one weeeird mass escape.

DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd edition hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks should now be available everywhere, so that book’s officially out.

Today is the official release date for Domesticate Your Badgers. I made this a pre-order, so it’s available in all formats everywhere. I don’t bother with preorders for tech books, but I wanted the Kickstarter backers to get a chance to have theirs in-hand before the general public could order it. It didn’t quite work that way–backer books have started to arrive in the last day or two–but they’re on their way so it’s not a complete failure.

Last, the Fiction River anthology Broken Dreams comes out today. The author list includes my name. The book description says something about alternate history, in Detroit, with orcs. It’s at all major retailers, and a bunch of minor ones.

If I had pushed, I could have released “Letters to ed(1)” today, but that’s too much even for me. A couple more weeks on that one. Consider yourself warned.

“DNSSEC Mastery 2/e” Auction Winners

The auction for the print proof of DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd edition is over. Bob Beck won, with a bid of $667.

Kate Ebneter, perhaps my most notorious Patronizer, offered to match the winning bid.

That’s a total of $1334 for Black Girls Code. I’m sure they can do something worthwhile with that.

Posting this tonight because tomorrow, I have not one but two books coming out…