I’m always happy when Johan Maurer wades into an online discussion, as he can often gives a steadying long-term view of panics. He’s jumped in with perspective on the viral article of the week, Don McCormick’s Can Quakerism Survive? from the February Friends Journal.
Johan reminds us that alarms about the future of Quakerism has long been ringing and draws on Joshua Brown’s warnings about New York Yearly Meeting from 30 years ago! Lest we chalk all this up an incessant alarmism, Johan gives some stats about that yearly meeting. Uh-oh:
7,070 (in 1955) 5,124 (in 1985) 3,241 (in 2015)
But Johan goes beyond that to ask some questions that we really need to sit with. For example, he asks:
Given that we are a microscopic percentage of the world Christian movement, do we have an inflated sense of our own importance? Or, to put it more positively, could we rest contented that our influence on Christian discipleship will last beyond our institutional survival?
This is a must-read blog for anyone anywhere on the Quaker spectrum
Another family vacation is coming up, which for me means thinking once more about the pre-nostalgia of family photos. While blog posts are ostensibly for visitors, the audience I care more about is actually future me.
Every successive family trip creates a magnitude more data than the one preceding it. I have exactly 10 photos from the first time I visited Walt Disney World, with my then-fiancée in 2001. I have only fuzzy memories of the trip. A year or so later I returned back to Florida (Key West this time) for a honeymoon with her, a trip that has zero photos. I remember maybe a half dozen things we did but few locales visited.
Contrast this with a 2013 Disney World trip, for which we made a whole blog, A Special WDW Family. The focus was traveling Disney with autistic kids. There’s a lot of information in there. We wrote about meals and rides, small victories, and child meltdowns. The bandwidth of memories isn’t just in the number of jpeg files but in the distinct memories I have of the events of that week-plus.
We took many hundreds of photos over our most recent family vacation in December 2015, only a small fraction of which went online. In addition, I have Google Location data for the trip and Foursquare checkins logged in Evernote. I know how many steps I took each day. I know whether I had a good sleep. We didn’t make a public blog but we have a long annotate log of each restaurant and stop, with annotation tips to remind our future selves about how we could do things better in the future. The metadata is in itself not so important, but it’s useful to be able to drop into a day and remember what we did and see the smiles (and tiredness) on faces each day.
Back in November I started a blog post that ran out of umph and stayed in my drafts. At time time I was reacting to the progressive debates about safety pins as a symbol but it seems we’re are in another round of self-questioning, this time around the Women’s March and other initiatives. As I find myself frequently saying, we need lots of different kinds of people organizing in lots of different styles. So maybe this blog posts’s time has come again.
Maybe this is just another stages of grief but I’ve been noticing a number of online discussions in which progressives are shutting down other progressives for not being progressive enough. Every time I see a positive post, I can predict there’s going to be about three enthusiastic “yes!” comments, followed by a 500-word comment explaining why the idea isn’t radical enough.
Folks, we’ve got bigger problems than trying to figure out who’s the most woke person on our Facebook feed.
Successful social change movements are always a spectrum of more or less politically-correct and radical voices. It’s like a chord in music: strings vibrating on different frequencies sound better together. Sometimes in politics you need the crazy radicals to stir things up and sometimes you need the too-cautious liberals to legitimize the protest message.
Some years ago I was part of an campaign in Philly that targeted what many of us felt was a propaganda push around Columbus Day. An attempt by all of the concerned activists to come together predictably went nowhere. There were too many differences in style and tactics and language and culture. But that breakdown in coördination allowed each subculture to pick a tactic that worked best for them.
The Quakers did their visible agitprop leading and got detained. The anarchists made creative posters and set off surreptitious stink devices. Some anonymous pranksters sent out fake press releases to disrupt media coverage. The resultant news coverage focused on the sheer diversity of the protests.
If protest had indeed come from a single group following a single tactic, the dissent would have been buried in the fourth paragraph of the coverage. But the creativity made it the focus of the coverage. Diversity of tactics works. Mistakes will be made. Some progressives will be clueless – maybe even some of the ones considering themselves the most woke. It’s okay. We’ll learn as we go along. We might laugh at how we used to think wearing safety pins was effective – or we might wonder why we ever thought it was meaningless symbol. Whatever happens, let’s just encourage witness wherever and whenever it’s happening. Let’s be gentler on each other.
There’s a lot of talk online right now about fake news pages on Facebook and how they influenced both the election and how we think about the election. It’s a problem and I’m glad people are sharing links about it.
But when we share these links, let’s take that extra step and point to original sources.
Example: Someone named Melissa Zimdars has done a lot of work to compile a list of fake news sources, published as a Google Doc with a Creative Commons license that allows anyone to repost it. It’s a great public service and she’s frequently updating it, reclassifying publications as feedback comes in.
The problem is that there are a lot of web publishers whose sites exist mostly to repackage content. They’ll find a funny Reddit list and will copy and paste it as an original post or they’ll rewrite a breaking news source in their own words. The reason is obvious: they get the ad dollars that otherwise would go to the original content creators. They’re not engaging in fake news, per se, but they’re also not adding anything to the knowledge base of humanity and they’re taking the spotlight off the hard work of the original creators.
Back to our example, Zimdars’s updates on this clickbait sites don’t get updated as she refines her list. In some cases, clickbait websites rewrite and repost one another’s ever-more extreme headlines till they bear little reality to the original post (I followed the page view food chain a few years ago after reading a particularly dopey piece about vegans launching a boycott over a TV ad).
So here’s part two of avoiding fake news sites: before you share something on Facebook, take the two minutes to follow any link to the original source and share that instead. Support original content creation.
Today Google came out with a new app called PhotoScan that will scan your old photo collection. Like just everyone, I have stashes of shoeboxes inherited from parents full of pictures. Some were scanned in a scanner, back when I had one that was compatible with a computer. More recently, I’ve used scanning apps like Readdle’s Scanner Pro and Scanbot. These de-skew the photographs of the photos that your phone takes but the resolution’s is not always the best and there can be some glare from overhead lights, especially when you’re working with a glossy original pictures.
Google’s approach cleverly stitches together multiple photos. It uses a process much like their 360-degree photo app: you start with a overview photo. Once taken, you see four circles hovering to the sides of the picture. Move the camera to each and it takes more pictures. Once you’ve gone over all four circles, Google stitches these five photos together in such a way that there’s no perspective distortion.
What’s remarkable is the speed. I scanned 15 photos in while also making dinner for the kids. The dimensions of all looked good and the resolution looks about as good as the original. These are good results for something so easy.
Maybe the web’s form of hyperlinking is actually superior to Old Media publishing. I love how I can put forward a strong vision of Quakerism without offending anyone – any put-off readers can hit the “back” button. And if a blog I read posts something I don’t agree with, I can simply choose not to comment. If life’s just too busy then I just miss a few weeks of posts. With my “Subjective Guide to Quaker Blogs” and my “On the Web” posts I highlight the bloggers I find particularly interesting, even when I’m not in perfect theological unity. I like that I can have discussions back and forth with Friends who I don’t exactly agree with.