I forget how nice it is to write something, see someone get inspired by a bit of it and run with it. Weblogs are still the best place to unpack and share ideas.

Matthew Crist took my post about following and attention and built unfollowing.net.

It is currently offline due (I suspect) to Twitter’s rules about automating certain actions on behalf of users. I know there are a myriad of good reasons why they do this, but hopefully they can work something out where users can easily choose to reboot their list of who they are following. I think it’s a nice way to get out from underneath what some might feel is a burden and get back to what they love about Twitter.

Personally, I don’t want to unfollow everyone. I cited Paul Ford’s example to point out he figured out what he needed to do and it worked for him. Others have let me know they also unfollowed a lot of people and I think that’s pretty cool. They’re doing it because they still care about it. I think that’s why this subject strikes a chord with others. Nothing can replace it, they just want to lower the burden and distraction.

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In an effort to reboot my reading habits and focus on longer blog and journal posts I asked friends to fork my OPML from Google Reader and then post their own.

I then wrote a script to merge all the lists into one mega-list. Removing duplicates, removing vanity search feeds, and inscrutable feeds that have disappeared or don’t really work.

Now at night instead of reading Twitter I am filtering through all 3,500+ feeds. I am in no rush. I am reading in order and if a feed looks good I keep it, if it doesn’t I unsubscribe.

Tonight I thought it’d be interesting to write another script that would pull each feed, check to see the most recent post date and then compile it and post the results in a chart. This is completely unscientific and I don’t think you can draw any conclusions, but I will say that the results were opposite of what I thought they’d be.

My prediction was that most of the feeds would be dead or last updated in 2008. Instead what I found was nearly half the feeds were still being updated.

The first bar in the following chart represents all dead feeds. 1,087 feeds were dead. They were either 404’d or the entire domain was gone. From there (starting at April 2004, consisting of one blog) each bar represents the number of feeds that have a last published date in that month and year. The bar on the far right represents feeds updated this month July 2012 (1,418 feeds).

The Chart

Again, unscientific, not at all what I expected, but fairly good results for where blogging has been for the past few years.

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To continue a theme here, my friend Anil just wrote about the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO).

People have asked me if I am going to unfollow everyone or simply quit Twitter and I’ve been replying that I don’t think that is a solution. I enjoy Twitter more than any other site (probably more than MLKSHK?) and so unfollowing would remove something that I do enjoy.

I cited Paul Ford unfollowing people because he figured out what he needed to do, but that’s not my answer.

I think Anil nailed it. I have to learn to enjoy missing out by not thinking about it as “missing out”. Consciously deciding not to check in because there are other things I want to do with my time is what I have been doing the last couple of nights.

So far it is working pretty well.

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A few years ago a web community I manage decided to have their meetup here in San Francisco. Every year the members vote on a city and so I was lucky SF won out. They’ve held them in cities like NY, Portland, Toronto, Chicago and this year it is going to be in Boston.

At one point that night the entire group decided to walk from the place where we ate to a bar about four blocks away. As these things go our group quickly turned into a long line of people walking along the street. This was a Saturday night so there was the usual crowd of bar goers and people out for dinner.

While standing at a red-light (half our group continued walking, talking, and not worrying if the group behind them would catch up) a woman also waiting to cross asked, “What is this?” She was smiling like she was about to discover something that was cool. She looked hopeful.

“You will laugh if I tell you,” I joked. I was fairly intoxicated. I couldn’t think of anything better to say.

“No, tell me. What is this?” She looked at the group. We are from all parts of the country (and world) and so we are dissimilar both physically and the way we’re dressed.

“We are all members of a web site. We met online and are now meeting in person.”

She laughed. Not even in the, “okay, I get it” way or “that’s cute” way but more like the “that is very stupid” way. She said something like, “Yup, you were right,” and continued on her way.

Every once in a while I think about that moment in the Mission when the woman was so eager to know what and who we were. Like she was missing out on something. 50+ people talking and walking in a line down the street is a compelling scene; especially in a part of SF so fixated on trends.

This weekend I went camping with my family and six other families. Not only was it a relaxing day with families with whom we had a lot in common, it was a nice time away from the internet as well. There is no cell service where we camped and I can’t imagine WiFi signals have bounced around those redwoods very often.

I’ve been posting about this a bit, but I think my time off pushed me even further along to where I was going. I won’t say “off Twitter”, but I feel like focusing more on things around the edges of Twitter.

And maybe I am just looking for examples—seeing patterns where there are none—but a few things have appeared that makes me feel like other people are feeling the same way.

Today Mule launched Evening Edition a one-page summary of the day’s news. I love so much about this, but what I love most is that it is well written and concise. Go back a few days to see how much good stuff there is to publish when you aren’t concerned about page-views and stuffing ads down your reader’s throats.

A few months ago Dave Pell launched NextDraft, a mid-day email that summarizes and links to everything worth reading in the day so far. The commentary is hilarious. The selected links are always on target.

Dustin Curtis’ Svbtle network has almost single-handedly brought blogging back. (Not that it ever went away!) But people are excited about writing and that could not make me happier.

Right now at this very moment the parade of people walking down my neighborhood on Twitter are talking about Marissa Mayer leaving Google for Yahoo!. Twitter is great for single issues like this. Jokes tossed out, pithy sentences get flung around via retweets, and ultimately everyone settles on an opinion (or two) and the parade moves on. I rarely remember who said what. It’s always a bit of a blur to me.

