Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Plots Against Shyness

November 15th, 2013

Yes, I write this personal blog. Yes, I have a weekly audio podcast. Yes, I advocate for marriage equality. Yes, I’ve interviewed and written about many folk in politics, business and beyond over a long time.

I’m still shy, moderately introverted and far more comfortable when the attention is on someone else.

I got a double dash of public yesterday headed to and then in my fiction-writing workshop. I think such surprises can only be good for us shy sorts.

The class is in the main Copley public library, starting after dark. I was perking along, head down, when a TV reporter popped out of his van, leading with the innocuous, “Do you live in Boston.” It turns out that along Boylston Street close to last spring’s Marathon bombings, various crews were getting guy-on-the-street quotes about Bill Maher’s provocative attempts at humor on the subject.

Maher surely should have realized how lame he had been when Anthony Weiner, of all people, sitting beside him modulated the situation. When Weiner is the voice of reason, compassion and morality in the situation, Maher seriously goofed up.

I had little to say. I did manage to tell the BZ mic hand and cameraman something like Maher was being a fool. Normally he’s bright and insightful but not then. I was turning into myself in shyness and likely would not have added the Weiner judgment had it come to mind then and not 20 feet later as I headed to the library.

I very rarely watch any TV. I would not have been aware they used my ho-hum clip if chums had not let me know.

Inside, much more intense and prolonged was the psychodrama that was the last half of the class. An out-there writer who joined the class had us act out. She’d don’t corporate training and such. She said she had a useful exercise to help us commit to regular writing schedules. That sounded good but quickly stretched my comfort elastic.

The way it worked for the five of us, her included, was that one after another, we stood in a close circle. The person of the moment identified three obstacles to writing, actually writing. One person would take the role of each, such as the lure of social media drawing us away from creative work. One person would be the support. The subject heard simultaneous bombardment of reasons to procrastinate or doubt, while the lone support person and whatever messages the subject could play internally played. There was four or five very intense minutes.

Each of us came to a sort of denouement, believing that we had a handle on responses to the distractions. That was her intent and we’ll see how it plays out. We have pledged to bring in one to five pages of new work next week as proof…and then each week.

For extroverts, that kind of psychodrama without having to dress up must seem benign. It was about all I could handle. Of course, the hardest moments were when I was in the center of the circle, the focus.

I suspect both events last evening were good for me. I don’t know that I’m ready to seek more like those, but I survived.

He talks!

October 27th, 2013

I have a little less excuse to hide inside my moderate introversion. Yes, I do host a weekly podcast, a.k.a. an internet radio show. Yes, my yellow glasses say, “Look at me.” Yet, public speaking has never been my love or forte. I remain nervous and avoid it.

Somehow while attending my fourth or fifth BarCamp Boston, I did it yesterday. I went ahead and populated a Post-it with a topic I thought I could wing. I also figured maybe a few folk would attend.

For the gregarious and Toastmaster sorts, that is nothing. For us publicly shy types, it’s a big deal. When I went back to school to add a management degree, I found how stunted I was here. While I went to J-school, worked newspapers and magazines for decades, interviewed big shots and small, and represented my department in group meetings, there were safeguards. I had a notepad or PowerPoint to hide behind, to distract. Also, I was not the focus of attention.

bcbtest

The way these self-suggested sessions work is the crowd mills around those stuck in the WOULD YOU ATTEND? grid. Those that get four or more checkmarks are OK. The suggester is supposed to move it to an open block on the schedule board for a room and time.

Most presenters planned their sessions well in advance. Many created laptop presentations and provided lots of visuals and in some cases audio.

I think of Steve Garfield (pic below). He presented on Storify.

His session was brilliant, professional and accessible. He’d taken a few snaps with his smartphone that morning, posted some tweets and Instagrams and was ready to teach. He plugged his laptop into the overhead connection and created a Storify post in real time. He searched for and pulled in his elements, text, pix, Vine vids and such from various social-media sites. He saved to Storify and embedded it in several of his other sites.

