How I’m Using Twitter Now

Last night I decided to start tweeting again.

While I never really left Twitter completely, I largely took a break from it for the last 8 months. Last year I started being much more conscious of how I use technology and as part of that, unfollowed nearly everyone and stopped actively engaging with people on the platform. Having the distance gave me the space to think about if and how I might start using it again. So of course I made a list of rules for myself.

  1. Don’t open Twitter because you’re bored. As far as I’m concerned, the same goes for any social media app (or any other app) you open when you’re bored.
  2. Don’t keep Twitter open in a browser tab. This is like keeping Twitter on the home screen of your phone.
  3. Use Tweetbot on your iPhone and don’t place it on the home screen. Tweetbot is the best designed Twitter app you will find (for iOS), it has a chronological feed and is a pleasure to use.
  4. Tweet with positive purpose. Pretty self-explanatory. Don’t be a dick.
  5. Don’t overthink your tweets. Twitter was and is, at least to me, a platform well-suited for ephemera. I use TweetDelete.net to automatically delete my tweets after several days. I’ve seen tweets become a liability. True intent loses to perceived intent. No Thanks.
  6. Be open. Be Accessible. Leave your DMs open and respond to people, unless it’s the stalker salesperson that already emailed me and hit me up on LinkedIn.
  7. Don’t retweet often and never retweet without your own perspective or context. It’s easy to retweet and that’s by design. Use it sparingly. Use your own voice.
  8. Don’t follow a lot of people, especially people that retweet more than they tweet. Caveat: if someone is both interesting and is a habitual retweeter, turn off their retweets. I currently follow 137 people. That’s quite a few people and I should probably follow even fewer.
  9. Don’t follow people that talk a lot about themselves, news or politics. The exception here is when big, important news events are happening. I don’t need daily commentary on the news. I will go to trusted news publications for that if and when I want it.
  10. Use lists for people, topics or industries that you might want to read sometimes, but don’t want to show up in your main feed. The List feature is such a wonderful and under-utilized feature (because it’s hidden). Most of my lists are private, but I have many.

Special thanks to Patrick for a good, early morning exchange about Twitter in the Sonos office this morning. It helped me get more clear about some of my rules.

My Favorite Albums of 2018

I started with a list of nearly fifty albums and after spending too much time trying to put it all in some order that ultimately won’t mean all that much to most people, I settled on my top ten.

  1. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
  2. Pusha T – Daytona
  3. Nils Frahm – All Melody
  4. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
  5. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
  6. Tim Hecker – Konoyo
  7. Aphex Twin – Collapse EP
  8. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
  9. Daniel Avery – Song for Alpha
  10. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

What’s a list without some music? I created a mix called Melody and Distortion. You can find it on Spotify and Apple Music. It is best enjoyed as it is sequenced.

A few changes

I’m trying something a little different to see how it goes. After all the hassle of trying to move everything to WordPress.com vs. my self-hosted thing on Dreamhost, I’m back on Dreamhost. I’ve been on Dreamhost for well over a decade. I was thinking about shutting my Dreamhost account down to save money, hassle and time. One of the things that bugged me about my shared server account was my site would be dreadfully slow sometimes. While annoying, it wasn’t the end of the world and there was a pretty simple way to make it faster – Dreamhost VPS. So now I’m paying a little more money, but my site is faster and there are some other geeky advantages that I won’t go into.

The other thing is that since I started participating in the awesome micro.blog community, it kind of clutters everything up with these microblog posts, some of which are out of context. So I moved all that to a micro.blog hosted microblog, which redirects to micro.whatevernevermind.com. If you’re using an RSS reader, which you should, you can add that to your feed reader as well. It’s much more frequent posts (multiple times/day) with lots of links and stuff. This space will be used for more longer form posts, which I plan to also do more often. Gonna see how this works. I’ll keep comments open for a bit in case anyone has questions or feedback.

We Can Help Immigrant Families

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Los Angeles March for Immigrant Rights by Molly Bloom

Like any parent with some awareness of what’s happening in the world, I have been deeply disturbed by the “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that our president and his administration have adopted. Just as he instituted it, he can stop the barbaric, heartless and inhumane practice of separating children, often young, from their parents. He has chosen not to. Instead he is doubling down on separating families and putting children into what are, at best, prison camps and, at worst, concentration camps. I would encourage you to read what former Japanese internment camp prisoner, now psychotherapist, Satsuki Ina had to say about what the current administration is doing and the lasting effects it will have on the thousands of children being held.
We are not helpless. There are things we can do and I wanted to share some resources I’ve come across recently. To be clear, these aren’t things to make us feel better about what’s happening. I would encourage you to remain uncomfortable and disturbed. As odd as that may sound, the moment we stop being emotionally impacted by what’s happening is the moment this practice becomes normalized and accepted. It is not normal and it is completely unacceptable.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” Paying for great journalism is one way we can have an impact. I recommend the New York Times, Washington Post or The Guardian. Good journalism takes a lot on money to sustain. Many of the stories that have been written and syndicated about the separation of families and detailed accounts of the prison camps where children are being held would not be possible without the money generated by subscriptions.

