Categories
Writing

Toward a Productive Winter

Migratory birds on Lake Macbride.

On Monday I created a Mastodon account on the epicure.social server. It is a small space on the internet and one never knows if “small” will survive. I don’t plan to leave Twitter until the bitter end or when I croak, whichever comes first. Mastodon is my insurance policy, a place to go if I need one. If the server fails, I can move to another Mastodon server. Having networked multiple servers is a feature of Mastodon.

Christopher Bouzy, creator of BotSentinal.com posted, “Twitter will not be relevant two years from now. No platform can survive catering to one group of people, and once journalists migrate to another platform, Twitter is done. And if you think it won’t happen, ask MySpace how things are going.” Bouzy is not wrong, although he has an interest in starting a Twitter substitute platform and therefore is biased.

In any case, there seems to be significantly less Twitter traffic in my timeline. The same is true for other social media platforms I follow. People just are not feeling it right now. This is good for productivity as I move indoors. Fewer distractions facilitate a more rapid growth toward a solid 4-5 hour daily shift of writing.

Ambient temperatures are forecast to reach the low 50s this afternoon. I scheduled a walk along the lake trail. Getting enough exercise is a winter issue, especially once snow flies. I take advantage of every opportunity to exercise that presents itself.

As time moves toward winter, how we spend it changes. With thoughtful planning we can be productive and perhaps useful to others. Productivity is what I most hope for between now and the end of the year. With hope comes value in society. That’s something we need now more than ever.

Categories
Writing

Cold Weather is Here

Cold weather set in.

Since ambient temperatures dropped below freezing, I haven’t left the house very much. I’ve been reading, writing, cooking, and working on a few small projects. I wasn’t ready to bunker in.

I gave up on picking up more garden mulch with the mower. I disassembled the grass catcher and put it in place on the shelf. I also moved the electric snow blower closer to the garage door. With the subcompact Chevy Spark there is a lot more room in the garage. Step by step, I’m getting organized.

The small ceramic heater running next to my chair is doing the job of keeping my writing room warm. I hung a blanket on the door to retain heat, and that is doing its job as well. Now it’s time for me to do my job of writing.

Where does my writing get noticed? When I post on Twitter, the response can be huge. Yesterday I posted,

Thus far there have been 3,872 impressions and 154 engagements. That is a lot.

When I post on Blog for Iowa, it garners many more views than here. Before the midterms I posted about Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear and the post got 507 views. That, too, is a lot.

Year to date this site got about 8,000 views, with the leading sources being search engines and the WordPress Reader. Thanks so much WordPress community for following me.

Now that cold weather is here, my in-person contact with humans reduced noticeably. I don’t like it, yet here we are. Hopefully my writing will improve and bring with it better cooking, reading, and a cleaner, more organized home. Despite the calendar suggestion we have another month of Autumn, it feels like winter is here.

Categories
Living in Society

Twitter Take Three

Despite yesterday’s mass resignation at Twitter, things seem back to normal. When an authoritarian boss gives employees an ultimatum to work harder or leave, for most people the only choice is to leave, thus depriving the authoritarian of their leverage. This is America. That is, unless your visa is based on such work and employees have morphed into slaves.

My freakout regarding Elon Musk buying Twitter is over. The big picture, obvious to any sentient being, is the transition is not going well. I don’t like the many little changes I’m seeing in the platform, yet I’m still there and will be for the short-term. Also, I can enter my birthday and get balloons on my account that day. That might be nice. Give me an edit button and it would be the cat’s meow.

Most of the rest of this post was written before Musk’s arbitrary deadline for employees last night. I plan to continue unless there is a subscription fee or the platform goes dark.

After the election I purged accounts. During a political campaign, the reasons for following had a shelf life until the general election. I got down to 160 or so. Now I’m thoughtfully curating a timeline that provides me the best of what is available and relevant. As of this writing, there are 173.

The core of people I follow are those with whom I have some personal connection or long term interaction on Twitter. I’ve been to their house, went to school with them, worked on a project together, or otherwise know them in real life. There is also a small cadre where I don’t recall how we got started in social media yet the thought of dropping them was too much to bear. This is to be expected.

