Close the bathroom door

This past week having brought us Valentine’s Day, of course the digital landscape was awash in content about relationships and sex and being more successful at both of those and whatnot. This was one of them.

As I read it, I got a little twitchy, as I am still wont to do, recalling the trials and tribulations of a long-distance relationship even this many years later. The Internet was getting mainstream then, but it was primitive. We mostly communicated online via telnet programs and email. Not too many people had cell phones yet, and those phones didn’t have cameras, apps, or any of the other key features that enable you to be connected 24/7. Hell, we wrote letters to each other.

But what I found really interesting about that article is that it’s a lot more broadly relevant than just for long-distance romantic pairings. I don’t know how many times it’s happened at this point where I’ve run into someone, or have intentionally met up, and they’ll inquire about something that we’ve never talked about before. Now, I freely admit to my senility, so my reply is often, “Did I tell you about that?” And as often as not the reply will be that they saw me mention it on Twitter or Facebook. Right.
Continue reading “Close the bathroom door”

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take of a little boy in Spider-man jammies, sitting in the kid seat of a grocery store cart, singing/chanting a fairly catchy made-up song to his toy car, which, in hand, he was making dance along the hand rail. And he stopped just long enough as I passed to flash me the biggest, most infectious grin, which I could not help but return, and then resumed his song, which remained stuck in my head all the way to the parking lot.

Don’t talk to strangers

In an odd coincidence, given my post about cell phone contents from yesterday, and my general boggling at the volume of content that “kids these days” produce, I got a first-hand look at how that happens last night. (Update: Amusingly, I just found this, too.)

From time to time people misuse two of my email addresses. I don’t think a lot of people understand that Gmail doesn’t recognize certain spacers, so sock.monkey@ goes to sockmonkey@. Also, people forget numbers and things, so what should have been sockmonkey2000@ ends up going to sockmonkey@. You get the idea. Well, sockmonkey@ is me, and fairly regularly I get signed up for online kids’ games and social networks, emails from teachers, emails from grandmas, and all manner of other stuff. I also get mobile-centric, like iMessages and people trying to FaceTime with me.

Most of the time it’s just mildly annoying. When I can, I get my address removed from accounts, or login and do it myself. I let teachers and grandmas know they have the wrong address, and I refuse FaceTime requests and ignore texts until the people clue in. Sometimes it’s worrisome, as teachers have sent me pictures of people’s kids, and pre-teens have tried to have texting conversations with me.

There’ve also been messages that I’m not entirely sure were actually from kids. It’s a tactic predators can use to crack open the door, so to speak. And some “kids” have said some rather odd and aggressive things. Blech.

So last evening when I was in class at krav, I got some texts. Good thing my ringer was turned off, because when I left and got out to my car, I discovered I had 135 texts — within less than an hour and a half. Needless to say I was a bit surprised. (I might get that many texts in six months, usually.)

Turns out a girl who’d been accidentally texting me for a few days (but who I thought had clued in and stopped), added me to a group chat with 13 other kids. And they were talking. A lot. Actually no, they weren’t. Most of the messages were emoji. A surprising number were from kids added to the chat, pretty annoyed, demanding to be left alone.

Note that all of these kids were added to the list by email address or phone number, and I could see all of them. And I’m pretty sure these kids weren’t even in high school yet. (I googled the girl who’d added me to the group a few days ago, and it was scary how much I could find and how easily.)

Things were reasonably quiet overnight, and I figured I’d just ignore it as I usually do, and it would go away. Except then they started up at 7am. I was not impressed. So I told them that they had the wrong email address and to stop texting me. I also pointed out that they’d sent all of their contact information to a total stranger.

Instead of taking that seriously, I got a bunch of replies like, “I’m not a stranger, I’m _____!” Yep, I had their emails and phone numbers, and now they were telling me their names.

Then the girl who added me to the group said, “That’s not a stranger, that’s my friend Gabs!” I replied that no, I was not “Gabs”, sockmonkey@ was not her email address, and that she should really be more careful. That apparently got through to her.

I got a flurry of, “OMG sorry!!!” and was asked to delete the messages. I replied that I had been deleting the messages for a week, and to remove me from the list. (Yeah, because deleting a message will fix everything.) Finally, the messages stopped. I kinda hope they were a tad freaked out when they got to school that day.

All told, over 200 messages in ~12 hours, and they weren’t even saying anything. And I would love to have a chat with their parents…

“We are the media.”

Hat tip to Amanda Palmer for the title (at least one of the most widely quoted versions).

I was reading this post, and was stopped dead in my tracks.

Not from the facts and realities of the case, with which I am more than well acquainted at this point. But with numbers. Numbers that illustrated, in spades, just how much I am not “the kids these days”, nor create/share media (especially mobilely) with anywhere near the prevalence they do.

