January 19, 2009

Clusterflock Book Club

It does exactly what it says on the tin. I propose a book club, to meet periodically and mull over a specific book. It goes like this:

We decide on a book, buy, loan or steal the book or pick it off our salubriously furnished bookshelves and re-read it, set a date for a couple or few weeks hence, put the date in our little iCals or Moleskine diaries, and get together and jive about the book on the proposed date. Sort of what we do already about shit, but you know, organised.

I got the idea to do this when Deron played Santa a few weeks ago and sent four of us copies of Clusterflocker Daryl Scroggins‘ book, This Is Not The Way We Came In, free gratis and for nothing. So the first book I would like the First Inaugural Clusterflock Book Club meeting to discuss, is Daryl’s. If you would like to participate, you can buy the book at Ravenna Press. I reckon a couple of weeks from now would be the time to do it. So, if you want to hop aboard the CFBC streetcar, and you don’t have a copy of This Is Not The Way We Came In, that means you’ll have to order it, like today, probably.

So. Suggestions please, regarding medium for our book club. I have already suggested a possible Skype conference, but last I looked, Skype only facilitated five people on any given conference call. Still, I think that would be fun. Any interesting technocratic ideas are welcome. Otherwise, we can conduct the conversation in the comments – our native home – but it’s not always the most real-timey way of doing things.

So, Sheila. You have been remarkably quiet: what do you think of the Clusterflock Book Club idea?


  1. Mike Dresser on January 19th, 2009 at 8:36 am

    A wonderful idea. For the longest time, I’ve been getting all my literary stimulation through book reviews and New Yorker author profiles. It’s enough to get me through conversations at the bar, but I could definitely go for hitting the primary sources.

  2. Sheila Ryan on January 19th, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Lucy, I’ve only been quiet on account of thinking about birds of prey and Samuel Beckett and . . . you know . . . stuff.

    I rather like the Skype idea. I shall ponder. But not too long.

  3. Cooper Renner on January 19th, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Thanks, Lucy. This is great! Using the comments might be a bit cumbersome, but would be the easiest way for the most people to be involved, I think, unless someone creates some kind of mass email which we can all “reply to all” to. Hmmm. If we use the comments, though, we will need a way to keep the entry at the top of the CF page over several days, and not get pushed off to page 2, etc.

  4. India on January 19th, 2009 at 9:32 am

    It’s possible to make posts “sticky” in WordPress, so that they stay at the top of the front page—but then they really do stay at the top, which would make it look like nothing’s been updated, to those who don’t scroll down. And I don’t think it’ll stay at the top of the RSS feed; not sure if you’d want it to.

    It’s also possible to add a “book club” link to the sidebar, but that’s a bigger aesthetic commitment.

  5. Chaim Haas on January 19th, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I’m with Skype’s PR agency and wanted to correct one simple thing. Skype can support up to 25 people (including the call originator) on a conference call. And, this can be any combination of Skype users (free call) and calls to landlines or mobile numbers (for which you pay).

    Good luck with your book club!

  6. Kathy HIlen-Smith on January 19th, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Thank you Skypeman!

  7. Deron Bauman on January 19th, 2009 at 11:03 am

    watch out oprah.

  8. Sheila Ryan on January 19th, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Yes, indeed. Thanks for the scoop on Skype conference calls.

    I do lean toward using Skype, at least in part, even though it’ll take some scheduling and some wrangling and we’ll be talking over one another and there’ll be that nuisance of the occasional dropped connection. Still, I really crave voices, something other than tap-tap-typing.

    And when you’ve got a good connection, as is the case most all of the time, a Skype transmission sounds way better than that of either a landline or cell phone. My landline or my cell phone, anyway.

  9. raynor on January 19th, 2009 at 11:06 am

    tokbox.com allows a group of people to webcam interface without charge. i have had mixed results.

    regardless, i am interested in involving myself.

  10. Deron Bauman on January 19th, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I think comments is the way to go, at least for now. that creates a public record, and a way for people not involved in the book club to glean something from the process which in itself will be a part of the site. as for rolling off the page, I say just bookmark the book clubs you are interested in and continue the conversation as you like. the comments will show up in the sidebar and people can follow along as they like.

  11. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Yes, I was thinking of the public record aspect also, and that would lean toward using the comments. Keeping the BookClub post at the top of the page seems a messy idea; I agree it would give a false impression of the site, and it would also put a lot of pressure on the BookClub to perform like some kind of clapping seal puppy. And we know what happens to them.

    I love that Skype’s PR has already been involved in the process, and I’m happy to hear that 25 people can be accommodated on a skype conference. In the spirit of experimentation, I’m leaning towards the messiness of the skype route, and I understand Sheila’s desire for voices in this kind of endeavour. I think that is an important facet of this kind of discussion, the ways that ideas expressed in the moment can inspire further ideas. It does, however, close the process off somewhat, naturally, unless we can find a way to conduct this kind of discussion with voices, in public, or at least record it in some way to post on Clusterflock as a record of the event itself.

