It’s really easy to share stuff online (that’s the point of social media, isn’t it?). At the same time, just because we can share something online, doesn’t mean we should share it.
With all this talk about the term “fake news” that a certain president made popular, there is plenty of material that is misleading, and inaccurate, and yet not so easy to discern. Being able to spot the fakes is a great way to fight growing disinformation online, often from the very people who portray accurate reporting as fake.
One of the challenges of being a parent in a time where we can share so much of our lives on social media is deciding how much to share about our kids. I decided to stop sharing much more than tidbits about our kids online a year or two ago. One of the reasons I stepped back was this:
One commenter criticized parents like the essay’s author for having “turned their family’s daily dramas into content.” Another said the woman’s essay surfaces a “nagging – and loaded – question among parents in the age of Instagram. … Are our present social media posts going to mortify our kids in the future?”
Of course part of the challenge is that our friends and family are likely on Facebook, and that’s where they share their lives. They don’t necessarily share publicly (as in the Public sharing option), but Facebook is their social hub.
Sharing our kids’ lives isn’t a modern phenomenon. Parents have been doing it for generations. What’s new is that we can share so much, across such vast distances, and at scale. Far beyond ye olde photo albums with printed photos. As Priya Kumar pointed out –
Unlike the diary entries, photo albums and home videos of yore, blog posts, Instagram photos and YouTube videos reside in platforms owned by corporations and can be made visible to far more people than most parents realize or expect.
I created a private family blog that is only accessible to family and close friends as a way to still share our lives with family and friends, and only with them. It hasn’t attracted much interest, though, and the reason seems to be that it’s not on Facebook, and therefore not part of that social hub.
It’s tempting to just go back to sharing this stuff on Facebook, and rejoin the collective there. The problem with this is that doing that is more likely to be harmful to our kids. And that doesn’t justify the convenience to our friends and family.
So, I reconsidered the value of our family blog. Instead of its primary purpose being a way to share our lives with friends and family in a way that better protects our kids’ privacy, I see it as a great way to document our lives for our kids.
I’d love to see our friends and family interacting with our family blog, but I’m not expecting to see that for the time being. Facebook has too much of a hold over our digital, social interactions (at least in my circles).
WhatsApp is a pretty prominent platform too, but sending a WhatsApp message to a family group isn’t the same as a blog post with photo galleries, a story, links, and maps that I use to document our experiences.
There are definitely more private options available for sharing our personal lives online. I’m partial to blogs but there are adoption drawbacks.
Still, given the choice between fewer visits from Facebook (and other) hold-outs, and committing our children to a degree of publicity they won’t want as they grow up, I’m comfortable adjusting my expectations of how many people will visit our family blog.
My original sin wasn’t making a Facebook account, it was abandoning my own website that I controlled (the original site was hosted on Tripod, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d pay for web hosting.) All these years later, maybe it’s time to update Jason’s Site.
Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.
Richard MacManus wrote about the state of feed readers as he saw it in his AltPlatform.org post titled “The state of feed readers”. He mentioned a couple things in his Feedly wishlist that prompted me to think more about what I’d like to see added to Feedly.
Feedly – ye olde feed reader for the Information Age
If you haven’t heard of Feedly, it is a feed reader. Yup, those old fashioned services that use RSS to subscribe to new blog posts and other content available through RSS and then present it to you to read through at your leisure.
Many people have announced that RSS died with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard or any number of other “Web 2.0” services. They are wrong.
While feed readers may not be as popular as they once were, they remain one of the best ways to receive the updates you care most about.
I loved using Google Reader back in the day and I switched to Feedly when Google killed Reader off. I still don’t understand why Google did that. Thankfully Feedly stepped into the void that Reader left behind.
It’s where my stuff is
I really like using Feedly. I think I’ve been using it since about 2008. Twitter is useful for breaking news but when I want to go through the content that matters most to me, I generally go to Feedly.
Like MacManus, I am a Feedly Pro user and it’s been worth it. I probably couldn’t tell you what all the Pro features are but I’m happy with the end result so I keep renewing my subscription.
I was meandering through some dusty directories on my Mac recently and I came across a Feedly benefit that I completely forgot about. It turns out that Feedly has been backing up my OPML files to Dropbox since 2014 (possibly when I started paying for Pro).
Feedly has a “read later” feature but I haven’t really used it all that much. I have preferred using Instapaper or Pocket for that.
I also realised that I forgot that Feedly has also been saving articles I marked to “read later” using its native tool as PDFs in my Dropbox folder. This is a pretty useful feature and it probably would have been even more useful if I remembered that I had enabled it!
A more recent Feedly feature is the ability to highlight text in feed items rendered in Feedly itself. This only really works when you subscribe to full feeds and doesn’t extend to pages that open from Feedly.
I love this feature in Instapaper which I started using as a research tool because I could highlight text as well as annotate it with comments. Feedly doesn’t go quite that far but it has real potential.
My Feedly wishlist
As much as I enjoy using Feedly, I’d love to see a few more features added. For one thing, I’d really like text highlights to be made portable somehow.
I can definitely see myself using Feedly as the research tool I thought Instapaper may become (for me at least) but I’d need to be able to do more with those notations. Here are a few ideas that, if implemented, would make Feedly so much more useful to me.
