Thintelligence: Why we don’t move to decentralised systems?

Caught with the cookie jar

I recently posted on Mastodon after attending the doteveryone event in Manchester.

Interesting little rant at the doteveryone event.
Basically pointing to our ultimate comfort with propriety & opinionated software & services when complaining about things like Mastodon, Wire, Signal, etc.

All lack the engaged user base to break through because decentralised/federated systems are “just” too hard?

I say balls!

Maybe actually we’re too lazy and rubbish judging long term benefits in the face of short term rewards? Theres a whole industry feeding our short term highs

Our laziness is chronic and I half understand it but then I’m always reminded of the massive industry setup to encourage us to stay safe in their roach motels.

The term which comes to mind is… Thintelligenece?

The state of mind where a person does something without considering the consequences. The idea may seem brilliant at first, but the after-affects usually prove to be deadly. This phrase was invented by Michael Crichton in his book Jurassic Park (the character Malcolm says it)

I’m not saying installing whatsapp, facebook, etc are necessarily deadly but the lack of consideration of the consequences does make me and others worried. Its the short term gain over long term impact? (more cake anyone?)

Something to think about as you write something for the Mozilla Festival this year!

Tristan Harris essay on attention hijacking and ever so dark patterns

Human attention is a scarce commodity

I heard about Tristan Harris through Time well spent which some people have been sharing a while ago. Kept meaning to read more about him and the essay he wrote. Its a excellent read and well worth reading. A few times while reading it, I wanted to annotate it some how. I know the w3C have finally sorted out the spec and I could do it via Diigo or even Wallabag if I wanted to; but sharing it seems to need more research on my part.

So instead I thought I’d half blog about it while copying the main points (once again you should read the whole thing yourself). Tristan has sectioned the points so I’ll copy that.

But I did want to say I find it interesting that Adrian Westaway from Special Projects and Tristan Harris are both magicians. The link between magic and design is a interesting one.

Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

Western Culture is built around ideals of individual choice and freedom. Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how we’re manipulated upstream by limited menus we didn’t choose.

This is exactly what magicians do. They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose. I can’t emphasize how deep this insight is.

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask:

  • “what’s not on the menu?”
  • “why am I being given these options and not others?”
  • “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”
  • “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)

Absolutely, I do this a lot because I’m wondering how to break the system or hijack for my own needs. Usually when going to restaurants I need to hack it because I have so many allergies. If I didn’t hack it then I’d be pretty much dead.

I also find patterns quite interesting and can identify them quickly, so my tesco monthly shop will have every 2-3 months a deal on toilet rolls because I assume thats when they get the new stock in and need to shift some of the older ones. This funny example of understanding allows me to hack the system for my own needs.

I also tend to ignore all the recommendation stuff including the instant reply stuff I seen google has added to gmail. I also start to wonder more and more how this data is being mined to generate these results. Of course I got a big interest in big/linked data, data ethics and opinionated software.

Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets

One of the most tricky things I’ve seen many people try and deal with is not checking their phones and when they do, they do for what reason? To check out someone has liked something they have done. This comes straight out of the Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together.

If you’re an app, how do you keep people hooked? Turn yourself into a slot machine.

But here’s the unfortunate truth — several billion people have a slot machine their pocket:

When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machineto see what notifications we got.

  • When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.
  • When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’replaying a slot machine to see what photo comes next.
  • When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.
  • When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.

It takes some serious will to break away from the slot machines, especially when every once in a while it actually pays out (as such).

bThis is very much a dark pattern or dark art which drives a huge economy. Notifications like the breaking news banner on news sites tap right into the dopamine sender and the only way to break this is being more conscious. The truth is unsettling and we may not be able to easily change this without both sides being more aware/conscious of this all. Tristan points the finger at Google and Apple and yes they have responsibility but it can’t come from them alone.

Hijack #3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI)

Creating, inducing or manufacturing FOMO (fear of missing out) is pretty dark stuff.

Another way apps and websites hijack people’s minds is by inducing a “1% chance you could be missing something important.”

If I convince you that I’m a channel for important information, messages, friendships, or potential sexual opportunities — it will be hard for you to turn me off, unsubscribe, or remove your account — because (aha, I win) you might miss something important:

  • This keeps us subscribed to newsletters even after they haven’t delivered recent benefits (“what if I miss a future announcement?”)
  • This keeps us “friended” to people with whom we haven’t spoke in ages (“what if I miss something important from them?”)
  • This keeps us swiping faces on dating apps, even when we haven’t even met up with anyone in a while (“what if I miss that one hot match who likes me?”
  • This keeps us using social media (“what if I miss that important news story or fall behind what my friends are talking about?”)

