Archive for the 'Technology' Category

The Social Media Are Not So New.

Friday, March 21st, 2014

[This is a reprint of a post I initially wrote in December of 2008. I haven’t done a thing to it yet, thus the broken image links, etc.]

Students walking the pier at St. Andrews,
where I studied the Reformation in a former life.

[Note: This is a lightly edited version of the talk I gave at the Austin Social Media Breakfast held on 2 December 2008.]

~ ~ ~

Because it seemed like a good idea at the time, in the mid-90s I took a master’s degree in European history, and because I was going for the glamor, I focused on the Reformation — Martin Luther, John Calvin, Henry VIII, all that.

Little did I know that my study of the social upheaval of the 16th century would come in handy today for understanding the social media of the 21st century. And little did you know that I would be here to explain the connection to you.

Lucky us!

So, in the next 15 minutes I hope my painless little history lesson will I’ll convince you that our oh-so-new social media are very much like the media that have gone before, not because the 16th century enjoyed good WiFi connections, but because people tend to use the media available to them for much the same human purposes. Read the rest of this entry »

I need a new computer.

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Sadly, I think they stopped making TRS-80’s — like the one I had on my desk as a teenager — 25+ years ago.

Seriously, my old IBM ThinkPad is on its last legs, wheezing along stoically but not really getting things done in a way you’d want it to. It’s time for me to shop around for something newer / shinier / faster / better. And so I turn to you, my willing thralls crowdsourcing audience, for advice on what to buy.

Purchasing criteria:

  • It must be a laptop — and smaller is better.
  • This will be my primary computer away from my company office, so it has to be a warhorse.
  • Less than $1,200, and ideally less than $1,000.
  • I’m not a gamer, don’t watch movies on my computer, and don’t use any graphically intense apps like Photoshop, so it need not be fancy from a graphics card / memory standpoint.
  • Open to buying a Mac, but I’ve been using PCs for a long time & have my methods down cold.
  • Primary uses: writing (mostly in Word), blogging, e-mail, light spreadsheets, lots of Twitter (using Air apps), often running two browsers at a time.
  • Open to used / refurbished, or would buy new if it’s worth it.

I’ve been very happy with my ThinkPad, and would consider getting a new one — but I’d like to hear as many good suggestions as I can get.

Your thoughts, O technophiles?


(Photo by Jeff Kubina.)

Great minds think alike.

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Remember a little while back, when I wrote this?

Needed: an app for matchmaking.

Well, someone went and built it, and it runs off of Facebook. It’s called Thread.

Looks kinda cool.


(Image by CHRIS230***, used under a BY-NC-SA license.)

Here, have a teacup.

Monday, May 10th, 2010

It will neatly contain the tempest that broke across Twitter over the past hour or two.

What happened: Everybody’s “Following” and “Follower” counts were reset to zero. These numbers show how many Twitter accounts you follow and how many follow you, i.e. they prove that you exist on Twitter because without them life would mean nothing.


  • “Oh, the noes!”
  • “What does it MEAN?”
  • “This is so Zen. I mean, it’s like, we’re speaking into the void? And no one’s there? So we become more aware of our own thoughts and how they evolve in our minds? And are made to think about how much of our minds are truly our own, versus how much we shape our consciousness in reaction to each other? And . . .”
  • . . .

But then, in the fullness of time, order was restored to the Universe when the Great Numbers retook their rightful places in every Twitter profile.

(It was a teeny bug, explained here.)

Ah, the silliness . . .


(Image by bikini sleepshirt, used under a BY-NC-SA license.)

SXSW underway, normal life to resume Wednesday.

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

I just slept ~10 hours to make up for the standing, walking, talking, listening, (moderate) beer-drinking, and not-sleeping that I’ve been doing since Thursday afternoon when South by Southwest Interactive started cranking up.

Next on my agenda: shower, shave, more coffee, and then back to the Convention Center for more of the same.

This year I’m trying a different approach by not lugging my laptop around everywhere. I’m tweeting a few things about what I’m seeing and doing (via @twalk and @Hoovers), and taking notes for blog posts — and nefarious world takeover plans — yet to come.

If you’re at the conference, feel free to ping me on Twitter so we can meet up. If you’re not on Twitter . . . well, you’re probably not at SXSW. But you could still ping me via e-mail, since I’ve got my Blackberry with me.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, I hope you’re having a similar amount of fun and stimulation.

Needed: an app for matchmaking.

Thursday, March 4th, 2010


Long walks on the beach, anyone?

Here’s the thing: I’ve been happily married for many years now, but I have numerous single friends who haven’t had success with standard methods of meeting people — including online services.

On top of that, I have an extensive professional and personal network of friends and acquaintances, and it’s always been a tendency of mine to get to know people on a personal level, even if we initially meet for business reasons.

BUT . . . I don’t know everyone who’s looking — not systematically — and I don’t quite know what they’re looking for. (I know she’s Jewish, but must her eventual mate be Jewish? Does he care if his girlfriend’s taller than he is?)

