Social Media

I have some thoughts on the turmoil in corporate social media recently – meaning, in particular, Facebook and Twitter. For posterity, the precipitating events are:

I’m hardly the first – or the five hundredth – person to observe that this is the natural development of handing over our online social connectivity to a few corporations who are mainly driven by profit motives and which mainly make money through advertising. The details of election manipulation were perhaps harder to foresee, but it seems clear that there was plenty of room for badness.

So what now? While there’s a movement to delete Facebook (#DeleteFacebook), it is still a tremendously useful resource for keeping in touch with friends and family. (My observation is that it’s especially handy for generations older than mine.) Twitter is less useful for that purpose, but it’s more useful for keeping up with people involved in or who share my hobbies and interests.

Frankly I trust neither of these companies, as both have long histories of not caring about their users. Facebook in particular I think is deeply untrustworthy as Mark Zuckerberg’s 14-year apology tour indicates. Twitter I think is at least as incompetent as they are untrustworthy, and I’m not sure if that’s better or worse – probably it just means they’re going to sell to some large, more solvent company in the next few years. (My guess is Google will buy them.)

Should I stop using them? Yeah, probably. Will I? Probably not. But I have been making some changes in how I use them:

  • I recognize that making political posts is not going to change the opinions of my followers on these platforms. So I’ve been cutting back on doing so unless I think I have something novel to say.
  • More seriously, I’ve been trying to avoid sharing political posts unless the post’s originator is someone I know and trust. The means of political manipulation has been to promulgate divisive political propaganda – at both extremes of the political spectrum – and while I’m solidly left-liberal, I see little reason to help them.
  • I’ve also been cutting back on following people whose main social media activity is to share political content which they didn’t write. So if that’s mainly been what you’ve been posting, then there’s a fair chance that I’ve stopped following you. I follow people mainly for what they have to say, not for them sharing content from others.
  • I also use an ad blocker (AdBlock on the Mac, 1Blocker on iOS), and also a tracker blocker (Ghostery). Since ads can be a vector for malware, using an ad blocker is also a security measure. Moreover, if I visit a site which doesn’t let me read its articles because I’m using an ad blocker, then I stop visiting that site.
  • My Twitter client on both Mac and iOS is Tweetbot. If Twitter drops support for third-party clients and doesn’t come up with a good client of its own with the features that I want, then I’ll probably stop using Twitter. I’d probably do the same thing with Facebook if they ever remove the live feed.

In the long run we’re going to have to move away from corporate-owned social media networks, or at least move to ones which we pay for, where we, not the advertisers, are the customers. Maybe something like or Mastodon is the future. It seems like something like that should be viable, but whether it will become popular is something else altogether.

The bottom line, though, is that it’s got to be something each of us owns. Because if you don’t own it yourself, then you don’t own your own presence on the Internet.

Which, despite my relative inactivity here lately, is why I still have this blog.

(Oh: This is the second post I’ve written titled “Social Media”. Things have changed a bit in the 9 years since I wrote the first one.)

New Nano

Is it silly to be excited to get a new toy like this? Especially since there have been weeks when I’ve spent more on comic books than I spent on this? (Okay, very few such weeks, but still.)

I mainly plan to use this to play podcasts in my car, replacing my venerable – but nearing the end – 80 Gb “classic” iPod.

Regarding “Against Camel Case”

Caleb Crain’s article “Against Camel Case” in the New York Times is part informative historical information, and part silly exhortation. And through it all he doesn’t address the most important issue, that being, shouldn’t it be spelled “CamelCase”?

Actually, what I think he misses is the more interesting issue, which is that while the advent of writing initially helped to “fix” language so that it evolved somewhat more slowly (well, English, anyway), the greater use of writing for a wider variety of communication has cause the written form of the language to evolve rapidly and in unpredictable ways: The ubiquity of acronyms (LOL, WTF, IMHO and their brethren), which evolved (sort of) into L33Tspeak and text message lingo (which seems closely related in spirit, if not in derivation), which has started creeping out of the Internet and into student papers and such.