It was a great show and I was one of those who had vaguely thought about using that site. I shall now. That what BarCamp should do.

storifysg

In a pale contrast, I was now thinking after Steve’s presentation that I should go back to the WOULD YOU ATTEND? block and remove my Post-it. When I arrived, I had five checks and felt committed. Scary stuff for an introvert.

I sat at lunch and was not sociable much to the rest of the folk. I sketched my session ideas on four index cards. I wanted to speak to such things as:

  • recap of my background, why I am at all qualified
  • traits of bad online manuals and help systems
  • two kinds of tech writers (the majority being literal sorts incapable of thinking like naive users)
  • elements of good docs
  • down-and-dirty usabilty

I fretted and even thought of removing my Post-it from the block where I’d stuck it — Mattapan Room, 155 at 2:40 pm. By then though, I figured I’d goof up, no one would show, people who drift out during, or just maybe it would be OK even without visuals and prep.

It was the latter. About 20 folk came in and nearly all stayed. I had the good fortune to have three who were interactive, commenting and questioning.

At the end, They applauded. I confessed my introversion. One of the active participants said if I hadn’t told them, they wouldn’t have known.

I’ll never be as smooth as Steve. Yet, I think I might do this again. I have to year to come up with a topic and then produce a show. Even a shy guy should be able to do that.

Mensa Muffins

October 27th, 2013

bcbskedsYesterday at BarCamp Boston, geeks abounded and were super pleasant. For those who haven’t worked in high tech, that is remarkable. Many programmers and others sheltered under the very wide engineer umbrella show off and show each other up.

When I went from tech writer and doc manager to overseeing development and QA engineers,  I experienced that in its spark and spit. Very smart young men and women in software development had to be best. “His code is crap. Mine is much better.” “Her malloc clogs the stack.” “I can write that in 121 fewer lines and mine will run much faster.”

I didn’t see that competitiveness or criticism yesterday. That is except for the brief you’re-doing-in-wrong-and-inefficiently moments. As such, they were left-brain amusing.

Take the sked board. It’s a running BarCamp joke that this is a manual operation, much like the beloved whiteboards in daily use. Each of the two days’ sessions gets a Post-it stuck to its time/location spot in the grid. In deference to modern life, the grid also goes online and nearly every attendant had and used one or more wireless devices.

Several hundred folk waited for those who wanted to give sessions to put their topic on a Post-It, get enough checkmarks showing interest to justify moving it to the sked grid. Their minds clearly were spinning, because as a couple of volunteers climbed on tables to draw precise chalk lines for the grid, the suggestions started.

First, the main woman using a cardboard template to guide the chalk was, as you’d expect, precise…a.k.a. slow. Her lines had to be this level and just so. People standing around waiting to see what they wanted to go to at 11am whispered suggestions for how to create the grid more efficiently. Then they called out their ideas.

stevemuffins

Meanwhile, more self-perceived wisdom occurred at the breakfast tables. Videoblog overlord, Steve Garfield got his version and I saw a truly efficient geek handle the coffee when it arrived.

Steve wasn’t a volunteer, at least when he arrived. He did see the many shrink-wrapped trays of muffins, croissants and such. He went to take the plastic off only to hear the guy sort of watching them announce that he couldn’t. The claim was the no one could have muffins until the vats of coffee arrived. To the sentry, pastries require pastry and that’s that.

Steve asked who was in charge and headed for them. They told him sure, get the muffins ready. Steve had figured all along that not everyone had to have coffee with their pastry.

He used his low-tech tool, his car key, to cut the plastic. Meanwhile, his mother saw a pic of the muffins and wisely informed Steve the muffins were too big, that he should halve them. So he got a plastic knife and did that. There were a lot of muffins.

