Personal

Five Things I Wish People Knew About Me

Amber Naslund had a great post a little while back, “What I Wish More People Knew About Me” in which she lists a handful of things about herself that maybe weren’t that well known to others, but should be.

Social media can create really superficial vantage points. We can see a few tweets or a blog post or a Facebook status from someone and think we’ve got them all figured out. So much nuance can be lost in the midst of snippets of electronic and fleeting communication.

Absolutely true. We live with a stream of constant tweets, check-ins and status updates, and yet how much about these “friends” do we really truly know? And how much about ourselves do they know? My guess? Not much. And so Amber lists a handful of things about herself that help us get a better sense of who she is, then in true internet fashion issues a call for the rest of us to share alike.

So, doing my best to avoid sounding narcissistic, here are a handful of things I wish people knew about me. Warning: candid revelations below.

Continue reading “Five Things I Wish People Knew About Me”

Personal, Tech

Losing the Signal to the Noise

Bruce of Milwaukee’s own Roll Mobile posted an article on the tendency of social media users to produce content the way porn stars produce movies: quantity over quality.

Social media is no longer a fad; it’s a trend. Which means it’s here to stay, even if its form morphs and evolves over time.

But like any trend, there are those elements that hinder its growth and opportunities.

For social media, I see that hindrance being the widespread acceptance of quantity over quality. Twitter, Facebook, and blogging platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr make it easy for us to publish our every thought. Couple the ease of use with the fact that mobile devices allow us to do this from anywhere and at anytime, and suddenly people are communicating their thoughts louder and more often than ever.

This is both good and bad.

Because the chatter is so loud, and being expunged so fast and furiously, many of us feel the need to match that in order to have our own messages not get lost in the masses. It becomes sensory overload after a while.

Social Media: The Porn Stars of the Communication Medium from Roll Mobile

Amen, Bruce, amen. I know the feeling well. Late last year I posted on my own sense of oversharing – not in the sense of sharing too much detail about myself, but sharing too often; creating too much noise and not enough signal. Since then, my frenzied output on Twitter has decreased steadily, though I still feel occasionally like it’s still too much.

It’s so very true that in the world of social media, especially on Twitter, you feel a need to be posting that often. Depending on who you’re following and when you check in, your tweet stream can move very quickly. You toss something of your own in, and it’s already been washed downstream in the blink of an eye. But you’re so damn clever/inspiring/knowledgeable/informed! People want to read your every joke/quote/link! However can I make sure they don’t miss out? Obviously the solution is to just post more often. Fight the flood with a flood of your own, right?

But that’s exhausting. No one can really keep up with that kind of deluge regularly. So my renewed goal is to unplug more often. Tweet less. Check Twitter less. If there’s something important, it’ll find me eventually. William Powers, aka @hamletsbb, wrote a book titled Hamlet’s Blackberry on “staying human in a digital world” in which he explains how it’s a human necessity to get away from the flood once in a while (I had the pleasure of sitting in on his SXSW presentation).

So that’s what I intend to do.

Less noise, more signal.

Personal

#nerdhumor

So, um, this happened yesterday:

'Today is 4/04, TODAY NOT FOUND.' Over 1200 favorites so far.

It was posted totally on a whim; I expected maybe a handful of people to star or retweet it. Instead it took off and got massive visibility. As of the time of this writing it had been retweeted 1231 times using Twitter’s native retweet function and – according to a quick search via the Twitter API – over 600 times by people copying and pasting it, retweeting others who had commented, etc.

I’ve never had anywhere near this kind of widespread attention to any of my tweets in almost a year of Twitter activity. I’d love to spend some time analyzing the various non-native retweets to figure out the progression – who commented on it, whose comments got retweeted the most, and how the tweet evolved as it went. Surprisingly, the vast majority of these stayed in the original form. A few people posted it as a “via @tomhenrich” tweet, etc, but most of the retweets I saw kept it as a proper “RT @tomhenrich” format.

Nerdy highlights: I got retweeted by both @charliejane and @bonniegrrl! Mostly I’m just happy to see there are that many people on Twitter that appreciate a good nerdy HTTP status code joke.

