Categories
Devices Events and Life Wellbeing

Screen time for kids during a pandemic

Back when we were in a “normal” routine, our kids’ screen time was pretty limited during the week. We only permitted them to use their phones and computers for school-related tasks during the week.

On weekends, they could play (there’s a limit on the Nintendo Switch, mostly as an experiment) for as long as their phone batteries lasted (well, that was the idea, it becomes meaningless when their phones last all day ).

Our kids would go out to meet their friends at parks, or at their friends’ homes.

Since our kids were basically confined to our home, and couldn’t see their friends in person, we basically lifted the screen time limits. The way I think about it is that they tend to play games with their friends, so this is the new “go out and play with your friends” time.

I noticed that Clint Edwards shared a post about a similar issue recently, and I agree with him, here:

I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier about online gaming, something only a pandemic could make me say. My son’s pretty social, and being away from his friends has been really hard on him. I usually hate gaming and we normally have serious restrictions on screen time. But right now it is keeping him inside and giving him a social outlet, and that’s made this whole ordeal easier on everyone.

Let Them Watch Screens – No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog

The challenge, now, is that I still want our kids to focus on what passes for their distance classes in the mornings. We expect them to stick to “normal” school days, finishing around the time they’d finish if they were at school.

I work from my usual space at our dining room, and they work in their bedrooms, so it’s difficult to keep a close eye on whether they’re actually focused on their studies.

Still, as Clint points out, a little extra screen time creeping in at the edges isn’t a calamity –

Listen y’all, we are going to get through this. I know it. But the last thing I think we should all be worried about is limiting screen time right now.

Let Them Watch Screens – No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Categories
Social Web

Facebook really has become the primary social space online. Stepping out of Facebook is like going on a retreat in some distant land with no link to the rest of the world.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Semantic Web Social Web

The Mastodon in the room

I read Patrick Hogan’s post about Mastodon titled “Mastodon makes the internet feel like home again” last week. It prompted me to install a Mastodon app on my phone again, and take another look.

Find me on Mastodon, if you want

Like many people, I’m not exactly in love with Twitter lately (except when I am). I’ve been on the lookout for something better for years (remember Jaiku?). I really like the idea of a federated update/micro-blogging service, and Mastodon has all the features you’d want.

What about the network effect?

The one feature that’s missing is the one factor that either boosts or kills any social service (again, remember Jaiku?) is the all important network effect. As Richard MacManus put it in his post titled “How social media fits into the Open Web” in AltPlatform.org (I can’t seem to load the site and provide a link):

I dip into Mastodon from time to time, but it just hasn’t managed to become part of my daily Web routine. Perhaps it will in future, but the old ‘network effects’ rule applies here: the value of a tool is ultimately in the strength of the community it builds.

This probably isn’t the platform I’d expect to see my friends on (and I don’t expect to). Still, if Mastodon is to be a viable alternative to Twitter for me, I’d want to be able to join communities that feature the people who I follow on Twitter. At the moment, I’m not sure most of them are even aware of Mastodon.

More importantly, what about my blog?

As interested as I am in a federated alternative to Twitter, what I really want is to be able to use my blog as my starting point for everything. Why can’t my personal site be the focal point of my presence on the web (at least one of my primary expressions of my self online)?

This takes me back to the work the IndieWeb community is doing to link all these sites together into a federated identity, and content network. How about extending that work to the point where I can use this blog as my identity that reaches into these federated networks?

This may be wishful thinking but I’d really like to see a future version of WordPress introduce this social connectivity that allows me to extend a unified personal presence to non-blog platforms.

On Mastodon, my identity is linked to the instance I am a part of. There, I am @pauljacobson@mastodon.social. I can use that identity to participate in other Mastodon instances (I think), so I have the beginnings of a distributed, social identity here. The challenge is that my nascent social identity is distinct from this site.

Update: I wrote too soon. Ryan Barrett pointed me to Bridgy Fed that seems to do what I was hoping I’d be able to do (pretty much). Barrett launched Bridgy Fed in October and it looks terrific:

Ryan Barrett’s Bridgy Fed launch announcement.

