Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Wrist-Wrenching Phones

March 27th, 2012

Calling Sonny and Tubbs!

Nearly 30 years ago, the Miami Vice pretty boys were skimming in  cigarette boats and confronting drug lords. Along the way, they were très chic…in clothes, slang, and technology of the time. That included Sonny living on a boat with his guard alligator Elivs and hot communication, a remote phone.

I claim fair use for the cropped and contrast-improved image of Don Johnson as Sonny with his big honking phone. It worked off a land-line base and an antenna the size of a shishkabob skewer.

Now when we see pix of him holding this sizable household appliance, covering half his skull, we are amused. Yet, our technology is galloping back there.

Look around offices, on the street, in churches and on restaurant tables. Current versions of big honking phones abound. Common smart phones come with 5-inch screens and are leading larger. That doesn’t include trim and the rest of the body. They are swelling and swelling.

Of course the limits are different. Back in the MV days, components were much larger and transmission needed some serious amplification to work at all. Nowadays, consumer vanity in advanced features leads many to in turn drive cell makers. The bigger screens let fat fingers type (sort of) and hold the absurd number of lame and seldom used app icons.

Phones are getting bigger and bigger. Many no longer fit in shirt or suit pockets. The trend points to bigger yet.

I’m fond of saying that my phone works for me and not the other way around. I have to stifle snorts and giggles when I see the common conditioned responses of cell slaves. The phone beeps and they react — yes, master — regardless of driving, walking or conversing with tangible humans.

Here, we’re also not beholden to the pseudo-land line that comes with the cable bundle. If we are home at dinner or with guests in the room or even if we don’t feel like answering, we let a call go to voice. Our phones work for us.

I’m casually thinking of my next phone upgrade. It’s likely to be a smart for maybe more accurately smartass phone with more capability than my current one. You can be damned sure that it won’t be as big a my open hand.

Antique Bike, Antique Muscles

March 18th, 2012

Is there an equivalent cliché along the line of  a day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine, one for a week without cycling?

I grieved the past seven days with an inoperable road bike. I’ve been waiting for crucial parts to arrive. Today, I lugged out the old, very heavy mountain bike from over 20 years ago, just to get back in the saddle. Wow, it was a lot of work.

I think of my mother complaining when she drove the family car that I had taken off her hands and had out of state for several years in college. When I returned for a visit, she drove it instead of her company-issued new sedan. She returned puzzled and a little angry, asking, “What did you do to the steering?” She said it was so hard that she could barely turn, much less park.

We quickly figured out that it wasn’t the steering, rather it was the contrast with the new one, with power steering. The old one was light and to me easy to handle, but it had manual. Likewise, when I see a manual typewriter set up, I use it if I can, just to recall the feeling of having to use some muscle (particularly with the little fingers) to press keys that move levers.

Today, I was on a bike that weighs over twice my usual, well over 40 pounds. It has a steel frame, no suspension, and very inefficient gears. The Sierra was Schwinn’s first try at a mountain bike. It did what it did well, mostly being tough enough to rumble down hills strewn with boulders, to crash without bending, and to have a crank with low enough gears to hump up steep roads and paths.

After taking a hilly road route that I hum along with my road bike, I find my quads burning. That’s definitely good and should serve to remind me that tech and related advances can be enemies of fitness.

Intellectually, I knew that the road bike has by far the most efficient gears and is lighter than any other bike I’ve owned. However, experiencing that knowledge for over 20 miles is far, far more meaningful. My body as well as mind knows that a much heavier bike with clunky gears is one devil of a lot more work.

The good aspect of that is that many of us cyclists claim to want to bike in part for the exercise. A set of wheels that is too easy deludes us into thinking the same 20 or 30 or 50 miles traveled is real work, with real benefits.

I promise to make trips around the Boston area, including the huge humping hills around this part on the old Schwinn at least once a week. It can only be good for me physically and remind me, as manual typewriters do, of how easy we often make things for ourselves.

32 Volume Collector’s Item

March 14th, 2012

“Look it up,” may have been the most common reply to me growing up. When I was very young, my knowledgeable mother would provide answers to my ceaseless questions. In early elementary school though, she used that phrase…and that’s what I did.

She was not being selfish with her smarts nor unreasonable in that demand. She had multiple reference books, which she used often. Those included atlases half my height, a massive, 2-volume unabridged dictionary, three full sets of encyclopedia (American, Compton’s and Britannica, with update volumes), the annual almanac/book of facts (in hardcover because she and I really worked that one), and on and on.

