Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Hate the Eternal September

(I've been working on this post, on and off, for at least 5 years. I'm fairly certain that it hasn't been worth the wait. But I'm kind of drunk right now, and I'm also facing some self-imposed time pressure to post this before yet another September passes.)

I hate the Eternal September. It's basically the theory that USENET, and by extension, the Internet, was going to be a sort of utopian playground populated by self-actualized, empowered DIY-coder-types who would harness the power of democratized technology to build the Internet apps to control their own destiny and lead to a pre-Technological Singularity singularity where geeks ruled the world in a pure, technological, many-to-many, disintermediated meritocracy etc. etc. etc... that is, before AOL wrecked it all by unleashing the unwashed masses onto USENET, ruining everything.

(It's a mindset that I ascribe, perhaps somewhat unfairly, perhaps not, to Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital.)

Now, of course, being a self-admitted former AOL employee, one might chalk this up to pure defensiveness, even though the precipitating action predated my employment there by a few months.

However, if you've talked to me before about social media, you've probably heard my rant against that kind of revisionist technological utopianism:
There is, in fact, a communications medium that allows only particpation by the technically savvy. There are significant barriers to entry, and in fact, you have to pass an entire certification and licensing regime, and if you don't conform to norms and rules, you're out.
That medium is ham radio. And (apologies to my friends who are hams) outside of certain natural disasters and talking to spacecraft in Earth orbit, it is a medium that is essentially irrelevant to the cultural conversation.
My hypothesis is that, without the truly democratizing influence of the unsavvy, unwashed masses flooding the Internet for their celebrity gossip and movie quotes and chain e-mails and so forth, the Internet wouldn't have been nearly as influential and universal as it is now.

Now, by nature, I'm kind of an elitist, but at the same time, I think I recognize the limits of elitism and the power of populism. And I think the influence of the Internet is reflected in both of those concepts.

Anyway, that's just, like, my opinion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Things I Did Not Do This Saturday (and Why)

There were many, many interesting things going on Saturday, and I did not do any of them.

This was partially due to a work situation that popped up Friday afternoon (as they are wont to due), though I probably could have taken care of it late Friday or early Saturday... save for the extended after-work happy hour.

However, I did not end up making any clumsy drunken passes on any of my cow-orkers, so I guess I'll mark that as a win.

Here are the things I did not do:

* Global CrisisCamp Day in DC (Poor planning; not knowing when to say when)

* National Book Festival (Never been before; why start now?)

* Dulles Plane Pull (Sloth, ennui. Malaise.)

* Virgin Mobile FreeFest (Wasn't planning on going this year, anyway.)

Bonus No-Show: Fol Chen at the Black Cat last Wednesday (Uncharacteristic good judgment that actually turns out to be poor judgment.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are Blogger Meetups Still Relevant? (Fairfax County Bloggers Meetup Review)

Here's a quick post about last night's Fairfax County Blogger Meetup.

Since I started working over by Dulles (again) last year, I haven't been out to very many events, and not many DC Blogger Meetups, primarily because heading all the way into town is a pain.

I'd RSVP'ed for this month's Fairfax County Blogger Meetup; I was kind of obligated to at least show up, since they were looking for a place in Falls Church and I'd suggested Clare and Don's Beach Shack

I got there about 8:15pm (it started at 7pm), just as things were winding down, though folks did stick around a bit to chat -- the featured guest speaker was Jeff Sonderman of blog network/news site TBD, so we talked about the state of local news, blog networks, and the area. He also had TBD swag.

Additionally, attending were:

* Jill Anderson of the Lake Barcroft Blog -- she organized the event, though she's handing over group leadership duties to...

* Ellie Ashford of the Annandale VA Blog (and also a TBD blogger)

* Micheal Clark of

* Doug Francis, a Vienna Real Estate blogger

The nature of blogger meetups has changed, and to a large extent, waned. People generally don't need the same kind of support and encouragement to blog, since the tools and the norms have changed so much. Also, Facebook has largely taken over the social status broadcasting aspect of blogging, as have mobile updates and microblogging.

Still, the networking aspect still has a role, especially for single-issue/themed bloggers, so I think that blogger meetups can still be useful to people.

I very much liked the guest speaker aspect of this meetup, to provide a bit of focus and direction while still maintaining the social aspect (without a rigid agenda) -- hopefully, this continue (next month's scheduled Guest Speaker is Ellen Scott, Community Web Producer for WUSA9.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dumb Drive

Driving home last Saturday, I saw the following things on I-95:

* A "9/11 was an inside job" Truther banner hanging from an overpass near Baltimore. It made me annoyed.

* Further along in Maryland, a flight of about 6 twin-engine military cargo planes (probably C-130s) flying low and heading south, I guess for a flyover or something.

* The world's worst turn signal user (with Maryland tags, go figure). His turn signals were on continuously the entire time... he'd be in the left lane with his left blinker going and cut to the right. I don't think he realized that turn signals don't automatically cancel if you make a minor lane change. Throw in the random brake-checks and trying to deal with a NJ State Trooper that was basically pacing us and it was particularly fascinating -- I followed him (from a safe distance) for a good chunk of the southern New Jersey Turnpike.

All of these (except the Truther banner) made me wish I'd had my camera with me, instead of in the back.

Anyway, that was about it on the way down. While I was up in New Jersey, we went to get chain Tex-Mex for my Dad's birthday, and coming back, out in the distance, we saw the 9/11 tribute "Towers of Light" illuminating the clouds.

We had dim sum on Sunday.

The way home was fairly uneventful, though I almost got lost dodging a backup at the Delaware tolls -- fortunately, I had the GPS, and was familiar enough with the area to figure out where I was going.

I did hit a backup on the Beltway (some sort of accident on 270), but that did give me a chance to take a quick snap of the Mormon Temple during sunset:


I'm the Guy Who Still Buys CDs

I still buy CDs. Though usually used (and even then, not in a while). I like having the media, even if it comes in a jewel case that takes up too much room and breaks far too easily. And I like the sense of owning something tangible. I'm a product of my upbringing, where the media and the music were inextricably linked.

Anyway, I saw in the Sunday circular that Best Buy was loss-leading this week with Florence and the Machine's Lungs -- I'd had her on my watch list since hearing an NPR feature on her a few months ago, though since then, she's been pretty unavoidable (they keep using the songs in TV show promos).

I was surprised to see that Underworld had a new album out that was also being promoted -- surprised because I thought they'd broken up (they hadn't: I was thinking of Orbital, though they're back together, so I was doubly wrong.)

Anyway, it explains why they're playing the 9:30 Club next month.

So I got both albums.