Social Media and the Lizard brain

I wanted to write about Social Media and the Lizard brain. My experience of information technology and Social Media is that it is a great tool for people from different backgrounds to come together and have a calm and logical conversation. Some people believe that “we need a social media with heart that gives us time to think.” I strongly believe that the culprit is not social media but rather the way people are taught to think in general and how the stigmatisation of online interactions has led people to feel negative when using social media.

With a smartphone in your hand, System 1 thinking becomes the dominant mode of thought. Nobody can handle the volume of data in 2016 without relying on ifeelings to come up with instantaneous responses, often triggered by how you see others reacting. There is less scope for deliberation and discussion – the pressure is to make a snap judgment and move on. I love this film, this article is deplorable/fantastic or politician X is a welcome breath of fresh air/duplicitous bastard.

This is an erroneous view. The World Wide Web is a powerful social tool because it allows us to think for a week or two before posting a reaction. Imagine that you are reading a printed newspaper article and you are offended. You write a letter the same day in the hope that it will be published as a reaction to the article. You react without the time to think. Once you send the letter it cannot be edited.

Social media and the World Wide Web allow two things. They allow you to read around the subject. Rather than write based on anger and emotion you can study the topic you are responding to. You can write on reaction, you can rewrite it. You can share that reaction. You can change your mind and you can delete it.

I find it an interesting paradox that articles are written about how Social media require us to use the lizard brain rather than reflect when I personally find the opposite to be the case.

System 2 thinking is slower and more deliberative. You marshal evidence, you exercise judgment, you discuss with others and you try to arrive at conclusions

When I am unfamiliar with a topic I go to Wikipedia to familiarise myself with a topic and there is a good chance that I will read articles on the subject. I really appreciate that in modern life when we find interest in a new topic we can either buy e-books or audiobooks in order to study topics in depth. We start the day with limited knowledge about a specific topic and by the end of that same day, we have enough background information to join the conversation.

To use a cliché social media is not the villain that people are making it out to be. Social media is a conversational tool and a democratising opportunity. When people are taught to think independently, when people are taught to reason, and when people are taught to research topics before writing a response they are productive.

I have a rule. If my response takes more than 140 characters I will drop by Facebook or Google Plus. If it is longer than a paragraph I will write a blog post. By following this logic, emotion is taken out of the post.

Marshall McLuhan talked about hot and cold media decades ago. Social media is a cold medium. The audience needs to do the work. The audience needs to fill in the gaps. Parents, Schools and Universities need to teach people to understand the limitations of the media they are using whilst at the same time teaching them to be critical, to find more than one source before forming an opinion. The problem is not with the medium but with the way in which people are prepared for the new medium.

Reactions – What if Twitter died

You can tell when someone joins a social network by what they think the network is for. I joined twitter in 2006. No one knew what the network was best at, eventually everyone decided to use it as a conversation tool. When people understood how dynamic conversations could be the network grew. The author of “What if Twitter Died“wrote this:

“it can’t seem to stretch beyond its celebrity, celebrity follower and tech roots. If you aren’t into celebrities or the tech industry, Twitter just isn’t that appealing, especially given all the other options for online social interactions.”

It is clear from this writer’s post that he has not been with twitter since it’s earliest days. His twitter profile indicated that he arrived in 2010. That’s up to two years after the golden age of twitter ended. My previous posts have explored this topic in depth.

While social media focus on marketers and public relations professionals I will keep blogging. It allows me to express myself without providing content for platforms that have destroyed the social dimension.

Ingress no more

Somewhere in Geneva

For months I was passionate about Ingress. I was passionate about the game until fuel costs, parking costs, device costs and time costs were too high. When you play from level one to eight the game is fun. You progress quickly and you meet new people. You discover new places and it’s enjoyable.

As you reach level 8 and above the game becomes more like a chore. You have to walk hundreds of kilometres and you need to perform tens of thousands of actions to progress anymore. Every medal takes time. This time, when you drive from the countryside to a town or city is money.

Imagine doing something different. Imagine writing or taking pictures. Imagine reading current affairs articles or donating time to an event or charity. Imagine what you could walk away with. Imagine what achievements you could tell people about.

