I Am Too Googleable!

What a letdown.

I wanted to report on near completion of The Website Resurrection Project – but I had a mind-altering experience.

On the upside, I am not afraid of identity theft or surveillance anymore.

My dentist had to cancel an appointment the day before. I showed up some minutes before the appointed time. The practice was empty and dark, except for the assistants who told me:

We have eagerly been waiting for you!! We did not know how to reach you as we didn’t have your phone number!

Have you tried to find my phone number on the web? It’s on my business website!

Yes, we searched the internet – but there were so many search results coming up!!!! And we did not know which is your business page!

(Probably it was more like:
One of *these* pages is for business?!?).

You could have sent me an e-mail – I am usually very responsive! My e-mail address is on all my websites.

There was no e-mail address!

Uhm… sorry… I am very active on the internet … it is maybe difficult to sort all that out …

So it was all in vain.

I have a business page, three personal websites, this blog, and a German blog, and some weird older web projects. My usual response to an enthusiastic

I have checked out your website ! :-) !!

is

Which one?

And each and every of those sites has this overly correct legal information notice our online media law demands of me.

I even add the e-mail address though I might not need to.

As the Subversive Element I note on top of the legal information block:
Adding legal information to a site like this constitutes an act of subversion in its own right

Legal information needs to be accessible in a simple way, via a single click from any page. You then argue at court over the definition of simple and single click and if your visitors could or could not infer from a URL title such as contact that address information is to be found at this URL.

Most German wordpress.com bloggers have a legal info page longer than my most extensive posts. The About page of this blog is, at the time of writing, most likely illegal as the linked legal information is two clicks away from any post.

Tinkering with this was just a tiny part of The Website Resurrection Project – I have re-written loads of content, and didn’t leave any of the code or design untouched. All for the sake of clarity and serving the internet community well – and because I don’t have much other hobbies.

Using a browser I never use to logon to Google, a search for my name brings up a reasonable collection of results – my personal site being in the first place, legal info one click away.

Google has honored my efforts by recognizing my authorship for this website although I did not do take ownership in the Google-technical sense for any site – as my nerdy readers might have noticed on this blog. I wanted to save my pseudonym elkement and not trade it for the real name Google+ forces you to use.

I don’t think there should be any difficulty to spot my contact data. I am happy with the ranking – I am just worried about the subversive stuff is given less weight than the business-y. But that does not prevent clients who are my business social networking contacts from asking me for my contact data again – on Facebook!

So what’ the problem?

The IMP Log The Very First Message Sent on the Internet (6293913865)

How did we get there? How did it get started? This is the log of the first message sent on the internet in 1969 (Wikimedia)

_________________________________________

For German readers: Here is the law(s).

Blog Cleanup – Raking the Virtual Zen Garden Again

I am proud owner of a full season of Monk on DVD, and as a child nobody ever had to tell me to tidy up my room. I indulged not only in cleaning my Lego(*) world with a fine paint brush but I rather re-organized all my belongings in Feng-Shui-meets-OCD-style quite often.
(*) Lego is a registered trademark… etc.

As a consequence I have raked my virtual Zen gardens often, too.

Zen Garden (Wikimedia)Now I have nearly replaced all the gravel in this Zen garden.

It’s not that I don’t re-tag and re-categorize often, making extensive use of WordPress’ Tags to Categories Converter that keeps the old links intact. But tags and categories did not do it for me. I have filtered my posts using those in order to group them, e.g. for sending this collection of “relevant links” to somebody else.

It is probably a shortcoming of this particular WordPress theme but other than using the search function it is not possible to create a concise list of posts, consisting just of headlines and the first few lines.

So I tried to create that views I wanted in the old way: I have now compiled so-called summary pages, listing all blog postings in a certain “main category”. I have just excluded reblogs. Any other article shows up at (at least) one of these new pages linked in the main menu.

As a consequence – as the menu bar now really, absolutely, positively says it all – I was able to shorten my extensive tagline which is now much shorter than the blog title.

I have absolutely enjoyed this task – as Zen as it can get.

All my web sites I have ever run are also experiments in exploring the interplay of structure and content. I believe it is nearly impossible to set up proper “categories” upfront so that you can just assign all posts you ever write to them later. Only bureaucrats believe the world works this way. I have some experience with so-called top-down web projects that end up in epic tombs of a structure nobody is ever bringing to life with “content” – because it is too rigid.

But some limitations may not be that bad after all: Boundaries force you to get creative at a new level to hack them and work around. In a twisted sense I love my personal websites’ schema that forces me to attach one main category to every article. It is as much fun as subverting a well-meant survey or questionnaire by using the fields in ways probably not expected by the designer.

Another interesting effect I noted again and again is that I enjoy commenting on my own posts, including self-parody. I find it most natural to reflect on old postings by adding a one-liner some months later. On my other sites I take self-reference to bizarre levels and comment on my old German posts in English or commented on comments on comments etc.

In summary, I think I (we?) write and blog in order to remember or discover who we are, were, or want to become. [This is the sort of clichéd statement I will for sure ridicule in a later meta-comment of mine.]

But to make this work – at least for me – I need to have a look at the old stuff from time to time, and I have to put old images into a new frame, or I need to attach virtual post-its that put everything in a new perspective.

Zen Garden (Wikimedia)

The Web As I Want to Remember It

This title might be due to unknowingly plagiarizing dejavu.org – The web as we remember it.

I haven’t visited dejavu.org in years, but I did now as I felt I need to wax nostalgic. This might be due to my recent tinkering with my websites‘ layouts.

As a child I crafted 200-faced paper polyhedra whose plans I developed from images of crystals in mineralogy books. I am maybe in the same state of mind today when I am moving around pixels, editing style sheets or debugging my home-grown content management system for these sites. This is raking my virtual Zen garden.

It is an anachronistic approach to what should today be interactive, responsive and created from templates. However, it really reflects some doubts of mine about what the web has become.

The first website ever - Tim- Berners-Lee's project

The first website ever – Tim- Berners-Lee’s project. The project has been made available at the historical URL again in 2013.

The web has been a quiet place. My sites have always been my secret fortresses on the web, only known to the most persistent stalkers. A new colleague in a project greeted me once appreciatively with You are The Subversive Element, aren’t you? As an aside: I have found that so-called personal websites – that ought not to interfere with business according to common wisdom – are perfect filters to single out people who are fun to work with.

I think there is no better exercise in becoming unimpressed by feedback, likes and comments than authoring a non-interactive website for years. The fact that somebody could read it provides just enough sense of accountability for the content. I wonder what it must feel like to grow up today, immersed in a web culture that fosters craving attention.

But what is more important:

We have given up on the noble notion of a page.

Today’s sites are frontends to applications that create a dynamic dashboard of widgets, thus dynamically re-arranged snippets and tidbits of information – very often ads on many popular sites but this is not my point.

I noticed this when mulling about responsive design, that is: making websites compatible with the limited display options of different devices. The main content – usually presented in some main reading pane should probably be created in a way suiting this presentation: Chopped to digestible tidbits instead of walls of text.

