Doing That Thing

Have you ever noticed that it's easier to volunteer to Do Something than it is to quit Doing That Thing down the road?

I'm sort of in that position now. I volunteered a few years ago to Do Something at church. Then it somehow morphed into me being in charge of That Thing, and training others to Do That Thing. Then I became responsible for scheduling all the people who Do That Thing. All because I was willing to simply Do That Thing in the first place.

The problem is that people have left, and the number of people we have who Do That Thing is shrinking. We're going to lose another person who Does That Thing in a few months. At that point, there will only be a few of us who Do That Thing. And if I don't get some help Doing That Thing in the next few months, I think I'm outta there too.

It's unfortunate because I really liked Doing That Thing in the beginning, but over time, it turned into a job. People started having expectations. And once it became The Larry Show in people's minds (as I have no doubt that it has), fewer people even thought about helping to Do That Thing.

Maybe I'm just rationalizing, but I think if I don't Do That Thing anymore, it will ultimately benefit everyone. People will stop assuming that I will Do That Thing, and others may pitch in and learn how to Do That Thing too. If more people learn how to Do That Thing, it will no longer be something that Larry Does, and will be something that Everybody Helps With. And that is a Good Thing Indeed.

Ghosts

I didn't exactly see the ghost of Jimmy Adams tonight. But I did feel his presence.

Most of you reading this have no idea who Jimmy Adams was. Well, I'll tell you.

Back in my late twenties and early thirties, I was an habitué of the local music scene. I knew some wonderful people, and had experiences that shaped my life and helped turn me into the man that I am now. One of those people was Jimmy Adams.

Jimmy Adams was a singer/songwriter. He came to Ventura from Texas, running from the law, or so the legend went. The details of that are probably best left to posterity, and to your own imagination. What I can tell you about Jimmy above all else is that he was everybody's friend, so much so that we used to refer to him as the "unofficial mayor of downtown Ventura." Everywhere he went, he knew somebody. If you went to a gig anywhere downtown, you'd see him turn up eventually.

Perhaps uniquely among local musicians, everybody wanted to play with Jimmy. When he booked a gig, mostly at a local coffeehouse called the Café Voltaire, it would be billed as "Jimmy Adams and Friends" because of two things. First, he really would be playing with friends, and second, you never knew who was going to show up. Local musicians, session players from Hollywood, and even folk-rock A-listers like Chris Hillman (The Byrds) or John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirty Band). But whoever showed up , you were guaranteed of a good time.

I thought of Jimmy tonight because for the first time in probably fifteen years, I went to hear music at a local club. My nephew, who is turning into one hell of a guitar player, is in a band that booked a gig at a place I used to go to occasionally before I was married (yes, I feel old now).

It was impossible for me to sit there and not think about Jimmy. I half-expected him to show up, greet half a dozen people in the audience, and come up to me saying, "God dang, they're fantastic" in that Texas twang of his. I wish, in a way I have never quite wished before, that Jimmy was still with us to walk up to my nephew and say, "You sounded great." Perhaps there's a little feeling of the torch being passed on my part, but that would have been, as Jimmy would have said, amazing.

This is probably a good place to note that one of Jimmy's signature songs was a tune called "Big Ol' Red Guitar," about a boy who sees a red guitar in the window of a music store and dreams about taking it home and where it will take him, not knowing the hard truth of life in the music business:

He wants that big ol' red guitar
That's in the window behind the bars
And he dreams about the day he'll take her home,
He'll probably pawn it a hundred times
Be involved in a couple of crimes,
He don't know what that guitar's got in store

Yeah, he thinks it'll carry him far
Together they'll become a star
He don't know the heartache and the pain,
He'll probably go through two or three wives,
Ruin a whole bunch of children's lives
He don't know what that guitar's got in store…

This, by the way, is my nephew:

Yeah, a big ol' red guitar… :-)

If there's a point to my rambling reminiscence, it's this: When I think of Jimmy, I smile, because he blessed my life and that of so many others, and his presence is still felt in joy. I don't think there's anything better that can be said of anyone after their passing. And dammit, Jimmy, we miss you.

Some people believe

Some people believe that you should trust in the goodwill of corporations, instead of having labor unions and legislating government protections for the weak and the poor.Some people believe that not allowing Internet providers to give preferential treatment to some, and slow down others, is needless government interference.

Some people believe that if you allow rich people to get out of paying taxes, their wealth will somehow trickle down to the rest of us.

Some people believe that if you're unsuccessful, poor, or unemployed, it's your fault.

Some people believe that individuals should be responsible for managing the complex web of investments in their retirement accounts, and that if they screw it up, that somehow churches and private organizations will pick up the slack.

Some people believe unemployment benefits are a waste, and those same churches and private organizations should be the main source of help.

Some people believe that if you put any regulations at all in place on an industry, it's unreasonable.

Some people believe that insurance companies always have your best interests at heart, and we should trust them to run our health care system.

Some people believe that if a policeman beats somebody up, that person had it coming to them.

Some people believe that it's OK for the government to disregard the Constitution in time of war, or anytime that there is an unspecified "threat" to the country.