Language evolves. These things happen. I’m as pedantic as the next guy (probably much more pedantic than the next guy) about using correct grammar and spelling (typos and my meandering run-on sentences notwithstanding), but arguing for uniformity seems hopeless at best, senseless at worst. Set against some of the linguistic developments of the Internet age, camel case seems relatively innocuous.

Crain’s historical notes on the subtraction and later restoration of spaces in Latin is fascinating (separation of words by spaces was dropped completely? Wow), but I think he’s missing the forest for the trees: It’s pretty drastic to drop what is the functional demarcation between units, but not nearly as much so to drop a demarcation within a unit. “Bank of America” doesn’t mean “this is the bank of the entire nation” (there are, after all, other banks), but rather “this is a bank whose unique name is ‘Bank of America'”. That’s probably not that BofA wants their name to mean, but in practice that’s what people use the name to mean. And I expect that BofA recognized this when they changed their name (if only temporarily) to “BankAmerica”. (They might also have wanted to avoid people accidentally abbreviating their name with a term that could be pronounced ‘boh-fah’, though I have always heard people pronounce it as ‘bee-of-ay’.) The whole term is a unit, and the spacing is almost irrelevant.

Camel case is currently used in terms intended to sound trendy or cool (or that’s how I interpret it, anyway). Obviously, YMMV as to whether it sounds that way, but the intent, I think, is to convey that little extra emphasis. (Whether or not camel case is appropriate for a given company or product is another matter.) But I hardly think the loss of a few spaces is worth much fuss. At best, it might be grounds for a slippery slope argument, and we all know how much those are worth. It seems more likely that camel case is just one of Crain’s pet peeves.

The evolution of language is a fascinating thing, and it’s going to happen whether we want it to or not, and probably in ways we can’t anticipate. It’s just one more way the information era is changing and challenging the nature of our lives and our world.


All-in-all, quite a productive weekend.

After a quiet morning at home on Saturday, Debbi and I went for a bike ride through the park and down the bike trail, stopping in the park for lunch at the lakeside cafe, and going over the new pedestrian bridge they finished a month or so ago. We cooled down with some yoga exercises on the Wii.

Then we headed to Palo Alto where I bought myself an iPhone 3GS, upgrading from my original model. While this is a tad frivolous, it is a much bigger upgrade over my phone than the 3G was: Faster processors, better camera, more memory, built-in compass – all useful items. Especially the speed and the camera. I ordered a new holster, the newer edition of the one I’ve been using for my old phone: A Marware Sidewinder Deluxe. I like the hard shell and screen protection when I’m not using the phone, while giving me full access to the screen when I am using it. Hopefully it’ll be just as good as the earlier version.

We went to Cafe Borrone in the evening as usual, and on the way home got caught on a summer rainshower that hit the mid-peninsula – very unusual in these parts in July. We often get a little shower in August, and I’ll be curious to see whether it arrived a month early, or if this was a bonus shower. Either way, it was nice.

Today we had an even quieter morning at home, with Debbi making scones and then us sitting on the porch reading the paper with our scones and coffee, enjoying the cool weather. Then we hit the farmer’s market.

In the afternoon I tackled the project of installing a new faucet in the sink of Debbi’s bathroom. This was a pain in the ass, partly because I’d never replaced a faucet before, and partly because the old tubing for the cold water lost its seal when I was trying to fix it all up, and we had to go out and buy a new tube. But I finally got it hooked up, including the drain control, and it works without any leaks. In retrospect I guess it wasn’t too bad, but messing around under the sink is not at all convenient.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my latest physical ailment: My hips have been getting sore at odd times, usually for days on end, making it difficult to switch between sitting and standing. It started the week before we left on vacation, so less than a month ago. For some reason working under the sink aggravated them badly, and I’ve been hobbling around for the rest of the afternoon. It’s really frustrating, especially since the pinched nerve in my neck seems to be almost better (it only bothered me a little while biking yesterday). Doing a couple of yoga poses seems to help work out the soreness, fortunately, but it’s not a panacea.