But guess what would be the perfect responsive design: The most ancient, 1995-style html page, consisting of header and body, and some paragraphs contained in that body. As long as you don’t start to create containers or columns in order to organize the content and/or make it appear more appealing, you will see the text flowing nicely from left to right on mobile devices, too.

I am just a dilettante web developer so please go ahead and prove me wrong. You can use this perfectly straight-forward (and interesting) website for testing.

Quite ironic in a sense that we tried so hard to layout our pages: First using these now abhorred frames, then tables (I killed my most obnoxious ones recently), and div containers controlled by CSS. Now we have a difficult time in letting all that nested automated stuff flow again from left to right.

I have found another, equally ingenious way to make a site responsive without actually doing so technically. I randomly picked Brain Pickings as it is very successful website. The site is the whole business – so it has to be user-friendly. Again I would ask the professionals to debunk my theory. Checking the code and using tools such as ScreenFly the site is not responsive in terms of adapting the presentation to the device. But the content pane is just 500px wide and thus fits into the width of many smart phones when those are rotated by 90 degrees.

What I like best: If you scroll down – everything moves! On many really responsive sites elements jump or stay in place when I did not expect it. And some of them simply do not work on desktop PCs as if they were designed having only the target group of 15% readers in mind.

It is exactly that anything-moves-when-scrolling that gives pages – including mine maybe – a dated look now. Do we expect to have different elements on (what was formerly known as) a page a life of its own?

I am reminded about what Nicholas Carr said about the emergence of eBook readers in The Shallows: He is not so much concerned about feeling and smelling physical items – an argument I could never understand anyway. But as soon long-form texts formerly known as books become available on eReaders, their content might get splintered into sharable little pieces. Readers might rather look for share-worthy snippets instead of reading the whole content.

Giving up on the ancient concept of a web page and replacing it by a sequence of twitter-like pieces presented in an intriguing way is probably the next stage in content evolution.

We have come a long way.

Tim Berners-Lee's First Web Server

Workstation used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first web server on the World Wide Web, displayed at Microcosm, the public science museum at CERN. Note the sticker! (Wikimedia)

Using Social Media in Bursts. Is. Just. Normal.

I have seen lots of turkey pictures last week and this has reminded me of an anniversary: When I saw those last time I have just started using Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

So a review is overdue, and I also owe an update to my Time-Out from social networks this summer. (If you don’t have time to read further – the headline says it all.)

I am not at all an internet denier. Actually, I had crafted my first website in 1997 and had pseudo-blogged since 2002. I made these pages – not blogs in the technical sense, but content-wise – the subject of last year’s Website Resurrection Project.

There have been two reasons for my denial of modern interactive platforms, both are weird:

  1. Territory Anxiety: It made me uncomfortable to have my own site entangled with somebody else’s via comments, reshares and the like. I prefer platforms that allow me to make them mine. Facebook and Google+ require you to ‘fill in form’ and put you at the mercy of their designers.
  2. Always-On and Traceability: For many years my job was concerned with firefighting – an inherent feature of working with digital certificates that have their end of validity embedded cryptographically. I considered it odd if panicking clients would see me sharing geeky memes while they are waiting for my more substantial responses. Notifications by corporate online communication tools conditioned me to loath any piece of technology that tried to start a conversation via flashing pop-ups.

These two reasons haven’t been invalidated completely – I think I just care less. Social media is an ongoing experiment in communications.

I am using social media in the following way: (This is not at all advice for using social media properly, but an observation.)

  • If I use a network, I want to use it actively. I don’t use anything as a sole channel for announcements, such as tweeting all new blog postings (only), and I don’t use automation. I don’t replicate all content on different networks or at least there should be enough non-overlap. Each network has its own culture, target group, style of conversation.

A detailed analysis of the unique culture of each network remains maybe subject to a future post. But I cannot resist sharing my recently started collection of articled on the characteristics of the most hated most analyzed network:

How to overcome facebook status anxiety
7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook
Does Facebook CAUSE narcissism?

I became a Google+ fan, actually.

  • The only ‘strategic tool’ I use is a simple text file I paste interesting URLs to – in case I stumble upon too many interesting things which would result in quite a spammy tsunamis of posts or tweets. This is in line with my life-long denial of sophisticated time-management tools and methodologies as Getting Things Done (which is less down-to-earth than it sounds). I don’t believe in the idea of getting mundane things out of your head to free up capacity for the real thing. I want to keep appointments, tasks, and important items on the to do list in my mind.
  • Using social networks must not feel like work – like having to submit your entries to the time-tracking tool. I said often that my so-called business blog, Facebook site, Google+ site can hardly be recognized as such. (Remember, I said this is not perfect marketing advice.)
  • I don’ care about the alleged ideal time for posting and about posting regularly. It is all about game theory: What if everybody adhered to that grand advice that you should, say, tweet funny stuff in the afternoon or business stuff on Tuesday morning? My social media engagement is burst-like, and I think this is natural. This is maybe the most important result of my time-out experiment:
  • Irregularity is key. It is human and normal. I don’t plan to take every summer off from social media. I will rather allow for breaks of arbitrary length when I feel like that.

And I have found scientific confirmation through this scientific paper: The origin of bursts and heavy tails in human dynamics by renowned researcher on network dynamics, Albert-László Barabási.

The abstract reads (highlights mine):

The dynamics of many social, technological and economic phenomena are driven by individual human actions, turning the quantitative understanding of human behaviour into a central question of modern science. Current models of human dynamics, used from risk assessment to communications, assume that human actions are randomly distributed in time and thus well approximated by Poisson processes. In contrast, there is increasing evidence that the timing of many human activities, ranging from communication to entertainment and work patterns, follow non-Poisson statistics, characterized by bursts of rapidly occurring events separated by long periods of inactivity. Here I show that the bursty nature of human behaviour is a consequence of a decision-based queuing process: when individuals execute tasks based on some perceived priority, the timing of the tasks will be heavy tailed, with most tasks being rapidly executed, whereas a few experience very long waiting times. In contrast, random or priority blind execution is well approximated by uniform inter-event statistics.

Poisson statistics is used to describe, for example, radioactive decay. I learned now that it can also be applied to traffic flow or queues of calls in a call center – basically queues handled by unbiased recipients. The probability to measure a certain time between two consecutive decays or phone calls taken decreases exponentially with time elapsed. Thus very long waiting times are extremely unlikely.

The exponential dependence is another way to view the probably familiar exponential law of decay – by finding the probability of no decay in a certain time via the percentage of not yet decayed atoms. Richard Feynman gives the derivation here for collisions of molecules in a gas.

Radioactive Decay Law Decay Constants

Radioactive decay – the number of non-decayed nuclei over time for different decay rates (half-lives). This could also be read as the probability for a specific nucleus not to decay for a certain time (Wikimedia)

Thus plotting probability over measured inter-e-mail time should give you a straight line in a log-linear plot.

However, the distribution of the time interval between e-mails has empirically been determined to follow a power law which can quickly be identified by a straight line in a log-log-plot: In this case probability for a certain time interval goes approximately with 1 over the time elapsed (power of minus 1).

Power-law distribution, showing the yellow heavy or fat tail. This function goes to zero much slower than the exponential function.

