Tag Archives: Facebook

Really Cleaning Up Your Digital Crap

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a technology junky. It’s rare that the release of a new app, social network or device isn’t met by an explosion of dopamine-infused joy. However, last year things started to feel different. Perhaps it was the voice of Patrick Rhone and the idea of Enough in the back of my head, or perhaps I’d just overdone it to the point where I truly have had enough, but for the first time the tools started to feel like a burden rather than an aid.

In a rare moment of honesty (technology can be a bit of a blind spot for me), I found I had more devices than I use, more emails than I can manage, more networks than I enjoy and more information than I can process coming my way.

It wasn’t that I was enjoying technology less. In fact, much of my workflow feels more aligned than ever before, but I started to feel the bloat. In late November, I setup a little project for myself (one that’s still a work in progress) and decided to do something about it, starting with the greatest offender of all…

Email Unsubscribing

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point, I grew numb to the daily task of deleting spam or email newsletters that I signed up for and never read. Unsubscribing on the whole is a pain in the ass and it always seemed faster to just swipe and delete. So swipe and delete I did. Every day. Swipe. Delete. Swipe. Delete. It became second nature. It also made me dread going into my inbox knowing that I’d have to do my little routine to clean out the over 70% worth of garbage.

Now I have no problem deleting an unnecessary email, but the daily habit made me feel as if there was little value to even having an email account (spoiler alert: there is). At first, I tried a service like Unroll.me which attempts to eliminate and consolidate much of this for you, but it wasn’t a fit. I didn’t want to make my unneeded emails better, I wanted them gone. So I decided to dedicate a month to cleaning out the crap. Rather than the daily routine of swiping and deleting, I found the often elusive unsubscribe buttons, dealt with the often annoying unsubscribe process and chipped away at all of the nonsense that I had allowed into my life. There’s still the occasional spam, or a subscription that I’ve yet to eliminate, but my daily email count is down by about 60% and the signal to noise ratio has improved drastically. It also doesn’t make me dread going into my inbox, something which I’m certain was coming off in the messages I did want to send.

Social Cleanup

I used to love Facebook, I used to love Twitter. I got a tremendous amount out of both services and they really helped me understand just how passionate I am about technology and the way we communicate. But, and this is entirely my own fault, I way overdid it. On Facebook, I was far too liberal with who I accepted as a “Friend” and what businesses I “Liked.” On Twitter, I played the social media douche bag game of trying to build up a following rather than focusing on making genuine connections and ended up with a Twitter Stream that was almost entirely noise I didn’t care about. When I opened Facebook, I couldn’t find an update I cared about, and when I opened Twitter, I had to use a tool like a list just to cut through all of the crap.

It wasn’t until I got a do over with App.net that I realized two things: I still essentially love what I can get from those types of networks and that the problem was entirely fixable. I was tempted to burn many of my social profiles down and start again, but I didn’t like the idea of losing all of my digital records (I can’t tell you how much I owe Facebook as a photo service after our robbery last year). I decided to attack this on two fronts, realigning the tools I still want to use and eliminating those I don’t.

Facebook First

I started with Facebook and used a paid Chrome extension called Ultimate Friend Remover Pro and aggressively cut down on the amount of friends I follow (I tried doing this in app, but Facebook makes it very difficult to bulk unfriend or unlike). I cut approximately two thirds of my friends (essentially anyone I did not care if I ever saw again) and immediately saw the difference. While I still needed to clean out a hell of a lot of “liked” Pages, the updates were from people I actually cared about. On days where nothing major is going on, it’s nice to check in with the friends I know more from my real life than my online world. (On the days things are actually happening in the world, please, for the love of all that is holy, stay away from Facebook!)

Twitter Next

Twitter is a strange one. I had been using a list to only see what I wanted of Twitter and ignored the rest. In theory, I really didn’t need to do anything to clean this up, but it was bothering me. It may have been shame from the time spent chasing follower count, but I really just wanted to align Twitter with my actual usage. I didn’t want to count on a list to help me ignore the 4000+ people I was “Following.” ManageFlitter gave me a tool that allowed me to quickly eliminate those I was no longer interested in following, while white listing those I still wanted to hear from.

More Social Clutter

From there it was a matter of looking at the Apps I have on my phone and the credentials I had in my 1Password account and determining what I wanted to do. I’m still not looking to part with services like Instagram, but Path, as much as I love the app, is just another thing that I do not need in my life. I haven’t been as aggressive as I’d like with these other social apps, and I will likely need to do another pass through, but there’s a certain pleasure in eliminating something that you know you’ll never use again.

