Autumn Leaves

Crisp air and the scent of decay­ing leaves mark the sea­son col­lo­qui­ally known as fall. I revel in the thought of pil­ing leaves high and jump­ing into them with my son. 

The sea­son harkens the upcom­ing win­ter, but despite wishes for snow and sled rid­ing, I am in no rush for this to pass. Time moves swiftly enough. 

When autumn leaves, so ends another har­vest of deli­cious fruits, fun expe­ri­ences, and fond mem­o­ries in a year of laugh­ter, love, and growth. 

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 on Bygone Bureau, 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.