    Does anyone know of a technology that can allow an audio or webcam conference to be recorded, so it can be subsequently uploaded in a post as a part of the CFBC process? I’ve used Jing in the past, but I’ve found it sticky in the wrong ways. It was, however, brand spanking new when I downloaded it, so it may have improved. I’d love to hear from anyone who has any ideas about this. This might just be the way to tie the room together here.

  12. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    And thanks for all your ideas so far. I’m delighted to see the idea greeted warmly.

  13. Cindy Scroggins on January 19th, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    I have a definite preference for comments, but might we have both Skype and online discussions? I’m never going to go the Skype route (hate phones), just as some people don’t want to type.

  14. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Well I would love it to be as open as possible, so that would ideally incorporate both. Here’s my latest idea, as clear as I can present it:

    We have a skype or other call conference – live – and record it. Upload it as a CFBC post, and then the subsequent conversation is open to anybody who wants to contribute in the comments.

    The initial conference can be held by anyone who wants to be involved also, up to a sensible maximum, perhaps in the region of 10 or 15 people, to allow time for everyone to contribute vocally, and also for ideas to expand. I find this idea exciting, and it allows the floor to be open to everyone in the traditional way also.

    We just need to find out how to record the conference, and also to see who might like to be involved…

  15. Brandon Hobson on January 19th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    A great idea. We could also discuss one of Cooper’s books as well.

  16. Sheila Ryan on January 19th, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I do like Lucy’s latest proposal. At first I held back from the idea of recording calls, thinking that it might be intimidating, thinking that the prospect of one’s ums and ehs and blurts being recorded for the ages might well clam a person up. But what the hey! them as wants to go the vocal route can plunge in, and them as wants to go the tip-tap-typing route can do that. And maybe there’ll be some overlap.

    Yes. I like. I like. And I like Brandon’s suggestion, though I’m thinking that maybe it would call for a bit more structure, as Mosefolket, fr’instance, contains a heap o’ pomes.

  17. Sheila Ryan on January 19th, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Okay, now with respect to Skype-ing, are we talking about participation limited to officially certified Flockers, with the accompanying commentary free-for-all being open to all comers?

  18. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Good question, Sheila (see? I’m good at this). My inclination is for it to be open to anyone who would like to participate, with the following conditions:

    1. That you have read the book
    2. That you are free on the time we agree upon to conduct the Live BookClub (the time we agree upon will be decided upon by everyone who is participating)
    3. That you register your interest before the doors close on the numbers. I’m thinking of capping it in the region of 10 – 15. 10 would probably be more comfortable, but I’m more interested in people’s enthusiasm than imposing an abstract number on how many people can be involved.

    I’d be happy to hear from people who want to be a part of this and want to discuss the book. I guess the fact that they’ve read this far in this comments thread makes them bonified enough for me.

    And of course, the comments are open for being the chaos zone they always are.

  19. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Incidentally, Cooper: Mosefolket! It clearly means “The Bogpeople” in Danish! Hurrah!

  20. Sheila Ryan on January 19th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I figured you’d figure that, Miss Lucy.

  21. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Also, to return to the very first comment left here, by Mike: I think it is endemic in the mainframe’s effect on us that we consume ‘information’, culture and art in bite-sized nuggets. How many people have clicked on a youtube or vimeo link only to see that it lasts over 6 minutes, and groaned at the commitment? This would challenge that considerably: a longish multi-voiced conversation on the topic of a book (albeit one that is composed of short-ish stories and fragments) in an inherently fragmentary and small-dose medium so you know, it might be interesting.

    It’s really just the comments section taken on the road.

  22. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    So, folks! Who’s in?

  23. Deron Bauman on January 19th, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I am, and I assume everyone who has commented?

  24. Andrew Simone on January 19th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I’ll say I’m in, but I don’t want to over-commit myself. Regardless, the book has been bought.

  25. Cindy Scroggins on January 19th, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    I should probably say here–since Daryl isn’t likely to say anything at all about this–that Daryl is not one who easily gets his toes stepped on. He genuinely welcomes thoughtful criticism of his work and actively seeks it out. So, in case anyone is worried that the initial foray into this book club will be a simple-minded praise fest, please don’t. It should be approached as if a total stranger wrote the book.

  26. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Excellent, Cindy. You just threw a log on the fire.

  27. Andrew Simone on January 19th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Honestly, Cindy, I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

  28. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    By the way, I have jumped into this pretty much blind, also. I have barely glanced at the book yet. Also, I left it in Brooklyn along with my contact lenses, they’re all being posted to me tomorrow…

  29. Phil Bebbington on January 19th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Lucy, I would love to say yes! my reading in recent years has been bad, I would love to be involved and it would be good for me personally. My main problem is timing, I will be away in a few weeks time when skype, will be difficult I would imagine, as might reading.