I personally don’t subscribe to a lot of things because I’m wary of the effect of FOMO. I also don’t follow a lot people on Twitter because I don’t use twitter in that way much to the annoyance of some of my friends and followers. I do have a lot of friend connections on Facebook but also don’t read the timeline (its not a timeline, rather a curated feed for you based on algorithms and what FB thinks you want, remember point 1 about what the provider wants out of the deal?)

My friend Jon Rogers left twitter saying I was right about twitter (I can’t find any trace of him on twitter too). I wish I could find the conversation/blog (which seems to be down), but I partly blamed the fact he was using the official twitter client which would do things which were not to the benefit of him in anyway. Similarly Oli who left FB and then joined again after feeling FOMO.

Final example is why I left Bumble; I recognised the pattern of FOMSI being manufactured by Bumble and decided I wasn’t interested in being involved. Its a shame because I liked the concept but it was ruined for me by this forced FOSMI.

Hijack #4: Social Approval

We’re all vulnerable to social approval. The need to belong, to be approved or appreciated by our peers is among the highest human motivations. But now our social approval is in the hands of tech companies (like when we’re tagged in a photo).

Social approval is massive and drives us to do things which we wouldn’t normally do if we stopped and thought. I’d add this mixed with FOMO are a pretty lethal combination.

I wish I could filter out the likes on FB which clutter up my notifications, the little hit of dopamine just isn’t worth it. But then again I also like to click like to almost give my approval. Maybe I should stop doing this? This would also stop helping out the FB algorithm with positive reactions, now that can’t be a bad thing?

Of course social approval goes way beyond the likes and into the scoring stuff which I have talked about before.

Hijack #5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat)

Now this one really bugs me… I understand reciprocity theory and how it can be hijacked to con/cheat people out of something they wouldn’t normally give. Influence is a great book which I’d highly recommend to everyone.

We are vulnerableto needing to reciprocate others’ gestures. But as with Social Approval, tech companies now manipulate how often we experience it.

In some cases, it’s by accident. Email, texting and messaging apps are social reciprocity factories. But in other cases, companies exploit this vulnerability on purpose.

There was a period of time when the laws of social reciprocity seemed to dictate if you follow someone, you need to follow you back. This was rubbish of course, but pushed by twitters own system which encouraged you to follow back with one click. Twitter was a async follow but the service was changed to encourage something similar to a friend request later – most likely once the money became more important.

Of course Tristan is dead right about linkedin being a shocking example of this. I almost have to give them a award for their use of dark patterns to get you to do more within Linkedin.

orginal LinkedIn wants as many people creating social obligations for each other as possible, because each time they reciprocate (by accepting a connection, responding to a message, or endorsing someone back for a skill) they have to come back through linkedin.com where they can get people to spend more time.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn exploits an asymmetry in perception. When you receive an invitation from someone to connect, you imagine that person making a conscious choice to invite you, when in reality, they likely unconsciously responded to LinkedIn’s list of suggested contacts. In other words, LinkedIn turns your unconscious impulses (to “add” a person) into new social obligations that millions of people feel obligated to repay. All while they profit from the time people spend doing it.

Hijack #6: Bottomless bowls, Infinite Feeds, and Autoplay

Oh boy this winds me up big time, endless feeds. Its very similar to the all you can eat buffets. The quality of the things you are consuming are dubious at best and although you started out with something decent it suddenly drops in quality or go so far off the original purpose or reason.

Another way to hijack people is to keep them consuming things, even when they aren’t hungry anymore.

How? Easy. Take an experience that was bounded and finite, and turn it into a bottomless flowthat keeps going.

Cornell professor Brian Wansink demonstrated this in his study showing you can trick people into keep eating soup by giving them a bottomless bowl that automatically refills as they eat. With bottomless bowls, people eat 73% more calories than those with normal bowls and underestimate how many calories they ate by 140 calories.

Tech companies exploit the same principle. News feeds are purposely designed to auto-refill with reasons to keep you scrolling, and purposely eliminate any reason for you to pause, reconsider or leave.

This is partly why I prefer to read RSS than get the endless supply of stuff from Google, etc. At least there is a bottom and you can see a number of unread items. With these news feeds, its endless and the quality or value of the content is dependent on the agenda or services current goals (that can be as simple as this advertiser wants to pay us lots of money).

Endless also sucks you into the world that its only available now/its temporary and next time you look it will be gone or different. This is why I use services like wallabag, pocket or even youtube watch it later. If its worth saving its worth spending some time on and not being rushed to the next thing. Yes its hard and there is a social pressure to have watched or read it quickly (skimmed) to keep up with the conversation. In fact coming back to something in twitter usually causes confusion if you come back to a post a few days later. This is why I tend to just blog it to give it context and the effort once I read it fully.

Endless scroll is becoming a bit of thing now too, similar to the swipe forever stuff. Don’t get me started about auto play video, which I have seen cause much problems with presentations in conferences; as you can imagine

Hijack #7: Instant Interruption vs. “Respectful” Delivery

Companies know that messages that interrupt people immediately are more persuasive at getting people to respond than messages delivered asynchronously (like email or any deferred inbox).

