Format My Social Handles, Please

 

From David Chartier:

I think all the big social networks should divide up special characters so they all link to different services properly, then get it implemented with OS and browser makers.

I like this idea. There’s no reason some of the more feature-rich applications shouldn’t include this type of functionality. A lot of them already do smart things like format text that looks like a url as hyperlinks.

Chartier suggests a top down approach in which apps and OSes implement it as a standard, but I think this is more likely to become a de facto standard. It’s just one of those features that makes sense for everyone to implement, a la “pull to refresh”. There’s no reason that @daboyter shouldn’t auto-link to twitter.com/daboyter.

David Chartier, A Modest Proposal For Social Media Names:

Bill Simmons’ Suspension and Journalism

From sixcolors

Bill Simmons’s error wasn’t in stating the obvious, that Roger Goodell and other NFL executives were almost certainly lying about the Ray Rice case in the hopes it would blow over. Simmons’s error was in thinking he could get away with going off ESPN’s script, which has been carefully crafted to appear journalistic and serious without jeopardizing the relationship with the source of their highest-rated programming.

I’ve been looking for a good take on the Simmons suspension for a few days now and found this post from Jason Snell. Jason is a tech journalist/editor gone independent. I respect him a lot.

The idea of ESPN trying to “appear journalistic” is fascinating. “Goodell is a liar” isn’t even a unique concept on ESPN. Michael Wilbon, speaking on the SVP and Russilo show, said that there were two options for framing the conversation around Goodell, he’s either incompetent or a liar. I suppose incompetence is enough of an out to be acceptable in ESPN and the NFL’s book.

This situation reminded me of the controversy (The Verge) over the “Best of Show” award that CNET took away from Dish’s Hopper set-top box because CNET’s parent company (CBS) was involved in litigation with Dish.

It illustrates a problem we’ve always had in the news industry: money. The NFL and ESPN have a huge financial relationship (15 billion dollars huge). Whether or not that relationship informed the suspension, the takedown of the podcast, or anything else, it clouds the issue for anyone watching events play out.

Six Colors, Journalistic Standards:

Some News in Your Tech

I still remember my Granddad sitting at the kitchen table with his oatmeal, coffee, and newspaper. When we were visiting I’d snag the “funnies” and sit with my bowl of cereal and my juice and read with him. I’m old enough to be nostalgic but not quite old enough to still “take the paper”[1].

The Change

News. It’s such a crucial part of how we form opinions. How we understand the world around us. How we interact with people we meet. And few things have changed more over the last three decades.

From newspapers to broadcast news, from 24/7 cable news to a reporter with an iPhone and a Twitter account. News isn’t just getting faster, we’re getting more of it.

The Feed

The news keeps coming these days. Go to Google News and just watch the stories stream in. Go watch your Facebook stream[2] and count the news stories that scroll by. Click a trending topic in Twitter and see if you can read fast enough to keep up. And it keeps growing.

There are myriad places to read and watch and listen to news on the internet. New sites launch all the time. Old sources shut down. Reporters change jobs like most of us change clothes.

The Controls

We need to take control of our news intake. If we just consume what comes in over Facebook or the big news organizations, we won’t learn or understand on our own. We’ll depend on others’ understanding of the world for our news.

You should be intentional about what you read and hear. Think about who you’re going to listen to. Know what they believe and what they stand for. Find sources that challenge your thinking, sources that encourage you to learn more.

So how do we cope? How do we filter the feed? How do we find sources that we trust and understand? Ones that will do their best to inform us on the import things? It’s a lot more complicated than subscribing to your local paper. It takes a little effort.

The Trusted Collection

I’m willing to bet you have at least one news source you trust already. If that’s so, then go to that sources Twitter feed and find out who they retweet. You’ll gather a collection of news sources quickly.

Remember, news isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposition anymore. There are always great new sources cropping up. Old sources may decline. Keep up with your sources.

Don’t be afraid to cut one that isn’t meeting your needs anymore. Or better, shoot them an email and tell them how they’re not meeting your needs. If you like them, help them improve. Sources want to meet the needs of their readers. Let them know how they can do that.

The point is, news isn’t a one way street anymore. It’s a relationship. Corral the sources that work best for you. Cull the herd. Help your sources stay strong.

My Corral

My solution has been to use a couple of different types of feed readers[3]. For blogs and articles, I use Feedly. Feedly lets me organize my different feeds into categories. It helps me stay on top of the things I care about the most.

