The Future of Blogging

The Kickstarter for Ghost ended the other day and it was very, very well funded which is cool for something that’s going to be free in the future anyway. Just goes to show people will pay for something so simple as a good idea.

I’ve been spending a lot more time on the Tumblr blogs as of late and I’ve noticed they’ve started to take over the role that this blog once had – my finding and sharing cool things mixed in with my opinions and stories from real life. So I pondered: why? What’s changed?

And the solution – as best as I can come up with – is interaction. The emphasis here on the ‘inter’ bit, because it’s more than just a two way dialogue; it’s a web of people intertwining the opinions and cool things and stories from real life.

Now, like any site taken at face value, there is a lot of less than prime content. Not bad things, just noise in the signal of what I’m looking for and want. I see it as noise, but that’s the signal going to other people: the internet really is everyone trying to talk on the same radio band simultaneously. We try our best to pick out the conversation we want to hear, but it’s intrinsically intermixed with all of the others. There are times when this is very good, serendipity is at it’s maximum high here because you’re being exposed to all the things you didn’t know existed, but it’s also hard to concentrate and that means it’s harder to generate good work, then get it to the people who might like it (new readership) and the people who actually want it (loyal readership).

There’s one thing that I really, really like about Tumblr. The ever-ubiquitous “follow” button in the top right. Like something and want more of it? One button. Don’t like it anymore? One button. This is the opt-in / opt-out mechanic of the future. No RSS syndication, no emails for subscribing and unsubscribing, no bouncing all over to different sources of content. One. Button. It shows up in your feed and everyone’s happy.

The interesting thing here is signal to noise becomes a ratio not of who you follow, but of what those people are posting and re-posting. The quality of content is defined by that person’s outgoing stream, not that you’re getting unwanted incoming things. Each person, then, becomes a signal-noise ratio unto themselves, independent of each other.

Sadly, I’m not sure Tumblr is the future of blogging. It’s entrenched in it’s picture format and while there are those who use it for short and long form writing, it seems to be a minority. But we can learn from it. That follow button is such a small thing that holds so much power. There are a lot of blogs that I’d love to follow but simply don’t because there aren’t any good ways to read them outside of showing up to the site every day and checking to see if there’s something new. I realize, of course, that that’s exactly where Acrylo is sitting right now. RSS didn’t work out back then and it seems unlikely to return in any overwhelming numbers. People want an easy, inline way of following and unfollowing things.

So I appreciate what Ghost is trying to do, and it’ll likely be successful enough at it, but what we really need is a Tumblr-esque quasi social network for pure writing.

Fitbit One Review

I’ve been using the Fitbit One for just over two months now, so I think it’s finally time for a review.

My initial reaction when unboxing it was just how tiny the device is. I carry it in that little change pocket that pants have, and very occasionally use the clip if that pocket isn’t available (for example, some kinds of shorts). The marketing material says you can put it anywhere, and it’s probably true, but it just works out to have it near my hip. The carrying clip is a stiff rubber with a metal clip that feels very secure when attached to a belt or pocket edge. Both the material’s grip and it’s tight clamp combined with a ribbed texture on the end make for a fit that’s secure when in place but easy enough to take on and off when you want to. The fit of the One inside the clip is the same way: easy enough to put in and out but I trust it entirely when walking / running / biking. Considering it’s likely going to be bouncing and bobbing around, this is very good.

There’s just one button on the entire thing which is used to cycle through the various stats which include time, steps, flights of stairs climbed, distance, calories burned and a flower that indicates how much activity you’ve recently done, with the idea being you want to keep the flower in bloom across the day (it’ll slowly recede if you’re sedentary). It has a stopwatch, I think, if you hold it but honestly, I’ve never used that since I don’t run with any particular time goal or schedule.

Using your phone, tablet or computer (with the help of a tiny USB dongle) you can Bluetooth from the device to the app / browser and it’ll show you a more comprehensive dashboard of your data. This is where the device really shines and where I as a graph nerd really find it useful. Not only can I quantify my laziness, I can chart it!

You’ll see where I’m not even using the full functionality. I don’t log my food (which is a thing that works fairly well in my limited testing) so my calories in are nil and, to be fair, my calories out aren’t very accurate because I don’t log my bike commute every day either. It captures the motion of my legs still, but it counts the effort as if I were walking / running. I happen to know roughly how many calories extra the biking is worth (since I did log it a few times) and just mentally add it in rough. This brings me to my first gripe: there doesn’t appear to be a way to make an activity repeat. I know I’m going to bike to work using the same route and do it in roughly the same time every day (it seems to calculate calories using the distance you enter and your time doing it, mixed with the altitude data) – I wish I could just say “Monday -> friday, these activities (bike there, bike back) get added. Repeat weekly.” Since I’d have to manually enter every ride I quickly gave up and stopped caring that those numbers were in the official data. It should be noted that adding an activity overwrites the walking data for that time block, so it doesn’t get counted twice. Technically then, I am getting some points for biking.