The Cut has a great list of things you can do right now to help immigrant families separated at the border. Just today I donated to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) as well as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Both organizations are doing some of the most important work on the issue.

If you can’t volunteer or give money, there’s an awesome app called 5 Calls that makes it exceptionally easy to call your elected officials. No matter what issue(s) you care about, calling elected officials is a simple and impactful action you can take on your lunch break or any other small window of downtime in your day.

My hope is that this information shows that you can do something. Stay angry, upset, outraged and disturbed, but don’t wonder what action you can take. If there are other things you’re doing, hit reply and let me know. Just like you, I want to help and am trying to gather as much information as I can.

Originally sent to subscribers of Outcome Unknown, an email list focused on parenting.

I just moved my blog from self-hosted WordPress to hosted WordPress.com. I’m just tired of managing my own hosting stuff. It’s just not something I want to spend any time on anymore.

A More Conscious Approach To Using Technology

There are two topics that have been consuming my thoughts for several months. They were largely separate in my head, but once I started writing about them I realized they were very much related to this idea of consciously using technology vs. technology using you. Something about taking control and being intentional about how you use technology in your life and the benefits that come along with it.

The first topic is one I simply refer to as technology addiction, specifically our mobile devices. Articles have been written in many mainstream publications and many more blogs have been posted about it. Explanations, proposed solutions and think pieces relating it to the destruction of society are easy to find. Simply put, it’s the idea that we’re too addicted to our mobile devices, due in no small part to app makers competing for our attention — all of it. Due to the fact that this is all a very recent phenomenon, the effects on society are largely unknown, but indicators are not painting a pretty picture, especially for teens.

My own interest in it was really born out of curiosity more than anything. I knew I spent a lot of time on my phone, but I wanted to quantify it so I could begin to figure out how to change it. I had a conversation with a well-known person in the world of technology that made me think a lot about the topic. One night at a small, group dinner in Stockholm he went on and on about how addicted we are to our phones and that the major phone manufacturers, namely Apple, needed to get it together and offer some OS-level controls that would allow us to be less distracted. He said something to the effect of ‘think about if HealthKit tracked your usage the way it tracks the rest of your health. Apple is a decision away from including that.’ Google just announced tools built in to the upcoming version of Android and I expect Apple will do something similar.

Several months before that dinner in Stockholm I became acquainted with Tristan Harris and the work of the Center For Humane Technology. Tristan was everywhere — TED, the podcast circuit, many mainstream publications. Then there was the Nellie Bowles article in The NY Times about making your screen greyscale, which I did for quite a while and still do occasionally. A little over a year ago I started using an app called Moment, which quantifies my iPhone usage. There’s nothing better, at least not for iOS. Experience has taught me the best way to change something is to start measuring it. Here’s a recent snapshot of my iPhone usage.

 

It’s worth noting that I exclude some apps I don’t think should be counting toward my screen time — Waze, Google Maps, Mail, Messages and the Home & Lock Screen.

If you’re not curious about your mobile usage, you either don’t use it as much as most people or you’re in complete denial. My guess is your results will shock and shame you into paying much closer attention. You will think to yourself, ‘this just isn’t possible!’

Moment and reading a lot about technology addiction has lead me down a path of experimenting with a bunch of ways to cut down on the amount of time I spend on my iPhone. I had long since turned almost all notifications off on all devices. I highly recommend this as a first step to anyone interested in reducing distractions. Decide who or what should be able to interrupt you and turn everything else off. Changing my screen to greyscale had a small effect, but not much. Moving apps off my home screen and into a folder helped a little. Unsurprisingly, what helped the most was simply deleting apps from my phone. Short of that, reflecting on how happy an app makes me when I use it was also quite helpful. If an app made me unhappy or otherwise feel negative, I deleted it. Here’s what my current home screen looks like.

 

When I initially started assessing apps that made me feel negative and unhappy, Twitter was at the top of the list. It was also the app I used the most. I started using Twitter in 2006. I was among the first thousand people on the network. For the following decade I really loved it, but something started to happen a couple years ago, probably more. There was an explosion of harassment, hate, abuse, bigotry and, of course, there was the 2016 election. The election was the tipping point for me. To make matters worse, Twitter was unwilling to deal with the negativity effectively, though they took a nice step this week to hide disruptive tweets from conversations and search. I’m not going to hold my breath.

