Archives for category: Feelin' Geeky

There was a lovely young couple living upstairs for the first few years I was here, and by lovely I mean when they walked by you could only stand there gaping in wonder at their sheer splendor (especially in combination). One Brazilian and the other Welsh, they had both undoubtedly been models at some point.

My neighbors were high-fashion photographers at the beginning of their careers, with a full studio set up in their apartment (probably illegally), and there were always gorgeous, exotic six-foot-tall stick girls knocking on our door. Vincent would answer and smile and point to the sky to indicate they were one floor short (no names or numbers on our apartment doors in typically efficient French fashion).

One day the Perfections and I were chatting on the sidewalk and they told me that fashion magazines, even the big ones, didn’t want to pay them for their work, claiming the exposure they’d get and the portfolio they were building should be adequate compensation. However, landlords don’t take payment in magazine spreads any more than they do in blog posts, so the Lovelies were forced to move out of this neighborhood, all the way to the outskirts of Paris. Shame.

Evidently graphic designers have the same problem. Designer Ben Crick created a manifesto for designers…

There exists an unfortunate cultural history of exploitation in Visual Communication, and indeed the arts in general. Designers, especially young designers, are expected to work for little or no money, either to prove themselves, gain exposure, or provide spec work.

…and a charming set of posters to illustrate its four main points:

Read the rest of the manifesto and see the other posters

In a discussion I had with a writer friend the other day on the topic of blogsploitation, I tried to pin down for her why some people (like me) have a problem with being asked to blog for free and maybe why others don’t, and why many websites don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with not paying their bloggers.

I think part of the problem is the concept of “blogger.” The general consensus (among the kind of people who think Amazon and Facebook are the Internet) seems to be that bloggers are ordinary people — pilots, housewives, nurses, mechanics — who just decided to start writing about whatever popped into their heads. People tend to place blogging in the hobby rather than the profession category, and they write off bloggers and blogs as amateurish and not to be taken seriously. I think traditional media and big online media capitalize on this perception to keep bloggers in a journalistic underclass.

At a certain point, though, if a blogger has been writing enough, and well enough, to have some significant content on the Web to point to, whether or not he or she’s ever been paid for any of it, that blogger should be taken seriously as a writer or a journalist (depending on what he/she blogs about and how).

Blogging is essentially self-directed OJT for writing and/or journalism.

Another part of the problem is related to what a blogger’s profession is in the first place. While a nurse might be excited to blog for a large platform for free (at least at first), a writer might be more indignant about being expected to do so. In my case, I was getting paid to do tech writing, translation and many other kinds of writing for years before I started blogging, so it irks me to write for free unless it’s for a good cause, or to help a friend, or to share something I’m passionate about.

Ideally, if you end up writing for free for a website, there should be a time limit to it. Give ‘em a free sample of the milk, but not a lifetime supply, ya know? Companies should have the courtesy to define trial periods after which they agree to pay for the content you’re producing, vest you in the company, or offer some other arrangement.

For example, after you’ve written X posts per month for X months or years, you’ll be paid X per post (or maybe X to start, with increases down the line), or own X shares of the company.

If your writing’s no good, or you’re flaky, or not a good fit, the company should send you on your merry way before the trial period ends, which can only improve the quality of their site’s content. In fact, if it’s true that bloggers don’t draw that much traffic to HuffPo, maybe it’s because HuffPo doesn’t actively separate the wheat from the chaff. I stopped reading it about three years ago, when I saw a celebrity gossip blog post about Tom Cruise…

If you are good, and your content resonates with the site’s audience, it’s easy to quantify your value based on the number of comments you get (and “Likes” and tweets) as well as your stats. The site you write for is tracking stats, and should tell you your “popularity” ranking relative to other bloggers, or the ranking of your posts, and should share your stats with you (number of views, external links to your posts, etc.), so you can judge just how much “exposure” you’re actually getting for your efforts. If it’s clear your content is popular, the company using you should recognize and reward your contribution in some way.

