The Red Queen’s Race

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

This is becoming more and more true as cool technological tchochkes increasingly invade our time and space. I am falling so far behind in the race to keep up with social media that I despair of ever getting caught up. It takes 3 or 4 hours of dedicated effort every day to post on this blog and the other Beautiful Railway Bridge at Blogger, do the associated admin, read and comment on the blogs I follow, maintain a toehold on Google+, and deal with email. I only go to Facebook because my daughter’s on it, and I’ve given up trying to keep up with Twitter. Managing social media has become an unpaid part-time job.

I would drop it all and walk away but for one thing – I love blogging, I love reading other people’s blogs, and I want to do it properly. I could just dash off an easy post or skim through the reading with a generous scattering of Likes and no comments because there’s no time. Inevitably, that sometimes happens. But what is the point, unless it’s a half-hearted pretence to gain more followers?

I’ve never really understood this followers thing. It’s nice that people like Beautiful Railway Bridge, and I’m grateful for your support. I don’t write in a vacum, but to an audience. Followers for the sake of having followers – as an ego trip so you can claim influence on the internet – I think that’s stupid. You see a lot of sites claiming to teach bloggers how to maximise SEO, so there must be a huge demand for this sort of advice.

I’m happy with a smaller number of followers because I want to interact with likeminded bloggers by reciprocal visits and comments. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day and there’s a critical number of followers and followed, beyond which it’s impossible to have a proper, reciprocal blogging relationship.

Right now I’m over my limit in the blogs I follow and trying to catch up. Which is, I suppose, a roundabout way of apologising for not having visited your blogs over the last few days. Perhaps I’m thinking about social media in the wrong way, but this whole imperative to connect with as many people as possible seems batshit crazy. Community is good, necessary, and beneficial to mind and body. An amorphous mass, all shouting status updates and ill-informed opinions at each other at the tops of their voices, is beyond reason and verging on social hysteria in my opinion.

So I’m asking for some feedback on this question, to help me sort it out. Thanks.

Online Advertising Crap

I hate the stuff. It’s an irritating visual distraction and it slows down your computer – what’s not to hate? The in-yer-faceness varies from relatively genteel ads, which point out products and services that might be useful, to screaming, spittle-flecked pop-ups that won’t take no for an answer. The issue isn’t whether an ad is good, bad, or ugly, but the fact it’s there in the first place.

I installed AdBlock Plus on my computer several years ago, and I’m used to never seeing an ad. On the rare occasions when I use an unprotected computer, I’m shocked at the visual clutter people allow on their screens. Unsurprisingly, I pay WordPress a yearly bribe to make ads go away for readers of Beautiful Railway Bridge, something that wasn’t necessary when it was hosted on Blogger.

So imagine my delight when I came across a site claiming there are now 10 million ABP users, 1 million up from the previous month. Good stuff! I thought, and read further. Turns out the Online Publishers Community, for so they claim to be, is feeling sick as a parrot about what they see as the loss of revenue. The site is offering an “Anti-ABP” plugin for WordPress users, provided by a company called dSero. It’s unclear if the “Online Publishers Community” is an invented front for dSero – I rather suspect it is.

dSero claims the Anti-ABP plugin will sneak ads into the Adsense spaces bombed out by ABP. It also claims that 6% of online ads are blocked by 30 million ABP users, taking into account Chrome and Firefox browsers, and that the loss amounts to $5.3 billion this year.

Clearly dSero is trying to create a panic. Let’s examine their assumption that blocking ads leads to loss of revenue. People who install ABP do not want to see ads – there can be no loss of revenue from those who would not have bought from you in the first place. The “loss” is simply an inefficient use of advertising resources. And capitalism is supposed to be supremely efficient, right? Somebody told me that once. If an Anti-ABP  plugin sneaks an ad past, are they likely to embrace the vile thing with open arms? No. They won’t click on it, and they will probably punish the company responsible by not buying anything else.

It seems to me that online retailers have two choices – block ABP users from sites carrying advertising (that would be the honest way) or simply accept that some of their visitors will never click on ads. The loss of goodwill produced by the former is counterproductive, while the latter increases goodwill among ABP users who might buy if the ads were presented in another form. Raging online ad-hater as I am, I do visit dedicated sites for news about products that interest me. Advertisers should suck it up and focus on better ways to sell their products.

Installing an Anti-ABP plugin comes across as a passive-agressive compromise, which fails to solve the problem, and alienates potential customers. It’s called shooting yourself in the foot.

Beautiful Railway Bridge Grows a Pseudopod – Hurrah!

I spent a large part of the day building an archive for the growing collection of ArtyFakts. I’ll still post them here, but you will find the collection at Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay @ Blogger. Well, not immediately – only one post so far – and it will take a while to get everything moved in. The Blogger address is the old home of this blog, with which I got so irritated that I went off in a snit. Even as I fixed it up for the new occupants, I was getting irritated again with what it can’t or won’t do, though it works well for images. I like the template a lot.

