long form, short form, and communications frameworks for the Internet
And if you’re still reading after that title, carry on!
This is a port/cross-post of something I wrote for my friends on FB, but I want to share it with all the people I know and don’t know over on Twitter and on my blog. This isn’t a pro/con XYZ topic, it’s about how I see the world as long complex conversations. Because I see the world this way I really suck at not looking like an idiot on Twitter, forget not pissing off my friends in the process.
Over in the BBS and USENET worlds we had ideas like conferences, groups, and topic and discussion threads. Today I see a lot of “why don’t we discuss XYZ?!?” and I think, “but we do. There’s an XYZ conference and at least three or four ban/support XYZ topics in conferences like Current Events, Politics, and Today’s News. We’ve been talking about this weekly, if not daily, for the past 20-something years. Yes, some of us are tired of hearing the conversation on legalizing XYZ or making it a felony, but it’s there if you want to join.”
On Facebook there is no place where those sorted discussions happen, have a specific context, and are archived for future reading. I can’t easily say, “last year Bob and Alice had a big argument about this topic and did a bunch of research. If you start reading at Ban XYZ 2011 around post 37 you’ll see links to all the .gov sites that contain the stats.” Likewise, if I don’t care about professional sports, I can’t just unsubscribe from ProSportsTalk and have all that discussion removed from my feed. Go talk about football or baseball, have fun, I just won’t wade through it all every day.
Over on Twitter the posts are so short that it’s hard to get past posting URLs, simple statements of fact, opinion, or belief. Hell, that sentence probably wouldn’t fit on Twitter, much less something like this with paragraphs and quotes and such. There’s going to be no real discussion on Twitter as a result, and long-winded people like me end up sounding like idiots more often than not by trying to take a post (like this) and sum it up in 140 characters or less. Which is also to say, I’ll go back to using Twitter to post URLs for the public and not much else.
Where this all really breaks down is that emotionally charged events, from politics to crime to natural disaster can be hard to actually discuss in these forums. Chris Rapier and Fawn Fitter both started some, well, adult conversations on Facebook, especially compared to what is impossible to easily filter out on Twitter and that I refer to as “yelling”. So if you draw a line from Twitter to Facebook then keep going you get to the sort of conversational forums that I’d like to see more of. Yes, there’s lots of topic-specific websites these days and I do use them, but I’m not personally friends with people on those forums as I am on Facebook.
This lack of discussion context makes it hard to be relaxed about some classifications of posts, especially on various sides of a topic. On a more complex conferencing system than Facebook or Twitter, if XYZ is a crazy new diet we can make jokes about it over in the DarkHumor area and have a serious discussion about nutrition over in HealthEating. In the same way, there’s no conveient regional topics on Facebook for all of your favorite local restaurants there that I can avoid until a few days before my next visit to your town when I want to scope out where I’m going to eat. Right now I probably don’t care very much about the best seafood where you live, but a week before I visit I want a core dump of restaurant info.
So why is all this important? (And why are you still reading?) I think that for some of us, our Facebook and Twitter friend/follow lists are kept short, local, and relevant. I don’t think I’m friends with many people on Facebook that I wouldn’t go have a cocktail with after work, ride motorcycles, hack a 3d printer, or otherwise do fun, “real world” things. For those friends and I there will often be disagreements over politics, religion, or just sheer boredom with someone’s hobby. (NO really jet, shut up about lasers and 3d printers. I know, I know.)
I just made up the name “unintentional tension” for this. There’s probably a better psych term I could use, but at the end of the day, the difficulty in classifying our posts and finding ones from others leads to a lot of us having to skip things we just don’t want to read. I do want to read about your bicycle collection but I DGAS about quilting, and if we were chatting about something in person you’d probably skip the quilting just as I’d skip what is to you annoyingly dull trivia about how lathes worked in the 1950s under belt power.
FINALLY THE ENDING WHAT IS THIS THE HOBBIT?!?
So, I really am sorry if I’ve pissed you off or hurt your feelings on probably any subject I’m passionate about, you’re bored with, or the other way around. I’ve been in online conversations since the 80s, starting with the BBS then moving to USENET and later to The WeLL and Twitter and Facebook. For the most part, I don’t participate in these forums to poke reactions out of people, pick fights, or convert you to whatever OS I prefer. If we’re really friends in the so-called “real world” I’d like to keep it that way.
This entry is an example of why I suck at Twitter and barely pass over on Facebook. Some write comic strips, others write songs, a few write poems, a few more write books, but some us write a never-ending journal. Maybe it’s because I’m from the south or read too much Burroughs and Pynchon in college; but these dialogs, the long, complex, and sometimes tedious or boring is simply how I see and understand the world.
