Links + Commentary

This is @xAbhishek's notebook.

How I Use Twitter

Twitter is my leading content discovery tool. I typically follow a very small set of people on my main timeline, and like to keep my feed as noise-free as possible. The reasons I follow someone are varied: maybe I like what they are saying, I value their opinion, or I share the same reservations they do. I think I like the fact that Twitter has always allowed me to choose how I experience it.

People publish content through many mediums online. I like when people are succinct and make their point through as few tweets as possible. As an example, egalitarianism is a subject I care about very deeply. If you care about it, I would probably agree with you in a real conversation. I might even follow you on Twitter. As long as it does no harm to the quality of my feed. When there is a high frequency of posts with the same views about the same subject, it hurts my experience of gaining valuable information. Even if these are views I actually agree with, the fact that it causes delays in scrolling because of redundant content will cause me to unfollow that person. I also like that Twitter does not enforce that you follow someone who follows you.

At the same time, there are people who I respect for their opinions on very specific subjects. In my main timeline, there is no room for them because they appear innately noisy. These include designers, journalists, evangelists, and just about anyone whose opinion I might consider important through very specific events where I consider them subject experts. All the Twitter clients I use allow me to use lists as alternate timelines. I follow them through one of my many lists:

If there are events where I do not want spoilers, I try to filter my feed by muting tweets with certain keywords:

If someone posts something I find controversial, that I agree or disagree with, I like to see if and how their followers responded to them:

If I want to ask someone a question that might seem ridiculous, offend someone else or feel too personal, I use Direct Messages or email.

Favorites are Tweets I can get to easily in the future. I do revisit them to ask: “Is this still cool?” or “Does this still matter to me?” to see if they can still remain in that section.

In general, I like to follow people for constructive pieces of information and unfollow those who talk about subjects without sufficient knowledge about them. I might follow someone for their thoughts on a specific business, but end up unfollowing them when I read baseless and unwarranted criticism against a competitor. I care about technology enough to have a clear picture from all sides. Knowing that the people I follow might influence my opinion very easily, I try to weed out those who like to think that the path they follow is the only one that should exist. It is very easy for one to predict when a harsh generalization is actually a single person’s opinion. When evident, it is unacceptable for them to be on my feed. Having an opinion is also very different from projecting it in a hateful tone.

Poorly Drafted

People often set milestones while developing software, and try hard to meet targets to ship version 1.0 quickly. The process while predictable, often takes more time than one would like. These days it is even more true, where we want to ensure we iron out bugs, not just in the functionality but also in the user experience. I have worked with teams where we sit together for UX bug bashes, where each member on the team identifies issues that others might have missed in order to speed up the process. At a certain point, we stop because it is more important for us to ship than to achieve perfection. Software updates are our way of buying time to go through our entire To-Do list without affecting release cycles.

I wish we could follow such cycles while writing online or tweeting. I sit down frequently to write about topics that engage me, including in the form of long blog posts. But I do not push it out immediately, thinking the quality of writing could benefit from me sitting on it for a while. Even if only after a few hours, the topic seems irrelevant and not something I think people would care about any more. I then regret not publishing it sooner, because it would still have made sense in the original context. A good example of something I might not have published today was my post on designing consumer wearables. Everything I wrote the day I published it has been said, retweeted, indexed and archived by a hundred others. I am glad it is out, because it made sense in that context. Even after publishing it, I made corrections to it over the next couple of weeks, making it sound more sensible.

I have 14 other posts in my drafts section. One of the posts I wrote two years ago is about the kind of toys I grew up with, which shaped my likes and dislikes, enjoying my first Lego set more than the cricket bat bought around the same time, and the different forms of musical training I received among ones I actually aligned with. I could hit the publish button, but the writing style does not gel well with my present-day persona. It seems very poorly drafted, though extremely accurate. I don’t think I have the inclination to write it again, but it just speaks of how maturity actually reduces the freedoms one used to enjoy previously. The freedom to not be worried about being judged in any way but a reflection of one’s own perceived image. The commentary about present generation internet use and its infinite memory, got me to write this. A search box is now a window that reveals all. I find it fair to be worried about how one’s identity is indexed. Algorithms that favor relevance do not order results from least to most embarrassing. Sometimes you don’t realize that your marks can have repercussions until after they leave stains that cannot be washed away. There are some courts that want to give you a second chance. I wonder if a person wants to risk waiting to be given that chance. Because everything is not as easily forgotten. Even as the internet may forget, it could leave an impression on the people who matter to you. You made a crude remark, or a silly joke that you had not thought could have meant any harm to anyone. Present culture might even accept it, but it is extremely likely that it becomes taboo and demeaning to a very vocal group tomorrow. Perhaps this paranoia is extreme, but I do believe there are cases where free speech may in fact diminish the quality of one’s life in the future. I don’t intend to restrict myself in the way that George Orwell’s Thought Police would have liked. This is not weakness because you are saving yourself, but strength in that it might affect other lives you are connected with.

Looks like I’m done with grad school. At least, for the time being.

Trends Worth Following

So much respect for Christopher Nolan who has it exactly right. He knows not to rely on gimmicks:

There is obviously nothing wrong in following trends. We would be lying if we said we did not. But we have objects and artifacts around us that we still like to associate ourselves with. We recognize work that is still cool. Maybe they remain timeless because they do not let a trend be their sole identity.