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19
Oct

TCMP

19
Oct

That Time I Started Changing Online Stuff

A few weeks ago I realized I didn't like my Facebook feed. In fact, I was seeing things to the extent that I was ready to flip the middle finger at the website, say some things that would make the love child of a sailor and a truck driver blush. And then I had this idea. 

Limit what Facebook 'technically' knows. 

You see, Facebook insists upon you liking things. For the social aspect of the feed, liking posts and pictures are clues to what Facebook should be showing you. However, the power in the algorithms and business model is in liking other things. Like, for example, your favorite music, artists, movies, TV shows, actors, and anything else you can think of. 

Liking pages (business and fan and personal) is also an indicator to Facebook of what you'd like to be seeing and the kinds of content that would be most appealing to you. 

Which leads to Facebook's preferred method of interaction with you, the Newsfeed. Or, more accurately, the algorithm driven news feed. 

Facebook wants to take impossibly huge bits and pieces of information about you, your tastes, likes, interests, and relationships, the paces you've been and how frequently you go, and so much more and then project for you what it think you'd be most interested in. 

In a perfect, non-monetary world where the website was absolutely dedicated to your personal interests, this would be awesome. Eliminate what you don't care about, see what you do. Don't worry about the middle stuff. 

Except, Facebook is neither altruistic or interested in what you WANT and instead is interested in what it things you want and how it can sell that information to, say, the business down the street or the company based out of Hong Kong on an old junk that may or may not remain afloat during your business transaction(s). 

Facebook is interested in information for monetary purposes and in order to be the most effective, it needs as much info as it can get. 

In attempting to control the information I receive, my first step (for quite a while now) has been to always open Facebook to the Most Recent Activity. However, with the number of ancillary elements added to my feed, that activity was increasingly difficult to quantify in terms of what I was seeing and what I missed, entirely.  

For me, the idea of Facebook is about connecting with people. In fact, the idea of Facebook is riffed straight out of Harvard and the individual campus houses various online profiles with faces or facebooks. The outcome is an interconnection of personal relationships, likes, wants, shared experiences, and so on that is so far removed from the original purpose and intent (of use) that the news feed becomes a trap instead of an object of actually desired information. 

Which is how we get back to getting angry at an "It" and making an @$$ out of myself as I deleted my profile, removed all of the work I'd put in for a variety of projects, and proceeded to remove social media from my life. 

In attempting to gain more control, I'd decided Facebook could be a news outlet and had 'Liked' all of the major newspapers in the United States, in each state, and that offered English language translations. I went through and found magazines that offered articles and information I thought was interesting or relevant and I attempted to ensure my feed was what I wanted to see. 

Only, it wasn't. 

There is too much noise online, in news feeds, simply by being awake and alive such that I want to get all weird and go a bit stupid and quote Joss Whedon's Serenity about the signal, but I won't because I'm not that kind of person. While also realizing that the signal and the noise of the interwebs is exactly what is described and the noise can often become too much. 

For example, I have no desire, nor do I possess a future desire, to know that in Chicago the time between gun shootings and homicides is often counted in hours and on some weekends, watching maps that track death, you can see a somewhat predictable movement through the city. 

Nor do I need to hear about children left in cars. 

The latest teacher scandal where a teacher has had sex with a student. 

Or anything about Utah or Idaho or parts of Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. 

While I do enjoy a good news story and am rather invested in knowing what's going on, I don't need a feed to keep me updated 24/7 on what's happening in Des Moines or Detroit or Delaware. 

When I got on Facebook it was to allow Erin to be married (Facebook official). And then it was to connect with people I knew, know, or wanted to remain in contact with. 

Then it started being an outlet for my various projects. 

But over time I've fallen into the trap of liking things and in doing that I've also fallen into the trap of having Facebook dictate for me the things I should be seeing and hearing and knowing. 

I don't like that and, in terms of my experience, it wasn't working for me. Facebook had become that relationship that was one-sided and demanding and out of control. My desire was for symbiosis and what I got was demanding and incorrect predictions, suggestions, and demands. Those demands still happen, I'm activily ignoring them. 

Sadly, Facebook isn't going to change in my favor. 

The world of online is indicating social media isn't the market force it is supposed to be and that we should be focusing attention in more traditional ways. 

And I decided to unlike everything Facebook knew about me outside of friends and family.

So I did. I went through and unliked everything. Movies, TV shows, pages (there are a few exceptions for friends, family, and my own projects), artists and actors, basically everything. 

This has led to seeing a feed of people and their shares, likes, and interests. I get to see people again and not a long list of links and suggestions in heavy rotation. 

I'm also much happier. 

It's nice to open Facebook after a few hours and see that nothing has been updated or changed. At the same time, I'm happy to see people's updates in life and frustrated over the oft-repeated memes and things I couldn't care less about. The difference, though, is that I'm finally seeing people. 