Today I saw that Britannica is going the expedient way and announcing its final print edition. It sells through DVDs and online access in several versions. The library format is passé.

For many years, I have been amused by and come to expect incredulous queries from cosseted Ivy Leaguers who remark on my general and specific knowledge. I worked with one at Inc. Magazine a long time ago who showed that at its worst. Several times, he’d come out with the likes of, “Ball, you went to a shitty school. How come you know so much?”

The answer in many ways goes back to my mother’s look-it-up chant. The other parts include that I did look it up, that I had a better brain than my coworker, that I enjoyed school and thus paid attention in class, that I took good courses, and that I read for pleasure. Neither his Harvard nor Columbia degree made up for his insufficiencies in those many areas.

Now though there’s a different chant — “Google it.”

Sure enough, there is much more information, both fact and opinion available on the net. Is that the same? Likewise, willstudents go to the school or public library for detailed information?

Speaking to teens, 20-somethings and many older folk, I doubt it. Finding something to cut and paste, something that provides the sketch is better than being totally ignorant. Yet, so many people seem stunted by this kind of learning.

When I had either of two adult encyclopedia (having outgrown Compton’s) open, I read far beyond the catalytic topic. I’d find more just begging me to learn about it. Then, again, I’d browse the unabridged dictionary recreationally….

I’m a huge internet-for-reference user. We also have the types of tools I grew up with, including both Britannica hard cover and DVD versions and the OED.

My sons were not as eager to look it up as I was or am. I do admit that I’m a bit odd that way. They still have benefited mightily from the references we have. They’re even wont to get out our field guides to fungi or birds for identification issue. I’m pretty sure most non-paper researchers don’t bother.

That, after all was the point in my upbringing. If you are curious and you know the answer is in one of the numerous family bookcases, you may very well look it up.

More IT-Gone-Wacky Tales from FAST LANE

March 8th, 2012

Apparently there’s no pleasing me. A couple of years ago, I noted the incompetence of IT for the transponder program here in MA. Not only could they not suck money in real time or close to it to keep the $20 deposit flush for long trips, but if you called in to support, you have to give up your password over the phone to talk with a rep.

That’s right, your only security for an account that had access to your bank or credit card funds had to be spoken in the most insecure possible way, just to ask a question of support. Some support.

Well, that was true again and still last month. We replaced a vehicle and the stick ‘um stripes for the Velcro retainer did not hold on the new windshield. It seems they are designed this way and the FAQ on the MA DOT site says call in to get new strips.

Of course, I couldn’t even ask for that or explain at all why I was calling without spitting out my “secure” password. Not only that, but there is a separate PIN the agency assigns transponder users that you have to reveal. To see that, you need to log in with your account number and password, highlight the field at top and read that to the rep. Only then can you say you need to 2-inch strips to hold the box in place.

Honest to Ada Lovelace, computers were never designed to remove all mental processing capability from humans. We do that to ourselves and each other.

After eight minutes to inane bureaucracy, my silly rep was satisfied I was the person I represented myself to be and that I deserved the two strips. They arrived about four days later in a #10 envelope. Control freak I am, I thought and told the woman in support that this function should be automated and a menu choice from your account. Of course, that would be less for support to support.

Today’s episode was getting my monthly email of the FAST LANE statement. That includes a link to the DOT site. It has brought up the log-in screen and retrieved my account number and password from a cookie. Good enough.

Not today though. Instead, I got a screen worthy of the Bastard Operator from Hell. Not only could I not do as I had for years, but the stored data was gone. I had to track down my seven-digit account number (which serves as user name), and then bow to the new FAST LANE password schema.

So the old four-character (a.k.a. mnemonic) PW was not good enough. There was no advising about the level. I had to do what the screen said or forever be locked out of my account info. Instead, it meant contriving a new PW that was eight or more characters, and included “at least one of each”:

  • Upper-case letters
  • Lower-case letters
  • Numbers
  • Special characters (the punctuation and symbols on the keyboard)

Something you can remember? Forget it!

A tricky non-word or meaningful-to-you number with a funky symbol somewhere? Forget it!

The new PW had to meet five BOFH rules. So there.

Plus, there’s a note at the bottom of the PW hazing screen that you still need to have access to the DOT-assigned PIN as well to get any help from alleged support.

