I’m kind of a big deal

Okay! I think I've just about cemented my claim as a New Media Douchebag by virtue of the ridiculous domain name I acquired for this site:

I've heard that in this day and age, "your name is your personal brand." I'm glad to say that I've successfully taken it to THE EXTREME. (Note: all caps means SERIOUS BUSINESS.)

Ahem. Apparently extreme coffee intake has a direct effect on my usually-latent ego? No, that can't be it. The domain name and phone number have been in the works for months now. Oh, I'm an iPhone and MacBook Pro owner now — yes, for the first time in my life, I own an Apple product that isn't just a music player — maybe that's added a bit to my smugness.

Related to the ego front

Spokesman.com — the Web site of the Spokesman-Review and the Web site I've been working for over the past 15 months — is a finalist in the General Excellence (Medium site) category of the Online News Association's Online Journalism Awards.

For a newsroom of our size, I am thrilled by the amount of multimedia we produce each week (and it shows and looks great on our site). More than anything, the people who create all of our awesome content deserve the shout-out.

Now, moving on in somewhat-less-narcissistic fashion… (Warning: cliché, "this is what I'm up to" personal blog post coming your way.)

School outlook

I have a 9am class this semester. I'm not a morning person; hell, I normally started work at 10am all summer (with the trade-off of staying long after 6). Previous semesters have seen me falter under start times as late as 11am.

Last semester I visited a counselor a few times because I couldn't tell if I was depressed or what—for a pretty long stretch, I was entirely disinterested in school, work, and socializing. (If you interacted with me at the time, you may or may have noticed just a bit of reclusiveness. Just a bit.) And I think it basically boiled down to a lack that rewarding feeling from anything I was doing at the time. It was a matter of me being disenchanted and not being able to suck it up and go anyway. Missed a lot of class, let a whole bunch of things slip by. I done fucked up, to put it lightly.

But back to today: It's going to be good semester. Yes, even with the 9am. No, really. It's going to be different this time.

My class schedule is essentially anchored by that 9am — an inter-division iPhone development class with CS/IT and J-school students. You really can't convince me that the concept isn't right up my alley.

Similarly, my capstone class wraps up most of my school days; and that's another long-term, team-based project class. I've convinced my team to do a Django-based app that does things with Census data and various datasets from Data.gov. That is going to be fun — and a lot more interesting than most of the standard-issue class projects out there.

If anything else, I have one goal that I think (or rather, hope) will get me through: the sheer idea of graduating and actually being done with it. Mathematically, I'm going to barely get by as it is — dragging my feet through these final two semesters will definitely result in failure.

I've got a good feeling about this. I've got a lot of momentum going into week three. And hell, as a superstitious baseball fan, I believe in momentum.

Coming soon

I'm writing some brief tutorials on Git (and using it with GitHub) for my capstone team (some of them have used it, some of them haven't), chances are I'll actually get around to finishing and posting that. And hell, I might tease some things I've been working on recently. We'll see.

Now, excuse me while I put my ego away.

Signal to Noise

Note: Originally written August 7, 2009, this post was held back and not published until March 31, 2010. This post serves as a companion to “Compartmentalization,” written that day.


The amount of a) material I write in this blog but don’t post, and b) material I want to write but never get around to, really reminds me of a pathetic and mute cartoon character: mouth agape, index finger in the air to call attention to himself, and then… nothing. I would love to change this. (There are at least five unpublished bits since my entry two weeks ago.)

One: Face it: the Internet is full of noise.

Facebook is the equivalent of being stuck in a friend’s vacation slideshow,” wrote a Columbia Missourian columnist. A New York Times column lamented the loss of serendipity and the rise of group-think: “…there is just too much information. We can have thousands of people sending us suggestions each day — some useful, some not. We have to read them, sort them and act upon them.”

Adding to that noise — at least, I see it as noise — doesn’t seem productive in the least.

Two: The more time I spend on Twitter and Facebook, the more I get the impression that inconsequential minutiae is all we’re allowed to speak of on the Internet anymore. All we do is add to the noise.

Most of what I see on social networks and blogs these days can be categorized into:

  1. Sharing news or entertainment via group-think. (Re-tweets, link roundups, Internet memes.)
  2. Self-promotion. (Being extra friendly, helpful, professional. Pimping out your latest blog post, photo gallery,
  3. Minutiae. (“I picked the wrong week to go to western Washington in a car without A/C.”)

