Results tagged “caterinafake”


July 19, 2012

My brilliant friend Caterina Fake wrote about the Fear of Missing Out last year, and the FOMO meme took instant hold amongst those of us who love the digital life. We're keenly aware that our constant connection to those who are doing things that are exciting, engaging or novel can make us feel let down with our humble circumstances.

But Caterina's piece came at a fortunate time in my life, just a little over a month after my son Malcolm was born. When I read Caterina's piece, I'd been mostly offline for more than a month, and during that time had barely checked in on anything online, and seldom even left the house. It was wonderful.

So the FOMO lament didn't particularly resonate with me; I wasn't missing anything. I hadn't realized that I was not only not in fear, but actually in a state of joy, until talking to a recent NYC transplant the other day.

New York City, Just Like I Pictured It

When people move to New York City, I tend to give them a few bits of advice that I learned the hard way in my first few years living in the city. There are the usual truisms about using public transit and how to save money and getting the most out of our public spaces. But inevitably, I tell people: You're going to miss stuff. On any given day, in New York City, there's an event going on that would be the best event of the year back in your hometown. And most of the time, you're not going to be there.

You miss a wonderful event or a really special moment because you're too broke to go, or because you couldn't get tickets in time. You stay home because you weren't going to know anybody there, or because you were going to know everybody there. You stay home in case she calls, or in case he shows up. You get halfway to the party but turn around because you're underdressed or overdressed or still hung over or because you have to work in the morning.

Sometimes, you don't go to that amazing event because you're just going to stay home and read a book or watch TV or flick away idly at your phone, only realizing you've missed the moment when it's already too late. And then, when you get old and wonderfully, contentedly boring like me, you stay home because you'd rather be there for bathtime and bedtime with the baby than, well, anywhere else in the world.

This is the Joy of Missing Out.

Missing Peace

There can be, and should be, a blissful, serene enjoyment in knowing, and celebrating, that there are folks out there having the time of their life at something that you might have loved to, but are simply skipping. Anyone who knows me know that there are few events I care about more than going to a Prince concert, even after doing so more than a dozen times in my life. And the night my wife went into labor, just a few hours before we left for the hospital, Prince was in concert at Madison Square Garden, site of one of my favorite of his shows ever. Needless to say, we missed the show. It was joyous.

So often, we point the finger at our technologies for creating the fears, the insecurities, the tensions that arise in our social lives as they get increasingly run by social software. But if tech is to blame for our feelings (and I'm not sure I want to concede that point), then certainly we can make apps and sites and software that makes us joyously celebrate for the good time that our friends and loved ones and even complete strangers are having when they go about living their lives.

I've been to amazing events. I still am fortunate enough to get to attend moments and celebrations that are an incredible privilege to witness. But increasingly, my default answer to invitations is "no". No, I'm not going to go. And when well-intentioned hosts inevitably point out "You're going to regret not coming!" I won't say it out loud, but I'll probably think, "No, I really won't."

Being the one in control of what moves me, what I feel obligated by, and what attachments I have to fleeting experiences is not an authority that I'm willing to concede to the arbitrary whims of an app on my mobile phone. I think more and more people are going to retake this agency over their feelings about being social, as well. That's a joyful thing.

If You Blogged It, It Did Happen

September 6, 2011

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a piece called if you didn't blog it, it didn't happen, about how your thoughts, ideas and conversations need a place to live permanently over time if they're going to inspire a useful discourse. And while today's social networks don't really enable that potential, we have some fantastic examples of how these conversations can bubble up across blogs even in a world of short attention spans.

  • My brief musings about what tech entrepreneurs should aspire to, influenced by Dave Winer's thoughts and aided by some riffing over dinner helped nudge Caterina Fake into writing Make Things, an all-time classic even in the context of her truly formidable blogging career. This in turn inspired additional phenomenal responses like Chad Dickerson's. From Dave to me to Caterina to Chad to dozens more people — this is exactly how blogging's supposed to work!
  • I mused a bit on what they're "protecting" us from when pointing out that many of the characteristics that describe Steve Jobs are exactly the traits that would keep many from allowing him the opportunity to succeed in America. Now, admittedly, I buried that point in the title of the post, but many mistook my point to be that Apple itself is somehow a bastion of liberal policies, as adequately refuted by Andrew Leonard's piece in Salon. To be fair, I've been strongly critical of Apple when appropriate, so I'm not at all arguing the company is the perfect representation of progressive ideals, but rather that regressive policies would prohibit it from existing in the first place, which is relevant in a time when every viable political candidate from one of the major political parties would try to enact those prohibitions if possible.
  • And going back over a few different pieces in the past several years, John Battelle's cry for an identity aggregator links to a few pieces that I've written about identity. There's something particularly gratifying to realizing that independent thoughts I've had at various times can evolve into a coherent body of thought when seen through the lens of another person's writing.
  • Finally, in response to an offhanded tweet of mine and a curmudgeonly request, Alpesh Shah made "We Have A Mobile Site! It's a quick and fun Tumblr where we can all catalog examples of "newsicide", that bizarre phenomenon where big news sites actively turn away parts of their audience by denying incoming mobile users the ability to read a story by redirecting instead to a homepage or ill-conceived mobile landing page. It's exasperating, but maybe a good catalog of such examples can help curtail the practice.