The biggest waste of time with the game of Ingress is farming. Farming in the game refers to hacking portals to get weapons, mods, shields and more. I find farming to be the most boring and tedious part of the game. You spend two or three hours farming and within twenty minutes your stock is empty.

Imagine if you had used that time to go for an energetic bike ride.

Bragi – self contained in ear audio player

BRAGI – The Dash — Wireless Smart In Ear Headphones from BRAGI on Vimeo.

I enjoy cycling, running, climbing and via Ferrata so this type of device is well suited to my needs. The price is not. At 300 USD it is an iPod shuffle replacement at its core. From what I understand The Dash can track steps, heart rate and duration of sports so in theory you can go without a sports watch, sports tracker or mobile phone. In practice, I never leave the house without my phone.

I do see it filling a swimming niche. Most mobile phones are not IP68 certified. If this device is IP 68 certified (I could not find information on the website) then I see it being especially interesting for swimmers.

According to their website they can be used for four hours in between charges but charge time is two hours. They will last through most workouts.

The limitations I see to this device are first and foremost the price. I don’t want to pay 300 USD for something that I am likely to lose. I listen to podcasts and audio books and like to have several on my devices at all times. Both my mobile phone and iPod classic fill these roles with ease.

When the price for these devices descends to 200 USD I will be willing to buy a set. I would also like to have either two sets of earphones or a charge time of just an hour rather than two. They say that the app is coming soon.

As an audiobook and podcast listener, I want to save my progress and bookmark interesting passages. I would like to see this incorporated to the gestures that control the device.

StravistiX for Strava

StravistiX for Strava

Stravistix for strava is a Chrome plugin. It allows you to analyse the data from your ride in more detail and with more graphs. In the detailed view you can see heart rate information, speed, power, grade, elevation and  ascent speed. It allows you to see each metric in more depth.

It allows you to look at your statistics in detail. You can see what percentage of the ride was flat, uphill or downhill. You can see how fast you were climbing and how your speed varies.

This breadth of data is fun to play with. It allows you to see whether you do spend as much time as you thought climbing. It also allows you to see how much of your time was spent static or moving.

There is a weather module for wind, temperature, clouds and humidity. This is a nice way of checking whether the wind is favourable to the ride you are thinking of doing that day.

What I would like to see next is a log of the weather and especially wind during the ride. It would like to see ground speed in contrast to wind speed. This data should be relatively easy to acquire.

Plugins are great because they allow you to do more with the data that you or other people generate. They allow weekend and professional riders to analyse how they are progressing. It also allows riders to compare themselves with others.

Conversational Social Networks

Ben Thomspon wrote, “How Facebook Squashed Twitter“.  The article looks at social networks from a marketing point of view. I like conversational social networks. Social networks by their very name are for conversations. They are about connections and they are about friendship, collaboration and more. 
In its Golden age twitter was a social network to establish new friendships with people we had yet to meet. It was a great tool, especially in places like London where the community of users was big enough to be interesting. Facebook, on the other hand, was a network of school friends, university friends and eventually colleagues. Facebook was more of an interactive yearbook.
Between 2006-2009, both networks were good because they were about friendly conversations, event organisation and personal sharing. At this time user engagement and stickiness were very high.
Both Twitter and Facebook are losing their appeal. Twitter lost it’s sense of community in 2009 when people went from following friends to following celebrities and when conversations went from being  individual to threaded by hashtags. As the closeness between users faded so did the stickiness of the network.
Return on investment has always been looked at from the point of public relations or marketing because they are the people paying. Their cost is financial and so twitter wanted to keep them happy. They ignored the other cost. Time. Private individuals need to justify giving their time and attention to social networks too. In the early days of twitter, when it was a conversation tool, we could justify spending the entire day on twitter because it allowed us to establish new business contacts, new friendships and more. When attention shifted from conversations and friendships to utilitarianism the network declined in value.
Facebook too is declining but for other reasons. It is a network of friends who are getting married, having children and working hard. They don’t use facebook in the same way as before. Social networks need to re-invent themselves as time progresses. Twitter needs to work on re-creating tight-knit communities and Facebook needs to find ways of making itself relevant to parents and working professionals now that our university lives are behind us, for the most part.
Social Media and Social networks have been around since the birth of civilisation. The difference is that social networks are now online as much as they are offline. Social media have gone from being paintings in caves to being Devo art, memes and other products. Facebook and twitter were great social networks because they helped to assemble communities on the World Wide Web. We are now shifting to regionalisation and interest based networks. I am thinking of Strava, Glocals, Sports Tracker and more.
I stopped using Twitter because I stopped finding conversationalists. Facebook too, is at risk. If they do not make an effort to remain relevant both of them will become dormant networks.