Three: Who can actually be honest and “open” these days — especially online? We’ve got jobs and professional images to keep clean. We add to the noise because that’s the only thing we’re allowed to do.

A handful of times over the past week, I’ve noticed posts in the blogs of Mizzou-folk I follow, that either mention or play the “foot-in-mouth” card. It’s a real recurring theme. (1, 2, and 3: “My take? No comment. A smart intern knows when to keep her mouth shut!”)

This makes a lot of sense: company policies will prevent us from speaking about or on behalf of employers. Friends don’t necessarily want their doings told to all. That’s fine, that’s acceptable. I am not saying that you should disregard the authority of your employer or break the trust of your friends and start blogging every juicy detail that comes your way. You have to be able to follow the rules and the bounds of social normalcy to get anywhere in this world.

Clive Thompson wrote about the fear of information in this month’s issue of Wired: “We live with a nagging fear that something we say or do online will come back to haunt us years later[…]And society suffers when people stop taking risks.”

In seeing all of those foot-in-mouth statements of anxiety — because if you weren’t even somewhat anxious about the restrictions on your speech, I don”t believe you”d make a point of snidely acknowledging it — I wondered: if we’re so scared of what we say that all we amount to is minutiae, what’s all this for, anyway? Do we really need this limitless store of information (a.k.a. the Internet) and do we really need to be tuned in to every whim of those “connected” to us?

Technically, okay, this blog is here to “sell myself” to you, reader and/or (possibly prospective) acquaintance/friend and/or (possibly prospective) employer. (By the way, have you checked out my portfolio and mini-bio? Good. Glad that’s out of the way.) But I believe the “magic” that I once felt in blogging (and actually getting feedback) way back in the day (before I went mute) lies in the fact that when I used to write here, I wrote for me, and not for some “higher” goal of self-image or promotion.

It’s funny how much that’s changed and how much fear has crept into that part of my process.

Summer Reading: High Fidelity

A book review! Trying something new with writing in the blog today.

An admission: I’ve only seen High Fidelity, the film, once and I did not believe it to be the tour de force that some friends had made it out to be. Perhaps I was too young for it then—even though, okay, it was only about a year and a half ago.

But now! I’ve been single for quite some time, recently hanging out with a group of friends whose median age is give or take one decade older than my own (although this is probably moot because, for better or worse, I’m very often mistaken for at least five years older than my actual age), and suddenly dealing with the mythos of “having a career” and “getting old(er)”—and maybe this is exactly the “mature” (is it possible to put emphasis on quotation marks?) perspective and angle that one should consume High Fidelity from. Or not, but at the very least picking it out in book form seems pretty well-timed for where I am in my life. (And run-on sentence, much? Yeah, deal with it.)

(I think I have a propensity for “accidentally” picking out books that are “well-timed for where I am in my life.” Ever try a solo, cross-country drive, going through the parts of Western Montana and the Inland Northwest while reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Maybe my own philosophical tendencies blow that one out of proportion and maybe I just have a knack for picking out parts of stories that I most deeply relate to. But still.)

So the über generalized plot of “girlfriend breaks up with guy, guy goes off to figure himself out” isn’t that creative at all, alright. But there’s something about the execution of the novel—from the heaps and heaps of pop culture references, to the rambly internal monologue, to the snarky, self-deprecating sense of humor—that makes it stand solid as a contemporary rocky relationship story. I tried hard to avoid saying love story or romance because that’s so far from what the book is—and that characteristic is, I think, what makes it feel so real and modern. (Even moreso than the copious 90’s movie and music references.)

There’s a bit of deus ex machina that happens with a death, a funeral, and “oh, let’s get back together because I’m so tired of working so hard at being with someone else and making myself miserable for it.” But I let it slide because, hey, strange shit like that happens in real life sometimes; relationships do have that transient quality to them that lead them to go back and forth in strange times. And disaster, indeed has a way of making the unlikely happen. It might not seem perfect from a storytelling standpoint, but eh, I’m OK with that.

I don’t think I could have appreciated the overwhelming amount of snarky, self-deprecating humor a couple years ago. (But I'm all about it now, though I'm not that way myself. A lot of my favorite people have those qualities which some people misconstrue as abrasive but I find hilarious.) But in general, over the past decade our society’s shifted more and more to accepting (often offbeat) satire, parody, and snarkiness as the status quo in humor and entertainment. (Indeed, I had a conversation last night in which it was pretty much agreed on that the live action version of The Tick would have been more successful today than it was eight years ago.) I wasn’t very old in the 90’s so I can’t really say much about the relevance of the of sense of humor back then, but I think it’s as relevant now as it’s ever been. (Although it might be a British thing that’s only recently grown on us—the sense of humor, I mean. We imported Monty Python from there and that’s pretty much the classical bar for snarky, tongue-in-cheek TV, isn’t it? And the Hitchhiker’s Guide novels? And The Office?)