Given the choice, Facebook Messenger (or WhatsApp, WeChat or SnapChat for that matter) would prefer to design their messaging system tointerrupt recipients immediately (and show a chat box) instead of helping users respect each other’s attention.

In other words, interruption is good for business.

It’s also in their interest to heighten the feeling of urgency and social reciprocity. For example, Facebook automatically tells the sender when you “saw” their message, instead of letting you avoid disclosing whether you read it(“now that you know I’ve seen the message, I feel even more obligated to respond.”) By contrast, Apple more respectfully lets users toggle “Read Receipts” on or off.

I do generally avoid a lot of these instant messaging systems but even those I use have included this way (Gtalk, Wire and even Signal). If I can turn it off I do but I have observed how Facebook now throws up notification as a window above other stuff like a instant message. Lets not forget those horrible chat heads too.

Respectful delivery is getting rare and even when they are, you need to work at it. I feel quite lucky that I’m running Ubuntu as my host operating system which gives me complete control over the notifications but this doesn’t help when looking at a browser tab like Facebook, which wants to dominate (trust me this is the right word) the view. This is also another reason why I don’t have Facebook on my phones/tablets and why I limit messengers permissions.

Hijack #8: Bundling Your Reasons with Their Reasons

In the physical world of grocery stories, the #1 and #2 most popular reasons to visit are pharmacy refills and buying milk. But grocery stores want to maximize how much people buy, so they put the pharmacy and the milk at the back of the store.

In other words, they make the thing customers want (milk, pharmacy) inseparable from what the business wants. If stores were truly organized to support people, they would put the most popular items in the front.

This is bloody annoying and one of the reasons why a lot of apps dont really care or advertise direct links into parts of there systems. This is why I have to keep FB in a tab otherwise everytime I login, I would need to go via the news feed each time, a total waste of my time.

The whole point of the web is not having to go on a journey each time. Remember when you saw VR shopping malls and thought wtf? Well thats pretty much the same coming back to haunt us all, for whose benefit? Certainly not yours!

Hijack #9: Inconvenient Choices

This is a recurring dark pattern, the roach motel.

We’re told that it’s enough for businesses to “make choices available.”

“If you don’t like it you can always use a different product.”
“If you don’t like it, you can always unsubscribe.”
“If you’re addicted to our app, you can always uninstall it from your phone.”

Businesses naturally want to make the choices they want you to make easier, and the choices they don’t want you to make harder. Magicians do the same thing. You make it easier for a spectator to pick the thing you want them to pick, and harder to pick the thing you don’t.

For example, NYTimes.com let’s you “make a free choice” to cancel your digital subscription. But instead of just doing it when you hit “Cancel Subscription,” they force you to call a phone number that’s only open at certain times.

Hijack #10: Forecasting Errors, “Foot in the Door” strategies

People don’t intuitively forecast the true cost of a click when it’s presented to them. Sales people use “foot in the door” techniques by asking for a small innocuous request to begin with (“just one click”), and escalating from there (“why don’t you stay awhile?”). Virtually all engagement websites use this trick. Imagine if web browsers and smartphones, the gateways through which people make these choices, were truly watching out for people and helped them forecast the consequences of clicks (based on real data about what it actually costs most people?). That’s why I add “Estimated reading time” to the top of my posts. When you put the “true cost” of a choice in front of people, you’re treating your users or audience with dignity and respect.
This is tied to so many of the things said previously. One of the useful things I found is the putting things into wallabag and pocket is I can manager my own time; and not be forced into making a poor decision under time pressure
The Hurrah – A sudden crisis or change of events forces the victim to act immediately.
 
Its clear most humans do not make good decisions under pressure and scammers, con-artists, the systems we use know this too well.

There is so much more to discuss including the how to fix this all… but thats for another blog post…

Decentralise or Decentralize this and everything?

Silicon Valley season 4

Decentralise or Decentralize that is always a question I have… Of course being British, the first one is correct (I joke!)

Its fair to say I have been thinking about decentralisation quite a lot recently, but its not the first time. Conversations with Adewale has always got me thinking about this all.

Partly due to Mozfest/Mozretreat this year and thinking about it in terms of power structures; which I’ll explain more in another blog post soon. But I found a number of interesting points about decentralisation which I thought I’d share….

I’ve been thinking about the differences between Centralised, Decentralisation, Distributed and Federated; as I joined Mastodon and thought a lot about Jabber, Status.net and Laconica. Can the user the experience be better than the centralised services? Theres potential but is the will there?

Kevin Marks shared a link to a piece about Silicon Valley series 4 and how the main character Richard is interested in building a more decentralised internet.