It’s just a question of doing the right thing.

I may continue this discussion. Might talk about the open source philosophy (Vincent thinks I should), intellectual property, Flattr, faux celebrity, and the reality of the situation, which is that most of us do write for free, despite everything I’ve said. Or I might not. We’ll see.


*Shit my pre-Sexual Revolution mom said.

Read the first post on this topic, Give me equity or give me a break.

The other day I see a tweet from this chick blog with a spunky name saying they’re looking for writers “to join [their] editorial team.” Sounded serious. I checked it out.

The blog looks professional (but there’s no guarantee it is, given the plethora of polished prefab blog themes out there). It wants to be edgy and aims to cover a wide variety of topics from high tech to high art to high fashion. So far, so good. The writing is fair in terms of style and personality. I get the impression that the owner has been seduced by the quantity-over-quality siren, which is not uncommon among group blogs (a response to the world’s shrinking attention span and voracious appetite for bread and circuses). In the end, I conclude that this blog is neither an unscented pantyliner of a blog, nor a communal blogorrhea receptacle, so I send a message indicating interest. A few days later, I get a response asking me to fill out an online application form and a “by the way, our writers are volunteers.”

I love to volunteer! It does wonders for the soul. Whenever my single friends are moaning and groaning about how they can’t meet anybody decent, I tell them to volunteer, that they’re sure to meet generous people who care about the same things they do. I was a volunteer “buddy” to PWAs for AIDS Services of Austin in 1990, shortly after I lost my best friend to AIDS. I did some graphic design and other work as a volunteer for an educational nonprofit in Paris when I first got here. I’ve done pro bono translation for Kiva to help get micro-loans to people in francophone Africa. And so on.

But somehow, dear blog owners who keep expecting to use my work for free, I am not inspired to volunteer to help you build a business! Do you see the difference between your blog and the examples above? And the fame and fortune blogs great and small dangle before people like me (“exposure” and maybe a few pennies of shared ad revenues here and there) just don’t cut the mustard.

The very least you can do is give me a piece of the pie.

What blog owners can learn from startups

I’ve spent the last few years immersed in and blogging about the Internet startup scene, and there is one thing everybody in that world knows: you may have an idea for a startup, but without a developer your idea is worth jack shit. And if you can’t pay your developer, you damn well better offer him equity.

So you have an idea for a group blog! Good for you. Who’s going to fill its pages? Writers. It’s the writers who are going to furnish the erudition and gravitas, or humor and hipness, or sexiness, or snarkiness, or whatever magic ingredients you need. And if you’re serious and have a clear vision for your blog, you’ll choose your writers carefully. (A startup founder doesn’t want just any hack building his/her platform.)

But if you let anyone who’ll work for free fill your blog with his blather, you’re screwing yourself right off the bat. You’ll get crap writing and a crap audience and crap advertisers (if any). Eventually, your dream of creating something special will die because your blog won’t be in the least bit exceptional because your content isn’t because your writers aren’t.

You don’t (usually*) get something for nothing.

I’m pretty sure Michael Arrington was the first person who decided to call his group blog, TechCrunch, a startup. He certainly got what you, dear blog owner, are likely hoping for when AOL recently bought TechCrunch for millions. But though he considered TechCrunch a startup, something tells me he wasn’t doling out chunks of it to his bloggers. Based on my experience, I venture most of them weren’t even getting paid.

So vest me, baby

I know what it’s like to try to launch an online company without a lot of cash. You can’t afford to hire anybody, even part time. So if you can’t pay me to write for your young group blog with a strong vision and lots of potential, then offer me a piece of it.

I know, I know, you aren’t even a real company yet because then you’d have taxes and fees and all manner of hassles to deal with. That’s OK. An agreement in writing will do.