Oh, and the pop culture references?—“…looking like Susan Dey in L.A. Law” “…the Meg Ryan of Sleepless in Seattle” “…We’re like Tom Hanks in Big. Little boys and girls trapped in adult bodies…”—all had their place. It was more than just name dropping: every analogy painted a very specific—and modern!—picture of the given characters or situations, much more than a billion adjectives could have done.

Near the end I started to feel that, if a book like High Fidelity were to be written today, in 2009, it would undeniably have to reference “John Cusack in High Fidelity” in very much the same way. In fact, I’ve heard people use that exact same analogy to describe parts of their lives. Like every pop culture reference in the novel (though now some of them are becoming dated), it’s a kind of hip, yet subtle cultural touchstone that you can’t help but relate to and relate through (in using it as an analogy).

Weird how that works out.

Okay, okay. To everybody who absolutely adores that movie, I think I get it now. (Though, as is common these days, the book was better.) I may forget the story entirely by next week, but there’s a part that struck a chord with me that’ll probably stick with me just for that one time I end up saying “like the main character in High Fidelity,” when in conversation. And, to it’s credit, I thoroughly enjoyed it—few books make me chuckle out loud while reading. (Nor do they ever compel me to up and review ’em.)

It wasn’t a landmark, historic book for the ages, but—as if a breath of fresh air—it just felt damn good to read.

Google Chrome OS

I feel like this should have been expected.

The same day that Google Apps came out of beta—Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk—Google announced that oh yeah, they've been building an operating system.

Now, the premise of a Google OS is not new in the least. As recently as December, rumors of a Google OS abounded when a statistics tracking firm, Net Applications, detected a significant amount of traffic out of Google HQ—with OS information hidden. Similarly, rumors of a Google Browser were fierce for years until Chrome was released last September—and Google had apparently been using it internally ("dogfooding") as it grew and developed over the course of two years.

When Google officially announces the project tomorrow (Wednesday), I'll be wary of the hype—Google doesn't do it themselves, but everybody else seems to hype their products up quite a bit. And I'm sure that misconception/misrepresentation will be rampant on Twitter and around the Web.

I'd like to point out that it's called Google Chrome OS, implying it's an extension of the Web browser. It's going to use a Linux kernel, but operate Web-based in terms of software. (Think apps like Google Docs and Gmail, but for all of your standard computing.) They swear they're making it a full-fledged OS that'll run on things from netbooks up to full desktop computers—but I find it hard to not emphasize the thin client/netbook angle, as they admit they're targeting netbooks first. (Which, too, is unsurprising since netbooks are hot but the OS market for low-end hardware is severely lacking in quality and/or user-friendliness.)

I'm sure I'll use it (like I use the work-in-progress Chrome version for Mac as my main Mac browser), but I'm still not entirely sold on the fact that this thin client thing is that great, amazing Google OS that people have been wondering about for years. Maybe I'm throwing the "thin client" buzzword around too much and maybe Google will surprise me. I felt the same apprehension toward Chrome (though the V8 Javascript engine and the multiprocessing intrigued me), but have since been won over. (More on that some other time.)

Side note: (Taking off the "newsroom Web developer" hat, putting on "online news consumer" hat...) I like the fact that the New York Times article links to Google's blog post in the lede. I love seeing news sites externally link like that. I have a Wikipedia-induced habit of middle-clicking bunches of in-text links that I think are relevant or interesting; that's just being helpful to your reader.

Learning to crawl

To say I'm rusty at "blogging" may be an understatement. I can't say I haven't been trying, at least.

Daytum

What's that you say? These numbers? This screenshot? What's all this, then? That's Daytum, which I've been using lately—but that is entirely a story for another time.


Again, it hasn't been for lack of trying that I haven't updated lately. But I think I've narrowed down some other reasons for the sheer wall of writer's block that I've encountered.