This is going to take a little time to configure but I’m looking forward to working through the process and connecting my site to the fediverse.

Categories
Social Web

Why do you use Twitter?

I just responded to a question on Inbound which I thought I’d share. I’ve been thinking about why I use Twitter for about as long as I’ve been using Twitter and I don’t have any real answers yet. That said, it’s a conversation worth having.

I use Twitter primarily for news and updates. I’ve done that pretty much since I joined Twitter in early 2007. It is still the best service for that. Facebook and other services seem to be a little too “heavy” when it comes to checking in for updates or developments I’m tracking. That Twitter is still relatively unfiltered, algorithmically speaking, means I can rely on it more than Facebook to give me a fairly uninterrupted perspective on what is going on in the world. Being close to a newsticker makes it pretty helpful for this stuff.

I don’t agree with using Twitter as a personal social network. It has always seemed like the digital equivalent of trying to have a private conversation in a crowded room. You just wind up shouting at each other while anyone and everyone listens in. I suppose DMs make this possible but none of my friends use DMs for personal chat. Twitter just doesn’t have that “personal chat thing” like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have. It also isn’t a particularly effective engagement tool either.

If Facebook could figure out how to give us chronological and unfiltered streams in a lightweight app interface, it could really give Twitter a run for its money. Facebook is heading in the opposite direction so that isn’t going to happen. I also think there is something to Joshua Topolsky’s article “The End of Twitter” but I don’t know what could replace it at this stage.

Categories
Applications Blogs and blogging Writing

Not just another WordPress vs everything else

I love that there are so many options for people who want to publish their words online these days. I was researching a topic for a blog post for the imonomy blog (I am employed by imonomy as a Content Marketing Specialist) and my colleague, Shirley Pattison (read her stuff, she writes about fascinating topics), suggested a topic: is WordPress’ dominance as a preferred publishing platform under serious threat from upcoming favourites? It was a really interesting post to work on and the result is my 4 000+ word post titled “Is WordPress Still The King Of Online Publishing?“:

Is WordPress still the king in online publishing and will it continue to hold sway in the months and years to come?

As a publisher you want to ensure that your site’s platform gives you the functionality you need to reach your audience and convey your message.

I explore some of the major options and contrasted their features with WordPress’ in this article. Each of these options; WordPress, Squarespace, Ghost, Medium and Tumblr, have strengths and weaknesses where I focused on three themes: writing tools, customization and social.

What interested me most about the topic was how each service I explored seemed to have a different emphasis, whether it was simplicity, its underlying social dynamic or something else. The post became less a “WordPress vs Everything Else” and more an exploration of which platform may work best for you given what is more important to you when you share your work.

I really like Medium but when it comes to my writing and maintaining some sort of collection that is under my control (as much as it can be, I guess), WordPress remains my preferred platform.

On a related note, it is worth reading my post on Social Media Today titled “Build Your Community Hub, Don’t Rent It” if the debate about whether to publish on your platform or a 3rd party’s platform is best for you?

Categories
Devices Mobile Tech Social Web

Simplifying the crowded messaging space

The messaging space seems to be the antithesis of email. Where email works using common protocols and a variety of email applications that all support them, messaging apps rarely talk to each other and basically function in silos. The messaging space is a surprisingly tricky one to dominate but a few of the services are in the lead and I can’t help but wonder if they are about to be unsettled in the near future.

Skype announced an update to its Mac app that brings it closer to recent mobile app updates that seem to emphasise messaging more and I thought it would be interesting to find out what people use as their dominant messaging app/service. I asked people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and received some answers I wasn’t expecting.

 

The trend seems to be that messaging is a mobile thing and the preferred messaging apps are either WhatsApp or iMessage. At least based on the responses I received on Twitter and Facebook. The responses I received on LinkedIn all included Skype as an option with others including Redphone and IBM Sametime. This is hardly a scientific survey but the differences are revealing.

I thought that, perhaps, Skype is so prevalent that as Skype improves the mobile experience it could become a compelling mobile messaging option with an established desktop presence. It could even become a dominant messaging and VOIP platform that could supplant other choices but that doesn’t seem to be happening at all. Instead, people opt for a more fragmented approach with a fairly clear distinction between the mobile and desktop options (unless you have to use Viber which has desktop and mobile apps).

