Organization

I continually struggle with organization issues, task lists, project lists etc. For a long time I was using Things for my project organization but there were some usability issues that annoyed me so I switched to OmniFocus and have been using that on all my devices (computer, iPad, iPhone) for slightly over a year. I like a lot of the GTD philosophy behind the program but have never really gotten myself into the mindset/habit of using either program as consistently as I probably out to. Because I haven’t been using OmniFocus much lately, even while trying to organize my studying for comprehensive exams, I had a moment of thinking that I would download and try Things again, but then I paused for a moment and realized that with the new Reminders program I can simply make a list for each project that I’m currently working on. I already use it for general tasks and a shopping list, so why not simply use the iCloud connected and built in program . . . especially if I’m not using either Things or OmniFocus to their full abilities.

So with that thought, I’ve set up several different reminder lists and have opened them up in separate windows:

Screen Shot 2012 10 28 at 11 35 31 AM

I’m not sure I’ll do any better with this system, but I don’t think I’ll do any worse. Currently I don’t have any projects that are too complex for this basic system, but is has the advantage of using the simplest tools possible to accomplish what I need, and these are tools that are built into and automatically sync between all my devices. Perhaps I will someday need a more powerful task/project management system, but until then I think I’ll try to stay with as basic a set of programs as I can.

Senator Robert Casey Co-Sponser’s the PROTECT IP Act and Gives his Reason Why

Senator Robert Casey Jr. writes:

Dear Mr. Wood:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011 and H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.

S. 968 was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy on May 12, 2011. The PROTECT IP Act would allow the Attorney General and property rights holders to take legal action against websites dedicated to copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. It would also allow the Attorney General and intellectual property holders to seek a court order to have websites engaging in piracy shut down.

The PROTECT IP Act would make the Internet more secure by empowering intellectual property rights holders to help identify and eliminate rogue websites that operate maliciously and are dedicated to violating intellectual property rights of innovative and original entities.

S. 968 was voted out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on May 26, 2011, and has been placed on the Senate calendar. I have become a co-sponsor for this act because I believe in protecting American consumers from counterfeit goods and services as well as copyright infringement. This bill will also help combat the shortage of American jobs; it would cut off international rogue websites that take American jobs as well as harm American consumers.

A similar version of this bill, H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, was introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Lamar Smith of Texas on October 26, 2011. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where hearings were held.

Many individuals are concerned about these bills violating their right to freedom of speech; this is not the intent of S. 968 or H.R. 3261. While these bills will give the Attorney General some control, they do not infringe on internet users first amendment rights for freedom of speech. Counterfeiting is illegal, but outside of America the government can do nothing to stop it. This bill will also protect American public safety. Rogue sites often sell counterfeit prescription drugs and cosmetics that harm American citizens who were misled to believe that the goods were reliable. These bills will help reduce the amount of counterfeit and illegal foreign websites that try to sell goods and services to the American public. When this legislation is voted on please be assured that I will have your views in mind.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.

If you have access to the Internet, I encourage you to visit my website, http://casey.senate.gov. I invite you to use this online office as a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office, or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.

Sincerely, Bob Casey United States Senator

After I am done with my last paper of the semester, expect me to respond to this letter in more detail and suggest, respectfully, that the Senator is full of shit when it comes to the effects that this bill could have on the American people. But let me make one point here and now:

This legislation would enable law enforcement to take down the entire tumblr.com domain due to something posted on a single blog. Yes, an entire, largely innocent online community could be punished for the actions of a tiny minority. Slate

So you know what, Senator Casey, you’re assurance that this act would have no impact on first amendment rights is utter bullshit. What’s more, as co-sponsor I am sure you’ve read the entire thing and understand this. You just hope that we don’t because then you and the 1% you work for could pull down Tumblr or Twitter whenever you wanted to do so in order to disrupt, oh I don’t know, maybe the people’s right to free speech and right to peaceful assembly?

