Category Archives: social networking

I love living in the future

Sometimes I have to stop and just wonder at the world we live in now. It’s pretty cool living in the future. Right now we have handheld devices that allow us to contact anyone anywhere in the world, give us directions, play games, take photos, share memories, and much more – all in a single device. We can communicate instantaneously with people we would otherwise never be able to via avenues like Twitter, Facebook, and others. For example, Whitney Hess is someone of note in my industry. I’ve seen her an An Event Apart and started following her on Twitter. Several times something she has said interested me and I responded. Several times she has responded back and even once, retweeted me. I say this not to “toot my own horn” but to use an example that happened to me to prove a point – this is not something that could have happened 30, 20, or maybe even 10 years ago. Not only did we not have these avenues of communication but we didn’t have the mentality of public communication like Twitter or social networking. I am a relative nobody – a simple, average, web designer / UI developer, i.e. nothing of note. But through the power of the Internet and these tools built on it I’m able to communicate with people like Whitney, able to see funny / silly videos Wil Wheaton posts, and able to be exposed to the wonders of Felicia Day – who’s content wouldn’t have had a viable medium even 10 years ago.

The growth and acceptance of the Internet has allowed someone of average means to reach out to audiences that would, typically, be closed to them. Content creators can post videos on YouTube that go viral and are seen by millions of viewers. Artists can put their comics on the web bypassing traditional print media and make a living doing the thing they love. A web designer of modest talent can build a couple of modest themes, put them out on the web, and have them downloaded over 9000 times with hundreds of sites using them still years later. One can Skype with a person 3000 miles away that you’ve known for years but never met physically and be able to see them in totality – their voice, inflection, body mannerisms, etc. Or play a video game with a friend in another state on Xbox Live. We are able to juggle vastly larger social groups with minimal effort because of the technology and tools we have today. It truly is amazing.

>Perhaps it’s because of my age that I notice this. Having grown up in the infancy of the web, having used AOL with the iconic dial up tone and chat rooms, remembering before Google was not only a site but a word, and having seen it all change – surging forth at near the speed of light in just a blink of time really puts it in perspective for me more than my younger cousins / friends / acquaintances for whom a cell phone has always been a necessity, rather than a luxury. A few years ago I got my first real smartphone – one with Android – and to this day it still amazes me that it has more power and functionality than the first laptop I owned. I’m also blessed in that my generation – more so than my parents – rode this initial wave and so we accepted it rather than feared or misunderstood it’s power and opportunity.

The truly amazing thing is this is just the beginning. While dangers lurk – threats against our privacy (many, ironically stemming from our willingness to over share), net neutrality, and “walled gardens” like Facebook (as AOL was once upon a time), etc – technology is going to progress forward. In just over 10 years when my niece and nephew are at the age I was when I first started on the web how much further will we be? How will this openness of communication and tolerance of other cultures, ideas and life choices due to increased exposure fundamentally change our society and world? It’s both incredibly promising and terrifying at the same time. Ironically, that’s exactly how it felt as a teenager, first dialing in to the “World Wide Web” promising unlimited information, potential and, possibly, danger.

So, tl;dr living in the future is amazing. More so when we stop and actually realize how blessed we are, the opportunities it grants us, and how it is truly only the beginning.

Why I’ve Recently Lost Interest In Reddit

I have been a lurker on Reddit for something like 4 years now.  I’ve been a user on Reddit for over 2 years now.  I’m not the best user they have – I’ve only had 1 (maybe 2) front page stories, most of links get little or no votes, I don’t comment often, I don’t up/down vote often enough, etc.  But I try and honor the Reddiquette as best as I can and add value to the site and community.

Lately though, I’ve lost interest in being a user of Reddit and gone back to more of a lurker.  Why?  A recent event that happened to me.  While perusing my feeds I came across this.  Having been using Reddit as long as I can, I was excited – I knew this was front page material, hands down.  I posted the link (stripped and from my reader) into the Reddit search bar to make sure it wasn’t already submitted – nothing.  Just to be safe I copied the image URL and tried that – still nothing.  Awesome – not only did I have guaranteed front page material (which proved to be right) but I had original material.  So I posted it.

“But wait”, you say, “that has 0 points, how could that have made it to the front page?”  That one didn’t.  This one did.  Now this is not a story about originality – that’s obviously a different link.  And it’s not about reposting content – Reddiquette clearly states “That said, sometimes bad timing, a bad title, or just plain bad luck can cause an interesting story to fail to get noticed. Feel free to post something again if you feel that the earlier posting didn’t get the attention it deserved and you think you can do better.”  If the original user had posted the link I used (even though he posted only a day later) I could have written it off as “bad title / wrong reddit” on my part – no harm, no foul.

So, what is my problem?  This line of Reddiquette “Look for the original source of content, and submit that. Often, a blog will reference another blog, which references another, and on down with everyone adding ads along the way. Dig through those references and submit a link to the creator, who actually deserves the traffic.”  Now, my example is perhaps bad – with an image it’s more difficult to track down the original source and perhaps failblog pulled it from somewhere else (though on the page, they attribute it to an upload from a user).  The one that made it to the front page obviously took the image from failblog and just cropped out the “FAIL” part though.  They knowingly violated this point of Reddiquette.

