Pulling back a little from the wired world

Bluewater Cove, a place that I don't need to check in
A place that I don't need to check in

With a career that included nearly twenty years at Apple, it should come as no surprise that I have seen many forms of electronic communication come and go.

My kids were early users of AOLs chat rooms, and I at was Apple before AppleLink even existed.  When I started in 1984, we got one email a week.  I even remember Apple’s eWorld.

I have been quick to try most forms of electronic communication.  I built my first webpages with Adobe Pagemill in 1994 and went on to use an internal website that I created as a very effective team building tool.

I have been blogging since 2004 and have used almost all the popular platforms, some of which have disappeared. I now focus most of my efforts on Typepad and a WordPress site on my own domain, CrystalCoastLife.com.  However, I still have active blogs at WordPress, Squarespace and Blogger.

Last year I started evaluating how I was spending my time on the web.  I was spending a lot of time on the City-Data forum for our area.  While it wasn’t a waste of my time, it wasn’t a very productive use of my hours.  I got very little back for my substantial efforts so I quit posting there.

I have been using Foursquare for a while, and have had some fun with it, but one day it dawned on me that Foursquare was one of the least productive things that I do on the web.

The information that I got back from Foursquare was questionable at best, and few of the specials offered for users amounted to very much.   On top of that, I found it much easier to use Google maps and Latitude to communicate with the people who really need to know where I am.  I might not completely stop using Foursquare, but I doubt you will see me at the top of the leader board again.  It might hurt my Klout rating, but I am not going to lose any sleep over that.

Twitter is something that I actually find very interesting, and I also believe that I get back as much or more as I put into my tweets.  I will probably keep tweeting and regularly visit my Tweeter feed.

Facebook is an interesting challenge,  I find it useful for communicating with some folks who are hard to communicate with using more traditional methods. However, I have found Facebook to be of little or no use in a business sense.  It is also easy for it to be a distraction from more important things.

LinkedIn has proved to be valuable for staying in touch with business colleagues and getting opinions on important things.  I have also found ActiveRain very useful for staying connected with Realtors® outside my immediate geography.

Google+ which I have just started using seems to have some potential and a way to communicate with people without the means of communication getting in the way.  Actually I think that I am interested in Google+ mostly because Facebook seems to have become unwieldy.  The information that I get at Facebook can sometimes be marginal at best.  Most of the people I would like to hear from on Facebook, rarely post anything, so it ends up being another one way street.  Facebook is a good way for me to get information out to some people, but it turns out to be a poor way for me to hear back from people whose opinions I would value.

That leaves email and text messages. Email is something which I still value, and fortunately communicating by email just seems natural since I have been doing it for so long.  I give my Droid smartphone credit for keeping me from being a failure at text messages.  I hated doing them on earlier phones where you had to hit a key multiple times to get the right character.  Now I seem to have a little more credibility in texting with my grown kids who depend on it far more than I do.

As I look at the ways in which I communicate electronically, I want to make certain that I do not let electronic communication get in the way of real human interaction.  When I took the picture in this post, I was walking with my wife on the boardwalk in our waterfront community by the White Oak River.  Even the act of taking the picture was a distraction from an important real life interaction, and I am guilty of that far too often.  If you add checking in with Foursquare to the same situation, I think it takes away some precious moments that I would rather enjoy with the real live person beside me as opposed to with my electronic friends.

I have also gone to point of turning off the notification sounds on my Droid smartphone so that I will not be tempted to look at new emails.  They can wait until I am not in the presence of someone who really deserves my attention.

It is really nice to be electronically in touch with the large number of friends that I have around the world, but it is much more important tht electronic communication not get in the way of the very real and personal communication that needs to be at the heart of my life.

I will keep looking at how I spend my time electronically with the hopes of making sure it is actually worth the time it takes away from my life in the real world.

A society hooked on the quick response

Years ago, I went to a military high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  One of things we had to do was write home each week.  The letter was graded and sent to our parents.  My real communication with my parents happened by telephone.  Each Saturday or Sunday, I placed a collect call to home.

When I got to college I wrote fewer letters, but I still wrote.  When I got out of college and moved to Nova Scotia, I continued to write letters.  They were private, and we were on a party line with a bunch of other people.  In 1974 we moved to New Brunswick and after a lot of battling got a private phone line.