Some people believe that religious freedom is only for Christians and Jews, and everyone else should stay quiet.

Some people believe that our laws should reflect church law, and only heterosexual couples should have the right to get married.

I don't believe any of that. I believe we have a responsibility to help others. I believe in separation of church and state. I believe we need to protect the weak, the minority, the underserved.

And that's why I'm a socialist.

Photo: The best background for the Windows 8.1 Start screen

Purely by accident, I discovered tonight that a black-and-white photo makes the ideal background for the Windows 8.1 Start screen.

Background

The ease of blogging via email

Just participated in a discussion thread about blogging over on App.net, in which someone wanted an easy blogging option.

Posthaven is pretty ideal in that regard. Write an email, hit "send," and boom, you're done. Couldn't be easier.

Hell, I just wrote this post on my phone while drinking coffee. :-)

Something old, something new

Once upon a time, I had an account with Posterous. If you're not familiar with Posterous, which got swallowed up by Twitter and shut down in 2013, it was a blogging platform that made posting remarkably simple. All you had to do was send an email to [email protected]. Couldn't have been simpler.

I always liked it, but as with so many other services that I've used and liked, it went away. I tried other platforms, but nothing ever made it as easy to post as Posterous did. Then I was reminded a few days ago that there was something called Posthaven, built by the founders of Posterous and resurrecting much of what was great about it.

So here I am, trying it out. I've made a grand total of four blog posts in the last year, so maybe this will encourage me to blog more. Maybe it won't. All I know is that I won't know until I try.

My reaction to the Senate report on torture

I'm only going to say this once:

The animals who have defiled our nation and made a mockery of our ideals by torturing and killing prisoners, and those who ordered and supervised their crimes, should be immediately charged with war crimes and handed over to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

My fantasy garage

Note: There's an updated version of this list here.

Every once in a while I'll mention my fantasy garage, the collection of vehicles I'd own if I ever found myself suddenly a billionaire, and every once in a while someone asks me what they all are. Here's the list as of today. My criteria are simple. They are vehicles that I find interesting or beautiful, that are often a bit unusual, and that I would enjoy showing up with at a car show. It's heavy on European cars, and betrays my fascination with the automobiles of the Soviet bloc. If I have a choice between a common version and one you don't often see or hear about, I've chosen the rarer one (hence the Steyr-Puch 500 instead of the Fiat 500). Anyway, here you go:

Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale
Alpine A110
Amphicar
Auto Union 1000S
AZLK Moskvich 408
BMW Isetta 600
BMW 700 Coupe
Citroën CX
Citroën DS21 sedan
Citroën DS21 Decapotable (Henri Chapron)
Citroën Dyane
Citroën GS Berline
Citroën 2CV
Citroën Ami 6 Break
Citroën SM
DAF Daffodil
Datsun SPL311
DKW 3=6
Fiat 600 Jolly
Fiat 850 Spider
GAZ M21 Volga
GAZ-24 Volga
GAZ-13 Chaika
Glas GT
Hillman Imp
Hindustan Ambassador
Holden 48-215
Honda S600 Convertible
Hongqi CA770
IFA F9
IKA Torino
Jaguar Mark II
Lamborghini 350GT
Lancia Fulvia Zagato
Lincoln Continental Mark II
Maserati Mistral coupé
Mazda Cosmo (1st generation)
Mazda RX-7 (Series 1)
Messerschmitt KR200
Morgan 3-wheeler
Morgan 4/4
Nissan PAO
NSU Ro80
NSU Spider
Oldsmobile Toronado (1966)
Panhard 24
Peugeot 504 wagon
Renault 4CV
Renault 4
Renault 5
Renault 12
Renault 16
Renault Fuego
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III
Rover P5 "Coupe"
Saab 96 V-4
Saab 99EMS
Saab 900 Turbo
Skoda 1000MBX coupe
Skoda 110R
Steyr-Puch 500
Studebaker Avanti
Studebaker Starliner coupe
Tatra 603
Toyota 2000GT
Toyota Century (1st generation)
Toyota FJ40
Trabant 601
Volkswagen 1200 "Beetle"
Volkswagen Type 3 Karmann-Ghia
Volvo PV544
Wartburg 311
Wartburg 353
Willys Interlagos
ZAZ 965A
ZIL-114
ZIS-110

Why I left App.net

I did not intend to post anything about this, so as not to add to the drama, but I've been asked several times now for my reasons for leaving ADN. Rather than keep repeating myself, I'll post the following words, which were culled from a couple of PMs and extended a bit, and which sum it up as well as anything. These will be my last words on the subject; I will not elaborate further. Time to move on.


Basically, here's what happened: this has been a long time coming, pretty much ever since the personal attacks attending the whole kerfuffle over Brendan Eich that got me to switch to this account. I've been on ADN radio silence for the last week (publicly, anyway) because I needed some time to think. I just happened to log on yesterday and saw yet another ADN circular firing squad revolving around [REDACTED] (some of which is still going on this morning, actually; take a look at [REDACTED]’s stream). Frankly, I've had enough.

