Socialest (not to be confused with Socialist) meaning “the most social”. It is how I feel lately with every website on the Internet. Facebook used the be the primary culprit. Their feed, which I always want to read by “Most Recent”, keeps trying to display what it thinks I want to read. And the default setting for new friends is to show “Most Updates”. Zuckerberg and company are trying to curate my experience, to give me the best most awesome items they can mathematically determine – which largely results in me missing everything I actually care about. If I didn’t keep fighting Facebook’s settings, my feed would be entirely populated by items people reshared that have gotten thousands of likes, but when my brother says something cool but gets only 1 or 2 likes it gets hidden.
Due to Facebook’s deluge of ads and app spam (at last count I had over 200 apps blocked from my feed), I would prefer something cleaner like Google+. But then, they are curating my experience as well. Items posted in the last few minutes appear below items from yesterday that are more popular. It’s not as bad as Facebook yet, but it is clearly moving in that direction.
With Google announcing that they are going to retire the Reader application, a place where I spend a huge amount of time reading from my hundreds of aggregated RSS feeds, I have had to go in search of a possible replacement. All of those replacements suck. Each one of them wants to try and curate my reading experience. They want to show me the stuff with the most subscribers, the most likes, the most comments, and they want to bury anything else in the back.
It’s all turning into a popularity contest.
Everyone seems to think not only that they can predict what I want to see but that I want them to. I don’t. I would like to see the things I have asked to see, and when I want to see more things I will go looking for them (which I often do – I mean, you don’t get to have hundreds of feeds in your Reader without seeking this stuff out) or one of the sources I already read and trust will recommend it to me. I read lots of personal blogs, most of which I discovered because they were mentioned or linked to by another blog. What I really don’t need is my reading platform taking my reading habits and trying to select from a database similar items. It could be nice, but as far as I am aware every one of these systems eventually gets greedy and starts allowing people to pay for a better rank or more publicity. My Facebook feed is constant suggesting posts to me of things I could not care any less about that someone clearly paid to have put in front of my eyes.
It has been said, if you aren’t paying for it, you are the product being sold. And that is the center of all of these social networks. They don’t charge you anything because they are selling you. Google+ doesn’t have ads yet, but since Google announced the closing of Reader because they could never figure out a way to make money off it, you have to assume the ads are coming because if they can’t make money off Google+ they will eventually shutter it.
I’m rambling… anyway, I guess my point is that I wish people who stop trying to sell my eyes and control what I see.
Just the other day I was wondering, “Does anyone leave comments on my reviews over at Shakefire?” So I searched through and found that, as expected, most of the time the answer is “No.” Rarely, someone will leave a single comment either in agreement with or disagreement with my review, or some aspect of my review. For example, on a review I did of one of those baseball DVDs that compresses a whole season into a couple or three hours I said it was the best way for most people to watch baseball since baseball can be pretty boring. The comment was that people are missing out by not watching the entire season.
However, one review I did got a number of responses, and I thought I would, rather than reply there, reply here. The review in question was for the album Impulse by ERRA. The main fault of this album is that I hate the genre of growling/screaming music. Since this review, I’ve sorting things out with the guy who runs the site so that I don’t get these sorts of things to review. It’s actually in both our best interests – I don’t have to review something I hate and he doesn’t get a site full of low-grade reviews due to poor product/reviewer pairing. Anyway, the original review is here.
Admittedly, because I didn’t like the album, I went for sarcasm and humor in my review. Like most other reviews, it probably would have gone uncommented on. But someone went and posted a link to it on ERRA’s Facebook page’s wall. As expected, fans of the band didn’t like that I didn’t like the music, and posted comments.
Without further ado, the comments…
Im disappointed in both your review and the website’s decision to give you this album to review. You can’t compare the quality of an album where there are screaming vocals in it to something that doesn’t. It is a genre of music. And your reviews are supposed to inform people about the qualities and the downfalls of a record. Being a journalism major, and being someone who actually wants to write publicly about music, I am disgusted by this review, especially the last half. Pure garbage.
