Digital Scofflaw

Blog of Michael Robinson, photographer and occasional blogger.

Adventures in gay denial and self-acceptance

If I were overly concerned with search engine optimization, I would title this “How to know if you are gay.” It was a search query among many similar I checked more than a few times, and it didn’t help much. I found out what really caused all the random feelings and thoughts that caused my doubts, and it’s something I didn’t find in any of those pages.

When I was younger, a friend had this really cool treehouse. You could see half the neighborhood. But I was scared. I couldn’t do more than climb to the top step and park my head on the floor. I had good friends, so they didn’t judge me. Then one day, I finally got up the courage to go all the way. It was great! I got a round of applause. Then the next day, it got torn down. It was deemed a safety hazard by some jackass bureaucrat.

This was me when I started questioning. The thought of being gay still scared me, so I couldn’t really let myself merge into the reality of it. I spent a month comparing reactions to straight porn and gay porn, binge reading personal stories seeing if anything matched, and going nuts with doubt. I decided I couldn’t live like that. I couldn’t spend my days comparing and questioning only to die unfulfilled and confused.

A month after that, I’ve almost completely accepted who and what I am. And it’s great. Here’s some stuff I learned along the way.


You will become more sensitive to your feelings as you get more comfortable with the idea of being gay. Feelings come and go early on because you’ve spent your life suppressing them. Healing takes time.

Questioning your sexuality is stressful. Stress kills sex drive. This includes physical and emotional attraction. This will confuse you. Make sure you relax completely at least once a day, and I don’t mean when you go to bed.

Every gaybashing, proposed homophobic law, and hateful screed will make you doubt yourself early on. By the time you approach self-acceptance, they have the opposite effect.

You won’t feel every kind of attraction to every person of the same sex. Some will do nothing for you. This is normal whether you’re gay or straight.

Binge orientation checking–looking at pictures, etc.–is stressful. If you really can’t stop yourself, focus more on faces, and stick to big images. There’s a reason so much mythology focuses on the power contained in the face, and especially in the eyes.

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Adventures in gay dating on OKCupid

Barrow County is a nice enough place. The editor of the local newspaper came out in favor of gay marriage, and no one complained too loudly. People are coming around. But still, it’s a small county without much of a scene for anything aside from drinking, racing, and mountain biking. Options for dating are limited even if you’re straight. So off I went to OKCupid.

OKCupid is a modestly popular free online dating site. I had a profile on the site from back when I was deep in denial and thought I simply hadn’t found the right woman. I ditched the site when none of the women appealed to me. So I gave it another shot with the orientation toggled on over to gay. There’s one gay guy on there within 5 miles of city limits, a few more in the county, and about 100 if I stretch my range out to Athens-Clarke County.

Some issues stood out:

1. About half of them have a picture of a woman hanging off their shoulder as a profile picture

This raises some important questions. Is he a closet case who hopes that someone outs him so he doesn’t have to do it himself? Did he select the wrong orientation? Is that his sister? Who knows. Next.

2. Broken human being

It’s cool that you acknowledge all your faults right there in your dating site profile, but you don’t seem eager to resolve them. Show me what you plan to do about it. Otherwise, they’re deal breakers. Next.


One guy OKCupid tried to hook me up with has pictures of him skydiving, posing in exotic locations, and having whacky adventures. I don’t mind getting out and exploring, but what do you do in your down time? Omitting this tells me you never stop partying, adventuring, or whatever to get away from something you’d rather not confront. Next.

4. Half-assed profile

Two sentences about how random you are tells me a lot about you. It tells me you lack the confidence to share anything about yourself. It tells me you need someone else to give you direction so you don’t have to look inward. Next.

So where does this leave me? As it turns out, I’m surrounded by very attractive people. Surrounded in relative terms. They’re about as unstereotypical as gay guys get: interested in racing, sports, bars. Usual straight guy fare. They probably get some mileage out of the bars.

That’s not my thing. Reading. Writing. Nature. Science. Technology. These are my things. So I’ll probably end up finding someone outside the dating site scene who happens to live nearby. Maybe I’ll bump into them checking out Nature magazine at the supermarket. But I don’t plan to stay here for long. I want to move close enough to a city to be within walking distance of something. The nearest anything is a 30 minute walk. I intend to get together enough income to move to Atlanta where I have more options.

I’ve never heard of a Liebster award

But I’m going to go along with it since I got a nomination:

1. When did you start writing?

I grew up buried under the books — owned and library — of a professional editor and a journalism major. I don’t think there was a “start.”

