Of Eggs & Baskets

This is true, and all too often forgotten. Back up your stuff, folks. Example: I'm posting this to Blogger via Posterous. If one goes down, the other will still be there. A link is getting autoposted to both Twitter and Status.net for the same reason.

Remember: If it's only in one place, it doesn't exist.
--Source: http://twitter.com/paulrobertlloyd/status/20054411663#

More On My Withdrawal from Google Buzz

Pursuant to my last post, a few loose ends:

  1. I've emailed Google to request withdrawal from the Google Buzz beta-testing program. This should happen within 48 hours, according to Google.
  2. I'll be turning off Buzz in my profile sometime between now and Monday. This will likely mean the deletion of all my Buzz posts. Update: This has now been done. My profile itself will remain, however. Edit: Turns out I can't delete Buzz without deleting my profile. So be it. I'll recreate it later. Update: Profile has been recreated.
  3. The custom URL to my Google profile has been turned off, and I have reverted to the standard numeric URL. This is to prevent possible future abuse of my Gmail address. Edit: If you'd like an easy-to-remember URL for my profile, just go to profile.larryanderson.org.

That's about it--my Google Buzz experiment will be coming to an end soon. If you follow me there and you wish to continue doing so elsewhere, here are the relevant addresses:

Changing It Up A Bit

Today, I tuned into my Google Buzz stream to find this comment on a post by Josh Braun, left by someone who's abandoning Buzz:

To be honest, aside from my obvious social difficulties with Buzz motivating my switch back, I like Twitter better. I think the 140 character limitation forces me to think more creatively when trying to say things, plus I much prefer "yelling into the void" then "yelling into a room full of people who all have their own opinion and want to share it with you".

I know what he means. When Buzz first came out, I was a huge proponent of the new service. It incorporated two of the things I had liked most about Jaiku, the service that Google bought and subsequently killed through neglect: threaded responses and the ability to pull in feeds from other sources. It seemed like the answer to a prayer--a more full-featured service than Twitter, with none of Twitter's connectivity problems (no fail whale!). Integration into Gmail seemed like a stroke of genius, as having one's status updates, email and chat in one place promised a one-stop approach to online communication. And, of course, being an early adopter is kind of exciting, because you get to help define some of the basic etiquette and best practices.

Soon, however, some of the basic weaknesses of the service started to make themselves known. First there were the privacy concerns, which I felt were overblown, but they scared many people away. More irritating, at least to me, were the usability issues. Muted posts didn't stay muted. Posts jumped around in the queue in a seemingly random fashion, rather than staying neatly chronological. The method by which one could add a site to feed into Buzz, which involved editing one's Google profile, was more complicated than it needed to be. Commenting didn't always work, particularly when something was shared from Google Reader. As our British friends sometimes say, it was a bit of a dog's breakfast. And while integration into Gmail seemed like a winning idea, it started to become apparent that there were times when it was inconvenient to have to load Gmail before being able to access your Buzz account.

Then there were the unidentified and unblockable followers, as seen in the (missing) screenshot above. There's a link to block, but they keep coming back. I eventually gave up trying. Although all of us who post online make a conscious choice to be public, there's something more than a little creepy about being followed by anonymous strangers.

So when I read the comment on Josh's post today, it struck a chord. I've mostly withdrawn from active participation in the Buzz community in the last several weeks, as increasing responsibilities at work have cut into the time I can spend on social media (and blogging). I just don't have the time to devote to it lately, particularly with respect to Buzz, which demands a higher level of participation given its conversational nature. And while everyone is going to have a different experience depending upon whom they follow, my stream lately seems to have more and more shares from Google Reader (and posted-from-the-web links, which amount to the same thing) and fewer and fewer original posts. Frankly, there isn't much pulling me in these days.

At the same time, I've started to feel more and more frustration with Buzz's tendency to jump posts around in the stream. I'm no longer certain that I'm seeing everything from the people I follow, nor that my own posts are being seen by those who follow me. There needs to be an option to view in chronological or reverse-chronological order, and Google seems disinclined to provide one. It's a shame, because the current model simply isn't working for me any more.

The upshot of all this is that with all of its problems, Twitter is serving my needs better at this point. Short posts that require some thought to put together are more interesting to me than 3000-word blog posts imported into Buzz and promptly forgotten by the poster, who may never visit Buzz in the first place. It's not perfect, of course; anyone who tried to log into Twitter during the World Cup knows the fail whale all too well. But it's where the crowd is, by and large, and it's where I'll be spending more time in the days and weeks to come, at least when I can get in.