The second reader I use is a podcast app on my phone[4]. Podcasts are a great way to keep up with news. You can listen while you work on other things like clean the house, etc. I use Beyond Pod on my Android, but there are other great options[5]. Find one that works well for you.

One final item: Google News can be a great way to keep up with stories. You can set alerts on various keywords and terms. You can set the frequency for various types of stories showing up. If you want a quick overview of what interests others, the “Top Stories” is quite useful. Spend a little time understanding the features Google News offers. It may have a place in your news reading.

Recap

News is hard. It can be overwhelming at times. There’s a huge number of topics and a whole lot of world to cover. But if we’re willing to do a little work to curate our intake, we can improve the quality of the news we read. We can learn to better understand the world we live in.

It’s important to find sources that encourage us to think. Sources that make us want to learn and understand. Ones that challenge what we believe, and in so doing, help us develop our world view.

What methods do you use to keep up with the news? What are your favorite news sources? Why?


  1. My grandmother “took the paper” till a few years ago when she moved out of her home. She get’s most of her news from the TV now.  ↩

  2. Top right of the screen. I didn’t know what that was for a while.  ↩

  3. Feed readers scan RSS feeds for updates and collect the resulting updates in a single location for you.  ↩

  4. Podcasts are episodic video or audio recordings updated through RSS feeds. I have several here.  ↩

  5. This article from lifehacker has a list of some excellent options. Give Overcast.fm some thought if you’re on iOS. I like it a lot.  ↩

Olympus OM-D E-M10

 

From The Newsprint

I’m willing to bet the majority of people just want to take great photographs. They don’t care about sensor size, chromatic aberrations or apertures. They want to see great photos of their family, their vacation and their life without the fuss of the now insanely technical photography world.

I like Josh Ginter’s style and he just wrote a nice review of a camera I would love to buy. He doesn’t spend a lot of time writing about the technical specs of the camera, but focuses on what it’s like to use the E-M10. We need more reviews like this.

The Newsprint:

Six Colors

Jason Snell (former Editorial Director at IDG) is now an independent writer and podcaster. I’ve always enjoyed Jason’s perspective on technology and his love of geeky pop culture. Six Colors is going to be a great place for news and reviews from Apple with some Sci Fi and Fantasy thrown in. If you’re an Apple fan you should check it out and subscribe.

Six Colors:

The Internet, the Makers, and You

I’ve been watching and reading a lot of content on Tested. It’s a great site run from the Mythbusters guys, run by Will Smith and Norman Chan that focuses on Making. The Maker movement is an old one, but I get the sense that it’s grown over the last two decades thanks to the internet [1].

What is the Maker Movement

Maker culture encourages informal, shared social learning focused on the construction of artefacts ranging from robots and 3D-printed models to clothing and more traditional handicrafts [2].

The community surrounding Making is huge and ecclectic. If you build physical things outside the traditional manufacturing paradigm you’re a Maker. The paper goes on to say that some critics call the maker community a “rebranding of traditional hobby pursuits”. This is a criticism only when evalluating the Maker community’s value as a learning environment [3].

We won’t do that here. I want to take a look at the Maker community as empowered hobbyists. We’ll consider this movement in the context of New Media businesses and internet communities.

From Hobbyists to Community Members and Small Business Owners

People made stuff before the internet was around. For the most part, people who made stuff subscribed to the appropriate magazines. Woodworking magazines were everywhere. So were sewing, quilting and even electronics publications.

But until the internet came along, the vast majority of communication was one way. Experts and editors communicated projects and tips to hobbyists. Occasionally there were conventions or trade shows the hobbyists might get to [4]. But for the most part, the hobbyist plied his trade alone.

The internet changed everything. Like it always does. Hobbyists began to connect with each other. They began to realize they could do more, they could add electronics to their cabinets. Instead of clothing, they could sew replica costumes. Their robots were no longer limited by the software they could write themselves. The Maker now had access to other programmers interested in robotics.

It wasn’t just a hobbyist to hobbyist connection, either. Non-Makers started seeing all these amazing, hand-built items show up in forums and articles. The Makers started connecting with customers. E-Bay provided an outlet at first, but the real innovation was Etsy [5].

A Revival of Sorts

I wrote last week how the internet has made our big cities small. How we make connections so much more easily, even when we’re surrounded by an anonimyzing crowd.

The internet has done the same for hobbyists, turning them into Makers. They were always there. They have emerged from their garages and spare bedrooms to form a huge community. To teach and learn from each other. To provide those of us without the skill or time with handbuilt items that delight us.