2. Has anyone ever actually told you not to quit your day job?
I can’t discuss the details of ongoing investigations.

3. Is there a favorite food you eat that gives you inspiration to write?
Store brand Doritos

4. Microsoft Word: love it, hate it, or something else?

5. Do you own an reader, or use software? If so, what kind? If not, do you see one in your future?
Kindle Fire HD; the cheapo 2013 model. I use it more than my laptop.

6. You’re given a book promotion opportunity to sit in a bookstore window and write. People passing by will be able to read your work as you produce it. Do you agree?
Only if I can write cheesy romance that touches on every possible fetish.

7. Is there a crowd/gang/posse/support group of writers you belong to, either in person or online?
A little subforum that hides in a much bigger forum.

8. What’s your minimum length for a novel?
Can’t be long enough if I enjoy the story.

9. “Write drunk, edit sober.” Is this good advice?

10. Can you have a strong opinion about an author’s personality, political views, social positions, etc., without having that color your opinion about the author’s work?
Those things tend to inform the quality and content of their work. I don’t know if they can be separated.

Naturally, my nominees are Amalia Dillin for myth-heavy fiction and Valerie Valdes for her quality tweets.

Questions for them:
1. You both have wonderful families. How do you balance being wonderful back to them and writing regularly? Asking for a friend.
2. How does the local climate inform your writing?
3. What is your favorite Twitter hashtag and why?
4. Thoughts on traditional publishing?

Into the furry abyss: What is a furry anyway?

The definition of furry generally falls into two camps:

All-encompassing: This definition doesn’t concern itself with self-identification. If you’ve ever watched a Saturday mornng cartoon or played Star Fox without thinking it’s icky, you’re a furry. This is an unpopular definition since it takes agency away from people and makes furries look like jerks.

Self-identification: Most people seem to agree with this one, and it’s the one I think is best. You can’t make someone accept a label without forcing all the connotations that come with it. Trying to force a label only breeds resentment.

I like anthro art, check out progress photos for a local fursuit builder, doodle fox ears on boxes, and read /r/furry from to time, but I don’t consider myself a furry. That’s more to do with my feelings about labels and the way they attract negative connotations. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have a problem with the label.

Most furries can be stuffed into a category:

1. Fursuiter. A lot of people have an odd idea of what one does with a fursuit. The thing people imagine happening would void the warranty and put them on the builder’s blacklist. A basic fursuit costs thousands of dollars. It’s a big investment, and no one would want to be shunned by the person who knows how to fix normal wear and tear.

Many people get in to fursuiting to entertain:

Others get in to it to do crazy things like skydiving:

Most just do normal stuff:

2. Artist. Art is the biggest part of the furry subculture. Most of the art isn’t all that good. Some of it is, and it’s worth checking out. The easiest way to find it, if you don’t know where to look, is on deviantART with the all-time popular sorting.

3. Porn fiend. Now to the sticky…I mean tricky subject of porn. Yes, there’s a lot of it. And it’s so abundant that you have trouble avoiding it if you spend any time looking for anthro art. Most furry art sites have a filter for it, but some will slip past. Either people forgot to tag it or they do it on purpose.

Whether or not furry porn is bad is one of those personal philisophical things, and I try not to judge people for their preferences. I just wish they’d tag it better so it wouldn’t pop up in unexpected places.

Myths and misconceptions

Let’s not kid ourselves: most of the bad stuff exists. There’s a lot of drama. Some really do believe in “fursecution,” and there’s all kinds of hilarious, lengthy posts about people “coming out” as a furry when no one really cares enough for it to matter. There are people who make a career out of drawing furry porn.

But the furry subculture is a big, diverse thing. Rule 34 is in full effect, but that’s true of anything. And like everything, the worst parts of it are the most obvious if you don’t look past what you hear second hand.

Six things I learned before starting a novel

I want to get this down on digital paper before I become a world famous novelist. Maybe you’ll find it useful.

1. I didn’t start with a novel. I wrote 30,000 words of short stories with several different characters and different subplots before starting on the novel. Most of these plots became the first 3000 words of the novel, and set up enough loose ends to fill the rest.

2. It’s not just a tired old cliche. Abiding the old and wise show, don’t tell advice is easier if you close your eyes for a few minutes and run through the scene in your head.