A power function allows for much higher probabilities for very long waiting times (‘Fat tails’).

Such patterns were also found…

…in the timing of job submissions on a supercomputer directory listing and file transfers (FTP request) initiated by individual users, or the timing of printing jobs submitted by users were also reported to display non-Poisson features. Similar patterns emerge in economic transactions, describing the time interval distributions between individual trades in currency futures. Finally, heavy-tailed distributions characterize entertainment-related events, such as the time intervals between consecutive online games played by the same user.

We so-called knowledge workers process our task lists, e-mails, or other kinds of queued up input neither in First-In-First-Out-style (FIFO) or randomly, but we assign priorities in this way:

…high-priority tasks will be executed soon after their addition to the list, whereas low-priority items will have to wait until all higher-priority tasks are cleared, forcing them to stay on the list for considerable time intervals. Below, I show that this selection mechanism, practiced by humans on a daily basis, is the probable source of the fat tails observed in human-initiated processes.

Barabási’s model is perfectly in line with what I had observed in deadline-driven environments all the time. When your manager pings you – you will jump through any hoop presented to you, provided it has been tagged as super-urgent:

This simple model ignores the possibility that the agent occasionally selects a low-priority item for execution before all higher-priority items are done common, for example, for tasks with deadlines.

It gets even better as this model is even more suited to dealing with competing tasks – such as your manager pinging your while you ought have to respond to that urgent Facebook post, too:

Although I have illustrated the queuing process for e-mails, in general the model is better suited to capture the competition between different kinds of activities an individual is engaged in; that is, the switching between various work, entertainment and communication events. Indeed, most data sets displaying heavy-tailed inter-event times in a specific activity reflect the outcome of the competition between tasks of different nature.

Poisson processes and the resulting exponential distribution are due to the fact that events occur truly random: The number of particles emitted due to radioactive decays or the number of request served by a web server is proportional to the time interval multiplied by a constant. This constant is characteristic of the system: an average rate of decay or the average number of customers calling. Call center agents just process calls in FIFO mode.

Power-law behavior, on the other hand, is the result of assigning different priorities to tasks using a distribution function. Agents are biased.

Barabási is very cautious is stating the universal validity of the power-law. He also discusses refinements of the model, such as taking into account the size of an e-mail message and required processing time, and he emphasizes the dependence of the calculated probability on the details of the priorities of tasks. Yet, the so-called fat tails in the probabilities of task execution seem to be a universal feature irrespective of the details of the distribution function.

He has also shown that these bursty patterns are not tied to modern technology and e-mail clients: Darwin and Einstein prioritized their replies to letters in the same way that people rate their e-mails today.

Considering a normal (typically crazy) working day you may have wondered why you could model that without taking into account other things that need to be done in addition to responding to e-mail. And indeed Barabási stresses the role of different competing tasks:

Finally, heavy tails have been observed in the foraging patterns of birds as well, raising the intriguing possibility that animals also use some evolutionarily encoded priority-based queuing mechanisms to decide between competing tasks, such as caring for offspring, gathering food, or fighting off predators.

Thus we might even seem evolutionary hard-wired to process challenging tasks in this way.

I am asking myself: Is this the reason why I find automated posts on social media feel staged? Why I find very regular blogging / posting intervals artificial? Why I don’t like the advice (by social media professionals) that you need to prepare posts in advance for the time you will be on vacation? What happens next – program the automation to act in a bursty fashion?

______________________________
I planned to connect my Time-Out experience with Barabási’s Bursts for a long time. But now this burst of my writing it down may finally have been triggered by this conversation on an earlier post of mine.

I enjoyed Barabási’s popular-science book Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life on the dynamics of scale-free networks.

There is also a popular version related to his research on bursts: Bursts: The Hidden Patterns Behind Everything We Do, from Your E-mail to Bloody Crusades. Bursts is a fascinating book as well, and Barabási illustrates the underlying theories using very diverse examples. But you should better be interested in history in its own right and don’t read the book for the science/modelling part only.

Further reading: Website of Barabási’s research lab.

Barabasi Albert 1000nodes

So-called scale-free networks. The distribution of the number of connections per node also follows a power-law. Scale-free networks are characterized by ongoing growth and ‘winner-take-all’ behavior (Wikimedia, user Keiichiro Ono)

What Is Normal? (My Way of Announcing Blogging Time-Out)

I remember the best Out-of-Office note I have ever received – musing on not being able to get back to me as quick as normally, and culminating in the philosophical question:

But – what is normal?

Probably this is one of the hidden, leading questions that have driven this blog ever since I started it in March 2012. Is it normal to blog regularly? Is it normal to have ideas on a regular basis? Is it normal to follow more and more virtual conversations – not only on WordPress but on other social networks as well?

Nassim Taleb’s books have reminded me reminded of antifragility being grounded in burst-like patterns. At least this is the way I would summarize it. A mundane example is the alleged positive effect of irregular physical training – such as long walks alternating with extreme workouts – both unscheduled.

I would like to continue ridiculing those home-story-style articles about famous persons (One day in the life of…) who manage their lives in such a swift way and who are able to add utmost regularity to the universe’s imponderables. Who get up at 4:00 to mediate in their Zen-like garden, take the first important business decision at 5:00 – such as acquiring a hot tech start-up in passing – by firing off an e-mail on your smart phone, drive their kids to school at 7:00 while having a conf call with your VPs … etc.

Thus I would embark on an experiment I have pondered about for a long time – I owe to these two posts(*) that finally make me pull the trigger. Pull the trigger… what a metaphor. NSA, did you hear that? And I go into hiding. A non-blogging sleeper cell.
(*)Interesting though: In the future of this post, both of these blogs are offline)

I will unplug myself from social media in the next 2 – 4 months. (This is an estimate in terms of order of magnitude – 100 months)

Don’t panic.

I won’t disappear, I will follow-up on your blogs – but most likely more randomly than I did in the last months, and I will respond to comments.

I will resort to something like a monthly update – as I can’t bear a number of zero posts per months in the blog’s archive. WordPress is still my favorite network.  Probably I will appear more radical as a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter user, as a monthly tweet is like not tweeting at all. I have been on these networks now for less than a year and after intense participation. In contrast to other social media users with erratic posting habits I will rather leave an OOF message and clean-up.

Facebook users: I have deactivated posts to my timeline, and tightened the who-can-see-what settings despite or because my birthday is looming. I need to retain some level of integrity when ranting about liking and sharing confessional automata.

There is no particular earth-shattering reason for that – or this is exactly a reason in its own right: I want to challenge myself by unplugging, by reducing input. In a weird sense I am reconnecting with my very first post about my social media denial.

I will even reduce my frequency of devouring books – sorry for that, Amazon.com – or probably I don’t want the NSA follow-up on my Kindle collections.

I am moderately busy, I have some other deadlines, but nothing that couldn’t be handled, and I could of course come up with some posts in the way the social media experts recommend: Recycling content, old posts – and I should have kept some articles in my stores of things to be posted when I have run out of ideas. But I even haven’t run out of ideas.

