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.

Tech

Up and Gone; Or, The Ease of Relocating in the Digital Age

I recently had the pleasure of dogsitting for my parents while they were out of town, and in the process of temporarily relocating myself to their house, I realized something.

It’s extremely easy to pick up and relocate ourselves in an age where everything has gone digital.

This isn’t really a surprise. There are lots of books and blogs extolling the virtues of a location-independent lifestyle. Even for those of us who aren’t globe-trotting, it’s become remarkably easy to just… leave. For the two weeks I was living at my parents’ house taking care of their dog, I packed a single bag with a few changes of clothes and basic toiletries, a couple books, and my laptop. (Plus my phone, but that’s always on me and thus not really counted as packing.) That’s it.

All my other possessions were unimportant.

Granted, I wasn’t packing for a survival trek. I knew there would be food on hand and a kitchen to prepare it, a bed to sleep in, and functioning utilities. But it was interesting to see just how few of my own things I needed in order to be away from home for two weeks.

  • Mail was not a concern – all my bills are handled online, and personal letters have long been replaced by email, texts, and the social web. The sum total of my physical mail for two weeks was a pair of Netflix envelopes and a handful of unwanted marketing flyers and catalogs (which go straight to the trash).
  • Netflix and Hulu were at the ready for movies and TV. iTunes holds my music library. A couple books, which could just as easily have been library loans, and a very active dog sufficed for most of my entertainment.
  • Two weeks’ worth of clothing really doesn’t take up much space and can be packed fairly quickly. A few pairs of jeans, several t-shirts and overshirts for work, and some sweatshirts, plus a coat and gloves, all of which fits well in a moderately-sized duffle bag.

My laptop and my phone are undoubtedly my two most important possessions. Those two devices have replaced (or at least could replace) my mailbox, my media center, a bookshelf, paper notebooks, my alarm clock, and a phonebook, among other things. Digital storage is cheaper than ever, so I could easily back up all my DVDs to a portable harddrive.

Obviously there are some things I can’t digitize. My couch, for one. And as easy as it might be to order a pizza online, I like cooking, so my kitchen is here to stay. But the rest of my stuff? That’s just it – it’s just stuff. I’m planning to overhaul my belongings, going by the rule of “If I had to move right now and could only take one car, would this go with me?” My guess is that the answer will consistently tend toward “no.”

What else in my life can I digitize to reduce my clutter? Moving to a monastery and renouncing all worldly things is out of the question, but I’m open to suggestions.

Tech

Thoughts from MKE UX: Content Strategy on the Realz

Link: Thoughts from MKE UX: Content Strategy on the Realz

When we’re planning our content, we should not even be thinking about the site in terms of pages or the content management solution we’ll be using. We should be thinking of our websites in terms of content types and interactions. What do we need to communicate to our users? What is the best way for us to do it?

Great post on some of the major points from the first mkeUX meetup this last week. Too often we (as designers, developers, content managers, and the like) neglect to consider this slant – it’s not about the tech, it’s about the conversation with your users.