More useful highlights
I’d like to have the ability to capture text highlights into some sort of text file that preserves the context/source of the highlights (in other words, the article title, source and perhaps even highlight timestamps). IFTTT doesn’t have access to highlights so that isn’t an option at the moment.
It would also be great to be able to share highlighted text coherently and contextually through 3rd party services including to blogs, perhaps using IndieWeb tools.
Better sharing options
On a related note, imagine if Feedly baked IndieWeb functionality such as Micropub that enables users to share highlights or some other form of marked up content outside Feedly?
In particular, I’d really like to be able to share a highlight or even just a post I like directly to my blog on my phone.
I can already do something like this in my desktop browser. Sharing to WordPress from my browser invokes the WordPress “Press This” functionality, which is great.
At the same time, I find that I use my phone more than my laptop and given how many people use their smartphones as their primary computers, it makes sense for Feedly to make mobile a first class citizen.
Perhaps this could take the form of a pre-formatted share directly through the WordPress app or an intermediary step with a text file.
Feedly doesn’t even seem to offer an option to see my highlights in one place like Instapaper does.
I’m not sure what is possible, technically. At the same time, I’d like to be able to select something I have highlighted and share it on my blog with the contextual data about that highlighted text preserved, much like you can see in this screenshot of some of my Instapaper notes.
You could even take that further and enable other Feedly users to highlight that text and capture it into their own profiles almost like Amazon enables people to see what other readers have highlighted in Kindle books and add those highlights to their own collections.
Doing more with Feedly Boards
Feedly has something called “Boards” which are basically lists of articles you save to pre-defined lists. I’d really like to be able to share an RSS feed of my boards on my blog, for example.
Fortunately, I can use IFTTT to capture the articles I save. Still, I’d like to be able to create a sort of link roll based on my Feedly boards as an option from within Feedly.
I imagine I can do something similar to this through IFTTT but this is something that would probably work better as a native Feedly feature.
Just putting the thought out there
As I watch this IndieWeb thing gather steam, I’m hopeful that the ethos spreads not just throughout the online publishing world (aka the Blogosphere vx.0) but also to services like Feedly.
There is a lot to say for social media services. In many ways they have connected the online world in a way that Humanity hasn’t experienced. At the same time, we desperately need independent services like Feedly that empower us to consume the information we choose the way we prefer to do it.
My suggestions may not be even remotely on Feedly’s roadmap so I’m not expecting them to be implemented. At the same time, if they are, the result could be an even better service that we have at the moment.
Thinking back, I don’t think feed readers ever actually had mass appeal, just a dedicated core group of users who saw the value in customisable content streams.
OPML stands for “Outline Processor Markup Language”. My OPML files are basically lists or indices of my RSS subscriptions. They are a great example of data portability in action because you can usually import OPML files into new feed readers and retain all your content sources.
When we think about photography now, we think about capturing moments on our phones and sharing them on Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp or Snapchat.
We’re capturing more moments daily than we ever could before digital devices became so readily accessible. I love that about digital photography. It can be a little overwhelming at times but I’d rather have more photos of a moment than none.
At the same time, there is a downside.
What I’ve noticed is that this new habit also has a tendency to take us out of the moment we are capturing and that bothers me.
Ever notice how we lose the moment when we start sharing it with everyone? We take the photo and then, almost immediately, we find start sharing the photo with our communities. We pick the filters, make the photo just the way we like it to be, type the caption and share.
In the process, I think we often lose ourselves in that process instead of returning to the moment with the people or things in our immediate space. It’s ironic, really. There we are capturing a moment with our family and we fall out of it in our process of sharing it because we are more focused (excuse the pun) on the act of sharing and the other people we are sharing it with.
In contrast, a dedicated camera gives us an opportunity to be completely present when we are capturing moments and then return to it because we simply don’t have the immediate means to do much else. At the same time, it can also be a matter of focusing on one moment to the exclusion of others so there are still choices to make.
I’ll often be walking with somewhere with my family and I’ll stop to make a photo. Doing that interrupts a conversation with my son or just a moment walking with my family. It’s almost a blessing that my camera isn’t connected to anything because it is easier to go back to where I was before the photo.
When I make photos with my phone, the sharing habit can be strong and that just pulls me even further away. It has its uses, I suppose. Still, if my photography is about being more present, then my smartphone camera habit doesn’t support that.
The more I think about it, the more I appreciate my distinctly unconnected camera. It is a superior mindfulness and presence device because it doesn’t give me the opportunity to do much more.
Google Photos has taken a step towards taking some of the pain out of creating photo albums from your photos with “smarter albums” and I am looking forward to seeing it in action.
The update blends the Stories feature (imported from Google+) with Google Photos to automate album creation and add additional data like location data to create what will hopefully be an improved experience.
Stories have been a hit-and-miss experience for me so I haven’t really used them all that much. I suspect its because the intelligence behind their creation isn’t sophisticated enough to see the same themes I do (probably not surprising, the machines aren’t that smart yet). That said, they are a fun way to share events. I modified this one from my birthday day off last year:
Google Photos is an easier option for people to use to share their photos (well, if you ignore the blue whale in the room – Facebook). I’ve replaced Apple Photos with Google Photos and Flickr as my photo sharing choices and I basically manage my device photo libraries through these apps.
I don’t see the new album features available in existing albums on Google Photos but we have an office Purim party today so I’ll have a new album of photos soon and I look forward to seeing how it all comes together then.