Virtual reality and Dining

The history of entertainment is a long one. We have gone from banquet entertainment during Roman and Medieval times. We have had radio and television to entertain us. We have also had books, magazines and kindles. The idea of Virtual Reality and dinner is not that strange.

What is fascinating about Virtual reality is that in our lifetime it has gone from requiring massive computers and cumbersome devices. Today virtual reality can be experienced with a mobile phone. The technology has shrunk and become affordable to such an extent that restaurants want to take theme restaurants from décor, painted walls and location to virtual reality.

the impact of virtual reality is a natural fit for restaurants that want to create a complete experience around a meal, not just serve a plate of food.

In this article they discuss virtual reality as a way of enhancing your dining experience. To use a local example imagine that you are eating a fondue at the Valais or the Chateau D’If in Geneva. The restaurants are located at the side of busy roads. With the virtual reality set you could watch immersive videos of a peak of your choice. It could be live or pre-recorded. You would feel like you’re sitting at the Rocher De Naye or Aiguille Du Midi for example.

If you’re eating bison at home then you could have a live feed from Yosemite, the field with bison near Geneva or the Polish forests. If you’re eating certain types of fish you could watch a natural history document about the oceans and that specific type of fish. It could bring you closer to your meal and serve as an educational purpose.

There is one thing I am curious about, in relation to Virtual Reality meals. How do you see your food? What technological advances will allow you to be immersed in virtual reality and see your food and the person you are with? When that next step is taken Virtual Reality restaurants will be more enjoyable.

Suunto and Sports tracker collaborate.

I have been using sports tracker for years. I first used it on the Nokia N95 8GB several years ago. This was an excellent app that allowed you to track your moves using the mobile phone as a GPS. The limitation of such an app was battery life on mobile phones. The battery usually did not last more than an hour at first and eventually progressed to two hours or more.

The first Suunto Device I used was for diving. I used the Suunto D9 dive computer for many months before upgrading. As I satisfied with this device I bought the Suunto Ambit 2 and eventually the Suunto Ambit 3. The reason for buying these watches is battery life. As normal watches they can last for 100 days, losing about one percent a day. If you use them as fitness watches then they easily last for a day or more.

When you’re doing via Ferrata, hiking, cycling or doing other sports you want the device you use to track your fitness efforts for as long as you’re going. That’s where Sports trackers and other mobile phones had their weakness. Mobile phone apps sometimes crash. If you’re pushing yourself hard during a workout you do not want to reach the end of a workout with no data.

Another frustration I often encountered was with Movescount, Suunto’s social sports app. At the end of quite a few workouts, I was unable to sync my workout data and analyse my progress. At the time,

I wanted to see Suunto and Sports tracker combined. They’re both Finnish companies and they both excel at specific tasks. Suunto for the hardware and Sports tracker for the analytics. By combining the two we have the best of both worlds.

Communications between Movescount and Sports tracker has been available for several weeks at this point and it works flawlessly. I have hiked, cycled, walked, sailed and climbed and each activity has synced without problems.

Cycling in Winter

After cycling over 1100 kilometres in 2015, I aim to cycle 1200 kilometres in 2016. This goal is an easy one to achieve. It’s the 21st of January and I already have 100 kilometres logged. The weather over the last three weeks has been cold and wet. We have had rain almost every day and it recently turned to snow. As there is a lack of good weather there is no choice but to go out in the bad weather.