Being a journalism major, this guy probably has some high ideas about what journalism is. He wants to write publicly about music. He can. Blogs are free (which is why, in part, print media is dying). And as far as I can tell, assuming he’s one of the guys who also posted on Facebook, he does have a tumblr account, where my review apparently inspired him to write a review of the same album and give it a 5 out of 5 over a month ago, but hasn’t posted anything since. Allow me to impart a single piece of advice to you: a writer writes. If you really aspire to work as a writer, write, even if no one is paying you.
As for his claim that my reviews should inform people about the qualities and the downfalls of a records – I think I did: there is screaming, and that is the downfall of the record.
You don’t know what you are talking about.
Yes I do. Since I’m giving my opinion on the album, I am, in fact, the only person capable of knowing what I am talking about.
im laughing hard…..
I’m unsure of what is going on here. Is he laughing at my review (win!), the other comments, or just in general? He’s a fan of the band, so I think he’s with the other comments and laughing at me (not with me).
Did Shakefire pay you for review this? EY! WHOEVER HELL HIRED THIS GUY, CAN YOU HIRE ME TOO?
Nah, this review was epic. Epicly shitty. If you hate their screamer then you hate a lot of really good low-pitch screamers from hardcore/metal bands, no ?
Come on dude, chill the fuck out. They’re incredible.
Like with many review sites, no, Shakefire didn’t pay me. Well, they gave me a free copy of the album, which is dubious payment at best. They might hire you. Want to know how I got the job? The guy running Shakefire tweeted that he was looking for writers and I replied. Done. Which takes us back to the first guy… want to know how easy it is to get a “job” writing reviews? It’s that easy. Now, getting paid cash to write reviews… that’s another story. And to answer this guy’s question, yes, I hate a lot of screamers from hardcore/metal bands.
You should have gone against your instinct and given this album at the very least an “A.” You have admitted to letting your individual aversion to screaming cloud your review. I’ll chalk up the fact that you gave this an album “a big fat F” as being due to your hearing going progressively downhill since 1974. Listening to music with an objective ear is not a crime, Sir.
“at the very least an ‘A’.” Honestly, looking back and playing a few cuts from the album again (I didn’t delete it because seriously, what’s one album when you a terabyte of drive space?) I think, if I could ignore the screaming, I might give them a ‘B’ if I was being charitable. See, this isn’t a 7-9 scale. We (I) use the whole thing, from top to bottom. As for my hearing, it’s fine, except maybe a little worse after listening to this album from ERRA and the other screamer bands I’ve had to review. And listening to music with an objective ear isn’t a crime, but it also isn’t my job. I’m not teaching a music appreciation class, I’m reviewing, which is a broad spectrum of writing that includes my chosen take: giving my personal opinion of what I experience.
hahahahaha ur such a faggot dude. don’t review this kind of music if you don’t listen to the genre. Its like giving someone who listens to only rap, Carnifex’s new CD Until I Fell Nothing. which is NOTHING close to rap. and don’t say you are use to this genre cuz ur not just admit it. if you still believe you are, then ur mind is playing tricks on you.
I don’t really want to respond to a guy who uses “faggot” in this way, but he does have a small point which I addressed earlier. I don’t choose what to review, I’m assigned it. The boss sends me links by email or physical products in the mail which I experience and then review by the deadline assigned. We’ve cleared up some issues so that I’ll have less of a chance of getting stuff I am biased against, so in the future I won’t be reviewing bands like ERRA unless there is simply no one else to review them.
I give your review a -10 out of 10
So do I. Did you know that all reviews are scored only in Absolute Values? Thanks for the 10!
Seriously, though, when reading reviews or opinion pieces, it is important to approach it from the same direction the author did. One week in Entertainment Weekly, there was a column which I read and thought was hilarious. My wife read it and found it to be despicable. We discussed it, and while I had approached the article from a point of satire because I knew the history of the author’s satirical style, she had approached it as a serious piece, and since part of it was praising the awesomeness of the Twilight movies and how Bella Swan can teach us things, I understand why we had such different responses to the article. But then again, someone who loves Twilight and really does think Bella Swan is a great role model, reading the article in a satiric tone would be harsh.
And that’s what happened here. I listened to music for review that I have zero interest in because I don’t like it. So I took a humorous approach to my review with hints of scathing scorn for the genre. People who like the genre didn’t like my review. Only one of us devolved into name calling. Hint: it was the guys who used the words “faggot” and “douchebag”.
