Monthly Archives: April 2015

Some thoughts on blogging and social media with the news that Dooce is retiring

According to one big name blogger, Jason Kottke, another big name blogger, Dooce, is retiring. How big is big? According to this piece in the NYTimes.com (Heather Armstrong, Queen of the Mommy Bloggers – NYTimes.com), she is hinted at having earned $1M / year. That’s pretty good money. This comes on the heels of Andrew Sullivan, another big name blogger, who recently retired too.  From the sounds of it, Jason Kottke himself is thinking that the days of blogging are numbered. It seems the days of a very limited number of big name bloggers making good money are numbered.

Dooce, Kottke, Sullivan and others rode the wave of the golden age of blogging. Dooce and Kottke kept up the format longer than others. Sullivan, Josh Marshall, and many of the political bloggers I started following years ago, have all but abandoned pure blogging. Marshall’s TPM still retains some elements of his original blog, but his site is more like CNN and less like a traditional blog. Sullivan’s site was chronological, but it was more like a blog on steroids that turned out 30 or more posts a day from a variery of sources. Others, like Nate Silver (538), Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein (Vox) all went off and start up variations of what Marshall did with TPM. The model of Vox and 538 is more like Buzzfeed and less like a blog.

Kottke and Dooce are good at what they do, but they also were in the right place at the right time. I admired Kottke and modelled my blog off of what he did, but in truth, there was no way my blog would ever catch his. The same goes for Dooce and her mommy blogging. They occupy the left end of the long tail, while most of us occupy the right end. That’s fine: it is great that it is possible for anyone to be able to write and have it published for free. While your writing may not be read widely, it will be read by more people than you expect. That has certainly been the case for me. When I first started, I was thrilled to have anyone read my blog. As of this post, thousands of people have read my posts over 800,000 times. I am still astonished by that.

Like much in IT, blogging hasn’t died so much as it has been displaced. One time blogging was about the only social media out there. Now, all media is social media.  There are so many choices now. Not only that, but as networks get faster, sites like YouTube and Vine and other visual sites attract more attention. Video is the future.

Blogging still exists and likely will continue to exist for some time. The fact you are reading this proves that. As well, blogging platforms like WordPress seem to be doing well. While some platforms like Posterous went away, others like Tumblr continue to attract new writers and new audiences. I expect to see people writing in this format for some time to come.

What I don’t expect to see happen is individuals making the money that Kottke and Dooce and Sullivan made. Those days are done. Perhaps people will make money blogging by doing it in conjunction with sites like Patreon.com. That’s a possibility. Also, people may use blogs as a way to promote other ways they make money.

Blogging, derived from the words “web logging”, was a way to log your thoughts chronologically on the web. It seems  old and trite now. But the need to write and the need to have others read the words that you have written will never get old. We need new and better platforms. Medium.com tried to do that. Other sites, from Google+ to Facebook to Twitter to Ello have all tried to offer some way to do that. Maybe the golden age of online writing via some platform like blogs is over, and people will write less and share less. Or maybe people are waiting for the next great platforms to start creating again.

 

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Praise for “Twelve Recipes” from Michael Ruhlman and me


On his blog,  Michael Ruhlman has kind words for the book “Twelve Recipes”, by Cal Peternell. I strongly support this. I bought the book and read through it quickly, enjoying it the entire way.

I call it a book, rather than a cookbook, though it has 12+ recipes and plenty of good advice on cooking. But it is as much a biography and a series of essays as it is collection of recipes. If you want a beautiful book about food and so much more, than I recommend you pick this up.

Here a link to how to order it from Indigo and here is Amazon

If you think it is alarming that Facebook also collects what you decide not to post, then I have some news for you

If you think this is alarming: Facebook also collects what you decide not to post, tech consultant warns – Technology & Science – CBC News, then I have more news for you.

Not only can Facebook do this, but they can do other things. For example, if they wanted to, they could track where you move your mouse, even if you don’t click on something, using technology like the kind mentioned here: web page mouse tracking – Google Search.