Change and Progress
The new Mountain Lion (ML) features in OSX required changes to the programming API and that resulted in a lot of vendors using ML as a release breakpoint. If you have the 2011 or 2012 version of a software package it will work pre-Lion, but if you want the 2013 version you’ll have to upgrade to ML. For me, that means buying a new MacBook as mine is on the teetering edge of not enough memory for ML. So, doing enough upgrade to run a Lion-only project means spending a lot of money to stay locked into the environment that otherwise doesn’t need an upgrade.
Or do I get a non-Apple laptop? I do more and more design work that would be easier if I could get to 3d apps on Windows, Visio, and other business-related apps. My Big Desktop Machine at home had always been some sort of UNIX workstation, transferring my data to a Big Apple Desktop worked nicely when OSX was released. I won’t lose any Mac licenses if I go to a Thinkpad, I can just transfer them to my other Mac and continue to use CS5, Omni tools, etc.
After a lot of looking and testing I ended up with a loaded Thinkpad XT220 — a laptop that can convert to a touch screen tablet. I spent twice what I’d have spent on a MacBook, but I think I came out ahead on the cost/features rule. Not only do I have a touchscreen laptop (that uses a stylus or finger), I have a dock with a DVD burner and a ton of extra ports, an external battery pack that gives me 9 hours of work time, wireless networking via mobile phone SIM, and a bunch of other features I’ve barely touched. (First app I purchased? VMWare so I could run an Ubuntu VM alongside Win7.)
What hit me during the transition and moving all my data (and life?) from MacBook to Thinkpad was not “Apple sucks” or “I love IBM” but “I needed and still need more change in my life”.
I still use Thunderbird and Firefox, but I’ve had to change a lot of my other daily apps. New address book, new calendar, new RSS feed reader, some new dev tools, new screen managers, new AIM client, and a lot of other little things.
Each of those “little” things brought change with it, and each change gave me a chance to step back and look at how I’d let Apple control my work environment. Sure, iCal was “free”, but like other “free” apps it cut into the Apple development market. Over in Windows land there are a lot more choices (that usually require a purchase) but I have more say in what I install and use on my laptop. Sure, there’s a lot of crap products out there but there’s also a wide range of 3d modeling, engineering, and other software that just isn’t making it to the Mac. Rhino 5 is going to be great for OSX users, but that’s only one of several high-end, high-performance modeling packages.
Even simple is not simple. I had to change over my RSS feeds and for the first time since we have had RSS feeds there was a chance to re-organize them. I deleted dozens of dead/zombie feeds that haven’t been touched in years and took the feeds I read and sorted them in a relatively different manner than before. NetNewsWire is still my favorite Mac app, but on Windows I had to find a substitute (picked FeedDemon). Moving to that substitute meant new models for reading, ordering, sorting, and finding my RSS news.
Calendar life also changed. I don’t know when this happened but Outlook really got cleaned up for solo/non-business use. It’s not the rathole I’m used to having at the paid office, it syncs with my phone and google and everything else.
Then there’s the new features that I’m still getting used to, like logging in with a fingerprint, real wireless networking with a mobile phone company, 6-9 hours of battery life, and something I’ll write about soon, way more buttons than any laptop needs to have.
Intro to El Wire class, Saturday, 14 July
– How EL-wire works
– How to solder the wire and assemble controllers
– Using EL-wire in clothing, signage and other projects
– Safety and design considerations
Each student will receive a starter kit with 2 meters of wire, an EL-wire controller, batteries and additional components. Additional lengths of EL-wire in a variety of colors will be available for purchase at the class.
More details, pictures, and video are on Hack Pittsburgh’s web site.
My loose plans to start a design and fabrication startup have turned into a ref’s orders.
“Game on”, as they say.
A sea change at work has made me remember it’s good to get off the ship while it’s in the harbor and I did. I’m still going to look around for a nice gig at someone else’s firm, but while I’m doing that I’m also going to be putting pencil to paper, soldering, printing, lasering, and welding.
What makes me feel good about this is how quickly some work has shown up. It’s not a for-a-living level of work, but it will be great additions to my portfolio and CV, and lead to more work.
For you digifab types, I’m also cranking up my lasersaur, reprap/makerbot, and general digifab hacking at the nerd blog.
head bumps and reading skills
One of the things the docs warned me about in rehab was that post bonking my head I might perceive reality a bit differently than before. I’ve noticed a few minor kinetic bits here and there, but they’re mostly related to two weeks of being in bed and losing some of my muscles. (I can play catch and walk backwards already, not sure I could do that before the fall…)
However, after bonking my head in the basement I also found the latest Jameco catalog, and something about it just isn’t right.
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