I Think I'm Out of This

This might just be another brain fart and/or a moment of madness (maybe even sadness?), but considering what’s going on in this world, the products Apple builds and the audience they are built for… I think I’m backing out of this business. When I look around me, when I read the news or watch reports on TV, I see a degressive world in pain with problems getting worse each day. I just can’t reconcile all of this with my conscience. Sitting here, building meaningless stuff without the purpose to at least try to improve even small things in this world. I’m not the one saving the world, but I can maybe help a little. Everyone can construct a meaning in what they do. But I don’t want to construct it, I want to actually do something more meaningful.

Apple has all the money in the world, and I acknowledge that they might be one of the few companies that at least try to do things more conscious and sustainable. But that’s not enough. The actions they take don’t help the world as a whole. Yes, they build a watch that seems to save lives and makes people live healthier. And I’d argue that this is the most important product they offer at the moment. All their products are great in some way, and I still think they’re the best in what they do. I don’t condemn them for their work. But the way their products are marketed and to whom… there are so many features I don’t think anyone really needs. Those resources (time, money, effort, ideas…) could be spent to make the world a better place to live for our children. Are lots of cameras on the back of a telephone saving our climate? Probably not. Are workers in Asia suffering because some rich kid of Instagram makes money by taking stupid selfies with an insanely expensive electronic device? Probably yes. Do I want to build productivity apps for rich people to squeeze another minute a day out of their precious time they need to optimize themselves, or do I try to create something that actually helps for real?

Times are changing, the world is changing, I am changing. And I need to put my energy in something more worthwhile. Whatever that may be. At least at this moment I don’t see myself in this ecosystem anymore.

The Problem of Leaving Facebook

Here’s a controversial thought: social media isn’t all too bad! There’s lots of talk about how bad different social media services are these days. Twitter supports harassment, Nazis and some weirdo called „Trump“. Facebook collects every tiny bit of your life and sells it to the devil, and then there’s Google+ (wait… what?!). Everybody knows that the way these social networks evolved during the last decade is a disaster for all the known and obvious reasons that were already discussed everywhere and all the time.

But here’s the thing: social networks used to bring people together. There was a time where collecting data and selling it, was not an issue. Yes, we were blind and didn’t really know what’s going on until it was too late, but it connected people in a way that we didn’t know before. I’m going to focus on Facebook here, because it is a real pain point for me and Twitter is easily replaceable (see Micro.blog for example).

When I started to use Facebook back in 2006 it was a great place to be. I studied abroad during that time and Facebook was the way to stay in touch with the ones who went back home, or to organize the weekly (ok, daily) party with your friends. People shared photos of what they were doing, checked into places they traveled to, friends wrote you updates about what’s going on in their lives. Yes, there was the obligatory „Poopin’!“ post every once in a while, but in general – at least to me – it was a really great experience.

Fast forward 12 years. What’s the experience today at Facebook? Hardly anyone of my friends posts anything anymore. I see an infinite amount of updates from sports teams, music groups or talk shows. There’s creepy ads all over the place. The timeline is no timeline anymore… posts from a week ago are mixed with ones from today. I never know whether someone actually posted something, or whether I missed it because the AI thinks it knows better than me what I want to see.

Yes, Facebook, right now I want to see a post of my soccer team asking for fan support in this really important game yesterday, but please to not show me how the team reacted to the fact that they won… yesterday.

It’s not fun anymore, and the staying in touch part is also not that apparent since quite some time. The part of Facebook with actual people sharing more or less important things of their life has long vanished. Almost nobody ever does that anymore, and this is sad. It was a great way to stay in contact and this is gone now. I don’t need Facebook anymore. I don’t want Facebook anymore. I want to own my stuff and I don’t want it to be exploited in all possible ways, like it is right now. But what’s the solution? What should I share, where, when and why? Do I really want to share everything publicly? Spoiler alert: I don’t. But what are the options then? Let’s have a look at my web-presence at the moment:

  • I have this blog, where I want to publicly write longer pieces like this one
    • I’m on micro.blog where I publicly post shorter snippets to my own domain at hutaffe.blog and which replaces Twitter for me
    • I’m on Twitter, but who cares
    • I’m on Google+… seriously… I still think this is hilarious!
    • I’m on Facebook where I share more ore less private stuff with my friends
    • No, I’m not really on Instagram. (The way their „timeline“ is sorted is an abomination even worse than Twitter)

Let’s go through this list: A blog is public. To everyone. Everything I post here is accessible to anyone on the interwebs. Whatever is posted here or on micro.blog needs to be polished in some way and put me in a certain light. (I wrote about my rules in a previous post). For the things I share on Facebook I don‘t necessarily want that! Sharing most of the photos I‘d like to share is impossible on a public place like my blog. I don’t want the whole world to be able to see important parts of my life. Why should they care? I can express my thoughts, ideas and opinions freely on the web. Everyone can read it (sorry about that!). But photos of my daughter? No.

