Reverting back to a simpler version of social media and socializing on the web

I was reading yet another article about how Facebook has been abusing user trust by dealing with their data among third-party companies (BBC). This is just one example of a couple of other recent “trip-ups” Facebook has had in the public: 

I could keep posting links like this but the reason I am starting my post with this is because every time I see one of these, I think of myself “where did I find this news?” and “is anyone talking about this on Facebook?” The answers are pretty obvious at this point, news like this is never found on Facebook, oddly because a majority of my friends are pretty well-informed about tech news so someone would definitely post it. So whether it’s Facebook’s filters hiding it from me or nobody cares enough to talk about it, I’m not seeing it. I often find news like this on any other places where I consume news like Hacker News or Reddit. 

Facebook is the perfect poster child for what now seems to be a bigger problem than just Facebook itself. The state of social media in 2018 is pretty glum because the companies have lost sight of their users in many different ways. 

Let’s take some other companies for example, Snapchat and Instagram. Instagram (IG) has been killing it with new feature launches and if they had unlimited money, they would keep making an experience that’s better each week but that’s not the reality. The reality is that IG is Facebook’s answer to Snapchat (SC) which at one point was threatening Facebook’s dominance over social media and IG was a less sophisticated version of itself. After stories came to SC, they quickly came to IG and the engagement was through the roof on IG compared to SC. At this point, SC was losing users to IG pretty quickly. Today, that’s old news. Snapchat doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of social media as an advertising industry. All social media companies survive off of ads (even Reddit), they take user data and turn it into conversions for their advertising partners. This isn’t news to some but it’s something to be fully aware of when using social media. Snapchat couldn’t figure out a good way to turn that engagement data into conversions, well enough to keep engaged users and also well enough to sell ad space to advertisers. 

Social media is not going away any time soon. Socializing in the form that companies promise in their press releases and product updates is not a real thing on social media of today. There needs to be a change to that approach. My approach to this is to use my blog my actively. Not everyone can do this and most people don’t want to do this. They already have a platform with many followers in places like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. So I’m not telling others to do this. I’m going to try this where my social media and socializing consists of blogging and email/instant messaging. If you’d like to talk directly with me, you can email me or message me on Signal. 

It’s time to go back to socializing one on one, small groups, close knit communities, and having a dinner party with friends over to talk about something interesting. When you have the whole internet watching, commenting, liking, voting, and trolling, you have to have so many filters or so much content moderation, it doesn’t remain natural. 

Late October Update

Wow, this been a whole month since I published any updates. I’ve been pretty busy at work, I’ve been wasting my time at home with Battlefield 1 on the PS4 and I have been steadily riding my bike.

Besides that, I took a trip to New York City earlier this month, that was really fun!

One odd observation I’ve made, the week and the month go by so quickly. The fastest is the day though, 15-16 waking hours feel like 5-6 hours instead.
My goal for November will be to concentrate on making more time for focused activity and burn away less time throughout the day.

Nightmare #1 (Jetski of the sky)

I’m writing this right after waking up from a nightmare so it’s fresh and as accurate as I can remember it.

I am on a call with my wife and she’s talking about cheap tickets to somewhere like Cuba or Puerto Rico. We haven’t really talked about those in a long time so it was weird that it came up. So, the next thing I notice, I’m in a tropical hotel in Puerto Rico. Tropical because the hotel had trees and beaches inside the hotel. So, I take the elevator to go up (not really know where I’m going) and I end up on a floor that’s like an amusement park, I’m looking around, it’s all beautiful and peaceful. At this point I decide to come back home. (Go figure it’s a dream). 

Gyrocopter from Far Cry 4 (image from Ubisoft Forums)

The only thing I can think of that’s relatable to what happened next is flying on a jetski of the sky (what’s what I was thinking in the dream), it wasn’t clear to me how I was flying this thing or anything. It looked like this image above from Far Cry 4. It would be just my brain processing things if I had played this game recently but the last time I played it was almost 2 years ago! 

So while I’m in the air, I take my phone out and look at the map and since it’s a dream the flying happens at light speed or something because one moment I’m taking off from the tropical hotel in Puerto Rico and the next I’m flying over California looking for a place to land. And of course, because this dream was leading me somewhere, I noticed that my flying jetski was running low on gas. This btw was not part of the thing in the game, so something completely invented by my brain. 