Since this might be the front post of this blog for some weeks, I would like to add self-serving links to related posts that I do not recycle now.

After a break I am rather sure I will continue to write about:

My most recent posts have told me something weird and I need to think about that:

Probably I over-emphasize aspects and arguments for the sake of those arguments. I am not at all that concerned with the Evil or Corporate or the Devastating Effect of Gamification, for example. Actually, in the moment I could not care less about these in real live. It is rather my blogging avatar who has seized opportunities. This avatar is adding a filter that enhances contrast, for the sake of entertainment, or for the sake of making an argument. Any hyperbole and sarcasm comes in handy.

Nevertheless, it does not feel like dishonesty though.

And this is not at all meant self-critical – I like these posts more than my balanced ones.

I just need to think about that, and by thinking I mean the thing that goes on in your unplugged brain when you are not talking or writing. Probably exactly when you force yourself not to talk or write.

You get ideas from writing and interacting with others, but in the other hand there is a chance of getting trapped in a social media bubble of like-minded people. Finally it is a matter of available time – I admit I would not read blogs I strongly disagree with.

I feel the last sentence in this post should be sticky and remarkable – and exactly because of that I will not add a final statement at all.

snail-and-slug

I have stumbled upon these in the garden recently. I am convinced the universe wanted to tell me something, and I will decode it.

On Social Media and Networking (Should Have Been a Serious Post, Turned out Otherwise)

It has been nearly a month since my satirical post on LinkedIn and bot-like HR professionals has stirred interesting discussions and unexpected reblogs. I have promised to come up with related posts regularly.

To all my new followers who were probably attracted by the Liebster-award-related nonsense: Compared to those posts this one is unfortunately a rather serious one. But compared to default social media expertise show-off it is nonsense.

Every opinion piece is based on the author’s secret assumptions about what makes this universe move in spacetime. For full disclosure I lay mine before you upfront:

Thinking about the blurred area where the corporate world and a subversive online universe meet I am reminded of The Cluetrain Manifesto, so this is my personal …

Networking Manifesto.

Regular readers might have guessed at the following axioms:

  1. Sense of humor is the definitive criterion that determines how well you will get along with other human beings. This also holds for future coworkers or employers.
  2. The harder corporations try to morph into social beings as per their PR stories, the weirder they appear when viewed from the inside. Corporate culture is very subtle.
  3. The tension between 1 and 2 catalyzes sparkling works in art (mainly comics and satire) as well as peculiar networking opportunities.

I did zero research for this post and I will not add outbound links – other than my own (<– This is ‘vanity linking’).

In addition, I have no idea about a plot or structure for this post so I call this

The Top 10 +/- 5 Things I Learned from Networking on Social Media

1) Titles and taglines do matter:

If I would be a real social media expert I would have made the header of this post similar to your typical

Top Ten Self-Evident Things Anybody In His Right Mind Who Knows How to Use Google Can Come up with him/Herself Immediately

… and shared it like crazy on Twitter.

Seriously, I feel that titles of posts are important as many of my search terms are based on titles. Since I need those for Search Term Poetry, I cannot help but pick strange ones.

The same goes for your professional tagline, but it is walking a tightrope: If you want to make a change in your career you could add your aspirations to the title. E.g. if I am a historian for building intergalaxy cargo ships but I want to switch to doing strategy consulting for the cargo companies at Alpha Centauri, you might change your tagline to historian and consultant in intergalaxy shipping.

2) The mere existence of profiles does matter.

I believe we (the earth’ population) are changing our average attitude from

The internet – what a strange virtual place… and you really have a page about yourself?

to

Why in hell don’t you have an XY profile? You also have a telephone!

This is not a post on why and if this is something to be worried about, so I skip my postmodern commentary on culture. But I catch myself on being bewildered why I can’t find people on popular networks.

I don’t expect them to be active, have a lot of friends / followers (see 3) or providing a lof of details, but I wonder what’s the obstacle that would keep somebody from adding basic CV data on LinkedIn. I don’t claim my expectancy is rational.

What matters most to me as a reader is the temporal completeness as we time-travel experts say, that is:
For all items it holds that [Year of finishing this = Year of starting something else]

3) There is no agreement on the importance of different networks, which ones to pick, and what it means to be a friend, contact, follower or connection.

There is a slight contradiction with 2) and I know it. But we cannot sort that out. I have received tons of invites to obscure networks I never heard of before. Other may feel the same about Google+.

I had endless discussions with people who wanted to add me on the first professional network I was a member of, actually the first network I ever signed up to in 2004 – XING, the German LinkedIn, so to say.

I have gone to great lengths in explaining that I will only accept contact requests from people I know in person or with whom I had substantial conversations online before. Others do consider these networks an option to find new contacts. I have over 600 contacts on XING despite my rigorous policies, simply for the fact I had added contacts over the years, in parallel to archiving business cards. But this large number of contacts make me look as such a contact collector.

On the other hand, I entered Facebook by the end of 2012, and still I look like a networking loser with my less than 200 friends. Facebook will even block your account if you add too many friends in a short time. This is done by software in a Kafkaesque way, so there is no point complaining. This is another reason to follow my advice 2) and start out populating your list of contacts via organic growth early.

There will never be agreement with most of your contacts and friends on what a contact actually is. I believe this is the reason for the asymmetric relationships Twitter and Google+ had introduced: You can follow back, but you do not need to confirm a contact. Facebook has adopted this thinking by adding the subscriber option – now called followers, too.

I have given up and I do not take all that befriending and contacting too serious – so please go ahead and add me on all my networks if you like.

4) The internet is a public place.

This is stating the obvious. From day 1 of my existence as a web avatar – publishing my first embarrassing FrontPage generated site in 1997 – I have written every single post with a public audience in mind – even in so-called closed groups. Today I publish all my Facebook and Google+ stuff to ‘Public’.

I do not see the point of closed groups: not so much because of the risk of changing security settings in the future, triggered by a new group owner, new privacy policies, new security bugs, or careless friends publishing your friends-only stuff to the public. But I do not want waste a second on considering confidentiality issues when writing and aligning my style of writing with a specific audience. After all this should be fun, creative and weird (see 5).

I noticed – to my own surprise – that I started dreading any sort of private messages. If you want to tell me how great my postings are – please for heaven’s sake don’t send me a private Facebook message or an e-mail, but comment on them. I don’t even want to be tempted to add something ‘confidential’ in the reply and I don’t want to miss a chance to make my clever, witty reply available to the public. Zuckerberg said something about the end of privacy, and this is my interpretation of that.

As a consequence I have written about so-called personal stuff in open discussion groups and on my websites a few years ago. I have written about my lingering on the edge of burnout and have been applauded for my honesty. Today I feel my posts are not that personal even though I did not change my style. I am not into photography, so I hardly add any photos depicting something related to my private sphere. I don’t upload a photo of myself (a selfie) in a funny setting every day to Facebook. But just as my definition of ‘friend’ has changed, this might change as well.

5) The internet is a weird place, fortunately!

I was tempted to add the following to my networking manifesto:

Human beings connect with human beings, not with ‘businesses’. Members of the collective want you to remove their Borg implants.