When sharing private content, owning it is even more important. When sharing my content on Facebook, it gets dumped into a black hole of algorithms with the only goal to squeeze every little piece of information out of my life and sell it to some company. I want to post all this stuff to my blog, where I decide what happens with the data and where I decide who is going to see it.

I want to keep my privacy and the privacy of the ones that are visible on my pictures or tagged locations. I like the principal idea of Facebook. I like the principal idea of Twitter. And I like the principal idea of blogging and microblogging. Micro.blog is Twitter’s microblogging, social network and normal blogging combined. I love the open idea and implementation of the service and I will continue to use it because it‘s everything that was missing on Twitter and what was in parts forgotten with blogging. What I‘m missing is the privacy aspect. There needs to be a way to have a blog, yet keep parts of it private to friends. Without the hassle of password protection or special RSS feeds that nobody understands. The simplicity and privacy of Facebook – I realize the controversy, but I mean the sharing part, not the creepy corporate part. The stuff that brought me and my friends to this platform more than 10 years ago, combined with the openness and ownership of a public blog.

I want my friends from far away, on the other side of the world, 12 time zones ahead of me, to be part of my life and vice versa. I don’t necessarily want to bother them on iMessage or make them join a Slack team or whatever nerdy tools and services might fit. I could make them users on my site or offer an email newsletter or something similar. But… seriously? Nobody will jump through these hoops just to get a “Poopin’“ from me every now and then.

A mixture of both worlds… The openness and inherent values of Micro.blog, combined with a privacy control and social features like we have on Facebook. Facebook is easy. Of course they sell the hell out of my information. But the short sighted value is that only the people I want are able to see what I share with them. If I apply for a job, I control what the recruiter sees on my Facebook profile: nothing. What will they see on my public blog? Probably a curated list of posts that I publish here in order to sell me. What will friends see on my public blog? The same; and less. How do I make sure to stay in contact with my friends in Japan or California? How will I know what’s going on in their lives? Public blogs are the wrong place for this. It needs privacy! I want to share my life with them on my site, but I want only them to see it.

At the moment my friends don’t get many updates of my life, because I don’t post any relevant information on Facebook anymore. Whether or not they actually would want any updates is a totally different issue, of course 😉 And this blog is not Facebook. At the moment they could follow me on Micro.blog or subscribe to my RSS feed. But they wouldn’t know or understand what that means and they won‘t find anything interesting to them here in that regards, because I won’t share photos of my daughter with the public or the location of the concert I’m going to and with whom I‘m there. Of course some of this stuff is stupid, I know that. But that’s everyday information friends like to see and which I would be happy to see again from them. And that’s the stuff I like to share with them because it makes us keep in touch and get back to each other every once in a while and not forget about each other.

I should be able to have a blog, be it a separate one like this site or Micro.blog, and still be able to have certain posts or even all of it only accessible to my friends. Whether Facebook is the authenticator to decide who is my friend and who’s not is a secondary issue at first. A more open service would be better of course, but people are on Facebook and this is not going to change in the near future, let’s face the sad truth. Since Facebook is not going to vanish, and I have my list of friends there, it might be an option – until something better comes along – to use this connection to define who’s going to see my private stuff on my website. If someone’s logged into Facebook, I would need to check if he or she is on my friend list. I doubt that this is technically possible, because this could probably be exploited in many bad ways, but this is what I would need at the moment.

I’d rather have all this also built on a more open platform, leaving Facebook out of the game. But let’s be honest: who’s going to switch anyways. We can all leave Facebook and Twitter for noble reasons because the platforms are creepy, dishonest and horrible places to spend time on and to publish content to. We can leave them behind and get our news and open discussions elsewhere. But how will I be able to see the holiday pictures from the beach of my Japanese friends? How will I see photos of my friend’s newborn on the other side of the world? Despite Instagram et.al. most people do not share these personal things there. They share it on Facebook, because there is at least some control over who sees what and keeping it private, and it’s pretty easy to set this up. On a larger scale, basically nobody is going to post intimate stuff like this to the public. At least I know that I don’t want to. That’s also the reason why there will never ever be a photo of my daughter or friends and family or even myself posted on this blog. If there is a photo, it’s totally anonymous. It could be anyone in the picture. It might not even be me. Because it’s too public. To me, this is sensitive information and nobody I do not know personally has any right to see it, especially not the whole internet. I’m not a public person… what I share publicly is curated and (more or less) thought through.

