Stop Patriot Act Mass Surveillance

We, as American cit­i­zens, have an oppor­tu­nity to put an end to mass sur­veil­lance. It requires some action on your part, how­ever. Pick up the phone and call your con­gres­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tives now.

More infor­ma­tion can be found at Fight 215.

A River Runs Through It

Words to Live By

Steve [Jobs] said:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Write down this quote and place it on your mir­ror, in your wal­let, and at your desk. Every day until you die, fol­low the advice.

Endless Possibility

Jonathan Gourlay wrote an arti­cle, Being and Nothingness and “Minecraft”, wherein he cap­tures the essence of the Minecraft experience:

No video game before Minecraft has presented the player with a world as simple, beautiful, and engaging as a box of random Legos or wooden blocks or loose change or sticks or shells… toys whose only purpose is to soak up human consciousness and light into being upon a human whim.

The sun is setting, so I need to get inside before the creepers come. Fear is essential to action, after all. Life would be dull without creepers.

There is no goal, no point, no reason at all in this godless universe for playing Minecraft. But then, there is no point to playing with blocks either. There are things you can do with blocks. There are things you can do in Minecraft. You can find an elusive saddle in an underground monster lair and use it to ride a pig. But you don’t get anything — no badge or narrative or points to spend at an online store — for riding a pig. Pig riding is an end in itself. When you have accomplished it, that is simply how you chose to live your Minecraft life. Quit to title. You are your life and nothing else, pig rider.

Even with the updates and changes to Minecraft, there is still a refresh­ing feel­ing and sense of excite­ment when you load up a new world. The sun is over­head, the land­scape is untouched, and the world is yours to shape. Simple, ele­gant, wonderful.

Social Disengagement

Two weeks ago, I wrote about deac­ti­vat­ing my Facebook account, as well as Instagram, to reclaim some time and cut dis­trac­tion from “social” net­works that were not adding any enhance­ment to my life. I kept a Twitter account active and also kept the LinkedIn app installed on my iPhone. Then I installed the Tumblr app so I could use it as a link blog and catch-all since I did not want to rel­e­gate my web site to that task.

Now, I have deleted the Twitter app from my phone. The Tumblr app and account are also gone. As my exper­i­ment with leav­ing Facebook pro­gresses, I feel less com­pelled to use any of these social net­works. They feel far less valu­able to me com­pared to my past inter­ac­tions. Some might argue that Twitter is the only place to get break­ing world news before any­one else, but I’m not inter­ested in hav­ing my eyes glued to a feed to “find out first” when I have my own life to live. Seconds are pre­cious. Time will con­sume our lives no mat­ter what we do, so we should make the most of that time.

I have decided that any link I think I may want to refer to in the future is best stored in Pinboard, out of the way yet acces­si­ble and archived for­ever. If I find that I have some­thing more to say about a link or an arti­cle that I read on the Internet, then the appro­pri­ate place is right here. If I am going to devote some of my fleet­ing time to writ­ing about some­thing, I should own it and host it myself. One of the issues with Tumblr is that while it makes it easy to pub­lish any media to the web, it is still an insid­i­ous social net­work that causes com­pul­sive fol­low­ing and feed read­ing which defeats my pur­pose for using it.

Twitter is not what it once was for me. I am not quite sure what it ever was other than a place to engage in some witty ban­ter with Internet and real-life friends, but that has faded over time, and now I would rather engage in face to face con­ver­sa­tion with friends.

I am done with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. Will I stay in retire­ment from these net­works? I hope so, although I have a friend who jokes that this is just my usual social net­work hate phase and that it will pass in a month or two. I hope not. I hope it lasts for a long time.

A big­ger con­cern for me is that so many web appli­ca­tions and sites have begun to rely on social net­works for their authen­ti­ca­tion ser­vices that they may become dif­fi­cult to avoid alto­gether. Many sites still offer to let you cre­ate an account with them, but most offer Facebook, Google, and Twitter as authen­ti­ca­tion options. I can appre­ci­ate the sim­ple beauty of sin­gle sign-on authen­ti­ca­tion and the sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of infra­struc­ture and oper­a­tions for com­pa­nies that accept these other authen­ti­ca­tion meth­ods, but I don’t want to have to main­tain an account with any of those companies.

It’s a mat­ter of trust. I might agree to use your ser­vice, but I will not use your ser­vice if you force me to use a Facebook or Twitter account to access it. I no longer trust those com­pa­nies with my infor­ma­tion, so I do not want to use them as an authen­ti­ca­tion method for other ser­vices. I don’t think that social net­works are the new way to engage peo­ple. In fact, traf­fic met­rics prove that search is still the sin­gle largest dri­ver of traf­fic. For my sites, RSS and e-mail also drive a large amount of traf­fic in. When I tried to use Facebook and Twitter to engage peo­ple, there was lit­tle to no traf­fic from those sites.

There’s a rea­son for this phe­nom­e­non. The social net­works do not want you to exit the walled gar­den, nor do the users want to leave them. Facebook would rather have me post an arti­cle on their plat­form than use my own site. Of course, I have tested that as well, and any­thing more than two short para­graphs in length is often ignored by the Facebook crowd. If you’ve read this far, it is likely that you are an out­lier on Facebook.

Facebook and Twitter do not make money if you leave their play­ground. Twitter is also not built for long form writ­ing. There are apps and util­i­ties that allow you to post long form writ­ing to Twitter, but it’s a mess to read and attempt to fol­low such posts. Twitter is a haven for mar­ket­ing and hash­tags these days.

Tumblr is great if you like long scrolling pages of reblogs, notes, and likes. And the amount of hash­tags on Instagram has become ludi­crous. I love some of the pho­tos, but the jum­ble of text is illeg­i­ble and detracts from the entire experience.

At the risk of fur­ther insult­ing the hard work and years of effort that bril­liant tech­nol­o­gists put into build­ing these fab­u­lous web appli­ca­tions, I will wrap it up. It’s enough to say that I do not find value in these ser­vices any longer. If you do, that’s all well and good, but my retire­ment from them is part of a larger change in prun­ing the iPhone of inessen­tial appli­ca­tions and time wasters.

It’s funny how the human mind works to spot infor­ma­tion to the cur­rent task. As I have been going through this process, I hap­pened upon the arti­cle, “Power Down”, by Jeremy Vandehey in my RSS feed reader. It is an excel­lent arti­cle and worth the 10 min­utes or less it takes to read. For those of you who think ten min­utes is too long to devote to read­ing, he pro­vides a social net­work style summary:

TL;DR – We are on our phones too much. They were built to enhance our lives, not consume them. Be a human.

Simple, and beau­ti­ful. Don’t let these life enhance­ments steal your time and thereby your life away from you. Consider the value, if any, they add to your life and adjust your behav­ior. Go talk to some­one face to face. Enjoy the flow of con­ver­sa­tion and inter­ac­tion. Be a human. Live.