Oh oh oh, Amadeus…

So, the information is out in the public domain. I’ve dusted the cobwebs off TechWhimsy because I have been selected to be a “social reviewer” as part of the Australian telco Telstra’s Social Review program. This time, the phone under review is an HTC Mozart Windows 7 Phone.

Please take a couple of minutes to read my full disclaimer. The tl;dr version is, although I get a free phone out of the deal, I’m still going to talk trash wherever it’s warranted.

Reviews, impressions, rants, bouquets  – all of these will be coming soon.

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Blowing off the cobwebs

There’s a lot of dust on this dank and mildewy piece of web real estate.

The cobwebs are coming off for a reason that will be a lot of fun for me.

Something wicked this way comes…

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Migration in progress

If things go flaky in the next few days, I’m in the process of moving TechWhimsy from GoDaddy to Media Temple. So if you find things missing or comments disabled, don’t panic. In theory this should be somewhat painless.

Things should be fine but you never know…

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Slacktivism: you get the engagement you deserve

Slacktivism: n. 1. halfhearted activism.
(Wikitionary see also Slacktivism on Wikipedia)

At the recent Digital Citizens event “Social media for social good”, many worthwhile and interesting  issues were discussed that revolved around how Not For Profits (NFPs) could use social media to raise awareness of their particular issues and use that awareness to try and achieve some substantial change. However, all of the panelists on the night danced around the notion of big online campaigns that attract widespread but shallow engagement. In other words, what about the slacktivists?

While slacktivism is everywhere, it is highly visible is social media. For example, classic slacktivist slacktivities include changing your avatar on a social network (twibbons being the obvious example) or following a Facebook group that professes to support some cause or other.

The personally removed nature of online interactions make it very easy to look engage with little to no effort and indeed little to no emotional or financial cost to the individual. Even ribbons, wristbands or lapel pins (which achieve as much social change as a twibbon) at least require a financial investment that has the added benefit of raising funds for the NFP. Online slacktivism adds nothing but awareness that is fleeting if not followed by action.

You get the engagement you deserve.

People are busy. You are battling competing interests. Frankly, most people are lazy and disinterested in your campaign to begin with. It’s hardly the most supportive environment to bring attention to your cause.

It’s not enough to just drum up support. Simple gestures with low barriers to entry like twibbons, Facebook groups or online petitions are merely a gateway. If you cannot provide a clear road map of action that accommodates different levels of engagement from your supporters, you might as well not have started to begin with. Attention is precious. Don’t waste it.

Slacktivism allows someone to feel engaged while they make empty non-committal gestures that them indicate a basic level of support with having to commit to anything or make any real investment beyond a few seconds of their time.

The depth of feeling and support from your supporters is directly related to the amount of prep work you do for them and what you give of yourself to your supporters in the process. It’s basic leadership: put in the groundwork and map out a clear pathway, people will follow you to the final goal. Slacktivism fills the void that is left behind when an issue becomes stronger than the leadership in the community.

Bringing the slacktivists into the fold

If you are going to use social media to encourage individuals to participate and affect real change, you need to engage with individuals. Getting people to contribute to anything that does not provide them with an immediate benefit  is difficult. You only need to ask the same old faces that man the canteen at your children’s sporting events every week, or those who help out at the homeless shelters or the stand on street corners soliciting donations. Volunteering is often a thankless task with a shortage of people prepared to step in and do their part.

Online campaigns and social media are no different. People are still people, no matter the mode of interaction and communication. Getting people to volunteer real time and real resources is hard. Signing a petition, changing an avatar or joining a Facebook group are easy and, for the most part, very public ways of showing support without even getting out of a chair.

The only way you will really engage with these people is through baby steps. Without a clear plan of progressing such people through incremental action, they will shallowly interact and then fade away.

If you haven’t done the work, neither will they. You get the engagement you deserve.

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Is the iPad the gateway to the smart house of the future?

Some of the most memorable moments of future computing in sci-fi film emphasise ease of use rather than raw power, features and hackability.

Think “enhance” in Bladerunner…

(sorry about the quality)

or the classic touch user interface in the Minority Report…

Most people don’t want fancy computers, they want things that just work without too much effort. Everyone knows what the technology is capable of doing these days, and most people despair at some point that it isn’t easier to use.