In fact, you don’t even have to go to Facebook to have them track you: Facebook Is Tracking Your Every Move on the Web; Here’s How to Stop It.

And if you use Facebook on your mobile phone, there’s potentially even more information they can track about you.

So, lots of reasons to be concerned. I all but avoid Facebook, but it is not an easy thing to do. In addition, I don’t think Facebook is the only one that does this. They seem to be just the most notorious.

 

 

My list of 59 thoughts on privilege

I read alot about privilege. Reading about it, I end up considering the privileges I have that arise from being an educated, white, middle-class man in an affluent part of the world with a high standard of living. The flip side to that is that I also consider the priviliges I did not have when I grew up, as well as the privileges I had and no longer have.  I tried to use that to write up a specific view point on privileges, but ended up with this list of thoughts on the topic instead. I have not come to any specific conclusion on the topic. If anything, the list points to the conclusion that I need to think further on the subject. That said, I think sharing the list is worthwhile.

Some people are interesting in certain aspects of privilege: white privilege, or male privilege, or the privileges of the 1%. I am interested in privilege in general, how it comes about, what effects it has, when is it good, when is it bad, and how to manage it in a way that leads to positive social action. That interest lead to this list.

With that all said, rather than sit on it any further, here’s my  list:

1. Privilege assumes a number of things.
2. It assumes that there are at least two distinct groups: the haves and the have nots.
3. It assumes that there is a social good that one group has a surfeit in and one group has a deficit in.
4. It assumes that the social good is recognized as such by both groups.
5. Privilege is about access and the ability to acquire or maintain that social good.
6. There many small social privileges that aren’t noteworthy (e.g. the privilege of belonging to a certain club).
7. Likewise, not all privileges are universally or generally desirable.
8. Some privileges are held by a small number of haves. Other privileges are held by a large number of haves.
9. Some privilege we earn. Some we get randomly. And some we get from belonging to a certain group by default.
10. Rights differ from privileges, for in theory rights are not a social good that one group should have more than another. (In practice, this may be incorrect, but in theory it is)
11. Some privileges are fairer than others.
12. Fairer privileges usually involve things in abundance.
13. Fairer privileges are either random or universally acquirable for most in a society.
14. Unfair privileges are never random: there is a recognizable pattern whereby one group is perceived to have more access than the other.
15. Fair privileges are assumed to be accessible by method agreeable to most of society. For example, to go to university can be considered a privilege, but it can be earned in a way agreeable and accessible to most.
16. Privileges that are most unfair usually involve scarce social goods or rules that are slanted to favor a particular group.
17. Economic wealth is rare privilege. Having a home is a common privilege. Even common privileges are still privileges.
18. Higher education used to be a rare privilege. Now it is a much more common privilege.
19. The right to vote used to be a rare privilege. Now it is a right.
20. Health is not a privilege, until heath care is involved. Then it becomes partially a privilege.
21. Many would like to have the privilege of being wealthy.
22. Many would like the privilege of working for specific companies, belonging to certain occupations. being members of certain organizations.
23. Everyone has privileges.
24. It is worthwhile to consider your own privileges.
25. If you are reading this, you have quite a number of privileges, starting with the technology you are using to access this post.
26. Technology is a tool, and the ability to access tools is a social good.
27. Challenges occur when there are statistical variables associated with privileges. A white man may have a 10% chance of acquiring a particular social good, compared to a 1% chance for everyone who is neither white nor male. From the point of view of the white man, a 1 in 10 chance may not seem much of a privilege. For everyone else, his chance of acquiring the social good is ten times great than theirs and this increased likelihood is a significant privilege.
28. Being aware of your privileges can help you appreciate what you have.
29. Being aware of your privileges can help you understand the grievances of others
30. Thinking you do not have privileges means you have not thought about it enough.
31. Renouncing your privilege doesn’t necessarily result in greater fairness, especially when there are large number of people involved.
32. For some social goods, especially when there are large number of people involved, it is easier to redistribute privileges so as to be fairer.
33. For other social goods, especially when there is only a few people involved, it is less likely to redistribute privileges so as to be fairer.
34. Even social goods that seem meritocratic are to a degree unfair.
35. Social goods that are meritocratic trend towards being less unfair than others, but still have a degree of unfairness to them.
36. Not everyone can have access to every social good.
37. Meritocratic systems are based on rules, and those rules exclude people from certain social goods from the beginning.
38. Social structures reinforce privileges. Friendships and families can reduce the chances of some having access to social goods.
39. Geography reinforces privileges. Being born into neighborhoods and communities with poor or no facilities can reduce access to social goods.
40. Some privileges are more unfair than others. Privileges based on religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, age, body shape are just some of those.
41. Certain privileges we accept. Physical, emotional, and intellectual ability generally are accepted as fair, even though these are not common when the ability is very high or very low.
42. Certain privileges we used to accept we no longer do. It is less acceptable to build publicly accessible environments that cannot be accessed by people who need wheelchairs.
43. As peoples lower needs (as laid out by Maslow) are met, privileges arise in the higher needs.
44. Everyone has access to certain privileges and are barred from having other privileges.
45. Individuals and societies give some privileges higher values than others. This weighting of privileges shifts all the time.
46. Some privileges become undesirable over time. Other privileges become common. Having electric lighting was once a privilege. Now it is so common as to be no longer seen that way.
47. Some technologists believe it is possible to make all social goods abundant so as reduce priviliege.
48. Some privileges may remain privileges because the social benefits outweighs the social cost.
49. Other privileges need to be tackled and dismantled if a society is to consider itself fair and just.
50. One way to dismantle a privilege is to make access more common.
51. Making it more common is possible if a social good is not scarce.
52. If a social good is scarce, then one way to tackle the privilege is to make access to it random.
53. Another way to deal with a scarce social good is to make the criteria for accessing it fairer.
54. The challenge of fairness is judgment.
55. The other challenge of dismantling privilege is the desire of privileged groups to maintain their privilege.
56. The challenge of dealing with privilege is agreeing if fairness consists of access to opportunity or access to outcomes.
57. In achieving certain privileges, I may trade off other privileges.
58. When individuals within a group are encouraged or forced to trade off certain privileges, they may not be able to reacquire them, as others may not want to release their access.
59. Ideally a society can produce such a wealth of social goods that any tradeoffs individuals or groups make, they still feel overall good with their choices and that the society they live in is a good one.