3. You need to plan ahead. Plotting at least a chapter ahead helps a lot, even if you diverge from it while writing. I rarely get writer’s block once I run out of plot and start working on the next, and I think planning a chapter ahead is responsible.

4. Software is your friend. I give each chapter a branch on the root. Then each character’s trip though that chapter gets its own branch, even if they never appear. For example, if a character is investigating the assassination of the king, his plot will run alongside the character who’s escorting the prince to his coronation.

This helps me keep a handle on which character knows what at any given point. These can easily become another chapter with a different POV character.

5. People are people. Repeat after me: people are people. While looking for advice on writing fiction, I found reams of “How do I write a x character?” forum posts where x is gay, woman, child, or something else outside the writer’s experience. Start with a person, then modify their interactions with the world based on how that world treats their attributes.

Throw stereotypes out the window and find people who’ve shared their lived experiences, then find a way to make your gay/woman/child/whatever character interesting using those attributes. The world has had enough of effeminite gay men frollicking around a bunch of angry, burly strongmen getting ready to pummel him for offending their cliche sensibilities.

5a. You absolutely should seek out information on these experiences. A gay person in a fantasy world where homosexuality is normal and accepted will still have a different experience of the world. Knowing more about real people and what real people experience, both in the present and past, will help make your fiction more convincing.

6. Research isn’t just for accuracy. My novel’s world takes influences from: post-seclusion Japan, kitsune lore, the society and politics around world wars one and two, the industrialization of the United States, post-Charlemagne Europe, and whatever else I find interesting. Combine enough of what’s already happened in a clever enough way, and you can create something that’s entertaining while giving history and literature majors something to chew on.

Android news reader review: Feedly vs Pulse vs Flipboard

I’ve tried every newsreader I know of. I always heard good things about Flipboard, so it was the first I tried. Articles wouldn’t even load on my Kindle Fire. It’s hard to give it a proper review.

Pulse always got a number two mention in any list of mobile news readers, so I tried it next. I found no way to mark all articles as read. This is a big problem since I don’t read most of the 1-100 articles that come out of each site I read. That made it a nonstarter.

Feedly was my next attempt. I’ve used it on the desktop since Google Reader shut down. I found that the mobile app works even better than the desktop version. Browsing RSS feeds is a lot easier with a touchscreen. Articles flip out of my way effortlessly when I don’t want to read them and into my way when I do. The only thing it’s missing is the ability to set articles to always open in the system’s web browser, but the button in the bottom center of the sharing widget takes care of that.

Is SwagBucks legit? I had to find out for myself.

I signed up to SwagBucks about a year ago and never gave it much of a look afterward. The payouts seemed so poor, and so many of the higher pay options required that you pay them. It just seems so slimy. That said, I’m not one for sticking to first impressions. I gave it another look recently. It’s still bad, but not as bad as I initially thought.

SwagBucks is one of those “do stuff while looking at ads and we’ll give you a little money” things. And the payout is bad the vast majority of the time. But then there’s that one in a million times it’s worth your effort. So I went through it and found the ways that pay something worthwhile.

Each SwagBuck is worth about 1 US penny if you take the PayPal payout option. They may be worth more if you take other offers, like gadgets, which I’m sure they’re being paid to offer.

I found exactly three ways to make money from it that didn’t involve gambling, lying on demographic surveys, or pulling out your credit card.

1. Tell people about SwagBucks and use your referral link. You can make up to 1000 SwagBucks from their own efforts. So when you sign up, use my referral link, and use your own if you decide it’s worth sharing with others. You can get a payout through PayPal with a minimum of 2500 SwagBucks, which comes out to $25.

2. Do searches each day until it gives a payout. You’ll get one payout each day very quickly to give you the thrill of earning…then squat for hours. I got one payout 12 hours before writing this post. I checked in to do some searches before posting and got a whopping 7 SwagBucks, compared to 50 this morning.

3. Find videos that look interesting and fill out your “swag bar.” Not to be confused with the sway bar that makes it possible for your car to turn. The editor behind the “Editor’s Picks” is very bad at picking, so skip down to categories that interest you. You get about 10% on your bar per video. These do not pay enough to be worth the time, so treat this as entertainment. Each video was worth about .3 SwagBucks the last time I checked. Stick to videos you think will interest you. Bookmark your favorite categories so you don’t have to dig through the interface. They have some interesting stuff in here.

So is SwagBucks a legitimate way to make money online? In short: Yes. In long…a little bit. Most of their offers are garbage. The tasks and surveys pay next to nothing.

