Friday concerns

A cloud is building on the horizon. One of those dark, steel-coloured clouds, it flashes every now and then with lightening. There is an ominous, glowing red base where the cloud meets the earth, as if Sauron and his army may be ready to strike. I am nervous about my children and their relationship with technology. Tech is the one ring to rule them all.

Back when I was a child, life was simple in the Shire and new tech was exciting but not pervasive. Think of the kids in Stranger Things but without the Upside Down – that’s how it feels in my memories. Our favourite possessions were bicycles and Walkmans. The pace of introducing new technology was slow here in Africa. Just as there was no TV in my mother’s childhood, there was no internet in mine.

Flash forward thirty years and i have to manage my daughters, and their relationship to the internet. That strange magic which is able to make them disappear. We are relatively conservative with our children in this house. I feel like I have seen too much to let my girls loose on an iPad or on YouTube. But I know the dam will burst and there is such a thing as sheltering them too much.

The answer to all of this, I believe, is well described by Tolkien and exemplified by my excellent wife. Stay productive, and know that your tasks make a difference in at least one life: Your own. Just as carrying the Ring throughout Middle Earth is no easy task, managing the internet in your own life is hard. In fact, Frodo almost succumbs to its powers more than once. Friends and family see us through and give perspective to our online life. Sam, is always there to get Frodo back on the right path.

Happy Friday, chimps.

Personal librarian

I like the idea of being your own personal librarian. Information flows around us. The silent and invisible nature of these rivers of information mean they are easily missed. Software ate the world and sent everything online, so I believe It’s a sign of maturity to handle your information online and that this covers everything from social media, to pay tv to paying your taxes.

This problem is new in its scope and digital nature, but there is an arc leading from the Gutenberg press. When a book used to cost as much as a small house, people started sharing them. Then public libraries were born to share the expensive books to the wider public and for years librarians have been the guides, sherpas, educators helping us navigate the reams of data available.

Nowadays the information is cheap. We each generate libraries worth of information in a single day, and it’s all connected. I think we need to gather some librarian skills to handle this revolution.

Rare

Today was a sunny winter day. We spent most of the day outdoors with our children. Hiking, playing tennis, playgrounds, trampolines.

Days like these are special because of all the obvious family bonding. However, in this moment, during lockdown and the digital revolution, today was especially rare because there was no logging on, no email. No zoom, no WhatsApp. At all.

It’s a small thing but it feels like it’s getting rarer every day.

Happy Saturday night chimps.

Lost phones

I went the whole of this weekend without my cell phone, but not on purpose. I lost my phone on Friday and only found it again on Sunday night.

What was interesting for me in this break was the two things that I did miss – Whatsapp and my banking app. Whatsapp groups have become the backbone of my COVID 19 ‘social’ life. Whatsapp is so pervasive that plans are hard to keep up with away from the phone – Zoom meetings came and went. A poker game got away from me. This is all exacerbated by the very busy life I have at the moment – three kids and a pregnant wife keep me busy with or without the phone.

I also needed to pay people on Friday and I couldn’t without the phone.

Philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers argued in ‘The Extended Mind’ (1998) that technology is actually part of us. I have heard many times that losing a phone feels like losing a limb. I didn’t feel much loss except when I realised poker had come and gone on Saturday night!

In fact there was far less distraction and my family life probably benefited from my losing the phone. It makes me think I should put it away on purpose sometimes.

Happy Tuesday chimps.

App hacks

I’m enjoying exploring ifttt.com and zapier.com. I’m also loving Evernote. One cool thing I have set up using ifttt.com is using Siri and Google Assistant to voice command a note in Evernote.

If you are curious about how your apps can all work together – check out the two sites I mention above.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Research tips and tricks

In this age of Google and unlimited information at our fingertips, there is still great value (perhaps greater than ever) in aggregating, curating and gleaning insight out of information. The internet is a firehose and we need some way of focusing in on something useful. Research reports of interest. Look at the archive of http://www.ben-evans.com as an example of what I love.

With that in mind, and with my brief career as a research analyst as a background, I am searching for hacks, tips and tricks to bend information to my will! I have always appreciated great research but I feel under-skilled to come up with a good piece of research myself. Perhaps it is a matter of brain power and IQ not being up to scratch, But I think it is just as likely a matter of methodology and understanding the process.

So, if any of you have any expert tips on using google to your advantage, or on how to compile a research report then please let me know. I am open to all learning on this topic, even if it seems obvious and basic. I need to know how to approach data, how to approach sources and how to make interesting links of interest. It is something that I wasn’t taught at school….or maybe I just didn’t listen.

Thats what is running through my head.

Happy Monday Chimps.