The Awesomeness of Google Plus
I started using Facebook in 2007 after having only just climbed aboard the MySpace bandwagon. I preferred Facebook as it meant I didn’t have to visit each friend’s profile page individually. It was also around this time that the term “social network” began making its way into the everyday language of technical folk and then to into the language of what I call “normal people”, muggles if you will. The important thing about Facebook was that most of my friends were signing onto it and for an ex-pat it was a great way to stay in touch and share what was happening. I started emailing people less and less.
This was all good for a while but then fast forward to late last year and I’d had enough. I began getting somewhat desensitised to my friend’s big news as I waded through the minutiae of their everyday lives:
This person had a tuna sandwich for lunch
That person is going to the dentist
These people just got married
Those people are going to Spain
She just had a baby
He’s having car problems
It all just whizzed by as I scrolled down the feed and tried to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I was also getting a little concerned about what Mark Zuckerburg and co were choosing to do with the service. In the end I ditched my account, completely deleted it rather than choosing to disable it. I’d found something better in Google Plus.
G+ isn’t really a social network and I don’t think Google want it to be either. It’s a social platform to be used not just in the way Facebook is but in a way to share information, ideas and connect with like minded people. When I first signed on shortly after the service began I found my more geekier friends were there but I was getting a little suspicious that it was proving to be a ghost town. One of the things I enjoyed about Twitter was the fact that it was Public by default. This enabled me to run searches and actually proved valuable as kind of news service. The main drawback was that where it excelled in one to one communication between myself and someone of a similar interest it failed royally in providing a forum or conversation between a group of people. G+ really is the best of both worlds as I can keep up with friends and also follow people I’ve never met. It really shined in this regard for me today with the birthday of Scott Cramer.
Let me go back to the time when I first started using Plus. As many of my friends weren’t using it yet I started doing what I was doing on Twitter. I followed tech industry pundits and journalists. Mike Elgan is one such person. He’s a big supporter of Plus and uses it as his primary way to blog. One afternoon he posted about two crazy brothers who were having a bet to see who could gain the most followers. What would become of the loser? Why, he would be treated to a shower of condiments of course! Scott and Keith Cramer competed with each other with Scott being the unfortunate loser. I immediately followed the Cramer brothers. The condiment punishment was carried out via a live hangout only to be followed up sometime later with the loss of another bet seeing Scott dressing up as Princess Leia complete in gold bikini and hair buns.
As I followed the antics of these two I realised some things about the G+ platform. Daring to be public and also engaging with one’s followers really made G+ shine. I started posting publicly by default myself and running searches for things that interested me. Now with communities you can find whole groups of people who share your interests. I’d +1 or comment and engage in conversations with both friends and strangers alike. I took part in NaNoWriMo in 2012 and found a group of awesome people to exchange ideas with and also hang out with while we were writing. G+ Hang Outs are an amazing thing indeed. As I added more and more people and gained more and more followers myself I noticed that mutual friends were cropping up. Kyla Myers who helps run the G+ Secret Santa program is also friends with the Cramers. I started playing Wordfeud with a few of these folks too, rather badly at first but I think I’m getting better.
But getting back to what happened today…A couple of weeks ago I was tagged in a private post made by some of Scott’s friends to plan a massive bombing for him on his birthday. We’d all tag him and use a hashtag for the day to blow up his stream with notifications. We were encouraged to recall some of the things that Scott had done on G+ to make us smile and there’s been no shortage. A song and video was even composed and I helped by providing a Photoshop mashup that I created with some help from someone on Reddit. The plan was carried out without Scott’s knowledge and he was on the receiving end of much well wishes from many people on G+ for his birthday along with 2 simultaneous hang outs at his party, one of which I was able to attend.
So, this is what G+ is about. I can connect and share with family, choosing to limit my posts and photos to them only, I can post publicly to the stream and engage with people I’ve never met, I can make new, awesome friends and I can even speak to them face to face via Hang Outs. These are things that Facebook and Twitter cannot do, or at least not the level of perfection that G+ can. If you’ve used G+ before and been put off by how quiet you think it is then post publicly, run some searches, seek out people, engage them like Scott, Keith, Kyla and a bunch of others have and you’ll find your stream filled with some awesome people and some pretty amazing content. Come join us!
Preparing Your Online Will
It’s going to happen to us all. One day we’ll shuffle off our mortal bodies and leave those still living to wrap up our affairs. In the old days this was a simple if not unfortunate task but these days we have online presences, some more important than others, and if we’ve been security conscious it could be prove difficult for our loved ones to access our accounts.
