Presence != necessity to reciprocate

danah boyd writes about a cultural divide in instant messaging:

To most of my friends, i appear always-on. [...] There are other buddies who pop up whenever they’re on their computer (often 9-5). Then, there are those who pop up very occasionally.
The thing about members of this latter category is that they *always* want to talk when they come online.

As i’m someone who’s still struggling to grok the rules & etiquette of instant messaging this came as sort of a revelation. I think it’s time to unwire (presence == necessity to reciprocate) in my brain.
danah also writes about how people who are “less available” exert power over always-on’rs. The interesting thing here is the inevitable clash between different im cultures: if you’re an always-on’r and refuse a conversation with a “less available” peer you’re disturbing his conception of being available. Your peer will think you’re arbitrarily refusing the conversation. On the other hand, if a “less available” peer is demanding immediate attention and you’re giving in to his claims, he’s disturbing your conception of being available and you’ll feel like he’s exerting power over you, where it all basically boils down to a simple misunderstanding on not-yet clearly established social grounds. Presence-awareness really adds an interesting layer of social complexity to long distance communication, should be interesting when it arrives large-scale on cellphones.

Whatever happened to brevity in posting?

Diego Doval writes about a tool’s influence on the writing process:

I keep seeing flashes of text, sentence-bursts that I have the impulse to blog and then, inevitably, evaporate in a “nah, too short.”

Looking at widely used weblog software (wordpress, movable type) one has to acknowledge that their design and interfaces don’t encourage shorter posts.
Don’t underestimate the influence of your writing tools: since switching to marsedit as my weblog editor i find myself far more willing to post early, post often – which is a good thing in my book. It’s email-like interface has something refreshingly non-threatening to it.
I guess the rise of “one page per permalink” layouts (as opposed to “many posts per page, one anchor per post” layouts) pretty much killed the quick blogpost. Add in overwhelming sidebars and tons of distracting little widgets, and a brief sentence or two of commentary become terribly overwhelmed by the weight of the page they’re placed on. I always thought of this form of quick links as the origin and essence of weblogging and seeing it vanish is sad. As Phil Ringnalda points out, saying just enough is sometimes enough and should be encouraged by weblog software.

The much-dreaded music meme

Gibarian called me out on that music meme thing that’s making the rounds like wild. Now i’m kind of in a difficult situation here: you see, on the one hand i really don’t wanna appear unresponsive or mean or like a whiny loser (not that i’m not), but this meme thing and how the questions are framed really give me the creeps. I mean stuff like “the last CD you bought was” in a time where people don’t really buy cds anymore? And that whole “who are you going to pass this stick to” thing just reeks of a vile pyramid scheme. Besides, i suck at pitching an idea anyway.
So, instead of just playing along nicely, i’ll write a few colloquial words about my music listening habits (for the nitty gritty, see my last.fm profile). According to itunes i have about 8.1 days worth of music. I’m not really into buying cds anymore these days, trying to free myself from burdening physical possessions and moving my life to bits & bytes. Hopefully i can get rid of all my dvds one day as well, but storage prices are not quite there yet.
The last album i acquired was The Kleptones’ “From Detroit To J.A.” and i recommend you do the same. The last song i listened to was “Fuck Dub Part 1+2″ from Opera by Tosca and “A Million Brothers” by T.Raumschmiere is just coming on. As for songs that mean a lot to me, there aren’t really any. I’m no emo who wants to be “touched” by music or somesuch hogwash, i just like it as nice background noise, comparable in function to a nice piece of furniture or painting on the wall. Or as really loud background noise to freak out to. But meaning i’ve never found much in music and i hope it stays that way.
If you’d ask for my favorite tracks, however, i’d answer “My Way” by the Sex Pistols, “Boss On The Boat” by Tosca, “Bout You” by Clubtoaster feat. Arnae, “Like A Feather” by Nikka Costa and “Supa Sista” by Ursula Rucker, pretty much in that order at this point in time.

Pity Robot Co-op

I think it’s a shame what the people of robot co-op, who created 43things, have to go through (follow-up here) after salon broke the news that they were funded by amazon. I don’t know any of them personally, but they’ve built a lovely service and appear to be nice chaps. Besides, i don’t get what’s the big story here? Amazon already has 100 times more data about me than robot co-op could possibly ever get.
Addendum: Jason Kottke has a much nicer post about the whole thing.

Go buy stuff now!

You might have noticed that the euro hasn’t performed too badly over the last two years. After dropping below a meagre $0.85 in 2001, it’s now well beyond $1.2. This isn’t exactly a great revelation, but having purchased a bunch of stuff stateside recently really drove home the point: go buy stuff now! Even apple, historically slow in adapting its prices to currency changes, lowered european prices across the line in early jan. 05.
The current eur-usd exchange rate might hurt our economy badly, but being a lowly parasitic student i see no wrong in taking advantage of it as long as it lasts. As for material goods, shipping & customs can add a hefty surcharge, but then there’s a lot of stuff which is hard to come by on this side of the atlantic, so better buy now than never. Of course you can always hope for a better bang for your eurobuck, but now definitely isn’t the worst time for purchasing this software license you’ve been holding off on.

WordPress Heat Map plugin

Update 05/05/14: There’s a new dedicated projects page for the WordPress Heat Map plugin where all further development will proceed. Please refer to this page for information about this plugin in the future.

The WordPress Heat Map plugin provides you with two new template tags for displaying a heat map (aka weighted list) of your categories and your monthly archives. Activity in any given category or month can be indicated by varying font sizes, color intensities or both. There are versions of this plugin for both wordpress v1.5 and v1.2.
You can check out a live demonstration of this plugin at the archives page where it’s used for the “Activity by Month” section.
This plugin was largely inspired by Matt Kingston’s excellent Weighted Categories plugin.

Grey on grey is the new black on white

Grey on grey textI understand that #000000 on #ffffff can be a little harsh on the eyes and i use a dark shade of grey instead of pure black for larger bodies of text on this site myself, but this color scheme (grabbed at typogenerator.net) is going a wee bit too far. If you don’t want me to read what you’ve written, don’t put it on your page in the first place.
Perhaps i’m just getting old and cranky, but lately i find many sites suffering from poor legibility. The recently launched lifehacker springs to mind: They’re not as bad as the example above, but their grey-on-white text fades when viewed from anywhere but the perfect viewing angle on my display and their font is so tiny that i wonder whether their designer worked on a 72ppi screen.