There really isn’t much there once you get that first search-borne payout each day. It’s worth doing that once each day and collecting a year later when you make enough to get a $25 payout to PayPal. Other than that, almost any other way of making money is better.

I compared Copy and Dropbox. The result surprised me.

I went looking for something to replace Dropbox. Most cloud services are tied to something else. For example, iCloud requires an Apple device. Ubuntu One strongly encourages Ubuntu. It started to seem hopeless.

Then I found a little service called Copy. It’s nowhere near as big as Dropbox, and it doesn’t get funding rounds trumpeted in TechCrunch, but it has credibility, which I’ll detail later.


Copy is the big winner here. I ran the numbers on their yearly plans.


  1. 100GB = $99, or 99 cents per gig
  2. 200GB = $199, or .995 cents per gig
  3. 500GB = $499, or .998 cents per gig


  1. 250GB = $99, or .396 cents per gig
  2. 500GB = $149, or .298 per gig

We may never know the basis the two companies use to price their gigabytes, but we can say with confidence that Copy charges less per gig. And I’m not even factoring in the referral bonuses.

Referral bonus

Dropbox gives a meager 500MB per referral. Copy gives ten times as much at 5GB per referral. Ten referrals on Dropbox gives as much as one referral on Copy. I’m sitting at almost 700 gigabytes of free space on Copy after years of being stuck at a little over 3GB on Dropbox. Copy is the clear winner here.


Dropbox does not, as far as I know, encrypt your data on the server side. I’ve read accounts from developers who work at the company that Copy encrypts your data. This means if someone got access to Copy’s servers without authorization, they would have trouble doing anything with it. However, Copy has no extended security options like two-factor login.

I consider two factor authentication a basic feature for anything that might hold something important to me. And Copy positions itself as the business cloud storage solution for the parent company‘s existing clients. Copy would be the winner here if it had adequate login protection, but security has to go to Dropbox. They may not encrypt your data, but they do use Amazon’s AWS, which almost certainly has world-class physical security.


It may seem intuitive that Dropbox has the best shot at longevity, but as the advice goes: Past performance is not indicative of future results. Dropbox lived on venture capital for much of its life. Right now, signs point to Dropbox being a profitable company. But here we have a strong contender that’s aiming at Dropbox’s business with a huge referral bonus and a company that knows storage well enough to not overextend itself.

Dropbox has always struck me as a company that’s aiming to experience a liquidity event — also known as an IPO. How will Dropbox fare once it goes public and has to meet the expectations of an irrational stock market? Meanwhile, Copy is just another feature for its parent company, which has sold various storage and security solutions since 2003.


So what about websites, clients, and other things? I can’t really find fault in either of them. They both do sharing. They both have a robust developer API. They both have credible pedigrees. I’m going to keep comparing them, and I suggest you do the same. So use my link to sign up to Copy and we both get 5GB extra to help properly evaluate the service.

Why I stopped using Hasweb’s shared hosting

Note: I originally posted this last year. Hasweb has since been retired as a brand, surprising no one.

I’ve used Hasweb to host this domain since early 2004, but switched to last year.

I sent this in to my old host:

Just wanted to let you know I’ve moved my site to hosting. As someone who does marketing, I appreciate that you can’t be all things to all people, which is why I didn’t press you to create a comparable package.

It doesn’t seem like Hostdime, Hasweb’s parent company, is too interested in trying though. It’s seemed to be a brand in maintenance mode for years.

The forums are dead, and the newest reviews I can find are years old. The forums used to be a lively place where happy users chatted with the forum administrator, who went by the name Aric.

All those users moved on years ago, and Aric is nowhere to be found. The forum has a few threads made this year, but they have no replies.

The only good thing I have to say after all this time is that their support system, run by the same people who handle support for all Hostdime properties, gets back quickly. Unfortunately, my last contact before sending the cancellation request didn’t go too well.

We had a back-and-forth over the course of a day trying to figure out why my site was hanging up. Eventually a new Server Analyst hopped into the ticket to say they were doing a RAID rebuild on the server, and that was causing the slowness.

All the support people involved with the ticket had titles that started with “Server Analyst.” You’d think all of them would know a RAID rebuild was happening and let people who ask about the slowdown know on the first contact.

