Making the Internet Fun Again

I’ve been self­ish about how I share things online. When I was writ­ing reg­u­lar­ly as a crit­ic, wield­ing my blog like a bull­horn for what­ev­er I desired, I shared with near wreck­less aban­don on vir­tu­al­ly every plat­form at my dis­pos­al. Lately, I’ve turned inward, keep­ing cool arti­cles and ideas nes­tled snug­ly in Instapa­per, or worse, my head, like they’re some pre­cious bauble to hold close. Well, that’s going to change. I’m vow­ing to share more in 2012.

Some­thing I’ve come to love about the most excel­lent writ­ers (call them “cura­tors” if you must) is how they edi­to­ri­al­ize links. I think I’ve been slow to accept this because with music writ­ing, it could be mon­e­tized in clear ways by pub­lish­ing through a third par­ty. When you read great stuff at blogs like dar­ing fire­ball, you mar­vel at how far a link and an ounce of edi­to­r­i­al can take you. Same is true for Twit­ter fol­lows like David Carr, who just re-shared his insight­ful inter­view with Ter­ry Gross on Fresh Air specif­i­cal­ly about this top­ic. Serendip­i­ty! It’s what makes the Inter­net fun and I think that I for­got that some­where along the way while hoard­ing links and arti­cles and ideas in Google Read­er and Reed­er and Twit­ter and Tum­blr and Instapa­per and all the oth­er ways we use the web today.

So 2012 at Ram­say­ings will be about shar­ing those insights. Brace yourself.

My Digital New Year’s Resolutions

I real­ly need to sort out how I use the Inter­net in 2009. It sounds crazy, but 2008 was a tri­al by ordeal for me as I tried more new web prod­ucts than I ever have before in an effort to bet­ter under­stand the work that’s being done out there, and to have opin­ions about it. It’s no mean feat, and it’s rarely reward­ing. I want to change that next year. How will I do it? I’m going to make a list!

  1. Find a lifestream­ing ser­vice that works for me. Lifestream­ing ser­vices ought to con­dense my web expe­ri­ence and make it sim­pler. So far, it has­n’t. Con­trary to what Robert Scoble might say, Friend­Feed isn’t the answer. It’s a start in the right direc­tion, but it does­n’t address the noise issue most peo­ple have and, with­out a built-in Twit­ter client, my respons­es often go unno­ticed by my fol­low­ers. It’s the sort of thing many of my online friends have signed up for, but few use. That’s bad.
  2. Speak my mind on “music 2.0.” on both the web and pub­licly. I unsub­scribed from Wired’s Lis­ten­ing Post blog this week. Why? Because not only is a ter­ri­ble music blog, it’s also a bad tech blog. (OMG! As I wrote this I found that they shut down the blog on Fri­day. It’s a Christ­mas mir­a­cle!) Elliott Van Buskirk and Scott Thill seemed to copy and paste all the PR email I delete. It’s not just them. It’s endem­ic to music and tech blogs these days. Is it ask­ing to much for any­one to be gen­uine­ly crit­i­cal of free, on-demand music? Could it be that there are bet­ter ways to get peo­ple to engage music con­tent on the web that don’t involve sell­ing music? I think the answer is yes.
  3. Write more about music and not just the music/internet nexus. Part of the prob­lem of writ­ing about this stuff crit­i­cal­ly is that peo­ple mis­take you for being a ‘hater,’ which applied broad­ly, means it’s not fair to crit­i­cize any­thing. If you crit­i­cize music 2.0, then you must hate music. I think the per­fect way for me to coun­ter­act claims like this is to actu­al­ly start writ­ing about music again. I prob­a­bly wrote my last real review in 2007. I need to be more dili­gent about spend­ing time think­ing about music for its intrin­sic worth and not just strate­giz­ing around music content.
  4. Play more. As I wrote above, I need to find what works for me. When I do, I need to use them for fun and for sto­ry­telling, and not just as raw mate­r­i­al for bet­ter ideas and imple­men­ta­tions. I’ve done some of that in the past year, but want to do more of it.
  5. Par­tic­i­pate more. Some­thing I’ve found since I start­ed using Twit­ter reg­u­lar­ly is that social net­works have got­ten much more use­ful since they — and their users — have matured. The qual­i­ty of infor­ma­tion and the peo­ple con­tribut­ing it have increased dra­mat­i­cal­ly. When you fac­tor in improved search func­tions across var­i­ous social media plat­forms, you’re apt to con­nect to some­one who real­ly knows what they’re talk­ing about. Same goes for real life. I want to be more involved in con­ver­sa­tions about where the music indus­try is head­ed as some­one who’s deeply invest­ed in
  6. Find new sources. This goes hand-in-hand with #5. I know there are plen­ty of peo­ple out there who gave up on music blogs when their favorite blog­gers got hired into main­stream and dig­i­tal jobs. I’ve fol­lowed some folks from the Sty­lus Mag­a­zine dias­po­ra, like Jeff Weiss, but I trolling blogrolls has­n’t borne much fruit. I’ve read many accounts this year that blog­ging has gone flat, niche, and worse, but it does­n’t mean peo­ple aren’t doing great work out there. Food blogs are rag­ing right now. Is music so mori­bund that peo­ple can’t even say intel­li­gent, inter­est­ing things about it anymore?
  7. Treat this blog as a sand­box. When I hemmed and hawed about redesign­ing Black­mail Is My Life, I was for­tu­nate to con­nect with Chris at Click­Pop­Me­dia. When I was unem­ployed in 2006, I start­ed a project I did­n’t fin­ish. I real­ly need to edu­cate myself on Word­Press and learn how to build a blog that incor­po­rates new fea­tures like Google Friend Con­nect, Yahoo Media Play­er, and oth­er pow­er­ful social ele­ments with­out need­less­ly clut­ter­ing the site.
  8. Stop both­er­ing with PR peo­ple, when­ev­er pos­si­ble. I know it’s a 2008 Techcrunch meme to bitch about PR, but there’s more than a ker­nel of truth to it. For every great and help­ful PR, there are five spam artists. Most haven’t caught up to the speed of the Inter­net, despite the fact that Pitch­fork has become the gold stan­dard for PR. Let’s face it: the albums leak faster than they can mail them, if they ever mailed any­thing at all. What else is there real­ly? Poor­ly writ­ten ad copy and some bio­graph­i­cal details? Every­thing’s avail­able online. Let’s move on.
  9. Get one of these. Take more pho­tos. More impor­tant­ly, take a pho­tog­ra­phy class! One of my regrets from 2008 is that I did­n’t take enough pic­tures. Helen and I went to sev­en wed­dings and I have just a hand­ful of pho­tos to remind me just how much fun we had all year. Grant­ed, it’s hard to take pic­tures when you’re sweat­ing (or falling) on the dance floor, but you get the gist.
  10. Share more. Or per­haps, share more effec­tive­ly. This cor­re­lates to a num­ber of my res­o­lu­tions. Heck, it prob­a­bly con­dens­es five of them into one. I need to nar­row con­tent into cat­e­gories, whether it’s a wed­ding or just a qui­et din­ner with friends. Both can be fun things to share, but it needs to be done right. If I abide by my new rules, Black­mail Is My Life will be a place not only for polemics, but will pro­vide an over­all pic­ture of what I’m up to and with whom. Blog­ging should­n’t feel like work, right? I feel like the only sto­ry I real­ly told effec­tive­ly online in 2008 was my marathon train­ing. Between June and Novem­ber I wrote about or record­ed my mileage and marathon mile­stones all over the web, pro­vid­ing reg­u­lar updates here on BMIML. I want to do that with more sto­ries in 2009. I hope you’ll join me for them!