If you haven’t noticed, Google has been revamping their look. Unifying the feel of all their sites. So far, I like it, with my only real complaint being the over abundance of white space. Luckily, most of the apps offer the ability to select a “compact” look that eliminates much of that, squeezing everything in closer together. These days, I prefer whenever possible to hang out over on Google+ instead of Facebook, largely because of its much cleaner look and lack of crap I don’t like.
But all isn’t roses in the land of search and honey. Google’s latest moves have started to bother me. The first being the new YouTube. The pages for any individual video is much improved. It’s cleaner, nicer, and with the new size buttons of regular, large and full screen, it simplifies in all the best possible ways. Which makes the atrocity of their main page such a disheartening failure. I used to be able to quickly review my subscriptions while scrolling, but now, with one or two prolific video posters (I’m looking at you machinima!) my front page is pretty just one or two people, with the odd other video thrown in. Maybe it’ll grow on me, but I don’t see how.
Rolling out to select people now but eventually to everyone is the new Google Bar. Not one of those you install on your browser, but that black bar that has existed at the top of the majority of Google pages for a while now. A short while ago, probably prepping for the new bar, they juggled the apps around. Now that you can see the new design, the reorder of the apps remains. I’m certain that somewhere is a guy at Google who has lots of metrics that informed on which apps made the cut of being on the first level and which ones got hidden behind the “more” entry, at least I hope there is so that I have someone to properly hate.
It's sort of like an upside-down Start Button in Windows.
You see, one of the apps I use all the time is Google Reader (RSS feeds are awesome!) and when they performed their juggling act, Reader dropped off the main app selection. And with this latest revision, Calendar didn’t make the cut. It’s just insanity that Google hasn’t yet, even back in the black bar days, implemented a way to let each user decide the order of apps.
The new prime apps are Google+, Search, Images, Maps, YouTube, News, Gmail and Documents. To begin with I use Google+ a bunch, probably keep it open most of the day. Next I literally cannot recall the last time I when to the Search main page with the intent to search. I go there to see the new logos. (To be fair, I use Bing now for searching just because I earn points that I can spend on Xbox Live spacebucks, so when I used the Chrome address bar to search it goes to Bing, but before that it used Google, and I still can by typing “g” and a space then my search query.) Same with Images, since it’s basically search – I usually just do a regular web search (from the address bar) and then click the image link on the left of the results. Or, you know, I type “i” followed by a space in the address bar, which is my short cut to image searches at Google. I use maps, but not very often. I do use YouTube quite a bit. News works like Search and Images, “n” followed by a space in the address bar. Gmail and Documents are both deserving. So of the 8, I’ve identified 4 that could easily move beneath the “more” and I’d barely notice.
Meanwhile, I use Music every couple of days, Calendar daily, and Reader I use easily 4 or 5 times a day. And yet, with the new design, I have to click the Google icon on the new bar, then hover over the “More” entry and then select my app. Or I ignore the menu altogether just use the address bar to pull up the site. Maybe I’m just not the target audience. I don’t know.
Anyway, enough rambling out of me, though I do hope they allow for some customization soon.
There are two things that frustrate me the most about Facebook.
The first is how games work there. I love the way Lexulous worked. I was playing games with my friends, and I was playing games with strangers without having to friend them first. And because it wasn’t constant asking me to invite people or ask them for help, I actually posted wins and achievement notices to my feed. Of course, Words with Friends owns my soul now, so I don’t play much Lexulous anymore. (Hint: people like to play on their phones and you phone app sucked. Maybe it has gotten better, I don’t know, because I’m not there anymore.) I want to play other games, and being a huge fan of MMOs I don’t mind playing with other people. But the current design of most (Zynga) games is that I need dozens and dozens of friends playing in order to progress at a reasonable level. Well, I don’t have that many real friends who want to play, so I need to friend strangers unless I want to suffer slow play. Friending strangers breaks Facebook. The result is, occasionally a game interests me enough that I’ll create a group/list that I’ve painstakingly denied all access to, and friend random people and put them in that list. This lasts until either a) I need even more friends, or b) I get a creepy feeling from having all these non-friend friends and thinking I missed some setting and they have full access to all my stuff. Then I spend a day purging those people and those games from my account.