These IT satraps do have real power in their tiny provinces, power they abuse. The only question is are they ignorant of how much trouble they’ll cause in aggregate by their bureaucratic inconvenience or are they being malicious, as in “Let’s make ’em dance.”?

Well, Obviously, Harrumph! is Back

February 28th, 2012

GDlogoHair on fire. Apology on tap.

After five days, this blog is back up. I regret all who got database connection errors in that period. I did too. Most hits here come from Google and other search engine operations. So, if you were clicking around for something, I hope you found it elsewhere.

Logo note: The problems and solution came from GoDaddy. I claim fair use of its surely copyrighted and/or trademarked logo.

For the curious, the outage came in a server migration. I’ll be upgrading WordPress now. I could not before for some convoluted set of reasons whereby my old GD servers could not upgrade to the MySQL versions that WP and other modern apps require.

After telling me on and on for two years they couldn’t help unless I closed the account and reopened it, they announced thaty they could when I called again last week. Yet, it did require new technologies on new servers, saving off everything, shutting it down, and waiting up to four days for the GD IT fairies to work their magic.

I was away for the weekend, so that seemed OK. Yet it turned out that wasn’t quite the case. All of the GD tech are pleasant and most know a lot. It was the small seams that caused the garment to come apart.

After GD saved the DB with five years of blog content, a tech directed me to copy the whole server content to my HD…just in case. He assured me that almost certainly, the automated migration would restore the works. I just had to call in a day to put in the order for the new 4GH server transfer.

I did call in, only to hear, curiously, that the order was in and in a couple of days, all would be as it was on the new technology. As these things tend to go, that didn’t happen. I returned to see messages by URL that there was no database connection or by IP addresss to the new server that there was no database at all.

Turns out, the latter was correct. The third nice tech apparently does this transfer regularly. She told me correctly that I needed to follow three separate intricate, but well documented procedures, which she sent me by email. I had to create, restore and configure the DB manually with GD tools online. Where were my fairies?

This was the proverbial blind men and elephant in that each tech was savvy about parts of it. I didn’t get the big picture and real set of procedures until the third tech.

Far, far worse things happen in the computer and internet worlds.

Maxing Out Outlook

November 1st, 2011

thumbDespite the book on time management with Outlook® being under 300 pages, reviewing took quite awhile. I mention that because that is likely what many readers will find. I kept returning to implement.

Effective Time Management: Using Microsoft® Outlook® to Organize Your Work and Personal Life is just what it says. However, it could use an additional subtitle about changing everything about how you handle your desk and computer.

To receive the book’s substantial value, you cannot just take a tip here and another there. You have to change the way you receive, read and send email, how you plan, attend or conduct meetings, and master the to-do and journal functions many Outlook owners do not know of or use. Time-management guru Lothar Seiwert and productivity expert Holger Woeltje show specifically how to do all of that. They lay out the problems, describe the concepts for those and their solutions, provide real-world examples of best practices, and give step-by-step description of how to do it yourself.

People who feel harried and overwhelmed by information and tasks coming at all times from all directions can get tremendous help here. All it takes is looking at each aspect of the business day in a new framework and then implementing better systems to deal with them. It is not at all simple, but the authors put it all right there in front of you.

By the bye, as a technical writer, I also appreciated their index. That often contracted-out weakest aspect of technical books is actually useful in this one. For example, it uses concepts instead of just the precise words Microsoft and the authors use.

The authors do not stint on any area. They separate these into email, tasks, weekly planning, daily planning, meetings and goals. Each gets the full problems, solutions, examples, and procedures treatment. If you thought you understood what you face everyday, know that they have made a deeper analysis.

You may find yourself skimming the examples, with their generalized, bullet-point concepts. That will be OK, because they lead you into the procedures, which is the essence of each area. If you think you do not have time to upgrade the way you work, you are likely to conclude you must take that time, so you will end up in much greater control of your job.

One of the best aspects along the way is that the pair introduces and explains how to use Outlook features invisible to and unused by many owner. Think block building and journal use, and how to get the most out of OneNote.

As an aside, it is possible to use other productivity tools than Outlook. The authors do not generalize to those. They do show why they have found what they need in Outlook.