If you offer me equity, I’ll look at what you’re all about to see if what you’re doing turns me on. I’ll check out the competition. I’ll scrutinize the other members of the team to see if they’re strong or weak links. And then I’ll decide if your blog is worth the investment of my time and effort. If I go for it, I’ll be excited and motivated, and it’ll show in my work. I’ll be dedicated and I’ll evangelize for you. You’ll be able to count on me to get you that post when I’m sick.

Good and evil

I’d like to thank GigaOm, a great big tech blog, and Galavanting, a tiny startup (when I first wrote for them) for having the decency to pay me for my work.

As for the rest: shame on you.


*The Huffington Post doesn’t pay its bloggers and the content sucks (for the most part), but that didn’t stop it from recently surpassing the NYT in page views or being bought by AOL for over $300M. The latter prompted the legion of HuffPo bloggers to start raising Cain about getting nothing out of the deal, to which HuffPo essentially said “bloggers don’t do that much for our traffic anyway” and “let them go on strike, there are plenty of people who’d be happy to replace them.”

The HuffPo bloggers’ class action suit probably won’t get them anywhere, in part because there was no contract and in part because there’s no solidarity: half the bloggers are OK with working for free for a multi-million dollar company.

I’m not.


The Newspaper Guild: Communications Workers of America.

I have a new favorite toy, one you can only play with if you have an iThingy (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad). But you can enjoy the results without one (to a limited degree).

The toy is Instagram, an iThingy application. What you do is take a picture with your iThingy, open it in Instagram, drag it around to frame it, apply one of several pre-set filters (or not) to make your photo look all artsy or vintage, and save. At that point you have the option to publish the photo to any number of sites like Flickr and Twitter, or you can just keep it private.

Here’s a before and after I did. The original has decent composition and color and some nice light and shadow, but it’s rather mundane and drab.

Drag it around in the square frame on Instagram, resize it, choose a filter, and you have a little work of art:

I’m publishing all of mine to Tumblr (also Flickr, but I created the Tumblr site as soon as I got near 200 pics; Flickr makes you pay for more than that) because Instagram doesn’t provide online user galleries. When you publish a link to a picture on Twitter, for example, people who click it are taken to a web page, but from there they can’t see the rest of your photos (or follow you, or do anything, for that matter, which kinda blows). The pictures, if you don’t publish and store them somewhere, are pretty much lost in the ether, which is a shame because some of them are amazing.

You can only browse other Instagram photos on your iThingy. You can browse “popular” photos (who knows how they determine popularity), or you can follow specific people and see their photos.

Instagram is a nice change of pace for me, since I tend to be most comfortable with verbal expression. Getting creative with the visual is refreshing from time to time, which is why Photoshop is another fave toy. (I combine the two Vs on everyday splendor, my prose-oet-ography blog.)

But Instagram is much more than a toy. There are two things about it that really make my heart swell. First, seeing pictures taken by people all over the world, being privy to moments friends and semi-friends and total strangers find exceptional enough to record and share, really makes you hyper aware of the beating heart of humanity on this planet. The other six-plus billion souls cease to be an abstraction when you see that somebody is living a moment in a dusty street in a Korean village or on a beach at sunset while you sleep or wash dishes. It’s exhilarating, extraordinarily moving and, on some level, reassuring. When the “other” becomes real, we’re less likely to destroy him. The same concept is in action when the mother of the abducted child goes on TV and says her name over and over and talks about her hobbies and favorite color. She becomes a person in the mind of the psycho who took her and is more likely to survive. The world could use a dose of this. (This is exactly why I’m an Internet evangelist.)

Second, Instagram puts the tools for creating something beautiful in the hands of Average Jane, which is more significant than it might seem to you at first glance. You see, I also believe that when you cultivate your sensitivity to beauty and engage in the act of creating things of beauty yourself, it elevates you. You are more fulfilled, enlightened, open — simply a better human being. (The French know this, one of the things I love about this culture.) Technology, when it can help make a human more human, is sublime.

I plan to find people to follow on every continent, and in as many countries as I can. It will be a treasure hunt. I found one in Asia today (don’t know what language that is, but I’ll get it figured out).