In my case I store all my logins and passwords in Lastpass and use 2 factor Authentication. My domain is registered through Hover.com and managed via Google Apps for Domains. All my photos and other important data is stored in Google Storage and again I use 2 Factor Authentication to gain access.
I’ve recently put together a document for my wife and parents detailing how to access these accounts. The login for Lastpass is listed along with the One Time Password codes in case they can’t access my 2 Factor Authentication app on my phone…which they probably won’t be able to as it is secured with a pattern lock. The best security is always the most inconvenient.
I worry that my wife’s @ingrouille.net email will wither away unless she knows she has to renew the domain. I worry that our family photos will be inaccessible unless she knows she can download them and, if she wishes, keep up with renewal of the Google Storage account. In addition to my eWill I have also given a heads up to a couple of tech savvy friends who are willing to help guide my wife through these services. They are “Digital Executors”. They won’t get copies of the passwords and one time passcodes for 2 Factor Authentication at this stage but they will get a copy of the eWill with passwords omitted. The passwords and codes can be provided later on.
I might be paranoid, it won’t be the end of the world if this stuff isn’t available. We have backups of the photos…somewhere and my wife could always get a new email address if the domain expires but I want to try and do what I can to ensure that these things tick along nicely in my absence. I also have a couple of client websites I maintain along with domain renewals for them and I hate for them to suffer because of my death.
Have you considered this? Do you find it important?
For my first NaNoWriMo I got approximately 30,000 words into my 50,000 word target and plan to finish my novel in 2013. If you want to read my unfinished work then feel free to do so by clicking here.
Some people have asked my wife, Cheryl, and I what signs we noticed in our youngest son, Callum, that made us get him checked out. Callum has recently been diagnosed with Autism. His diagnosis places him on the spectrum where one would find people with Asperger’s.
As a baby/toddler he did seem a little clingy and rather particular about things. At first I put this down to my having held him every chance I could shortly after he turned 1. I’m not sure what started it but around that time we really bonded. He loved to sit up on my shoulders or just be held in general by me. I’d sit with him and walk around with him from the time I got home from work until it was time for bed. Then I’d take him to his room, wrap him in his favorite blanket and sit with him in a comfy chair while reading my book until he fell asleep. His need to be held a lot was at first put down to my “wearing” him from 5pm – 7pm most evenings after I got home but it seemed to get worse. After that time he would constantly be coming to Cheryl and reaching up to be held at all times during the day, screaming if he couldn’t. When I got home there were two adults in the house so packing Callum around was a lot easier. It’s a lot harder to look after two little ones while constantly holding one when you’re the only adult home and this was something Cheryl was having to deal with.
We started to notice tantrums just before he turned 1 but not over the normal everyday things we’d seen with the other two kids. And these were not your average tantrums either. His whole body would stiffen up then flail around as he screamed bloody murder. He wouldn’t let anyone touch him and shake violently if you tried to pick him up. He’d often knock himself on furniture as he shook around. It got to a point where we were very concerned for his safety during these outbursts. He’d completely flip out just getting ready to leave the house, seemingly for no reason. As he got more vocal and spoke more the tantrums started to become less frequent but they never showed signs of lacking in ferocity. Nowadays a tantrum can be avoided because he can tell us which shoes to wear and how he wants them put on instead of wildly flailing on the floor as if he’s on fire. A lot of daily activity is buried in routine. This can be used to our advantage at bedtime but occasionally he’ll think of some new order things have to be done in and you’re in for a world of hurt if you don’t understand him. Helping with his little rituals are like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube sometimes
Around age 2 we noticed that he was very content to play by himself, only occasionally playing with his siblings. Also, at this time he was yet to really say any more than 2 or 3 basic words. I have to admit when Cheryl started mentioning some of the symptoms for Autism I wasn’t convinced but I’m now realising that Autism is a very broad diagnosis and people can be at any point on a very wide spectrum. Concerned primarily about his speech but also the tantrums, Cheryl got a referral to a specialist. His speech wasn’t really where it should be for his age and the specialist recommended he come back telling us, while it was too early to tell, she suspected Autism. More and more I’d read these long lists of different symptoms from different websites and I’d struggle to see evidence of these in Cal or any other “normal” toddler.