I distilled the many possible local news reporters to a group of about a dozen that I either know or interact with frequently. I follow a few reporters who work for major news outlets, like the awesome investigative reporters Robin McDowell and Margie Mason with Associated Press, Emily Rauhala with the Washington Post, Jane Mayer and Elizabeth Kolbert with The New Yorker, and a few others. Wednesday I added Trip Gabriel with the New York Times and Vaughn Hillyard with NBC News. Both of them have been a frequent presence in Iowa doing political reporting and highlight important national stories without their tweets being too many.

After Michael Franken lost the Iowa U.S. Senate race, I had to find some Democratic senators to keep tabs on what the upper chamber was doing. Amy Klobuchar started following my account during the 2020 Iowa caucus cycle after I followed her, so there is one. I also decided to add back Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. Chuck Grassley follows me, yet I don’t follow him any longer. I get plenty of information about Grassley from other sources, including occasional in-person encounters, and his weekly legislative newsletter. My other U.S. Senator is Joni Ernst. Because she is a rising Republican star, there is plenty of information available about her activities. I follow my congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks and she follows back.

Lastly, I revisited some of my connections with Friends Committee on National Legislation. I follow Joe Volk who is now retired and was general secretary when I visited in Washington, D.C. We did some events together in Iowa. I follow the current general secretary, Bridget Moix. I also follow Jim Cason whom I met in D.C. and Arnie Albert who was my D.C. roommate and is retired from American Friends Service Committee in New Hampshire. Friends Committee on National Legislation provides direct, accessible information about what’s going on in the capitol.

Like most users, I have no idea what Musk is doing. Perhaps he does, although Twitter users are doubtful and last night’s events were unexpected. He is apparently living at his office until whatever plans he has are realized. If he were to fail, which I doubt, I would shut it down and not seek another platform to replicate it. Twitter is useful for what it is –a valued news source. If it went away, I’d just have to adjust.

Categories
Living in Society

Archiving Twitter

DPRK Twitter Image

I heard about the Library of Congress partnership with Twitter to archive all of Twitter, past, present and future since its launch in 2006. I hadn’t heard the project went bust with insufficient funding in 2017. Too many tweets, one presumes.

Should we care? We should, but not because there is profound knowledge on Twitter.

Yes, noted scholars create multi-tweet threads with reasoned arguments, citations, and links to references. Yet what role does that play in advancing learning? The potential audience seems limited on Twitter. Wouldn’t the same argument inform more effectively in a newspaper, blog, or scholarly journal? It would be more targeted, for sure. Such targeting would garner better impact on learning than the transitory ephemera of Twitter..

News writers use tweets as a source of quotations from prominent people. A quote is a quote, I guess. It’s easy, which prompts the related sentence, “they are lazy.” What point are they making? Why not get an actual quote from a news maker? I know the answer: access is easier on Twitter. Definition of the word “access” is peculiar here.

With hundreds of millions of tweets per day, who could read all of that to glean valuable content? Some form of artificial intelligence or tweet-bot, maybe. Not a human. I can’t think of who would want to review all of that. I hardly look at my own tweets from yesterday, let alone something I posted in 2008. There are three hundred million or more tweets per day.

If a user considers their universe in Twitter, a time line can be carefully curated. It is only within this curation that any of it has much meaning. Archiving Twitter would seem to preserve little of that personal vantage point. Tweets are a fungible commodity only to the extent an individual user loses their individuality. We Americans resist that.

The role for libraries and archives with regard to Twitter and other social media platforms is to push governments to define better laws regarding collection, archiving, and ownership of our posting. As the example of Cambridge Analytica during the recent presidential election illustrates, there were few rules about scraping the internet to collect detailed voter information and using the aggregated data to influence the election. At what point does that become an illegal invasion of privacy? The answer hasn’t been defined and doing so falls in the wheelhouse of people who spend their lives compiling archives of information and documents.

When we examine the history of libraries and archives, my bet is as much that was important has been lost as was saved. I think of the Protestant Reformation and its raiding of libraries and archives to destroy the physical records of the Catholic Church. There are plenty of other examples. Regarding Twitter, if the Library of Congress can’t preserve it, then who can and to what end?

With planetary warming, we may not have to trouble ourselves with these questions for much longer. If archives exist to tell the story of humanity’s demise to beings living multiple millennia from now, there is no point. Like us, I doubt future such beings will be much interested in those billions of tweets.