In the first episode of the new season (Season 4) of HBO’s Silicon Valley, beleaguered entrepreneur Richard Hendricks, asked by eccentric venture capitalist Russ Hanneman, what, given unlimited time and resources, he would want to build.

“A new Internet,” says Hendricks.

“Why?” asks Hanneman.

Hendricks babbles about telescopes and the moon landing and calculators and the massive computing power in phones today, and says: “What if we used all those phones to build a massive network?… We use my compression algorithm to make everything small and efficient, to move things around…. If we could do it, we could build a completely decentralized version of our current Internet with no firewalls, no tolls, no government regulation, no spying. Information would be totally free in every sense of the word.”

Hel-lo! Decentralized Internet? That’s a concept I’ve heard bubbling around the tech world for a while now, but not so much in the consciousness of the general public. Is HBO’s Silicon Valley about to take the push for a Decentralized Web mainstream?

Of course decentralisation isn’t a panacea and shifting the power from a centralised power comes with roles and lots more responsibility. It also relies on correctly informed citizens. This is why the distributed and federated models are much more interesting in my mind…

A couple people mentioned Brexit is a type of decentraisation, and I guess it is but further encourages thoughts about distributed and federated. Manchester recently got its first Mayor because of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 which is a type of decentralisation I guess.

Its clear the internet could do with less centralisation but unless its as good or better a experience for people; why would they switch? That warm fuzzy feeling is powerful but not strong enough, you only have to look at the wake of decentralised social networks to see evidence of this.

People’s enthusiasm for federated decentralised $WHATEVER seems inversely proportional to the practicality of their plan for achieving it

And thats just the developers, goodness knows what the users enthusiasm levels are like? Surely one day it will just work and users won’t even know its been built that way.

Dare I mention my thoughts about distributed online dating? Imagine that!

Another angle on the MOSI experiment

Let's Talk About Sex

I wrote this a while ago last year, to be fair just after going to the Horizon dating experiement which later appeared on BBC Two

Its been about 6 months roughly since I was involved in the MOSI experiment around speed dating. It was the most scientific thing I have done till I took part in the Horizon dating experiment (blog is written but I can’t publish till the TV show goes out – next year)

But I was wondering what was the results of the MOSI experiment? I haven’t heard anything but to be fair I did go on the date with one of the woman I met through the speed dating. She was nice and there was quite a bit of common interest but I got the feeling it wasn’t to be when we split the bill.

I was thinking while reading Jonah Berger’s Contagious, about social proof and how the experiement about the science of popularity in dating is also a experiment in social proof. But to be fair I kind of already knew this, just hadn’t explicitly thought about it that way.

social proof

So weird when you remember beauty lies with the eye of the beholder.

The endless pursuit for happiness

Had a great lunch conversation with Laura about her change of career

It’s scary as hell to not have a model of what that looks like yet but it begins with following the truth in my heart and my intuition.

I’ve given in my notice. Just 1 month left until, well to be quite honest I have no idea what will follow. Only that it’s the right time for me to look deep within and embrace the fear, and do my best to transform it into excited energy that will fuel my unknown future.

We got talking about following her heart and there were a number of things I wanted to throw into the mix while we were talking. Luckily Laura’s new medium blog has enough pointers.

Surely life is about the journey?

I sense a deep amount of dissatisfaction in people in respect to their lives and jobs. Most of us are focused on building an awesome career, getting bigger houses and nicer cars. But it’s never ending and often unfulfilling. We are as a culture focused on living for this awesome happy future but when we get there we have no idea we are there or how to appreciate it as we already focused on the next goal.

Absolutely!

I can’t tell you how many people I know who just work to get money. I’m not saying its wrong, just not really what I want my life to be about. I have to admit I’m one of those lucky people who is doing what they love. Don’t get me wrong its not always sugar and sunshine but I can’t really imagine doing something else. If I wasn’t getting paid to do this, I would do it anyway somehow.

I don’t agree with Laura on this point…

So as I think you can tell, I ’ve decided to give up a great job and a career with lovely people and company.

You can still have a great job and ultimately career. But also follow your own path, thats where the risk comes. Somebody once said to me I was a bit of entrepreneur within the BBC. I usually rejected that, only because it conjures up visions of  solo activity working to make the most money. But when thinking about it again in the light of social  entrepreneurship, it makes more sense. I guess the senior firestarter job reflects this a little.

I got use to the idea that I will have to carve out my own career a long time ago. That career is full of collaborations and passionate people with similar goals and aspirations. I didn’t want to make a choose between the two, so I combined them.

Laura’s aspirations, (Happiness Documentary Series,  School of Life style Social Enterprise and Wilderness retreat) could be a collaboration and a career in themselves. She’s going about it the right way but its a easy mistake to think of them in a exclusive way.

Unfortunately there’s no manual for this kind of personal quest but I’m hoping sharing my story will connect me with others who have or are in the process of changing their lives.

