O, Death

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

-Aaron Freeman.

Writing for Listverse is a Waste of Your Time

Listverse is often a recommended website for people who wish to make a little extra cash. They make it sound like it is fun and easy to “Write & Get Paid.”

I’m here to urge you not to waste your time.

The Listverse deal seems rather straightforward at first: come up with a list of things that are quirky and unique, write at least 1200 words about them, cite your sources, then submit them for review. If approved, they send you $100 via Paypal. I thought this sounded like a fun way to make $100 by writing about topics I know and am interested in.

One thing you have to do before writing a list is to make sure they don’t already have a list about the topic you want to write about. Searching their site for existing lists is futile, as their Search feature doesn’t seem to work at all. See the example below, where I searched for a list about vampires that is shown on their home page, and even it doesn’t come up in a search result:

search_-_listverse

This leaves you with having to use Google to query the Listverse site in an attempt to make sure you don’t waste your time writing a list that is already there:

listverse_vampires_-_google_search

Once you think you have a good idea for a list topic, it’s a good idea to read about the Listverse guidelines on what they expect and what the rules of engagement are. Here is how they summarize it:

It works like this: You write your list (10 items per list minimum), you send it in, we reply and say “Great—we’ll publish it” and send you $100 by PayPal (don’t have an account? just make one—it’s easy and free); or we reply and say “Sorry—it isn’t the sort of thing our readers will love—give it another shot.” Just remember, your list should be at least one or two paragraphs per entry.

There is also a more detailed Author Guide that gets into writing style and some more about the rules and what they expect.

The other major caveat is not to write about something in their short list of topics that they are currently not taking submissions for, which are sports, self-help, personal stories, and gaming.

Sounds pretty easy, right?

I dove in and spent about two hours researching topics, writing up a list, proofing it, finding sources for it, then attempting to submit it. Their submission page says, “We only consider submissions with the highest standard of English and submissions should not exceed 1,500 words.”

No problem. I love writing and have what I consider a good mastery of the English language. My article was about 1000 words, so I thought it was ready to go.

First Problem

Only at this point do you learn that lists must be at least 1500 words. Wait…what? Above, on the Submission page, it says that the article “should not exceed 1500 words”. But if you click Submit List, and your article isn’t long enough, you see this:

extra_listverse_com_submit_submit_php

They don’t tell you this anywhere on the submission page until you click the Submit button. And this situation makes it seem like you are set up for failure from the start. So, in one place it says no more than 1500 words, then you are scolded about not having at least 1500 words when you try to submit. What to do?

I went back and added more meat to my list, getting it to the minimum length required, and was finally allowed to proceed. The resulting page and the resulting confirmation email I got told me that it would be up to two weeks before hearing from them. Apparently they read every entry they get, and it is time consuming. I am a patient man, so I was OK with this.

Problem Two: Rejection

I got the rejection letter this morning. I understand not getting accepted for legitimate reasons; it was more about the issues surrounding it that led me to writing this lengthy blog post.

First, the rejection letter itself was not the “highest standard of English,” which was amusing more than anything, but I thought I’d point it out. For example, it said this:

“We regret that your list is just not quite what we are looking for right now; this is usually because your subject matter is outside the scope of the direction in which we are taking Listverse.”

Taking Listverse? Ok, whatever. Moving along…

Second, they go on to list out some of the same caveats about submitting a list, but only this time is it in more detail than before you actually write your list:

We are currently not taking any lists from the following categories: self-help, opinion, product rankings or reviews, money making guides, personal experience stories, health advice, gaming, sports, music, TV, movies, and animals.

My list was not in any of those categories, but I did stop to think that many of these had not been mentioned up front, and I’d have been pissed if I had spent a lot of time on a list about animals, for example.

They went on to list some “technical” reasons for rejection:

1. The list is too short, too long, or does not have ten items
2. The list requires too much editing (poor English or lack of proofing is usually the reason)
3. The topic is already covered on Listverse or the Internet in general
4. The topic is simply not in keeping with the style of content we publish

Regarding 1, I had exactly 10 items on my list. Was I rejected because the list was over 1500 words long, even though I was unable to submit a list unless it was 1500 words long? That seems stupid.

I knew my rejection wasn’t due to numbers 2, 3, or 4, as I had researched everything, proofed it all, and come up with something rather unique to write about, and made it appealing to the type of audience they cater to.

The Final Knockdown: It’s an odds game

Being rather bewildered at the reasons for rejection not lining up with my article, and still not understanding why my submission was not taken, I carefully re-read the rejection email and I found this sentence in the middle:

We receive more than 150 submissions each day and can only choose three for publication.

Only now, after spending all this time writing a list, researching it, proofing it, and waiting on the outcome, did they choose to mention that 3 per day is the limit. The odds sure would have been helpful to know up front, way before any of this ever happened.

But then, why would anyone ever choose to write a list and submit it if they knew the odds, right?

I will not be wasting any more of my time on Listverse, and I urge you not to, either!

 

Note: I will publish my list here soon. Since they rejected it, I retained rights to it 🙂

 

Understanding Tax, Tech & Government Spending

No one likes paying tax. We do it because we have to, and because we accept the virtues of doing so — but we don’t like it.

As a result, nothing stokes fury like the idea a government body is being wasteful with the taxpayer money. One area that is always ripe for criticism is in regards to what public bodies spend on software. This is perhaps because many people don’t truly understand the necessity of good software; we may be in the Digital Age, but that doesn’t mean everyone comprehends what that means.

Due to this lack of understanding, at the announcement of a tech upgrade by a government, you will see the online commenters wondering why the government just doesn’t use the Microsoft package– it works fine for them, so why can’t the government make do? Why do they spend so much on something so basic?

Here’s why.

If You Pay Peanuts…

There’s a scenario we have probably all lived through when dealing with a public or private organization; we call to report something, and are asked if we can call back because “the system is down right now”. It’s irritating to hear, but it’s also a fact of life. Sometimes systems do fail and the person you speak to can’t do more than tell you that. If it’s a private company, you’ll probably take your business elsewhere, but with a government organization, you’re stuck waiting for the system to recover from its latest blip.

Systems will fail all the more if they are patchwork, antiquated, or a compromise solution that isn’t truly sufficient. The aforementioned issues have something in common: they are all associated with cheaper software. So when government bodies spend money on a tech upgrade it may seem like they’re throwing money around for no reason — but in reality, they’re being responsible. They know the people who call them have no one else to contact to resolve their issues and thus it’s important their system is sufficient. “Getting it right” tends to mean keeping their systems current, which in turn tends to be expensive. If you want to be able to actually discuss your issue with a public body, you should see these tech upgrades as a necessary part of that.

Responsibility Doesn’t Come Cheap

Another thing that public bodies need to ensure is the safety of all people covered by their jurisdiction. A corporate lawsuit may sink a private company, who will then be replaced by a competitor. For a public body this isn’t an option: the safety of the public is paramount. This necessity means that with everything from providing the right training to employees to upgrading their government management software, they can’t cut corners.

This doesn’t mean they never get it wrong, or that they shouldn’t come in for criticism when they do. What it does mean is that, as much as we might prefer to see them spending less, money has to be spent to guarantee safety. Recording the right details and having access to them when necessary can be the difference between — for example — preventing a serious road accident and not preventing it.

Why Does This Matter To You?

To put it simply, eventually all of us will be affected by the operations of a public body. As irritating as paying tax may be, try to remember we’re also paying for the safety and the promptness of the service we receive. If it means paying a few more cents in the dollar for that service to be better, then it may just be a price worth paying.