From what I can see, the tenor of the place has changed from what it was in the beginning. If things were different, if I thought the service had a brighter future, I might stay and fight. As it is, it's just more than I have in me.

Yes, Dalton has told us that it can continue indefinitely. He also told us everything was fine, right up until the time the staff got laid off. I hope you'll forgive me if I take it with a few large grains of salt. My honest opinion is that it's probably fine until the next round of renewals, and/or until iOS 8.x or 9 breaks all the apps that the devs have stopped working on (given the Apple-centric nature of ADN, that'll likely kill it quickly). Either way, I don't think the future here is bright. That's why I have been following all the ADN folk I can find on Twitter.

The @adnfuture thing is fine, except that the people behind it have no control or ownership of ADN. It's nice to talk about a new name or extending the API or whatever, except that ultimately it's all rather pointless unless there's buy-in from Dalton and Berg, and there's no sign of that. For that matter, there's no sign of Dalton, either.

I thought a lot about this before doing anything. I take no joy in leaving, and I am going to miss what once was, but what once was is no longer. I'm keeping apps on my phones for PMs and such for those folks who refuse to be anywhere else, but I won't be posting to the public stream (edit: or checking in on it, either). It's just gotten too toxic too much of the time.

So anyway, that's my take on it. I made a lot of friends here, and I hope to stay in touch with them wherever they end up. In the end, as I've been saying repeatedly, community is people. The rest is just software, and software can be replaced.

Thoughts on App.net and the future

Is there anyone with the remotest connection to App.net who hasn't read the ADN State of the Union post yet? I doubt it. It's been endlessly discussed over the last couple of days, and there's a pretty clear divide between those who see it as the end, or the beginning of the end, and those who see it as a new beginning. I'm still figuring out what I think about it, but I find that I have a few things to say about it anyway, because why leave the tech douchebaggery to others? I'm sure this will not be entirely well-received, but so be it.

Let me say at the outset that I'm sticking with ADN, because I like it, and I'll be there until they turn off the lights (or the fabled #adnprinter). But let's not kid ourselves. It's not a commercial success. It may not be an abject failure (yet), but laying off the entire staff, open-sourcing the code and taking the founders off the payroll is not the natural progression for a successful project. I actually give Dalton and Bryan a lot of credit for not just doing the easy thing and winding it up, instead of doing us all a favor by keeping it going for now, but I can't quite shake the feeling that I've seen this play before. What we're really looking at now is a probable state of benign neglect, at best. It may continue in this state for some time, but if you think it was hard to convince your friends to join ADN before, when it had a full-time support staff and VC-sponsored development, you ain't seen nothin' yet. And I'm not sure how you convince developers to build apps when the Developer Incentive Program has been killed, and even the best developers (paging Bill Kunz…) have been unable to make much money from their efforts.

Do I need to draw a picture? The original dream is over. Many of us came aboard in 2012 lured by the vision of a social network that respected your privacy, that gave you ownership of your stuff, that you supported by paying for it, built on an infrastructure that would be supported and maintained by the App.net organization, and which could serve as the foundation for third-party apps built by developers. It's hard to see this happening now. Overrun with automated posts, crossposts and outright spam from a free tier that takes up resources without contributing anything, it' s highly unlikely that the latest developments will make things any better.

Am I saying it's dead? No. After all, it is sustainable for the moment, which as I pointed out yesterday is more than can be said for Twitter. But if it were a human being, it would be on life support, in a coma, being monitored by a couple of doctors who are alone in the room after the nurses and physician's assistants have been sent home. It could die. It could recover. But right now, it's not going to be throwing the winning pass in the Super Bowl anytime soon. And it takes more chutzpah than I have to suggest that under the circumstances, everything is going to be just fine, regardless.

And with that said, despite some chatter I've seen, there is absolutely nothing wrong with ADN members wanting to take out insurance in the form of exchanging Twitter or Google+ or Plurk handles. The real value of ADN is the community of people who coalesced around it; get those people together elsewhere, and the community will survive even if the worst happens. It doesn't mean you're disloyal to ADN. For crying out loud, this isn't a nation, this isn't religion, this is a bloody social network run by a startup.

It may surprise you that this analysis is coming from me. I've been a big supporter of ADN, and I've said consistently whenever "ADN is doomed" talk came up that according to Dalton all was fine, that the VC investors were happy, and things were good, and that I'd worry about it when that changed.

I'm worrying about it now. Andreesen Horowitz appears to have pulled the plug, renewals are a fraction of what they need to be, and suddenly we have a crisis.

For what it's worth, I think Brianna Wu of Revolution 60 (@spacekatgal) was right when she wrote "More than anything, App.net was a product that tried to solve an engineering problem, not a human problem." Ironically, ADN now has a very human problem. As things stand, the best hope for ADN lies with its hardcore users, the ones who were frequently ignored or put off when they asked for certain features. Lists, anyone?

To repeat, I'm not leaving. I like it there. I've got two paid accounts, and I'm good for another year or so at least. But I'm staying with the blinders off. No more illusions.