The coffee arrived, three gigantic vats with spigots, and a bunch of boxes with pour spouts. Almost immediately, a long, single line formed and moved very slowly.

The engineering mind of a few geeks next to me went to work. The first observation was that the gate was at the milk. The half or so of those getting coffee really wanted hot ice cream and fixed their coffee with both milk and sugar, a slow process.

Then one 20-something acted. He could have rearranged the add-ins beyond the vats and sped up the process. Instead, he handled it much better by grabbing a box of coffee and a stack of paper cups. Calling out, “Who wants black coffee?” he went down the line. About half of those did, got a quick pour and the long line became a very short one in about two minutes.

At least two smart guys worked for the common good.

Thumb-thing Silly

October 7th, 2013

What this neat pop-science Boston Globe article does not address is why so many of us believe, no, know, that we are splendid multitaskers. If we were anywhere as bright and observant as we pretend, we’d see frightening reflections galore that suggest otherwise.walking thumb

Adults, teens, even wee ones stumble and career into shelves, each other, closed doors and worse while punching into a (insert irony symbol, traditionally ironymark) smartphone. More poignantly than the clown bumps and pratfalls, one aspect of device-distracted humans is texting while driving, too often, killing while doing so.

The article does deal extensively with another key aspect, how iPhones and their like are great programming tools. That is, they program their ostensible owners. In fact, they are the owner in the relationship.

I’ve dealt with and even obsessed on the whole mess here numerous times. Samples are in links to posts using multitask.

A current cliché is how smart the millennials and young folk are. Aren’t they masters of technology?

That would be a resounding, “No!” for them as a group. In fact knowing how to use the icons, menus and keys on a cellphone, being comfortable with numerous social-media and their keywords, do not translate into broader intelligence or even technology skills. Instead, as many of us note, we as a populace are being dumbed down, just as we are increasingly under the control of our devices.

By cracky, Mable, it isn’t just the kids either. In a supermarket, on the street and well, everywhere, the seemingly ubiquitous Androids, iPhones and such make humans hop. 60-year-olds as well as middle-schoolers largely cannot control themselves when their device tones or jiggles. They, the nominal owners, are dancing to the notes.

A few years ago, Boomer and older folk lamented the rudeness of folk putting their phones on the restaurant table, constantly scanning them, and unhesitatingly answering them should they command so. Of course that’s ill mannered and speaks poorly of whoever raised them. And, an alter kaker like I am tells people not to bring their phone out. I, perhaps self-righteously, tell them that in my house, if we’re having a family dinner when a cell or other phone rings, that call just goes to voice. We’re busy and in the moment.

Still, for all those people who believe they are smart enough to multitask, I wish awareness. When they respond like birds or other lower animals conditioned to push a button for food or perform some other stupid pet trick, will they please see that? Will they get a grip and realize they are in thrall to their $500 gadget?

My hope would be if a 17-year-old gains that level of awareness, it would be a teachable moment. Each enlightened lad or lass would show peers how to be in charge of the device, instead of the other way around.

That smarter lifestyle might even spread to their parents and grandparents. Honestly, humans can decide what’s really urgent.

 

Fiercebook strikes

July 30th, 2013

turtlefaceLaddies and germs, Facebook bloats like a dead animal in the sun, bigger and more intense daily. Yet, if my chums are any measure, some demographics have run in terror or trepidation.

I thought it was silly. In many ways, I’m still right. Back when I first looked at FB, ain’t-my-kitten and ain’t-my-kid and ain’t-girlfriend cute pix ruled. Double bleech.

I avoided it until my wife went canoeing with other aged Girl Scouts to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.There, the daughter of one of these former Brownie chums led extended paddling/camping expos. When she returned, she announced that the only place the commentary and images of the trip appeared and would ever appear would be on Facebook.

Thence I joined and have remained…for the past six years.