RSS Pruning

When it comes to how I go about learning and the way I consume information, RSS or Really Simple Syndication (you can read more on how I use RSS here) plays a major role. When a new interest arises or a new voice comes along that interests me, I add the feed from their website into my Google Reader and I automatically receive any new content. Every day I scan through my feeds and pull the posts that interest me most into Instapaper to read.

As my interests have shifted and certain sites have drastically increased the frequency with which they post, there was more excess to consider than I would have liked. I don’t mind dismissing things, but I don’t have the time to dismiss everything. With this in mind, I took a similar approach to the one I used with Facebook and just aggressively cut down my feeds. Now when I go in, my feeds do a far better job of reflecting my interests and make it far easier to find the work that I want to read most.

The Benefits of Cleaning Up Your Crap

Feeling weighed down by the very technology that’s meant to help push you forward can be frustrating. There’s often a temptation to “declare bankruptcy” and burn your email, your social networks or your feeds down. Believe me, I was tempted to do all three myself. Yet as you begin to clean out your email, you realize there are messages that you would not want to miss in your frustration. As you reduce the size of your social network following (and the number of networks you use), you can see only what you want about those who matter to you most. As you reduce your feeds, you can make it easier for the stories that help you grow (or just amuse the hell out of you) to rise to the top.

There’s also the unintended benefit of seeing how my tastes have changed. I’ve had the same email address for over a decade, I’ve been on Facebook for five or six years and have been using RSS daily for the past three years. This exercise has helped me get a better sense of where my overall focus is. It’s shown me what I’m no longer paying attention to, as well as what I still may be paying too much attention to. It’s helped me identify friendships that I’ve let lapse as well as recognize friendships that have grown.

It’s also served as a great reminder that no matter how tempted I may get in a moment of frustration to get rid of it all, the technology plays a large and positive role in my life. A role that’s far more enjoyable since I took the time to be far more intentional about the way I use it.

The Three Things #2

The Three Things, is a weekly series where Gini Dietrich from Spin Sucks, Howie Goldfarb and myself share the one thing that captured our attention and that we believe to be worthy of yours.

60 Mountain Lion Tips by David Sparks and Brett Terpstra

Michael on Macs: I apologize in advance, but this week’s “thing” is going to cost you. That said, if you’re a fellow Mac user, it’s money well spent. David Sparks, author of Mac At Work and iPad at Work, and Brett Terpstra, the creator of Marked, just released 60 Mountain Lion Tips. The book is useful for novices and weathered Mac geek alike and it does a wonderful job of showing off the potential of the new iBooks author platform (you can also get it in PDF if you’re not an iTunes or iPad user).

The first few tips saved me enough time this week alone to rationalize the $6.99. The book runs the gamut from easy to attempt keyboard shortcuts, to tool suggestions, and even offers some serious terminal geekery towards the end. If you want get more out of your Mac and are curious as to the future of books, you’ll want to give this a shot.

From Facebook to Advertisers: Forget About Clicks

Howie on Facebook: Chris Baccus, who used to be the head of digital and social media at AT&T, and I have had a long running discussion on the marketing effectiveness and stock value at Facebook.

If anyone remembers Beacon this is kind of a private B2B version. With Beacon you bought something and it would be shared with all your friends. Now somehow there will be a connection between you seeing a Facebook ad, you then buying that brand, and Facebook telling the advertiser they helped sell product for you.

Being a huge privacy advocate I am curious how they make this connection, but also how they can take credit for a national brand’s sale of a product or service that also has advertising, direct, email, PR, and more.

Tips for Getting the Best Table in Town

Gini on Restaurants: This is a great story about how to get a table without a reservation in some of New York’s most popular restaurants for as little as $20.

From Gourmet (an oldie, but goodie), one man’s journey to tip his way into the best restaurants in New York City. He discusses what works, what doesn’t work, and how to manage the same for yourself. He details the days and times he tried different tactics, who was offended and who took the cash, and how to present it as a tip for outstanding service instead of a bribe.

If you’re a foodie and love to go to the newest restaurants, but hate the long line or endless reservation game (like me), it’s worth a shot!

Be sure to subscribe for free by Email or RSS to automatically receive future editions of The Three Things series and more from A Better Mess.

This post includes affiliate links, because I’m shameless and because I think you’ll like the thing I’m linking to.

The Apple Updates That Matter To Regular People

While all of us geeks dance and sing about USB 3, Retina displays and 0.71″, there are other humans… regular humans, who couldn’t humanly care less. While I’m ready to give up at least one, if not both of our kids for the MacBook Pro with Retina display for no other reason other than I really, really want one, it doesn’t change much for the everyday Apple user (read: normal people1).