I have a deep and growing respect for members of the Maker community. We’ve entered a new age of artisanship. We’re seeing guilds crop up again [6] to develop and train new generations of Makers. And we’re seeing some amazing projects that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.

Where do you stand on the Maker community? What’s your favorite Maker project you’ve seen?


  1. I want to disclaim a couple of things. First, I’m not a Maker. Oh sure, I dabble. I built a desk, printer table, and a display stand for my office. I fix things around the house. I’ll watch a video on occasion and dream about someday building something cool.
    I do love the Maker community, though. I love watching the videos the community makes. I guess you could say I’m a Maker lurker.
    Second, everything I say here is just the impression I get from observing the Maker community from afar. I haven’t done any research into this and I haven’t talked to members of the community or done any kind of interviews. These are just the opinions of someone from the internet  ↩

  2. Open University Innovation Report 2  ↩

  3. The purpose of that particular paper was to evaluate non-traditional learning models, the Maker community was one of them.  ↩

  4. My mom is a quilter so I am most familiar with them. I think of the quilters as a pre-Maker community. The social side of the quilting scene was critical even before the internet. The similarities between quilt shows and modern Maker conventions and meet-ups are numerous.  ↩

  5. Etsy provides a perfect connection to the kind of customer that appreciates hand-made products. Etsy provides an outlet for everyone from the Maker that want’s to go full-time to the one that wants to make a little money on the side.  ↩

  6. Check out Pixel Corps and The Wood Whisperer to see some modern-day guilds in action.  ↩

You on Display

You Live in a Glass House.

Common knowledge, at least among the tech savvy, has dictated that we live our lives in the public eye these days. We’re advised to behave as if we’re always being live-streamed directly to the internet. Recent news about a variety of football players and some recent data breaches confirm this hypothesis.

Look Ma! I’m on TV!

Our personal lives are on display. The cameras aren’t rolling Truman Show style, but they’re ready to switch on at the drop of a…well anything, really. There’s one thing we know about internet memes: anything on this planet can be one. We don’t know what’s going to go viral. There’s a good chance it could be me doing something dumb.

There are a lot of benefits to the way the internet has opened our lives to the rest of the world. In a sense, what I do here at MC Studios is opening myself and my life to public view. As a result, I can reach readers, viewers, and listeners with my message.

It’s Happened Before

We lived for a long time in the anonymity of urbanization. We could hide away in the cities and melt into the crowd. If something happened nearby, maybe we’d get interviewed by the local news. But for the most part, we could live our lives without any concern that our klutziness might be broadcast around the world.

It wasn’t always like that. Before our massive transition to an urban nation, people mostly lived in towns. Small communities don’t allow for the kind of anonymous life that cities do. There were still secrets and some measure of privacy, but I think that was the exception, not the norm.

The internet has made our big cities small. It’s made us aware that there are people all around us. They’re watching what we do and hearing what we say. There’s a chance they’re broadcasting it to everyone else.

I Promise It’s OK

I think we’re more aware than we used to be that there is a need for privacy. I think we’re finding a balance between living lives in the public eye and creating private places in which we can relax. We have a long way to go. Smart phones have altered the way we can behave in public. Ask Jameis Winston. Or maybe not, he doesn’t seem to have figured it out.

My point is that we need to be more thoughtful in the way we live our lives than we were 20 years ago. We can’t always do or say the first thing that comes to mind. It’s not censorship, it’s learning to live again within a community. It’s understanding that it’s OK to sacrificing what’s best for us to do what’s best for the community.

How has the internet changed the way you act or speak? Do you feel trapped or empowered?

Who Owns Your Music?

I’ve been a little surprised at the internet the last couple of days. I know. It shouldn’t shock me after this long.

1. The Problem

Apple gave an album away for free this week. U2’s new album Songs of Innocence showed up in your “purchased” library last week if you have an iTunes account. I went ahead and downloaded the album on my iPad and Mac and took a listen. It was good. Exactly what you’d expect from U2.

What made the internet angry was that if auto-downloads were enabled in iTunes the album would pop up in the library of every device on that account.

This isn’t the first time this kind of behavior has resulted in a massive backlash. In 2009 Amazon recalled a version of 1984 that violated their self-publishing license agreement. Amazon angered users by pulling the book from customer’s devices without their specific permission. Customers, agreed to this in principle under the Kindle’s EULA, but that made little difference.

2. The Root of the Problem

At the moment, the companies that sell the licenses to us own the content, not us. For example, we can’t pass down our digital content when we die because the license agreement doesn’t allow it.