  • I love to over think and turn every small argument into a multi-paragraph explanation. "Think before you speak?" Yeah, try speaking when your brain likes to stay in overdrive all the time.
  • "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all?" I don't believe in this so much in this day and age, but I grew up under that mindset and I often cannot shake that self-consciousness.
  • Yes, fine: I'm rusty. Sue me. Sometimes it's plain hard to let go once you're used to having so much restraint. (This, too, is an understatement when applied to my life.)

In all honesty, I wrote a lot (you've just seen the numbers, above) over the past week—most of it related to the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson last Thursday and the circus that took place between the "old media" and "social media" (or "new media," nomenclature isn't that important). In a cliché sort of way it very much tested my resolve in choosing to work in this particular industry—for goodness' sake, I'm a Web developer (an enabler of "new media") working in a newsroom (which, I guess some would call the heart of "old media").

I wrote over 1,700 words, venting all sorts of frustrations: public spite and lack of trust of the media, new media douchebags, the crowdthink behind America's Twitter hipster support of Iran (but apparently not Honduras or any other recently rigged election)… But I couldn't bring myself to publishing it, thinking it more noise among the noise.


Today, the newsroom had a little get-together to say goodbye to a few folks. One of the radio folks (whose desk is near mine), had a mini speech regarding his departure. As a radio personality, he said, he never thought he'd get to work in a newspaper's newsroom—although growing up, his family always figured him for a reporter or columnist type. His time here was shorter than other jobs he'd held, but what will stick with him the most was that he was given the chance to do something he loved in a place he loved and never expected to work.

I couldn't help but think of the short-lived year I took on photojournalism at school and the divine providence that somehow brought my other interests and skills (technology, computers, Web programming) into that very journalism industry that I was enamored with.


That one little comment about "doing what you love, where you don't expect to" was the best thing to help me forget about that "Internet versus news media" shitshow. This post (spontaneously written and posted since I promised myself I'd post by week's end) is a lot less eloquent than what I'd written on that subject, but I'm quite happy that I didn't add any fuel to that fire. It's shaped up to be one of those hits that just needed to be taken and not dwelt upon.

Look. I love what I do, I love where I work, I love the things I'm responsible for doing. I work on things that I think are cool (and I am not often impressed by things online) and I get to work on a relatively well-trafficked news site. (Caveat: it really sucks when you break it.)

Sure, I'll probably find reason to be a critical asshole on the Internet when I lose my optimism in the above. (Which I hope never, ever happens.) I'm young, I'm naive, and frankly I don't believe I have the experience or the bravado to perform such iconoclasm (*ahem*) on the media industry.

And either way, arguing on the Internet is still, to this day, one of the less productive pursuits out there. (Cue generic messageboard meme image. You know the one I'm talking about.) It's silly and it brings to mind Vonnegut's quip that "electronic communities build nothing."

It is noise that makes me unhappy and I am much happier keeping my head down and working. Newspaper's spending good money hiring a programmer like me, so why don't I help them out a bit instead of biding my time with the online circlejerk?


Folks interested in some actual commentary on the Michael Jackson "old versus new media" circus should read this excellent blog post by Wendy Parker and this L.A. Times column by Tim Rutten. Chances are I'd have repeated everything they'd said.


I need to find something better to talk about for next time; may be Django and programming-related or a "recommended reading" of the blogs I read and my sheer resistance to using an RSS reader. (I middle-click that "blogs" folder several times per day.) Maybe. Who knows?

Woah there.

Let's play catch up, shall we? I got through the end of the school year—and bid bittersweet goodbyes to close friends graduating. I spent a week on the road, with highlights in Colorado and Utah. And now, I'm in beautiful Spokane, continuing my work at the Spokesman-Review. Not technically an intern this time around, but with a mere three-month stay, I might as well be.

Let's count the number of times I've written on this site since I last stepped foot in Spokane. One, two, three, four, and this should be five. And how many months has it been? (Ten.)


About this time last year I decided to try and "go legit." Trim the amount of minutiae I'd write and leave only "professional" material, you know? Since then I've only occasionally written—and due to a strange sense of apprehension, rarely have I posted any of it.

I've been asking myself exactly what I want out of my blog on the internet. I've been tweeting semi-regulraly, but I've yet to really enjoy limiting myself to 140 characters—anybody that has read my blog before the drought and anybody that has gotten an e-mail from me knows that I'm pretty uh, verbose. And that apprehension and lack of updating has been gnawing away at me, little by little.

