Sunday, September 25, 2011

Deleting Your Facebook Account: What Price Freedom?

The recent changes to Facebook have a lot of people's panties in a lot of bunches. This is nothing new since it happens every time Zuckerberg decides to poke his ant farm and watch us scurry about in rage or confusion. So what makes this time different? Well this time he may have pushed more people to the brink than before due to concerns over privacy, and even forcing aesthetic changes upon the masses.

Only this time there's a legitimate alternative.

Personally I've had enough of Facebook. Honestly it's nothing personal against anyone. It's not even a religious, political, or ethical issue with me. After watching Zuckerberg announce the coming changes at F8 this year I realized something that may have sunk int to others long ago but just recently dawned on me like the sun on the first day on the Genesis planet they launched Spock to. Facebook wants us to basically live our lives on Facebook. Motherzucker...

That's not me. As much as I love Google+, I'm not going to live my life there either. I'm not going to post pictures of my birth, first tooth, first zit, first girlfriend, graduation, fifth girlfriend, wedding day, honeymoon, sixth girlfriend, divorce proceedings...blah, blah, blah. I'm going to post interesting things, meeting interesting people, learn interesting things from interesting people, and be entertained. I'm going to be social.

So it's come to this for me: deleting my Facebook account. Sorry Aunt Shirley I won't be there to help you raise your second barn or earn that rare Pink Cow that gives strawberry milk on Farmville. If you want to get ahold of me CALL ME ON THE PHONE! Barring that you'll find me haunting Google+.

If it's come to this for you too and are ready to embark on the long, arduous, and frustrating journey that is Deleting Your Facebook Account, then I encourage you to read on. Be warned it's not for the faint of heart.

Thankfully there's only 5 steps...
Step One: Admitting You Have a Problem
Okay that's not actually step one, but it sounded funny in my head. Actually step one is realizing there is a big difference between "deleting" your Facebook account and "deactivating" your Facebook account. Deactivating simply says, "I'm going on a Facebook haitus. I may not be back for months but for god's sake please don't delete my information!". Once you deactivate your account you can log back in at any time and it's like you never left. Honestly I'm not exactly sure how this is different from just not coming around any more.

To delete your account you may wish to download your personal information from Facebook such as photos, contact names and email addresses, etc. Go to your Account Settings page and click the "Download a copy of your Facebook data" link to begin the process.

Step Two: Cut the Cords to Facebook
One of the features of your Facebook account is it's ability to bind itself symbiotically to  other web sites and applications. This makes it handy for you to "Like" things or log in and post comments as your Facebook-self rather than creating new accounts and identities all across the Internet. This becomes a problem when you decide you want to delete your Facebook account because these web sites and applications weren't involved in that decision so they have no clue your account login is about to go Tango Uniform. The unfortunate solution is that you must go to each of these web sites and unlink your Facebook account from that web site. I say this with all sympathy and no amount of bitter sarcasm: have fun and good luck.

Step Three: Tell Facebook to Delete Your Account
Once you've unlinked your Facebook account from all web sites and applications, and you're happy that you've got everything off Facebook that you can't stand to lose, you can give Zuckerberg the bird by following this link:

Screw you Zuckerberg!

Once you click the "Submit" button on that page you will still need to summon your Egyptian hieroglyphics training to type in the subsequent Captcha. The light of freedom will be dangled before your eyes provided you can pass one final test of strength and endurance, which brings us to Step Four.

Step Four: Stop Using Facebook
The final caveat to sending your Facebook account into oblivion is that your account will be deleted after 14 days provided there is no activity. None. Zip. Nada. Remember when you disconnected your Facebook account from all those web sites in step two? It should now become a bit clearer as to why. If you missed any, and you accidentally hit that "Like" button, or one of those apps or web sites logs you in with your Facebook account within the next 14 days, guess what? Your account gets reactivated and you get to start the whole process over again! Whee!

