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.
The most popular post on my blog, year after year (and now decade after decade), is a 2005 piece on baby names: Unpopular Baby Names: Avoiding the Jacobs, Emilys and Madisons. We used the techniques listed to aid in our attempt to give our own kids classic names that wouldn’t be overused among their peers. The 2015 numbers are out from the Social Security Administration. How did we do? The charts below shows the respective rankings from 2015 to the year they were born.
The names of our two “babies” — Gregory, 5, and Laura, 4, are both less popular now than they were the year we named them. Yea! They’re both in the low 300s – viable names but far from overused.
Francis, now 10, was dropping in popularity and dropping into the low 600s. With that trend, we actually worried about the name becoming too unpopular. But an uptick started in 2010 and became pronounced in 2013 when an Argentinian named Jorge Mario Bergoglio decided to start calling himself Francis. The name is now in the high 400s.
The popularity of our eldest son’s name, Theodore (“I’m Theo!, don’t call me Theodore!”), started off in the low 300s was holding steady within a 20-point range for years until around 2009. In 2015 it cracked the top 100. It’s only at 99 but clearly something’s happening. Equally disturbing, “Theo” wasn’t even on the top 1000 until 2010, when it snuck in at position 918. Since then it’s leap 100 spots a year. It’s currently at 408 with no sign of slowing.
And for those of you looking to spot trends: did we just call our names early? Maybe “Francis” isn’t a slow climb but is about the go shooting for the top 100 in two years time. Maybe “Gregory” and “Laura” will be all the rage for mothers come 2020. Yikes!
Last year, the kids and I made a framed handprint collage-like present for Julie and Mothers Day (right). This year I followed it up with a folksy photo of each of the kids holding up hand-drawn letters spelling out “LOVE.” This was inspired by this 2009 post on a blog called The Inadvertent Farmer.
The first step was getting pictures of each kid with a letter. It wasn’t too bad as I just had to take enough to get each one looking cute.
A trickier task was finding a frame to display four pictures. It took the third store before I lucked out. Because of the timing, I had actually printed the pictures before I had the frame and so had fingers crossed that the size would work.
Once made, the absolute hardest was getting a group shot of the kids with Julie holding it!
Strange moment this morning when I checked my blog stats and realized that I get a fair amount of traffic for a movie review I wrote last year. I was checking the stats to see if any of the Quaker-related search terms might give clues for future content on Friends Journal or QuakerSpeak and for that purpose the review’s popularity with Google (and readers) isn’t that useful.
But this blog is just my life spun out. I don’t aim for keywords and I don’t want to dominate a thought-sphere. If I see a movie and jot down some impressions that attract a small audience, then my blog post is a success. A dozen or so random people a month Google in to spend a couple of minutes reading my thoughts on a fifty-year-old movie. That’s cool. That’s enough. In all the talk of targeting and SEO we sometimes forget that it’s an honor to simply be read.
The other night stayed up late to cuddled with my wife and watch good-natured but flawed Rom-Com. I read some reviews on IMDB and pondered the cliches in the shower the next morning. Boiling these impressions down into 500 words on a train commute would be easy enough. I should do it more.