Campfire, marshmallows and conversation

Many moon ago, Movers Mindset had a weekly team meeting with 5 people. It was simply a video call to socialize. Work-related discussion was allowed, but mostly we were just talking about training, sharing instagram videos, discussing news and events in our sports and its surrounds, … that sort of stuff. Just hanging out with people who have a shared interest.

From the start we knew we didn’t want to record those calls. That suddenly makes everything too permanent; You have to show up looking not-insane, and you automatically hold back some of your energy to be on the safe side. But we also felt that we were losing something by having no artifact at all. Much of what we were discussing and sharing in the team call would be of interest to others— but we didn’t want non-team-members attending our private call. Thus, no recording. The meeting gave us what we needed, and that was good enough.

Time passed. (And many great team meetings were had.)

One day, as I sat around wondering how to make the already-great calls even better, my mind drifted as it so often does. It wandered back to the 80s/90s and I thought of the seemingly endless hours I’d spent on text-based chat with people in far off places. Stuck underground in some computer lab, (for real,) I’d open a text window and visit some distant friend. It was real-time interaction, but in a restricted medium; Restricted, at the time, because that’s all we had. But still, it was magical to have real-time access to other people. It felt so much more alive than bullentin boards (the online kind), Usenet, and email. Still wondering how to make our team meetings better, I recalled this once-in-a-lifetime experience I had.

It went like this…

A group of friends had all being doing Parkour together for several years. To be clear: We found ourselves doing Parkour together, and wound up a group of friends through countless shared experiences. (Ask me in person and I’ll tell ya’ some stories.) Two of the group eventually got married. The fellow ended up deployed to Afghanistan in a intelligence role with special forces. (I may have the details wrong, sue me.) Suffice it to say: Half a world away from everyone, and while not physically in immenent danger, his day-to-day surroundings drove him to depression. One day he apparently reached the cliff’s edge and in a fit of frustration he sent a message to a dozen-or-so of us, (which included his wife,) with an enormous brain dump of his current state.

He’d sent a Facebook Messenger direct-message—apparently one of the few channels he was permitted. This wall of text arrives in my phone, with a bright and cheery *ding* I suddenly have this giant message from my good friend. I was delighted to hear from him, but all of it was news to me, and frankly none of it was good. Then, two magical things happened:

We promised that we’d do pushups immediately when he wrote to us, if he promised to never miss a day. It had a terrifically witty name—which I’m not sharing because then I’d have to tell you his first name. Every day, around 2pm my time—but it was unpredictable—*ding* and I’d end up doing pushups right in the middle of the super market. Literally. Once I got caught driving, and pulled over to the side of the road to do my pushups, and message back, done! It didn’t take us long before those of us on the dm-list were racing to see who could reply, “done!” first. Our far away friend became a sort of evil pushup assigning drill Sargeant. But there’s a twist. On day one, we all did 1 pushup. On day 2, we did 2. Then 3. Then 4… And yes, we were somewhere above 100 by the end of his deployment. (Spoiler: He returned home safely.) He repeatedly told us that every day he pretty much spent the entire day planning his daily entry in the back of his mind, and day-dreaming about making us all suffer the next number of pushups. Somehow, we small band of merry idiots managed to create a small daily dose of inspiration for our far away friend. (We all got pretty good at pushups too.)

The second piece of magic happened because we were all there for it in real time. We’d each do our pushups—as the numbers got stupid-large, you’d do them in sets and start reporting your reps in real-time. And somehow, the entire thing became performance art. Soon, we were having our friend pick an “animal of the day”, and it had to be different each day. Finished our pushups, we’d try to find and share funny photos, making up our own silly captions. We tried constantly to Rick Roll each other. We did anything we could think of to make our friend, and each other, laugh. Because we were doing this at the end of our friend’s day, he’d eventually “call it” when he was ready for sleep, and we’d all drop off. Years later, we still have in-circle nicknames for each other, and inside jokes that make me giggle even now as I’m typing.

One day, after it was over, I realized how special it had all been. I opened up Messenger on my desktop browser, and I tried to scroll back through the thousands of messages. I wanted to screenshot it all and somehow make a book to give just to those who were involved. But my browser crashed from all the images, animated GIFs, etc before I got even halfway.