Read the numbers below, and then ponder a moment the various implications of that much content, that much of their lives shareable with the whole world, pretty much instantly. Oh, and stored, edited, data mined…

According to ABC News, “[t]he contents of 13 cell phones were analyzed, which amounted to 396,270 text messages, 308,586 photos, 940 videos, 3,188 phone calls and 16,422 contacts.”

Or broken down a bit, per person/phone, on average:

texts: 30482.31
photos: 23737.38
videos: 72.31
calls: 245.23
contacts: 1263.23

And that doesn’t even say how long each person had had their phone. Or the contents that had previously been deleted and wasn’t recovered.

Given the aforementioned blog post, “pics or it didn’t happen”, indeed…

A bird may love a fish…

Humanity is going to become extinct. Not, as you may suspect, due to environmental catastrophe, nuclear holocaust, or zombie apocalypse. No, our extinction will be the result of a species-wide inability to woo. And shallowness, apparently. Yep, we’re all doomed and it’s those whippersnappers’ fault.

Recently I read the article A Million First Dates, which filled me in on the fact that young people are growing into adulthood relationship-impaired. Basically, thanks to technology, young people don’t have to do much work to find partners (sexual or relationship), and so they don’t know how to communicate well, learn compromise, and generally commit to doing the work that long-term relationships require. Why push through the rough or boring times when there are Plenty of Fish in the online (pun intended) sea?

Additionally, according to The End of Courtship, apparently that same technology, combined with soulless hook-up culture, has left young people clueless about how to go about wooing and dating at all. Which hasn’t left anyone very happy (and has even spurred some backlash!) Apparently eventually you have to pursue something more than casual, meaningless (and often recreational substance-enhanced) sex.
Continue reading “A bird may love a fish…”

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take of a young man, looking barely old enough to shave, walking toward me on the sidewalk, gingerly carrying a cellophane-wrapped bouquet of roses and a small green bag, looking supremely pleased within himself, on this blustery February 12th, for already having won Valentine’s Day.

She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time

I have mentioned the Very Personal Ad before, and, indeed, wrote one up when I wanted to find a new apartment. Worked like a charm; I love it here, though these things can take time. And so it is time to try this experiment again.

What is this ad for? A job.

The Googles and I will be parting ways in a little while, so it is time to figure out what my next adventure is. The circumstances of my departure aren’t relevant; I’ll probably write some about it one day. TL;DR is basically: “what I do, they don’t do here”. No crying, no recriminations, no hurtin’ songs… Just c’est la vie. I do not, however, enjoy certain uncertainties very much. And right now I have a bunch. I know I will be okay — I always have been. I will not get eaten by the eels at this time. I am working to vanquish the uncertainties, however, and asking for some help.

I’ve talked to a few folks, applied for a few things, but I would love to see/hear about something (a specific role, a company, some people I’d be totally jazzed to spend my days with) and just know that’s it. It would also help if they thought I was it, too. 🙂 Seems odd to be working on this stuff at this time of year, but the world doesn’t seem to slow down at Christmas much anymore.

I imagine most folks who would read this are reasonably familiar with me and what I do. However, to get all official: here I am on LinkedIn. Here is my resume. Ask me anything. Even better, let’s have coffee while you ask me stuff. I’ll probably ask you stuff, too.

I don’t want to commute every day or move to Toronto, though I know there are a bunch of amazing gigs available there these days. Some remote work combined with commuting I might be okay with. Travel sometimes (like with planes) is fine. I don’t want to move to the Valley, though, either. I’ve been offered that before. I feel fortunate to live here in the Region where there’s a whack o’ stuff going on, and new companies being born pretty much daily.

I have worked at really big companies, medium-sized companies, and a couple of teeny startups. Generally, I tend to be happier in a smaller environment. It has some to do with scale, but really it’s more about… Dunbar’s number, kinda. You know, how supposedly we can only maintain 150 close ties/friendships with people? In a smaller company, you can ask anyone anything at any time. Just walk on over and sort things out. Or the whole company can have lunch in one room. Get to know all of your team. Make sockmonkeys for all of your co-workers and not have to spend all year on it.

It’s personal, it’s efficient, and most importantly for me, it lets me get my hands dirty and enjoy variety. I have been on the internets about 20 years. My attention span was shot a long time ago, but I am damned good at absorbing and synthesizing information, creating and curating content, learning from and connecting people. Direct contact with data and folks. Delicious. I’m really good at organizing things and taking care of people. I’d still be good at it even if I wasn’t a Mennonite (and community is what we do), but hey, as a bonus I make delicious treats for my co-workers. 🙂

Again, the organization doesn’t have to be teeny, but it sometimes helps. With size typically comes hierarchies and silos and process. If you know of a company where that hasn’t happened, let me know. (I still compare Google more to the insurance companies I’ve worked at than the tech companies.)