Part of the big attraction of apps like these for both young and old is that you can make your photos look vintage. Some of us (and our photos) are already vintage, so we don’t really need an app for that…

A similar app, Hipstamatic, is much more about community, and looks like it has a wider range of effects for your pictures. I just bought it, and played with it for a few seconds. Looks a lot more complicated, and I’m not sure I’m motivated to tackle the learning curve. At least not today. Hipstamatic has been around a while and created quite a buzz, but I didn’t get it sooner because it’s not free. I don’t generally pay for apps unless I’m sure I’ll use them. (You know I’m a bad little consumer, the kind who thinks before spending.) Anyway, considering the fun I’ve had with Instagram, I’m pretty sure I’ll get my $1.59’s worth out of Hipstamatic.

If you’re using Instagram, look me up: pamela_poole.

December is sucky in general because of the weather and nostalgia and because it seems to come around so much quicker than it used to.

But I had an unsucky week. This week was filled with youth and passion and swifts and lunches and red wine and a pink latex dress and a purple rubber ducky and a snowman and cowboy boots among other things.

Three days of events around and including LeWeb, Europe’s largest tech conference, which I’ve had a press pass to for three years running since I write about the Internet for tech blogs in the US. I look forward to it all year, as much as I ever did to Christmas as a kid. The conference is an orgiastic encounter of curious and creative minds, and basking in the youthful idealism and optimism and energy of startup founders who want to create some kind of beauty is as good as sunbathing, but without the risk of skin cancer. (The Internet is the fountain of youth, folks.) Here’s Olivier Desmoulin of SuperMarmite, a site that hooks people up with home-cooked meals, one of three winners of the startup competition this year.

I came home with my favorite piece of conference swag ever. Did Yahoo! know before coming to Paris that French designer Sonia Rykiel makes a rubber ducky vibrator? If they didn’t, they found out soon enough. The first thing my French friend Myriam asked the Yahoo rep hosting the Official Blogger lounge was if it vibrated… I took one for my step-daughter (14) and one for me. (It only squeaks, by the way.)

Alas, the orgy ended and regular life resumed. Dog walking in winter is no fun, except when it is. Two days after the huge Paris snowstorm that made international news, Wiley spied a snowman. He gave him a wide berth and slowly circled in close enough to sniff his face, which he did for a long time, because, of course, the sniffing provided no insight into the nature of this creature. I just stood there enjoying the show.

Another dog walk, this one at night in the dark. The only shop open in a tiny side street near my house looked so warm and welcoming, but that could have been the not-so-subliminal suggestion of the sign, the fact that it was in my own language, and what was inside. I felt like the little match girl standing out there looking in at the delicious boots. Of course, it wasn’t the first time I’d paused before this shop, but it was the first time I’d seen it open at night. In fact, I just discovered yesterday that Paris is killing my red cowboy boots, the ones I thought would last forever (and would have in California). The leather on the vamp is cracked through from the wetness and probably nasty chemicals in the rainwater. I was obviously not diligent enough about my mink oiling… This is Go West Boots, in the 5th. Let me know if you want the address (you can’t find it on their site).

I arranged to meet an online acquaintance, a blogger whose voice and views I enjoy, who was in Paris for the week, not for LeWeb (though she’s covered it before), but for LeVin, a big wine conference. I don’t often bring people from my online life into my real life, but my instincts were good, as usual. She’s originally from South Africa, lives in Italy, is my age, and (also) has a lust for life. We connected on many levels and talked about things that, in the old days, you wouldn’t get to till some time had passed but, for better or worse, our ways of being have changed because the Internet has broken down so many barriers. We ate lunch, drank wine, watched swifts flying frenetically around outside her window, and went and tried on wild clothes at Phyléa for dessert.