Truth be told, I don’t and never have stalked or even checked up on former girlfriends or more intimate sorts. Yet, I do post my photos. I do keep tabs with a few former HS and college classmates. I do get updated by and update various relatives and friends. I have many political acquaintances on my friends lists. I plug into events, restaurants, bars and such. FB has become a casual, occasional part of life that takes from a few minutes to a half hour a day for myriad info exchanges.

Lately though, there’s been a bifurcation among my chums, like my drinking buddies. Several have announced, always self-righteously, that they closed out their FB accounts. One is an efficient sort, shifting to a new line of service business. He has fair reasoning that he was spending too much time on FB, got most of what he needed professionally from Linked In, and did a cost/benefit analysis. In truth, what I actually heard was that he lacked self-control and didn’t manage his FB interactions well. Moreover, in his new service biz, he’ll likely regret missing out on customers who expect to find him on FB.

Another is more typical, the turtle sort. He’s a fair Luddite, always convinced that with a moment’s inattention, the latest virus or malware will eat up his hard drive. FB is just another risk, like the easy, pretty girl in high school everyone suspected of carrying VD.

fiercebook

To these two and many I know or know of like them, Facebook has become FierceBook. There’s something not quite right, something risky, something d-a-n-g-e-r-o-u-s about it.

An even odder aspect is that several of the guys hear others of us talking about trips, pictures, blog posts and other personal info we’d shared and enjoyed online. Even hearing about such splendid moments, they remain in their anti-FB shells.

I’m not the best self-promoter around, far from it in fact. I have a couple of good friends, one an artist and the other a musician, who share the so-so marketing bent. We could all do far, far better at pitching our wares. FB is just one of those places to do that.

I think of my friend Steve Garfield, a paragon and god on FB, twitter and his own site.  He understands how to use them all. His social media work for him, not the other way around.

I guess it’s not too surprising to hear of Boomers tucking back in their shells, increasingly convinced that something terrible will befall them on the scary internet.

Yet, many of my chums stay on and actively contribute to FB, twitter and their own blogs.

I draw my personal line at texting. I consider that lowbrow and simpleminded. I fall into tweets when I want it down and dirty. I see texting as for the immature and still impulsive.

Perhaps there’s a spectrum of social media if my thoughts and feelings hold. I am only surprised at how many I know who fear FB.

 

Oh, Yeah, Bloggers. Why Not?

March 2nd, 2012

Creeping bloggerism continues. Here in MA, the Grand Poobahs of justice, a.k.a. the Supreme Judicial Court, ruled on their rules today to bring citizen journalists into their news media fold.

To most, that is between small and nothing. To internet writers, it’s hot stuff.

Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin was quietly, politely, as is his wont, in the scrum from the beginning. He was quick to note that he helped draft the update, upgrade to SJC rule 1:19. As innocuous as it might seem, the change by the whole SJC brought the body into this century. This likely will lead other sleepy atavistic judges in other MA courts to attention. Oh, they will think, the SJC says bloggers are journalists. How about that?

The salient point in the rule ruling is the new definition:

The “news media” shall include any authorized representative of a news organization that has registered with the Public Information Officer of the Supreme Judicial Court or any individual who is so registered. Registration shall be afforded to organizations that regularly gather, prepare, photograph, record, write, edit, report or publish news or information about maters of public interest for dissemination to the public in any medium, whether print or electronic, and to individuals who regularly perform a similar function upon certification by the organizations or individuals that they perform such a role and that they will familiarize themselves or their representatives, as the case may be with the provisions of this rule and will comply with them. 

Sure, blah, blah and sure, the Poobah proprietary continues — no stealth recording or photography, advance permission from the PIO and judge and so forth. Yet, it’s a welcome and overdue change.

I think of a certain MA Governor, a Deval Patrick, who five years ago to the month dubbed bloggers press. He held a town meeting at Boston Latin School, replete with the likes of Mayor Tom Menino speaking before him. Then he squirreled up in room 023 of the basement with a few dozen of us reportorial bloggy types. He held a full press conference, yes, press conference. He had use netroots and new media to get elected and had not forgotten.

