Tag Archives: Software

upgrade done

Workmen by Adrian Stewart

Workmen by Adrian Stewart

I just went from WordPress 2.0something-or-other to 2.7 yesterday. v2.7 has a very pretty, very usable dashboard. It claims it can auto-upgrade the core for me (which I’m scared of, but impressed by) and does the kind of browse-click-relax auto-install of plug-ins I’m familiar with from Gallery2.

If you haven’t upgraded, check it out. WordPress.org is running 2.7 from what I can see.

The primary goal of social networks is *not* communication

> “The primary goal of a social network is to connect people, to simplify their communication, and to help them stay in touch.”
[Alex Iskold on Read/Write Web](http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebook_what_if_more_is_less.php#more)

This view is widely held by people who have failed to understand [Granovetter’s idea of “weak ties”](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Granovetter#The_Strength_of_Weak_Ties) – contacts you can maintain with minimal maintenance. Social networks are not just your friends and your friends’ friends and so on. Social networks are a powerful notion (and “networking” such a powerful activity) because they include people who you can’t really call friends but with whom you have a positive, yet weak, relationship.

People in business don’t network to make friends. You don’t go to a conference, collect business cards and then try to “stay in touch” with everyone afterwards. That’s psychologically impossible except for very remarkable people. You can however maintain weak ties with vastly more people than you can maintain an intimate or even friendly relationship with.

> “At the center of Facebook today is the news feed – a dynamic listing of the collective activity of all your friends. The news feed shows updates from your friends, prompting you to explore their profiles and the site. When someone adds an application or befriends someone new or posts a video or a picture, the news feed directs you to their profile page to check it out.”

[Iskold’s argument](http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/facebook_what_if_more_is_less.php#more) seems to be that [Facebook](http://www.facebook.com) is a bad mix of ideas: more intimate and less professional than [LinkedIn](http://www.linkedin.com), less about communication than [MySpace](http://www.myspace.com), hence (possibly) doomed to fail. MySpace, he argues, puts communication right at the top of their priorities, whereas Facebook puts mere notifications of all the things your friends are doing at the top of profiles and The Wall, on which friends can write notes, right at the bottom.

If you assume that social networks are about communication, this is disastrous. In my experience though, Facebook hits a real sweet spot. I hated MySpace because it requires almost constant attention to the various messages people sent me, I couldn’t simply respond via email, I had to go read their comments on my profile, go to their profile, read the comment book and add my comment.

Too intense. Too personal. Too much time.

On Facebook, by contrast, I don’t do a lot of communicating and neither do most of my contacts. I have nearly 100 contacts, yet I feel closer to them because I note little things about them in their movie reviews, status updates and new befriendings. Contacts I do talk to a bit to reveal things they might not bother mentioning (getting their citizenship sorted out, having a small bout of seizures) that help me understand and empathize with them better. But contacts from decades ago are finding me and tracing the lines of their lives gives us both a way to become reacquainted from far away without the mandatory two days camping and drinking beer to catch up.

This gentle layer of developing intimacy makes me feel much less awkward about contacting people to ask for help in finding work, getting answers to questions and introducing people. My cold, dead office at LinkedIn on the other hand is characterized by a stony silence.

And all this takes me less than 10 minutes a day, or 20-30 once a week.

The primary goal of a social network is to connect people and help them maintain weak ties, not to simplify communication or help them stay in touch. We have email and IM. Staying in touch with everyone constantly is too much work.

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If, like me, your computer’s hard drive has slowly filled and you’re not entirely certain where all those gigabytes went, might I cautiously recommend (for Mac OS users) GrandPerspective. It visualizes all the files on your hard drive as rectangles packed roughly intuitively. I’ve used other tools, but this one makes it trivial to locate unusually large files and as well as unusually large directories with one picture.

Grand Perspective graph

This helped me work out that most of the weight in my Mail archive was from one year which seems to have up to 5 copies of the same mail item, often with fat attachments… Check it out. Cool tool.

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Mornings are a fragile time. One of the ways I’m trying to adapt my practice to stay more balanced is to create a more tranquil morning and even a more tranquil working environment most of the time. Version 1 is a set of practices, some in my computer, some in physical space to establish and maintain some kind of tranquility.

1. __Rise early__ I’d drifted into rising around 8.30-9am which means that the world is busy when I wake up, there’s less time to do things that aren’t urgent in the morning and I *feel* slack. I’m up at 7am currently and I’m working back to 6am.

2. __Meditation__ I’ve been doing some kind of sitting practice to start the day for a while. Now that [I’m in the Formation programme](http://www.timbomb.net/blog/2007/01/27/a-new-gneuby/), I’m expected to “say the Hours”: a reading followed by a short session of sitting meditation upon arising, at dusk and before bed — at least. I’m using June Singer’s “Gnostic Book of Hours”, which is lovely and provides an excellent dip into the books from the [Nag Hammadi find](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nag_Hammadi_library).