So I need an app that does at least these things:

  • Piggybacks on my existing networks, so I can extract all my friends from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, e-mail, and so on.
  • Allows me to select or deselect people based on criteria I choose, e.g. to eliminate everyone from consideration with “Married” or “It’s complicated” as their Facebook relationship status.
  • Allows friends to opt in for consideration in an unobtrusive way.
  • Allows friends to set key criteria. e.g. “Must: live in Austin, not smoke, enjoy wine” and “Preferred: liberal politics, loves reading.”
  • Suggests likely matches that I can review before I try to set anybody up.

Is this making any sense at all? Am I crazy? What features am I leaving out? Would there be any market for this? And, uh, can any of you build it for me for free?

Or should I just start posting personals here? ;)


(Photo by Brian Talbot, used under a CC-Noncommercial license.)

The fate of my Twitter DMs; or, why archiving is important.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

If you send me a direct message (DM) on Twitter, expect to have it deleted.

WAIT. I know that sounds like complete Twitter geekery, and it’s hard for me to beat that rap after posts like this recent gem, but stick with me here, because it’s not ALL Twitter geekery I’ll be spouting.

Okay, first the Twitter part. If you use Twitter you already know this, but to bring everybody else up to speed, here’s the context: Most of Twitter is carried on publicly, in “tweets” that will be seen by anyone who is following you on the service. (You can follow as many or as few as you like, whether or not they reciprocate. I’m following about 1,140 people and have about 3,300 people following me.) But if you and the other person are both following each other, you can also trade “direct messages” or DMs, which are private between the two of you. Basically, these are like text messages on your phone, travelling in a back-channel parallel to the public tweetstream.

So far, so good? Good.

If you use Twitter as much as I do, and for business purposes like I do, that DM queue can become like another inbox, because it’s an easy way for friends to get in touch with you. And there’s the problem: you can’t archive DMs. There’s no way to store just the ones you want, or to tag only the ones you want to remember. (You can tag public tweets that you want to remember by using the “Favorite” star.)

Since I can’t highlight or archive just the DMs I want — and since I need to remove things from my line of sight that would distract me from what I need to remember — and since in general I’m looking for minimalism in my inboxes . . . I delete every DM that I can.

Which creates another problem: Twitter’s architecture means that when I delete it for me, I delete it altogether and everywhere, so that it also disappears on the sender’s end.


I’d like it if Twitter would let me flag certain DMs for follow-up, or archive — but keep available in storage! — old DMs that don’t need follow-up. But until that happens, if you DM me . . . expect subsequent deletions. Please know that it’s not you, it’s me.

Now for the broader, non-Twitter moral to the story: maybe it’s a good thing that Twitter is so minimalist, as Leo Babuata suggests. Maybe there need not be an archiving or flagging function for DMs, or threaded conversations or any of the other things I’d like to suggest as improvements to Twitter.

But, in general, if you want to increase the utility of any digital communications medium that saves past messages (i.e. not cell phones, which don’t record every call, but e-mail, SMS, etc.), fix it so that a message can be live (in the inbox), dead (deleted), or archived (out of the inbox, but not deleted).


(Photo by Andy Ciordia, used under a Creative Commons Noncommercial license.)

The Day of the E-mail Demon Legion.

Thursday, February 11th, 2010
They dropped their swords and ran.
Because that’s how scary I am.

I was going to write something about how this legion of demon e-mails almost caught me unawares, nearly overwhelming my inbox in a way that could have tipped the scales away from civilization as we know it and toward bloody chaos.

But then I thought: b-o-r-r-r-r-r-i-n-g. And besides — I’ve written that post. (Moral of the story = cut your inbox load down to size.)

Anyway: Demon legion. Me, all by my lonesome, standing in an empty field. Beat them back with nothing but a spear and a proper attitude.

So that was my day. How about you?


(Photo by Shane Huang, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

My Nerd-Fu Is Weak.

Monday, February 8th, 2010

That’s what I learned during several hours of frustration yesterday. As I mentioned on Friday, I wanted to spruce up the backend of my blog this weekend — it’s been overdue for updates for, uh, a while — and . . . there went half of my Sunday.

Looking on the bright side, some good things did happen. Among them, (1) I have a couple of extremely thorough manual backups of my blog tucked away in safe places, (2) I know a lot more about upgrading WordPress than I did, and (3) I have a fair idea of what I need to do next, even if I’m unclear about how to do it.

As if I needed convincing, I was also reminded of the generosity of my friends, since no less than four people of strong Nerd-Fu responded to my piteous cries on Twitter with offers to help.

Updates as warranted. Meanwhile, I’ve backed out every change I made yesterday so as not to interrupt your bloggish enjoyment. (At least, I think I backed out everything — please let me know if you run into any glitches.)


(Photo by Siebren Kwekkeboom, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

Please pardon my nerdcrush.

Friday, January 29th, 2010

I am filled with what some call SQUEE.

And why, you may ask?

I’ll tell you why: because Doc Searls — yes, THAT Doc Searls — made a Twitter list called “postcluetrainians” . . . and he put ME on it.

Believe me when I tell you that the recursive nerditude of this (Searls, Twitter, The Cluetrain Manifesto) has not escaped me. But believe me, also, when I tell you I haven’t had this much nerdcrush squee going on since Kathy Sierra commented on a post here back in October.

That is all. You may now carry on with your normal activities; I hope you’ll bear with me, though, if I remain mooney-eyed for a little while.