Time to think (revisited)

Harjj Taggar removed email from his iPhone. Some choice quotes:

Having time to think is precious to me and it’s also incredibly important if you want to achieve anything close to original thought. … Once I realized the power of this I went on to delete more than just email. Facebook, Twitter and Quora apps have all been removed (for me Twitter has been the one I’ve missed the most). It’s been the best decision I’ve made this year and would highly recommend it.

I was just talking about this with @scdaustin, telling him about my idea about having a social media free week. My concern was my lack of reading books. I spend all day reading Twitter, Google+, App.net, Tumblr, Popurls, Hacker News, Zite and Intigi… it isn’t like I am not reading anything. Furthermore, I had to up my Reading Challenge 2012 on Goodreads from 30 to 40 books. But it is all an illusion… most of my “reading” is done with audiobooks. For books you want to get really deep into and annotate, you need text.

Almost exactly four years ago I had a similar realization

I learned how to increase web consumption efficiency by using (hundreds of) RSS feeds. I turned my “downtime” into “productive” time by listening to lectures, audiobooks and podcasts while doing chores, commuting, etc. Everywhere I went I had my iPod plugged in. I thought I was learning when I was actually just consuming. I was so effective at packing each minute of each day full of articles and books that I squeezed out any quiet time just to sit and think.

How am I to come to terms with my overconsumption? Why… read another book of course! Check out Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet:

So, I think rather than simply auditing my social networks, I should pause them all for a bit and spend time thinking about my consumption habits so that I may recover more time to think.

If you are moving DO NOT use Universal Truck Rental

If you are moving DO NOT use Universal Truck Rental. They want you to spend your time maintaining their vehicles, and pay for the privilege.

The deal with these guys is that rather than having the overhead of a full truck depot, they have single trucks sprinkled across self storage facilities across Canada. Universal does all it’s business through the net and controls the trucks through satellites. The storage facilities just manage the keys.

The point is: no one is maintaining these vehicles between uses. They leave that for the poor sucker who picks it up.

4 weeks ago we moved to our new home in Kelowna. I picked up the vehicle and it was already broken (half the electrical was gone). I then had to drive into the city and have it repaired, losing 4 hours of valuable moving time. While I was driving to Vancouver the air conditioning unit broke, and two of the three welds on the moving ramp broke off! I limped into Vancouver and had to take it to another repair place. They couldn’t fix the aircon and only bandaided the ramp so I could get to moving. Another 3 hours gone. There were a ton of other reasons this trip was terrible, but anyways, once I got back I complained, of course. (In fact, I complained during the ordeal). They asked if I purchased the $25 insurance which offsets the rate when a truck is “out of service due to a safety item for greater than 12 hours.” I was only out 7 hours. No refund… no cut rate… no apology… no nothing.

It is a bit suspicious to me that vehicles breaking down is a common problem if they offer insurance for it. Talk about not standing behind your product. Not to mention the safety concerns. If that ramp had’ve broken off it’s last weld while I was driving, it could’ve killed somebody.

Anyways, don’t do business with these guys and tell everyone you know. I should’ve clued in when I realized that he was doing all his business using a Hotmail (!?) account. I didn’t check the universally negative reviews either. My bad. I have learned my lesson, and paid for it. Now I want to make sure that you and/or your friends don’t have to go through what me and a bunch of other people have gone through.

DO NOT use Universal Truck Rental. Retweet and reblog.

Thanks for listening.

Some thoughts on the potential Twitter exodus

A friend has abandoned Twitter. He is pretty early, but I suspect he is at the front of a potentially huge geek wave.

I know what it is like to leave a platform. It can be tough, but there are a plethora of communication tools for the Internet. I moved to Twitter as my main conduit, but have always signed up for social networking alternatives (the latest being App.net), searching for the “perfect” app. Part of the definition of that includes federation and interoperability with other platforms. I tried Diaspora* and even called for the federation of Facebook. The solution still eludes us.

I’ve been watching Twitter’s latest moves in the chase for a business strategy with growing concern. Unlike David, I don’t use Twitter exclusively as a broadcast medium. Interaction with friends, internet acquaintances and (internet) celebrities make the platform valuable enough to me to stick around.

The search for the perfect internet communications tool is still ongoing. Status and location updates, sharing short and long bits of text, cloud-like accessibility but retaining ownership and portability… We geeks want to have our cake and eat it too. For most people Email and Facebook are sufficiently easy to manage. Like a landline telephone and snail mail. But the internet can do so much more. Whatever that “so much more” thing is, it’s that which we geeks are waiting for.

With the rise of potential contenders such as App.net, Tent.io, Medium, Branch etc it is pretty obvious that the killer communications platform has not been found yet. Or, the killer combination of platforms at any rate.

Twitter was once the domain of geeks. That is no longer. So we move on. It might be sad, but overall it is a good thing. It means we are pushing for more discovery. I can’t wait to see what new ground we break.

Iran’s Lost Territories

Although this DIA presentation on the “new” Great Game is too high level to be really insightful, and is guilty of being an OWerpoint (also see this example) in some places, there are some really handy slides detailing Iran’s claims to surrounding territories.

Slide 29: Iran: Territories Lost and Gained

Slide 30: Iran: Territorial Changes (1800 – 1900s)

Obviously the Persian empire had a massive expanse of territory, but these do a good job of showing Iran’s claims in the modern era.

The Unbucket list

Sometimes you do momentous things, things that every man should do. But sometimes, you do things that you never thought you would do in your entire life. These are collectively known as your “Unbucket List.”

Last weekend we built a deck. I have photographic evidence.

We are computer programmers. Our delicate fingers and slim wrists were not meant for this work. Furthermore, programmer’s math is somewhat different than carpenter’s math. Somewhat more… exact. Anyways, it was a million degrees out and we spent a whole day tearing down the old rotten deck (and hauling all 850kgs to the dump) and then the whole next day building the new one. The result is pretty amazing, but I am sure glad I don’t do this for a living. Give me my air-conditioned office, aeropressed coffee and Embody chair any day.

Still, though, it was nice to cross that one off the Unbucket List.

Steven B Johnson’s new book on the internet and politics

I have read a number of his works, including Emergence:

And so, over time, a book I had written about social insects and video games and software algorithms started to feel more and more like a book about politics…

I look forward to this book and hope it goes beyond the aspect of political organization via the web. My own personal politics have been informed and transformed thanks to the internet, and my experience mirrors his observation:

The funny thing about this new movement was that it didn’t readily fit the categories of either political party in the US.

The internet and living abroad have definitely given me a more nuanced view of politics. I have added Future Perfect to my To Read list.

Steven B Johnson’s new book on the internet and politics