I put together a rough comparison of the various messaging options in a Google Sheets document and when I look at the feedback I received from people who responded, it certainly isn’t the case that the most widely supported app wins. WhatsApp’s and iMessage’s dominance don’t seem to be affected by their limited support (either across mobile/desktop in WhatsApp’s case or Mac and iOS vs all other platforms in iMessage’s case). Mobile trumps desktop and becoming the industry leader requires a lot more than cross-platform support.

Perhaps, like Twitter, becoming the preferred messaging choice requires a simpler, frictionless experience and not the apparent UX overhead that comes with more complex, cross-platform alternatives?

That said, I wonder if the dark horse in this race isn’t, perhaps, Facebook Messenger? It has pretty capable mobile apps, is accessible in your browser and integrates with Skype. Bring along Facebook’s 1.5+ billion users and you have a pretty compelling choice largely because the people you would want to keep in touch with are a download away because they already use Facebook. Facebook’s aggressive push to persuade users to download the Facebook Messenger app makes a lot more sense because if you are already sharing your life with friends and family on Facebook and have the Facebook Messenger app installed on your device, why not just use that for your messaging requirements too? Skype then becomes just another road that leads to Facebook.

For now, though, the messaging space is pretty cluttered but consolidation has to happen at some point. The bigger players are going to want to start entrenching themselves even further and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of WhatsApp-Facebook Messenger integration down the line to bring all those WhatsApp users into the broader Facebook ecosystem to create a massive, more coherent and encompassing social experience.

Categories
Social Web

Should Path be less, not more?

Lauren Hockenson has a great article on GigaOm about the new Path releases titled “Once again, Path proves why it has been trendy but not trend-setting“. Here is a snippet:

The issue with Path is that it can’t resist hopping on a new social trend. The app takes cues from practically every other social media platform in the public consciousness, seen most explicitly in its decision to hop on the ephemeral trend pioneered by Snapchat. As a result, it’s hard to explain to anyone why they should use path or find cues about how to actually use the service. Even in its decision to “simplify” with Path Talk, the new app chock full of tons of features that kind-of but not-quite match up.

I had a similar discussion with Nathan Jeffery and Darren Smith on Twitter earlier and its a fair criticism:

I’m still thinking about the latest release so you can probably expect more from me on this (as usual).

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web

Blogging 2.0 – when your blog becomes your social hub

You may have gathered that I think about how we use social services like Facebook, Twitter and others quite a bit. You also probably know that I am a pretty big Path fan although it’s not clear whether Path has much of a future when it comes to the people who mean the most to me (Update 2016-02-18: Path seems to have largely fallen by the wayside for me and my friends who were previously big fans. Slack has become a great option in its place, which is pretty interesting).

I started thinking about blogs in a social context. Blogs like this one have become personal hubs where we share our ideas, passions and more. For many people, their blogs are their digital news feeds and identities but they aren’t nearly as optimised for personal sharing as dedicated social services like Facebook, Google+ or even Path. This is one of the reasons why many people use Facebook or Google+ as their personal blogging platforms. These services have pretty granular sharing options even though their users don’t have meaningful control over their “blogs”.

At the moment this WordPress blog enables me to share posts publicly (my default), password protect posts or keep them to myself with a private publication option. What if WordPress enabled me to share posts with limited groups of people that I define instead? What if people could register using a variety of social profiles and I could allocate those people to groups and when I publish blog posts, share selectively?

It may look a bit like BuddyPress although what I have in mind doesn’t necessarily involve creating a social network on your site but rather establishing your site as a node in a decentralised social network of connected sites.

That sort of model would probably look a lot like Google+ Circles but it would be my site which I directly control and can host. Imagine that becomes a wider practice and now you have a distributed social network constituting a network of blogs that link to each other, can be followed and participated in. WordPress would be an ideal platform. It already has a substantial network of users. Theoretically possible. The question is whether anyone would take advantage of the functionality?