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Dear Social Networks, Please Stop

Dear Social Networks,

Please stop thinking you know better than me what I want to see. All I want from every social network is to see the all the posts from all the accounts I follow in reverse chronological order. This was, when I visit, I scroll from now back to then – where ‘then’ is the last time I visited – and I see everything.

Your curation algorithms are terrible. Just because a bunch of my friends are continually commenting on the same conversation doesn’t mean I want to keep seeing it, day after day, especially when I neither liked nor commented on it the first time it appeared in my feed, nor the second, nor third, nor fourth, nor… you get the idea.

Why is a post from three days ago at the top of my feed? And why doesn’t a post from an hour ago by my own wife not show up at all?

Facebook is the worst. They keep trying to shove “Top Stories” down my throat, and I keep having to manually switch to “Most Recent”. And then they broke most recent by deciding that if a friend of mine likes a post from another friend of mine, the event of the liking is more recent than an actual post by a friend, even when the post that got liked is days or weeks old. But at least switching to “Most Recent” on the website is pretty easy. Doing it on mobile is just difficult enough that I’m fairly certain I’m the only one who does it. Meanwhile, all my friends are using “Top Stories” and the text post I just made is shown to none of them. However if I post a silly photo or share a dumb meme, everyone sees it and I get dozens of likes and comments.

My block list on Facebook is epic.

No, really. If you are a friend of mine and share a post from a radio station, and I see it, I’ve just blocked that radio station. I have hundreds of radio stations blocked. Why? Because they are radio stations and not a damn one of them posts anything about music or concerts or anything remotely close to what they actually do. They post silly photos and dumb memes. Blocked!

I also block most of the games. I play games in lots of places, and Facebook isn’t one of them. I tried it for a bit, but they all sucked, full of clickbait and hunting for whales, and requiring you to spam your friends or friend people you don’t know just to get ahead. Blocked!

And we won’t even get into all the pages that are either satire or just shitty. I don’t have the time or the energy to decide if I should be angry about that White Supremacist Soccer Mom page or if it is supposed to be funny. There really isn’t a difference in my book between being a racist and pretending to be racist for laughs. Blocked!

And even with blocking all of this garbage, I still can’t see all of the posts by my friends. I still run into “Well, I posted in on Facebook, didn’t you see it?” No, Facebook, I didn’t see it. You suck.

I considered jumping ship for Instagram, and I sort of have. I mean, I post things to Instagram and then they get shared to other networks via IFTTT. But Facebook bought Instagram, and recently they Facebooked Instagram’s feeds. I open the app and I see a photo posted 5 minutes ago. Great! And the one after that is 48 minutes ago. Then one from 2 hours ago. Then one from 2 days ago. Hmm. Followed by one from 6 hours ago. And one from 10 minutes ago. What? One from 1 day ago. Then one from 4 hours ago. So I pull up my following list, pick someone at random and see 3 photos posted in the last day, none of which were in my feed.

Ugh.

But there is twitter, right?

Place is a goddamn cesspool. And it’s also a fire hose. People post dozens of tweets a day, and if you follow too many people there simply is no keeping up. And you can tell lots of people feel this way. They seem to pop in, say something, then maybe spend a few minutes reading, retweeting, and replying. If I get on there once a day, it would literally take me two or three solid hours to read everything from the last 24 hours.

But I said it was a cesspool too. What I meant was that there is such a tiny barrier to entry, and anyone can publicly tag anyone, so there is an inordinate amount of people posting hate, and not just hate, but directed hate, directed right at other people, and all those mentions are notifications. And there are no consequences, so it just begs for more of the worst element.

Does good stuff happen on twitter? Sure! But if you can’t afford to have someone filter it for you, it almost isn’t worth it. Unless you aren’t a target. If you aren’t, keep your head down. You don’t want to become one.

Google+ … an also ran at best. Sometimes I forget it’s even there.

Tumblr? I really want to like tumblr. Except, man, I just don’t get the repost-to-comment design. If two of the people I follow are having a back and forth conversation, I don’t get one post with a conversation, I get a frame-by-frame replay of the conversation, in reverse. It’s so cumbersome.