I like working in tech. I like how things change, how curious and innovative people are, and how they don’t just have ideas, they do stuff about them. Action Folks can be found anywhere, but most of my experience happens to be in tech. That said, it would be nice if what the company does is helpful. It makes someone’s day better or connects them to folks they need to know or helps their business grow or what have you. Not everyone can save lives, but it’s hard to feel noble about your job only being to help big companies convince consumers to spend more money.

I like to help tech, too. Or, rather, the people in this community with me. I’ve been around long enough and been fortunate enough to have some experiences that other people can find useful. They can reproduce my successes and hopefully avoid my mistakes. I like sharing, and am almost always happy to do so. The extra special thing is, too, that invariably you learn interesting things from everyone you talk to. I love that.

So yeah. I like to build things: communities, knowledge bases, customer bases, relationships, networks, really cool products or services that people want. I like to record and share information: how-to content, blog posts, white papers, articles, case studies, videos, social dissemination, connecting the people building stuff with the people using it. I like to help people: educate them in what the company does and how that can be valuable to them, help them get ramped up and productive, answer their questions, help get their issues sorted out, enable them to go.

I firmly believe the internets know everything, and that we are better connected than we’ve ever been before. And hopefully I can borrow just a tiny bit of its connectivity and knowledge and find a place and some people where I can look forward to going to work every day, and make myself useful.

Thanks!

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take of a group of golfers out on the links in California in November, preparing to putt, their green surrounded by a flock of Canada Geese.

This is also a picture I did not take of an elderly Indian woman at security at SFO, wearing a gorgeous and elaborately patterned blue and gold sari, with worn grey men’s sport socks peeking out beneath her hem.

Humans are honey badgers… well, some of us

As much as I love geeks, occasionally their lack of whimsy or imagination can be painfully frustrating. When things don’t fall squarely within the confines of logic or science, they must be denigrated and/or mocked until they fall into line.

Except that sometimes logic and science isn’t the point.

Sometimes there are things both fascinating and powerful that fall very much outside the realm of logic and science, and the human mind couldn’t give a shit that what it believes isn’t technically “real”. (And no, Lord praising will not be occurring in this blog post.) 🙂

Sometimes, where the inexplicable is concerned, humans are veritable honey badgers. Make sense? Replicable? No. And we don’t give a shit.

Over the past week or two, I’ve shared a couple of stories from others on the social webs, both of which I find fascinating for that reason. The geeks were all over the lack of science, which, given that one of the stories involved dead people, seemed kind of irrelevant.

In this story: The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills, over 100 southeast Asian immigrants to the US died in the early 80s. From nightmares. Now, of course, the story isn’t quite that simple, but I recommend giving it a read. Fascinating stuff. A really interesting illustration of the power of belief, community, and ritual.

In this story: The Truth About Hair and why Indians would keep their hair long, during the Vietnam War, Native American trackers whose hair had been shorn when they joined the military lost their skills. Is hair really an extension of the nervous system, or just an easy event to latch on to when the answer is more psychological?

Some things will fail testing. Some occurrences don’t fit into neat boxes. And hey, there’s always the observer effect.

And yet, we live with and are affected by the inexplicable every day. Doctors can tell an infertile woman that they can find no medical reason she can’t get pregnant. Doesn’t mean she’ll just say, “Oh, okay…” and conceive the next day. Or would it convince a suicide bomber not to detonate if an atheist pointed out that there is no proof of a G/god or afterlife? Doubtful.

As cool as science is, the power of belief and the inexplicable can be far cooler. Because you don’t have to stop where science has to. The imagination can take over and “what if” becomes your set of parameters. Of course, we’re humans, and I’m a realist, so I’m aware that we’d be as or more likely to use that to hurt people as to help them should we achieve miraculous abilities or understanding, but isn’t it the rule-bending and -breaking “what ifs” that give birth to true innovation?

I guess there is a branch of science where that stuff fits. It is called theoretical physics, after all. But of course it’s often not our own minds that hold us back, but the words from the ones around us. Kids are wild and creative and adventurous and not the least self-conscious… up to a certain age. That’s not accidental. Happens to grown-ups, too.

As noted, I’m not terribly religious, nor am I a patchouli-scented hippie, but imagining is interesting. Simply believing without having to tear things apart to determine how they tick is often a pleasant way to live. And horror movies would be rather few and far between if the existence of monsters had to be proven before they could star in films. There is plenty of ground between believing everything and believing nothing.

And besides, as Arthur C. Clarke told us, there’s a pretty good chance the magic is just technology, anyway. We just haven’t caught up to it yet. And this honey badger is okay with that, too.

Unphotographable

This is a picture I did not take of several white males, aged 18-45, standing behind each other in the lunch line at work, all wearing identical t-shirts touting diversity, which were handed out at a recent workplace event.