What’s really weird is how many people kept retweeting it today, when it’s no longer 4/04. Date-based humor knows no bounds, apparently.

Personal

Pre-SXSW Overload

Tomorrow I get on a plane and make my way to SXSW Interactive for the first time. I decided last year that I really wanted to attend a big conference like this at least once, and that this would be the year. I’m ridiculously excited about geeking out for a week in a much warmer climate than Milwaukee offers in March, but I’m also a bit hesitant. (Not that I’m going to cancel my trip, even if I could at this point.)

Mike Davidson wrote a post yesterday on the decline of SXSW that meshes pretty well with what I’ve heard from other attendees. Brief excerpt:

…there are 45 THINGS GOING ON during many slots. That is not an exaggeration. 45 panels. Here are the problems this causes:

  1. The whopping 1006 panels makes trying to plan your schedule an absolute, fucking nightmare. It’s painful. […]
  2. With 45 panels per time slot, you’re going to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 to 15 panels in each timeslot that you would have liked to attend but can’t. This creates an annoying feeling in you that you are missing more good stuff than you are actually seeing. It’s a terrible incarnation of The Paradox of Choice.
  3. Because there are now an astounding 1822 speakers at this conference, the chances of them sucking royally are even higher than they were before. I remember thinking to myself in 2005 that about 25% of the speakers were great, 25% were good, and most of the rest were just so-so. With each passing year, those numbers have shifted steadily downward. […]

I can definitely attest to this. Not only are there an absurd number of panels being presented at any given time, a vast majority of them seem to be cookie cutter versions of each other. Social media this, marketing budgets are going social that, you too can be a rockstar ninja startup. Not that there’s any shortage of ways to arrange your schedule. The official schedule of course lives at SXSW.com, but you could use sched.org, Lanyrd, sitby.us and so on. None of them sync with each other (actually sitby.us lets you import your calendar from the SXSW site).

Planning out a rough list of what panels I want to see when has been a disaster. Just about every time slot has at least five different panels I’d like to sit in on, but of course I can only do one at a time and they’re scattered throughout the city. And as Mike notes, there’s no guarantee that any of them will be actually informative and entertaining (I can hope for at least one out of two, right?).

So as excited as I am for this thing, I think this will be not only my first year there but likely my last. We’ll see how I feel in a week.

Tech

Own Your Data

A partial reconstruction of a discussion between Jeffrey Zeldman, Tantek Çelik, and a few others on the merits of self-hosting social content and publishing to various sites rather than aggregating locally from external sources.

I’ve been following discussions like this with some interest lately. Jeremy Keith posted a piece on his decision to self-host his bookmarks and cross-post to Delicious, rather than enter them in Delicious first and rely on their API to get his data out. Stephen Hay wrote a similar post on a shift in the way we post and consume content given the plethora of social content-sharing sites in existence today:

For a while we’ve posted our data all over the internet on all types of services. These services provide APIs so we can access the data we put into them, so that we can do things with that data. Read that again.

The prime example of all this lately is the social bookmarking site Delicious. In December 2010, a slide leaked from a Yahoo meeting indicated that Delicious was to be shut down. People on Twitter and elsewhere on the web collectively freaked out. Some people had thousands of bookmarks that would seemingly be gone, lost forever at the whim of Yahoo. People started to wonder if someone should instead build an open-source version of Delicious, and others pointed out how extraordinarily hard that would be. The end result being, people are starting to realize just how frail our data is. We post photos, articles, tweets, and whatever else we want, to lots of different sites, but we don’t actually have control over that data once we hit “post.”

So is it better to self-host your content and push that data out to separate services, or post directly to those services and pull your content into local backups after the fact? I don’t have that answer. But I did find this exchange on Twitter to be quite fascinating, and wanted to have some sort of linear record of it for posterity.

Update (Jan 10): Jeffrey Zeldman expounded on his thoughts from yesterday in a post on his own site:

We can’t preserve social relationships connected to our data. I can save my photos but not nice things you said about them.

Own Your Data on zeldman.com

Update 2 (Jan 10): Tantek has posted his own follow-up as well:

I’d rather host my data and live with such awkwardness in the open than be a sharecropper on so many beautiful social content farms.

On Owning Your Data on tantek.com