I start descending into a beautiful and quaint looking farming town. The farming was for looks after the first minutes I looked around. There were a couple of large buildings and one sat on the farm but it was so clean and beautiful. The image above is something I googled when writing this and hadn’t seen it before but it pretty much sums of what I saw from my view when in the sky. 

On landing I saw something like the following image. 

So I start looking around and I couldn’t figure out what town I was in and I walk towards the hotel and I still couldn’t figure out what was happening because I didn’t recognize anything. The whole 

Something just led me to a small house where I went inside because my parents were living there! Of course this was weird but since I was in a dream, I didn’t think much of it. I put my stuff down and just started hanging out. 

I was eating and talking and everything was great. Then I told my mom, I wanna take a shower and get ready to sleep. I go grab a towel and go into the room where I’d be sleeping to get some of my clothes. 

I turn on the light and it flickers and turns off, so I came prepared (since it’s a dream 😁), I had a backup light bulb that I took out of my bag. So I put this new light bulb in and I flip the switch once more. This time it flickers a few times but stays on but I notice something different in the room. I see a little kid (3-4 years old) standing on top of a dresser. He was playing with a toy, a kid I’ve never seen before. Nothing scary or frightening about this. He was just looking at his toy, didn’t notice me.

At this moment, I start feeling a slight “energy” or change behind me, specifically the back of my shirt. My shirt is slowly being lifted up and I look at the kid, he’s still standing there, no change in his demeanor or position. But my shirt is move up and I start getting lifted up and I look behind me and there’s nothing there. Then I’m carried outside the room, slowly into the hallway, and very quickly I’m in the living room floating in mid-air with no control over my body. My sister who’s sitting there watching TV sees me and gasps and I start screaming and this point my heart is racing and I start feeling some shaking and someone grabbing my arm. It was my wife in real life and she said “are you okay? you’re screaming!” and I woke up. 

—-

Gyrocopter image from Far Cry 4, source: https://forums.ubi.com/showthread.php/895227-15-Crazy-Things-You-Can-Do-Only-In-Far-Cry-4-Forums

Farm images from http://beautiful-places.de/en/babylonstorensouth-africa-luxury-farm-hotelwinerywithingeniousorganiccuisinein-the-cape-winelands/

Late September update

So I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog recently. I also deleted social media apps except Reddit off my phone. At the beginning of September, I was mostly not on the computer after work. I was in a weird phase where I wasn’t interested in anything after work. Maybe it was my obsession with Handmaid’s Tale or maybe I was just feeling burnt out from work. Last week, about 3-4 days ago actually, I decided to open up my computer at home. And for the first time, it actually felt different.  I didn’t feel like I was working at home, or just on social media wasting time, reading some Q&A sites for something new to learn about, or even just browsing Wikipedia which for me ends up being a big drain on productive things at home. I sometimes sit and read Wikipedia articles for hours and what I mean by that is after about 30 mins of reading them, I’ll get up, get something to eat, come back and start reading again. At this, you might be thinking, well that’s not so bad, you’re learning something but that’s not really learning. It’s not expanding my horizon of thoughts, it’s just more information or fact gathering that will not come into play at all for anything useful.

So after these random thoughts, I’d like to point to my recent want or need to start writing code for fun again. I have been pleasantly able to sit and work on a problem for a good 2-3 hours in one go (this again hours in the same manner as reading wikipedia). The biggest struggle I have now is figuring out where to focus my time on when I am writing code. Writing scaffolding code, boilerplate code, and reinventing the wheel will not keep me entertained or grow me as a programmer. The growth part is important to me now because I realize how often I’m not learning something new you spend more and more of your time doing the things you’ve done before to finally get to a limit of your understanding at which you can stretch your existing thought processes.

September has been a crucial month for me, I’ve become more introspective and in an actionable way instead of a mocking, regretful, depressing, or even plain negative way. Work has been a good kind of busy. At home, we started cleaning our house and getting rid of things. We had a garage sale, we donated things, we gave away things on craigslist, and finally we threw away the things we couldn’t really reuse. This led to the house being less messy, less noisy, and extremely more comfortable. 