I hope you get the picture without requiring me to go into a scholarly dissection of that great metaphor.

I mentioned the burnout confessions deliberately in 4) as they confirmed a secret theory of mine: If you present yourself as a human being, even within a so-called competitive environment, you motivate others to do the same. You lower the bar – it has the opposite effect of writing business-related e-mails at 2:00 AM that makes everybody else reply Do you ever sleep?

You might say this is off-topic and not strictly rooted in anything online – as most of these confessions happened offline actually.

I disagree as I believe that  the internet is a trigger and a catalyzer that has transformed our ways of thinking about public and private sphere. Today you often read you should take care of your online reputation and not publish your ‘drunk at a party pictures’ to Facebook. I don’t object to that, but I believe the solution is rather not to get drunk at parties.

20 years from now all people in charge of hiring others will belong to the generation whose lives have been documented online from day 1 – due to their baby-photo-Facebooking parents. Generation Y+ did not even have a chance to opt-out. I feel that they would rather consider somebody suspicious whose online utterances are all professional and sleek looking.

Since this is speculation, I add a link to a great article on Wired about the generation born 1993: “…She is casual about what some might consider the risks of oversharing. In the future, she says, it won’t matter if you did post a picture of yourself covered in chocolate, because “the people who care will all retire and the world will be run by my generation, which doesn’t give a shit…”

I owe the link and the pointer to this quote to my Google+ friends … which is the perfect bridge to a caveat that needs to be mentioned: Even if the internet is a weird place there is one important rule: Give fair credit! To other authors but also to other sharers and finders.

6) Finally I need to mention metrics.

I have a very special relationship with ‘meeting the numbers’ as readers of my articles about the corporate sphere do know. So I was delighted to have been invited to Klout.

[Voice from the future: Neither Google+ nor Klout exist anymore, so I removed the links.]

If you believe blog award nominations are like silly chain letters, consider this:

You earn scores based on your interactions and engagement on social media – that is: likes, followers, reshares, posts on your Facebook page … Unfortunately WordPress.com has not been factored in yet. Currently my score based on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and the Klout network itself is 57 which is of course above average.

This is called gamification. I won’t reiterate my usual lame jokes on AI software and failing the Turing test.

But there might be more it than providing a game for procrastinating office workers: This is the future of grading in education – and judging job applicants maybe:
Bizarre Trend: Journalism Professors Using Klout Scores As Part Of Students’ Grades

I had already run some experiments on how to increase the score by heavy tweeting – I am open to more experiments and I would appreciate if you add me as your influencer on Klout.

Klout’s mission is to empower every person by unlocking their influence.

For centuries, influence had been in the hands of a few. Social media has allowed anyone to drive action to those around them, democratizing influence.

— Quote from the Klout website (now sunsetted)

Borg dockingstation

Borg Dockingstation (Wikimedia). Sorry, I know I am coasting on those clichés way too often.

So what are your thoughts – Generation Xers, Yers and Zers? (Borgs and other aliens may comment as well)

Edit – further reading: In a Twitter conversation related to this post this blog has been recommended to me – and I want to recommend it to all of you: thedigitalattitude.com. In contrast to my blog this one is really focussed on social media and how to present yourself and your skills online. 

 

Liebster Blog Award: This Time I Try to Respond in a More Normal Way

It happened again – I have been bestowed a blog award despite the way I handled my last nomination.

This time I will respond in a different way. I – the Subversive El(k)ement – will adhere to the rules!

Geeks, please bear with me though! I still think that blog awards are just ridiculous chain letter Ponzi schemes. But I found a loophole I am going to exploit.

I am using the standard template although I abhor templates in general (in particular faulty, nearly corrupt MS Winword templates migrated from platform to platform since MS Office 2.0. But I digress).

Information to my nominees: The template text is formatted as bold.

What is it?
The Liebster Award is designed to bring recognition to smaller blogs–that is, blogs with 200 or fewer followers.

And this is related to the attack vector as we hackers say, or the loophole: I have discovered many blogs, followed them enthusiastically, and lost them again. Blogs ran dry and faded away. People simply stop blogging. We need more new blogs with few followers to compensate for that.

Thus the rough estimate on exponential growth – incomplete it was. <– This is Yoda speak, I am trying to geek-up this post, compensating for following the rules so strictly.

I did not factor in a medium blog-die-out rate! We would need to run a numerical computer model to simulate the behavior of the blogosphere in order to analyze how many blogs to nominate for an award in order to compensate for the termination of others. Ignorance is bliss – therefore I simply nominate as many as required by the rules … and I don’t feel like creating an expontentially growing avalanche.

.

The Rules
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog

Thanks a lot Kristen for the nomination! To my readers: Please go visit her blog :-) If my authoritative endorsement (remember, I reviewed the world’s first spam poetry book) does not convince you, this is how Kristen describes her blog in her acceptance speech:

“… often I feel my blog is sometimes a teenage-esque angsty diatribe bordering on diary that is only looked at by myself and other angsty people (statistics show that I’m on the first page of google results when you search ‘letter to an ex-boyfriend’) and people from all over the world who google search ’cool photoshopped pictures.’ That one’s fun because I’m apparently linked on some Russian Website for my edited picture of ‘Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.’ Go figure.”

So Im honored that the author of these sentences picked my blog. And of course I quoted them because I hope for terrific Search Term Poetry.

.

2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions asked of you, and create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate.

I add both my responses as well as the new questions for my nominees below, after the section 5.

.

3. Nominate 11 blogs you think deserve to be noticed, and leave comments for them letting them know they’ve been chosen.

I have picked 11 blogs that I have followed for a while and that have less than 200 followers (as this blog. More precisely, you had less than 200 when I started compiling the list a few days ago. If your number of followers has inflated since then I expect you to repent in public and return the award).

These are my nominees, in no particular order. Blogs marked with (*) had already been featured on my recent Bloggiversary.

postmoderndonkey – The carnival of instability in language, thought and audience. (*)
Poetry, stories, and other postmodern stuff entangled with a down-to-earth Zenvironmental journey.

From the Broom Closet – Broom closet: a narrow space to store lengthy items. I’ll try and keep my posts to a reasonable size though.
The broom closed is stuffed to the ceiling with sophisticated philosophy and honest, opinionated posts.

Duck? Starfish? but…23 – one rock at a time (*)
The authoritative blog on distant learning before MOOCs have become a hype – and the most beautiful images of Newfoundland.

nebusresearch – Joseph Nebus’s work in progress.
Fine mathematics and history of science. Checkout out Joseph’s Humor blog, too.

carnotcycle – the classical blog on thermodynamics (*)
Original historical papers on thermodynamics expounded in a comprehensible and entertaining way.

I really Just Pretend to Know Stuff – I digress
As weird as it sounds. I am considering to write a Weird Manifesto on Why the World Should Worship Wonderfully Weird Writing – this is my showcase!

