Now that everyone I know seems to be flooding every corner of the Interwebs with tweets, I can’t help but notice some well-nigh universal annoying habits that make my teeth grind with ire every time I see them. The top offenders:

Tweeting about coffee. I score high in my devotion to coffee in all its forms, and yet I have no interest whatsoever in your efforts to make it, order it, drink it, or hang around in places where it is made, ordered, or drunk. Even YOU probably don’t care that you’re going out to the cafe on the corner to get a latte this morning, if you think about it. (Oddly enough, I quite like hearing about what people are eating and drinking otherwise.)

Bitching about transportation. I don’t care if your plane is late. I don’t care if your commute is shite today. I don’t care where you are on the freeway. This goes double if you’re en route to some major geek confab like SXSW — because if your plane is delayed, rest assured two dozen other morons on the same flight have already so informed me. Obviously this constraint does not apply to Twitter accounts that were explicitly set up to pass along transit info, like the fabulous @bikecar.

Song lyrics. This went out in junior high. It’s especially irritating when someone starts quoting song lyrics that sound alarming but have nothing to do with anything that’s happening in their real life. If you put a song lyric out there about breaking up with your boyfriend or something, it’s lame to then say, “Oh I didn’t mean anything, I was just listening to the song on the radio.”

Cryptic statements. You’re trying too hard to seem misterioso and intriguing and yet discreet. If you don’t have the balls to plainly state what’s happening, it didn’t happen in a broadcast medium. Call up an actual friend if you have one, and discuss the matter privately.

Automated location notifications, especially cutesy ones. I guess in theory I can see why someone would want to broadcast that they’re sitting in a Borders right now, although I think people tend to overestimate (or want others to overestimate) how much they function as social beacons. But what’s up with being the MAYOR of Borders? It’s infantile without being in the slightest bit adorable.

Bonus: Unrecognizable headshots. This is a universal gripe of mine, but it’s especially bad on Twitter because of the small image sizes, over-fancy background designs, and wacky usernames. Use a photo that gives people a fighting chance of differentiating you from the other 1,724 users they’re following. And seriously you’re not fooling anyone if you use a photo taken more than a year ago. You look fine, just get over the vanity and use a current pic.

Next time you’re tempted to pull one of these maneuvers, please stop yourself — because if you have to resort to this crapola, it means you actually have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING worth saying… not even 140 characters worth. Lie down and chill until the urge to tweet passes or inspiration strikes.

Leaving Facebook

February 16, 2009

(I promised Josh Elman I would say something nice about Facebook, so here it is: thank you Facebook for obviously never giving a toss about how your site looks in IE6. Every webdev in the world thanks you, Mark Zuckerberg, for delivering us from the former market leader’s crappy CSS model. Those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about need to check your Analog stats for the Facebook version of your app versus the standalone version.)

OK, with that out of the way… I’ve recently realized that not only do I think Facebook itself is trivial and stupid — but it’s starting to make me think my friends who are on Facebook are also trivial and stupid. Every time I read that someone became a fan of something, or posted a link with a one-word recommendation (“Neat!”, “OK”), I loathe that person a little more.

I miss blogs. The really alarming thing is that many of my Facebook friends are perfectly capable of writing genuine, fascinating blog posts… they just can’t on Facebook, because the stupid textareas are the size of a postage stamp. It’s a perfect example of how UI affects overall usage. As the actress said to the bishop, “Small textarea, small text”.

The other day I was on Caltrain when the entire car filled up with drunk (or even worse, pseudo-drunk) Stanford undergrads going to some kind of stupid costume party. The thing that astonished me was how INCREDIBLY LOUD they were, and how INCREDIBLY LITTLE they had to say — nothing came out of their mouths but pre-chewed catchphrases. They also mentioned Facebook in like every other sentence. Then I realized that they WERE Facebook. When I got home, I started working on disengaging from my “Facebook friends”.

It’s nothing personal, and I’m sure you’re actually just as profound as you think you are in those 140 characters. I just want to read, like, essays rather than tweets. See ya on the real interweb! Or not.

Huge hidden audiences

June 16, 2008

I was at knitting camp (yes, knitting camp) last month when I learned something staggering. I’d estimate the average age of the ladies to be near 50 years old; and almost all of them listened to podcasts all the time. There was a brisk trade in tips for how to find, download, and enjoy podcasts from all over the web, for those few who weren’t already hooked on the habit.

Now to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever sat through an entire podcast; and I’d always sort of considered them an intermediate stage on the road from blogging to vlogging, like mesohippus or Neanderthal man. But then I realized that this is only true for people like me who spend all day long in front of the computer on fast internet connections. It turns out that for a lot of women it’s far more convenient to enjoy podcasts while they drive, wait around during appointments, do chores, cook, or practice time-consuming crafts. I also sort of suspect that listening is a skill more women have learned to enjoy 🙂 — a lot of them, it turned out, were devoted fans of NPR and recorded books.

Now I found these ladies to be affluent, sophisticated, life-affirming, eager to try new things, and technically capable if motivated. I imagine that women beyond the “children living at home” years control an awful lot of the wealth in this country, and have a disproportionate effect on many political and cultural organizations. The vast majority of my new comrades though told me that they found a lot of the web sort of… not very relevant to their interests. They didn’t watch videos, they didn’t read blogs, they didn’t social network except specifically on one knitting site, they weren’t interested in gossip or celebrity or mothering or beauty or any of the traditionally “female” categories on the web.