Admittedly, this drought tied in with some intern drama and discussion that happened around this time last year, a lot of it having to do with some "inside baseball" talk of newsroom affairs. It didn't happen here, near, or anywhere involving anyone associated with me, but this whole bit with Jessica DaSilva hit a bit too close to home for me: I, too, was a newspaper intern at the time, in a newsroom constantly bracing itself for an uneasy future. It was an okay time to learn to bite my tongue.

So I had this seed of doubt planted in my head for a while now, unsure of exactly what I wanted to write or what I could write. In some side writing, I jested that the overwhelming connectedness of the Internet was causing hysteria regarding what you could get away with saying or having online. In school, a lot of teachers preached the double-edged sword of "you really need to be in social media," but "you really need to keep it all super professional." You got told about Twitter, but you were also told to try and sterilize your Facebook profile.

But, I counter: if I'm going to be social media "friends" with folks and if I'm really going to operate profiles and a Web site that employers and the public can see—well, I'd rather have them judge me on the honest fucking truth than some high and tight face I'm trying to put on. Mostly because I realize that:

  1. I trust my judgement. As it is, I don't regret a lot of things I've done and I think I'm mature and steady enough to not make a complete ass of myself. (Although there's a particular frightening photo of me on Facebook that seriously invokes Rufio from Hook... I dare you to find it.)
  2. I'm a terrible liar. That is, I'm not very good at it and (as I have recently found out) I'd rather be dead silent than play a face.
  3. …I had other reasons, but I guess one and two seal the deal in my mind.

I'll admit, I'm unusually deliberate and self-conscious, but aren't most of us raised to be responsible for ourselves anyway?

Okay then.

See, we're all human, we all grow up, we all make mistakes. Blogging here doesn't mean I'm going to be perfect all the time—more likely, it should be, in itself, a timeline of what I've done, where I've traveled, what I've thought, how I've grown. It's been a personal blog, it's still a personal blog, and while I'd love to see it do something else, them's the breaks for now.

I've missed writing only somewhat—since I've obviously been writing all along. What I've really missed is being Mike Tigas when I write in the open.

The worst thing you can do to a career in media—especially in this so-called Information Age—is forget who you are and that you have the ability to voice your own distinct opinion. Watch what you say, yes. But be yourself and say what you need to say. There's a reason why everyone and their mother has a blog: it's easy to do it.

Think I just fell into the habit of over-thinking it, 's all.

I used to be a lot better at this blogging thing. Here's my way of saying (mostly to myself) that I'm back at square one and I'm willing to give it another shot. (God, doesn't that sound like a relationship "make-up talk" right there…)

And I swear, I will stop writing in my verbose, self-serving tone as soon as I can. Okay, I might be lying on this one.

Amends

This coming week is that dreaded "transition" week that I've put off thinking about. (I said months ago that I'd wing it. Aside from places picked out, I'm fairly golden with wide-open plans.) I'm going to pack up here in Columbia, go back to St. Louis for a day, then drive to and spend the rest of the week in Denver. Next Monday, I'll work my way up to Spokane, where I'll be living for the summer, once again.

I didn't graduate this weekend and I'm entirely okay with that. What really does bother me is the fact that I've spent most of the past week ill and bedridden. (Quick fact: I slept around 18 out of the 24 hours of Friday.)

What bothers me is that I'd considered this past week the last week, of my life as I knew it.

In hindsight, I can't remember a more stressful month since I moved to college. There are few things more stressful to me than the idea of closure, fast approaching. I like open-endedness. I like saying "see you later" instead of "goodbye." But what bothers me more than closure proper is poor closure or no closure at all when something comes to an end. (Example: any shitty, non-resolute but non-cliffhanger movie or TV show ending.)


Look, I used to live by the mantra of never regret anything (hand-in-hand with taking responsibility for everything you do) but lately I've regretted how far I've drifted from my friends here in Columbia. The popular conversation topic with me as of late has been "I haven't seen you in forever! What have you been up to?"

To which I'd normally reply with something about work or school. But the honest answer would really be more along the lines of "I don't know."

I've had the past year slip out from under me and I'm sorry about that.

If I never see you again, I wish you the best of luck. But I really, truly hope I see you again.

Eulogy on a student center

It's been an arduous Spring in a lot of ways, but I think the toughest part has been the near-graduation nostalgia that many folks close to me are experiencing. The trips down memory lane, the old emotional baggage, the skeletons in the closet... Come on, you know what I'm talking about.

I won't say I wasn't affected by it, but I'd like to stubbornly believe that I got by just fine until last week.