Ello… that would almost be the right social network. It’s like tumblr but without the weird reposting stuff. It’s just a shame there aren’t more people there. Maybe I should just start posting there anyway…

Or maybe… maybe social networks just aren’t for me. Maybe I got on the internet too soon. Message boards, smaller contained communities, like the BBSs back in the day, that seems more my style. And this blog, as often as I ignore it, maybe this is where I should be, shouting into the void. In chronological order. With no filtering or algorithm. And the void rarely shouts back.

And I was doing so well…

Two weeks. And not long before that there was a ten day gap. I blame a lot of things. The untimely end of the Rebuild project was a bit of a blow. I had intended that to be a weekly feature here on the blog for a long while, and my motivation to start back up has been flagging. I will though, as I plan to sit down on the coming weekend and play through the entire game in one or two sittings to get all the details and screen shots I need, that way the game can’t delete on me again. This will have the unfortunate side effect of me knowing how it ends before I start, knowing who dies before I create them, which is less fun for me as I enjoyed the idea of being shocked and then forced to write out the scenes. I also needed to revisit how I did the screen shots. Before I was manually doing Alt+PrtScr and then pasting into GIMP, but now I’ve got IrfanView which will give me a simple key combination that will screen shot directly to a file in a directory of my choosing, so I can speed through the game. Then I’ll probably take a week or so off and start writing, hoping I’ve forgotten exactly what happens to any individual character.

I’m also working on Season 2 of Man vs Wife. I’m calling it Season 2 because of the, at first, unintentional break we took. In part this was because Dungeon! was such a bad play. I mean, I like the game, but the 2 player version in the manner we chose to play it was rough. The wife hasn’t really felt like playing much, though I did manage to get her to play Fluxx (the write-up for which is going to be hilarious). Any way, so I decided that we are going to line up about 8 games and then do a marathon weekend, which will become Season 2, eventually. I just need to find 8 games worth playing. And I might cheat in order for me to actually win a game – I’ve got a copy of Trivial Pursuit, Genus Edition from the mid-1980s that I’ve played a lot, plus I am a fountain of inane and useless information, and she isn’t.

In spite of not doing much writing for the blog, I’ve actually been writing quite a bit. Reviews for Shakefire as well as my own stuff. I got crafty and took a couple of Sharpies to my NEO and now instead of being Sherman Tank green it’s black on the back and has a nice blood-red top. I haven’t colored the keys yet, and I’m not 100% sure I will. I kinda like that the keys stand out. I’ll post a picture at some point, once I’m sure it’s done.

Speaking of crafty… Dragon*Con is also coming up, and we’ve been trying to actually put together ideas for costumes AND execute them. That second part will be a new endeavor this year as we usually just dream them up and never do anything.

Also, I’ve been sort of working on an idea for a podcast. It’s still in idea mode and I’m working out some of the logistics, but I think it’ll be pretty cool, and different. Maybe… it also might suck royally. Or I might drop the idea and simply not do it.

Anyway, more to come, I promise.

Things Are Afoot

I’ve been a little lax in posting to my blog. Which isn’t unusual at all. Since 1998, in all its various forms, my blog has always been updated in fits and starts. I post every day for a couple of weeks and then vanish, more or less. Sometimes the posting lasts longer, sometimes shorter, and sometimes the gaps are narrow and sometimes the gaps are wide. Many times I try to break this habit by instituting series of posts. However, most times the series dies, either because I lose interest or because no one else seems to care (I’ve come to grips with the fact that blogging is essentially attention whoring, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying when no one comments on what I blog).

This time, despite the most recent gap, I have a real plan.

From this day forward, this blog will continue to be about personal random thoughts – sometimes on gaming, sometimes on zombies, sometimes on writing, and more – but will also serve as a crucible for ideas. This is really no different from how it has been as I’ve always just sort of thrown things against the wall to see what sticks. The important change is what happens when something sticks.

ProbablyNot LimitedIntroducing, ProbablyNot Limited.

Once upon a time, this blog was at the root of the domain, and then I moved it to this sub-domain with the idea that I would do something with the main site. I redesigned the site a bunch of times. I even temporarily had it looking more business like with products and services and everything – and some of that might show up again, depending on what direction things go in. But I finally got things “right” in that I finished the design and actually am happy with it, to the point of putting real content there instead of half-assing it.

