There is an irony in the Social Dilemma website prompting for you to accept non-essential cookies. I'd like to know what they consider an essential cookie.

17/09/2020, 15:26

I'm watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, the documentary about the dangers of social media, and am well aware that the reason I'm watching it is because I already believe that social media is a threat to our sanity. It is reaffirming my existing beliefs and if I didn't feel this way then it would probably never make my list.

I've been very consciously noting how the various bloggers whose feeds I subscribe to have been sharing increasingly targeted and narrow content. It's only natural, we seek out what supports our ideas and point of view; it's easier that way, we don't have to think about alternatives or deal with conflict. It's validation and it's addictive.

Maybe it's the current environment: US election, ongoing Brexit fallout, the pandemic, and everything surrounding them. It was the arguments and division over the 2016 US election and Brexit that originally convinced me to delete my accounts, and it's threatening to drive me away from bloggers who I have followed for many years.

On both sides.

Listening to those engineers and executives who were at the forefront of creating the social tools but have now realised that their creations are causing so many problems reminds me of how I was back in the early days. When I decided to blog only about social media in 2008 I was so focused on the benefits it could have, how it could bring people together and allow us to interact in ways we had never before imagined or been able. There was only the upside and optimism and I devoted years to writing about how this could make things better, coming up with ways that I thought the networks could improve.

Just like the engineers and executives there was no thought of a downside, no consideration of bad actors and manipulation - it was this utopian thing, using technology to enhance society. And that can still happen, still does happen. There are countless instances of people connecting, building and using these tools for good. I can only imagine that those using the tools in positive ways are largely only using them for those purposes, they are not the ones getting lost down recommendation rabbit holes or doomscrolling, they have a purpose and a focus which more of us should aspire to.

We don't have to delete our accounts - for many it is just not feasible as the likes of Facebook are the only connection they may have with certain family members or the only way they can be part of specific groups - but the usage has to be more deliberate, more intentional, more task based than the first resort when bored.

When I used to blog about Twitter, Google+ et al I never considered they would be time-fillers but useful tools, tools that enabled and empowered not enslaved you. They still can but as long as algorithmic feeds are the first thing people see when they open an app or visit a website it feels like fighting a losing battle.

I first backed micro.blog because of its promise to do things differently, to be a network of blogs rather than a social network (essentially a social RSS feed reader) but it is still all too easy to treat it like Twitter. It has a feed and, while not algorithmic, the temptation to keep scrolling exists just as much as anywhere else, the lack of intentionality can still be a problem.

Still, the problems we face aren't restricted to what we normally refer to as social networks, they exist wherever people get together on the internet. And off.

Private forums, chat apps and groups, it doesn't have to be networks and algorithms. Those intent on doing so spread hate and lies and misinformation wherever they can and as the networks try to police their content more is going underground.

In The Social Dilemma Tristan Harris, formerly a Design Ethicist at Google and now of the Center for Humane Technology, says:

"It's not about the technology being the existential threat, it's the technology's ability to bring out the worst in society and the worst in society being the existential threat."

And that's the real problem: people. There have always been bad actors it's just that they now have the means to target millions while barely lifting a finger.

The documentary has been criticised for oversimplifying the issue seeming to lay the blame solely at the feet of the networks. Rightly so, it's absolutely not that straightforward but you can understand why this approach has been taken. These are the large organisations which most are familiar with, which most have signed up to and spend an ever-increasing amount of their time. Starting the conversation here could have the biggest impact.

The argument is that the algorithmic nature of the networks exposes you to things you wouldn't normally see whereas joining a forum or a chat group is a choice, something you have explicitly done rather than had pushed upon you.

Still, I don't have the answers. Things need to change but that will only happen if enough people demand it. Sadly, I can't see that happening. All I know is that we have to take individual responsibility for what we do and say online and see where we go from there.

Status

We're moving hosting companies to one that promises to be (and already seems) significantly faster. So, over the next four weeks we've got to migrate over 40 personal and client sites with minimal downtime. Fun!

I'm looking forward to seeing how the blog performs after being moved. The performance issues I've been experiencing (with the site...) have been getting worse and are so frustrating.

15/09/2020, 21:48

Over the past few days or so I've binge watched the whole of seasons 1 & 2 of Cobra Kai and absolutely loved it. I was surprised at how well written it was (while still having its share of 80's cheese) and the depth it builds as the episodes roll by.