I want to leave Facebook behind. But at the moment I can’t if I want to stay in contact with my friends. I have no real solution to this… but for me, this has to be the next step. I better make sure to have all the eMail addresses and phone numbers I need in my address book, because Facebook has no future for me no matter what. People were in contact before Facebook, so I’m pretty sure the world will move on without it and I will be able to catch up with everyone in some other form, just like generations before us did 🙃

Edit

After I wrote all this I learned about LiveJournal. I think I never heard of this before and from what I can tell it’s not that popular outside of Russia anymore. It seems like it has elements of what I’d like to have though. A blog with a detailed privacy mechanism. But what’s missing here as well is the openness. It’s a closed platform, my content is not where I want it to be: on my server.

And again… Facebook friends are at Facebook and won’t go anywhere else. The question is whether this will ever change and if it does, what will happen? I doubt that everyone will move in the same direction and if so, we’re moving the same problem from one platform to another. Where everybody will move needs to be part of the open web, yet be extremely easy and also support privacy mechanisms.

Should you know about some other service or tool that you think would help me with this, please tell me! There might be something like LiveJournal that I just did not see yet! You can fine me here:  @hutaffe on micro.blog 

Parental Leave

I know it‘s a privilege here in Germany to be able to take some - or even a lot of - time off of work to take care of your children. It‘s even more privileged to receive money while not working during that time. It’s also not very common to be able to get a paid parental leave if you’re the father. So, we‘re lucky to live in a country with great social-, health- and family-care!

I also am lucky to work for a company that fully supports parental leaves and which is able to absorb a colleague who’s not available for an extended period of time. I know other fathers working for smaller companies are facing heavy resistance to this from their colleagues and bosses. So again, I‘m lucky!

My daughter is just over one year old now and I am back to work from parental leave for the second time. I took two months off earlier this year when we went on a long trip to Canada. Of course I don‘t think that she will remember any of it, but I think it’s important to show her the world as early as possible. She will learn from early on that the world is huge, that there are lots of different people and ways of living. That there is more than just our small town where we live with the forest next door where we often take her for a walk. She can only benefit from it and for us as a family it was a great way to spend as much time as possible together, to grow and to learn our way of parenting and handling the day-to-day business of it. We sure had a great time and I wouldn’t want to miss any of it.

For the last two months the situation was different… After more than ten months at home, my partner started working again and I was alone with our daughter most of the day until she came home from work. That’s a totally different experience! Suddenly I was the responsible person. I needed to prepare the food and make sure there’s some action happening. Everything that needed to be done and makes the baby happy. I did this before as well of course, but now it was my fulltime job to be a dad. It‘s a hard job. I would even say it‘s much harder than my normal day job and I have the greatest respect for everyone who stays at home for several years to take care of the kids.

But it‘s also much more gratifying than anything else I‘ve done during my worklife! It‘s great! Being there for this cute little thing day in and day out. You learn a lot during that time… about the baby, about you, about your family. You learn that there are things way more important than showing up in the office every morning. Of course it is nerve wracking at times and I do need a break from time to time, but things have changed now. It’s a totally different connection.

On my second day back at work I had a conference call with colleagues in California. Naturally it was pretty late for me already when I left the office and when I came back home, my daughter was already in bed, ready to sleep. It was rough! She was around me nearly 24 hours for the last two months, and now all of a sudden I barely saw her the whole day. It was heartbreaking.

I realize this is a mediocre summary of what I will remember as being one of the best times of my life, but it really was a great experience and I’m very grateful that I had this opportunity. I would recommend every parent to do the same. It will help you, your kid, your partner and all of you as a family. Spend as much time as possible with your child! Take that time and don’t care about the money. I had my four months of parental leave and I wouldn’t mind to take another four. But we live in a time where it is hard for a family to live on one salary. Although I can imagine to regret this in a few blinks of an eye when she will be 18 and living far away from me to go to university. Time flies… I have no idea how the last year went by so quickly… and it scares me.

Star Trek: Discovery

I got to see the first couple of minutes of the new Star Trek: Discovery series. I didn’t hear a lot about it up until now, but I also wasn’t really searching for reviews or opinions. I was a huge fan of Star Trek when I was a bit younger. Deep Space Nine will forever be special to me.