Now, back to those weekly meetings I wanted to improve…

Having that story about our far away friend flash through my mind was the spark I needed! In our team meetings, I wanted to capture some of that ephemeral, asynchronous-messaging based, magic. I wanted our cool meeting to somehow also be a little bit performance art that left us with something that others could enjoy, (and even find useful.) My “campfires” ideas was born.

Campfire, marshmallows and conversation! The MM team gets together occasionally in a sort of free-form discussion that’s not quite a chat, and not quite a discussion. It’s a cross between instant chat and performance art.

Each week, as before, we had a completely ephemeral video call. But at the same time, in real time, we would all co-create a long Google Doc. That sounds silly—it is. And it’s hard to do as things move around in the document. But it feels like instant messaging. At the end of the set time, we ended the call, and I simply copy-n-pasted the contents into a Discourse thread.

We eventually stopped doing them as the team shrank. But if you want to see what they were, they’re all still there, in https://forum.moversmindset.com/c/campfires/37 — they still make me smile, and I’m so glad we did them.

What—you might wonder—makes we write all this up now?

I’m bringing back this beloved idea as: Campfires in the Podcaster Community.

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Personal space

While the software has been an essential tool for productivity, learning, and social interaction, something about being on videoconference all day seems particularly exhausting, and the term “Zoom Fatigue” caught on quickly. In this article, I focus on nonverbal overload as a potential cause for fatigue, and provide four arguments outlining how various aspects of the current Zoom interface likely lead to psychological consequences.

~ Jeremy N. Bailenson from, https://tmb.apaopen.org/pub/nonverbal-overload/release/1

This is more science-y than usual for this ‘ol blog. That’s a link to a journal article, (albeit not a peer-reviewed, “real” Journal-with-a-capital-J,) which presents an actual theory about “Zoom fatigue.” We all know it’s real, but why?

There are four parts to the theory. But the one that jumped out as glaringly obvious once I’d read it is about personal space. The distance around oneself within which another person’s presence begins to feel intimate varies among cultures. Americans like a goodly full arm’s length, and—my personal experience and opinion here—Europeans are cool with noticeably less. Regardless of the specifics, if people are in your personal space, that gets tiresome. Not “omg this is lame” tiresome, but physically tiring. (That’s apparently settled psychology and science.) Guess what? It seems the apparent size of the people on your screen triggers our brain’s perception of “how close is this person?”

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Meridian

So meta even this movie?!

Yes, I really should never be watching visual entertainment. But sometimes the day goes so insanely well, that I have to choose what to do with the last hour or so of my day: Start something else, or choose some entertainment. Why I sometimes choose entertainment is left for another day. I digress.

I watched this 10 minute long film called Meridian the other day. Film Noir. Clearly a new movie, but set in 1947 Los Angeles. Hard boiled detective and a green partner. Mysterious woman. Missing people. The ocean, freak storms. It was almost surreal—parts of it definitely were. It has a story, but no resolution. Sometimes you just have to Wikipedia…

oh! Now I get it. It is literally a digital codec test piece. Really, go read the short Wikipedia article on, Meridian (film).

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Podcast fracturing continues

Exciting times! Facebook is getting into the game of making Yet Another ™ place that podcast creators will have to jump through hoops to get their podcast shows heard.

Isn’t this all so strange? I mean, shouldn’t the content creators have the power? Shouldn’t entities looking to create a business model have to deal fairly with the creators? It’s as if we, the podcast creators, are doing something fundamentally wrong…

https://openpodcastdirectory.org/

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White-with-orange

white-with-orange, orange
white-with-green, BLUE!
white-with-blue, GREEN!
white-with-brown, brown

I have probably said that sequence—sure, aloud many times, but mostly muttering under my breath, always moving my lips—about 9 gazillion times. If you know what that is, I weep for you; and we have a support group which meets at the bar and the first round is on me.

I’m reading—literally just this moment… I have my arms stretched around the book as I type—On Writing by Stephen King. (Highly recommended by the way. In parts deeply useful, deeply touching, deeply funny, just all-around deeply.)

John Grisham, of course, knows lawyers. What you know makes you unique in some other way. Be brave. Map the enemy’s positions, come back, tell us all you know. And remember that plumbers in space is not such a bad setup for a story.