That slowness went away when the rebuild finished, but the slowness I’d been dealing with for a few months was still there, and they had no solution. They couldn’t even see that slowness existed. The slowness wasn’t on my end or from things I could control. Traceroutes and pathpings to the server had good latency. The few plugins I used were high quality and properly configured.

I’ve had an uneasy feeling about Hasweb since the forums died a few years ago, but it wasn’t until I moved that I could put it to words.

Hostdime cares about people who sign up to Hasweb, and the support staff makes a token effort to put fires out. But not much beyond that.

The original draft of my message to them had a line about me recommending it to people who need shared hosting, but that made less sense the more I thought about it.

Hasweb didn’t give me any trouble in the cancellation process, and they did offer to give me a discount if I decided to come back. But I can’t recommend Hasweb, and I would shop around for other hosts if I ever needed shared hosting again.

It’s a passable shared host, but an active user community is something I’ve come to value while hosting at, and most shared hosting companies have them.

Why I don’t play competitive games

I love the idea of competitive games. I love competition. I love to clobber my best friends in a game and have a good laugh about the silly mistakes we all made. But there’s always that one guy who sees it as deadly serious. He pisses and moans about how we all screwed up and are bad and should feel bad.

This happened with an MMO I used to play. It’s a silly game with silly sprites, so no one really took it seriously. But I met this one guy who couldn’t just have fun. We’d get our butts handed to us in the game’s main competitive event and then go hang out with the people we just got done fighting. We laughed and had fun. Good times. Then that guy dropped in. We already knew what mistakes we made and were busy having a good time with them, but he felt compelled to elucidate. I didn’t disagree with the message, but he missed the point. Most of us were content to focus on just having fun. It was a game that didn’t really punish you for losing, so goofing off was more rewarding than getting good at the “correct” strategies.

This came back to me when trying League of Legends (LoL). It seems like a lot of fun! I want to play it. But the game’s reputation precedes it. I tried one co-op game against bots and had a great time. Skill levels in the team ranged from the low elo scrub (hi) to the experienced player making a new champion. The latter was nice. He said he’d carry the team if we did poorly, and offered polite suggestions like “don’t hug the laser when you run out of minions.”

I even made a thread on the LoL forums to share this experience. But I was told unanimously that this was an outlier. Most of my experiences would be bad. I’ve heard that even playing with friends leads to bad things, since they’re pushed to be harshly competitive by the game’s structure, which punishes you harshly for every failure.

I haven’t launched LoL in three months because of all this combined with my bad experiences with competitive games. I probably won’t try any of the MOBAs that are launched or on the way, even if the concept appeals to me.

That’s not my power fantasy

There’s a problem with objectification of women in the media. I get it. And any time an instance is brought up, there’s always someone pointing out that the musclebound hero is also harmful objectification. And others are quick to remind them that the musclebound hero is a power fantasy and thus positive.

Well let me tell you, that’s no such thing to me. I find what you call a power fantasy completely unappealing and bordering on offensive. There was a time when I felt bad seeing these, because I knew I’d never live up to it. I don’t know who finds appeal in burly men mindlessly beating the crap out of everything that moves.

Just as many women enjoy what you call harmful objectification, many men find what you call a power fantasy completely unappealing. Some even find it diminishing. It’s what they’re told is the ideal growing up, and they’re encouraged to feel bad by the culture around them for not wanting to live up to it.

So what do I see as a power fantasy? It has nothing to do with brute strength. Strength may be an element, but it’s secondary at best. It would be depicted as a last resort, when diversion and diplomacy fail. It’s only a first resort when well-justified within the story. Picard rarely took time to consider talking to the Borg before attacking them after the first disastrous encounter.

I see Batman, user of detective work and stealth, as a power fantasy. I see Link, user of tools and his environment, as a power fantasy. The idea that one person can overcome a hostile dungeon or several very angry brutes with cunning and skill is profoundly empowering to me. The idea that they have a higher ambition than a nice piece of tail is appealing to me.

Link is saving the world, and that asshole Ganon kidnapped that cool person you met at the castle. Let’s go rescue her and kick his ass together. Yes, this isn’t how it goes in the game. That needs to change. I want to be able to play a co-op Zelda game with my niece by the time she’s old enough.

Batman is trying to avenge the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents by locking up all the criminals. Bruce Wayne occasionally dates someone to fit the young billionaire stereotype, but that’s not his ambition.