Last week on the Mizzou campus, part of the ol' Brady Commons was torn down, so that construction could begin on Phase 2 of the new student center replacing it.

Although I'm not graduating this month like I want to, I feel like the loss of that building still signifies the end of an era of my life as it stands in Columbia, Missouri. It's an era that has seen my life cross paths with that building over the past six years--often to great effect. Yes, it's just a building, just another stupid building on campus. But the loss of that stupid building just feels like a sign, telling me that my time here has mostly passed, that I should probably get going soon.


Before college, I had the privilege of going to the Missouri Scholars Academy, Missouri's version of what some other states call a governor's school. Those of us taking part endearingly called it "nerd camp."

Over the course of the three-week program--so packed with activity that I still recall it as if I were there for months--I met a lot of interesting people and made a lot of life-changing friends. And (I guess) most importantly to me, I met and befriended my future first girlfriend there.

We had a little group that would go over to T.A. Brady's and play DDR during our free afternoons. We weren't allowed off-campus, so the Subway in T.A. Brady's was often the secondary meal option to the (then-newly remodeled) Mark Twain Hall cafeteria.

Two years later, I came back to Mizzou for college. Considering it was not even on my list until after Spring Break (read: after scholarship deadlines), it was what you could definitely call a brash and last-minute change of heart. I came to this town, naturally because I had plenty of friends going, but also because I'd grown up in the town (until third grade), and because of the whole Missouri Scholars Academy thing. There were a lot of little things pulling me here, but I'm not sure I would have gone here if not for the spectacular three weeks I'd spent there, years ago.


I was only remotely interested in journalism at the time, with dreams of computer programming and cyber security and hacking and NSA cryptanalysis. Late in high school, I'd developed a lust for photography, but that was about the only thing journalism had on me--I didn't care for the form or the ethics or anything, I just liked taking pictures.

Along with a friend (and future roommate), I went to Brady Commons and attended a news meeting at the student paper, The Maneater; I was looking to be a photographer. Just something to do for fun, so I could get better at it and hell--they paid you!

By the end of my freshman year, I was a journalism major.

Over the course of the next two years, I met Ron Jeremy, started to care way too much about work, failed out of school, got back in, went from being a photographer to being Online Editor to just being a programmer again... And somehow all of this (via an alum at the New York Times noticing me) launched me to my current job as a Web developer at The Spokesman-Review.

That final year, our online team turned a (supposedly) one-off podcast experiment into a standard feature. And (after three years of development hell) we launched a new Web site. I can't tell you how many times we'd stayed at the office 'til sunrise--even after the paper went to the printer and everybody else had left. There was a lot of mojo in that office, something driving us to work on these awesome things to our own detriment. I had never been so proud of anything I'd previously worked on.

For a few semesters, I joked that I lived in that building more than I lived at my apartment. And it was kind of true.

I'm not joking.

During my heyday at the Maneater, I started taking darkroom classes at the Craft Studio just down the hall from the production office. Started revisiting T.A. Brady's regularly with a newly-formed DDR Club. There was the Filipino Student Association down there, too.

It's not like I intentionally sought out things to do within the building, but rather, it was just coincidental that everything I did for a couple years as an undergrad took place there. (Which, I suppose, is just good use of a good student center.)

I've met so many people through that place and I've made so many friends. I've been through drama, I've had a lot of fun, and I've had my share of all-nighters in there. And while I'd love to say that it was in there that I found a place where I belonged, I think the more striking thing to me today is that most of these connections have far outlasted the battered remains of the old building.

And that makes the nostalgia a lot less painful.


T.A. Brady's is gone. The Maneater office moved across campus. The Craft Studio moved down the street.

It's time here has come and gone. And I'm not quite gone yet, but I can sympathize since my time here is running short. (Twenty-one credit hours, give or take a couple.)

Buildings come and go and the beating heart of the university will go on. (In all the hustle and bustle, I'm sure a lot of folks who live off campus don't even know that it's gone.) But to me, in a lot of ways, Brady Commons was the beating heart of the Mizzou campus.

Indeed, the in-construction branding for the new student center dubs it "The Heart of Mizzou." I hope that someday, someone else can look on that building and understand what the old one meant to me.

My first relationship, my college choice, my career path were all (in)directly influenced here. Plain weird when I wonder how life does that, but so it goes.

Thanks, Brady Commons.

Facebook blowback blows

or, "Facebook, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden" (this is a terrible reference)

You know why I'm sick of this Facebook redesign (and every Facebook change, ever)? The inevitable and inexorable whining.