You’ll also notice that I’ve given up on the sleep tracker. Except for those random, bizarre spikes (which don’t make sense since the device is likely on the bathroom countertop sitting undisturbed) it’s empty. The Fitbit One comes with a very soft wristband with a pocket for the tracker and I did track for the first month or so. It told me what I already knew: I sleep like a rock and with solid patterns for going to bed / waking up. That’s also why I stopped using the alarm clock function, which basically vibrates (very similar to a cellphone) on your wrist until you shut it off. This would be nice, I’m told, for people who sleep with other people. Since I am not one of those people, my waking routine involves significantly more sobbing and existential depression. Speaking of which, the device is water resistant and although never really stress-tested, I can imagine it would be. It’s a small, sealed unit with one small rubber button.

Also ignored: there’s a wireless scale that can sync up to the dashboard via WIFI and provide weight info. I don’t have a regular scale, so I couldn’t even input my weight manually, but it would keep track of that too if you wanted. You can also input water consumption and keep a journal of your mood, heart rate and blood pressure, glucose levels and, as mentioned above, food and non-walking activities. Food is always tricky and I’m not sure how they could have made it any better. There’s a big library of foods and you can add by searching and then telling it how much you had, in basically any measurement you can imagine. It’s pretty intelligent with knowing that one granola bar is different than one cup of granola bar etc. Unfortunately, there’s simply too many things out there. How do you log that sandwich you had at the neighborhood deli? It has sandwiches from, say, Subway or common foods from Safeway, but once you start making your own stuff and buying from non-chain stores the accuracy gets sketchy. Understandable, though. It does it’s best.

Battery life is amazing. It’s a small screen that’s rarely on, so it makes sense, but still. I haven’t really paid attention to when it gets charged, but it’d have to be every fortnight or so. Week and a half at least. The charging cable is USB and the device just clicks into it’s rubber embrace. It makes sense that the charging cable and the Bluetooth dongle are different USB devices, but it also means more clutter to have and plug in and out. The Bluetooth syncing is really cool because you never have to think about it. If you sit down at your computer, it’ll do a little sync and anytime you access your data, it’ll be there and roughly up-to-date. It’s that sort of thing that I appreciate in technology. I never have to think or worry about it, it’s never a chore or annoying. Other than having to charge it every so often, I really could just keep it in my pocket all the time and never think about the device itself again.

So after 71 days of more-or-less accurate testing (you can see in the graph I forgot to wear the tracker a few times) I’ve traveled 509 980 steps, which works out to just over 7 000 per day. You’re recommended to walk 10 000, which is alarming. I’m a fairly active person, I walk a fair bit and bike commute 30km a day. I’m usually at my desk, true, but I would have guessed I was higher. Summer’s just getting started, so I imagine hiking will bring up my average some. It’s good to know these things, and it’s a motivation to do more, but it’s equally disappointing to learn just how bad you are.

Verdict: It’s $100. I’d buy it again, easy. It’s robust and well designed in both hard and software. Does what it promises and without complaint, which makes for a boring review but is exactly why you should buy something. It’s invisible design. I might look into the new bracelet version that just came out but from what I’ve seen it’s basically the same thing with a coloured rubber band. The ability to wear the One without drawing attention to it could be useful, perhaps.

Dymaxion Map of the World on sale for Bitcoins

If you want to click a button and have a fully printed map shipped to your front door, there’s still the Society6 option. However! If you want to do a little legwork and go down to your favorite print shop to have one made for you, you could save some money.

Introducing my new sale:

Simply go here and exchange Bitcoins for the ability to download the file. The coins go to me (0.14 BTC), the high resolution lossless .jpg (2′ x 3′ @ 300 DPI) goes to you. Throw that on a flashdrive and have it printed however you want. Easy!

Now, I’m trusting you with this one. I’m giving you the printing resolution file itself and technically you have the ability to pirate it to the rest of the world, it’s true. I’m assuming you aren’t going to spit in the face of some kid who spent a lot of time making a map because, let’s face it, those are the sorts of kids who don’t have many friends. So. Don’t be a dick, and I’ll give you the ability to make derivative works for your personal printing (maybe you want it in a different colour or something? Go for it!) but tell you that it’s not cool to further sell or share it. Cool? Cool. Thank you.

Enjoy!


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