There’s a dearth of representation of perspectives outside the mainstream. Batman and Link are the easiest examples of non-traditional (and meaningful) male empowerment I can think of. Past that, it takes some mental parkour. Picard is cunning, but he also commands the immensely powerful flagship of the Federation. Jack O’Neill is buried in basic cable science fiction obscurity where he’s only a potential role model for a few million people.

The situation isn’t good for any of us. Let’s try to remember that the next time someone offers a flag-bearing torso as a pre-order incentive.

Have you settled on a Google Reader replacement?

Google Reader is going away in a little under a month. There was a lot of consternation early on, but I think most people have realized that Google’s unwillingness to either kill or develop Reader was sucking all the life out of RSS.

Many readers
gained prominence after the announcement, and most people have settled on one by now.

I tried four of the top contenders, and have some thoughts on them.

1. Feedly. I like the fact that Feedly has buttons to quickly switch between the Title and Magazine views. Sometimes I want to skim quickly in Title, and sometimes I want to take it easy with big fonts and images. My ego wants to believe this happened because I suggested it, but it’s such an obvious feature that I’m sure others were demanding it.

Feedly’s Normandy API is effectively the replacement for Google Reader’s API, which was used by many popular news applications. They’re not planning to charge at the moment, but that could change. The up side is that the API is official, where Google Reader’s was unofficial. This means it’s a supported feature, and less likely to vanish or change without notice.

2. NewsBlur. NewsBlur feels a lot like the newsreader Forté Agent. The lack of a magazine view killed it for me though. It’s how I do most of my feed reading. NewsBlur’s Samuel Clay would tweet at me reminding me that he has an open development site every time I lamented the lack of something or some problem.

I appreciated his dedication to seeking out feedback, but it’s clear to me that he’s developing his reader for an audience that I’m not in. But at the time I wrote this, 6,320 of his 8,091 active users–almost 80%–are paying customers, so he clearly knows what he’s doing.

3. The Old Reader. The Old Reader is exactly what the name implies: A clone of the old Google Reader with some modest improvements. It’s not bad if that’s what you want, but it’s not for me. I have an instinctive aversion to things that try to preserve an old way of doing things out of nostalgia.

4. Bloglovin’. It’s basically Feedly’s magazine view. And only the magazine view. It also merges posts from the same blog in a folder into a single item, so you can’t skim easily. You have to click a link to show all the posts from it. I couldn’t make this work for me.

One thing I like about Bloglovin is that it has a newspaper styled view for categories, so you can go see what’s happening on different topics once you’ve gone through your subscribed feeds. It’s basically a directory of popular blogs and posts. It reminds me of Technorati.

The rest, for the most part, are mobile-only, and I don’t have a mobile device to try them on.

Personally, I’ve settled on Feedly while I wait to see what Digg’s reader will look like. I want a human-curated newspaper like Digg’s front page combined with a RSS aggregator like Feedly, and Digg is in the best position to do that.

I switched back to Firefox and had an epiphany

I found out about Firefox back in ancient times when Internet Explorer 6 ruled the web with a blue iron fist. Then I watched as Firefox got slower and harder on system resources with each release. Then, in 2008, Google launched Chrome.

I was floored by how much faster it was. And I’ve used it ever since.

So what made me come back to Firefox? Chrome is starting to show its age. It’s from that brief era when software developers were in an arms race of simplification. If less than 99% of users used it, it got cut. And the tools to restore the things you need went into hiding.

But the biggest thing I noticed about the modern Firefox is its performance. Chrome’s resource creep was more of a resource lunge. It’s slow to fully close, slow to become responsive when it’s opened, hangs constantly, and shows ads for new Google products in the new tab screen on a regular basis.

The new Firefox is snappy and smooth, and closes and opens in seconds. It starts out minimal and lets you move things around with ease. Chrome feels even slower and less responsive now that I’ve seen the 2013 edition of Firefox. That, combined with the performance issues, sent me away from Chrome.

I’m not saying you have to make the switch back, and I won’t suggest that you’re a bad person for using Chrome. Maybe it still works for you.

But you should take another look at Firefox. Chrome appeared back when Blackberry was still the leader in smartphones and the iPhone was still an impractical gadget only a hipster could pretend to love.

The world has changed. This is the perfect time to take a look at what you’re using and see if something better is available.

Still using Google? Check out Bing and DuckDuckGo. Still using an iPhone or Apple PC? See what Microsoft is up to. Still on a Windows PC? Ubuntu showed up around when Firefox did, and has changed at least as much. Kubuntu is a great option if Ubuntu’s changes are too bizarre for you. They were for me.

