Nostalgia for interwebs past

And the rise of social has flipped the old writer/reader balance, restoring power to the reader. On social media, you share an article because you agree with the take, sure, but also because it says something about you, whether that fact is that you’re angry about a political issue, or that you like cute bunnies, or that you love Back to the Future. Your social media feed is a curation of things you want people to know about you. Inconvenient truths, negative views, or anything too dark will be pushed aside.

Source: 2015 is the year the old internet finally died – Vox

Thought-provoking piece. I’m of an age when it begins to be tempting to look back on the new, exciting world of blogs that I cut my teeth on, and declare it as the “good old days”. Before the dark times. Before Facebook.

The article above indulges in this thinking to a degree, but it also reminded me that a lot of what has changed just reflects the democratization of the web.

(The irony that I am linkblogging this in very 2005 fashion is not lost on me.)

Comments are performance art

About 30 seconds after I posted my tale of woe about losing a child’s precious videos from a faulty camera, people crawled out of the woodwork on two different social networks to shame me for not having backups. Before I move on to the meat of this post, a few points in reply to those criticisms:

  • Backups would have been good? No shit, Sherlock.
  • Yes, as a matter of fact, I do periodically offload the pictures from her camera. Sometimes (gasp) she takes new pictures, and there’s a period of time in which the files on the camera are the only copies.
  • Have you ever tried to fit a child’s camera into your household data integrity plan? Here’s a hint: imagine a handheld computer that is in an exciting and mysterious new location every single time it’s time to archive it! Sometimes that location is a mystery even to its owner!
  • Did it occur to you that perhaps the five-year-old child in question didn’t mention that she had precious memories of a dear friend on her camera, until after those files were lost?
  • Astoundingly, I don’t normally stop to catch up on my backup regimen while rushing to get the kids in the car for an outing.
  • Equally astonishingly, it did not cross my mind that inserting an SD card would be a high-risk activity. Silly me.

I have a sneaking suspicion that no one who responded to chide me has actual children of their own. But I don’t give enough of a shit to follow up on that conjecture.

In both cases, my critic was someone who is aware of me in my professional, technical capacity, and presumably follows me because they think I have some level of savvy. As such, I can’t imagine they thought that the concept of “backing up data” had simply never occurred to me before their helpful comment. So I can only assume that they took time out of their day just to shame me.

All this goes to reinforce something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, which is: public internet comments (I include Twitter replies in this category) are kind of broken by design.

There’s a fundamental tension in making a public comment, between communication and showmanship. Ostensibly, you’re trying to say something to the original poster (OP). But you’re also playing for an audience.

There’s pressure, in making public comments, to “score points”. It’s as if we’ve taken the notion of the “open letter” and made it our default mode of communication.  It’s like we’re all having presidential debates everywhere all the time: in theory, talking to each other; in fact, performing for the bleachers. Only instead of applause, we’re playing for “likes” and retweets.

Of course, this is one of those things that can never be proven. I can’t prove you phrased your reply in such a way as to win maximum approval from the peanut gallery. No matter how obvious, there’s always plausible deniability.

I did have one person admit it once. I forget why he was criticizing me, but I kept offering to start an email thread so that we could talk in more than 140 characters at a time. Finally he came out and said that he wasn’t actually interested in engaging with me at all. He just wanted to be seen disagreeing with me.

I don’t know that I can even claim this is bad per se; “speaking truth to power”, and all that. What I can say is that it’s not communication. It’s performance art.

It’s not always negative, either. Some of the best conversations I’ve had on Twitter and other public fora were ones where everyone involved was knowingly, joyfully playing to the crowd.

On the flip side, as I’ve been stepping away from social media, I’ve started to have some lengthy email conversations with a couple of friends. And it’s wonderfully refreshing. I’d forgotten how rewarding a weeks-long, leisurely paced, one-to-one correspondence could be.

In retrospect, I feel a bit silly for thinking of public comments as principally a communications medium for all these years. Which is not to say that I’m going to embark on a new era of trolling. But I am looking forward to doing more of my conversing one-to-one.

All the world’s a stage. If you want to play, make it fun for me. If you want to talk, my contact forms are easy to find. I’ll see you in email.

Of parental over-share

Today I learned that there are communities dedicated to the terrible scourge of parents “oversharing” about their kids on Facebook.

This amuses me. It’s funny because while I’ve drastically pared down who I follow on Facebook to just people closest to me, there are still a few people who are really little more than acquaintances whom I still follow. Why? Because pretty much all they post about is their kids. No shit, literally the only reason I follow some people is because they post about their kids.

If Facebook were 100% baby pictures I would be overjoyed. Birth talk? First solid poop? Bring it!

Go on and rant about “oversharing”. I’ll bet your parents overshared about you too when you were a drooling little bundle of joy and milk-poops.

The secret to great coffee

We have, at last count:

…and I’m probably leaving several out. We used to have a drip machine but my stepdaughter inherited it when we moved.

We have a commercial-quality grinder and we roast our beans (often from Sweet Maria’s) at home.

All of these devices make great coffee when used well. Each makes coffee with its own unique characteristics.

I do not own a special “pour-over” coffee maker because a) that’s what a Chemex is; and b) the “pour over” method is what every poor bastard with nothing but a funnel and a can has ever done. Making it out to be some amazing exotic new thing is silly.

According to the internet, each and every one of these devices will make the “best coffee in the world”, far superior to other, plebian coffee.

Coffee is good. Coffee is good for you. Mostly I drink it black. Sometimes I drink it with godawful amounts of whipped cream and flavored syrup. Sometimes I drink it with sweetened condensed milk. Sometimes I drink it from the gas station (and sometimes it’s surprisingly good there). Sometimes I drink it at Starbucks.

You wanna know what’s the best coffee in the whole world? You really want to know the secret? Lean in really close now…

The best coffee in the world is whatever coffee you enjoy with a good friend, or a with good book.