Snow Leopard Tips & Tricks from Around the Interwebs

Here are some useful links for those who are either thinking of upgrading or have already upgraded:

Macworld has a useful video about some of the new refinements
A new website devoted to Snow Leopard Tips
Macbreak Video’s demonstration of the new Services functionality
Mac Life lists some of the new features, including the fact that iChat uses less bandwidth to deliver the same or better video then Leopard.

UPDATE:
Mac Life now has a list of 100 tips posted. I hadn’t realized until last night that scanner support has been amped up in Snow Leopard.

RSS Dependency

Hi, my name is LtL and I’m an RSS feedaholic.

Partly it’s due to the nature of my job and the fact that I sit at a computer, fairly bored and use various feeds as a distraction. Partly it’s because I use Newsgator’s feed-reader, NetNewsWire which allows me to keep my feeds synced between computer, iPhone, and web.

The problem is three-fold:

My attention span is decreasing and I find myself skimming headlines or synopsis instead of taking the time to read full articles.

Instead of reading any number of books that I keep on my iPhone (including works by Saki, whose short stories are perfect for reading when you only have a few minutes of time), I read (or skim) dozens of articles about the fabled Mac Tablet, or any number of articles from ScienceDaily that I don’t bother to really understand.

I file away hundreds of articles for future use in the “My Clippings” folder . . . and then rarely use or reference them in a productive manner.

To deal with these issues, I’m going to cull my feeds, keeping no more than 10 news feeds (the feeds I get from friends’ websites are exempt), and make a conscious effort to read the full articles instead of just skimming the headlines and pretending like I’ve learned something. I’m also going to remove NetNewsWire from my iPhone for at least 1 week to see if I really need to have continual access tech, news, and political feeds (I’m guessing I don’t). If my commute was a lengthy one, or I was going on a trip, I might want to have those updates on my phone, but let’s face it, if I’m not at home I’m at work and in both places I have a computer. If I’m out for several hours I certainly don’t need to see what TUAW has posted and I certainly don’t need to compulsively check my feeds on my iPhone when I’m in bed, or watching tv, etc.

Finally, I’m going to get rid of the 414 stories I’ve kept in the “My Clippings” folder by either saving them in a research folder on my computer, deleting them outright, or sharing them with you in a series of link posts that will be hitting the site over the next few days – so get ready for some major links lovin’ heading your way.

All of this is in service of identifying and changing habits that are not particularly useful in helping me focus and achieve my daily and weekly goals.

Wither Twitter: An Essay on the Crude Beginnings of a Post-Money Economy

Recently, Twitter has received a lot of attention in the press because of its use around the world in response to the situation in Iran. Most of that attention has been hyperbolic and often misleading about the role that social media plays in real world events. Going against some of the more extreme claims for Twitter’s role in the Iranian situation, Guarav Mishra, argues that

…Twitter was more useful as a media tool and not as an organizing tool. We will see that Twitter didn’t really change much in Iran in terms of organizing the protests, but it did play an important role in engaging the international community in the protests and focusing media attention on the protests… Link

Twitter, and social media in general, have also become targeted by marketers who are constantly looking for new and novel ways to manufacture desire and get you to buy crap. Anyone who has been on Twitter for a year or more can attest to the increase in spam that is crufting up the site.

Of course, Twitter is by no means relegated to performing just one function and, just like any kind of social space/interaction, what you get out of it is highly determined by what you put in to it. Lately I’ve been thinking about Twitter as a crude harbinger of a post-money society. Specifically, I am thinking about the concept of Whuffie as presented in Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and the way Manfred Macx lives without money in Charles Stross’s novel Accelerando.