The other thing bothers me is the terribly shitty layout of Facebook. Here, I drew a picture:
That covers pretty much all that I find annoying or crappy about the default screen I get to see when I log in to Facebook. Essentially, the content I want is surrounded by stuff that is wrong or pointless. And they go a step further by making that center column all wrong. I want a time line, in order, of stuff my friends have done. That group on the left side called “Everyone” is how I do that. Even though the default News Feed lets me choose to show news with “recent stories first”, that feed and my “Everyone” feed are different, and not just because my own updates don’t appear in “Everyone” but because there is still stuff missing from the default feed.
Speaking of the default feed is constantly telling me things like that there are “5 new feed items” and then I click the link and only 2 items show up, or that one time it said I had 10 new items and none showed up when I clicked the link. I realize that’s probably because of all the apps I’ve blocked, but if I’ve blocked them then why are you telling me about updates I can’t see? And that goes hand in hand with my complaint about the numbers on the left. It tells me where are 20+ updates in a group, and I click on it to see that there are only 5 updates because there were probably 15+ messages from apps I’ve blocked.
There is so much wrong and useless stuff on Facebook (and I’m not even talking about the updates from my friends!!) that it makes me want to never go there. And still… it’s where everyone is. *sigh*
My pleading had finally been answered and a 1200 baud modem had been purchased. I sat in front of the computer, the card was installed and the software was waiting. There was a copy of MicroCenter’s weekly ad in my lap, and on the back page the list of BBSs had a few circled. I dialed up a place called Safehaven and created a new account. In the earliest of days, I was Jason Blood (though sometimes I was Etrigan). When I moved away from dialing up BBSs and instead calling up my ISP, I became Logan5. In 1999, I logged into EverQuest for the first time, and while I played around with a few names, I settled on Ishiro (later Ishiro Takagi). These days on Xbox and in a number of other places, you’ll find me as Jhaer (the “h” is pronounced, so it sounds like “hard” but without the “d” and with a “j” sound crammed on the front of it, one syllable).
In each form, I was always me, though I’ll admit to a bit (or a lot) of role play under various guises. But in 1998 I started putting my thoughts on the Internet, and while I was deep into Logan5 (though sometimes J) at the time, I decided to post as simply “Jason” (though often as “jason” – I used to have a long diatribe on why the lack of capitalization mattered, but for the life of me I can’t remember any of it except something about the importance of the self over the collective… yeah, like most kids in college, I went through one of those “I know everything better than everyone” phases too). As part of this, over the years, my social circles have all known about my interests, and I’ve never kept them from my employers. In fact, there are a couple of jobs over the years that I didn’t take and plenty more that probably didn’t bother to make me offers based entirely on their apparent stance on games as a frivolous hobby. So when it came time to enter a social network, like Friendster or MySpace or Facebook, it never occurred to me to not use my “real” name. I am me. Even when I wear another name.
Back in June of last year, there was a kerfuffle surrounding Blizzard’s new Real ID. It was totally and completely out-of-place there, and to this day I’ve only linked my Real ID with maybe five other people (my wife, my best friend, my best friend’s wife, and two other long time “real life” friends). This year, both Facebook and Google+ have taken a much firmer stance on real names, going so far as to ban accounts that don’t use real names.
Now, personally, for myself, I could not care any less. I use my real name on the Internet, and I deter identity theft by maintaining an identity not worth stealing (though if you wish to steal my identity and then pay off my debts, feel free). However, I do understand that some people want to maintain two identities. Even I did at the beginning. In the BBS days I was extremely protective of who I was, if only because in my real life I was kind of a dorky nerd (this was junior high and high school). It wasn’t until I was in the 11th grade that I broke down that wall and actually started meeting the people I’d only known online face-to-face.
– as a brief aside, let me take a moment to let that sink in and allow you to realize how different the world of 1989 is from today. I was a 15-year-old boy whose parents let him, actually encouraged him, to go meet complete strangers he’d met on the Internet. –
And I don’t mean to denigrate people who maintain multiple identities as something I’ve outgrown. My online journey after the age of 15 simply didn’t have much separation. The bulk of my friends we the people I met online, and we took those online friendships offline whenever possible with outings to movies, parties, etc. It was a conscious decision on my part.