Cycling in these conditions is messy. Your clothes get soaked from the rain and as I cycle in the countryside I come home covered in mud. When I get home I change into dry clothes and I recover quickly.

Rain is easy to deal with once you’re ready to feel wet and dress for the cold. What is more challenging is cycling on slick tires on snow. Some of the roads I cycle on are salted and cleared but as I also use agricultural roads they are covered in snow. Safety takes focus and concentration. The rear wheel skids if you apply too much force to the pedal and the bike can skew if you are not careful.

Cycling in such conditions is not ideal. It demands resistance to the cold, stamina to continue making the effort and determination to set an achievable goal. I will continue towards 200 kilometres by the end of February. Cycling consistently now will make summer all the more pleasant and rewarding.


On the Potential of Self-Driving Cars

When people write about self-driving cars they write from the perspective of people living in cities. I live in the Swiss countryside at the foot of the Jura which results in me seeing the potential of self-driving cars differently. For a start at the moment buses operate from 5 in the morning to 9 in the afternoon. There is a tow hour gap at lunchtime when there is no service and at other times the frequency is once an hour, except at rush hour. When self-driving cars are available I see the bus and taxi services being discontinued. I also see the space dedicated to parking in cities vanishing.

I see cars being used to connect villages to town. You get into the self-driven car and it takes you to the train station. From the train station in Nyon you get to Geneva or Lausanne. From Geneva or Lausanne you have trains and buses to take you to your final destination if you are either recovering from an injury or carrying too much weight. Scuba diving and winter sports require a lot of gear so a self-driven car would be helpful.

I also see self-driving cars as being great for teenagers living in the countryside. Self-driving cars will provide a 24 hour per day transportation. This means that teenagers will be able to take the last train home and catching a self-driven car from the train station to home.

I see this as being just as useful for grown ups who like to have more than one drink when out socialising with friends. For now society believe in designated drivers. With self-driving cars the designated driver will be a thing of the past. The train will transport you from the train station to your home. It will also provide country bumpkins with the opportunity to stay out even after the last train. It will equalise city slickers and country bumpkins.

On weekends when groups meet up to do activities self-driving cars will be of great use. At the moment when you hike or do Via Ferrata there is a need for wide open spaces where cars can be parked and sit for hours. Self-driving cars would bring people to the hiking or via Ferrata base and drop people off. These cars will be able to return to active use in the region until activity participants return to the starting point ready to return home.

Car ownership would be replaced by car allocation. For now when cars are not used they are parked and space is used for them to get in and out of that parking space. Space is also needed for the car driver and passengers to get in. When cars drive themselves that space will no longer be needed. Car will be parked as they are on ferries. Only a few centimeters are left between cars and unloading is one row or row at a time. Parking could be designed to maximise space and efficiency.

Mobile phones and smart watches can also be used to increase efficiency at rush hour. When two or more people are heading from the same train station to the same village their smart devices will see this and allocate a parking bay or vehicle with a display to show the name of the destination village. For now the limitation with buses is that they have a set route. If you are at the end of the route you have to wait for everyone to be dropped off and this can add minutes to your journey time. Self-driven cars you would be routed straight to your village square and walk from there.

The point of self-driving cars would be to minimise waiting times. Rather than wait from half an hour to an hour for a bus you would be taken home within 10 minutes of arriving at the train station.

Cities and traffic lights today are designed for human drivers, whether for trams, buses, cars, cyclists, pedestrians or motorbikes. In the self-driven future we could do away with traffic lights. Traffic flow in cities will be reduced because trains and public transport will make it easy and convenient to get from point A to point B. In a city like Geneva where the system is nodal from the centre out we would have private transport to go between distances where a 15-minute walk is needed. The point is to reduce the need for people to go from the periphery to the centre and then back out to the periphery.

The point of self-driving cars would be to maximise network efficiency and provide people with a smooth and efficient way to commute and participate in social activities. It should equalise life for city slickers and country bumpkins. The purpose of self-driven cars should be to maximise use of the existing infrastructure whilst making the last mile more convenient and flexible.