If you're lucky you haven't bothered to link your Facebook account to too many web sites, apps or devices (check your smart phone!). If you're not so lucky you should realize that this probably won't be the first time you'll run through this process of deleting your account. You will earn this. Like John Miller's dying words to Private Ryan....earn this.

How can we be sure we're
Step Five: Rejoice in the Warm Sunshine of Freedom
Once you've endured Zuckerberg's 14 Day Test of Willpower and Endurance, you should be free. Like a prisoner who's cell has been opened after years of confinement, your first few steps may be cautious and uncertain. Am I really free? For many people their first inclination is to go back to Facebook and try and log in to see if it was all just a horrible nightmare or if they really are free. Was that 14 "business days"? Do they count weekends and holidays? My suggestion to you? Wait a few more days just to be sure. :)

In Closing
If these steps worked for you and your Facebook account is but a fading memory, I congratulate you. Since you came to the decision on your own to delete your Facebook account and proved your determination by traversing the gauntlet of surgically removing your account from sites, apps and devices, it's safe to assume that you hopefully won't be missing it terribly. On the other hand if social networking was a big part of your life, you may go through varying degrees of withdrawals. Should you find yourself getting lured back by friends and family, just remember what you endured to break free, and invite those friends or family members out to dinner instead.

Or just give them a link to Google+.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Online Anonymity and the Reinvention of the Social Web

The recent Facebook announcements from this years F8 conference forced quite a few of us to step back and reassess our thoughts on the social web and more specifically, our individual presence on the Internet. Up to this point how we present ourselves online has been largely up to us. The way people picture us is determined by avatars or profile photos that we select. We tell people what our personal interests are through our profiles and postings. We even control our anonymity by choosing whether or not to even use our real names and ages. On the Internet we are who we want to be, or at least what we want other people to think we are.

But what if that changed?

Isn't the Internet simply an extension of society itself? The people we interact with at work, the gym, or the grocery store, are the same people we interact with on the Internet, albeit on a much larger scale. So what would happen if people were who they really are online? What if people who saw you on Facebook or Google+ were seeing the real you and not just the version you wanted to share?
Hello, my name is WickedHarleyDude53...

Think about it. We have no qualms about clearly identifying ourselves in our daily lives. Can you picture meeting someone in Starbucks and having them introduce themselves as "curlygurl89"? If we have a live connection with someone we feel some obligation, moral or otherwise, to truthfully identify ourselves. Once we lose that tangible connection through the Internet, we seem to lose that obligation as well.

Following the introduction of Google+ in June, and Mark Zuckerberg's announcements at F8, I believe the social web is moving ever slowly towards the elimination, or at least the discouragement of online anonymity. Facebook wants you to be so proud of your life story that you will willingly publish your photos, every book you read, even what you eat for dinner, online for people to see. Google+ wants you to use your real name so much that they have a Name Policy to enforce it.

Yes, the argument can be made that no social network can ever force you to share information about yourself that you don't want to, and that argument is correct. What happens though when you give a web site or application permission to post on your behalf to your profile, and you do that for a handful of other web sites or applications? Do you remember or keep a list of everyone you've ever given your name to or shared personal information with? What's the result of sharing personal information with enough web sites and applications? Two words...

Passive sharing.

Understanding those two words will bring about different reactions from different people. Those already leery or suspicious of the Internet may feel fear. Others may feel the need to simply pay closer attention to who they share information with, and still others may think, "Yes! Finally!". Understand though that the day may come when our everyday lives are so connected with our online selves that the line begins to blur. We can already meet a friend at a bar for a beer and easily let the Internet know where we are and even what we're drinking. Now imagining giving a web site permission to post this on our behalf so we don't have to. I believe that day is coming.

What do you think about the online version of you? Does it match up closely to the real you? Should it? Leave your thoughts in a comment.

I promise I won't sell them to Zuckerberg. :)


Sunday, September 18, 2011


Dark is depressing. Don't get me wrong I love dark themes as much as the next guy, but this blog was starting to feel like a reject from The Matrix. Today was particularly lazy so in the spirit of creativity I figured I'd spend some time whipping up a fancy header and brighten things up a bit around here.