The show makes no apology for calling on the original movie and is actually all the better for doing so, it really takes you back to being a kid.

I must confess to welling up slightly with the references to Mr Miyagi and I that's testament to both the impact of the original movies and how well the series has built on them Can't wait for season 3 next year.

Status

At the old house doing some packing, sorting out old rubbish, and re-plastering a wall that got damp a while back and started to crumble.

It's weird being back, it just doesn't feel like home any more. It's still ours but it just doesn't feel like it's ours. It's almost like entering a dead relative's house knowing that you have to clear out the remnants of their life but it's our lives that have moved on and our things that we are choosing whether to keep or not.

We have to be here, and will have to come back a number of times yet, but I can't help but feel I'd rather just lock the door, not look back and never return.

14/09/2020, 14:25

This time last year I had decided that I would return to iOS largely spurred on by the improvements to the cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro. It never transpired because my carrier changed their upgrade policy leaving me "stuck" on Android as I said at the time.

Having upgraded to the Galaxy S20 Ultra earlier this year (has it really been six months already) being stuck on Android couldn't be furthest from my mind. In fact, I've invested heavily in the platform buying multiple apps and a Wear OS watch. That doesn't sound like someone wanting to get away any time soon.

In a sense, however, I do wonder whether I am now locked in, for at least a while. Apps aren't so much of an issue, they're not that expensive in the scheme of things, but the watch is a different matter. Am I now forced to stick with Android devices at least until the watch stops working or receiving updates? How long before it no longer connects to future versions of Android due to being outdated?

Wear OS watches will work with iPhones (albeit with some limitations) so this not need be the complete blocker you'd imagine, even if it's not the full experience.

Ultimately, what real difference does it make for what I do? None.

As I was getting back into blogging more regularly again I spouted some BS about wanting the best tools for the job. What I really meant was the most convenient. I almost always just post text, what do I really need? Not much. As long as I can write and have some way to post (the new post form is about as easy as you can get) then I'm okay. Anything else is just an excuse.

Status

I've been wrestling with a migraine for the past couple of days after not sleeping very well on Tuesday night. The watch shows it was this:

Sleep

I have the watch set to go by seven hours a night; last night was better but still less than six and a half hours. I would have expected to have caught up on more but my body obviously thought otherwise.

Status

Things have been going a bit slow on the blog but I'm not sure if it's the host having issues or a site problem. I'm going to activating/deactivating plugins to test so things may go a bit weird.

07/09/2020, 13:28

I've pulled the trigger and connected by .blog email to OnMail. I've been putting it through its passes and found it to be super quick and I'm happy to pay the $4.99 a month for now.

Status

7:15, back on the road, heading home. Youngest firmly ensconced but I must admit to have been a little tearful at leaving. Although this is her second year at uni, so we should be used to it, it's been nice having her at home for the last six months because of lockdown.

With the early start and being Sunday the trip back should be much quicker. About 110 miles in and stop for a coffee and a bite. It's a glorious day.

06/09/2020, 09:25

Early start and a five hour road trip to take our youngest back to university - it wasn't supposed to be that long but... traffic. She's in a new flat this year so we got most of her stuff unpacked and went shopping for a few other things she needed. Now we can take it easy for the rest of the day as I'm staying overnight and traveling back in the morning.

05/09/2020, 15:47

Submitted a couple of support requests with OnMail. Firstly, a query about their "security scan" as it seems to have an issue with my .blog email - I asked if they would consider a feature to trust certain senders so they don't get flagged as suspicious. Next, I wanted more clarification on exactly what happens (and any potential impact) of connecting an existing email address to OnMail. They're not very clear with how it works and the last thing I'd want to do is mess up my DNS etc.

I've performed some checks and don't see why OnMail would have an issue with my .blog emails. I've got SPF and DMARC in place so it's pretty reliable that emails from me are from me.

03/09/2020, 17:10

We often hear about the paradox of choice and how having too many options leads to anxiety and procrastination. An example I always use from my own experience is when I used to make music on my computer.

When all I had was the application Rebirth I used to be quite prolific, really exploring its possibilities. As soon as I got other software, virtual instruments, and a host of effects plugins my output dropped off considerably. I would spend ages trying to find "the right sound" or try to be inspired by what was in front of me rather than just getting on and making music.