Play – Stories and Photos from the Southern Saskachewan Prairie (*)
… and basically: The Life, the Universe and Everything, analyzed from 1000 angles: Geeky, literary, philosophical.

weeklybraindump – A quasi-weekly braindump with no particular thematic unity
Education, philosophy, ethics, and again Life, the Universe and Everything. And another denier of chain-letter style blog award propagation :-)

Many Worlds Theory  – In one universe, this blog is about quantum mechanics. In another universe, it is not. (*)
In the universe the wave function is collapsing onto right now this is a first-class blog on physics. And Matt Damon. Sometimes.
(I plagiarized myself here, sorry.)

The Unemployed Philosopher’s Blog – Just because you’re unemployed, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of work (*)
The geekiest blog on philosophy. Both very entertaining and useful for graduates in the humanities.
(Is this tag-backing? Dan has once nominated me for the Reader Appreciation Award. Is is tagging others bloggers “back in the award chain that bind these bloggers to your blog”?)

Science Mentor – Step-by-step Guide to “Self-Mentoring” for the Science Professional
I wish a blog like this would have been available when I graduated. You should follow her on Twitter as well!

.

4. Display the Liebster Award logo.

OK – here you go! I am linking to Kristen’s image in order to avoid mutation. It looks a bit washed out already, doesn’t it?

An image search for Liebster Award brings up a lot of images that do not really resemble this one.

Liebster Award

The linguistically inclined among you might be interested in the fact that liebster in German means dearest. Or was this the whole point of the name and you all knew this, and I am looking like a fool now? Googling for “liebster dearest award” seems to corroborate that hypothesis. Did it spread from Germany to the whole world?

Or was Ms. Liebster a Victorian poet perhaps and the award started out by circulating steampunk-style silver-and-brass-plates?

5. No tag-backs.

Looking even more like a fool –  I was not able to find out exactly what tag-backs are. No, really!!

2.a 11 Things About Me

1. I don’t know what tag-backs are.

2. Nevertheless, I pretend to be geeky.

3. I have an old-school BlackBerry-style (even worse: Windows Mobile BlackBerry style smartphone) as I don’t like to touch screens.

4. Still I pretend to be geeky. (I said that already, right? Is this cheating? So I better add:) I like to make and bend the rules as a go – whatever rules are concerned.

5. I am probably applying or using tag-backs without being aware of it.

6. I don’t kill or repel rodents (on purpose). This was my utmost trauma.

7. So I plugged off the microwave for some days after that has happened. After several days I did not care any more about rodents.

8. I am not mowing the lawn. I am scything it. And it is not a lawn.

9. I have written a single serious poem in my life. In German. It is published on one of my weird websites. I don’t add a link – my attempts to bait followers should not be that obvious.

10. Thinking once more, I’d like to state: I have published a single so-called serious poem to one of my German websites, but it might actually just be one of my geeky self-ironic attempts to imitate so-called poetry.

11.When asked to provide some facts about myself I do this in a very special way.

2.b My responses to Kristen’s Questions for the Nominees:

1. Why did you start blogging?
In order to answer question 2.b.1.

2. What’s something you could write about, in your opinion, better than many other people?
Spam Poetry and Search Term Poetry of course.

3. What’s been your hardest challenge thus far?
Reducing my consumption in coffee. Now it’s my turn to repent as I announced it publicly.

4. What is your dream job?
Scientific consultant for Hollywood science fiction movies. But I learned from Sean Carroll’s book The Particle at the End of the Universe that he did exactly that – so I am most likely not qualified.

5. What was a big decision you had to make, and would you choose something else knowing what you know now?
Succumbing to the dark side of the force.

6. Who is your greatest inspiration?
Douglas Adams.

7. Who is your favorite writer or artist?
Douglas Adams.

8. What is your favorite song (or favorite song lyrics)?
It’s Slinky, It’s Slinky! For fun it’s the best of the toys

9. If you could intern anywhere or with anyone in the world, who would it be with?
The NSA.

10. What’s one of your favorite memories?
It’s in the – very near – future (Time travel is OK, isn’t it?): Tomorrow, Labour Day, 08:00 AM when I will be waked up by the local brass music band.

11. If there was one thing about politics you wish everyone would agree upon, what would it be and why?
Don’t panic.” Applies in particular to financial crises, bank runs – and the like. Issues that would not happen if nobody panicked.

2.c My Questions to the My Nominees:

Please correct my typos and other grammars without making me aware of them. If possible, hack my WP blog and correct them here as well.

1. (How) would you try to circumvent the rules set forth by the unknown founder of a blog award with an awkward pseudo-German name?

2. If you could re-design the rules for this award, what would you do?

3. What were the criteria for your choice of your WordPress blogging theme?

4. What is your favorite quote about science? (You can interpret science in a broad sense.)

5. If you need to compile lists of funny questions and answers, and you run out of quirky ideas – what would you do?

6. What is your favorite movie or story on time-travelling?

7. Have you ever been called a nerd or geek or have you called others nerds or geeks? Do you believe ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ is a compliment or rather the opposite?

8. Have you ever written a book or do you plan to write one? If yes, what would it be about? In case, this is too personal: What would your book NOT be about?

9. Do you know what a tag-back is (without asking anybody and without using that advanced type of googling Elkement incapable of).

10. Did you really read this post word by word down to this line? (You may lie.)

11. A very personal question you do not need to answer: How much coffee / tea do you drink per day and does blogging or other writing has any impact on it?

Chinese Wall

This was The Great Wall of Text, wasn’t it? (Chinese Wall, Wikimedia)

Professional Online Persona or: What Are Your Skills?

My previous post has triggered intriguing discussions – about writing, identity and what I called an ‘online persona’. As far as I remember I borrowed this term from David Weinberger’s book Small Pieces Loosely Joined – sublime reflections on the way the web has impacted culture and communication.

I have asked myself sometimes: How should I describe and portray myself on so-called professional social networks … given the fact I have tried to re-invent myself but / and / or not want to raise any false expectations or come across as Dr. Know It All Jack of All Trades Master of None Interested in Too Many Irrelevant Things.

Websites and profiles are not so much my home on the internet, but tools that support the ongoing experiment of uncovering my unique voice. Yet professional social networks as LinkedIn are rather intended to provide an online CV or a skill matrix.

This article is a comprehensive review of the  Linkedin skills feature. In particular I like this quote: I too have been receiving endorsements from people I’m out of touch with, who are endorsing me for skills I didn’t even know I had’, like “food writing” and “celebrity” (whatever that means).

The list of my skills on my LinkedIn profile and its evolution is a great experiment in social dynamics (…plus game theory, plus artificial intelligence software testing…) – although the skills people tag me with are as intriguing ;-) I have experienced the following effects:

LinkedIn tries to extract – generic – skills from your profile that neither you or your contacts have yet added to your profile and asks your connections to confirm them. So the set of skills is impacted by LinkedIn’s bias.

I developed tools related to managing digital certificates – these are cryptography-based digital counterparts of national IDs – and the related management systems, Public Key Infrastructures. My main role in a project was PKI Consultant, and I never tried to sell myself as a developer. So the exact term should rather be Programming for PKI. But nobody uses that specific terms in his/her profiles so I did not object to add programming. Yet such generic terms can raise false expectations (which was actually the trigger to write this blog post).

Endorsements could make it harder or easier to change your focus and specialty due to the amplification fostered by LinkedIn.