Success doesn’t come easy for anyone, not even Elon Musk

I admire the work that Elon Musk does, be it Tesla, Space X, or other endeavours he takes on.  I also had an opinion that the success he achieves is as close to a Given as success can be. I held that option until I read this article: Elon Musk Had a Deal to Sell Tesla to Google in 2013 – Bloomberg Business. This article shows just how touch and go it was for Musk and Tesla in 2013. Among other thoughts, it reinforced in me the notion that success in challenging areas is difficult for everyone, whether it be Elon Musk or anyone.

If you are trying to accomplish something difficult, and if you think that others have it easier than you, I recommend you read this article. I also recommend it to anyone who needs to be reminded that success is never a given, but with the right effort and focus and dedication, even the most challenging type of work can be accomplished.

The last and only advice you need on how to eat

I think these rules are about the best thing I have seen on how to eat: Simple Rules for Healthy Eating – NYTimes.com.

To make it even simpler, I would boil them down to:

1) Eat less processed food, and more food you make yourself from raw ingredients

2) Eat a variety of ingredients in moderation

3) If you have to drink something, drink water

I recommend you read the NYTimes piece, though. Really good.

One of the reasons McDonald’s doesn’t offer more variety…

…is that it’s expensive for the franchisees, as this article shows: McDonald’s franchisees are furious – Business Insider. I hadn’t thought of it from the perspective, but it makes sense. McDonald’s restaurants are just part of a complex food chain (so to speak). Making changes takes an awful lot, and the cost implications are huge. If this is truly the case for McDonald’s, they may have passed their hey day.