That was not the end of letters, but it certainly slowed them down.  Then in the eighties came the start of email.  By the nineties it was spreading rapidly.  Eventually instant messaging and text messaging showed up.

Now email is often done on the small screen of a smart phone.  It is actually a bad way to communicate.   A cell phone also becomes a lousy way to communicate when you are doing something while you are talking.  Talking to someone while you are reading emails on your cellphone is a slap in the face.

Somehow society has decided that quick and fast is better than deliberate and at your leisure.  The whole idea of Twitter puts additional pressures on quality communication.  I type small messages which are seen by hundreds of people some of whom I know only by their messages.  Then there are others who see the message, and I do not even know them.

Facebook is yet another away to get in touch with people who have not been able to build either an email relationship or one based on writing letters.  We almost always have a cellphone with us.  It is actually easier to call someone on the cellphone than it is post a message on Facebook.  Somehow the layers that Facebook adds to the communication process make it easy to type the message to the person you probably are afraid to call.

So are we better communicating small tidbits of information to people we hardly know or was it better to have focused on speaking our hearts and minds to those who mean something to us.  How do you communicate today?


beachI have heard it said that your real character shows late at night when you are alone, and no one can see what you’re up to.

While that is probably true, the problem for the rest of us is that no one is there to see you, so we cannot figure out your character.

Maybe your character shows on a nearly deserted beach like this one near Emerald Isle, NC. At least someone might catch a glimpse of what you are doing.

Actually I think technology has made it much easier to see inside that protective coating which keeps most people from knowing who we really are. It has nothing to do with cameras or surveillance.

So how does technology reveal our character?

Sometimes it is as simple as technology providing anonymity through a nickname with instant messaging.

Most often it just provides distance or a buffer from real personal interaction.

What better to really tell someone off than in a voicemail or perhaps a cell phone call where the connection is so bad that they can’t even fight back?

Then of course there is the flaming email which is well known to all corporate dwellers.

In a sense people really do hide behind the technology. Technology lets the real person sneak out without fear of consequences that might come from a face to face confrontation.

The other day, I had someone go off the deep end in a phone call. They said things which they should have never let slip out of their mouths. I seriously doubt if the conservation would have been anything near that had it taken place in person or face to face.

What it did let me see is the real person who masquerades behind a facade of civility. I now know that the person is someone whom I probably rather avoid, especially in business dealings.

I recently had another illuminating moment with a business partner.   His real character wasn’t revealed by technology but the way he said something had almost the same effect.

He decided that he wanted to get out of a joint business deal with me. Instead telling me directly, he waited to dump it all on my wife while I was at work.  My wife had not been involved in setting up the deal, and actually wanted no part of it.  She had even recommended against it.

It is probably one of the more cowardly episodes that I have ever heard.  It is perhaps something that only a very small minded person would do especially since it almost knocked my wife into depression.

His actions showed a complete lack of real character. It was pretty obvious that his only consideration was his self. I actually cannot think of someone who has so grossly violated the code by which most men of honor operate.

I guess it goes to show that while technology can reveal a lack of character, those completely without character don’t need technology’s help in showing their lack of worth.

I have an interesting post on the concept of “Sour Grapes” at my Blogger site.  I wrote it after an Apple maniac decided my purchase of a Windows laptop was based on dissatisfaction with my former career at Apple.

The machines that own us

combineThey say that machines are supposed to work for us.

For a long time I have been skeptical of that.

When I bought my first tractor back in 1971, a very intelligent Uncle of mine said that to really pay for it, I would have to run it day and night.

Well I haven’t yet figured out how to work without a little sleep so I still can’t do that. Perhaps it’s good that I no longer own tractors.

Now I just have to run computers day and night to make them pay for themselves. Still when you have a machine worth a few hundred thousand dollars, it just blows my mind to see that it is only one man and the machine. While this combine was grabbing corn and shelling it (the work of many people), there was another tractor with an auger wagon almost full of corn.

I’m sure the combine driver would finish a load and head home for lunch and come back with an empty wagon. It seems so weird that one person with machinery can do so much work.

I saw another example which I had been waiting to see.

We went over to Beaufort, NC to have a look at Blackbeard’s cannon which had just been raised to the surface after nearly three hundred years under water.

There were some reporters from local television stations setting up to do stories. At least one of them happen to be reporter and crew in one person. She got the camera running and started talking in front of it. She checked the film she had done and then interviewed someone with a camera crew.

I am not so sure, but the machines might be winning.