    I will say that I will get the book and read it and see how the timing pans out, if that’s OK? Please say if this is a tad vague.

  30. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Well Phil it’s all vague as yet until we settle on a time for it, and find out what programme can facilitate recording the meeting, but in the meantime I’m going to circulate some feelers about possible dates and times. You’ll be in the loop about the meeting itself, so feel free to join in if you find that you are free.

  31. raynor on January 19th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    if this bookclub is exclusive to clusterflock posters, then i shall participate as christopher walken.

  32. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Dude, you’re totally welcome to participate as raynor! If we start doing this in drag I think we might encounter problems…

  33. Phil Bebbington on January 19th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Thank you, Lucy – looking for my damn glasses as we speak.

  34. Sheila Ryan on January 19th, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Count me in.

  35. Dave Vogt on January 19th, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Can I participate as me and wear drag anyhow?

  36. Sheila Ryan on January 19th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I intend to get myself up as the young Luchino Visconti, so I don’t see why not.

  37. Dave Vogt on January 19th, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Checking out now. Will begin reading just as soon as it arrives.

  38. Phil Bebbington on January 19th, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Who can I come as – my hair is on the verge of being Bolan – I can’t sing though

  39. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Dirk Bogarde perhaps, Phil?

  40. Lucy Foley on January 19th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I’d love to hear you in drag, Dave.

  41. Dave Vogt on January 19th, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    So I placed the order on Amazon and it says my expected shipping date is 15 June. Should I be very very nervous? I won’t even live at this address on 15 June.

  42. Mary Jeys on January 19th, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Dave, I received the same message from Amazon. Perhaps you and I will be on a staggered book club in which we read the club messages 6 months before the book.

  43. Mike Dresser on January 19th, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Count me in. Exciting.

  44. Michael Smith on January 19th, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    I’m in. For the record, I think this is a great idea.

  45. Amanda Mae Meyncke on January 19th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I would like to play, as well.

  46. Lucy Foley on January 20th, 2009 at 1:38 am

    Okay. We got ourselves a party. I’m slightly concerned about the June 15 dates from Amazon. (exits stage left for quick emailing to publishers)

  47. Lucy Foley on January 20th, 2009 at 2:55 am

    Ok folks. I’ve emailed Ravenna about the Amazon problems, so until I hear otherwise, please order the book directly through Ravenna Press itself. I’ll let you know as soon as the situation is clarified. Sorry about this, Dave and Mary, I’m hoping this is just a matter of not-yet-updated info on the Amazon end, as I had been advised, but we’ll see soon enough.

  48. Rick Neece on January 20th, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Count me in. In our business book club for a little while we did online meetings. One member would be interviewed by the facilitator and folks could log on and speak if they had a mike, or type. I’m no tech guru, if I can find the link, its been a year, I’ll pass it on.

  49. Lucy Foley on January 20th, 2009 at 5:51 am

    That sounds pretty good, Rick. I’m also on the trail of actually recording the meeting to upload to cf. Still welcoming suggestions.

  50. Elizabeth Perry on January 20th, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Count me in, if there’s room at the table.

    http://www.talkshoe.com may be the application we’re looking for: simultaneous web-based conference call and chat, moderator can recognize speakers, can use phone or computer to call, can record for later podcasting, and it is free. I’ve called in to join a show, and it wasn’t hard to do.

  51. Rick Neece on January 20th, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Here’s the link, looks like it costs money at least for the “convener” of the meeting. I haven’t had much time to explore it though. I’ve been party to meetings held in this a couple times, for online training as well as our Business Book Club podcast. Seems like I remember some drawbacks but can’t remember what they were.


  52. Lucy Foley on January 20th, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Thanks Rick: that does look interesting and there’s a 30 day free sample but I’m leaning toward the simplicity and freeness of a basic skype audio-only conference. We don’t need anything fancy and skype is a technology a lot of people are familiar with, and have accounts with already. They’ve also worked out their information stabilising algorithms pretty well – the signal tends to remain constant. Gmail’s latest video feature is pretty great also, but it’s not set up for conferences, and not everyone is interested in a gmail account.

  53. Lucy Foley on January 20th, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Hey Elizabeth: your comment just came through to me now… that talkshoe looks promising, gonna have a sniff around it now… welcome on board.

  54. Lucy Foley on January 20th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Mary and Dave: some good news! I have been in touch with Kathryn Rantala – Ravenna’s editor in chief – about this problem with Amazon, and she will be happy to post you both out copies of the book directly. I’ll be in touch with you by email to get details of addresses, etc. Hurrah!

  55. Kelsey Parker on January 20th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Late to the invitation, but no less interested! Count me in.