The Wikipedia entry on Whuffie gives a good overview of Doctorow’s concept, but in a nutshell, Whuffie is a reputation based economic system, whereby a person’s wealth is tied to his/her actions and the perceptions of those actions by society. Keep in mind, Doctorow is writing about a post-scarcity society, so all the necessities of life such as food, shelter, clothing, information access, etc, are available to anyone. Poverty, in the way we understand it, does not exist. However, people being, you know, people, systems of exchange and economics so still exist. Being wealthy (as opposed to being rich) remains a desirable state. Because whuffie is based on social feedback, a world famous rock star will still be “wealthier” than a teacher. However, if you go around hurting people and being an asshole, it will be a lot harder to attain wealth than it is in a cash-based economic system where the marker of success (money) is not necessarily correlated to an individual’s personal actions and behaviors.

Doctorow writes that:

…Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn’t starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented—your personal capital with your friends and neighbors—you more accurately gauged your success. Link

Twitter is fast becoming a valid marker for a kind of celebrity “wealth” based on the number of follower’s a user might have. Thus, we have Ashton Kutcher challenging CNN in a race to get 1 million followers (currently, Kutcher is at 2,463,513 followers and CNN is at 2,025,426) and, as one might expect, the wealthiest Twitterers are some of the most famous, with Kutcher, Ellen Degeneres, Britney Spears, and Oprah leading the pack. In fact, the top 50 spots are almost all either well known organizations like CNN and Time, or well known celebrities. What is interesting, however, is looking at some of the people ranked between 48 and 100 in term of the amount of followers (and yes, I picked 48 simply so I could include Wil Wheaton):

You would certainly not be putting any of these four people in the same top 100 list as Oprah if looking at monetary wealth. Neither would their name recognition come anywhere close to Kutcher, Britney Spears or Ellen Degeneres. In that sense, Twitter as a crude form of Whuffie is limited to a relatively small and technologically wealthy demographic. However, the fact that Ashton Kutcher is only 3 times wealthier as Felicia Day on Twitter is astounding, and demonstrates the beginnings of a new kind of celebrity and wealth.

Of course, Whuffie, at least as developed by Doctorow, depends on a complete integration with the individual mind and some future form of extelligence that makes the internet and Twitter look as primitive as the supercomputers of the 50s look to us now. In addition, we still live in a money based economy, where even having hundreds of thousands of followers won’t, at the end of the day, pay your bills.

Or will it?

This brings me to Charles Stross’ novel, Accelerando and his character, the venture altruist, Manfred Macx. Macx lives in a culture where money is still used as an economic system, but he has figured out a way to get beyond that system:

Manfred has a suite at the Hotel Jan Luyken paid for by a grateful multinational consumer protection group, and an unlimited public transport pass paid for by a Scottish sambapunk band in return for services rendered. He has airline employee’s travel rights with six flag carriers despite never having worked for an airline. His bush jacket has sixty-four compact supercomputing clusters sewn into it, four per pocket, courtesy of an invisible college that wants to grow up to be the next Media Lab. His dumb clothing comes made to measure from an e-tailor in the Philippines he’s never met. Law firms handle his patent applications on a pro bono basis, and boy, does he patent a lot – although he always signs the rights over to the Free Intellect Foundation, as contributions to their obligation-free infrastructure project . . . Manfred is at the peak of his profession, which is essentially coming up with whacky but workable ideas and giving them to people who will make fortunes with them. He does this for free, gratis. In return, he has virtual immunity from the tyranny of cash; money is a symptom of poverty, after all, and Manfred never has to pay for anything. Link

Macx has a high Whuffie factor, albeit one that is still tied into a money economy since his money free life is dependent on other people’s still operating within a money system. This lifestyle, while seemingly fantastic, is becoming more and more possible to attain, even for someone whose Twitter wealth is only a mere 35,194 people: Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer is a Boston based musician and has released a number of albums as one half of The Dresden Dolls as well as her recently released, Ben Folds produced solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer She is currently ranked 932nd in Twitter rankings but she, more than anyone else I am aware of, is turning her Twitter wealth into real world capital. Instead of patenting ideas and giving them away, as Macx does in Stross’ novel, Palmer is offering up her music and herself and, in return, is generating more money than her proceeds from a major label released album. In a recent blog post, she outlines three Twitter based projects that netted her nearly $19,000 for about 10 hours worth of her time.