He continued and keeps involving us in his media communication. He’s come on Left Ahead several times. In short, he acknowledged from the beginning of his first campaign that bloggers could be news media if they reported and analyzed.

Such is pragmatism and realism.

In contrast, I think of the treatment by more traditional media even recently. Many seem to resent bloggers in puerile and competitive ways. They should mature a bit.

Locally, the likes of the Boston Globe rarely mention a blog’s name, even as they quote them without attribution. (Video god Steve Garfield has been splendid in calling the Morrissey mob on that.) In my own petty concerns, I think lately of BUR’s Bianca Vasquez Toness using me, quoting me for a piece on Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley…without citing my blogs or podcast. She had been reading my stuff, but defined me as “a political blogger in Hyde Park.” Try to imagine how BUR or NPR would react to their material being quoted with the only reference being to “a  college radio station in Boston.”

Likewise and worse, during the prolonged frenzy about US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and me bantering about right wingers calling her a hick for being from OK and an elitist for teaching at Harvard Law, most newsy types avoided attribution. Some cited Left Ahead, but not by URL. There was nationwide (and beyond) coverage but none of the major media provided the professional courtesy of linking to the source. Even in multiple Youtube excepts of Warren and me, they treated the clips like their own material.

As an amusing aside, my wife laughed at ABC News’ typo in its coverage, where “Host Mike Ball” was rendered at “Hot Mike Ball.” She may be one of the few in the world who agrees with the error, but many other outlets repeated the typo though cutting and pasting. So for a couple of days, I was hot.

I feel newsy as a blogger for having come out of journalism school, working in high-school and college papers, before daily and weekly newspaper jobs and on to magazine writing. I quote sources. Whenever possible, my newsy blog posts include links as well as identification for those cited.

There’s no reason beyond childish competitiveness and bad training that MSM folk can’t, won’t or don’t credit bloggers and podcasters.

When we have an elected official, candidate for office or any expert on the Left Ahead show or as part of a post, if it’s good enough to quote, we should be good enough to cite. I’ve heard my stuff quoted locally as well as on the networks. The likes of GBH’s Emily Rooney treat that material like it’s theirs, public domain or maybe original.

I can’t control that kind of abuse. However, in the future when Vasquez Toness or other newshounds sniff around, I’m making it plain. the SJC acknowledges that bloggers and our ilk can be news media. I expect the professional courtesy that I extend to them. If they quote me, any of my blog posts or any of my podcasts, I require a full citation with a URL. If their J-school profs, editors or program directors or their mammas for that matter didn’t teach them that, I can provide that service.


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Dreck Rolling Downhill

December 29th, 2011

In this season of annual-updated, photo-illustrated family letters, let us praise the continuing migration of the most relentless of beasts — the cute and personal LITE. Many under 30 escaped some migratory stages, but the herd of pseudo-candid will continue to seek new homes.

Today, I came across a witty and insightful “Oh No! Blogging is REALLY, REALLY dead this time!!!!!! : D ” post on gapingvoid.com.  To my point, it includes:

We for­get JUST how utterly time-consuming blog­ging used to be, back when it was the only game in town. I remem­ber the early blog­ging days, don’t you? Remem­ber how kee­ping up with the blo­gosphere pro­perly took ten hours a day? Nowa­days, the only peo­ple who are left blog­ging are the peo­ple who REALLY want to, who ACTUALLY have something to say. Ever­yone else is uploa­ding cat pho­tos on Face­book. I think this is a good thing.

Yes, mimeographed (look it up) annual holiday letters preceded photocopied ones. They came before the dreaded desktop publishing (young’uns may need to look that up as well).