With the design done, now when something from this blog “sticks” (which has more to do with me and less to do with you – I’m getting better at that not needing attention thing) it will migrate to the main site. For example, the Man vs Wife series. Friday’s post will be the last time it appears in full on this blog. In the future, posts here will be more of a “Hey, another Man vs Wife is up! Go check it out!” with the full post being on the ProbablyNot Limited site. So, yeah, I’m going to make you check two websites! (Or at least subscribe to two RSS feeds.)

So, we’ll see how this goes. In a few months it may be a total crash and burn, but I’m hoping not.

dot Tumblr dot Com

If you haven’t caught it through other social media avenues, or by the appearance of the link over to the right on the weblog, I have a tumblr now.

It’s just another stream to follow… what’ll be over there is largely going to be pictures I take on my phone and then share. I could do that through the blog here with the WordPress app, but I haven’t liked the results of blogging from the app. It always seems to be formatted weird, and I have to fix it again later.

A Week of Tweets on 2011-06-19

  • Playing LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4. http://raptr.com/Jhaer #
  • played LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 (360) in the last 24 hours. http://raptr.com/Jhaer #
  • A nice slow Monday morning… I hate surprises, Monday, so all day better be more of the same. #
  • Anyone on Fitocracy? http://j.mp/mi91vP just signed in today, might be the motivation I need… #
  • A blog a read has made 4 posts in the last year, 2 to announce a server move, and 2 to say the moves are complete. #
  • I have 15 invites to Fitocracy, the social game you play to improve your fitness. Snag one here! http://t.co/SOKnaWd (via @fitocracy) #
  • played LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 (360) in the last 24 hours. http://raptr.com/Jhaer #
  • First, some fun. Then, some work. And hopefully later, more fun. #
  • I unlocked 2 Xbox achievements on LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4! http://raptr.com/Jhaer #
  • County noise ordinance kicks in at midnight. The neighbors blast their music and shake my house until 11:59:59. #
  • played LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 (360) in the last 24 hours. http://raptr.com/Jhaer #
  • I unlocked 17 Xbox achievements on LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4! http://raptr.com/Jhaer #
  • IHOP, the breakfast of non-champions. #

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1313 and other random thoughts

This is my one-thousand three-hundred thirteenth post on this blog.  My name is Jason, also the name of the star of the Friday the 13th series of movies.  My wife was born on the 13th of March.  Back in the days when I managed a video store, my own personal account listed my address as “1313 Mockingbird Lane”, an address made famous by the Munsters.  My favorite holiday is Halloween, which is on the 31st, which is 13 in reverse.  And if you are into that sort of thing, you might know that we are currently living in the 13th b’ak’tun, which will draw to a close toward the end of 2012, which may or may not be a significant thing.  Thirteen has always been a good and lucky number for me.

I don’t believe in signs, though I see them everywhere.  The fact is, you can do it with any number.  If you decide that 27 is your lucky number, you’ll suddenly begin noticing all the 27s that appear in your life.  You’ll even being doing things that force 27s into your life.  I know a person whose lucky number is 14, and while 14s do randomly appear in her life she also makes a number of decisions based on 14s.  If offered two options, one that contains a 14 and one that does not, she’ll choose the 14 and see it as being a sign when she could easily have chosen the other.  Personally, I try not to make decisions based on 13s, and yet, here I am, rambling about 13s in post 1313 on my blog.

The Writer's Block

3" by 3" by 3" of literal inspiration

Borders is closing a bunch of book stores.  (Yeah, I’m done with 13s and moving along with no segue at all.)  Of all the brick and mortar stores around they’ve been my favorite because of their finer separation of categories, specifically in having a horror section as opposed to splitting up horror between mystery, sci-fi/fantasy and general fiction.  They also have a location that shares a building with a movie theater I frequent.  When we go to a movie, we always end up browsing before and sometimes after, and often end up buying a book or two (or five or ten).  The only good thing about the store closings are the discounts.  Lately, paperback books haven’t been seeing much of a discount on Amazon.  A $6.99 mass market paperback will be $6.99 on Amazon, so picking them up in a store can actually be better, especially if you have the store discount card and get 10% off everything.  With the store closings, most stuff is 25% off already, and they are still honoring the store discount card, so it makes picking up a few paperbacks a good deal.  And of course, a sale means more serious browsing, looking for books you might not normally buy at all but will if it’s 50% off.  I bought The Writer’s Block (pictured).  I promise to use it and post the results.  Despite my good fortune with the sale, the closing Borders locations will be missed, and since the only remaining Atlanta locations are the ones that are too far away for a casual visit, Borders may have lost me as a customer for good, and that is a shame.