Follow Up: "Why I Failed at Blogging"

It hasn’t been too long until I got the first couple of responses to my last post! First of all it’s great to see people reacting to what I write. It makes me think I’m on the right path here. (Shush if you don’t think so 😉)

Why I Failed at Blogging

One of the biggest purposes of my blog is to improve my writing and find out in which direction I should go with it. Now that I have a vague idea of some rules I like to set for myself and this site, I wondered how I could make it work this time.

A Blog Definition

You do what? What is blogging? But... Why? I don‘t get it.

I had some conversations like this in the past. “Normal people“ don‘t understand why anybody would take a relatively large amount of time to write about whatever and put it somewhere on the internet, exposing themselves, giving away a lot of private information. Should I try to explain it to them? Would they understand? I know about all the good reasons for blogs, microblogs, adding and owning content etc. But do normal people understand or even care? I’m not sure about that. I’m sure they should know about it. But there’s a lot of work to do in the future and I’m not sure I’m the right person to preach it. I’ll try my best.

But what am I actually doing here? What do I write about and why? I also don’t get it. But it’s a journey. I like to write, I want to become better at it and there’s no further explanation needed for me. It’s fun. You have your hobbies, I have mine.

Before I went and set up this new site I thought about these questions… What am I writing, why and how? And to some extend I am like Gary the Privacy Concern Clown 🤡 here. I hesitate to put out very opinionated texts. I did not write anything of substance at all in probably two years. I removed all content from all my domains. I basically quit Twitter, deleting roughly 6000 tweets and now more or less only use it to be up to date on the latest Trump-Outrage of the day. I rarely post to Facebook anymore, that whole platform is only corporate-, sports- or ad-related content; I can’t find anything posted by my “friends“ there since a very long time. In short: I don‘t want the whole world to know too much about me. I don‘t want search engines to link to my sites. I don‘t want crawlers to save everything I put out there for eternity. What I would like is for “normal people“ to read what I write, but still maintain some sort of privacy.

But how I get people to read it then? I don‘t know. We’ll see. It’s still new around here. Maybe it’s even better if nobody notices it. And in the end it all comes down to one thing: I want to write. If people read it, great! If they like it, even better! If nobody sees it, also ok for me (at least for now). I do this for myself, not to become famous or anything.

Staying private yet putting stuff out there is a bit of a contradiction. But I made my experiences in the past. I read some of my old stuff of my old blog(s). I’m still proud of some posts, but some are hard to read. It’s painful in a way. Therefore I need rules and I need to take care of them.

But what should I write about then? Aren’t blogs opinionated? Maybe a tech blog? Some software development stuff, How-Tos, Intros and Guides? This might help to reach more people, but it’s a very narrow field and it’s a lot of work. I did try some of these out, and it’s really time consuming. It has to be more or less the one single topic of the whole blog, otherwise it’s just not worth it. So… for this and many other reasons… this will not be a tech and/or development blog. There might be the occasional comment on something, but then it’s just a side note.

I’m not a Link-Blog person. Commenting on other blogs is also not my thing. Although I really do enjoy others commenting on other people’s blog posts. I just don’t think that I can add much value there. I’m also not sure how much value I can add to my own posts though. I like to compose longer texts, but this is a lot of work and it takes time for refinement. On one hand this is a problem, on the other hand this is also an area for improvement. And again… this is what this is all about.

If you haven‘t noticed: I‘m German. I‘m pretty sure all of my writing is full of grammatical errors and misspellings. Please be kind… I do my best and hope at least some of it makes sense 😉 I try to stay English, but some things are probably irrelevant for non-Germans or just too hard for me to translate and formulate, so there might be the occasional German text. Beware! It will be loud, cruel and horrific! 😉

Considering all this I came to these conclusions:

  • Stay positive! It’s a rant? It doesn’t belong here.
  • Stay away from very opinionated posts. I know I will break this rule with one of the next posts already, but I don’t want this to get out of control. If it is one of those posts, there has to be a good reason for it.
  • It’s not about a single topic. I will explore what I want to write about and don’t think too much about it.
  • Short posts will stay over at Micro.blog. Longer posts will be put here. I enjoy writing, I want to get better. This blog is all about that.
  • It’s for fun, not work.
  • I don’t care about stats.

That’s my definition of my new blog. But if anyone asks me why I do this, I’ll just say: „Why not?“

Lagom

Ever since I learned the Swedish language for my time at a university in this beautiful country, there was one word that especially spoke to me. It probably is the word that describes the Swedish culture the best. It’s not just a word… it’s a way of life, a way of thinking. I somehow feel connected to it.

Every Blog Needs a Start…

… and „the first page is profound“ (Merlin Mann)