Yes, I realize that whining about people that are whining is standard-issue hypocritical. But I'd like to believe that I'm putting forth a more reasonable case than the thousands of one-line comments to the "New Layout Vote" Facebook app.

People cried "stalker feed" at the introduction of news feeds. People hated tabbed profile pages (I loved it, I was sick of all the app boxes) as much as people hated the loss of "Facebook guy." Yadda yadda yadda. Facebook seems to go through it's period every six months or so.

But for some reason, Facebook has been surpassing MySpace in active users and traffic. (And it's still getting bigger.)

In the end, we'll all just deal with it and move on, because the most common suggestion ("go back to the old one") is literally a step back and a waste of Facebook's time and money. It's coherent enough and I think, with time they'll make it work (like every design change they've made). The naysayers can have their fill, but this is not a branding disaster that Facebook should backpedal upon. (Aside: the new name for Sci Fi Channel should be.)

But! Instead of simply bitching about the whole blowback overreaction—I got heat for this last time Facebook made changes—I challenge folks to "put up or shut up" and actually develop a coherent argument against the changes. This is how sick I am of seeing that app and those statuses on my home page.

Keep reading. Really.


Speaking of, I wonder who runs that one Facebook app, because it's obviously not Facebook themselves.

That screenshot image on the app's page, comes from one of those previews on the official Facebook blog. The ol' "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" images on the app page come from 74.55.245.18. That IP reverses to "elnexus.com," according to samspade.org. Just a regular ol' site that sells computers. That domain, in turn, shows a private registration as opposed to a company name or contact. (Yes, I'm aware I'm a little crazy, digging into the reverse DNS record and the domain whois records and all. It's that hackin', web developin' side of me.)

Hrmm.

Oddness aside, the overwhelmingly negative response indicated by that app is (in my eyes) severely based on response bias. As in, most of the results come out negative because dislike of the change solicits a stronger vocal response than the positive opinion of a user who likes or tolerates it. There aren't a lot of people who love it enough to voice that about it, leading to the lower positive response percentage. Everybody else on the middle-ground to positive end of the scale won't care enough and won't care for your app invites.


So, a challenge. Don't like the design? Create an opinion of more than 20 words. Hate the design a lot? Quit Facebook. All of your stuff will still be there if you decide to come back. "Put up or shut up," or "shut up and jam," if you will. If people are still talking about this redesign when my Spring Break is over (March 29), then I'll delete my Facebook account for at least two weeks from that date.

It's part "I guess the new iteration is that bad," part "I need to get away from the whiners," part "here's an excuse to deactivate my account again."


Actually, scratch that. I'm going to deactivate my account come Spring Break (midday Friday) and we'll see what happens from there. I just remembered how liberating it is to disconnect from that and reconnect with everything else in life. (How many hours do you use Facebook or MySpace or Twitter, eh?)

I've used this quote before and someday, I swear I'll write something really meaningful around it:

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.
—Kurt Vonnegut

So maybe let's (you, me, whoever) stop complaining about some intangible pixels and words on a screen for a little while. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered to write this and maybe we shouldn't care so much about minutiae in our technological niceties, after all. There are better things to worry about and better ways to waste our time.

Maybe.

One week with Windows 7

I like Macs, I really do.

But there's something about having 18 GB of music as FLAC files (which iTunes, due to Apple's proprietary ways, will never support) that keeps me from wanting to make the plunge. That and a legitimate, PC-only copy of Adobe CS3 Design Premium that I paid for. And those good ol' PC games. Among plenty of other things.

So what's the next-best thing? Non-stop bleeding-edge PC software, that's what. Last week, I broke down and decided to install Windows 7 on my main computer.

(Please don't follow my example without thinking it through. I essentially have a software deathwish with all the nightly/beta versions of software I use—my e-mail program is called "Shredder," for crying out loud. I have an external hard drive and Amazon S3 that I backup to for a reason.)


tl;dr summary version: Windows 7 does not suck, takes some awesome interface cues from OS X, would buy again A+++++++++++

Interested parties, read on.


At first glance, the Windows 7 beta installs and operates just like Vista does. I can't say too much about the performance (I'm running on awesome hardware), but I will note a few of the more noticeable ways that Windows 7's user interface moves forward from Vista.

One webcomic I read lightly noted that Windows 7 is "like Vista, only minus the huge amounts of suck, and they decided to stick awesome in all the places where the suck used to be. Also, puppies." Minus that puppies part, that's pretty spot-on.