Following your own path is the key here and I think there is something big about documenting the experiences. I started blogging 12 years ago and I still do it, not just because of the halo effect but its useful to rationalise my own very busy connected thoughts to myself and sometimes to others.

The journey and the experiences/stories I collected along the way, really form my personality and  its important to never waste your life living someone elses life.

Si Lumb always says something like… “If there’s an opportunity to experience something which will make a great story and it won’t put you or somebody else in danger… you should do it

This drive to live life for the opportunities is powerful and transforming. I look forward to hearing how things progress Laura.

We need more social and community focused startups

I wrote about a number of people who JFDI and how this may have the ability to make gentrification and other social conflicts a little more easier on a community.

On top of that I’ve been thinking how the traditional business models of shareholders wanting continues growth year on year is causing so many issues (well that and diversity). Anyway it got me thinking, maybe social and community startups are the new (ecstasy! I’m kidding, just following my previous post) thing. Don’t get me wrong theres been social enterprises for many years but this is something slightly more appealing.

ROI Pam Warhurst-10

Just flipping do it already!

Without knowing it, they are embracing the same approaches and plans as startups. Crowd funding, flat structures, lightweight project management tools and an attitude of just fucking do it . All are the hallmark of the following projects. James Headifen who runs the Ancoats Canal Cleanup project. Pam Warhurst  who started something  in Todmorden (still need to visit) by simply doing something  which is highly copyable and makes people happy. Homebaked a co-working space, bakery and the cornerstone of the local community, MadlabUK and DoES Liverpool a hacker and community space, giving room to a number of different types of niche hobbies and activities. Run very much in a JFDI style.

Closing the Deal

Chewing the fat with Chris

Me and Chris Northwood were in Vividlounge having breakfast thinking/talking about where startup culture starts to go wrong. We talked about the built to flip mentality and how that mentality is poisonous. Build your algorithm, get your users and market for me users. Nothing new and interesting for developers or designers to be involved in. Chris thought suggested it might be anti-developer , while I think it might be ultimately anti-human and progression.

Too many entrepreneurs, he believes, have a “built-to-flip mentality, as opposed to a built-to-last, built-to-change-the-world mentality.”

I mentioned this blog post I was writing in my mind, and talked about the examples I listed above. Social enterprises, ethical startups, what ever they are called… We need to foster and support more of them (this links to Adrian Hons talk from TedxLiverpool about supporting those who are brave enough to take up this challenge). But if you were starting a social enterprise, where would you go?

When I show people around Manchester’s northern quarter, I tend to have a story which I tell people. If you are setting up a business, the coffee shops of the northern quarter are a great place to get inspiration and get work done. But if you wanted something a little more focused,there is a co-working spaces in Madlab on Friday and there is the classroom. If you wanted more, the next step would be Techhub Manchester and beyond that you could get yourself a little office.

Dreamy Saturday Morning.

The local spaces on your doorstep

Chris suggested Libraries could have a role in this? University libraries are fruitful places supporting students for hours and hours working alone and together. Why is the public libraries not the same? Unlike Techhub which is driving you towards a more traditional startup outcome. Imagine a library as a co-working space with focused advice on how to run a social/ethical/community business… In return you get a free space and access to more resources including maybe funding?

For example we have our islington wharf residents meetings in the local NHS centre which has plenty of rooms not in use after 5pm. Because we are a local and non-profit organisation, we can rent the rooms for free. Certainly beats trying to hold a residents meeting in bar/cafe or one of our living rooms. There are tons of places like this which are underutilised but we pay for out of our taxes. These places can be the difference between a small gathering in a coffee shop and a place to actually bring people together. The library is ideal in my mind.

I’m aware of things like the Coworking directory but there is something interesting about supporting other non-profits in a public space.

Talking to Davemee one of the founders of Madlab, this blog might seem slightly simplistic, native and may misunderstand the extreme difficulties in getting a social/community/non-profit business off the ground. But I argue it should be as simple as setting up a startup and what a time to do it

Mobile as a proxy for awkwardness?

Phone Guy

You know the situation when you get into a lift and try not to make eye contact with anybody? The 21 century equivalent has to be, stare at your phone… Check your notifications and see what else is going on with your email or facebook. Because most lifts are mainly mirrored inside, its easy to see someone, looking for something to do. I hate to say it but its shocking how many people don’t have a lock on their phones and the simplicity of the code is crazy (4 ones anybody)

Oh no not you or me! Although to be fair I do when getting the lift down from the carpark at work check google now for what I’m going to be doing today. Not because I feel awkward, but I can’t check when I’m on the scooter driving (even with the pebble watch)

Not you? No of course not!

How about this one then?