Instead of deleting my Twitter account, which I don’t imagine I will do, I made a bunch of lists and unfollowed nearly everyone. Twitter had so clearly become a hazard to my mental well-being, I just needed to stop using it the way I was using before I unfollowed everyone. I was retweeting, issuing my own hot takes on the same things everyone else was outraged about and I started hating myself for it. I put a few rules on my Twitter usage — I was mostly going to use it to share links, I would steer clear of most political discussions and I would try my best to keep my tweets positive or at least neutral. It didn’t take long before I was using Twitter much less than I once did. Then I started thinking, why should I keep publishing what I do only on Twitter? All signs point to Twitter becoming much more of a walled garden and while I plan to use Twitter again, it’s going to be different.

This brings me to the second topic — the return to the open web, or as some refer to it, the re-decentralization of the web. This isn’t a new idea, but a continuation of an effort that really got underway some years ago. The promise of the open web didn’t last long and many are waking up to the fact that we need to do something to save it.

Not long after I got serious about reducing the time I was spending on my iPhone and how I was using Twitter, I started noticing articles bubbling to the surface. Tom Critchlow’s “Small b blogging” and Dan Cohen’s “Back to the Blog” come to mind and are great reads on a renewed interest in, and support of, blogging on the open web. Wired even called for an RSS revival (I continue to use RSS as I have since the early aughts), the antithesis of the algorithmic bubbles of Facebook, Twitter and others. And then there was microblogging.

At the beginning of 2017, a guy called Manton Reece launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign called Indie Microblogging: Owning your shortform writing, which resulted in a platform called Micro.blog that really does feel like the beginning of something special.

Over a month ago I tweeted…

 

That day I dusted off whatevernevermind.com, updated a few things on my WordPress admin console and started writing, mostly microblogs (formerly known as tweets) and syndicated them to my Micro.blog account. It was like starting over with a bunch of nice people talking about interesting things that, for the most part, didn’t include politics. They were also posting amazing photography and microcasts. The most recent version of the macOS Micro.blog app even has a great Instagram import tool, which has allowed me to import every photo I’ve ever posted on Instagram to my blog.

The idea of publishing on my own corner of the internet and syndicating out microblogs and selectively cross-posting to Twitter (if I even do that) is new for me. It feels right. If there’s engagement, great. If not, at least I’m writing and it has a home that isn’t dependent on anyone except me. That feels like the internet I’ve always loved.

Instead of getting sucked into my phone and filling every idle moment with my eyes on a screen, I’m making a serious effort to enjoy more idle moments. I’m being more intentional in how and when I use my phone. I’m far from perfect, but I’m enjoying being in my head more often and being more present in conversations, especially with my kids. Letting my mind wander has been a catalyst for reading and writing more, leaving less time for infinitely scrolling, though I still do more of that than I would like. My intention is to do it less and I’m measuring my progress every week.

One Great Read 0005 – This Must Be David Byrne

The following was sent to subscribers of One Great Read, an email newsletter I send out periodically. Check out the archives and subscribe if you would like to receive them via email in the future.

Looking at the list of subscribers, I think I know most of you personally. I’m also pretty sure most of you are music nerds, or at least music lovers. In my mind, if you fall into either category, you are undoubtedly a David Byrne fan. I mean, really, how could you not be? Over the weekend we watched the Coachella stream on YouTube and thankfully caught David Byrne’s incredible performance. He’s not only timeless, he’s still extremely relevant, creative and infinitely talented. If you didn’t catch him last weekend, make it a point to watch him this weekend. In the mean time GQ posted a long read on him worth your attention.

I’m taking a break from dealing with my browser tabs. It’s completely out-of-control insane. I’m making progress, but I have a lot more ot go through. Almost every time I close a tab without doing something, I command-shift-t to open the tab back up and bookmark it in Pinboard. I have over 30,000 bookmarks in Pinboard, dating back to the early aughts thanks to del.icio.us. I’m a digital packrat hoarder, but it really does come in handy for recalling information. My rule is simple – if I think there’s a chance I might want to refer back to it later, I bookmark and tag it. Tagging is essential. It’s not something one goes back to do. If you don’t tag things going in, well, good luck to you.

One Great Read 0004 – Your Data Is Safe With Me

The following was sent to subscribers of One Great Read, an email newsletter I send out periodically. Check out the archives and subscribe if you would like to receive them via email in the future.

So, about that once-a-week thing… Don’t worry though. I figured out a better system for choosing reads for this list and I have a bunch of them all queued up and ready for you.

Unless you completely avoid news, which BTW is really good for your health, you’ve likely seen a lot of news around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Shortly after it all happened, I was going through my todo list and came upon an item that read, “Request your personal data from Cambridge Analytica. It was from last year. Needless to say, I hadn’t gotten around to checking that todo item off my list.

Anyone with Facebook should most definitely download their data. Even if you never use it, download your data and see what they have on you. You’ll probably be as surprised as Brian X. Chen from the New York Times was. He wrote an article called “I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes.”

So, yeah…