In short, by blogging the right things, and connecting the links together when a conversation gets going, we can really make things happen. That's still exciting.

If your website's full of anonymity, that might be okay

July 26, 2011

Hmm, lots of interesting responses to If your website's full of assholes, it's your fault, and even more interesting conversation about the topic of commenting culture in general. A few highlights from the last few days:

My wonderful friend Caterina Fake on Anonymity and Pseudonyms in Social Software:

The point I think is this: Pseudonyms are not in themselves harmful. Yes, they can be used for harm, as when people use them for anonymous, slanderous attacks, trolling, etc., but in the vast majority of cases there is no harm done. Importantly, they can serve to protect vulnerable groups. There’s even a comprehensive list of people harmed by Real Names policies. In the cases where pseudonyms are being abused, it is the harm that should be stopped, not the pseudonyms.

Caterina wonderfully makes a point that I didn't emphasize enough in my original post on this topic: I fully support, and believe in, the importance of pseudonymity and anonymity on the web, for many social, political and cultural reasons. In fact, I have argued in favor of these points enough that I can probably reconstruct from memory the anti-pseudonym bingo card created by the always-quotable folks at Geek Feminism. And that will come in handy because of responses to my post like If your comment section is awesome, it's your community's fault over at TechDirt.

Now, I like TechDirt, and I agree with Timothy Geigner's point that anonymity can have enormous value on the web, but he creates a straw man reading of my argument and then attacks it, culminating in this absolutely wrong-headed assertion:

I apologize for repeating myself, but I can't say this enough: words do not hurt. They never do. When someone says something designed to inflict pain, you get to choose how to react and respond. If an anonymous coward calls me an idiot and my response is, "Nice argument there, captain logic", then what has that person accomplished? I'm not hurt, they've put themselves on display being a jerk, and the community at large will react accordingly.

This is, simply put, an argument of privilege. The idea that "words do not hurt" is only true for those who are privileged and empowered enough to not know the impact they can have. Obviously, Timothy's missed the entire "it gets better" campaign, or is presumably going around telling suicidal teenagers that they're just being wimps and should get over it.

More to the point, the comments we allow on a site determine its culture. This isn't about agreeing or disagreeing — many great sites can, and do, allow vigorously dissenting or unpopular views, from anonymous or pseudonymous commenters, without degenerating into cesspools of unkindness. But if a site allows racist or sexist or hateful comments to persist in its conversations, as Timothy suggests they ought to do, then they're not merely giving a home to an awful conversation. Instead, that site owner is signifying to members of the groups being attacked that they would rather profit from the page views of the people leaving those comments than make a welcoming, inclusive space for the people being attacked.

I don't feel comfortable in places where people say I look like a terrorist. It doesn't mean I'm thin-skinned, or that I want to censor people. It just means that if that happens in an establishment and the owner thinks, "eh, just tell him he's a jerk, but I'll still take his money", then I know not to frequent that establishment again. I love a lot of the arguments and conversations that TechDirt inspires, but knowing that at least one of its authors thinks it's more important to host hateful conversations than to make a comfortable, welcoming space for reasonable people is lame. I think they can do better, and I hope they do.

But what I am not advocating is the argument Tim Adams makes in the Guardian, essentially arguing all conversations should use "real names" (however that term is defined). Caterina makes the point well, but it's worth repeating: Accountability and anonymity are not opposites. Contrary to the ravings of many online, encouraging a positive community is not the same thing as censorship. And the responsibility that I was speaking to in my post is about making an environment that is welcoming to those who want to share their ideas, not just those who are willing to get into stupid fights with strangers to do so.

Perhaps the best way to close is with the wise words of Chris Poole, who innately understands the balance of the freedom of anonymity with the social costs of allowing truly unfettered speech. 4chan is certainly a place where only a small percentage of people who visit are going to feel comfortable, and because of all the creative ideas that have been spawned there, I'm glad it exists. But I know Chris wouldn't want the whole web to have the same standards that 4chan does, and unfortunately that seems to be the way that many web communities are headed, except without the tendency to invent as many parts of web culture as that community does. Maybe my phrasing was a bit crude, but that worst-of-both-worlds compromise is exactly what I think we can prevent.