Dinner, lunch, tea, coffee, breakfast, $whatever.  with a friend or date, you don’t check the phone as your eating and chatting. No because that would be bloody rude (although I have had a few dates do this and its driven me crazy inside, to the degree that I have had to say something like “oh sorry am I keeping you from somewhere?“)

No… they get up to go to the toilet and the first thing you do is reach for your phone. Either to text, tweet, check your notifications, check you don’t have something out of place in your teeth or just pass the time staring at the screen.

We all have done it! If you haven’t how about the other person. The person in the toilet. You’re all done with what you are doing then after washing and drying our hands (if your one of those flipping filthy people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet, I have only nasty things to say to you!) After drying your hands looking in the mirror, we tend to reach for the phone. Same reasons text, tweet, check your notifications.

I’m sure you can think of many different other scenarios! Public transport for one. Social anxiety builds and its easier to just stare at the phone and be else where, anywhere? The viewing is different from wanting to retrieve and actively do something.

Our phones have become a proxy for awkwardness not just boredom… Sure Sherry Turkle would have lots to say about this.

The end of Schemer?

I really liked Schemer when I first heard about it. I remember calling it inspirational networking.

Well my friend Matt today pointed out it might be closing sooner than I imagined. Adam Coder points out what to be fair I’m also thinking after reading this Engadget leak.

We can’t blame you if you haven’t heard of Google’s Schemer; the goal sharing service launched at the end of 2011, but it hasn’t received much publicity (or traffic) since. Accordingly, the crew in Mountain View may be close to shutting Schemer down. Google Operating System has leaked an internal version of Schemer’s website that includes an unfinished closure page inviting users to export their data. It’s not clear how serious Google is about closing Schemer, however. The internal site may reflect real plans, or it could be a just-in-case placeholder; we’ve reached out to the company for a definitive answer. We won’t be surprised if Schemer gets the axe, though, when Google has shut down more beloved services in the past.

Looks like its the end of the line for Schemer and its a real shame because I’ve introduced it to quite a few people who quite like it. Even I have been using on and off quite a bit.

So seeing how Google are hell bent on getting rid of anything which doesn’t seem to fit Google+, has no moonshot inspiration or make them money right now.. What would I suggest happens to Schemer?

I’d love to see the BBC takeover from Google. Hear me out, its not as nutty as it first seems.

The improvement and inspiration in peoples lives is something at the heart of the BBC, ok we’re mainly talking about Great Britain but maybe its time we looked further a field. Lots of the goals on Schemer match or fit in with a BBC programme (TV/Radio/Web). For example my goal to head to TokyoThere’s 36 BBC Learning resources about Tokyo. 3 about the religion. 188 verified and checked websites. With some crowdsourcing (hate that word too) a combination of what the BBC recommends and what the people actually use, you can easily see fantastic guides for everything from reading more on the tram to going to Tokyo.

Maybe I need to write this up in more detail but thats for another day.

Interestingly with all this talk about closing down Schemer, I’m thinking what happened to the whole decentralised networking thing? Is there a way to take the best parts of Schemer but bake it into the web? Heck it could be a WordPress plugin or a RDF/a or Microformats/Data?

I have been writing my new years resolutions in the public on my blog for quite some time. I was surprised to found out its been since 2008 I have been doing so. If I remember rightly it was something to do with Critsiano Betta, Miss Geeky and a series of posts about new year resolutions.

Anyhow I’ve inspired someone others to do the same. Andy and Tim.

inspired by @cubicgarden I blogged my new years resolutions http://www.andy-powell.net/new-years-resolutions-2014/

And thats one of the wonderful things about Schemer. Seeing how your goal inspires others. You can also aid/help people get their goals. This naturally happens when you state your goals in public. For example… here’s a comment from Rachel offering her help with my genealogy.  On Facebook theres also more.

The importance of having your own blog/space, yes but its the collective nature which could make it a replacement for the almost dead schemer?

Removing the mass from media

Netflix Doodle

I was listening to Framerate 152. And they mentioned a story written by Tim WuNetflix’s War on Mass Culture Binge-viewing was just the beginning. Netflix has a plan to rewire our entire culture.

So I had a read of the whole thing on my kindle via instapaper and it was intriguing.

It starts to answer the question about what happens everyone sees something different. One of the same questions I want to research with Perceptive Media. But I find myself thinking so what? This all sounds like normal life? So what? Hardly breaking new ground. Then I stop and remember… My world isn’t mainstream yet.

If modern American popular culture was built on a central pillar of mainstream entertainment flanked by smaller subcultures, what stands to replace it is a very different infrastructure, one comprising islands of fandom. With no standard daily cultural diet, we’ll tilt even more from a country united by shows like “I Love Lucy” or “Friends” toward one where people claim more personalized allegiances, such as to the particular bunch of viewers who are obsessed with “Game of Thrones” or who somehow find Ricky Gervais unfailingly hysterical, as opposed to painfully offensive.