I’ve been slowing down on reading and listening to audiobooks, this is not desired. It just hasn’t occurred to me. The amount of time I spend walking around has decreased (mostly b/c it has been replaced with cycling). Walking meant I would be listening to audiobooks about half the time. So the hope for October is to increase reading books and listening to audiobooks. Why do I care about this over just reading in general? I have a weird fascination with books, I believe learning from books usually is beneficial as it hones in on a topic (typical non-fiction books, not textbooks) and then gives you a lot of different things to reinforce the topic. 

I’ve started working on Bookends a bit more. I worked on getting the code on to Heroku instead of DigitalOcean. I was spending too much time on devops things instead of writing code. I got a rudimentary version of the search functionality working but the book info is not great yet. I’ll start working on getting more information to show up but I was just feeling lazy today after spending 2-3 hours debugging why my heroku deploys weren’t working and then I realized I was not copying the dist folder to heroku 🤦‍♂️.

The Handmaid’s Tale, wow so far!

Spoilers and plot reveals ahead. 

This past weekend, I finished watching the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale. If you don’t know anything about the show, I highly recommend watching the first episode at least. 

Before I started watching the show, I really thought it was similar to Downton Abbey because from the show’s photos and outfits on Hulu, it looks like a show set in pre-modern times. But I was very wrong. Well…not really, there is that “back to Puritanism” look but not how I expected it to be. I would describe the show as a religious dystopian drama. 

Elizabeth Moss is the star of the show and her acting is amazing throughout the series. 

I was hooked from the first episode. I think there is some grotesque sexual content that’s a bit too much for me but the rest of the show is what keeps me coming back. 

The part that makes it eerily powerful is the flashbacks. Each flashback usually shows a regular ole American daily life event or some conversation that people have everyday all the while there’s a religious group taking over the country. 

I’ve enjoyed the show so far and I hope that the third season is just as good as the first two seasons have been!

The race to 1,000 miles

In May, Kristen bought her new bike and we made a bet to get to 1,000 miles by the end of 2018. I’ve never ridden (rode?) this many miles before so this is a big undertaking. 

I’m currently at ~ 318 miles while Kristen is at ~ 375 miles. I set up a quick tool that helps me figure out how many miles I have to ride most days. I say “most days” because I wanted to be realistic about how many days I’ll actually ride, which won’t be everyday. 

This is a screenshot of a recent check. “Effective days” is a rounded down number of days that’s about 3/4th of the days left in the year. 

I’ve calculated at 6.8 miles per day which is doable because my current daily commute is ~ 8 miles. 

You can see the code here: https://github.com/usmanity/tools/blob/master/miles_per_day.py

Bookends update, August 12th

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote the the initial Bookends post. I’ve been taking a couple of hours every week to work on the setting up Bookends and today, I sat down and got the search working using OpenLibrary’s API.

The search works by doing a naïve search so I think right now, it’s not ready to be used as it’s not reliable.

If you look at the screenshot below, you’ll notice that there’s no way to tell which book is actually a real Harry Potter book or one that’s missing an author. 

Searching for “harry potter” by Bookends

Next steps will include actually getting the search to order based on popularity. Also, I want to add more descriptions and covers before allowing people to actually play with this.

It’s been a slow progress because I’ve been thinking more and more about making the application portable from dev to production. No idea how I’m going to do caching right now and so I spend some time thinking about that right now. 


Check out this song:

Deleting data.usmanity.com

Yesterday, I made the tough decision to get rid of my data.usmanity.com server, it’s been sitting idly for over 6 months and I haven’t really done much with it. I had been waiting for some time to rewrite some of the app code to handle sending different forms of data over and I just didn’t take the time to do so.

I also had data on there that was becoming stale if not useless for me since I didn’t have access to the mysql DB anymore.

Going forward, I’m planning on a different way to handle storing data and maybe something that’s more versatile.

In a conversation with a friend recently, he told me how his strategy is to not worry about creating complicated flows for personal projects, this wasn’t something I had thought about before and that’s why data has always been a neglected project because the deployment process has led me to stop using it.