Let’s look at everything Apple announced and what it might mean to everyday users:

MacBook Air and Pro Updates

This will make no difference to anyone other than us (and I’m not even sure that all that many of us are tempted). The biggest possible impact is the availability of larger SSD drives which might appeal to digital pack-rats. All of the updates are great; none of them change anything.

MacBook Pro with Retina display

Tempting, damn sexy but really, really, really expensive. As the price comes down and the screen quality comes to the MacBook Air, this will be a huge deal. Today, it will be a drool-worthy purchase for those whose wives are better than mine and are willing to sell off a child. As I shared yesterday, Devir Kahan makes the best possible argument, explaining:

This really seems like the first real professional-grade portable machine. This is the sort of thing that really makes me consider going laptop only (with a Cinema display for at home).

He is also right that long-term, this is the future of all laptops, but for right now this is every geek’s fantasy and an every-person’s unnecessary luxury.

OS X Mountain Lion

Shawn Blanc really got this right before the keynote went live. There are tons of tiny details that will make life better, but iCloud is the one that will make life different. Geeks have spent years stringing together synced notes, reminders, contacts, calendars and most importantly files (we do love our Dropbox). With Mountain Lion, Apple took all of the fear, confusion and most important of all, work out of this for everyone else with iCloud. We’ve been heading this way for a while, but with Mountain Lion, everyone, even technophobes just became a whole lot geekier without having to actually get geekier (you lucky bastards). I still have my concerns as to Apple’s competency when it comes to the cloud, but the ease of synchronization across all Apple devices will be a major temptation when Mountain Lion arrives next month.

If it is as easy and prevalent as it looks, Dictation on the Mac has the potential to be huge. It will all come down to execution here (e.g. how well it plays with long-form writing, how easy it is to activate and deactivate), but it seems like a no-brainer for quick bursts of text such as quick email responses, Tweets and Facebook status updates. And while we’re on the subject of Facebook, as much as the geeks will hate this, the rest of humanity will love these features, both on OS X and when they come to iOS 6.

iOS 6

Speaking of Apple’s mobile OS, I’m hoping that there will be a lot more to see here when the next iPhone is launched, as what we saw was a bit of a disappointment. Sure it has a lot of small touches (the Phone app updates look great, Passbook has monster potential and as I said, Facebook integration will please everyone but the geeks who hate Facebook), but there was little that was game-changing here. Many will disagree and hail the new maps and turn-by-turn directions as innovative, but anyone who has been dying for GPS probably already has one. FaceTime over cellular is interesting, but few use it even when on WiFi. I could be wrong, but I don’t think cellular access will do much to increase activity here. The new Siri features are nice, but limited, and Apple still didn’t address the biggest issue: it’s dependability (or more accurately, its lack thereof.)2. I’m hoping that the keynote will serve as more of a tease before we see the new phone later this year. That said, I have a feeling that we just saw the majority of what’s to come in iOS 6.

Geeky rant (’cause I just can’t help myself): While I would have loved to see updates to the homescreen and springboard, what I was really hoping to see here was better API’s for Siri (the ability to change which apps Siri uses for existing functions like reminders would have been a nice start) and deeper integration between 3rd party and Apple’s own applications (JUST LET ME USE TEXTEXPANDER WITH THE MAIL APP AND I’LL SHUT UP ALREADY). I figured that getting both of these would be a long shot, but was hoping we would see one or the other with iOS 6.

On the long-term front, the fact that Apple is unifying our cell number with our Apple ID is interesting to say the least (and if I was a phone carrier, I might just go as far to say concerning). The ability to take phone calls on our Mac and iPad diminishes the importance of the phone carriers and sets up some interesting possibilities for the future.

My geeky griping aside, Monday seemed like a great day for Apple users. It’s a continuation of steady, iterative improvements to their hardware and software as well as yet another step in the collision of their mobile and desktop platforms. While I don’t think it really changes much of anything, that’s ok, because it continues to make everything just a little bit better. Which is usually all that the average Mac user is really looking and hoping for.

What do you think about the latest updates and offerings from Apple?