The baby-boomer intellectuals who lament the erosion of shared values are right: Something will be lost in the transition. At the water cooler or wedding reception or cocktail party or kid’s soccer game, conversations that were once a venue for mutual experiences will become even more strained as chatter about last night’s overtime thriller or “Seinfeld” shenanigans is replaced by grasping for common ground. (“Have you heard of ‘The Defenders’? Yeah? What episode are you on?”) At a deeper level, a country already polarized by the echo chambers of ideologically driven journalism and social media will find itself with even less to agree on.

And there are those who laugh at me when I couldn’t remember the names of the 4 Beatles members or when I don’t know who the guy is playing the guitar on the closing for London Olympics 2012 ceremony. Well laugh all you like but theres going to be even more of us soon and you may be one them sooner than you imagine.

Now I know this might seem like a reason to be fearful for the future, I mean what about social collusion?

But it’s not all cause for dismay. Community lost can be community gained, and as mass culture weakens, it creates openings for the cohorts that can otherwise get crowded out. When you meet someone with the same particular passions and sensibility, the sense of connection can be profound. Smaller communities of fans, forged from shared perspectives, offer a more genuine sense of belonging than a national identity born of geographical happenstance.

Tim Wu then goes off on one about how this is the grounding of America, which is a logical argument. Netflix is simply understood where the future is heading and hitched its self to the future.

Purpose of blogging it was as a clear sign for those who laugh and make fun. One day its going to happen to you too…

 

Phones On Planes Are Inevitable In A Connected World

WiFi on tube

Stowe Boyd makes a good point about the phones on a plane debate which has broken out.

Flying on an airplane is not some weekend escape at a spa where we place hot rocks on our chakras and seek enlightenment. It’s just another mode of transit.

Yes, air travel has gone downhill, like most things in the postnormal. And yes, airlines will exploit this opportunity to gouge another pound of flesh from the meat that waddles on and off their planes. That’s the way things work.

But to hold to some quaint, antiquated notion of peace and quiet in the air is laughable. Airplanes are loud in the first place — 60-90 decibels — so anyone with any sense will bring earplugs, hearing protection earmuffs, or noise cancelling headphones. This is especially true of road warriors, who otherwise can get cumulative hearing loss.

So get over your antiquated, 1970s attitudes about phones on planes. In a connected world, people will naturally use whatever technologies they can to remain connected: their livelihoods and relationships are at stake.

Just like wifi on public transport…

I don’t really like the idea of people yammering away on phones while on public transport but we got use to it and found ways around the noise. Sometimes we put headphones on, sometimes we tell people to stfu. Frankly we will deal with it because being connected for many of us is not just a nicety, but a must. And unfortunately that does mean dealing with idiots who shout down a phone.

Oversharing or overlistening?

Tony sent me this tweet, I think in the aim to scary me a little with this social experiment. The crux of the video is a guy who uses social media to fool the person into thinking he knows them.

From Lifehacker

the practice of hot reading is nothing new, but with social media oversharing becoming ever more prevalentalongside the voluntary dismantling of personal space through geotagging, Vale’s ostensibly harmless “social media experiment” is an excellent reminder that you may want to consider keeping some things to yourself.,

Although trying to be funny and make a point about how much we overshare. Tony, lifehacker and the guy doing the hot reading, mistake the balance of public sharing. The benefits of being public out weigh the negative of being closed and private. Of course this is from personal experience

I direct all those overlistening to Jeff Jarvis’s public parts book.

It’s a refreshing take on a topic often covered by people who feel that the Internet — and in particular, social networks like Facebook and the vast amount of personal data that flow within them — threatens to imperil our children and undermine our society. . . . .

“His book is not so much a rallying cry for tweeting your breakfast choices and blogging your company financials as it is a field guide for how to navigate this new technology with optimism rather than fear.”

Social introverts

Been wondering if I’m a social introvert?

Don’t get me wrong I love socialising and social settings but I also like to decompress alone in my own space. Melinda aka Miss Geeky gave a great presentation at Hacked.io. Some of the things she mentions I can identify with

I realized that most people don’t have a good understanding of what introversion and extraversion is. Typically they think that being an introvert means you’re quiet and shy, while being an extrovert is seen as being social and outgoing. And that’s not exactly right.

For me, introversion and extraversion is all about energy: what recharges you and what drains you? Extroverts find energy in interaction: they recharge by being around people, by interacting with what’s outside themselves. Introverts, on the other hand, will get their energy from reflection: they recharge by looking inwards, by being alone. So this does mean that extroverts will be much more likely to be social and outgoing, and that introverts will be much more likely to be quiet and shy. But that’s not always the case. You can have extroverts that are shy. And you can have introverts that are social and outgoing.

My term for this group of social introverts: social caterpillars.