3. __No Blogs or Email Until You Get Something Done__ I think I got this tip from [Merlin](http://www.43folders.com/), but it’s been floating around the ‘sphere — when you finish with email for the day, close the program; when you finish reading blogs, close the feed reader. Don’t open either of them again until after you’ve done something off the task list at the start of the day. This means I don’t get trapped into the cycle of responding to emails first thing. This is new for me, I started two days ago. Good so far! Oh, that task list?

1. __Maintain GTD__ David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” has been my favourite way to manage what I’ve got to do ever since I read his book. If I can stay current and on top of the core practices in GTD, I feel balanced, in control and able to do anything. It’s magic.

5. __Don’t Browse. Walk.__ I have a habit that when I get restless at a task I decide to “take a break”, which means I slump in my chair and start crawling the web for fun. I’ve gradually realised that this restlessness is fairly physical, so if I take the cue and just get up, make a cup of tea, go for a quick walk into the back yard, or go buy milk, and then sit down again I don’t have to get trapped into the brainsuck of four hours of websurfing where I don’t remember where the time went. Of course, sometimes I’m not paying attention and I drift into surfing — often at the kinds of websites with… umm… lots of pictures. So to create that little mindful break, I’ve installed a [Greasemonkey](http://greasemonkey.mozdev.org/) script in Firefox called [“Invisibility Cloak” ](http://lifehacker.com/software/feature/geek-to-live-ban-timewasting-web-sites-146448.php)that lets me ban the big time-suck sites until after a certain time (mine’s set to 7pm).

So, we’ll see. I’m hoping to work pretty hard this year on several fronts, so staying calm and organised is going to be important. Ask me in three months if it’s working.

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The end of a community

I’ve written [previously](http://www.timbomb.net/blog/2002/07/15/the-hagiography-of-ian-roberts/) about the [Ian Roberts](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Roberts_%28rugby_league_footballer%29) fan page I keep called “[World Of Ian](http://www.timbomb.net/ian)”. I didn’t mention in that post that, since February 2001 I’ve also moderated an online community at [Yahoo Groups](http://groups.yahoo.com/) also called “World Of Ian”. I started the group because I kept getting email from people who liked the fan site and I thought they ought to have some way to talk to each other.

As time wore on it turned out to be a pretty decent way to gather new news about what the guy was up to. Much more reliable than Robert’s various agents who have promised to send me updates but never do.

In the last couple of years, the group has had little traffic and I’ve kind of lost interest in running it. In the last twelve months, the group’s attracted the attention of someone who was charged with stalking Roberts a few years ago – he’s been the primary poster, which has been good for traffic, but he’s been a bit of a handful to moderate.

In the end, I decided a few weeks ago to let the group end. It had about 900 subscribers, but more than half of those had set their preferences to “No Email” – not a good sign – and fewer than 10 people had posted in the last year.

Today I pulled the plug and sent a final email to the group. Here’s what I said:

To: world-of-ian@yahoogroups.com
From: “Tim M”
Date: Sat, 04 Nov 2006 01:42:09 -0000
Subject: And that’s that.


After a last little sputter, the lights are out on the World Of Ian
Yahoo Group. I’m leaving my website up at [http://www.timbomb.net/ian](http://www.timbomb.net/ian)
to record the six or so years in Ian’s life after he came out, but
this will be the last email you will receive via this Group.

I run various web projects out of [http://www.timbomb.net](http://www.timbomb.net) although this
is one of the oldest. Drop by from time to time and see if there’s
anything you’d like to be involved in.

I started this project because it seemed to me that Ian exemplified a
way of being gay that was not commonly shown, especially outside
larger gay cities like Sydney. I wanted to help share that example –
not because it was better than other ways of being gay, but simply
because it seemed to give young men, struggling to find their
identity, more options and more choices.

In a world where it still seems that Queer Eye For The Straight Guy is
all the media wants to show us of being gay, it still seems to me that
there’s a role for showing young men that there are as many ways to
being gay as there are gay men. But perhaps hero worship of one man
isn’t the best way to do that.

Perhaps the time has come for more of us to be ourselves, to be fierce
and strong and bold and to tell the truth of our lives to the world so
that we are not reduced to a media stereotype and trivialised as the
world’s stylists.

When you talk to younger men, consider that you act as an example of a
way of being and try as hard as you can to speak from the truth of
your experience and to be a hero in their eyes.

Let’s shift from hero worship to heroism.

Thank you all once again for my little soap box and for the support
you’ve shown this project over the years. Thanks especially to those
of you who posted pictures or news articles and took time to interact.

I wish every one of you the very best. You have my respect and my love.

Fond Regards

Tim Mansfield
Sydney, Australia

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links for 2006-10-30

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