Small Isn’t Bad

Being smaller is not always a bad thing, or at least it doesn’t need to be. Too often I believe that we think that the massive size of something (service, company, etc.) is somehow intrinsically good instead of a tradeoff or a net negative.

This has come to the forefront recently as Twitter continues to devolve into various stages of anger and disillusionment, Google continues to drop the ball as it relates to some of their products (Hangouts Chat continues to disappoint), Facebook continues to act as an Internet overlord, and Apple has broken the $1 trillion market cap for the first time. These are all massive, large, huge, monstrous organizations.

Within the maelstrom small groups of people have been breaking off in various ways and finding new homes in smaller corners of the Internet and technology sphere. Some have moved back to their own blogs. Others have migrated to paid services like Micro.blog. Still others have started breaking off from the large social network services into smaller communities hosted on Slack or onto Mastodon instances.

I’m not going to get into what Mastodon is, but I have found a temporary respite over at Fosstodon and I am enjoying the smaller (just over 1000) community and the new people I am bumping into. I don’t know what the future will hold, but trying something new out has at least broken me of some of my worst habits when it comes to Twitter.

This brings me to the title of this post and how small isn’t bad. A good portion of my “growing up” on the Internet focused on participating on writing forums focused on Star Trek. While I thought the community was large, it was tiny in comparison to the Twitters and Facebooks of the world. However, I was able to meet and talk with a more diverse group of people when we were all gathered around the subject of Star Trek than I ever have on Twitter.

I was also able to have considerably better relationships with those people, in whatever way and extent that can happen over the Internet. I even met a few face-to-face after years of talking only on those forums!

These smaller communities might be just what the Internet needs today. Allow people to break off into smaller groups, enable individuals within those groups to also converse with individuals from other groups and see what forms from there. Mastodon enables that, even though it is not perfect, and I am excited to see what that federated concept might be able to do in the future.

Maybe, just maybe, it can help us all to break things down into smaller chunks so that we can work within our limitations.

Following the Loons

I did not follow soccer at all growing up.

However, with Minnesota United FC starting its second season and my oldest son showing a little bit of an interest in soccer, it has been fun to watch the game a little more closely and start following the local team as well. It was also a World Cup year, so I was able to get updates on the day’s games from my two older sons as they followed the action in the afternoon.

One thing I have benefitted from has been my age as I am able to watch the game itself with a new set of eyes. Where in the past I might have seen nothing more than some (a lot) of running, now I pay more attention to the little things going on around the entire pitch. There is a lot going on away from the ball, and sometimes there is a lot more to enjoy when watching for the entire build up to something happening instead of focusing only on where the ball is.

So it has been a fun season so far, with three straight wins and 9 straight points. I am hoping the new additions will bring some more dynamism and that Darwin Quintero continues to find his extremely exciting niche in the league.

You don’t have to live in public

You don’t have to live in public by Austin Kleon

It seems ridiculous to say, but 2013, the year I wrote the book, was a simpler time. Social media seemed much more benign to me. Back then, the worst I felt social media did was waste your time. Now, the worst social media does is cripple democracy and ruin your soul.

A lot of think about and digest in this one, and maybe a little bit of hyperbole at points, but there is a lot to like as well.

Lawnmowers and Coax

This is a story in two pictures.

The cable hasn’t been buried since we moved into the house, so I am going to have someone come and take care of that now that I have sufficient mangled the poor thing and then patched it up so that we have access to the internet for the time being.

Laptop Required: Teaching Online While Mobile

It was not terribly long ago that I had almost completely rid myself of carrying a laptop. I was able to keep a desktop at home, a desktop at work, and a tablet for those times I was traveling and really needed to get online for something more involved than checking my phone.

laptop on tableHowever, that was then, and teaching online courses has tethered me to a laptop far more than being a sysadmin ever did. My dream of whittling my bag down to a tablet and various other small materials is essentially dead. Current online teaching platforms require a laptop to be effective while doing some of even the most mundane of tasks.

This is not a real complaint, more of an observation about how our tools are dictated by the platforms and the assumptions developers make. While my students could effectively handle most of their course from a mobile device (and I have in mind to work toward making the courses I have complete control over as mobile friendly as possible), the teaching experience still requires access to at least a laptop, and often a desktop with multiple monitors.

When Steve Jobs spoke about the stratification of computing into different categories (traditional PCs as trucks, tablets as cars, etc.), I thought the metaphor was apt, but I hoped to be able to stick myself into a car when it came to mobile computing.

Instead, I now carry a crossover in my bag so that I might be able to get work done even when I am away from one of my desks. While it works well, part of me wishes I could still stick with just a hatchback.