As for navigation, there’s an ArtyFakts icon on the sidebar that takes you there, and a Beautiful Railway Bridge @ WP icon to return. The icon here is not well-placed, partly because the sidebar is such a shambles – the blog just grew and now the sidebar is sprawling all over the place with not much logic to it. That’s the trouble with cleaning one part of something, the rest looks shabby by comparison. I’ll be having a rethink about what to keep and where to place it.

So please visit Beautiful Railway Bridge’s more salubrious brother, the Jekyll to this blog’s Hyde. Any constructive feedback or thoughts about either blog will be welcome.

Social Media Hits the Fan

I’m not sure what to make of this infographic. It’s clearly coming from an anti-FaceBook source, which I have no problem with, but you might find it a little biased. The most egregious lack is any mention of Google+, with 110.7 million unique users, according to the last crowd sourcing reply on G+. But if the intent is to tar FB and Twitter users exclusively with high narcissism and low self-esteem, then you can see why they left it out. Know your propaganda, even if you agree with it. Anyway, take a look, and below the infographic I will compound the insult by telling you why I despise FB and think G+ is so much better.

Psychology of Social Networking
This infographic was provided by Psychology Degree. Please visit their site to find out more about them.

One factoid jumped out at me. Does the average person have 150 friends in real life? Sounds far too many, or at least an extremely elastic definition of friend, almost as elastic as the one FB uses.

I despise FB because the experience is akin to entering a noisy gaming arcade, with bad rap music playing, and the machines practically grabbing the cash out of your pocket. Too loud to have a proper conversation and anyway, the text boxes aren’t designed for that – a shouted message or a status update is all they’re good for. I visit FB as little as possible, only to dash in and out for a quick word with my family in Indiana. By the way, they’re not narcissists or people with low self-esteem.

I’ve been on Twitter for just over a year and still don’t know what it’s for. Obviously a force for both good and bad – the mobilisation of citizen dissent and racist abuse – but what normal, everyday purpose does it serve? I automatically share G+ and Beautiful Railway Bridge posts on Twitter and FB, as well as interesting bits from the news on Twitter. I’m followed by 16 people and following 23. Clearly I don’t get it, though Some Grey Bloke does.

Google+, on the other hand, is a delight and a distraction. You can have a proper conversation, and build relationships that transcend the stupid monocategory of Friends. I’ve met people I like, would be happy to see in real life, and the place feels like home. A clean and uncluttered home with a big living room, where you sprawl on a comfortable sofa, have a beer and a good crack. Circles make it easy to add on smaller rooms for particular categories, where you can have more private conversations. It’s so easy to do this that I’ve developed what might be a bad habit. I’m circled by 459 people and only follow 317. Why the disparity? Because the FaceBook Friend disease is spreading to G+. Some are notching up followers with no concern for like-mindedness, shared interests, or even if they could stand sharing an elevator with any of them. I doubt they actually read my posts. I’ve followed a lot of people back for the sake of politeness, and there is a Being Polite circle where I park them all, adjusting the stream so I don’t get any of their posts. Where there’s not even a shred of common ground, I don’t follow back.

See, the social media are beginning to erode my deeply cherished curmudgeonality. Bad social media!

Poet McGonagall’s Day Off

It went swimmingly. I slept for 12 hours and got up at noon. Had a leisurely breakfast, during which I ate and tasted the food, rather than stuffing my face while staring at a computer screen. Watched a Doctor Who episode on iPlayer (no TV license so I had to, and anyway it’s more convenient). Then out to take photos in Campbeltown, behaving like a complete and utter grockle, despite having lived here for over 2 years. I’d never properly looked at the wee toon before, and discovered delightful bits all over the place.

After 209 photos, and several hours walking, I felt bit shagged out and went home. I ventured onto the computer just long enough to upload them and start cropping the interesting ones. Pea and ham soup with red kidney beans for dinner, followed by fish fingers and custard, the dessert of Time Lords.  What else? Some quiet reading time, and when there wasn’t anything obvious to do, I reconfigured the beating heart of Beautiful Railway Bridge by rescuing a desk hutch from dust and dead paper. Now it’s doing something useful. Much longer, I’d have re-invented the wheel and built a scale model of the Starship Enterprise out of match sticks. Projects for another Sunday.

I got a lot done, with more pleasure than when I’m driving myself with self-imposed tasks, or responding frantically to the demands of the blog and social media. Definitely an epiphany. I am struck while writing this, how much being focused on a computer restricts our awareness of the larger world – the contrast between this and my wide-eyed ramble through town yesterday is stark. So I plan to make it a weekly holiday, cue up Blasphemy for the Day on Saturday, and let Sunday be a real day of rest.

Gone Swimmin’

I’m taking a day off on Sunday from blogging, G+, Twitter, and any online activities. There will be the usual Blasphemy for the Day, provided this week by a Buddhist guest blogger, one who knows whereof he speaks.

I am tired, never seem to get enough sleep, feel distinctly under the weather, not to say knackered, and want a Day Off.

So I’m zoning out, going walkabout, off-piste, off the record, off the reservation, under the radar, and trying not to do two things at once because multi-tasking makes you stupid. Chances are I’ll have cabin fever by midday and turn into an axe-murderer, but I’ll give it a go.

Right. Officially falling over, even as we speak. Au reservoir, as they say in Tilling. See you Monday.