Long ago, during the very brief period (about a year) during which I was a desperate housewife, I took a Photoshop class. Since then, it’s been my favorite toy; when I’m bored, I fire it up and try to make art. My best work is rather… personal… so I won’t share. It would be indecorous. (I did have it on an anonymous erotica blog for a while, but I took the blog down because it was associated with one of my gmail addresses and I was afraid one day they’d announce to all my professional contacts through some new “service” that it was mine.)

I have a 12-year-old niece who just discovered Photoshop a couple of months ago, when she was still 11. This niece also happens to have a huge crush on her geeky, artistic, Apple fan (not quite fanboy) uncle Vincent. Nothing odd about that; I had uncle crushes too. One turned out to be schizophrenic and the other would feel right at home at a Tea Party… Oh well. But the schizo one looked like Marlon Brando and Paul Newman combined, and the other one had a fabulous nose (always had a thing for noses) and was much less uptight back in the 70s, when he drank a lot of beer.

Anyway. So as soon as my little niece got the hang of Photoshop, which appears to have taken something like two days, she started sending her uncle gifts. These are some of my favorites:

Now, let me add that my niece’s parents are both stage actors, and her dad’s a playwright too. Her mom is a total technophobe. Her dad is not, but he’s no geek. He just got an iPhone the other day, and my niece e-mailed her uncle Vincent to commiserate with him because she’d spent the entire day showing her dad how to use it (she is a wiz with her iPod touch).

Until now, this is the kind of art project my niece has traditionally done (probably since birth) with her outdoorsy, Earth Mother mother:

They do a lot of this kind of stuff. (She’s one of those mothers who always make you feel inadequate because you don’t spend all your free time with your kids making dolls out of flowers and gingerbread houses and shit.) But there’s something to be said for that kind of dedication. It undoubtedly contributed to my niece’s creativity and aesthetic sensibility.

Not only is she a budding geekette, but she’s also a budding Apple fangirl:

Now, this work is truly impressive, but what inspired it is even more interesting.

Her uncle’s Apple love and her desire to please him certainly come into play. But more than that, it’s the products themselves.

They’re purty. Delicate. Sleek. Shiny. (These images say a lot about how this little girl perceives the products.) There’s a refinement to Apple products that jumps the gender gap (and creates a healthy aftermarket for butch iPhone cases for those who aren’t real comfy with their feminine side, or “How to make your Apple product look more like a Hummer”).

Getting the girls on board is no small feat for tech companies (laptop bag manufacturers haven’t figured it out yet). What GameBoy would have given to have girls go for GameGirls the way they have for Apple stuff!

In couples, women make most of the purchasing decisions. And for a long time now, single girls have been buying their own diamonds, if you get my drift. Apple, with its aesthetically delectible toys, has managed to achieve the Woman Acceptance Factor, starting very young, without alienating the boys.

Maybe the reason they haven’t come out with the red (or maybe pink, depending on my mood) iPhone I want yet is because they don’t want to scare the boys away… Or maybe it’s just a classiness thing. I guess wanting a pink iPhone makes me less classy, but I’m OK with that.

In past generations, we’d look at kids and think “they’re the future,” and buy them hula hoops to keep them occupied till they grew up and became a factor. But this generation is decidedly the present as well as the future. So watch closely. It’s fascinating.

In any case, Steve, I think you should look at my niece’s work. It might give you some ideas for your next ad campaign. Just e-mail me and I’ll tell you where to send the check.

All I wanted was a sturdy bag for my new laptop that wasn’t boring or ugly or corporate or outrageously priced. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I wanted one that was all that plus sexy and a little girly. Something with personality. I am a lipstick geek, after all. I specifically needed something that would protect my laptop when I travel to California, which I’m doing in less than two weeks.

My 17″ Dell started to die last fall. I’d had the motherboard replaced twice in its four years. And then there was the incessantly blowing fan problem that Dell “tech support” couldn’t fix with all their bios updates and fan replacements. So I googled around and then had the courtesy to tell them that all you need to do is hit Fn + z to reset the thermostat on that model and instantly stop the fans from screaming. They didn’t thank me.

But I digress.

