on social networks

A few months ago I deleted most of my social networking accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, Flickr, Tumblr, FriendFeed etc.

I get Facebook and Flickr.

Facebook you use as a souped up phone book or contact list. You don’t always keep in touch with people in your phone “book” (hah, does anyone still use a physical book to store this information?), and Facebook friends are the same. You don’t have to keep in touch, but their information is available when you need it. Since mostly everyone is on Facebook it becomes extremely useful to organize events. I think that is Facebook’s most useful function, at least ever since they took down Scrabolous.

Flickr you use to upload your photos. It’s simple. I like.

I kinda get Tumblr and Twitter, but not really.

Tumblr is blogging. I suppose I don’t understand having a blog AND a tumble log. It should all be one thing. There’s no such thing as “it’s not a proper blog post”. Anything can be a blog post. So just post it on your blog. Normal blogging software should already do what Tumblr does and it’s a shame that it doesn’t.

Twitter? Haha. I don’t get it. What’s stopping you from posting a 140 character message right on your blog? Seriously?

Yes, I know. I’m missing out on the social aspect of these things, they develop their own culture. With the reposting that happens on Tumblr to the whole network creating aspect of Twitter. I understand, but I’m not compelled enough (yet).

What bothered me with Facebook was people taking that “What are you doing right now?” thing way to seriously. “I’m 10 minutes from the ice cream store.”, “I’m 5 minutes away from the ice cream store now!!! Can’t wait!!!1”, “I’m standing in front of the ice cream store!!!”, “I’m opening the door of the ice cream store.”, “I’m inside the ice cream store.”, “What flavour should I try this time?”.

Ummm, no. So I select “Show less things from this person”, or whatever that option was. But then there’d be someone else who does the same thing. Sure, I could just stop using Facebook, or not use it as much. But I’m flawed like that. If it’s there, I’ll probably use it. I have difficulty letting go of things, and once I’ve let go it takes me a while to get back.

So eventually, I decided to delete my accounts. I probably shouldn’t have deleted Flickr, but I was on a roll. If it’s really important that I know what you’re doing or what you’re up to, I’ll ask/email you or you’ll email me and just tell me.

It’s not as if I’ll stay away forever. I’ll probably be back on some of these services. Maybe Twitter. I might give Twitter a chance and try and figure it out.

a penny for your thoughts?

This happened over 3 years ago. Erum was about 2.5 or 3 years old. She had been carrying this little round container that dispensed many feet of chewing gum. I started to tease her early in the day about how chewing gum “wasn’t good for you”. She clearly chose to ignore my advice and continued chewing.

Later in the day she walked into my room and we started talking. At some point I tried to steer the conversation back to how chewing gum wasn’t a good thing.

“Acha, aap yeh batao ke aap gum kyun khate? Nahin khana ji, achi cheez nahi hoti”, I said. Okay, so tell me why you chew gum? You really shouldn’t, it’s not good for you.

“Hmmm… aap gum khate?”, she fired back. Hmmm… do you chew gum?

“Ummm… nahin khate.”, I say to tease her (of course I chew gum). Ummm… I don’t.

“Agar aap gum taste nahin karenge to aap ko flavour kaisa pata chalinga? Hum ko flavour pasand.” If you don’t taste gum then how can you know the flavour? I like the flavour.

I sat there stunned for a few seconds. Did this two and a half year old just tell me about the taste and flavour of gum? Not only that, she lead me through to the point where she explained to me why she chews gum. She didn’t just say that she liked the flavour. She first asked me if I chewed gum. She completely blew me away. Wow.

Just that thought process, I find it absolutely fascinating. What was she thinking?

not in all the world is copper mint
to match the way in which you think

jon stewart, jim cramer and the buzz

There is much ado on the Internet about the recent spat between Jon Stewart (of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show) and Jim Cramer (of CNBC’s Mad Money).

The article that articulates my thoughts on the matter is written by Glenn Greenwald. Please do read it.

Faiqa posted about the incident and she wonders if Stewart is being too idealistic. I respectfully disagree. I think that our standards for realism are far too low. It should not be considered idealism to expect journalistic media outlets to investigate what they report. If we wanted regurgitation we would simply read the CEOs’ company “vision” web pages. It should not be considered idealism to want politicians to serve the public interest over corporate interest. This is a level of realism that we should come to expect and one that we should strive for.

Idealism would be a pony for your birthday and a free constant supply of chocolate ice cream.

The reason I’m writing this post, however, is to respond to Paul Hoffman’s post because he doesn’t have comments on his site.

Paul says (I am reproducing the entire post here because it’s not that long, the emphasis is mine):

What a letdown. One of the jobs of a host is to listen to what the guest says and respond, not to launch pre-scripted volleys. What Jim Cramer said, repeatedly, is that he tries to do what Jon thinks that a financial program should do.

That wasn’t good enough for Stewart, however; Jon indicates that Cramer is supposed to be responsible for the whole CNBC network. Does Stewart take responsibility for all the shows with misogynist comedy on Comedy Central? That seems unlikely.