It is claimed that reducing choice for consumers leads to reduced anxiety when shopping. The counter, however, is the assertion that autonomy and freedom of choice is essential for wellbeing so who's right? Surely, some kind of middle ground needs to be established.

I've been dragging my heels a bit regarding certain things so it was with interest that I read Jake LaCaze's post (formerly of Flirting with Nihilism) on writing simply.

Jake has stripped down his blogging workflow to just three components: write.as to host his blog, Markdown and iA Writer - that's it, about as simple as you can get. It's a far cry from my proclivity to install multiple apps and constantly tweak things in the hope something clicks.

I am reminded of when I previously used Android (back in 2014) and there was only one app I used in which I wrote well in excess of 100,000 words despite it being pretty basic. When on the iPhone I used Drafts but then started muddying the waters with Ulysses before finally settling on just Drafts.

Since the switch back to Android it has been a constant procession of different apps and workflows, always looking for that perfect solution when I should be just getting on with the task at hand.

In an effort to resolve this I installed and subscribed to iA Writer hoping it could be my one stop shop. After an initial issue connecting to self-hosted WordPress sites was fixed by iA it didn't sit well with me because of how it handled direct posting - that was the main reason I wanted to try it after all.

With every other writing application I have to export Markdown to the WordPress app so that I can post. Where iA Writer can post directly (but requires me to then go in to edit the draft ready for publishing) I have a mental block on just sharing the text to the WordPress app like I do elsewhere. If the one feature I purchased iA Writer for doesn't fit my needs why do I: 1) still have it installed, or 2) complain about paying for it when other apps I've bought also don't fit 100%?

I need to make a choice and stick with it, limit my options and just get on with writing.

Status

Bob Ross believed "every day's a good day when you paint."

I believe every day's a good day when I blog. Even if the words are a bit negative at least I've had the desire to share something with the world.

02/09/2020, 09:18

After commenting on the chilly start yesterday it turned into a beautiful day. Today has started out better but the forecast warns of very wet weather to come. No matter, we shall still make the most of it.

You're searching for the perfect job, but is it the best fit for you?

That's the prompt at one of the job sites I check on a daily basis; it's quite fitting when talking about making the most of things - something I've most definitely not done throughout my work life.

I've never had a career plan and usually fallen into things by chance - or necessity - not an ideal situation when looking to find something new. A recent email exchange mentioned the difference between being a specialist versus a generalist but I dont really have a specialism and think generalists are under threat as we move ever more towards a world where if you don't have a specific skill or niche you will become unemployable.

My perfect fit? Probably getting paid to write here on the blog (and/or muse-letter) but that relies on you having something to say that people are willing to pay for. I don't see myself as having that.

I dont know if it's just the way my brain works but I find it difficult to look at what I do and consider I have transferrable skills; I certainly don't consider those I do have as sufficient to carry me into a different role. Maybe it's just the way my brain works (or doesn't) but I have never been able to sell myself or create a convincing narrative.

This is probably the kind of thing I should be exploring in morning pages rather than in public view yet I have felt the need for a 'warts and all' approch for a number of years to help hold myself accountable. It is also much harder to escape negative thought loops on your own, the occasional nudge from outside is usually required to make you realise you're stuck.

There's something about seeing the words online that makes them real, perhaps more so than handwritten in a journal - that they are visible to others, should they wish to view them.

As much as the "write for self" mantra is rolled out and "not needing validation from others" is extolled having those 'others' read and occasionally offer a few words in response is what makes this all worthwhile.

Status

I just wanted to get an example of how the inline post form operates and show how easy it is to post now that it's there. What wasn't easy was trying to get things looking nice so I finally opted for a cropped image linking to the screen recording.

It's such a shame that the Markdown editor doesn't play nicely on mobile but I can live with that.

02/09/2020, 07:23

I received my invite to OnMail earlier so have signed up for a free account just to take a look around. I liked some of the features in Hey but wasn't sure if I'd be willing to pay for them, plus they didn't have custom domains on launch. OnMail has and I'm intrigued as you can link an existing domain if you sign up for one of the paid plans (starting at $4.99 a month.)

01/09/2020, 21:09
Colin Walker
Colophon. Content: CC NY-BC 2.0 UK, Code: GPLv3