(I'm calling these "lab notes" because One Book, One Twitter is One Big Experiment. I hope you'll all contribute to these notes.)
Last night a tweet came in over the #1b1t transom. The content of the tweet—that the writer had barely started reading American Gods before having to go to sleep—isn't what struck me. It's that the author is a woman in Malaysia wearing a hijab. I was recently asked by Neha Dara of the Hindustan Times how I would define #1b1t's success. I didn't, but should have replied: "By virtue of the fact you're interviewing me." My deepest desire was to give many people from around the world with nothing in common one thing in common, and that seems to be happening.
Now on to the nitty gritty.One of the first wrinkles we've faced concerns whether to break book discussions up by chapter, using separate hashtags. We have established an official system of hashmarks. It goes like this:
#1b1t: General Discussion
#1b1t_1c: Discussion of Chapter 1 (and prologue material)
#1b1t_2c: Discussion of Chapter 2
... and on until we hit Chapter 19.
Why do this? I immediately thought this was a good idea because it seemed yesterday our traffic would quickly overwhelm the #1b1t hash. As always, I put the decision out to the community. More worrisome was the issue of spoilers, in which some readers give away plot points to other readers. There seemed to be a rough consensus that chapter hashes were a good idea. The question was what hash to use.
My initial suggestion was #1b1t1c (a paraphrased acronym for One Book, One Twitter, Chapter One). Others suggested #1b1t #1c, or #1b1tAG1, etc. etc.
Quickly it became apparent we had to wrestle with some issues:
Namely, if we separate out the chapter hash from the main hash—as in #1b1t #1c (notice the space!) then anyone searching for #1b1t is able to see all the chatter, and can then do separate searches for the chapter chatter. In addition, this allows all conversation around the book to employ the #1b1t hash, allowing One Book, One Twitter to trend. An eloquent (and damn persuasive) defense of this logic was written up this morning by @shamsensei.
However, I ultimately went with the current system for two reasons:
1) I think the spoiler concern is substantial. People just jumping on #1b1t shouldn't be exposed to information about later chapters, thus ruining their reading experience. Gaiman offers a thrilling rollercoaster of a book, and we don't want to ruin any of those thrills.
2) I'm not sure we do want to go EPIC, as it's known on Twitter. If we get on trending topic leaderboards, we'll become a spam magnet.
Am I right about all this? Dunno. One thing I'm concerned about is going back at this point. To try to impose a new system on everyone when there's already been a day of uncertainty might kill the project altogether. That said, if it's evident that the current system isn't working, we'll start a new one. Or everyone will do it with or without me because, as I've noted a zillion times, the coolest thing about this is that no one is running the show. Rather, everyone is. Awesome.
Let the experiment continue.