This is all by way of saying that if I — a middle-aged female — can ignore this huge and affluent audience, I’m kinda thinking you might too. Certainly your VC is unlikely to push you towards an audience that represents his mom or maybe his first wife 😉 — he’d rather pretend to be a 25 year old boy forever. What other huge audiences are lying just outside our field of collective vision while we huddle around San Francisco Bay sending witty 140-character quips to each other 20 times a day? Maybe we better get out there and find out sometime.

This is not a diss of Mashable, cause they know I love them… but may I humbly submit that their list of top 10 social networking sites for women made me throw up in my mouth a little? Umm… do you not see a certain THEME in your choice of sites? Hint: if a woman is neither a mom, nor does she think lip gloss merits more than a 2-minute glance at the drugstore — or even if a woman IS a mom and loves lip gloss, but doesn’t define herself that way — there’s no place for her in your taxonomy of chick sites.

I’d say the Huffington Post offers a strong community of people interested in organizing politically around what are often trivialized as “family issues”. Personally I enjoy Jezebel’s snarky takedowns of media images of femininity, which are all the more powerful because the writers and commenters acknowledge their allure as well as their danger. Salon has a proud track record of keeping us informed about political and social news affecting women (especially valuable for non-US news) and highlighting developments in the feminist blogosphere. And if Etsy isn’t primarily a site for women, I don’t know why not… and a lot of them turn out to have some interesting stuff to say about the personal (having a happy life while not making a huge income) being the political (eliding the division between career and home by means of not buying into “normal” consumerism). Unfortunately I can’t say I’ve found the perfect community for hard-core career-minded women, especially those in “traditionally male” fields… but when it happens, I’ll be there.

More importantly, many social networking sites — Facebook, MySpace, even GaiaOnline and Piczo — are now de facto “female first”. Even if the number of registered users aren’t overwhelmingly women, the gentler sex tends to be far more expressive and engaged on these sites. This has enormous implications for the whole business of technology — because for the very first time in the entire history of Silicon Valley, our “cutting-edge customer” is not a white geeky guy buying something from a white geeky guy… but a young woman talking to other young women. Facebook and MySpace ARE women’s sites now… so how come the media keeps shoving us in the ghetto of iVillage or Yahoo’s putrid Shine?

Nightclub photos

July 12, 2007

Anyone who has spent the slightest amount of time on social networks will have noticed the rise of the unstoppable phenomenon that is the nightclub photo. I’m pretty sure that if all the “us at the club looking hot” snapshots were printed on real film and paper, the entire North American continent would be several inches lower than it is now. And it’s very evident that people work on perfecting their favorite poses, smiles, and lighting angles. If you don’t take a good nightclub photo, you’re just not a PLAYA.

But… after awhile… it starts to dawn on you: this is the new tourist snapshot. Except that instead of something marginally interesting to look at in the background, like the Eiffel Tower, you have… dark, anonymous nightclub. In every photo. And everyone knows that no one wants to look at your vacation photos.

Microsoft’s final hope

April 9, 2007

I suspect I am like many (if not most) web developers these days in that I only keep Windows around for one reason: to test my work on Internet Explorer. It’s incredibly expensive too: I had to buy a special fatty box that could handle two virtual machines, a bunch of Windows XP licenses (each of which only allows me to have one person logged into the box at any given time, so forget having two team members being able to look at bugs together), couple Outlook licenses, and the time required for my Ops guy to set up a separate VM each for IE6 and IE7. Just understanding and complying with the licensing issues is a non-trivial requirement — personally I think I’m too stupid for the job, cause I can’t wrap my head around the idea that your software can lock onto your hardware and refuse to install on any new hard disk thereafter.

During the era of Microsoft’s dominance, who would ever have thought that a piece of software given away for free is completely, 100% driving my use of Windows? It’s not even the much-vaunted Windows desktop apps any more — OpenOffice.org is quite good now, and I vastly prefer Keynote/OmniGraffle to PowerPoint/Visio — and I never really managed to use their server apps or developer tools. Even more ironic is the fact that Microsoft is a company completely riven in two by their inability to embrace the web fully due to the success of their desktop software… and yet their last claw-hold on millions of developers like me is IE. Talk about your immanent contradictions!

I don’t actually mind IE7… what I really hate is IE6. It probably adds a good 15% “tax” in dev and QA time to support its crappy CSS model. I wonder if the time has come for the web world to seriously mount a campaign to destroy IE6 once and for all. Rifkin’s highly unscientific poll and Renkoo’s weekly traffic graphs lead me to believe that the key to change is corporate computers — individual users seem to change over to IE7 when the auto-updater tells them to, unless they have a pressing reason not to — and therefore the key is to sway the hearts and minds of IT staff everywhere until we reach a tipping point. At this point even Microsoft would probably be happy to join in stomping IE6.

What do you think… could we launch a campaign? Join hands, sing Kumbaya, and drive IE6’s market share below 20%? I have a dream!

Big ups Frances Allen

February 27, 2007

My heartfelt congratulations to Frances E. Allen, winner of the 2006 Turing Award. And you know what? Thank you, IBM. From hiring Frances out of the University of Michigan in 1957 to employing more female Dojos in 2006 than any other company… you guys are doing something right.