That's it for now. More later. Cheers.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to Get Really Good at Computers

Computers are amazing. You know what's even more amazing than computers? People who think becoming expert users of them involves either years of professional training, being born with an oversized brain and having no social life, or a series of secret nighttime rituals involving red cloaks, candles of animal fat, caffeinated soda, and a 13-sided die.

Actually one of those is an approved method and it's not "years of professional training".

The point is that computers aren't really the scary, nerd boxes that some people think they are. So to help people overcome their misunderstandings, misgivings, and general ignorance I offer my list of tips and tricks that I've learned over the years on How to Get Really Good at Computers...

And in this hand I!
Tip #1: Realize they're not magic.   Writing a strangers name on a coin, throwing that coin down a sewer, then pulling that same coin out of your eye socket is magic. Computers are not magic. Computers are nothing more than dumb electronic appliances that literally need someone to tell them to go to sleep. They are made up of components emitting a series of electrical signals that can only be generated by you or some other upright-walking bi-pedal humanoid. Actually I take that back because I'm pretty sure mice can operate computers.

Computers is HARD!
Tip #2: Want to Learn. Probably the most important tip of all. I have no idea why I stuck the most important tip as number 2. Anyways, if you don't want to learn how to use a computer you will never get good at it. Those of you who never wanted to learn and think you're good at them should realize that you aren't as good at computers as you think you are. No one gets really good at anything unless you want to learn it. And that's okay. There's no shame in learning just enough about computers to do your job, stalk someone on Facebook, or do your taxes online.

This guy's still stuck on MySpace
Tip #3: Become One With the Internet.    This one's probably going to freak a lot of you out, but don't worry I mainly named it this for effect. I'm not saying quit your job to surf all day, or lock yourself in your room with your laptop until you forget what grass is. What I am saying is that you should become intimately, and I may regret using that word, familiar with the workings of the Internet. You should care to understand what that weird "http://" actually means, or how a web site actually works. Your inner nerd eats that crap for breakfast.

Trust me. Most nerds are not this sexy.
Tip #4: Give Up Being Cool. For most of you this one's a no-brainer since already you're about as cool as the guy on the left. Those of you who actually care about your image or what other people think about you may want to consider becoming something other than Really Good at Computers. Are there "cool" nerds? Sure. Are they Really Good at Computers? Nope. Do they employ other non-cool nerds who are Really Good at Computers? Most likely. It's a cruel reality. Embrace it. Take heart in knowing that once you get tired of being a brainy circus monkey for your cool friends who can't even remember what their email address is, the nerd community is waiting for you in their Utilikilts with open arms.

Hopefully those few nuggets of seasoned, well-aged wisdom will help you to to be less intimidated by computers, interested in learning more about computers, and possibly even mildly attracted to Bill Gates.

Peace out.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: Within and Without by Washed Out

The music is even better than the
album cover.
Chillwave. Synthpop. Lo-fi. The jury seems to still be in deliberations on the official genre for this stuff. I'm sticking with Chillwave because I like the sound of it and it's pretty much what I do when I listen to is. Chill. Okay I don't wave.

I'll admit I'm pretty new to this genre of music, but what I've heard so far I like. And Washed Out (aka Ernest Greene) is at the top of my list. His latest effort Within and Without sets the bar high enough to earn a coveted spot on my "Albums You Should Just Buy Without Even Hearing Any Songs First" list.

As a die-hard fan of Ernest's previous album Life of Leisure, I don't feel any of the tracks on the latest album match the vibe and energy of New Theory (best track off Life of Leisure in my opinion), but the album is solid sonically, diverse, and should please any chillwave fan and likely make a few new ones.

Bust out your credit card and head over to iTunes.


Dear God, Make Me Creative

I grew up loving art. I used to draw and write and do all sorts of other creativish things that creative type people did. Yes that included being viewed by others as odd and occasionally getting caught picking my nose in public, but I digress...