Anyway… Facebook and Google+ have been taking a fairly hard-line on all of this, and while they manage social networks, I don’t feel like this is an area they should be so adamant about. Occasionally, the use of real names on the Internet will temper what people say, but not often. Despite posting with a real name, plenty of people are going to continue to be asshats simply because, real names or not, they just don’t consider the feelings of the people on the other side of the screen. Honestly, they are in the business of providing traffic and demographic data. As free services to us, the users, we aren’t the customer, we are the product. Should they care if I’m on their site socializing with the people from work or socializing with people who play a common game with me? I don’t think they should. They should only care that I’m on the site, and into which column they can put me down for selling my eyeballs for ads.
All this was brought on because I saw that Tobold got banned from Facebook. It’s a shame, because he was one of the few people who played games there and actually participated. With him gone, all my games just got harder and I’m less likely to play them. See… that’s the deal with a social networks: ripples.
I watch the following TED talk by Eli Pariser a while ago and I’ve watched it a couple of times. Take a little over nine minutes and give it a listen.
In some ways this is very much related to a post I made over two years ago about newspapers. When I go to Facebook, it continually keeps showing me the Top News, and the first thing I do every time is click the link for Most Recent. To me, Most Recent is better because I go to Facebook fairly often and seeing month old news that I didn’t think was interesting enough to comment on a month ago is useless to me, even if 97 other people feel it is comment worthy. I use Most Recent and I read all the news back to my last visit. If something is interesting, I comment on it or Like it, and if I comment on something Facebook is kind enough to inform me if other people comment on it too so I can go back and continue to participate in the discussion no matter how old it is.
Over in the new world of Google+, Tom (yeah, that Tom, everybody’s friend from MySpace) has had lots of interesting things to say, but among them is this entry about how right now Google isn’t giving you control over how your content is filtered. Largely it’s time based, but popular topics do (or did) rise toward the top, so my feed was filled with people like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day and Tom, people who post and then get hundreds of comments within minutes, and my actual friends were buried. They adjusted that, so I get less of a flood from popular people and see a more linear timeline, but sometimes I’ll see things out of order and I can’t tell why one item is considered more important than the other. And that, as the video above states, is the problem. At least, Google+ needs Facebook’s Top News and Most Recent options… at best, they’ll give the users a bunch of options and allow you to create your own custom feeds, and not just based on circles, but also based on circles. I’d like to be able to push to the top not only popular topics, but ones in which more of my circled people are participating. A topic with nine thousand comments by strangers may be important, but it’s not more important than a topic with fifty comments of which thirty-five are from people I have in circles.
I don’t mind if there are filters on content, but I want to be able to get at those filters and make adjustments, or sometimes remove them entirely and view them in a simple sorted order (like by date). The only issue is when, as I said in my post about newspapers, the content creators actually make the content in a way that doesn’t allow certain filters or sorts – if you update a news story rather than posting a second story, the original story isn’t available to be read anymore, depending on how you do your update.
Hopefully, the trend will swing back toward user control over the algorithms that filter our content. I don’t like the idea of other people (or worse, program code) decided what I should see.
Allow me to begin with a turn of phrase I stumbled upon that I think sums up quite a bit:
Unlike other networks that I have to actually go to, this one is where I already am.
This above all other things is why I am so drawn to Google’s new social network. I already keep gmail open most of the time, and I use an Android based phone, and I use the Chrome browser wherever I can. I use calendar and reader and documents and a host of other Google applications already, so it just makes sense to thread a social network into all of that and put it right at the top of the page for every one of them.
When I first started using Facebook, it was built largely around Groups or Networks. I remember joining the network for my college and later my high school, one for my work and another for the state I lived in (or it might have been geographic region, I forget exactly). Of course, that was back when your status was just your status and not a feed of previous status or a place to share random information, but I really liked the groups. Then the groups got pushed the back and then they went away altogether. They are back now, but totally different. Either way, what I liked most about them was that I could talk to someone in the same group as me without having to “friend” them and give them access to all of me. So I was very happy when Facebook introduced Lists, which I immediately used to sort and group my friends, but still, I missed being able to chat with people who share an interest of mine but weren’t my “friends”. I suppose to a degree the fault is mine because I didn’t seek out Facebook’s Groups after they re-implemented them, but it is also Facebook’s because they trained me not to seek them out by taking them away in the first place and driving me toward a “one feed to rule them all” design.
