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…

Going Back To Blogging

Image by Christophe Benoit under a Creative Commons license

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I’m consuming and participating in social media. The thinking is also related to my efforts to pay closer attention to how much time I’m spending on my phone, but I’ll save that for another post. I was among the first users of Twitter in 2006 and until the last few years, I really enjoyed it. The 2016 election was a big turning point on so many fronts, but I felt and witnessed it most acutely on Twitter. Make no mistake, even before the election Twitter had been struggling with an insane amount of hate and harassment on the platform. Many of us expressed frustration that Twitter didn’t seem to care, or at the very least weren’t willing to move quickly to address the issue. It’s clear they prioritize growth over all else and removing people from the platform doesn’t serve their business needs. I don’t believe they’ll have much of a business for much longer. But I digress. To put it simply, I’m just not happy when I use Twitter anymore. It makes me miserable. No matter what lengths I go to, I find it increasingly difficult to avoid vitriolic political conversations, noisy retweeting and hot takes on everything that’s happening in the world, every minute it’s happening. That’s not how I want to spend my time.

I’ve tried many things to see if I could somehow find the Twitter I used to love, but it’s so clearly gone that I’ve all but given up. Over the last year or so I unfollowed nearly everyone, added people I care anything about into public and private lists and set my tweets to delete every 14 days. I’ve been using Twitter mostly to share links with the few thousand people that follow me, the vast majority of whom do not engage with anything I post, so why bother anymore? The way I look at it, whatever small amount of energy and effort I put into Twitter is energy I could be putting into something that is mine, on a platform I control, that will live on as long as I pay the domain registration and hosting bills.

Up until today, the last thing I posted of any substance here was almost three years ago. Back when I started blogging, there were no social networks. Blogging was very social for me. I was going though my email archives this week and thanks to my digital hoarding, I have all of my blog comments in my email. Reading through a few of them, I couldn’t help but be nostalgic. It was nostalgia for the community and the conversation. I miss it. I used to experience it on Twitter, but that’s long gone now. I love writing for many reasons and I’ve continued doing it mostly in the form of journals that I don’t share publicly. I do miss writing for the web though. I miss the healthy feedback loop. I miss the conversations that can come from sharing ideas with other people. I’ve been scared to leave Twitter. I’ve been even more scared to start publishing on my own domain again. The thing that has really been holding me back from blogging again is what Dan Cohen refers to as ambient humanity in his post, “Back to the Blog”.

Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that “others are here”—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site.

It’s worth reading the whole thing, but the quote above really resonated with me in a big way. There hasn’t been any sort of technical reason keeping me from getting back to my blog. I’ve actually kept the blog alive all this time, if for no other reason than having it serve as an archive. Over the last year, I consolidated posts from other blogs that have disappeared, migrated posts from Tumblr and made sure to keep my WordPress installation up to date. I’ve had my own domain for nearly twenty years and throughout many of those years I’ve been publishing and now I think it’s time to return. Even if no one reads it, it’s about investing in me.

“There’s no more urgent reason to write. you’ll not only improve your communication, you’ll learn to think more clearly as well. The person who most benefits from your writing might be you.” — Seth Godin

As I’ve been thinking about beginning to blog again, I’ve been exploring Micro.blog. It’s is one of the more interesting efforts I’ve seen lately and I’ll be cross-posting my short posts there. You’ll see a couple of them below this one. I think of these short posts the same way I used to think of tweets. If you’re on Micro.blog, feel free to follow me there. If you want to read everything I post, I suggest doing so via RSS. It’s no coincidence that RSS is seeing a resurgence. I’ll probably do an extensive write-up on how I use RSS soon. In the mean time, create an account on Feedly and add this site.