Some things haven't changed. Facebook still wants to default me to its feed and I want to see the most recent stuff, so I make that change. However, when I like something it's a friend or family member or acquaintance and it's about their life. Which isn't a fix. Facebook will always be the demanding and, at times, abusive partner, but so long as this is the medium through which I can connect with the people I want to then I will carry the bear spray and continue fighting for control of my feed. 

That is, until the Alliance sends an Operative to torture me for information and then kill me. 

Seems like I should sign off with a catchy slogan. 

18
Oct

That Time I Ignored an Email from Google

(Probably) like many people, I use a variety of Google tools to monitor and maintain this website (and others).

In the course of a day or week, the information Google gathers and sends my way is a bit oppressive and, given the time of day or other conditions, not always accurate. Which is what I thought was going on when I received an email telling me Google couldn't crawl my website and had too high of an error rate. I didn't think anything of it and proceeded with the other stuffs that I do on a daily basis: teach, grade, study, write, and so on. 

Then, today, I wanted access to my site to add some quotes and for simple maintenance. 

I couldn't access it. Not a good sign. Since I'm fairly savvy with things like this, I started digging in. My host does automatic updates of the CMS I'm using and it appears that one of those happened and then I received the email. A wonderful example of cause and effect. (I'm now turning off the auto-updates.) 

The outcome has been a down website. That is all. 

23
Sep

That Time When I Went to a Faculty Meeting and Shared too Much

medium_3890431165.jpgI'm teaching less this term. Which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that I'm not, 100%, on the go. The curse is that I have to fill my days with stuff. 

The stuff part is relatively easy. I've got the freelance job going on and will be transitioning into writing and building coursework as well as white labeling and branding and a few other things. Which is exciting. Though I wonder at what point I will find a solidly established place to call home. 

However, as an adjunct Assistant Professor of English (often teaching a full-time-plus load), I was asked to attend a mandatory (and, apparently also, multiple-times-reinforced) faculty meeting during the middle of a re-accreditation. Or is this the beginning? Not sure which way. Could go in a lot of directions. The accreditation team is here for two, long days and this evening wanted to talk to a group of us. 

So, a group of them sat down with a group of us (sadly, about a 1:1 ratio) and asked poorly worded probing questions that resulted in primarily yes or no answers. This led to some follow-up or, in different cases, the need for very specific clarification of academic policy, which I am (unfortunately???)  versed in and, eventually, leading to a variety of potential deep-pit quagmires that may or may not cause additional questions to be asked of people. 

I shouldn't be allowed in meetings for something like four reasons. The first twenty-eight of which are: I don't know when to be quiet and when to speak. 

If something interests me or needs correction, I totally Hermione Granger it and shoot my hand into the air with the intent of setting the record straight. However, after a few minutes, it became clear that I could couch many of these statements in phrases like, "On the academic side ..." and then explain the non-intricacies of how things are done. 

My favorite (read least) was in questioning 'academic freedom," which I seem to be granted in spades. I show a lot of success and my students come back. Sometimes, I think, to see what kind of insanity and craziness I'm going to pull. There's a sense of enjoyment to being slightly unpredictable and with the reputation for being a bit on the crazy side. A sense. Though, there are days where that reputation gets more in the way than allowing me to actively engage students in the learning process. 

Oh, the burdens we bear. 

Oh, the struggle and something something something. 

I threw in three 'somethings' out of a lack of knowing what to write. You can add the true phrase in if you want. Well, suggest one in the comments. Those are always nice. 

In any case. Or, in a case where the beverages are cold and the participants beer commercial hot. You know, impossible. 

Anyway, if there are any problems with different things, it will be my mouth that gets us there. Just saying. 

Now to be done with the nearly insane train-of-thought prose I've just typed out. 


photo credit: postbear via photopin cc

17
Sep

Meghan Trainor | All About That Bass

11
Sep

Rapunzel, Cy's and Mine

I'm doing a bunch of Stick Figure sketches for the Plot&Story project. Cy's been checking out the product and identifies most of them pretty fast. He told me I needed to be drawing entire stories and not just the single things. When I got home yesterday, from a meeting, he checked out my drawing. 

This morning, just before he left for school, he drew his own Rapunzel picture and then asked that I post them side-by-side. 

What do you think?

Rapunzel by John.jpgRapunzel by Cy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9
Sep

Plot&Story

This may (or may not) come as a surprise to some people, but I've started a new project I'm hoping to move to Kickstarter or IndieGoGo near future. The project is called Plot&Story and will consist of cards that will help people through early stages of ideation in regards to writing stories. When I presented the idea to Erin, she suggested it as a good teaching tool (which is where I formed the basic idea, since I need students to clearly see the difference between the various elements of writing) and while I agree I also think this is a tool people, especially writers who like to use things like this as a part of the story creation process, will want to have. 

