Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Going Critical

Back in my days as a nuclear chemist/technologist we used a term, I am sure everyone has heard it, even if they don't understand it, for when the reactor was capable of generating a self-sustaining reaction. This term was called the state of criticality, or the action of taking the reactor critical. In most popular fiction, this is seen as a bad thing, with someone shouting "Oh no the reactor is going critical!!!"

Of course , real life is seldom if ever reflected in movies or fiction, otherwise these things would be called reality. Criticality is a required state for the nuclear reactor to reach a state of self-sustaining reaction. Essentially it means that the reactor core on average is producing more nuetrons, a little bit over 2 generally, per fission which allows for losses during the fission process (absorption of the nuetrons that doesn't produce fission, or leakage of the neutrons from the core.) A reactor can be sub-critical, where there simply aren't enough nuetrons to sustain a self-perpetuating reaction, critical, where the neutrons produced are just enough to make up for losses, and super critical where the reactor is producing more neutrons than needed to sustain a reaction. The term most of the writers are looking for when they want to portray a problem with a nuclear reaction should be "Oh no! The reator is super-critical!".

So what, you are probably saying, what does this bit of nuclear trivia have to do with regular life? Well, each reaction, if it is to be self sustaining, must reach a critical state. What this critical state for reactions of course varies for the type of reaction. For example, let's say someone sends out a spam email about rutabagas. Rutabagas are not very interesting vegatables, but, if you can get off enough emails to enough people who are interested in rutabagas the email will continue to circulate and take on a life of its own, essentially going critical in the espace.

This notion of critical mass for a successful email campaign of course also carries over to other forms of publicity and all PR shops hope for their campaigns to reach a critical mass of interest where they takes off on their own. Usually once a successful formula for reaching a critical mass in an ad campaign is found, with minor tweaks it can be applied to others. This also known as "going viral".

So, why have I been thinking about this? Well, of course there is my professional life where we hope each new RamSan SSD we launch will reach a critical mass in the storage world, where essentailly word of mouth does our work in selling it for us. Then there is my personal life.

If you have been following my recent posts you know I have been dabbling in self-publishing. Of course anyone who publishes anything wants it to reach a critical mass in its publishing domain, whether it is my technical, Oracle books, or my self-published fiction books, I want them to reach a level of popularity that generates its own publicity and of course, sales!

Well, enough lunch time musings. Be safe and enjoy life!



Jenny said...

Hi Mike,

You don't know me, but I found you through a News item on your Authorsden account. First, let me say congratulations for completing three books. That's a huge accomplishment, and I hope your self-publishing venture works out well for you. You might want to check out the Self-Publishing subforum at the Absolute Write forums for information and support.

The News item that caught my attention was one stating that you had a story accepted to Dyers Eve, an anthology being put together by Lake Fossil Press. However, Lake Fossil Press is run by Nickolaus Pacione, who is well-known on the Internet as a black hole for writers. He has a long history of abusive confrontations with many folks -- including me after I left a critical comment on a story he had posted -- including death threats.

Please don't take my word for it, though. You can Google "Nickolaus Pacione" and see what turns up on the first few pages. You can also check out Lake Fossil Press on Preditors and Editors and Absolute Write.

I support struggling authors, and I would hate to see your career and your reputation be tarnished by allowing your work to appear in Dyers Eve. There are other good anthologies out there to submit to.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Best of luck to you, what ever course you choose.

Mike said...


Checked out your blogs. Quite a bit of anger there. I worked with Nick on two of the other Tabloid Purposes, I was paid according to the contract and never had any issues. I commented on one of Nicks stories at his request and he didn't talk to me for a while, but hey that's life.

I psted the story to him based on past work with him, didn't think I needed to check him out on the web.

Anyway, it seems this has become a kind of crusade for you, remember that these things feed on themselves and can take over your life. I used to work for a fellow who made a life out of such things, I really don't have time for them personally.

My suggestion, if you don't get along with Nick, walk away and ignore him, you will feel better for it.

Jenny said...


I've only gotten angry at Nicky once, and that was when he posted a self-indulgent rant at Associated Content about how, by holding him accountable for his actions (which he claims are because he is bipolar), we are denigrating all people who have mental illnesses. I didn't even get angry when he threatened to kill me in June of 2007 (his Xanga blog was shut down for that threat).

In this era of Google and the Internet, I think it's valuable to check out any publisher that you are considering, particularly the small ones, to see if they are legit, if they are honest, etc. Then you will be able to make a more informed decision about whether a particular publication is a good fit and a benefit to your career or not.

I happen to think, based on what i have observed over the past few years, that Nicky is not a benefit to anyone's career.

All the best,