Time passed, I grew up, discovered beer, did a stint in the Navy, got married, had three amazingly beautiful children, got a job as a sysadmin, got old, and here I sit. Gone are the days of artistic creativity that fueled my young heart and mind. Now as I enter into the late summer/early autumn of life I find myself longing for those days when creativity came somewhat naturally and gave life a little more meaning.

The problem is I've forgotten how.

Somewhere between the rigid, rule-dominated structure of the US Navy, the rigid, rule-dominated structure of marriage (I'll pay for that one later I'm sure), and the rigid, rule-based structure of computer administration, I lost sight of the...not-rigid, non-rule-based structure (see what I mean?!?!) of creative thought and artistic interpretation.

I want it back. Bad.

There's something soul-freeing about being creative. It's not about creating something that everyone else loves and showers you with praise for. No it's about digging deep inside and finding that expressive part of yourself and channeling it outward in words, drawings, paintings, whatever. At least that's what all my unemployed artsy friends tell me. :\

I've spent the last few months reading design blogs on the Interwebs and the number one thing that I learned from all that time what something that I already knew...

I. Am. Not. Very. Creative.

God it's depressing to see the sheer unbridled talent of others stampeding like a herd of sweaty, wild stallions across the span of the Internet. Don't get me wrong, it's amazing to see. The talent of others is a sight to behold. The only problem is THATIWANTTOBETHATTALENTEDNOW!!!

In the end I know that you can't force creativity. It's not like changing oil in your car, or mowing your lawn, or searching the Internet for the recipe to the perfect Rainbow Cake (don't ask). You can do things to nurture your creativity like read design blogs and hang out with uber-cool creative types, but ultimately you can't just force it. Yes there are some people that are just naturally creative and from which creativity just flows...naturally, but those are people that I hate so I don't talk about them.

What have I *really* learned so far? Don't let your passion fade to the point where you can't find it again. Find what gives your soul meaning and don't let go of it. Even if it's just a hobby on weekends. Don't let yourself get buried under a mountain of spirit-sucking routine.

So my journey continues. As fleeting moments of creativity come I'll try and post them here. Not for you of course...for me. Okay maybe a little bit for you too.


P.S. Actually I love you naturally-creative types. Jealous rage love, but love nonetheless.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Captain's Log: Stardate 65176.4

This is painful. There are so many things in life where the first time you do it is awkward. Riding a bike, kissing a girl/boy, peeing your pants in school, bumping into your pastor at the strip club...the list goes on.

Add "writing your first blog post" to that list.

A blog is a strange thing. On one hand it's personal. A collection of your own musings, witticisms, diatribes. It can be a therapeutic and revealing way to explore your inner self. Okay that last part is pretty much crap but you get the point. On the other hand you can't help but want to provide entertainment value or some other redeeming qualities in your posts, otherwise it's basically publishing an online diary and let's face it, most of us just aren't interesting enough that the Internet would tune in daily to see what earth-shaking or hilarious adventures are consuming our lives.

So how do you start? It's like showing up at the worlds biggest party and wondering how to get people to notice that you just walked in the room ever so fashionably late but with oh so much to offer that everyone should be crapping their pants at the thought of not hearing every bloody word that you say! There are proven methods to reach this goal, but unfortunately for me they all involve a careful balance of beautiful, well-planned genetics, fame in television, or movies, and leaked sex tapes.

So the rest of us hideously deformed, socially invisible blogger wanna-be's are left to wallow in angst and frustration over how to launch our killer blog. Do we spend days crafting an epic post worth of inclusion in the annals of Internet history? Do we type a simple "Yo. This is my blog. Check it...Yo." just to get it over with? Do we abandon our creatively written hopes entirely and resign ourselves to a life in sales or accounting or.....I.T.? I wish I knew the answer.

I guess all this is to say that like so many things, the first blog post is always the hardest. Everything afterwards is trivial by comparison. This blog will be like so many others. Personal and self-absorbed at times. Hopefully witty, informative, therapeutic and entertaining at others. I don't know which direction or how long it will go.

But at least I got my first post out of the way.