Effective Time Management: Using Microsoft® Outlook® to Organize Your Work and Personal Life
Lothar Seiwert, Holger Woeltje
Microsoft Press, Redmond, WA
October 2011
Pages: 272
ISBN-10: 0735660042
ISBN-13: 978-0735660045
$29.99 Paperback and $9.99 Kindle available at O’Reilly or Amazon.

Quick-Question Horror

October 27th, 2011

“I have a quick question,” is invariably a delusion and lie. It is a spasm of speech that should warn all listening.

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Quick-question (QQ) askers generally 1) proceed to lay out a long, complex, convoluted argument for a position along with a query that if written would be rife with commas and semicolons, 2) stop the current discussion with a vast, tangentially related problem, or 3) both. They don’t ask QQs and their questions don’t call for short answers.

From my high-tech days, both as a team member and as a manager, I was wary of QQ engineers. Hardware, software, and  firmware developers seemed to love that phrase. For some of us running meetings, it was a call to action, quick action.

There are a couple of QQ types, each requiring specific intervention:

  • Smart Alec — This one is often a man in his 20s, who has a tiny idea he thinks is brilliant and game-changing. He fills the meeting air with his thinking process and his shreds of evidence to show how he has seen what all you lesser mortals missed.
  • Myers-Briggs S Type — These well-intentioned people are very literal. They need to have all the evidence in front of them to make even the smallest decision and they can continue until every detail is in the form they understand and would use.

The best meeting leaders short-circuit the smart alecs. Generally, their QQ is off topic and a distraction from what is keeping everyone else in the room and away from real work. Take ’em offline. Deal with them apart from the meeting yourself or ID the subject-matter expert who can either explain why they’re making a huge deal out of nothing, why they are wrong, or how their concern can become part of the project at hand. Without an audience, smart alecs usually turn reasonable and quiet fast.

S types on the other hand can’t help themselves. That’s the way they think. They need to see and ideally touch the documents related to the pending meeting.

A Myers-Briggs consultant taught me how to handle then. That has to take place before the meeting. Give them any related documents before the meeting, let them read and handle them, and be prepared for what really are some QQs before the group gets together. S types need to come to terms with minutiae. They can do it before the meeting or stop the works during it.

A fun way to observe this is one where you aren’t involved, either as a captive of the QQ sorts or trying to manage them in your own meeting. Listen to call-in shows. Thoughty ones like On Point are good bets.  They tend to deal with complex topics, they have polite hosts not prone to hanging up on people, and they don’t try to elicit emotional rants from callers.

Every show, you’ll hear the QQ line. Listen to how the host handles the self-identified expert with great insight or the caller who tries to lay out intricate thought processes instead of getting to the point, any point. Tom Ashbrook for one has gotten good at knowing when someone is beginning to blow long and hard, by grabbing the obvious question nub, saying something like, “We take your point,” and bringing in the guest(s) to say something meaningful (and terse).

There’s a lesson there for all who lead or attend meetings.

common sense

That’s a really good question

Pushing Our Buttons

October 18th, 2011

Ah, them technologies. They are so tricksy.

Of course, I saw the viral vid of the 1-year-old tot frustrated by a Marie Claire maggy that didn’t swipe or flip like an iPad app.

By the bye, Marie Claire does have an iPad app. Would be the fun in trying to ridicule a pre-speaker gawking at sexy models in fancy clothes on screen?

Just a couple days ago, the FT’s Lucy Kellaway included lessons learned from the Blackberry blackout. One was the those in real power positions were the least concerned, while their minions stabbed and stared at unresponsive keypads and screenlets. Among her possible explanations for this inverse power/anxiety relationship were

  • (T)he more important you are the more you can afford to ignore other people’s emails. If there is something that you really have to know about, someone will track you down and let you know.
  • More likely though, if you are the sort of person endlessly looking at stupid messages on a small screen, you aren’t the sort of person to get to the top anyway.

There’s confluence. Both taut tot and meeting minions have been successfully programmed.

Among the many online reactions to the little one trying to swipe magazine pages, two typical comments appear. One is that this child fits perfectly in a digital world where old technologies are irrelevant. The other is how lame the parents are who don’t teach the kid the range of the available, like reading to her.

That as well as Kellaway’s observations both illustrate a nefarious affect of human brains. Truth be told, we are animals who are easily trained. We can fight against and even have a measure of power over that pathetic trait, but it’s hard.