You add skills to your profile or LinkedIn guesses at your skills and suggests them to others. Thus some connections will endorse you, and other members of the same community will notice as per the LinkedIn activity stream and endorse you as well. This might put emphasis on certain skills that you do not leverage that much on a daily basis or you do not want to use in the long run. On the other hand your network might endorse you for a very ‘old’ or ‘new’ skill and the self-enforcement of endorsements could help with changing fields of expertise.

But I strongly believe your most important skills cannot be represented in a ‘profile’ anyway. I dare say I did make some projects a success by using skills that have never been part of any skill matrix. These skills are attributed to you in private 1:1 feedback only.

Today’s hiring processes are often based on pre-screening applications for key words and three-letter acronyms. In discussion group I recently read: I hope the selection is not done by machines. Unfortunately, it nearly is. You might replace machine by HR people following some checklist.

Based on my experience I think there is a hierarchy of skills. I am aware of the vagueness in terminology I am going to introduce here.

  • Technical skills are a must. Replace ‘technical’ with whatever specific skills your education or experience has provided you with.
  • Top technical ‘guru’ skills – ideally communicated by an endorser, not by yourself – are the reasons customers might favor you over other applicants.
  • But social skills are the reasons they remember you. Probably these should be called general skills, including e.g.: perseverance to meet deadlines, writing flawless and precise e-mails, acting as an abritrator between people hostile to each other.
    Also Verbal / quant skills – as depicted in diagram in my recent reblog of Dan Mullin’s post Philosophy Degrees Are Undervalued all belong to the general skills category in my point of view.

Employers or clients will admire you for general skills after they have worked with you, but I am skeptical if such skills can be communicated in a way that helps in passing the barrier set up by the HR bots.

HR experts do not want to know that you have a proven track record on working with very different techniques in measuring physical properties of advanced materials and related data analysis. But you may be right in believing that your most valuable skill is your ability to learn about new technologies quickly – based on your experience with related technologies. (Insert clichéd but true statement about the fast pace of evolving technologies.)

They rather want to see that you are capable of working with the Improbable Hyperspace Microscope analyzing samples of the recently detected rare earth metal Zaphodium, and analyzing data using Most Buggy Scientific Software Tool, Version 42.42. You need to have more than 4.2 years of experience – it might not be sufficient to have worked with version 42.41 even if you have 4.3 experience with that one.

I am not making this stuff up, expect for the product names. You might be asked for 4.2 years of experience with a product that has been available on the market for 2.4 years only.

I had been lucky so far in circumventing such selection processes because I knew the person or department who was really looking for resources. In Austria, we have a strong tradition in bypassing processes in an informal – probably non-compliant – way. (But international corporations gradually  manage to add our distinctiveness to the collective.)

As this should not be your typical nerds ranting about clueless managers post, I try to distill some advice from my experience:

Some communities or industry sectors are more open to reasonable assessments of skills. For example, I learned from the IT security ‘hacker’ community to value skills demonstrated right in front of me. Hackers detest bragging with certificates or degrees.

Squeeze your ‘technical’ skills into very few key words, even if that hurts the generalist in you. I believe you need to be super specific:  PKI worked better than IT Security, Heat Pumps works better than Renewable Energy. It is like picking a tag line for a blog.

Don’t follow any advice, including guidelines about well-crafted social media profiles. My alter ego, the Subversive Element started writing the bloggy weird website subversiv.at at night when I was a serious IT consultant by day. I did not promote the site at all. Yet in a kick-off meeting in a new project a new colleague greeted me enthusiastically like that in front of all the other suits:

You are the Subversive Element, aren’t you? :-)

Weird – or generally: unusual, outstanding – features in your profile constitute a filter – you filter potential clients by sense of humor for better or for worse.

Don’t speak about yourself in your professional profile in third person – in ‘speaker bio style’, such as: Elkement is a seasoned expert in hunting aliens, well-versed in intergalactic diplomacy with a proven track-record of efficiently destroyed foreign planets. 

Don’t panic.

Adam Pope Zaphod Beeblebrox

Zaphod Beeblebrox in an Amateur Production of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (Wikimedia) – in case you are looking for a weird avatar. Don’t be too original – allow for some cliché to strike a chord with others.

Don’t write walls of text.

On Writing or: What Do I Need to Smoke to Understand Your Websites?

This is a verbatim quote.
(“This” refers to the second part of the title. The first one is a lame reference to Stephen King, of course).

It is a question asked by a former colleague some years ago who had been exposed to my proto-blog websites for the first time. These websites are subject to my ongoing Website Resurrection Project.

I had planned to give you a dull, corporate-status-report-style update on the project, but there is nothing more to say but: To my utmost surprise I am really maintaining these websites still, in addition to this blog, in addition to our so-called company blog and websites (hardly discernible as such) … and in addition to excessive usage of social media since last year.

The more interesting question is: Why?

Why am I writing (pseudo-)blogs and why am I engaged in so many different conversations?

This post has also been inspired by Michelle Hatzel’s post on Virtual Dwellings. (Edit: Posting not available offline as per 2019).

I confess, my very first website was a business website (even discernible as such) – this was in 1997, the golden age of IT, before the dotcom crash – and me an aspiring freelance IT consultant. The Y2K version of this (German) site is still available, tagged as archived.

Thus I am not a serial website creator and deleter – I migrated the old stuff over and over to several new platforms and my rule is not to delete anything and cross-link all my profiles and websites. I am fascinated by the intricacies of Digital Legacy, by the way. (Edit – 2019: article now behind paywall. So much for digital legacy!)

The only exception to this was taking large parts of the website offline and gradually ‘resurrecting’ them now. I dare say one of the reasons I am writing online is my desire to confront myself with my dated writing and thinking.

I am intrigued by ambiguity and by attempts to bridge chasms, most notably the ones running through my own (online?) persona. This was what made me craft the lengthy site title of this blog and this made me create three different sites back then – different in layout, style and content. In this blog I am aiming at exactly the opposite by combining everything.

Often I felt compelled to or obliged to write an ‘expert blog’, e.g. on cryptography and digital certificates. Theoretically this is the way to build an online community and reputation as the social media experts tell us, and you should give back to the community and add to the free repository of knowledge that had been invaluable to me as a professional.

But I already felt bored before I even got started. Though I do write about science and IT I cannot disentangle that from personal stories and weird associations.

I called my personal website e-stangl.at my personal console – replying to my individual WHOAMI – and that’s exactly what it was. I started experimenting with the interaction between language, content, layout and the technical underpinnings of websites. I have spent hours in moving something one pixel to the left or to the right and musing about which colors to pick in order to perfectly represent the spirit of a website. (Voice from the future – 2019: I consolidated this site with my other two sites in a single one – preserving all the content and also the old URLs, at least until 2019).

Adding a disclaimer I need to state my web tech knowledge is dated now and I don’t say that my sites are particularly beautiful or well done. But my own web design and web writing is one of the few things I ever tried my hands on that are devoid of my – otherwise all-encompassing and irritating – perfectionism.