Anyway, I wrapped up the day with our book discussion group, dinner at Su Hong, and a few more yoga poses with the Wii. Tomorrow I plan to bike in to work, just in time for temperatures around here to clear 90. Ugh!

But I’m happy with what I got done this weekend. Now I need to go relax for the rest of the evening.

Ampex Appreciation Day

Mike Cassidy in the San Jose Mercury News:

OK, so it was stunning 60 years ago. But Ampex, which pioneered audio and video tape recording, is still with us. And so is the towering Ampex sign honoring the company’s history. You’ve seen it just off Highway 101 in Redwood City.

Last week, Ampex filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Its head count is down to 101 from a long-ago peak of 12,000. Its shares are trading at about 40 cents. Watching Ampex is like watching some beloved relative stagger and wheeze and shuffle around the house.

And so I’m declaring today Ampex Appreciation Day.

I actually knew nothing about Ampex before reading this article. I’ve seen their sign from the freeway plenty of times, and often wondered what they did. I never remembered to check when I got home.

More about Ampex at Wikipedia.

Real. Zune. Now.

Assorted links and observations about Microsoft’s Zune music player.

There are early reports that Microsoft’s Zune music player is now available in the wild.

Wow, they really did ship the shit-brown players. Until now, I didn’t quite believe that they’d actually do it.

Does the Zune’s slogan “Welcome To The Social” make anyone else’s head hurt?

The best thing about that link is not just the fact that he got an error trying to install the Zune software, but the picture that accompanies the error! And he’s not the only one. (Is that photo Not Safe For Work? Close call. Exercise caution if in doubt.)

While watching football yesterday, I saw an honest-to-gosh Zune advertisement. It baffled me. A friend of mine has joked that all television ads should come with a Gilbert Gottfried voice-over explaining what the product is. (“It’s a car!” “It’s a feminine hygiene product!” “It’s a digital music player!”) This campaign could use some of that.

It could use less of this sort of thing. What in the world were they thinking when they prepared that photo? Then there are some of the bizarre “ads” done by third parties for the on-line campaign, such as the eyeball one or the flaming birds one. Again, what the–?!?

For that matter, what does the name “Zune” mean? Even the Wikipedia entry doesn’t shed any light on the meaning of the name. Is it a portmanteau of “tune” and some other word (“zoom”, maybe?), or what?

Anyway. In addition to all that, if you’ve previously bought music from the MSN Music or some other Plays For Sure-based store, then you may be SOL trying to transfer it to your Zune:

In a statement a Microsoft spokesperson said: “Since Zune is a separate offering that is not part of the Plays For Sure ecosystem, Zune content is not supported on Plays For Sure devices.”

I’m not a serious industry watcher, but the Zune sure smells to me like a product which was designed and built by several disparate departments. The product and marketing campaign have that feel of “several ideas – both good and bad – forced together through a series of unfortunate compromises”.

In related news, it’s nice to know the music industry loves its customers:

“These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it,” UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris says. “So it’s time to get paid for it.”

(Via b.bum, whose response is also worth reading.)

Daylight Savings Time Without A Saving Throw

The official Dreamhost blog notes that computers will need to change their algorithms for handling Daylight Savings Time starting in 2007.

No, really.

I had heard about this change, but hadn’t considered the implications to the computer industry. Not to mention everyone who’s used to their VCRs and PDAs and other electronic gizmos adjusting their clocks for DST automatically, and whose software is unlikely to ever be revved. (Cell phones are less problematic since they seem to already get the local time via a server uplink.)

Next up: Congress passes law instituting a return to the Julian Calendar.

(In case my entry title baffles you, here’s the entry for saving throw.)