DTP all too clearly proved the poverty of the typical intellect, imagination and artistry. Putting layout, illustration and typography options at the disposal of the masses produced millions of newsletters and personal epistles in what is known derisively in journalism circles as circus layout (alluding to Ringling Bros. posters). It seems everyone felt their most trivial thoughts were brilliant and worthy of circulation when there was enough variations on fonts and type sizes. How could everyone else not realized how handsome and clever were their children, pets, houses, and on and on?

Along came the World Wide Web, which most folk use synonymously with the internet. A decade latter, it was blogs. They were the new habitat of the cute and cluttered herd.

Along came variations and most notably Facebook, as gapingvoid’s Huge MacLeod noted. There’s a home for all-too-easy display of cute kids and kittens, leading to a herd migration from blogs. Now those who need to show their beloved beings, or every meal they eat (seemingly in purple and black tones of unappetizing low quality), do so nearly instantaneously on FB.

Certainly a very positive outcome of this migration is that finding and keeping up with relevant and meaningful blogs has gotten easier. Many of the regularly updated ones are far more likely to feature news and views, and not furry, drooling or pasted-smile loved ones.

All hail the migration!

Butt Out, Then Back, in Pakistan

November 23rd, 2011

As usual, alternating her smart views with silliness, Rachel Maddow had fun with Pakistan’s announcement that it was banning well over 1,000 words from texting. F-word phrases of course made it, as did one that amused her, if you pardon, no end — crotch monkey. Then in what she lightly proclaimed as “a small reprieve for foul mouthed liberty,” the government stepped back, saying it was kind of a test.

The initial list includes 1,109 English words and 586 Urdu ones. Selections from the four major regional languages are in the works.

robertyoungmandrillMaddow was also amused that one of the officials who would been (and likely will be when this comes to fruition) responsible for implementing the spying and censorship had the last name of one of the banned English words, Butt.

Pic Note: The image is adapted from John Paul Young’s photostream and under Creative Commons license.

That’s a fairly common last name there, as it is in the singular or plural in many English, German and French speaking countries. I bear my own surname cross and empathize with the Butts in the puerile ridicule they often endure.

I’m not big on censorship and snort at the vainglorious and futile effort to re-cork the texting genie. Yet, I’m not surprised that Anglo-Saxon vulgarities and common phrases for sex parts and acts made the initial thousand-plus.

However, in a country where people surnamed Butt run the soccer league or are stars in it, as well as are high ranking officials, how silly is that to ban their names?

Years ago here in MA, I was not amazed to learn that my last name, Ball, is not deemed suited for display on a license plate.

Even Wikipedia has a page listing some of the noted Ball sorts and I have that occasional blog in which I have tunneled down to some of the many with my specific version. I feel that over the years I’ve more than earned Ball.

We moved every few years throughout my childhood. While Ball is a fairly common last name — 300 and something down the list of the tens of thousands of U.S. last names and much more common than non-ridiculed ones like Robertson — it gets far more than its share of puerile jokes. As we moved, I endured the same highly obvious repetitive puns and insults again and again and again. It was worst in junior high and high when kids and even teachers always had sex in mind.

In college days, I had a discussion with an Ivy linguist about risible surnames. He figured that mine had the greatest number of possible jokes. For a few like Fuchs or Shoemaker, there are jokes, but a pretty limited set. Mine includes, but is not limited to, most sports, primary sex acts, sexual body parts, myriad clichés like on the ball, have a ball, behind the eight ball, and get on the ball, food like meatball, non-sexual body parts like eyeball, formal dances, and down the list.

Over the years, it turned out to be a sort of intelligence test as I moved into a new school or neighborhood. People who made the most predictable insults invariably stood grinning as though someone was supposed to confirm how clever they were. These are the same folk who ask a tall person how the weather is up there or inform a balding guy that he’s losing hair. Sigh.

I briefly wondered whether ball made the Pakistani list, or just the more obvious balling. The beadles compiling the list must be bureaucrats’ bureaucrats.

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.