We’re in a new era where operating systems are secure, browsers are powerful, worlds fit in your pocket, and everyone can publish whatever they want and find an audience.

It’s time to get out and explore the new world.

The iPhone’s place in history

There’s another article fawning over the iPhone as a world-changing device. The iPhone was an evolutionary step, not revolutionary. The iPhone hasn’t changed the world.

We need to be careful about the pedestals we construct for incremental technologies. The iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, and every favored technology we’ll forget about in a decade are footnotes, ultimately irrelevant in the long view. What matters is what people do with these technologies.

All contemporary mass market products, including the iPhone, will be a blurb in the history of mass communication. The smartphone’s spot on the timeline of communication history will follow the telephone, which followed the telegraph. There won’t be any room for the hundreds of manufacturers and companies involved in the current marketplace.

History will remember what we did with those technologies, not who was winning at the current form of mass communication at some arbitrary point in a timeline. I’m sure the tech writers of the time declared one telegraph manufacturer or another the “winner” and all others the loser.

No one aside from historians remember that. We remember the first transcontinental telegraph transmission. We remember President Lincoln using the telegraph to communicate with his military during the American Civil War.

We’ll remember social media and blogging’s role in the revolution of news and journalism, but the current players will be forgotten in favor of those responsible for the next step. We’ll even still use smartphones and tablets as the primary medium.

The iPhone is important at the point we occupy on the timeline. It brought together disparate elements of technology into a unified whole, and Apple does deserve credit for that. Smartphones are what they are today because of Apple. Then Android blew the lid off the market and made it a truly mass market technology. And Microsoft has what I think is a credible evolution in mobile user experience with Metro.

We are in a period of massive transition, and the three major players do matter. They’re doing important things.

But remember that the iPhone is only five years old, while the iPad is only 2 years old. It was only ten years ago that people still talked about AOL’s walled garden and Microsoft’s unshakable monopoly. What will we talk about ten years from now?

Probably not the iPhone.

You aren’t imagining it: The web is a mess

You remember way back in the early ’00s when your favorite blogs posted a few times a day at most, had a handful of great writers, and were a joy to read. Then something happened. Your beloved Lifehacker got out of hand, and you couldn’t keep up. TechCrunch bombarded you with shallow coverage of every little funding round and seemed to create ten new scandals a day.

The story repeated itself over and over, and you turned to the filters of Twitter and Facebook to keep up on the news. I want you to do a little experiment, to confirm that you aren’t losing your mind.

Go back to that favorite blog you abandoned when you realized you couldn’t keep up. You’ll find that it posts between 40 and 100 things a day. It’s no coincidence. Let’s face it: no person can keep up with that kind of volume on more than one blog and stay sane. You might be able to follow one or two, but not much more than that if you have anything else to do during the day.

These blogs don’t do it for you.  They do it for Google. They flood every keyword you might put into a search engine to deny that traffic to any blog that dares to compete with a low volume of high quality content.

I’m going to let you in on the dirty little secret: digital publishing lost its mind. The mind that kept the quality high and the volume low. The mind that cared about your time, and only shared the best with you. That mind is gone, lost in the mad dash for advertising dollars, trampled under diminishing CPMs and acquisitions that ripped editorial control away from the people who built your favorite sites.

Most top blogs don’t deserve the top slot anymore. All they do is generate a flood of shallow writing, hoping to collect all the traffic from people searching for news. I’ve seen this effect on a smaller scale when I write posts on events in the news. I’ll instantly get 20-100 hits on the topic, and enjoy a small spike in traffic over the following few days as the story runs its course. Now imagine you’re running a huge website with plenty of poorly or unpaid writers to flood every news topic with content.

Coverage of a single story could get thousands of dollars worth of ad impressions from the traffic on one of the bigger sites like Huffington Post. And the writers will see little if any of that money.

And it works. A blog with only a few hundred thousand readers might pop up in the #2 or #3 slot on Google, but the first result looks like a better match to most search engine users. If I ran a search engine, I would ban these sites from the index. Google and Bing can’t do that without drawing the gaze of regulators.

I have no solution to offer. I’ve thought about this for years, worked on ideas, and haven’t made any progress in breaking through the noise without doing the same thing the big sites do. This is an unhappy position for someone who’d like to make a living giving content away while making the money from ad dollars.

I don’t see a way to do that when an ad pays a pittance for thousands of impressions.


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