I’m back

Well, at least I am going to use this platform to describe a few things I have been thinking about and working while I look for work in Sydney.

A few years ago, I was busy doing work for the Journalism & Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong, including teaching the Digital Journalism, principles and tools course. For a while this was a good fit for me. I am still quite focused on content management, especially relating to media. I was also taken by the rapidly evolving landscape that journalism is facing. Eventually though, I found that academia was not for me. Perhaps one day I will write about that.

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to leave HKU and start a small web development and consulting firm, Aporia Limited. I knew a lot of people who needed help with their small to mid-sized sites, so it was an easy direction to head in.

I spent the last year and a half developing various projects. I wrote about a few on Aporia’s site. I may add a few posts for the last few projects, which had some interesting aspects to them. But throughout this time, I have decided that doing small projects is quite hard and not very satisfying. I like working with clients over a longer period, helping them get to somewhere completely different. Small development projects have their challenges and some are very interesting. But unfortunately many of the projects I was working on did not have the resources to think long-term. In the end, I found them not very satisfying.

So now, onto new things.

Facebook does not understand friendship

As we further hand over the management of our social relationships to Facebook, perhaps we need to pause for a moment and consider whether Facebook understands friendship.

To begin with, when you meet someone for the first time, the only thing you know about them is what you know publicly or perhaps what you have been told by mutual friends. Why cannot Facebook implement such a filter? My new friends should not be able to dive into my past until I share with them those moments: photos, status updates and even friendships.

Putting friends into lists is not how we handle friendships. Each relationship is unique. Aside from the fact that we shouldn’t have to manage such a list from an user experience point of view, it is unreasonable to think of friendship in this way. Each friendship, even the most cursory one, is unique. It should be an evolving development. As a friendship grows, so should access to certain more sensitive details. Rather than putting content into lists, perhaps we can develop over time a way of organising the type of content and how we like to share. For some, pictures remain private. For others, it is our rants. I’m a firm believer in a place to write without scrutiny, either privately or anonymously. Why does this not exist in Facebook? A nice thing to consider is that Facebook supports more private musings, they may encourage more public sharing (which is obviously their goal).

Finally, we are offered the opportunity to mark certain friends as ‘good friends’, which means we receive all of their status updates. We don’t need to open the flood gates (unless we abhor FB’s filtering to begin with). Even good friends need secrets. I removed my girlfriend from this list, because I didn’t think I need to see all of her interactions on Facebook. She’s still one on my best friends. I have a few siblings still in this list, but I am very close to removing one brother because he is prolifically ridiculous!

These are just some recent musings on our online social lives. We are all still figuring out how this space works. It is important that we provide feedback to the companies that play an important role in our social space. I don’t believe these features are impossible or extreme. Facebook has an amazing group of programmers and designers. I am certain they can find a way to develop a more realistic version of our social networks.

That is, if they want to be our friend.

Eventual inconsistency

A friend just sent me a link on ‘Eventual consistency’, a term used to describe a problem of syncing data between cloud servers. This was in response to some bizarre behaviour I have been noticing in Facebook.

The term itself, eventual consistency, reminded me of Italo Calvino, for many reasons. Check out pretty much any of his books (If on a winter’s night a traveler) or stories (t zero) and you’ll know how important time was to him.

IMG_5259.JPGHis final work was a lecture he was unable to give (due to a problem he had with time), entitled “Six Memos for the Next Millennium”. In the lecture, he outlined the six important ideas (or values) that needed to be addressed in literature in the future. He did not finish the sixth memo.

“In the front of the collection his wife later published is a list of the six memos in Calvino’s handwriting, though the sixth and final is faint, as if someone had attempted to erase it.” *

“The five memos Calvino wrote cover lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility and multiplicity. The final lecture would have been on consistency.”

For me, this is one of the more sublime ideas in the world, and only Calvino could have pulled off so brilliant a literary stunt. Perhaps the term should be eventual inconsistency, as we are all prone to problems with time eventually.