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Social media allows us to make many connections but are they meaningful ones?

Internet Splat Map by jurvetson

"Internet splat map" by jurvetson on Flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 By Attribution

From personal experience, more than ever before we can make new social connections and befriend people over a wide range of distance, culture and beliefs. I now know people in most capital cities of Australia, and in a number of regional cities, too.

The recent inaugural Digital Citizens event was chock full of social media inhabitants (enough for a swarm on Foursquare). Some were Social Media Douchebags, most were not. Given that while I was familiar with many of the attendees but only casually so, I took the opportunity to sit back and watch social networks manifest in the flesh. Maybe it’s my training as a sociologist, but I love observing people when they don’t think they’re being observed (not as creepy as it sounds – well, just a little bit creepy, but you know you love it). I was curious about how deep some of these networks really were, and the results were interesting.

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Who gains the most from your lifestream?

Facebook is becoming the hub for all the popular social web activities

"Facebook stream hub" by javier.reyesgomez (cc-by-2.0)

“Lifestreaming” was all the rage several years ago. Services like Jaiku, Second|Brain and FriendFeed cropped up and allowed people to centralise notifications of their online activities.

Harnessing the technology of Application Programming Interfaces (or APIs) from various web services, it became possible to alert people when you uploaded a photo to Flickr, favourited a video on YouTube, left a comment on someone’s blog (particularly if they used a third party commenting system like Disqus), updated your own blog, shared a link via Google Reader, bookmarked a page on Delicious, or submitted a news story on Reddit or Digg.

Then Facebook entered the game. Facebook has a legacy of being a walled garden where all activity takes place inside the boundaries of the site, and data are kept securely locked down and inaccessible to outside services. The Facebook environment has purpose-built photo galleries, video players, event organisers and a marketplace. It also developed and launched the Facebook Platform, creating a thriving ecosystem of third party applications that further entice people to spend increasing amounts of time inside the Facebook garden – games, polls, quizzes, virtual gifts, causes and campaigns.

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Thoughts on the iPad

The new Apple iPad

The new Apple iPad

This is mainly just to get ideas out of my brain and onto a page somewhere for my future reference. It’s this or talk to my wife about it and at least on the internet I can pretend I can’t see your eyes glaze over 30 seconds into the conversation.

A new Apple product stirs up a lot of buzz, both g ood and bad, as usual. If you know nothing about the iPad, here are the technical specifications. Go ahead and read them. I’ll wait.

I’ve tried to steer clear of early opinion pieces by my trusted Mac news sources such as Daring Fireball. I want to sort out my own thoughts first and then compare and contrast them later.
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I love typography

I Love Typography logo

I have a love/hate relationship with typography.

I love how good a well designed font looks on the page or on the screen. I love how the spaces between letters mean as much as the letters themselves. I love how simple lines, artfully connected, transform graphics to glyphs, transporting language across time and space. I love how something as basic as choosing the right font can turn a dry document to a work of art. I love how something as basic as choosing the wrong font can ruin the credibility of a document and even it’s author.

I hate that I don’t understand how and why typography works. Kerning, tracking, ascenders, descenders, whitespace – it’s all a black box to me.

I have a love/hate relationship with I Love Typography. I love that it opens my eyes to new fonts and type foundries. I love that it introduces me to innovative use of type and design. I love that it publishes typography-related articles and interviews.

I hate that I can spend hours at I Love Typography and learn next to nothing about how and why fonts work. I want to be sucked in to the deeper details. I want to read 1,500 words on the finer points of kerning or why whitespace is important. I want to understand why it is that I hate Comic Sans MS so very, very much. Teach me. I want to learn.

Alas, my search for the ulitmate Online School of Type continues. In the meantime, I Love Typography is cool, too.

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Don’t blame technology for your lack of self-control

via Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies)

via Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies)

News sites. RSS feeds. Email. Microblogging. Social networks. BitTorrent. iView (or Hulu or BBC iPlayer). Time sinks, each and every one of them, providing as much or as little value to your daily existence as you are prepared to let them.

“Information overload” is a fantasy, an illusion, and deep down inside you know it, too. Continue reading

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