Observe just how we deal with phones, old or new style. One rings, buzzes or gets musical and we respond. In the car, on the street, in a restaurant or at home, we think we are communicating, in fact that we must do so. Everywhere around you, glance to see how simultaneously absurd and amusing this is. People walking abreast, each talking to someone else. A parent chatting or texting while pushing a stroller, oblivious to both their miniature person and their environment. Someone ignores the person across the table or even in the bed to text or talk. A mall shopper walks into someone else or a post while describing what’s going to be for lunch.

As impossible as it seems to us, we can only control that training if we first look at the context and content. As difficult as it may be for our conditioned egos, if we examine a day or even an hour of phone, email and text messages, we’d have to admit they are junk, stupid junk. We are spending the only lives we get responding as instantly as possible to nothing in particular.

Here, even with two youths in the house, we have beaten that particular problem. For example, we have dinner together. If the land-line-like cable phone or a cell rings during the family meal, it rings to completion. Except years ago when I knew my distant mother was very ill, I would never interrupt the important for the surely trivial. The mantra is that IT CAN WAIT.

Yet, I know I have been programmed in many other ways. There’s that insidious mouse for a big one.

rotaryI was a computer user when that mean using an intermediary. There was data, usually stored on paper tape. You’d go to a programmer, almost invariable a middle-aged man. He’d type commands to produce a deck of punch cards or revised tape, which you fed into a computer for calculations or other results. I developed and ran the nationwide directory of construction equipment, manufacturers and dealers like that.

When I got my first personal computer in 1980, it required programming just to use the dedicated keypad for either word processing or numerical functions. There was no mouse, no GUI, and no World Wide Web — the internet as we know it. In the next decade plus, accessing data, graphics, and other humans on the net meant typing precise commands onto a dotted white on some dull color.

That was not better than colors, high-pixel-count images, and graphical interfaces. It was often faster though. Those much less capable PCs booted for use in a couple of seconds, a trait only tablets and the most advanced ones are just beginning to do now. A command-line interface was and remains vastly faster than mousing or even fingering around a page or displaying a keyboard that does not allow touch typing.

So, the mouse has gotten me and I know it. Pre-GUI, I used the kick-ass word processor XyWrite. Even with pull-down menus and such later, I worked for many years as a technical writer with FrameMaker as my text and layout platform. Both hummed with commands and keyboard shortcuts. There’s no way a sad little mouse user could begin to locate, open and climb down to the right spot in a menu before the shortcut person was four operations ahead.

Therein lies that intersection and the paths to the future. Those with flexible tools and those who understand how to get the power out of them have great advantages. Those who let themselves take the easiest path of being programmed by their technologies are like H.G.Wells’ gentle Eloi, They are subject to the realities of their devices and helpless in the larger world.

Honest to God, saying, “I wasn’t even born then,” is the hallmark of the ignorant and ineffectual. We needn’t all know how to drive a team of oxen, but our world is full of technologies from many ages. Not knowing how to read the still common analog clocks is neither cute nor a mark of a futurist. Nor is not being able to read and write cursive.

Delusion that only the most advanced technologies are necessary in this whiz-bang modern world is itself programming, programming for failure. The minds of even the most programmed of us can understand how things work and can draw on the devices of the last century and even before. There’s room enough in our brains for more than pop things and culture.

Those with broad general knowledge and diverse skills have great advantages. We drastically shortchange our abilities if we hold something and say, “This is all I need to know.”

Saving and Sorting Lives

October 10th, 2011

sA Microsoft researcher in England has thought more about our life traces than the rest of us have. In The future of looking back, he interweaves the pluses and problems of personal artifacts from his grandfather’s photographs to current digital and online tools we use to the newest stuff around his Microsoft Research in Cambridge UK.

The book is as much philosophic as technical. For his work and avocations, Banks understands collecting, analyzing, storing and retrieving artifacts of human lives. The result of all that could have been a huge, turgid work, but is not.

In 141 pages, plus supporting references, he presents the qualities and uses of our photos, data, video, audio, journals and more. He uses simple declarative sentences, which makes even the complex concepts easy to follow. Coupled with his clever design questions at the end of chapters, the reader ends up thinking about how to make the fullest, safest uses of inherited and current material. We shall be better librarians of our lives after reading this.

He’s straight-ahead in dividing the book into three sections — Stuff and sentimentality, A digital life, and New sentimental things. Those would be the nature of the objects we use to remember, the hows and whys of reminiscence, and new and pending tools for doing so. I’m fairly observant, but he bring in details, down to the weight and texture of photographs. He catalogs our now-digitalizable range of artifacts. I considered my many objects like they were suddenly laid out before me.