Going even beyond Reddiquette this leaves a poor taste in my mouth.  I generate themes for the WordPress framework and give them away freely.  While I don’t mind that people use my work on their site or adapt it to produce their own work I would mind if someone downright claimed it as theirs.  Original content creation is much the same – people work hard to write/produce something original and interesting.  When we do something like post a screenshot to imgur we’re robbing them of traffic, credit, and potentially income.  It’s just wrong.  It’s worse when it’s done intentionally.  What if someone just took a screen shot of one of The Oatmeal‘s comics, uploaded it to imgur and submitted that?  It would get down voted instantly.

My final point is that it’s not even just this case – this one just happened to hit me because it affected me personally.  If you look at this you’ll see at least several cases where people took a screen shot of a Reddit comment thread and uploaded that – directly stealing traffic (and ad revenue) from the very site they’re using.  Is karma really worth that much?  I’ve seen many similar occurrences where something is posted to imgur that is a screen shot of the original source instead of just posting the source itself.

I don’t know.  I’m not claiming it’s a majority of users – it’s not – but this minority has just left a bad taste in myself much the same as when Digg was controlled by a handful of users.  I stopped using and visiting Digg as a result.  Maybe it’s time I do that with Reddit as well.  It’s a shame because other than this it’s a really, really good site.

I actually thought about posting this to Reddit for a moment and decided against it.  Irony would be if someone else did and got a ton of karma.  I’d actually find that funny in fact.  And they wouldn’t be violating Reddiquette doing so.

If you’re following 1000 people you’re really following noone

So I’ve been using Twitter a lot more lately and, like most people, I’ve found it interesting but useful and useless at the same time.  How is that?  Let me explain.

So Twitter is interesting for many reasons.  Microblogging is a lot easier than blogging – as is evident by my hundreds of tweets and zero blog posts the past 6 months or so.  It allows you to follow interesting people and interact with them – I’ve actually responded to and gotten responded back by both WP Limits and The Ferrett.  It allows you to keep up with and see “behind the curtain” on interesting people – web comics I enjoy like Shortpacked and Questionable Content, awesome geeks like Felicia Day and Shamus Young, or even just keep up with friends or friend’s projects.  It even allows you to give feedback to companies and get replied back to.

So it’s useful for the above reasons – how can it also be useless?  Well, like blogging for every one meaningful @reply or comment you get there are dozen or hundreds of voices lost in the wind.  For the common man is there really any use?  Also, there is the follower dilemma.

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is for people follow people incessantly.  Now, following some people is part of the usefulness of the service.  But there has to be a tipping point.  At the time of this writing, and after doing a cleanup of the people I follow, I’m following 74 people.  I see hundreds of tweets a day – if not thousands.  The fact that people are limited to 140 characters helps but even at that I tend to skim a lot.  What is the benefit for someone to follow 200 people?  500?  1000?  It’s not like Facebook where you can friend someone and then hide them – so that you can interact with them if need be but they’re not part of your “stream.”  If you’re following someone on Twitter they’re always in your stream.  I suppose lists help but even they only serve to raise the tipping point by an order of magnitude.  Is someone following 10,000 people really following anyone at all?  They’re likely not reading most – if any – of the tweets in their stream.  So why bother?

I guess the real issue I have is the “popularity contest” aspect – “if you follow me I’ll automatically follow you” mentality that some people have.  Yes, you end up collecting followers like Pokemon and have a large audience to blast out your content to – but is anyone really listening?  In the cases of celebrities, sure, I can see the point to having thousands of followers – and even following them back as it makes them feel proud and connected to say “celebrity X follows me on Twitter!”  But I’m curious if anyone else ponders the fragility of the facade for the common man.  I guess my point is that unless you’re someone who would naturally have a larger audience – celebrity, web comic, organization – you’re only fooling yourself.

I’m going to experiment more with lists.  I haven’t really yet.  Maybe they’ll change my outlook on the “following many people” aspect at least.

Sweet Ma.gnolia

I’m a big enough man to admit when I’m wrong. Well, sort of. Almost since I began this blog, back when it was hosted on wordpress, I have been singing the accolades of Recently I had begun to expand out and see what else there is in the social bookmarking field. I had tried Blinklist and wasn’t too impressed. They imported my links but lost my privacy settings and the interface was not very pleasing to me.

Then I discovered ma.gnolia. I had written it off as a sort of neat little lower 2nd or higher 3rd tier entrant into the field but had heard good things about it. After signing up and using it for a week now – I’m hooked. It has a much better UI than or blinklist, it imported all of my links no problem, it generates your own link blog that you can claim on technorati and just overall I am really impressed. It’s designed by the smart people at Happy Cog Studios who employ one of my favorite web designers / developers / people – Jason Santa Maria. If I could half the design skill and coding expertise (along with a little Meyer knowledge) I wouldn’t be half bad.

So feel free to check out my link blog or my about me – and yes, that picture with the two people is me and my girlfriend. More on that later in the week.

Sorry I’m not better looking. Don’t judge me.

Random Tidbit: Check out the LEGO Digital Designer.