  1. And no, I’m not insinuating that Windows users aren’t normal, I’m just limiting the scope of this particular post.  

  2. Not that they were likely to address this publicly.  

Why Facebook Is Making A Phone

I’m not usually one to speculate, but while listening to Myke Hurley, Terry Lucy and Brett Terpstra discuss the rumored Facebook phone I couldn’t help it. Most of their theories centered around getting more user data and turning Facebook into a true mobile platform rather than an app on the devices of others. There’s little question that both of these points contribute to Zuckerberg’s desire to create a phone, but I think this is about something else. I think Facebook wants the one piece of data they don’t have on their 900 billion users. It’s a single piece of data that has the potential to earn them more than any ad. Facebook wants our credit card numbers.

This is something that Amazon, Apple and to a lesser extent, Google have that Facebook does not. And as our wallets and phones collide, it makes sense that they would head in this direction . This is especially true when you consider skepticism surrounding the effectiveness of their ads, even in light of all of the personal information we’ve already given them.

While the average geek does not trust Facebook, the average user does. So why not use a Facebook phone to get the one piece of data they’ve been missing from the majority of their customers? They have the potential to significantly improve contact management and have the opportunity to come up with far more favorable terms with companies like Amazon (I think we can all agree that buying things like Kindle book on iOS is a pain). Rather than continuing to suck our personal data dry while trying to come up with some inelegant way of serving up mobile ads, they could skip straight to the source and just take our money instead.

So what do you think? Is Facebook after our money or are they just looking to build a better mousetrap for their ads?

Stop Crying About Free Services

I wasn’t planning on writing about the Instagram-Facebook merger, but all of the posts about people quitting or asking how to get your data out of Instagram or posting the usual run of “Facebook is evil” just got to me.

Despite their reputations, I continue to use services provided by companies like Facebook and Google (and I will continue to use Instagram). I do this knowing that if there isn’t a product they are selling me, then I must be the product. Why do I do this? Two reasons: 1) I find the value of the services to be worth the risks and 2) I have a fool-proof solution for online security (more on this in a second).

People like Zuckerberg and Page aren’t (that) evil. They run companies, big ones. And big companies exist for one reason: profitability. Sure they could have charged us upfront, but let’s be honest, had Facebook charged every user $5, social networks wouldn’t be where they are today. Had Google chosen to charge an annual subscription rate, search would not be as prevalent in all of our lives. We adopted these technologies because they were free; we embraced them because they were free. And free will always come at a cost. So please stop feigning outrage every time one of these useful services finds a way to continue to exist.

When it comes to Instagram, users already had a viable and established paid option in Hipstamatic. It was mostly ignored. We were either too cheap or enjoyed the social network aspects of Instagram enough to choose the free option. And like many free digital services, when you sign up you are intrinsically agreeing to one of two things: 1) they will sell you shit or 2) they will sell your shit.

Have companies like Google and Facebook made bad decisions on behalf of the users and in favor of their profitability? Absolutely. But it’s often just as likely that they are struggling just as hard as we are to figure out where the line between our privacy and their profitability lives. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they are downright evil, but just as often they’re likely testing the same boundaries as we are.

So about that fool-proof system for online security… There is only one true privacy setting when it comes to social networks and cloud-based services, and that is your own common sense. It’s determining what your comfortable putting online, knowing full well that it could be compromised or misused, and never crossing that line. It’s not a matter of trying to guess which startups are or aren’t going to let you down and then abandoning them when they inevitably do. It’s assuming they will disappoint and acting accordingly.

If Facebook buying Instagram pissed you off, I have a suggestion. Don’t just stop using Instagram, stop using free social networks and services period. Stop using sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare or Pinterest, because it is a given that they will all inevitably let you down in favor of the bottom line1. More often than not, when you actually quit a service, it’s not because they were evil. It’s just because they either became useless or boring. The reality is that you’re not going to stop using services that are useful to you2. You’re just going to waste time switching from one company to the next until your latest service inevitably falls short or sells out.

  1. And on a related side note, stop using another free service like Twitter to bitch about a different free service. You not only sound ridiculous, but what are you going to use to bitch when Twitter inevitably lets you down?  

  2. Unless you’re Vardy :)  

How To Enjoy Social Media Enough To Stick Around

From Yuvi Zalkow’s Unsavvy Twitter Code of Conduct:

I haven’t been on Twitter long but I find it a fabulous place to loiter. Though in order for me to enjoy it, I follow some rules. Now keep in mind that my goal is just to enjoy the thing, not to maximize followers or sell something. Sure, it would be nice if three or more of my followers bought my book, and I’m sure that I’ll occasionally mention book release details, but it sounds painful to think about making $$$ on Twitter. My goal is to enjoy the experience enough to actually stick around.