There are some attempts to change the way this works. Comixology sells some of their comics as DRM-free files that belong to the purchaser after the sale. These solutions don’t address the root of the problem, though.

The problem stems from the disconnect that arises from perceived ownership. We think the media we payed for belongs to us. Content providers believe the media ultimately belongs to them.

We could take this conversation in a lot of different directions, but let’s focus on our attitudes about digital media. I can think of 3 things this behavior says about us.

  • We feel about our digital libraries like we do about our persons and our homes
  • We regard any remote handling of our digital libraries like we would an invasion of our persons or our homes
  • We consider that violation as breach of faith between ourselves and the company doing the handling.

Let’s consider each of these statements in turn.

3. My Phone is Me

We’ve come to regard our digital possessions like we do our physical possessions. This is both reasonable and problematic. It’s reasonable to expect that something that we pay for, control, and treat as our own belongs to us. It’s problematic because when we buy a book, we’re buying a license to use it rather than paying for a copy of the book itself.

Amazon was acting well within the license agreement when they recalled the copies of 1984. The copies they removed from the devices didn’t belong to the user, after all.

Apple thought they were doing something nice for their customers. The company bought each of their customers a $9.99 album. But customers reacted as if Apple had come to their house, climbed through the back window, and dropped a stack of LPs on the dining room table.

This leads us to the second point.

4. Don’t Touch Without Permission

In our mind, the digital library belongs to us. We have purchased the content and curated a collection. Remote management by the companies selling the licenses feels like burglary or vandalism.

There is a disconnect between what we and content providers expect. It’s an issue that we’ll have to address as we plow forward into the digital age. We need to come to grips with transition of companies from simple retailers to content providers.

The reality is that the content providers are the content owners. We no longer own a copy of a disk, we own a license to use the copy. The difference is subtle, but crucial. Perhaps that’s not the way media should work, but that’s what we’re faced with at the moment.

This leads us to the final point.

5. Action Without Permission is Inexcusable

We perceive remote management of “our” digital libraries as a breach of our trust. We want businesses to request case-by-case permission to make changes to our library. Implicit agreement is not enough.

Consider the case of email. We sign up for newsletters and bonus deals in our inboxes left and right. But think of the last time someone sent you an unsolicited marketing email. You probably deleted the email immediately. Odds are good that you sent a rather pointed reply to leave you off that email list.

Did you ever feel as outraged by junk mail in your mailbox? I think the devices and services we use are far more personal to us than even our physical property because we carry and use them everywhere we go.

6. The Solution

There are never easy answers to these kind of questions. Who owns the digital libraries we’ve created? We could spend weeks exploring the intricacies of copyright law, but I doubt the solution lies there (that way lies madness).

But I do think we need to take a long look at what we’re paying for when we buy digital media. It’s important that we as a culture understand the benefits and rights that transaction affords us. We need to understand these benefits and rights not only on an intellectual level, but an emotional level.

If nothing changes in how our we handle digital media we’re going to have to deal with the fact that someone else has the keys to our library. Do Apple’s or Amazon’s actions bother you? What do you think we need to do about it?

A Geek Without His Devices (at night)

Do you use your devices in bed?
Do you use your devices in bed?

Let’s talk about technology. First, I love it. I love the powerful ways we can work and communicate with technology. I can record a talk show and post it online for anyone in the world to listen to. My phone has the ability to record video and take amazing pictures and communicate with anyone just about anywhere.

With that said, I started an experiment a week and a half ago ago. I decided I didn’t like my nighttime routine. I’d spend a lot of time on my iPad surfing the web (when was the last time you heard that expression?). I’d play a dumb casual game on my phone. Whatever I was doing, I’d spend an hour or two lying in bed, not doing anything particularly meaningful.

I changed three things to conduct this experiment:

  • I plug in my phone and iPad in the office downstairs (I kept my eInk Kindle upstairs as a part of the second point)
  • I make sure I have a book available by my bed (I’ve tried to make these books that will teach me something)
  • I put an empty notebook and a pen on my bedside table in case I think of a great idea

It’s been pleasant week. I’ve finished two and a half books. I filled a page and a half of the notebook with tasks that I’d like to work on, write about, or talk about. I’ve had conversations with my wife instead of staring at my iPad’s display.

It’s a strange topic for an introductory post on a blog about technology but I believe it’s an apt one. I want to deal with the way technology impacts our lives and our relationships. I want to consider the best way to use our devices and services in a thoughtful way to make our lives better. I want to learn and help others learn to break free of our technology and use it like the tool that it is.

So now for your part. What part of your life could use a little less tech in it?