When I can't get in, and when I want to post a status update, I'll be doing it from my single-user Status.net site. It federates with Identi.ca and other sites running Status.net software, and pushes updates out to Twitter instantaneously. I find that being on Twitter is almost obligatory, but Twitter is not always reliable. This way, I have a backup, and it should also be noted that Status.net is in some ways superior to Twitter, for example in the way it handles conversations (click the "in context" link by the timestamp, and you get a threaded conversation view). The community surrounding Identi.ca and Status.net also is quite a bit smaller, and in general much, much geekier than Twitter's. This is a good thing. And, when Status.net rolls out its premium services, which founder Evan Prodromou has told me will be quite soon, I can map my site to my own domain, which is also a good thing. It's important to me to own my own stuff, even if I put it out under a Creative Commons license, and there's no better way to do that than on a domain that you own.

So, to recap, here's where you can find and follow me from now on, if you're so inclined:

Microblogging: twitter.com/larand or larryanderson.status.net

Blogging: larryanderson.org (fancy-schmancy Blogger site) or alt.larryanderson.org (stripped-down Posterous site) -- _Same content on both sites_

Buzz? I'll still poke my head in from time to time, but it won't be my main thing any more. Eventually, if it seems appropriate, I may delete my profile, but for now I'm leaving it alone.

And lastly, a brief word about something different. I've started the preparations to launch separate blog, Twitter, and Status.net sites for what I envision will be a very occasional series of posts on a religious theme, something I've shied away from on my main site out of a sense of my own inability to address it properly. However, as I've grown more and more disenchanted with politics and the culture of the world we live in, I find myself compelled to start writing on religious themes--not deep theological treatises, which I leave to those with more knowledge than I have, or triumphalist polemics, which I find generally misguided, but simply what it's like to be an Orthodox convert who's made many stops along the way. It seems appropriate to give those posts their own home. When the time comes to launch, I'll put links in all the relevant places.

Consider yourselves warned. :-)

iPhone Madness

OK, folks, it's over.

Steve Jobs hauled himself back from vacation in Hawaii, which like _totally_ harshed his mellow, and spent an hour or so explaining in front of God and everyone else that the iPhone 4's antenna problem really isn't much of a problem. Well, it's *sort of* a problem, but it's not unique to the iPhone 4, so it's really *not* a problem (like the guy at the dealership said, they all do that). Still, Apple loves you (*they like you! they really, really like you!*) and since they want all you whiny crybabies everyone to be perfectly happy with this totally awesome phone that's like, life-changing and stuff, and totally cool, they're going to give away free cases to everybody who's bought an iPhone 4 until September, when they'll presumably introduce some kind of fix or mod that, uh, takes care of this, um, non-problem. Or something.

Got that?

Good. Now, I'd like to say something about the whole debacle.

I don't care. Get over it. Grow up. Get a job.

You see, there is a whole host of reasons why I'm not particularly interested in an iPhone anymore, and the antenna issue is about the least important of them. You could start with the network (AT&T is bloody useless in half the places I find myself during the day), move on to the whole app approval concept (it's my phone and I'll put whatever I want on it, thank you very much) and finish up with Google Voice, or more precisely the lack thereof (want it, use it, love it, gotta have it). And did I mention AT&T sucks? Well, it does.

So when a bunch of overpaid tech journalists and self-important bloggers start in on what a _horrible_ problem the iPhone's antenna is, and how Apple needs to recall the whole lot of them, and give everybody a free case and solve global warming and plug the leak in the Gulf while they're at it, my response is "meh." You're having a First World problem. Go climb in your Priuses and drive to Starbucks and commiserate over a couple Grande White Chocolate Caramel Mocha Cinnamon Orgasmaccinos, because I don't care.

Look, here's the deal: Apple generally makes nice stuff. If the iPhone 4 works for you, use it. If it doesn't, go get a different phone. There are lots of them out there, including some very nice Android phones. Get an Evo, or a Droid X, or a Nexus One or an Incredible. And if you can't bear the thought of being torn from Apple's loving embrace, get a case--ANY case--and slap it on there. Yes, it'll cover up the neat little metal strip that runs around the phone, but you'll be able _to make calls._ (And what's the big deal about the metal strip anyway? I had a Cowon iAudio X5L that had a metal strip around it, and it looked like it was designed by East Germans. There is truly nothing new under the sun. Sheesh.)

Of course, if none of this soothes your damaged and fragile soul, you can always think about the gear you were using ten years ago--massive and bricklike phones, computers that were beige plastic boxes connected to boxy CRT screens, pagers, cameras that required film, and maybe even a Sony Walkman. Now consider that most any smartphone you buy today, including the iPhone, not only functions as all of the above, but is likely to be smaller, cheaper, and more powerful than any of them. _And you get to pick exactly the one you want_. Got a flawed one? Pick another one.

And that, my friends, is why I love living in the 21st Century.