Since giving up Google+ and not noticing one bit of difference in the enjoyment of my life, I’ve found myself taking a honest look at social networks and how I use them. Like many good web junkies, I find myself balancing a desire to play with all of my digital shiny objects alongside this strange growing urge to make something a bit more substantial on the web.

When you decide to make things in addition to whatever work and family responsibilities you’re already juggling, your time for filtering photos, repinning pins, checking in places, catching up on Facebook and connecting on Twitter becomes more limited.

You have to choose what matters most. Now the obvious answer is to eliminate the social, focus in on the work, but frankly I enjoy the hell out of some of my experiences on Facebook, I’ve built some amazing friendships on Twitter and some of my favorite pictures of my kids were taken using Instagram.

Can I convert that into a tangible ROI? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great when someone ends up visiting my site or asks me to do something because of my “online presence,” but that’s all tied to my interests more than it is my livelihood. Using Yuvi’s logic, my true benefit is that I enjoy these experiences enough to stick around.

Then there are these other services, the ones I use to ensure I’m staying on top of the latest and greatest trends. I once enjoyed these, but now feel obligated to update occasionally. Now some of this may be “social media burnout,” but the more I think about it, I wonder if I was so busy using the stuff that I never bothered to question if I was enjoying it. After reading Yuvi’s post, I’m coming to think that things like Foursquare, Path, Pinterest (sorry Gini) and even LinkedIn aren’t passing that test and may need to go.

Hopefully I can put the time I’m spending there to better use. Speaking of, if you’re looking for a simple and useful list of tips to get more out of your time on Twitter (or most social networks for that matter), give Yuvi’s post a read. It will be especially helpful for those trying to juggle the desire to enjoy with whatever awkward “need” to capitalize on efforts.

And if I were to add my own rule to Yuvi’s (or more accurately turn his idea into a rule): Whatever you’re not enjoying enough to stick around, shut it down.

What are you enjoying enough to stick around these days?

Goodbye Google+

From Danny Brown:

Over the weekend, I decided to stop using Google+. I’ve never really been enamored with the service, truth be told, and I just found it to be another place that sucked my time up.

Since before I was even able to get my account on Google+ I’ve wanted to cancel it. Like Danny and my podcast co-host Mike Vardy, it is something I’ve wanted to be rid of for some time now. Google+ has been an oasis for many who were unhappy, fed up or simply tired of Facebook or Twitter. I’ve always found these existing networks to suit my needs and my goals quite nicely. Sure, Google+ has interesting features including hangouts, a clean UI, keyboard shortcuts1, but to be honest, the platform added exactly nothing to my life that I was missing. In aggregate, there never seemed to be a compelling reason to add this service to the repertoire. Curiosity led me to give it a try.

I felt I needed to try it firsthand, if only to see that it wasn’t social media fatigue that was keeping me from trying something new. I jumped in and began using the account, doing my best to keep my reluctance from tainting my opinion. I’ve had some truly excellent conversations on the service, especially with Yuvi Zalkow and Erin Feldman (this is one of the areas where G+ truly shines), but I’ve always had good conversations with Yuvi and Erin.

When business pages were announced, our company didn’t have the resources to add yet another service. Our customers really do not seem to be there, yet fearing implications to our search engine rankings, I signed up. I quickly abandoned the account, but until now, the potential importance of G+ business pages kept me from deleting the page.

I could go on about what I like and what I dislike about the service (especially when it comes to how they are presenting their usage numbers and impacting search results), but the bottom line is this: for myself (and for our business) I no longer see Google+ as either a necessity or a desire. It’s an obligation and an unnecessary one at that. Is that a self-fulfilling proposition? Possibly. Am I just doing it wrong? Probably. But in truth, I think this service will be more important to Google than it will ever be to me or my business.

The decision to sign up for the account was my own. I’m not trying to come off as some victim of Google. I wanted a firsthand and informed opinion and now feel I have enough of one to leave the service. I was outspoken about it from the beginning and it seemed fitting that I let you know that I’ve decided to do more than abandon my account, I have deleted it. There’s always the chance that Google+ will turn things around and that this will be a highly relevant social network. If so, I will likely go back. But for now, I’d rather focus in on the areas of my digital life that offer value, especially this site, my podcast with Mike Vardy and Twitter. For our company, I want to harness our limited resources where they can best help our customers. When I gave it a long, hard look, it was clear that G+ was excessive and excess is something I’m more than happy to get rid of in order to focus in on the things that matter.

What are your impressions with G+? Think I’m insane for giving up so early in the site’s history? All thoughts are welcome.

  1. Facebook seriously needs to add these already, but I digress…