Decentralizing my online presence

Starting this year, I'm going to cross-post to my blogs:

  • everything I post on Instagram and

  • most of what I tweet (and retweet) on Twitter.


Two reasons.

1. I'm sick of the walled gardens that social networks force you play in.

It’s great that I can post stuff so easily to social networks. That’s where most my non-techie friends and family members are too – which is super cool.

But, once I do post stuff to a social network, there’s almost nothing else I can do with this content of mine. I can’t archive, index, search, tag, export, or repurpose any of it. And I certainly can’t share it to any other social network. So, once my content is in there, it stays in there.

That’s not the way things used to be, back when the web was more decentralized.

In the words of Tom Eastman: “I’m old enough to remember when the Internet wasn’t a group of five websites, each consisting of screenshots of text from the other four.”

Now I’m still a massive RSS user (yay NewsBlur!) so, for me, most of the web still is decentralized. I want my content to be part of this easily accessible, decentralized web as well.

Which brings me to reason number two…

2. Social networks are internet black holes.

If a post of mine isn’t in currently your social news feed or isn’t pinned to the top of my social profile, it might as well not exist.

Unless you’re willing to go to my profile and scroll through years of posts, there’s no easy way to see what I’ve posted since I joined Flickr in 2007, Facebook in 2007, Twitter in 2008, and Instagram in 2012.

None of my social network posts appear in Google or Bing, either. So, as far as the broader internet is concerned, this content of mine has disappeared into a black hole that you need to be a member of to access. And, even then, there’s no easy way to find what I’ve posted there over the years. (Though, to be fair, Flickr and Twitter do have fairly decent built-in search engines.)

I don’t want my content to be this thoroughly inaccessible.

So what next?

Initially, not too much is going to change. I’ll still keep posting regularly to Twitter and Instagram.

But, because I’ll be cross-posting most of my stuff to my blogs, too, you’ll be able to go to my blogs (this one and my professional one) and look through all the great stuff (mine and others’) that I’ve been sharing on Twitter and Instagram.

The best part: this blog content will be archived, tagged, and backed-up. And it’ll be easy to search for, export, and share to any other social network.

Yay for a more (re)decentralized web!

Communication clarity: switching to sentence case headings

It happened and I almost didn't notice. 

I switched writing my Level 1 and Level 2 headings from title case to sentence case: 

And, as you can see in the image above, it's not just the titles, it's also the captions! 

Why make the switch? Because title case headings were starting to look a little old fashioned to me. And, having learnt so much about typography over the last year or two, I now understand that title case is a crutch I no longer need to rely on. I can use good typography to help readers distinguish headings from body text. And good typography plus good design do a much more effective job that merely capitalizing the important words in a heading ever did. 

Actually, this passage from Wikipedia's entry for 'Letter case' sums this up nicely: 

Although title case is still widely used in English-language publications, especially in the United States, it is widely understood that it is a design choice rather than a requirement of orthographic correctness. Sometimes users decide not to bother with its arbitrariness (or even feel that it looks old-fashioned). It does impose a cost to enforce the rules and exceptions of any particular house style that, because of its arbitrariness, does not add any inherent value to the text.
— Wikipedia article: 'Letter case'

So there you go. 

Office kitchen theory: people from large families

I have a theory that you can tell which of your work colleagues grew up in large families – or lived in a hostel when they were in college – by the way in which they navigate the office kitchen or lunch room.

They are more aware of who is in the room with them

Several times at work I’ve walked into the kitchen and there’s been only one other person there. But, every time I try to do anything, they are magically in my way. And, if we don’t quickly settle on an unspoken protocol of how we’re going to successfully navigate around each other for the next two minutes, I can tell they come from a small family.

Sure people from large families get in each other’s way when they’re in the kitchen. But how quickly and automatically they adjust to the presence of others is what sets them apart from people like me: a person who grew up in a large family and, in my specific instance, also spent several years in a hostel and shared apartment while at university.

They are more comfortable working around a single sink

The kitchen in my corner of the office has just a single sink. This sink has two taps: one for washing dishes and one for getting boiling hot or refrigerated cold water. Some people are comfortable with this arrangement, some people aren't.

When I’m washing dishes, for example, I’m have no problem moving slightly to the right to give someone the space to squeeze in next to me and fill their water bottle from the other tap. That's because I come from a large family and sharing sinks is something you have to get used to pretty darned quickly. So, if I’ve finished stirring my cup of tea and just need to rinse my spoon, and the person doing their dishes pauses for two seconds so I can run my spoon under the water, I know they come from a large family.

The best are those moments in which one person is washing their dishes, another is filling their tea cup, a third has just rinsed their fork, a fourth is reaching for a plate from the dish rack, a fifth is wiping a spill on the counter next to you, and a sixth is waiting for the slightest opening to stick their hand in and drop their spoon into the sink. That’s when I want to burst into song with a heartfelt “We are family / I got all my sisters with me” :)

They adjust more quickly to new situations

All this doesn’t mean that people from small families don’t learn and adjust. They do, and they adjust quite well. But you can still tell which people have learnt these skills in the office and which of them have had a childhood in which they shared a kitchen with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older and younger siblings, older and younger cousins, friends and, sometimes, pets.

Like when there are suddenly ten people in the kitchen at 3pm trying to make themselves a cup of tea or use the coffee machine. Some people will adjust automatically to this new situation – seemingly without any additional effort. But a couple will always take a few extra seconds to pause, observe and figure out how things are working before they’ll correctly read and then join the traffic flow.

That’s my theory anyway. 

Improving my writing skills by writing every day

I write reasonably well (or so I like to think) but I want to continue to improve my writing skills.

One of the best ways to do this is by writing a little bit every day. And what better place to do that than here? This blog is called 'Random Tangent', after all :)  

So, apologies in advance for the random snippets of writing and the random half-baked, half-complete, half-written thoughts you might see here in the future. 

That said, hopefully some of what I write will be entertaining or interesting :) 

Let me know what you think.

Save the Ferris

Wearing my 'Save Ferris' t-shirt

“Save the Ferris” he says, enunciating each word carefully, trying to sound less tipsy than he actually is. He belatedly ends his statement with a rising intonation, making it a question. He gestures helpfully at my t-shirt.

I'm tired and I like my happy-drunk people to have greater pop culture awareness. But we've only just crossed the eleventh floor and the lift isn't very fast (new hotel, old building) so I can’t pretend I haven’t heard him.

“It’s from a movie,” I say. “From the 80s. Called Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

He looks confused. “Oh really?”

“It was quite popular in the 80s,” I add.

“Yeah man,” his friend chimes in, “haven’t you seen Ferris Boomer’s Day Off?”

I smile helpfully in their general direction.

He thinks for a minute but, just as he says “No,” the doors open and two more people walk in. We descend in silence for a while, but the newcomers are getting off at the mezzanine, so soon it’s just the three of us again.

“Save the Ferris,” he repeats. Once again adding the “the” that isn't actually printed on my t-shirt. He says it more thoughtfully this time – his brain cells working hard but still drawing a blank.

“You should watch it I say,” as we the doors open at the lobby, “it’s a fun movie.”

That’s apparently an excellent suggestion because he beams at me and says “I’ll do that,” and since this is goodbye, “Have a great night!”

“You too!” I respond enthusiastically. Then I buy a fruit cup and head back up to my room to finish the presentation I'm working on.

Just another night at the Gold Coast.