~ Stephen King from, On Writing

POW! my brain muttered “white-with-orange…” And I was yanked, much in the way I’ve yanked L I T E R A L L Y miles of wire through ceilings… hell, I know what a plenum is and why you can pull that cable through it and not this other cable. POW! “white-with-orange, orange, …” Yanked back to good old, kill-me-now I’d forgotten this and hoped I’d never remember it: T568B.

B. BEE! mind you. omgbecky don’t go all white-with-green on me to start the sequence ‘cuz that’s T568A and if you we do B on this end, but A on the punch-down blocks back in the squirrel closet we won’t even get link lights let alone have the tester [magic box of circuitry] be happy.

Never mind when they started using Category-5 cabling and I stripped off the jacket… Actually, with Cat-5—or was that 5+? or Cat-6… I need a drink—where the jacket is sort of partly heat-shrunk on so you need a special tool just to get the jacket cut before you can pull it off. And then you discover not only are the pairs of wires twisted—bro’ that’s so Cat-3, right? No, now in Cat-5 the pairs are twisted at different rates—the number of twists-per-inch is different on each of the four pairs to reduce the magnetic inductance coupling—no, I’m not making this stuff up; pay attention, kid. Oh, and they’re not only twisted, but the pair is actually in a stuck together jacket—so you need this other little tool that you shove onto the end of the pair and it has a teeny razor blade in it that cuts the wires apart like—sorry for this metaphor—like a razor cutting the skin between your fingers, as you push and spin the tool to separate the wires.

Then you can wrestle the pairs, in the right order (see above!) into the shape, like a whale tail. Eight tiny wires that you VICE-finger-pinch flat, then cut ’em all off in one go. Wizards could shoot those eight tiny wire snips into a little trash catch we had with us so we didn’t leave ’em in the ‘ol office carpet. Then—hey, don’t slip!—slide the plug on the end, and stuff it in this special tool… When you grabbed it, you had to exactly judge where to grab cuz if you’re too far from the end it’s not good, too close to the end and you can’t get the plug on fully, and you can’t move your fingers at all because it takes full-strength to pin 8 tiny wires perfectly in the right place after you cut them off in one go.

Or if you’re making up a wall-jack or a punch-down panel you can just sort of lay the wires in the v-grooves—but don’t untwist them too far, each one is a tiny radio antenna—and “punch” them down with a tool that trimmed the ends—which always managed to ping, pong, bing, bong right into anything that you couldn’t get into to retrieve them. Ever wonder why vents on computers, and everything are on the sides?

One. That’s one. This office has 150 more wall jacks, and the other ends of course, and all the wires have to be labeled cuz the rat nest has to make sense…. and then you have to test it and if one single wire isn’t perfect.

So yeah, that was fun. Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?!

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Pointing to the Internet from paper

Continuing my thinking about personal knowledge management systems, it’s time to set down my method for pointing to the things on the Internet from a paper system.

The obvious way to do this is to simply write the URL. This is also horrible. URLs are long, and worse they are often, (but not always,) case-sensitive. I’m never going to write a URL in cursive, so I’m left with printing it, and my preference is an all-caps block style, which doesn’t render lowercase characters. The solution of course is what’s called a URL shortener. Hold that thought.

But there is a bigger problem: URLs change. Or more correctly, the resource goes away or is moved. This is referred to as “link rot.” I want to create links in the context of a Slipbox, which I’m expecting to use for a few decades. All the URLs will surely rot. So I’d love to find a way to make links to URLs a little more like a reference to a book, journal, or other physical object.

First, it’s important to remember that such a link would be in the context of a slip in my Slipbox. So the “why is this interesting” will be on the slip. If, (when!) that link rots, I’ve obviously not lost what I captured on the card. What I want, in my solution for linking from paper to the Internet, is some way to capture a little bit of the actual resource—the thing the URL refers to.

Hey! I have that already, it’s my blog. I frequently quote a little and then describe what I’m linking to, and then perhaps riff off that, go deeper, or make some connection.