My ancient websites are based on a homegrown ‘content management system’ that antedated some of typical blogging softwares’ features, but it lacked the options of adding categories and tags in a flexible way. This is due to my former belief in being able to really categorize in advance what you are going to write about. But I am an avid re-tagger and re-categorizer, and re-arranging my web content is really raking my personal Zen Garden.

Harima-ankokuji-sekitei01

Yes, there is nearly only navel-gazing at these websites, and – in a sense – this is an upside of making a website your fortress on the web, your personal dwelling. Though I had received unsolicited feedback via e-mail now and then, I know I am writing only for myself. Since these are technically not blogs and not hosted on a well-indexed platform they are basically not found. The whole point is writing with an imaginary public audience in mind that theoretically could read it, but not in your wildest dreams expecting any feedback ever.

I started this blog with the same ‘intentions’, but suddenly the fortress with its well-defined boundaries turned into a conversation. Years before I had loathed the concept of my comments published at other websites and other bloggers’ comments published to mine – blurring the boundaries between ‘mine’ and ‘your’ virtual territory. I imagined all kinds of stalkers and fringe scientists invading my websites. Unfortunately that did not happen.

Now I consider myself part of that large network and I don’t care about the boundaries. It is the process, the endless stream of different conversations that meet in a place that I might call my online dwelling. It is like a roundabout or crossroads, not like a building.

This is most likely the reason I plunged in to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ gleefully – as a rather late adopter. Again I finally ‘got’ the idea of resharing and retweeting existing content which seemed absurd and useless to me before: It is about being a thought leader DJ. I accepted that all human utterance is entirely plagiarism (Mark Twain) and came to terms with all of writing (any myself) being cliché. No, this time I won’t pingback to my article featuring Sandra Bullock as the nerdess. quoting my article about cliché has become cliché it its own right.

The greatest mystery to myself was probably why I am blogging in English. About 10 years ago I had suddenly decided I needed to have an English version of subversiv.at and e-stangl.at. I planned for a 1:1 correspondence of English and German pages and I failed epically on that: I dreaded keeping them in sync. The English version just never wanted to be a translation of the German one or vice versa. It was more like: Here is a keyword – now write down your free associations in German and English.

I am not sure if this explains anything but my English reading at that time comprised the following books that I still consider most influential.

The following website – my first English-only website has materialized itself out of the blue in 2005 after having devoured such books in parallel to your daily dose of ‘corporate communications’. It was about a ‘group project’ whose activities I had the honor to chronicle.

EPSI

EPSI is a prestigious middle European Think Thank dedicated to: Elementary research, painting blogs, collecting space and doing something. (This was our logo).

For better or for worse: My brain switches to English when pondering on smart aliens who plan to subvert the corporate world, for example. I had written extremely weird stuff in German also – that triggered the quote used as header, but German and English weirdness cannot be translated into each other. As an important initiative in The Website Resurrection Project – I started commenting on my former, weird German ‘Subversive Newsletters’ in English, and I started adding ironic and sarcastic comments on my former Pivotal Articles in German such as my graduation speech.

This post has reflected an important characteristic of all my online writing: It is a about trains of random thoughts, loosely connected, and not all planned strategically. It is finally about a global conversation, not so much about exposing my monolithic work of art to the public.

If you do not know how to close a random post – add a quote:

We long for more connection between what we do for a living and what we genuinely care about, for work that’s more than clock-watching drudgery. We long for release from anonymity, to be seen as who we feel ourselves to be rather than as the sum of abstract metrics and parameters. We long to be part of a world that makes sense rather than accept the accidental alienation imposed by market forces too large to grasp, to even contemplate.

And this longing is not mere wistful nostalgia, not just some unreconstructed adolescent dream. It is living evidence of heart, of what makes us most human.

— Christopher Locke in Internet Apocalypso, Chapter 1 of The Cluetrain Manifesto

Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site.
Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

— Thesis Nr. 22 of 95 of The Cluetrain Manifesto

Website Resurrection: Status Report

It’s nearly EOY (end of calendar year) in corporate lingo, and thus it is time to prepare the last reports and try to meet some deadlines set by top management for political reasons.

Corporate thinking is in my bones so I need to apply this approach to my personal Website Resurrection Project.

I registered three personal domains – for the reason of avoiding a website that is all over the place (as this blog is now).

I have offline-ed most of the existing pages in spring 2012, and I am gradually taking them online again, adding more content, and replacing 1px by 2px or #CCCCCC by #BBBBBB. This is my virtual Zen garden. It does not mean that my websites are particularly professional or sleek.

I am was[*] bold enough to utilize Gravatar’s / WordPress’s snapshot service here to create preview images. Note that some weeks ago these preview images had been replaced by what I called spammy images.

[*] Comment from the future – 2019: Removed those as I consolidated all my sites later, and the preview of “different” sites does not make sense anymore. But for completeness, here is the dynamic image as of the date you are viewing this:

radices.netPersonal Website

I had setup my first small business website in 1997, and this website – e-stangl.at – morphed into a private one in 2001.

It’s like a blog updated half a year maximum. It is this site that held enigmatic hints by the end of 2010 – at the time when I decided (yet unaware of having decided) to leave the world of IT and global corporations, but when I was still not ready to state Dear customers, due to personal reasons I have decided….

I still like the colors despite or because of the solemnity and the proto-twitter stream at the top. As per today, most of the pages have been resurrected and most recent updates has been added.

Weird Website

In 2000 I attended a management training. I learned about www.cluetrain.com – not all so called business books are written in Dilbertesque jargon. I made Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy my favorite quote. My take on Cluetrain in retrospect is here.

These were the days when I became The Subversive Element, which morphed into The Subversive Elkement later. To my utmost delight the valuable domain subversiv.at was still available. It become host to any weird and bizarre stuff that came into my mind.

Currently I have resurrected less than 50% of the website, and I added some new content. I indulge in linking to the blog or following-up on the blog – for the fun of creating strange self-referential loops. I have also crafted a hand-made XML feed.

Science Website

radices.net has been registered shortly after the other ones. The name indicated my desire to re-connect with my roots as a scientist. Yes, I have come a long way. The content is rather similar to my blog posts on physics here.

Ironically, the Latin word radices (roots) is also used by sites inclined to esotericism, but one of the main drivers to start this site was my (skeptical physicist’s) fascination of fringe science. I have tried to explain my position earlier.

I have resurrected more than 50%, added new content, and a hand-crafted XML feed. And fixed a CSS bug.

This is all not too exciting probably, but project reports never are.

However, there is a particular website that resists all attempts of resurrection, amendment and updates. It is an artefact. It is monolithic. Think of monolithic as in monoliths – such as the ones in 2001 A Space Odyssey .

.

.

.

.

.

.

Imagine to listen to Thus Spake Zarathustra.

This is it:

epsi.name

It is a weird website that emerged from nothing in 2005 due to the joint efforts of four exceptional individuals.

We had an org chart and job titles, of course. The Element was in charge of:

Subversive Non-Coordination & Chief Desperate Dreamer.

This might be tomb, but an impressive one.

And to this day you may find snippets of the El(k)ement’s writing associated with artistic or refined websites or some other pages of EPSIs.