Paul Ford unfollowed everyone he was following. Paul’s a far more perceptive and thoughtful guy than myself. When I noticed he had unfollowed everyone (only following a few geography accounts) it stuck in my head for a few months. I even asked him about it when I saw him in person and he sort of shrugged it off. Paul figured this out months ahead of me. I want to figure it out too.

It’s taking me a while, but I feel like I am getting closer figuring out how to let the parade march by and go happily along my way.

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I’d like someone* to make an app where people can subscribe to newsletters, but they’re only mailed when you click a button that is a proxy for “I just sat down for coffee” or “I just sat on the toilet” or “I am delaying going to bed.” Perhaps it’s an iPhone app where I can pick through channels I want to subscribe to and a button that basically permits the email to be sent.

If I never press the button I am never sent the email. If I do press the button only the latest ones are sent to me.

I get nextdraft.com every morning. It usually arrives a little after noon, which is a great time because it’s usually when I am having lunch. A great time to get caught up with what’s going on. It’s nice, but some days I don’t have time for it so I don’t want it in my inbox.

* not me! Maybe you!

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I don’t know what happened this week but suddenly I am really into Kickstarter. I’ve supported a few things in the past, but never really got into it until now.

I discovered I could not be followed on Kickstarter because they rely on Facebook accounts, so I thought I’d list my recently backed projects here for fun. (kickstarter.com/profile/torrez)

Jack Cheng 'These Days'

Jack Cheng’s book “These Days” sounds so good to me. For some reason backing books is an easy decision. I love books and I love the story of self-publishing. So whether it’s fiction or a book someone thinks needs to be written I want to help them. Plus when I was a kid I wanted to design computer interfaces for movies.


Glenn Fleishman 'Crowdfunding: a Guide to What Works and Why'

Crowdfunding: a Guide to What Works and Why”. Glenn Fleishman’s writing a book about crowd funding. Duh.


blink(1), the USB RGB LED

blink(1), the USB RGB LED” Simple. Obvious. Affordable little project I can hack with. It’s so obvious yet nobody I know of has done this. I love it. I can’t wait.


Celebrated Summer

Celebrated Summer” is a book by Chris Ernest Hall. Here is his bio: “Chris Ernest Hall has written a lot, but never been published. He’s worked on a lot of failed software products. He lives with his mother and three cats. THE END.” Straight off the cover and title are a tribute to Hüsker Dü, so if I was browsing in a book store this would already be in my stack for buying. But something about that synopsis (and bio)…I can’t put my finger on it. But I want to read this EXACTLY as much as I want to help Chris publish it.

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You probably didn’t notice this, but some of my posts here recently have taken on a theme. I am working through some ideas about how I am using my time, and behind the scenes I’ve been making a few changes.

Just an example: I unfollowed almost 200 Twitter accounts in the past two days. I realized I was following a lot of noisy, repetitive, echoey accounts. Not friends, or friends following me already, but those accounts I accumulated over the past year or so that weren’t really doing me any good.

After I wrote I Give Up I started thinking about those things in my day that I give too much time to, only to be rewarded with a lack of time and no new skills or knowledge.

I missed this the first time it made the rounds, but game developer @jonbro linked to it this morning and so I spent an hour drinking coffee and enjoying it.

There are some really good gems in this that I found revelatory. Especially the part where he talks about stripping down some of the most popular types of games (both video and gambling) into their core mechanics. These are actually very boring activities dressed up in bleeding-edge graphics or temporary feelings of accomplishment.

While watching, this talk started resonating the way other things in my life are set up to appear to be enjoyable experiences but are actually pretty grueling. Twitter without the stars (favorites) and feelings of missing out looks more like an unrewarding use of time for me.

I am not ready to chuck it all and quit Twitter, there is still a lot of value in it, but I certainly have enjoyed what my purge has given me back in time saved and updates from people I actually care to listen to.

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I have to admit I was a little surprised to see Twitter re-iterate what Ryan Sarver had previously stated over a year ago. I thought everyone understood that Twitter was going to be pushing back on apps that didn’t offer unique experiences than the timeline on Twitter.com.

Essentially Twitter let developers know on Friday that they were going to be enforcing the previously stated guidance that 3rd party developers and consumers should not be making apps that essentially duplicate Twitter’s timeline stream. LinkedIn immediately complied and removed the inclusion of tweets into the LinkedIn update stream. (Which, in my opinion, actually made that stream more useful.)

Dalton Caldwell wrote a piece called “What Twitter Could Have Been” that reveals a bit about the company I didn’t know. Apparently there was a split between those who wanted to make Twitter more of a protocol and those who wanted to seize the opportunity to make it a platform for serving ads.

After reading Dalton’s piece I was reminded of another company that chose protocol over ad platform. Though “chose” is probably the wrong word. AOL pretty much stumbled around while their instant messaging service became one of several competing chat protocols. It seemed like one day all my friends were on ICQ and the next we had all migrated to AIM. But soon after it didn’t really matter what protocol you were using, everyone ran multi-protocol chat apps and we could network hop between conversations in a single interface.

AIM did make some attempts to make money from the service. They threw banner ads into the official app. I think they even charged for a version of their client. They flirted with an API but never really seemed to commit. Only until it was well over did they make an attempt at what people had been wanting all along with their new AIM app released last year—but they killed that too.

In the end AIM is just another protocol for chatting with friends. Instant messaging is my absolute favorite way to keep up with people, but I couldn’t tell you if I am talking over AOL’s wires or Google’s. The core ability to time-shift conversations is unlike any other means of communication for me. Instant messaging feels like it hit a false dead-end, where it can’t be monetized so people aren’t putting effort into innovating.

I am happy to see Twitter doesn’t want to go that route.

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