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(an alien minion speaks to a larger alien dressed in ornate ceremonial garb, holding a phone) "Your Excellency, you're wasting a lot of characters by starting every tweet with 'Hear me and tremble, people of Earth!'"

Ppl of 🌏

Ppl of 🌏 published on

There was a time when social media advice was pretty simple. Be authentic and honest. Try to provide something of value to your audience. Listen more than you speak, and aim for conversation, not broadcast.

And minimize your character count on Twitter.

Today, simple isn’t really the word for social media or the Internet as a whole any more. “Raging bonfire of complexity” comes to mind. (So does “algorithm-driven profit-motivated undermining of civil society,” but let’s set that one aside for now.)

Thing is, I’m still something of a social media idealist. So I still recommend authenticity and honesty; sharing something of your inner life with the world; providing value; listening and conversing. But I also recommend doing it strategically, with tangible, specific goals in mind. Maybe it’s to connect with people, to make them laugh, to entertain yourself, to promote your skills to potential clients or employers, or to change the world in some way. Without goals, it’s easy to spin your wheels on social media for hours on end, achieving very little other than a headache, a drop in self-esteem and a marginal increase in Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth.

And about that last part, changing the world in some way: Don’t sell it short. My latest podcast episode talks about this. In a time of massive existential threats to civil society and our own survival, speakers who can command audiences have a responsibility to take a stand on those issues. As much as we might like to leave it to the experts, the experts are being shouted down.

Same for social media, maybe even more so. If you can build an audience and command attention online, you have the opportunity to use it for good… and arguably more than just an opportunity. As I put it in the episode, with great platform comes great responsibility.

Maybe together, we can not only save the planet, but make it one worth conquering.

Backup a moment…

Backup a moment… published on 2 Comments on Backup a moment…

Originally posted to ReadWriteWeb

Apparently March 31 was World Backup Day—a term I initially misunderstood, and took to be impressively but impossibly ambitious. Their message is well worth repeating: your hard drive will fail, and when it does, you’ll be a lot happier if you’ve backed it up.

Everyone I’ve asked has a data-loss story to share. Here are two of mine, tales of wrenching heartbreak worthy of the full IMAX treatment:


The bus is filled with reporters and political staff, chatting, checking messages on absurdly large cell phones, perusing newspapers, and opening large, bulky laptop computers.

TITLE: “Canadian federal election campaign, 1997”

We pick out ROB, a staffer in his mid-30s, sporting a goofy ponytail and drumming his fingers nervously on the surface of his computer as it boots.


Come on, come on…

Tight on the computer screen as it runs through the usual diagnostic messages… and then displays the fateful words “FATAL HARD DRIVE ERROR”.



(he looks up, swallows hard, and yells toward the front of the bus)

The, uh, speech may be a little late.



A busy city street in the full flush of a morning commute. A compact grey Honda pulls into a parking spot, and out comes ROB, his hair now greyer and close-cropped. He walks around the car and lets his DAUGHTER out of a rear passenger door, then locks the car. They walk away chattering to each other.

Through the front passenger window, we can see a COMPUTER BRIEFCASE on the floor as their voices die out in the distance.

A rock smashes the window. An arm reaches through, grabs the briefcase and quickly hauls it out. We hear the sound of running feet as we…


Okay, so it’s more meditation-on-loss-and-longing than Michael-Bay-spectacle. All I know is I’ve played those two scenes over and over on the ol’ cranial QuickTime.

That first time out, I was relying on someone else to be storing the speeches I’d written throughout the campaign; that turned out to be a false hope, and I lost everything I’d worked on for a month and a half. The second time, I’d only owned the computer for half a year, and was able to recover a lot of my older work from its predecessor; I resurrected a chunk of more recent stuff as attachments in sent email messages—thank you, IMAP! But I still lost a lot. (Crazy thing is, I’m still angrier about losing the bag than the computer. It was a damn fine bag.)

Granted, I was being stupid about it that second time, 10 years later (“I’ll only be a minute, and it’s a busy street—I’m sure my laptop’s safe”). But sooner or later, nearly everyone seems to be dumb about data… and when it comes to data, fate loves yielding to temptation.

Ever since then, I’ve become religious about backing up. My daily devotion is practiced via Apple’sTime Machine. It may not be the most efficient or full-featured piece of software, but it’s the best backup solution for me for one really simple reason: I actually use it. And although my company started using Dropbox as a collaboration tool, it also happens to serve as a perfectly good offsite backup for key business files.

How about you – got a backup horror story to share?

Edge cases of the third kind

Edge cases of the third kind published on 2 Comments on Edge cases of the third kind

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb.

Hard to believe it’s already been a year since I posted my farewell to Internet Explorer 6. (By “farewell” I meant “Just frickin’ die already.”)

My post was prompted by the announcement that support was ending for IE6 on Google Apps; since then, IE6’s decline has accelerated, dwindling into low-single-digit percentages of browser visits (if that) on most of the sites I manage.

And this week, the latest heavyweight jumped on the let’s-kill-IE6 bandwagon: Microsoft, which launched the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown site. It sets a target of reducing IE6 usage to less than 1% worldwide.

“For the love of god, please stop using our product” is an unusual message, but it’s a welcome one from Redmond. I’ve already been told by one client not to bother supporting it – which is superb news.

So if you haven’t already struck IE6’s installed base off your list of users you have to support, chances are you’ll be doing it sometime in the next few months.

But don’t feel too smug. If there’s anything to the latest sensational headlines from astronomy news(and that might be a big if), we might have a whole new group of use cases to consider.