There are other decks (of cards) that do similar things. In this case, instead of full game mechanics and rules or going in the direction of non-writing and more creative inspiration, the cards will focus on the elements of writing and will be extendable to various genres. You can see the current site at http://www.plotandstory.com/. It's not quite done yet, but we're getting there. 

The stick figure "art" that follows is what I plan to use as a starting point and what I will use when contracting with artists. 

Cave of Monster.jpg

genie and the bottle.jpg

little red and the wolf and woodsman.jpg

spaceman and spaceship.jpg

warrior.jpg

wizard.jpg

1
Sep

Kindergarten

medium_11805164136.jpgTomorrow marks the first day of Cy in Kindergarten. He will wake up and get dressed, we'll pack a lunch and walk him to the bus stop and then watch him board the bus and drive off until the afternoon. 

After he boards that bus, I will put my things in my car and drive to work. Erin will speed off to her job. By the end of the day, we'll congregate back here to talk and relax and let off steam and the first day of classes (for Erin and Cy) will be over. They will probably be more tired tomorrow than at any point in the past year. 

I look forward to a change in schedules. A radical change. Instead of teaching way more classes than I can handle, instead I'll be teaching a couple, and those at night. My time will be dedicated to working on the freelance videos and writing and my own creative endeavors. And I'll pray we can make ends meet. In truth, this is the very thing that I've, we've, been dreading for the past year and some. The school gives me fewer classes than we need to pay the bills. 

However, I've started doing other work and that (crossing fingers) will make up more than the difference. 

Today, is Labor Day. The day we celebrate something dealing with the socialist notion of labor and the laborer, of which I am absolutely in favor. And yet, I can go to nearly any store and purchase whatever I want from the very people for whom the day exists. What does that say? 

In truth, I don't really care. We've moved beyond the purpose into a different meaning for holidays. What the day really represents is putting away the white pants and shoes and pulling out the darker, more sedate fall and winter clothing even though the weather is going to remain somewhat warm for the next couple of weeks. 

We start the long, dark trek into fall and winter, through the Winter Solstice where we experience longest period of dark each day and then back into light. 

It's time for change. Though, to specifically state what kind of change or in what direction is impossible. It is merely time for change. 

28
Aug

Redesigning Stuff

I've found myself not updating as often and the previous post is, in part, the reason why. However, I decided to do a redesign of the website using Drupal as the backbone, but allowing for other applications to design content and features of the rest of the site. Should be fun and will probably take a while. 

At the moment, I'm working through a list of things that need doing. The freelance stuff needs finishing and editing. I've got to write something up on social frameworks and what would be required to create an app. I'm building a server that will function as both a media server inside the house and a Minecraft server for Cy and me. 

As for the family, we're getting back into the swing of expectation with school starting in a few days and school bus schedules and new teaching assignments and the like. 

I'm hoping to maintain updates (at least once a week), but please forgive if that doesn't happen. 

7
Aug

WOW! Things are going gangbusters

large_6812481635.jpgI inadvertently put my site into the Maintenance Status the other day. Why? Because I couldn't get into parts of the administrative section to which I needed access. As a result, I was attempting to run some scripts that work best when the site is offline and found that none of them worked. 

What I didn't know was that my hosting company provides automatic minor updates, when released, on the software I'm using. While convenient, it was also a bit of a struggle to realize that one of the themes I was messing around with (I'm planning some changes to look and feel) decided to conflict with the automatic changes. 

In addition to that, I've taken on a client for writing and website stuff and a variety of other semi-hidden skills. The website is: http://cambridgeitllc.com/. It's still in states of flux, though the style, software, and content is pretty much what you see. Also, I was asked to be a formal part of the team and you can see my profile page here. In the near future, I get to take some of my equipment out to Boston for video interviews as I continue to build out content for the website, a YouTube channel, and more. This is proving to be fun. 

This term I'm teaching six classes, two of which are big enough to be individual classes, and trying to make time for everything that requires my time. Calls on my time include writing stuff I want and need to write, teaching and grading, writing and managing Geek Eccentric - including GEGATT content, and church. My church responsibilities have now been added to, though that's not official or public until the weekend (I think). 

Finally, I've been using the Massachusetts Vocational Rehabilitation services in my job hunt. This included going to a meet-and-greet the other morning where I presented my resume and background to a group of employers. I was the wrap-up presenter and chosen because I put on a good show that is also effective. I also learned the length and breadth of my experience is a bit intimidating to potential employers with my long resume more of a detractor than a benefit. I get to change the resume. 

Basically, I'm busy and loving it, though the total number of things I've got to do is extensive and time consuming. Still, I feel pretty good and blessed to have these things going on and to begin seeing what may be a light at the end of a pretty long tunnel. 


photo credit: photosteve101 via photopin cc

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