I’ve been working on Vincent’s little 13″ Macbook for months, and I finally replaced my Dell last week with a 15″ Macbook. Unfortunately, my old, beloved laptop case doesn’t fit it:

This is the “Brain Cell” by Tom Bihn, a little independent manufacturer in Seattle. But mine is “wasabi” colored.

Vincent thinks it’s ugly. But there are three reasons why I loved it in addition to the color (Hello! Black is so boooring.). One, the cleaning instructions included the text below (Bush was still in office when I bought it). I’d heard about this “scandal” before I ever had a laptop and decided to support the publishers of this subversive (and francophile) laundry label as soon as I had the chance:


(Translation and backstory.)

I also loved its minimalism. I don’t need 8 million pockets. I’m a girl. I buy my purses with chargers and gadgets and power supplies in mind.

Another thing I loved was that it was hefty, hefty, hefty. Just look at this construction: hard sides, and the laptop doesn’t even touch the bottom of the bag. It’s suspended in a cozy hammock. This bag is downright uterine:

I won’t even go into the patented elasticized shoulder strap that makes the laptop seem half as heavy as it is, essential when you’re lugging around a 17″ Dell.

I shopped all over online, but you can’t tell if something is hefty or wimpy that way. And I need hefty. I’ll get to that momentarily. Saw some bags that were on the cute, hip, girly side, but ultimately resisted temptation due to the hefty/wimpy issue.

So I headed out to the FNAC Digital (one of those tech + music + video stores) and it was Welcome to Mr. Traveling Businessman Central. Gag. And none of them were nearly as hefty as my Brain Cell. There was one not black or gray or butch and fairly sturdy bag that they only had for a 13″, so like a good geekette, I took a picture of the tag with my iPhone and looked it up online when I got home. It doesn’t get any bigger than 13″.

I went to the Apple site and saw some bags with potential, as I knew I would, since Apple is all about style. So I went to the Apple Store in the Louvre to meet them in person. Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy. Not a hard-sided bag among them. And the bags “for women” all looked like a handbag your grandmother would have carried in 1968 or something Ms. Lady Lawyer would use, like this one:

This particular bag, however, could dress up or down, and be funky or serious, depending on what you wear with it. I could have pulled it off. But this bag is about as sturdy as a lingerie pouch, too expensive, and doesn’t have a decent shoulder strap. In fact, an alarming percentage of “women’s” bags don’t seem to have shoulder straps at all… Instead they tend to have little detachable pouchy thingies for your keys or cosmetics.

So I extrapolated from all of this that laptop bag makers are generally operating under the following assumptions:

1. There aren’t enough girls with laptops to bother creating pretty/sexy/dainty/whatever bags.

2. Girls don’t need sturdy laptop bags.

3. Girls don’t get big laptops.

4. Girls don’t need shoulder straps.

Final answer: Women computer users are not serious. This whole experience has disgusted me. Wake up people.

Why didn’t I just order another Brain Cell for a 15″ you ask? Because I was afraid it wouldn’t get here before I had to leave and would cost too much to ship (which wouldn’t be very green either, for that matter).

On another note entirely. The shoulder straps available for laptop bags are too long. Most bag manufacturers have not taken into account the female anatomy:

What happens when girls walk? Boombadaboombadaboom… What happens when girls walk with a laptop hanging off their shoulders to their hips? The laptop bounces right along in time. Thus the need for hard sides, or shorter shoulder straps, despite the fact that I’m built more like the Pink Panther than Betty Boop.

On the way back from the Apple store I popped into the BHV, a big department store, just to see what they had. More of the same with the exception of one bag that was adequately hefty and had straps that kept the laptop from bouncing off my ass when I walked. Italian, designed for women:

There was only one other color in the store, a burgundy red (yuck). It has a lot more pouches and pockets than I need. It’s not sexy (although it looks better IRL than in this picture). But I got it.

When I got home, I went to the site of Tucano, the manufacturer. Lots of bags for women, many that are very cool, stylish and feminine, and most with straps of the right length. If you’re in the market, I suggest you start there.