Here are ten dig­i­tal res­o­lu­tions I’m going to try to live up to in the New Year. Are you mak­ing any for your­self? Let’s do 2009 right!

Happy Birthday, Geekadelphia!

If you’re a Philadel­phi­an and you’re not already read­ing Geekadel­phia, this would be a good rea­son to start. Why? They’ve just cel­e­brat­ed their one year anniver­sary as a blog, which is like a cen­tu­ry in blog years, at least accord­ing Hip­ster Runoff. These guys have been fill­ing the Fun Vam­pires void late­ly with lots of fun stuff, par­tic­u­lar­ly all the deli­cious, nerdy baked goods that they high­light from time to time. Hap­py birth­day, guys!

Facebook Blows My Mind

A few weeks ago I start­ed writ­ing a post about how Web 2.0 fails folks like me. I’m glad I did­n’t pub­lish it. Why’d I draft it in the first place? Well, for peo­ple like me who were get­ting out of high school and into col­lege in the mid-nineties, just before the Inter­net went wild, it’s tough to see the val­ue in a lot of social media.

It’s tak­en three gen­er­a­tions of major social net­work­ing sites to even scratch the sur­face with my for­mer class­mates, but Face­book seems to have accom­plished some­thing nei­ther Friend­ster nor MySpace could: I’m in touch with folks I haven’t been in touch with for over a decade. Does it make me feel old? A lit­tle, but I can han­dle that when a social net­work does some­thing more than deliv­er­ing tai­lor-made ads.

In the past few weeks, I’ve recon­nect­ed with swathes of peo­ple from my past. I say “swathes” because once you’ve con­nect­ed with one friend, you’re bound to find five to 10 more. Last week I opened a mem­o­ry worm­hole that put me in touch with peo­ple from my exchange year in Den­mark. It’s been amaz­ing sharies sto­ries and pho­tos and also to catch up with peo­ple. Now I’m mak­ing plans to head back to vis­it with Helen next April. That should be a ton of fun.

So while it would’ve been nice to have kept in touch with every­one via email and IM, I’ve found new per­spec­tive. Maybe we’re the last gen­er­a­tion to grow up “dis­con­nect­ed.” For me, it was a chance to dis­tance myself, lit­er­al­ly and fig­u­ra­tive­ly, from my home­town. It was a time to gain some per­spec­tive. Now it’s time to recon­nect, catch up, and rem­i­nisce, and that’s not so bad.