That would be enough, but his design questions are truly thought provoking. For just one example, he asks, “How might we design ways that allow parents to clear out or archive their child’s digital things when they leave home?” These chapter enders did slow me down, in a good way. I am thinking of my own set of several generations of objects with these in mind.

How might we design ways that allow parents to clear out or
archive their child’s digital things when they leave home?

I only have one complaint. He seems to assume that more is always better, and to let the future users draw on technologies to sort and prioritize. I think instead that as we complain of information overload, storing many millions of artifacts would work only for someone with a team of biographers to reconstruct the life and times. I vote for selectivity and subsets in what we store.

Richard Banks
Microsoft Research, Cambridge, UK
The future of looking back
Microsoft Press, Redmond, WA, 2011
184 pages
ISBN: 978-0-7356-5806-6
$24.99 paper, also available in Kindle editions, O’Reilly or Amazon
Review Shtick: This starts a series of book review on technology and other topics that interest me.

FB TMI

September 23rd, 2011

As a chum posted on FB, “If I want strangers to read the story of my life, I’ll write a fricken autobiography.”

That should be the road sign marking the bifurcation of Facebook. As in yesterday’s rant about the most recent blunders of pop companies, I remain astonished at the paternalism or we-know-best-ism of those companies.

At it’s f8 event (chronicled in tedious detail in the FT), the big honking chief FACES, like founder Mark Zuckerberg, intend to crush competition with technology and cachet. The ALL NEW IMPROVED version has an annoying constantly updating news feed sub-window, but really one thrust in two features.fk

First, there’s more media, either to ingest or to regurgitate. More videos, more pictures, for you, from you, from Friends. OK, for the target audience that’s smart enough. FB users have largely come up reading little. They are the 21st Century equivalent of tabloid customers — why read, when you can get a flavor of something by looking at a picture? It may be a small-brain marketing ploy, but it is timely and profitable.

Second is that timeline. The FACES at the announcement can’t withhold their joy at their cleverness here. They are enabling a logorrheic (small and few words, but in many, many places though) display of personal trivia. Each FB account can be self-absorbed in a way few have seen outside mental institutions.

Those who think the foursquare (a.k.a. rob-me-now) application is egotistic and inane may have palpitations now. FB is automating this self-absorption, which seems for the moment largely limited to the 20 something and 30 something users. For a long time (in net speak), you could bore people with personal trivia, but you had to do it piecemeal. On FB or Twitter or Tumblr or foursquare and a few others, you could put in:

  • Where you were headed
  • Where you arrived
  • Whom you were with
  • What you ordered
  • What you ate
  • What movie you saw
  • And on and on and on

This level of detailed sharing supposedly is gregarious. It supposedly influences others. It supposedly is avant-garde. It is certainly increasingly popular. The new FB timeline jacks that up by letting you automate such inputs and lay out a garden slug like trail of all your activities.

Not too long ago, and still in some groups, folk ridiculed bloggers for the ain’t-my-kid (or kitten)-cute posts. People would photograph adored beings or every meal. Those sad little blogs would have look-at-me-and-mine content exclusively. Even close family members quickly lose patience with those.

Now it looks like FB will force a true bifurcation, largely along  generational lines. Those who believe that each act and choice is as worthy of comment as any other should love this timeline concept. Berners-Lee knows, the FACES will love it; those who leave their slug trails for all to see and follow will provide a level of salable marketing data unknown today. We may soon see, should we have the stomach for it, when people pet their cats, have their bowel movements, or choose a peach instead of apple at Whole Foods.

This is only different in degree from how most of us use cellphones. We don’t seem to realize how stupid we are and how much of our lives and thoughts we waste by constantly speaking drivel. Walk a store or mall, ride a subway, or sit in a waiting room anywhere to overhear it. She is about to go into a pizza parlor. He thought last night’s The Office sucked. Often these cell phonies walk into each other or posts, sometimes they drive that way too. Broadcasting trivia is the feel-good-right-now stupidity of the era. The FB timeline capitalizes on that emotional need brilliantly and viciously.

I suspect when this settles, user graphs will show a steep drop-off by age. Many of us don’t and won’t care about minuscule choices of others any more than the status of your FarmVille cow.