Recall that every slip in a Slipbox has an address. It’s a baklava-layering of letters and numbers and they are easy to read/write. So I could create redirections on my blog, (this is easy to do.) I could make “a42o17x3”, (some card’s address on which I want to link to a URL) would lead to the blog post with the actual full URL. On the card, I just leave an indication that there’s a URL—maybe that’s a litlte ↬ or something easy to write. Then, when creating the slip to capture the link (and its context/why) I go to the blog and create that redirection (and the actual blog post of course.)

I suspect you’re boggled, but to me that’s easy. But I can make it easier: Just put the slip’s address somewhere in the blog post. Now I’ve eliminated the entire redirection / URL-shortening system. (Which is digital, and therefore will eventually break or become overloaded and crash etc.) I’m already working hard to backup and protect the contents of my blog, so just add a tiny little string in the blog post; I could simply type slip:a42o17x3 and I’m done.

There’s another thing that clicks into place: All the URLs I’ve already captured on my blog might be things I want to import into the Slipbox. How on Earth would I do that? Turns out it’s easy. I already have a website serialize tool that knows how to “show me one year ago today” as a link to my own site. (and any other year-back, so each day I glance at a few previous year’s today’s posts.) This ensures I’ll soon glance at all the URLs I’ve already captured giving me the opportunity to create slips in the Slipbox.

I feel like some things are starting to come together here. ymmv. :)

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slip:1a

Push and pull

Aside: Like yesterday, there’s no conclusion here today.

A large part of books’ allure is that they never interrupt. They sit inert, exactly where you leave them, (physically or digitally,) and respond the instant you decide you want to engage. You are in total control. Eons ago, I saw the difference between books and the Internet described, overly simplistically, as “pull” versus “push” modes of information flow. That’s true for a book; a book is completely pull oriented. However, the Internet can be used in either mode. It can both “push” information at you and enable you to “pull” information towards yourself.

I became convinced that I needed to pull information towards me and ruthlessly prevent any pushing. This was a simple continuation of my love of books and reading. Reading exposed me to so many new ideas, so I expanded the trawling into the Internet, and to make room for the new things I was finding I squelched things that were being pushed at me. Over many years I began to read trade publications slowly learning which ones were just advertising vehicles and which ones contained real ideas. I joined professional organizations and read their publications. I found web sites that were things I wanted to read and dutifully kept up with them, (either by visiting regularly or by following their RSS feeds.)

I was eventually in complete control of what information I was exposed to. Nothing was being pushed at me against my will, but this became far too much to keep up with. And once the pulling becomes a habit, it’s effectively pushing. I burnt out and crashed hard. I rage-quit a number of things I had been keeping up with, and stopped visiting a swath of great web sites. I began reading physical books more, but this it was only a sort of reset. It left me back at the beginning; I’d learned a lot about how to manage my exposure to information but I was once again starved for new information. These days, I’ve renewed interested in some sort of “knowledge system” and in addition to points I made yesterday it’s also a way to manage this pull-versus-push problem.

More than half a century before blogging, Instagramming, tweeting, and the rest of today’s ever-lowering barriers of entry for publishing content, Bush laments the unmanageable scale of the recorded human experience.

~ Maria Popova from, https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/10/11/as-we-may-think-1945/

After a bit of cool perspective from history, it gets around to talking about the importance of not just categorizing and compressing information for storage—think “library” or “internet”—but the ultimate importance of being able to use the information. Spot on this topic I’ve been slowly trying to unpack.

So, thinking about a knowledge system in the context of pulling information: I currently have a lot of fresh information that I pull; I could say I’m regularly exposed to many new ends of thread. However, I also want to be able to pick a thread, (or two or three,) and to be able to continuously pull on it. My knowledge system should enable that.

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Section 230

The first [section] is definitional. … The second subsection provides direct immunity

~ US Supreme Court Justice Thomas from, https://reason.com/2020/10/13/justice-thomas-writes-in-favor-of-a-narrow-reading-of-47-u-s-c-%C2%A7-230/

Grab your favorite snack, something to take notes, and a helping of Ginko for brain power. This is an in-depth walk-through of a tiny little section… Section 230 from the dawn of the modern Web… A tale of a little section of a law that makes what you think of as “the Internet” possible.

You may also need toothpick for your eyelids, or use it as a cure for your insomnia.

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