His speech improved a great deal this past summer and he went back for his official diagnosis. This is when they placed him on the Asperger’s end of the spectrum. Like I said earlier, his tantrums have become far less frequent now that he can communicate. We’ve been given some tips on how to handle his outbursts and have had some successes. The health system here in BC has been proving itself excellent at providing support and services. I went back and looked at the symptoms again, this time focusing on Asperger’s. I can see now how that diagnosis was made. Autism is very broad and I think perhaps that in the past maybe a lot of people with Asperger’s went un-noticed. I see a lot of the symptoms in myself or how I was when I was younger. Who knows? They say it’s genetic.
2012 has been a very successful year for Callum. He’s really starting to talk a lot more and find new ways of expressing himself. He’s got a lot to learn but then doesn’t any 3 year old? I’m finding myself reluctant to label him with anything. He has his diagnosis but that’s not something that we want to define him. It’s going to be a fun ride watching him grow up and learn to get the most out of the world around him.
bye bye facebook
For shits and giggles I un-installed the Facebook app and Messenger tool from my phone and removed the bookmark from my browser. I’m going to give it a break for a while. No offense to any of my friends but the majority of what I see on there is inane drivel that I don’t really have any use being aware of. I’m sure my content is viewed the same way by others, too.
Of two of my best friends, one hardly ever uses Facebook and the other has never had an account. I moved to Canada from the UK a few years ago while of them lives in the UK and the other moved to Australia. We rarely see each other or talk on the phone but when we do we pick up where we left off and catch up rather nicely. During a recent visit back to Guernsey in the UK I met up with my friend a few times, went to the pub, golf club, etc. and it really didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen much of him in the 4 years that had passed. It was nice to visit with all my other friends who have Facebook but that “wow - I haven’t seen you in ages” feel wasn’t as strong. With both of these friends I use email to occasiona0lly catch up and a couple of times a year we speak over VOIP so I’ll continue to do that.
As for family both my brothers and my Dad don’t have Facebook accounts and we hardly ever email. One of my brothers is better than the other at phone calls, etc but it doesn’t matter as my recent trip back home demonstrated that we are quite able to pick up where we left off. I’d like to see more of them, in photos and what not but I don’t think I need the “cranked up to 11”, “share everything” environment of Facebook. My Mum is on Facebook but more often than not we use email and Google Hangouts to keep in touch.
Ah yes, Google+. I’m not giving that up. I don’t really see it as Social Media, more a slight social element to my web life. I pretty much dump it in the same category as my Google Reader profile. For for a while I’ll be active on G+ creating content, sharing links and reading others content. You can find me at ingrouille.net and here on my blog. I haven’t said anything on Facebook and I haven’t yet disabled my account. I may go back or I may not but I think I just don’t need it right now.
finding time to sit and do nothing
Last month I started to tackle one of the goals I had on my Schemer list: Meditate everyday for a year. I got off to a good start, especially since it had been years since I last sat. Kids, work and a million other excuses always popped up. I don’t think I’d consider myself Buddhist but from a fairly young age I’ve had a keen interest in the basics of those teachings.
As a starter I tried finding just 5 minutes to sit, then 7 then 10. It’s harder than I thought. If I were to try early in the morning I’d get interrupted by one of my children and when I try in the evening I’ve been known to dose off. Whatever time I go for I want it to be constant. In order to cultivate a habit of sitting I need consistency. Just so I’m clear the kind of meditation I’m speaking of is the simplest form….Just Sitting. Focus on the breath, if a thought comes up then let it come, acknowledge it, let it pass. I don’t have any time for people who claim to practise some form of transcendental meditation. There is no magic or mystery with meditation. It doesn’t make you “at one with everything”. It’s just sitting and focusing on the current moment with as little distraction as possible.
I’ll keep on trying. I’m considering visiting Birken in Kamloops at some point next year. There don’t seem to be any in-person resources in Vernon.
less is more
After having moved countries and then moving house no less than 8 times in the past 7 years I’ve found I’ve had to decide time again what to keep and what to dump. Over the past year or so I’ve developed a major aversion to clutter. I have 3 kids so unfortunately I have to suck it up sometimes but it hasn’t stopped me from addressing what I need versus what I want. My total of personal possessions now totals 75. This includes clothes and shoes but doesn’t include furniture and food (things I share with the family). How much do you have? How much do you actually use/need? Streaming and downloading movies and music along with ebooks has helped a lot with de-cluttering my life.
Here’s my current inventory.