For a change, I decided to jot down the thoughts that were coming to me while I waded through month-old Reader items. Warning: It gets pretty long.
[Yes, I actually have a set of Reader items that I ensure I catch up with daily, and another set that I’m sure I will always be behind the curve on reading. What’s the point? Its the only way that I can ensure that I’m somewhat current with what goes on in the world.]
Some background: the launch of Buzz meant I went about adding a bunch of people on Reader/Buzz that I wouldn’t have known of otherwise. Louis Gray, Tyler Romeo, Jesse Stay and a whole host of other active “technologists” came to my attention as a result of Buzz. Given my aforementioned division of current and ancient news, clearly, I’m always going to be behind the curve on the most happening stuff in the internet-verse — even given how I’ve tried to balance out the “breaking news” feeds and the “info” feeds.
Over the last couple of days I realized that as long as I stay somewhat current with my “friends” shared items… I’m just fine for the latest and greatest in the tech-verse. Twitter’s Chirp conference notes – check. iPad notes – check. Latest Gmail features – check. Expectations for iPhone4, FB F8, Google i/o – check. Of course, when I say “friends” I mean the aforementioned list of people… all of whom are probably wonderful but barely know I exist. In fact most of them probably don’t know I exist at all. But their connection on this Google network is probably the best thing ever. I don’t miss out, and I get to stick to my own reading trends. This use of social networking really appeals to me — really defines what I would like from it.
I’ve personally starting finding the charm of general social networking fading steadily. Facebook was interesting once, and fun to check in on a couple of times a day.. but my frequency has reduced to maybe once a day. One of the major reasons was FB pushing that “awesome” new feed more and not letting me customize my UI (earlier I could put my lists of interest on top and the general feed below, but now its all fixed in place). And this sucks. Maybe FB Purity will make me go back to using FB as I won’t have half the tripe that FB somehow assumes I’ll be interested in (Really? Someone I barely know commented on some FB activity by someone I don’t care about?) FB seems to have assumed that all my FB friends are bosom buddies that I want to know every little tiny detail about. Can that ever be true, especially on FB? Do they not realize that people just use FB as a proxy for a real relationship with a LOT of people? But, to return to topic, the activities on FB seem trivial at best. At worst, banal.
Which brings me to Twitter. For the longest time, I’ve avoided the service (yes, I thought 140 character thoughts could be nothing but “banal”). Based on some recent experiences though — work related and otherwise — it seems a lot more interesting. The obvious allure of a new service is there (I remember updating FB status twice or thrice a day when I joined. Now its barely once a month, if that). But the interactivity on Twitter appears hugely increased. On FB, I am still a consumer of other people’s activities, just as they are of mine. The interaction is limited to when they “comment”/react on something I post about. Sort of like this blog, but on a much larger and much more “social” scale. But Twitter appears to encourage conversation to a huge extent. How much will actually be meaningful will obviously depend on who you’re talking to. For e.g. talking to this guy seems to epitomize banality to me. What worries me? The information overload. On Reader, my feed organization keeps evolving. I move feeds around. I keep checking which feeds are not really interesting to me any more (too few — once they’re added, they generally stay forever. I even have a category of “dead” feeds). I know all about Twitter Lists and their organizational ability, but it still seems like Twitter will just be one more service that I will have to manage, check in on, and follow up with. And that kills it.
I was honestly hoping that Buzz would form the “one-interface-fits-all” for me. Anything but. It has actually become its own little network, mostly populated by the early adopters. There are imports from different services, true. But without some effective filtering, it just gets too noisy to use. Consider that I currently have to mute all the high-frequency Reader imports from people. I barely bother to look at the headline.. I actually mute based on who the activity is by. Why? I’m going to spend time reading it in Reader later anyway. So then what does Buzz become? Restricted to my friends i.e. a more social interface for my friends shared items and thoughts. Its even been found that the most Buzz activity is for articles that are Buzz specific i.e. not imports into Buzz. Articles written for Buzz. Buzz has thus ended up as another service that I have to check in on and manage. My Buzz usage has gone down to once every few days because about 90% of the activity on it has pretty much become imports from other services. You’ll say: “Wait. what? You want Buzz to be the all-in-one service and you’re complaining about imports? Something is not adding up.” My issue is not imports per se. My issue is the lack of filtering ability for the imports. For e.g. I get over 20 emails a day on one of my email accounts. 80% of them are filtered by Gmail to go to particular folders — because they can be checked later. It should the same with Buzz. For e.g. I should be able to filter out Reader shared items to a separate view, as I already check them in Reader. Can I move to only checking them in Buzz? No, because some of the people I follow are not on Buzz but are on Reader. And so my experience with Buzz has further soured my experience with social networks.
Moving on. The Windows Phone 7. I’m dallying between 2 POVs. There is the one that M$ is essentially replaying what Apple has been doing with the iPhone. Closed system – check. Closed source – check. v1 released without copy-paste, multi-tasking and other features that are ubiquitous with other phones (including the iPhone today) – check. But on the flip side, it will integrate Windows and Office beautifully. It makes use of the Zune interface, and maybe will use the Zune software for syncing. Both of which are absolute joys to behold. A sheer lesson on beautiful type and having a beautiful intuitive interface. Considering that Apple = iTunes, which is also the biggest piece of bloated crap on the Windows ecosystem.. having a beautiful intuitive software interface suddenly makes the hardware all the more interesting to me. Which brings me back to the phone. The interface. The idea of data over function (i.e. info hubs which collate information vs. functions which collect specific information) is very alluring. There is a faint parallel with my want for a “one social media interface fits all” and my thoughts about this phon. Which M$ seems to be about to deliver on. Unfortunately aforementioned weirdness/caveats detract from my enthusiasm for the phone.
Next up. Playing with the PC. I was working the other day when I suddenly realized that my computer was concurrently running (1) Zune for music, (2) MATLAB processing images, (2) GIMP editing a high-res image (3) Fx & Chrome with different mail accounts open, (4) Miscellaneous Explorer and IrfanView windows. And in all of this it wasn’t hiccuping in the least. A far cry from being unable to run full-screen Flash for over 1.5 years as my graphics cards was frying 🙂
This is the 701st post on this blog. They’ve not all been the most informative, the most insightful posts in the world. But they exist. And I’m actually starting to think that #1000 could be a lot closer than I think if I remembered to actually hit publish once in a while.
p.s. There were more Reader items, but I figured this was enough for now 🙂