November Flew By

I dressed up as a consistent blogger for Halloween, and then let the site lay fallow for November (two posts! Or three, if I actually get this post out today). Sometimes that’s just how things roll. No shortage of things to talk about – it would’ve been easy to fill the blog just with posts about the continuing train wreck that is the Twitter acquisition, for instance. Life’s just been a little busy, between work and Thanksgiving and my girlfriend moving up to Portland (I’m actually in San Francisco right now, helping prep for the move).

Here Be Rambles

An Implosion

Twitter is imploding currently, for a multitude of reasons. It’s been a while coming (I’ve talked about this several times before, for what it’s worth). I have a lot of mixed feeling about this: some schadenfreude, some grief at the disintegration of a service I’ve spent nearly 15 years on, some anger and disgust at how Muskrat has handled the entire situation. It’s a train wreck I’ve had a lot of trouble looking away from.

I suppose it’s worth clarifying: I realize the service itself is still technically functioning (there’s been some degradation in some areas, but the core service is marching along). But it feels… well:

That’s the vibe. In some ways the chaos is actually fun, but in a “last days of summer” sort of way.

SO, I’ve dusted off my Mastodon account, and have been using FediFinder to pull in as many people from my Twitter lists as I can. (It’s pretty straightforward: link your twitter account and your mastodon account, and then it searches your follows for mentions of their mastodon account, and builds a CSV file that Mastodon can then import automagically.)

Next steps is figuring out how to get everything hooked up so I can cross-post effectively, in a non-shitty way. I’m sure there are already plugins to do it, but figuring out which one to go with I suspect will be a little trial and error. Also: if you’ve got a mastodon account and I haven’t found you yet, please let me know! I’d be happy to follow and keep in touch.

They Live!

Been pondering on a longer post, but in the meantime, I wanted to welcome the Nielsen Haydens back to the blogging fold. Theirs was always a thriving community above and beyond being a blog, and I’m glad to see them back. (Also, as mentioned in their post, and again here, if you have experience migrating a complex blog from old Movable Type system to something more modern like WordPress, do please reach out to them – they’re good folks.)

Get Blogging

Ben Werdmuller put together a nice site laying out current tools for blogging, and why you might want to start. If you wanted a good summary of the state of things and what to try, it’s a good site to check out!

Not much to add in, other than that I agree, it’s nice to do and it’d be swell to see more folks blogging again. Do you run a blog? Let me know, I’d love to add it to my rss feeds!

Engagement is Not Engagement

John Green’s latest vlogbrothers video touches on something worth thinking about:

He’s talking about the low-calorie social media debates that drive what we call “engagement” – namely, more comments and likes or dislikes – which leads to increased view counts, and higher priority in algorithms (whether on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere). I’m calling it low-calorie social media because these sorts of debates are easy to have an opinion on, but they’re not substantive (and I’d argue, often not nutritious either).

Actual engagement – something more lasting and impactful than just a like or a passing comment – is hard. It’s hard to build, it’s hard to sustain, it’s often messy. But it’s more fulfilling. Even when it leads to challenging questions or work to be done, you can at least feel like you’re making some sort of progress on something that is meaningful, whether that’s some form of volunteering, philanthropy, or do-gooding, or if it’s just deepening connections with either individuals or a community.

I think John is right that there is a place for those “instantly debatable” questions and topics. But I think it’s a lot like junk food: it’s fine as a snack, but if that’s all you’re eating, it’s just going to make you sick.

Now, Now

Fun little concept, the “now” page. From their about page:

Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.

Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.

So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.

Maybe I should put together one of those. And of course, the name reminds me of the classic “when will then be now” scene from Spaceballs:

How to Enjoy the Internet

Via Neil Gaiman’s tumblr, Ezra at ghostonly has an excellent post explaining some simple steps you can take to get back to enjoying yourself on the internet. It’s a good list.

#4 – Learn to say, “It’s none of my business.”

Don’t understand someone’s desire to use neo pronouns? None of your business. Can’t understand why someone is a furry? None of your business. Curious about how someone who talks about being poor can have a Starbucks in that last selfie they posted? None of your damn business.

[…]

If you have genuine questions from a place of good faith (i.e. what inspired you to use neopronouns?/what do you pronouns mean to you?) Go for it. But if you’re only asking questions to draw negative attention to someone or make them feel bad or to other them, you’re just being a nosy asshole.

Minding your own business is also good for you because – and I mean this genuinely – feeling entitled and superior is fucking exhausting. I know, because I’ve been 20 before. You will have a way better time online if you just stop caring about shit that doesn’t concern you.

Go read it, I agree with the whole damn thing.