However, I’m even more interested in Palmer’s ability to forgo expenses such as equipment rentals and even transportation costs.

In the same blog post that she describes her money-raising events, she writes that:

and i twittered looking for a keyboard when i landed in LA, since i decided i needed to practice, and a few hours later… voila. this awesome and lovely girl sarah showed up with one in her trunk. i love my fucking life…

What really got me started thinking about Twitter as a tool for removing oneself from a cash-based economy was this series of tweets by Palmer:

going out on a limb, since the force is with me: anyone near hermosa beach want to give me a ride to hollywood at 1:30? will save cab fare. 1:54 PM Jun 24th from web

first twitter-hiking experience ACTIVATE! with @devilsnight!!! i sort of know him, so i’m not TOTALLY taking my life in my hands. 2:35 PM Jun 24th from web

….and thank you to everyone else who offered. i swear to god, i’m going to end of doing an entire twitter-hiking tour if this keeps up. 2:35 PM Jun 24th from web

And here is a video she took as she began her twitter-hiking experience:

Sure, getting a free ride isn’t that big a deal and I’m not suggesting that Amanda Palmer is in a position to stop using money altogether. But the power of Twitter coupled with Palmer’s personal Whuffie factor may very well be the humble beginnings of a post-money economy. How close is Palmer to being able to live someplace without paying rent, not having to pay money for free rehearsal space or equipment? If she, Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, or Veronica Belmont asked for a place to stay while working on a project, it seems likely that someone would offer a rarely used apartment in a city, or a vacation home in the country. If they asked to borrow a car while visiting friends in, say, Providence RI, it seems likely that someone would offer to lend one. If I happened to have a lot of airline points, more than I could use, I’d happily offer them to any number of artists that I respect and whose work has affected me. This is not charity or patronage, but a economic transaction based on reputation and an individual’s body of work. The value of allowing Wil Wheaton to write a book while staying at your summer place in Maine or giving Amanda Palmer a ride to Hollywood is, like the commercial says, priceless—at least when price is within a monetary rubric.

Twitter enables people to begin an economy of value that is measured by personal accomplishment, actions, and behavior. Palmer could not succeed at using Twitter to provide for her needs if she treated her fans poorly because a post-money economy is still one of exchange. Palmer’s success depends on these transactions being meaningful for those who take part. If she were imperious and viewed free rides to Hollywood or fans buying her autographed stuff through a web auction as her right, as something that she was owed because she was a rock star, I guarantee that her Twitter wealth would quickly mean absolutely nothing.

Will a post-money economy look exactly like the ones outlined by Doctorow or Stross? Probably not. Is Twitter going to bring down capitalism and offer everyone the opportunity to take part in a new kind of economic exchange? Certainly not. I do think, however, that Twitter offers both a glimpse of, and the possibility to experiment with, new systems of exchange between individuals that may very well presage future economic systems.

My Birthday Is Soon (hint, hint)

How cool is this:

Sparkle labs – DIY Electronics kit (video) from make magazine on Vimeo.

I definitely feel like I could stand to learn some basics about electronics considering I spend most of my life surrounded by the stuff! Plus it would be a great way to stretch my brain and help me think in new and different ways that have nothing to do with critical theory and cultural criticism.

The Future, Gay Penguins, and Other Tidbits

When we have a watch that can do video calling, eyeware that can display interactive menus based on eye movement, and signals from outer space, you know that the future is upon us.

Meanwhile, gay penguins raise a family, women are just as good at math as men, men are selfish pigs, and if you think you are a rebel and march to the beat of your own drum, so do 75% of other people.

Inspirational moments include a seven-year-old boy who suggested how to save a Mars Rover, learning for learning’s sake is easier than ever before in human history, and them pictures sure are pretty.