Simplicate, and Add Lightness

Constant readers of this blog (advt) know that I'm an inveterate tinkerer, and on occasion this has brought me some good-natured ribbing. The last several months has seen frequent changes in the structure, format, and host of this blog, and you might think I would leave well enough alone for a while. You would be wrong.

My last move, to Blogger, was largely because it offered more eye candy. I was tired of the limited theming available to Posterous users who don't want to become CSS experts, and Blogger offered me some attractive alternatives. I still like the look, but I must admit I'm missing Posterous' unrivaled ease of use and autoposting ability. Being able to post a photo with a caption, have the photo sent to Picasa and Flickr, and post a tweet with a link all in one shot is a thing of beauty. I'm also wondering if the background, widgets, and other bells and whistles are just adding bling and detracting from what should be the focus--my entries.

In pursuit of an answer to that question, I'm trying something different. I've used Posterous' import tool to re-import my entire blog into Posterous, and picked a relatively simple theme with dark text on a light background to enhance readability. Thanks to Posterous' aforementioned autoposting ability, I'm going to run both blogs in tandem for a while. It doesn't cost me anything to do so, and gives me a chance for an extended comparison.

The Headline Is Just a Distraction

I happen to think Apple deserves a good spanking for this and a few other things, but the headline of this article is not the most important thing on the page.

Seems to me that those four orange words below the title of the publication are far more significant in terms of what they mean, not only for the future of Apple, but for the future of publishing in general.

Feelin' Cranky

Random thoughts on a sleep-deprived Monday morning…

  1. Yes, Twitter has a 140-character limit. You knew that when you signed up. Stop whining about it. If you can't handle it, go use Buzz or Friendfeed, or sign up with Status.net and run your own microblogging site that interacts with Identi.ca and others, and set your own limit.
  2. Foursquare, Gowalla, and other automated location-spam services are a plague upon humanity and the internet. Don't expect me to follow you if you use them, and do expect me to unfollow you if you continue. I don't care where you're having lunch. And if you care where I'm having lunch, you must have a very boring and incomplete life.
  3. Dear apartment manager: Thank you so much for not answering calls placed to the after-hours line last night. Apparently the rental agreement we all signed doesn't mean anything. Good thing the place wasn't burning down. Also, I wonder what your boss at the property-management company (whose number I have, by the way) would think about that.
  4. Dear noisy neighbor: Are you a complete idiot, or is it just that your social development was arrested at about age 13? What the @#$% is wrong with you (other than being a loud, inconsiderate, obtuse, possibly alcoholic schmuck)? Maybe if you grew up, you could get a date. Unless, of course, the guy visiting you last night was your date, which if true is way more information than I require.

AT&T Misses Me

Dear AT&T,

I got your email saying that you missed me. Sadly, the feeling is not mutual. I've moved on; I've been seeing Verizon lately, and I have to say the connection has been incredible.

I'd say it's not you, but I'd be lying. It is you. Your DSL is inconsistent at best, and your mobile coverage in my area is sadly lacking. We'll still be seeing each other at home, since there's no one else available there, but that's where the relationship ends. When I'm out and about, I'll be with Verizon. Don't embarrass both of us by making a scene. It won't change anything. I'm just not that into you.

Best, Larry

Why Nobody in His (or Her) Right Mind Would Want to Be President

Consider the following two items:

  1. President Obama's approval ratings have declined, in part because of the Gulf oil spill. Everybody expects him to do something, but I have yet to hear anybody say exactly what he can do to plug the hole and put everything back the way it was. Obviously, there's nothing the President (any President) can do in a situation like this, but everybody wants him to be Daddy and fix it. (For the record, I think Bush the Younger got something of a raw deal with Hurricane Katrina, too. He just happened to be the lucky one in office when decades of bad federal decisions met the hurricane from hell.)
  2. According to this story in the Los Angeles Times, his ratings in the Muslim world have declined, apparently because of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The fact that this conflict has been raging since at least 1947, has roots going back many years before that, and has defied the efforts of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II to somehow solve it is, apparently, irrelevant.

It's extremely unlikely that anybody will ever attempt to get me to run for President, but given the above, were someone to try, I think I'd run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Frankly, I wouldn't blame the President if he sometimes thinks he should have remained a senator. You only have to run every six years, you can serve for life if you can manage to get re-elected, and you get to be the one sniping instead of the one being sniped at.

Continued Light Posting

Just a quick note to let everybody know that this week will probably be somewhat sparse in terms of posting, whether on my blog, on Twitter, or on Buzz. The office is still very much in recovery mode following last week's pipe break—we still have holes in the drywall—and I've been assigned additional duties with another work group as well. It's good to have a job, and it's great to add a bit of variety to the daily routine, but it's not conducive to posting online. Additionally, my daily Wave postings are going on indefinite hiatus as I dial back my online presence to accommodate real life.

So, everybody play nicely, and I'll see you when I come up for air.