Same Old Playbook

Over at the Verge, Adi Robertson has an article calling out some of Zuckerberg’s recent comments about an “open” ecosystem for VR being wrong and misguided on multiple levels. The comments in question include such bangers as:

In PCs, I think you’d say that Windows during the ’90s and 2000s especially was really the primary ecosystem in computing. The open ecosystem was winning.

Mark Zuckerberg

Which, uh, no. Windows was not an open ecosystem. Microsoft in general wasn’t an open ecosystem. Anyone who ever had to try and open a Word document in some other tool at the time can tell you that. They’re doing a lot better these days, but that’s after both legal and economic pressure to do so.

Microsoft was so far from meaningfully open that it was almost broken up by regulators. It was so notoriously domineering that we got a whole movie about a Bill Gates stand-in who murders programmers. If anything, it’s the kind of reference point that I personally might avoid if I were fighting antitrust suits across multiple continents! To the extent Microsoft is open, it’s partly thanks to years of intense legal pressure that Meta is only beginning to face.

Adi Robertson

(I did think it was weird they called Netscape a “startup”, and that particular line I think could have been phrased better – Internet Explorer may be a joke now, but it a) wasn’t then, and b) wasn’t decades old.)

What the article (and Zuck’s comments) really drive home to me, though, is that they’re basically running by the same playbook they did for Facebook. Which is to say, talk up how things will be interoperable, encourage folks to buy in, and then once they’ve captured a good chunk of the market, close the doors. You offer enough partnerships and deals with other services that it looks like you’re playing nice with others, but at the cost of an actually open ecosystem, and at the cost of actual interoperability. The little guys get screwed first, but again, once they have enough of the market, no one is safe. It doesn’t take much — shutter an API or tweak an algorithm, and suddenly you’ve ruined the ability for others to function. (This has happened repeatedly, such as shutting off third party access so content has to be created in-house; deprioritizing/burying non-FB links to content; dictating an algorithmic pivot to prioritizing video content, then back again; charging pages to “promote” content if they want their content visible to subscribers… the list goes on and on.)

I’ve already commented on the fact that I don’t think VR is ready for widespread mainstream adoption. I do think some of the work they’ve done with the Oculus and Quest is interesting. But there’s no way in hell I want FB/Meta anywhere near the levers of control for the development of a “metaverse platform”.

Lilo and Stitch Got it Right

Over at Vulture, Bilge Ebiri has a great interview/retrospective discussing Lilo & Stitch, and what made it so good. It’s worth a read if you liked the movie, or even if you just wanted a better sense of the inside scoop of how things get made.

DeBlois: When we arrived in Florida, we knew these people because we had worked on Mulan with them. That was a difficult film to finish. There were lots of divorces and ailments that came out of that process. I remember myself working daily until well past 11 p.m., listening to people riding the Tower of Terror and poor custodians pushing around vacuum cleaners in these trailer buildings. So we made a decision. We sat down with the entire crew when we got there. We said, “Okay, here’s the deal. We have a lot less money. We have less time. But we want to figure out how we can make this movie so that everybody goes home at night to have dinner with their loved ones. Everybody gets a weekend. We’ll figure out how to make this and be happy doing it.” That became the spirit of making the film.

I still remember the first time I saw the movie – it was 2002, it was hot out, and we wanted to catch a movie since the theater would be air conditioned. I think we’d seen a trailer for it somewhere, figured it’d be cute, and so we went. I’m really glad we did.

Now, I don’t want to make it out to be some revelatory experience – it’s not going to blow your mind. But it is a remarkably well made, thoughtful, fun film. It has a lot of heart, both in the story and performance, but also in the animation and the subtle details. It wasn’t “designed by committee” and you can tell.

The Work Day Broken Down

From Melanie Curtin over at Inc: the average amount of productive work that happens at work is lower than you think.

Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.

That’s right–you’re probably only productive for around three hours a day.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.8 hours every day. Yet a study of nearly 2,000 full-time office workers revealed that most people aren’t working for most of the time they’re at work.

Melanie Curtin

What really made me laugh is that when the “missing” time is broken down, it’s not even including stuff that is unproductive but still technically work, like being stuck in often endless meetings that often don’t really matter for half the people in them. It’s literally just other random cruft like socializing, reading news sites, et cetera. (This article reminded me of a conversation I had with an old boss. During a 1:1, I was lamenting that I felt like I should be making better use of my time. He pointed out that if you were productive for even 5.5 hours on average, you were frankly a top performer. Something I continue to try and bear in mind when I’m feeling bad about the occasional unproductive day.)

Obviously, you should make the most of the productive time you actually manage to get! But also, maybe don’t beat yourself up too much when you end up having an off day.