The double-standard Stewart sets up is even worse than that, however. He repeatedly says that Cramer is responsible for covering a wider swath of news in Cramer’s admittedly-entertaining program because Cramer’s audience is just regular schmoes who don’t know any better. But there are a zillion people, particularly teenagers, who get all their TV news from the Daily Show. Stewart doesn’t seem to feel responsible for giving them a wider swath of news; you rarely see anything about difficult international topics on The Daily Show. Why should Cramer-the-entertainer be held to a different standard that Stewart-the-entertainer?

Actually, Jon was not indicating that Cramer is responsible for the whole CNBC network. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Jon starts off with:

Let me just explain to you very quickly one thing that is somewhat misinterpreted. This was not directed at you, per se. I just want you to know that.

Why should Cramer be held to a different standard than Stewart? I’ll say here what Stewart said to Tucker Carlson during his visit to Crossfire, “What is wrong with you?”. Jon Stewart’s show is on Comedy Central. When people want to watch The Daily Show they change the channel to a network that airs comedy shows. When people watch Cramer’s Mad Money, they tune into CNBC a news media network. Are you telling me that these two shows should be held to the same standards?

Stewart makes specific mention of this point, which he takes exception to, he points out that the promo for Cramer’s show says “In Cramer We Trust”. The tagline for the show is “Make Money with Money Manager Jim Cramer”. You must agree that the context to the shows are very different and the claims each show makes are very different. Stewart says:

Isn’t that, you know, look—we are both snake oil salesmen to a certain extent-
But we do label the show as snake oil here. Isn’t there a problem with selling snake oil and labelling it as vitamin tonic and saying that it cures impetigo… Isn’t that the difficulty here?

Paul, I think you need to watch the segment again. This time with more listening.

By the way, I think Cramer handled the show fairly well. There is no doubt that Stewart has a specific point of view and bias, but it is worth listening to.

Stewart raises a very important question. “What is your role?”, this is both in reference to Cramer and CNBC. What is the role of CNBC as a media network that is engaging in financial journalism. Is the excuse “Jee what can I tell you, the CEOs lied to us” an acceptable one? Who is supposed to put the ‘investigative’ in investigative journalism? What are the standards can we expect from organizations that claim to be journalistic? What standards should be hold them to?

What Stewart does imply, and I agree with him, is that the media has become a mouthpiece for politicians and corporations. Stewart says that they, the financial media, knew what was going on but continued to report the lies they were being fed. Please note that Cramer did not refute this.

What, then, is the role of “the news media” in a “democracy”? Are they fulfilling this role? What needs to be done to keep the news media honest? Shouldn’t the news media be keeping others honest?

open-source textbooks – connexion

This is absolutely brilliant. It is brilliant to the point that it excites me. Open source textbooks. Books that are open to everyone, and books that can be freely shared, modified, copied, reprinted etc etc etc. Brilliant.

As Richard Baraniuk says in his TED talk (please watch it below), this allows knowledge to be contextualized for the cultural and social regions it will be used in. That is not only brilliant but necessary. Not only that, but this allows knowledge to be customized and specialized per student. Ideas are good alone, but they are better when they are shared.

Textbooks should be free. But they will not be free if students keep paying absurd amounts for them. Knowledge should be free. Free to access, free to share, free to use. If students were to stop buying textbooks they could change the way universities do business. Hah, that won’t happen anytime soon. But in the meanwhile, we have the opportunity to spread the word and contribute.

This is why technologies like the Internet are so important. They allow for things like this to happen, the Internet makes this easier. And that is awesome.


Tomorrow scares me. It scares me in the same way next week, next month or next year scare me.

Perhaps that is partially why I’m not much a planner of things. There is a looming uncertainty that the future carries, it is both scary and exciting. But it is there. This uncertainty, it is there. And it (or something about it) scares me.

The past also scares me (though not as much). If the future looms then the past lingers. It’s all there, a part of me I leave behind. Whether it be on the blog, on forums I’ve participated in, things I’ve said to people, my moments of anger, my moments of passion, my grade 3 report card. It is all there, a part of me that has happened.

But the past is gone. I cannot change it, I cannot control it. It has happened and that is that. I don’t have full control over the future, but the future does offer an illusion of control.

So yes, the future, it scares me. How can any one with certainty say “tomorrow” or “next year”? “Next year” is even scarier than “tomorrow” because there are hundreds of “tomorrows” within a “next year”.

“Oh, I missed the event? I’ll go next year.”
“Let’s meet up next week.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow.”

How can one be so certain? I certainly cannot.

I suppose this is why we say “inshallah”. An insurance of sorts, or recognition of the certainty we’ve uttered but by ourselves cannot afford.

I guess what I take away from this is that if there is something I must say, then I must say it now. If there is something I must do, then I must do it now. Opportunity is today, tomorrow is a privilege.