I can get on board with this… Although most people think I’m a extrovert (ok I slightly do too), most of the things I do tend to match what introverts do in certain situations. Over time I’ve gotten better at being extroverted (without getting loud and annoying) but its not all me. Maybe this is why I can understand the view points of introverts?

Anyway its a good presentation and something I’d like to follow up on, in the future.

An experiment in mobile dating…

OKCupid!

For years now I’ve been dating using websites and speed dating. I have also at the same time been reading people’s accounts of there dating, such as 52 first dates. Every once in a while I moan about the lack of transparency and data from dating sites and if you know me, sometimes over a couple of drinks I swear I’m going to write a book about my dating experiences.

So with all that in mind, I read the blog post “taking my dating life mobile a social experiment” with a lot of interest.

Basically Senior Writer for ReadWrite.com Dan Rowinski is going to use mobile dating apps to gage there success rates in finding love. Of course there is rules…

I have to set some parameters here, or this type of experiment could completely take over my life. So here are my ground rules:

Parameters

  • I will actively use dating apps for at least one month to meet actual people.
  • I will use a variety of apps (Android and iOS) to get a good sense of their depth and variety.

What I Will Do

  • Approach each connection with an open mind and respect.
  • Apply the rule of “half your age plus seven” to how old a date has to be (nobody in their late teens or very early 20s).
  • Notify dates that I am writing a series on dating apps.
  • If I make a meaningful connection and start a fledgling relationship with someone I meet, I’ll terminate the experiment.

What I Won’t Do

  • I won’t actively use the dating apps to just look for a “hookup.” No trolling for sex on my smartphone.
  • I won’t recount much in the way of specific details about my dates. Yes, I’ll share a few anecdotes here and there, but if you’re looking for salacious gossip, click elsewhere.
  • I won’t do anything to endanger my physical, emotional or financial safety.
  • I won’t lie to make myself look better or misrepresent myself in any way.
  • I won’t ignore possible connections in real life that didn’t originate on my smartphone.

The Apps I’ll Be Using
I chose the following apps because they represent a good cross section of new, interesting, location-based, social and traditional approaches. I won’t be using any traditional websites affiliated with the services, should they exist. For instance, when I use eHarmony or Match, I’ll only use those sites through their apps and over email to my phone. Here they are:

  • Let’s Date – Popular new app that allows to browse anonymously for connections.
  • Tinder – Location-based app that allows you to see who’s nearby, their pictures and snippets from their Facebook profiles.
  • eHarmony – There should be at least one traditional dating site in here to provide a counter to mobile-only apps.
  • OkCupid – It’s free and has a decent app.
  • Blendr – Among the several sub-tier dating apps in contention, I’m going with Blendr just because it looks the least troll-y.
  • Martini (if applicable) – Group dating app that just came to the Apple App Store.

Now the question is do I join in and try it out for myself?

In the past I have used Okcupid and Plenty of Fishes mobile apps and its been fun in some cases.

Don’t get me wrong I’m interested to find out what could happen and find out if mobile dating is any good or not. Mobile dating is a different take on the same idea? I did propose this as something different a while ago.

Archiving your social media

Found Recollect via Imran

We archive everything you do online.

There are a lot of great places to share your life online; we know because we use and love most of them. But this means our digital lives are spread across many different services.

It’s easy to get lost trying to find old memories. That’s why we built Recollect, the best place to archive and explore your digital life.

From a Data portability point of view it looks pretty good but its quite limited right now as it only supports Flickr, 4 Square, Instagram and Twitter. 2 of which I don’t actually use and to be honest I don’t really need the Flickr one because I have everything backed up already and I pay another service to archive my tweets.

I am interested to find out what format it saves them all in (I know its Gzipped or Tar’d, but the base format) and also in Twitter’s case how far back the timeline goes back? Does it include Retweets, @replies, Favoruates and other things.

Guess theres only one way to find out…?

The killer application for distributed social networking?

How do we make things move along quicker in the area of distributed/federated technology? Things are moving very slowly although it seems most of the components are in place.

When I wrote the blog about Rebel mouse, I found some interesting links to some distributed solutions which could see the end of the likes of twitter and facebook.

OStatus is an open standard for distributed status updates. The goal is to have a specification that allows different messaging hubs to route status updates between users in near-real-time. This spec took over from the OpenMicroBlogging spec of old.

I remember writing about wordpress’s distributed solution a while ago.

The weird thing is I logged into Diaspora again today and not only is it a ghost town (not like G+, but really like a ghost town) but it got me thinking whats different about Diaspora and G+? Now the hype died down, its time to see some very cool uses of Diaspora. What have they got to loose? Dare I say it, wheres the killer application? Wheres the thing which will make people sit up and take note once again? Heck whys no one doing cool stuff with the API?

So what is the killer application which will tip people over? I have some thoughts but what ever it is, please let it happen soon before we’re all forced to beg twitter, facebook, etc for our data back.