A few weeks ago I went to a place called Hemingway’s down at the Marietta Square to see a band called 7 sharp 9.  With no expectations at all, I was fairly well blown away by their performance.  Being a band playing in a bar, they primarily stuck to playing great bar band music, rock favorites from various decades.  They played well and even threw in a few twists, the biggest surprise being a mash up of Prince’s Kiss and Sir Mix-a-lot’s Baby Got Back.  Even the smattering of original tunes they played (just one per set) were good enough that we picked up copies of all three of their albums.  They made a fan out of me in just one night.  It looks like they’ll be back at Hemingway’s in April and I plan to be there to see them again.  To the right is a very short video of them playing a cover of Blister in the Sun at a bar in Destin, FL.

I’ve been writing for Shakefire for a bit over a month now and I’m enjoying it.  Links to what I’ve written can be found each week in my A Week of Tweets posts on Sundays.  So far I’ve had the good fortune of enjoying everything I’ve reviewed for one reason or another, but I fear that is going to end this week as the next two CDs I’ve been listening to for review have been uninspiring and borderline awful.  I don’t like giving bad reviews but I like being dishonest less, so I’ll probably be lambasting a couple of artists and then maybe I can get back to stuff I enjoy.

And finally, is you have a few dollars you can spare, or even if you have a few dollars you think you can’t spare, consider tossing them toward the Red Cross for their efforts in Japan.  Every dollar helps, and with the earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear power plant, the aftershocks, the volcano… they can use all the help they can get right now.

Blog Recursion

Turtles, all the way down...

My turn at the wheel

As I said before, I’m helping out with the MMO Track at Dragon*Con this year and part of that is every couple of weeks I post videos on the blog.  This week is my turn, and here is my entry.

Mostly, I point this out because, A) I’d like to drive what little traffic I have over there because every little bit helps, and B) I had a particularly clever turn of phrase in today’s entry.

“And now you MMO, and MMOing is half the battle.”

Sometimes I kill me! Ha!

What’s in a Name?

One of the things that has always bothered me with my writing is coming up with names.  Every character needs one and mine always end up in one of two categories.  Either their name is unique and awesome, or it is horrible plain and forgettable.  I have spent many any hour agonizing over names and often end up reusing the same ones over and over.

However, thanks to an idea from Corvus Elrod, I started keeping a list of names from spam emails and comments on this blog.  I’ve already got well over two hundred names and I’ve only been doing it for about a week.  The names range from the banal to the exotic and every level in between.  The idea was inspired, so to Corvus, sir, I tip my hat.  I may never have to worry about character naming again.

Storming the Brain

So, as previously noted, I’m working on a little side project for myself and as I get into it and through it, I figured I would blog about steps that I have taken and maybe get some discussion going.

To begin with, I had an idea.  It was a very general sort of thing which I then nailed down to a few specifics.  In this case, what I am building is a web based tool, so I nailed it down to being web based, likely written in PHP, and with a database for a back end, likely to be MySQL.  With the initial idea fairly solid, the next phase is the brainstorming…

How I usually approach this is to get out a blank piece of paper and ask “Given no limits at all, what features can this thing have?”  And I start filling out the page with lots of craziness.  After I have a nice sizable chunk going, I start to go through the list and try to group them.  The first group is the “1.0” version, these are the features that are absolutely required in order for the product to be worthwhile, the foundation, the core.  Of course, in my world, version 1.0 is almost never the release product.  1.0 is the version you test the waters with to see if people actually want what you have.  Once you’ve locked in those base features, you take all the rest of your ideas and start looking for ways to group them together.  In my opinion, you never want a release of a product to be scatter shot, adding tiny features all over.  It is better if your release overhauls one section and really fleshed out one piece with new ideas and fixes, at least until tiny scattered fixes are all that is left.

Once I’ve got most, if not all, of my original brainstorm ideas grouped together, its time to actually make the core a reality.  Brainstorming is part of the iterative design process.  When the core is done, we’ll do another round of brainstorming before deciding what elements will make the next release.

Have any things you do in your brainstorming design phase of a project?  Feel free to share…