I digress. On Google+ I’m enjoying the Circles. While on some level they are functionally the same as Lists from Facebook, the interface is much easier to use and it is brought to the forefront of the overall design, not hidden in a dark corner like Lists. And using Circles when sharing is several clicks easier than using Lists for sharing. That ultimately ends up being the central factor to why I like Google+ over Facebook so much: everything that is hidden under several clicks in Facebook is closer to or on the surface at Google+.
Google+ also feels more like Twitter than Facebook, which is good. On Twitter I follow a number of comedians and pundits and other random & assorted people, people who I’d probably have to Like their Fan Page on Facebook. And again, Liking a Page on Facebook just feels more removed than Following a Person on Twitter, even if the result is exactly the same. So on Google+ I’ve got a Following Circle that I’ve tossed in the people I’d follow on Twitter that I don’t expect to follow me back. And while I’m no celebrity, there are people who follow me on Twitter that I don’t follow back, and I suspect the same will eventually be true of Google+.
I’m also excited because I like being in the Beta phase of almost anything, especially when the developers are actually listening. A couple of rounds of fixes have gone in, and lots more are coming. It just feels good to be part of the process. I’ve suggested a few things so far and while I don’t claim all the credit because I’m sure others submitted the same requests it is kind of cool to see those things coming to be. I’ve made numerous suggestions to Facebook other the years and since not a single one has ever been implemented, either I’m absolutely crazy and wanting things no one else does or Facebook doesn’t listen.
Playing over at Google+ has eaten up a lot of my time and will probably continue to do so. I’ve always been luke warm when it comes to social networks, dabbling a bit here and there, but I think one has finally pulled me all the way in. Down the rabbit hole I go…
People who follow my Twitter or are my friend on Facebook might have noticed my daily Insanity workout posting has stopped. This is because I stopped doing it. Not just the posting, but the workout. Here’s why…
I love the workout. It’s great. And in the future I want to do it again. I didn’t hurt myself, which a few people kept telling me to watch out for. My knees are fine. My back is fine. My arms are fine. However, my lungs may not be. Or maybe it’s my sinuses. For some time now, since last fall, I’ve been having issues with feeling like there is something stuck in the back of my throat. I cough and hack and it doesn’t clear up. I drink water and OJ, I use cough drops and other medications, but relief is only temporary. I’ve been to a doctor and they believe it is likely allergy related, but allergy medications don’t seem to be having any effect. One thing is clear though, the more I did the Insanity workout the worse it got.
So for the time being I am back to my less strenuous workouts of push ups, sit ups, dips, squats and walking. And I’m also hitting up the doctor again to see if we can find another way to proceed, because, frankly, I’m really sick and tired of feeling like this.
In MMOs, I am a strong advocate of grouping. However, even though I often think that people who want to play a game with thousands, or millions, of other people and NOT play with them is a bit silly, I’ve never faulted a game for allowing that style of play (though I will fault them for making solo play the “best” way to play in every aspect – I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft, you and your game from level 1 to 85). I am, at the core, all about options.
That would be why this makes me so mad. Plenty of people out there use multiple social networks, and to make things easier they try to link them together so they can make one update and have it show up everywhere. Facebook has decided that they would like to marginalize certain types of this synchronizing. If I click that link that says “See 19 more posts from Twitter” it will expand and show me around 2 days worth of Twitter updates, completely out of their proper order in my feed.
Now, I understand, on some level, what Facebook is trying to achieve. People who play games are often inundated with “spam” from those games and so Facebook decided it would try to clean things up by grouping updates from Applications. Twitter is an Application.
The fault here is that there is no option to not group updates from Applications. This is what I get, forced grouping.
There are solutions. I can use an application like TweetDeck, which posts the same update to multiple sources directly. But then I need to install TweetDeck everywhere, including my phone, in order to get the same functionality. But that only solves it for my updates. The dozens of other people I know who use the Twitter Application will continue to be grouped. It would be better if Facebook game me the option to choose if Applications were grouped. Better still, let me choose per Application if I want their updates grouped.
Hopefully, Facebook will get their heads out of their asses at some point and fix this. If they don’t, it’ll just be one more reason I find myself drifting away from Facebook…