Leave it to the Italians to realize women have hips and appreciate style. Grazie mille!

I’m quite fond of the word decorum. Unfortunately, it’s not widely used. You know this because you never hear anybody say it in line at the grocery store and because it’s one of those words you see on the GRE. On all of Google’s indexed anglophone Internet (or at least the part it deigned to show me yesterday), it appears only 3,780,000 times. About once for every 100 Americans. It would be nice if one out of a hundred exhibited a little decorum online.

(Tits, on the other hand, appears 62,900,000 times.)

Last year, somebody I know (a professional contact) announced to whoever might be listening on Facebook that she was “sad” because her friend [first name] had died suddenly. She went on to give enough details about the guy that I realized I knew him (met him once in a professional context, connected on Facebook). I put two and two together because he had posted an update on Facebook a couple of days earlier saying he had a 105° fever and was waiting for the doctor to arrive (they do urgent-care house calls in France). I was appalled to learn of his death from this source. This was simply not her information to share. And on fucking Facebook? Indecorous.

Twitter, couple days ago. Chick I follow because she followed me (professional contact, don’t know her IRL, never exchanged a word with her) announces that she just talked to her brother, and her grandmother’s not long for this world. I’m paraphrasing, she was not flippant, although she did end the update with the sad emoticon :-( the ultimate in eloquent expression of profound grief and totally appropriate, don’t you agree? Seriously. One, keep it to yourself; this is not the place. Two, the mundane babble on Twitter is bad enough as it is; how many people want to hear this kind of shit? We have problems of our own. Indecorous.

(Facebook’s disingenuous argument for doing such a crap job of protecting user privacy is that people don’t really care that much about their privacy. They’re confusing lack of decorum with lack of concern for privacy. A fallacious conclusion, in my opinion.)

The death of decorum irks me to no end, let me tell you. Whatever happened to not airing dirty laundry? Social media platforms sometimes seem like big ol’ piles of other people’s dirt. Who could crave such an environment? Vincent has the right idea. He only follows people on Twitter whose updates have substance. He doesn’t get dying relative announcements from total strangers. Or maybe it’s just that they’re mostly French people, who still do decorum.

Do you still get form letters in Christmas cards? I used to look forward to them all year. Joe’s cataracts, grampa’s kidney stones and, by the way, Merry Christmas. Cracked me up every time. At least it was only once a year and there weren’t that many. Then there was the guy who would wax poetic about moonbeams and go into rants about the stickers on pears. Weird, but a welcome relief from the hip replacements. I used to send form letters in Christmas cards too, but only with good news. The people who knew me well already knew about any hard stuff I was dealing with. That was as it should be, and more than enough.

But clearly it’s not enough for a lot of people. Were the concern and attentions of the sick guy’s wife so inadequate that he had to tell hundreds of strangers about his fever? What compelled him to do a Facebook update in the state he was in? Was it to get additional sympathy or attention from people who may not have mattered that much to him in the first place? Have these platforms done nothing more than free our inner three-year-olds to demand that someone, anyone pay attention to us at all times? My advice: give the inner brat a time out.

Our default state is alone: in a crowd, in a relationship, there is always a significant chunk of us that remains utterly alone. Too hard for people to accept, I guess, so they use social media to fool themselves into feeling not alone.

I may have been what some might consider indecorous myself a time or two on this blog. I may have been off-color. But if I was, it was because it felt appropriate in the context. A big part of the problem is the lack of context around these impulsive updates. Lack of forethought. Lack of consideration. Lack of actual friends who actually care? Lack of self-esteem? In addition to the lack of decorum. A whole lot of lacking going on.

Yet this form of expression is supposedly bringing about the death of the blog. But I doubt I’ll quit blogging till I stop having a big mouth, which will be when I’m dead or near dead or severely damaged, which you will probably hear about on Facebook or Twitter from somebody you never met who needs a lesson in decorum.