First things first: User Account Control

I figured I should put this at the top since it was essentially the biggest public gripe against Vista.

The infamous UAC prompts are a lot nicer on the intake. There's a lot less "alert fatigue" by default, as Windows only "shades" the desktop under certain circumstances, normally presents only one prompt at a time, and prompts a whole lot less than before—all significant improvements over Vista.

It's a lot less annoying than Vista and probably near the same level as OS X—although I'm going to give this one to Windows 7 since alerts don't always come looking for an administrator password.

Biggest, perhaps best change: Taskbar

Windows 7 'hot track' hover color

Nothing else in Windows screams "I want to be like a Mac" as much as the new taskbar in Windows 7. The ol' window title stripes—from every Windows version since Windows 95—are gone and are now replaced by a combined taskbar/quicklaunch area that Microsoft has nicknamed the "Superbar."

Icons work in a very Mac Dock-like fashion, in which running programs will show up in the taskbar, but are joined by the ability to "pin" items to the taskbar, essentially creating a permanent shortcut to that program.

I repeat: it's very OS X. In terms of usability, it's essentially a variation of the Mac Dock. And that's not a bad thing. I tend to have way too many windows open at once, so this UI style appears a lot less cluttered than vintage Windows.

Windows 7 'quick peek' and 'hot track' color

Main differences from Mac are the addition of the window preview and what Microsoft nicknamed "hot track coloring," where an icon's background color (on hover) matches the icon's most dominant color—both of which can be seen in the images above. (In cases with a low-saturation or greyscale icon, I've noticed Windows default to a theme-dependent color.)

Another nice feature is the "Window Peek." Not only does the taskbar give you a window preview, but if you hover over one of them (and if the window isn't minimized), Windows will hide all other windows to show you that one.

Windows 7 'window peek'

Everything else I liked

  • Drivers are entirely the same as Vista's. No breaking changes here, I got up and running nice and quick.
  • The Windows 7 desktop operates just like Vista's, with the added ability to select multiple wallpapers and make a "slide show" of your desktop. Yes, Mac OS X does this already. Nice touches that go beyond the Mac method include the ability to select specific wallpapers to slideshow (versus OS X which can only select whole directories) and an added "Next desktop background image" option when you right-click the desktop
  • Like XP and Vista, you can choose to hide system tray icons (those little things next to the clock). With Windows 7, I've found the ability to actually click and drag icons into the "hiding area." I'm only vaguely sure this is new, but it's still nice to mention.

Things that did not impress

  • "Aero Shake"—If you drag a window and shake it, all other windows become minimized. I don't see how that's necessarily useful at all, outside of people who get distracted by windows in their periphery.
  • "Desktop Peek"—like that "Window Peek" feature, if you hover over the "show desktop" strip at the end of the taskbar, all the windows go transparent and you can see the desktop. Great. The moment your mouse leaves that area, it goes back to normal. You might as well just click that button. I don't see the novelty in showing all the window borders and the desktop without being able to actually use the desktop directly. (Caveat: I don't like widgets, I don't use Mac's Dashboard and I don't use Windows Gadgets. I could see how a "peek" could possibly be useful for that, but I'm still not sold.)
  • "Libraries"—or, "yet another way for you to find 'My Documents.'" No, really, it's nice that there's an aggregation of all the shared "My Documents," "My Music," and etc. folders you have available to you. I just don't see it very useful since I don't know anybody that uses Windows sharing on their home directories like that.

And Django was it’s name-o

So I'm blogging again. First time in one hundred, eighty-seven days. Great.

In a way, it's a last-ditch effort to overcome a dry spell—it's been ages since I've written or photographed anything particularly well. I won't lie that I've been in a bit of a creative slump lately.

And in another way, it's an effort to make this a bit more credible again. It's about damn time I update my own site—what kind of new media douchebag leaves a site like this to rot? (A lazy one, that's what.)

As you can see (or not, if you're feed-reading this), this site's all dolled up with a new, made-from-scratch look. The front page should navigate quickly and integrates with a bunch of sites to keep my Web 2.0 stalkers happy. I've also moved from a WordPress installation to a Django-powered blog system that I whipped up. I've also moved servers, yadda yadda…I'll spare repeating myself and just point you design and tech nerds to the colophon.

Long story short: shiny new blog, awesome stuff under the hood, and I plan on writing more frequently than once a year.

Happy Friday the 13th, eh?