One key drive as an introvert is to spend some time simply unobserved. It’s a state of not needing to think about how behaviors, words, facial expressions, etc. affect others and the ability to just be in that moment.
It’s errand day and we need lunch. We pull up to a Subway, one with an old bright yellow awning. One I’ve driven past many times over 20 years but never entered.
The front door opens to a hallway, blue-grey carpet stretching ahead. To the left, a tax office with a sign printed in black and white inkjet. To the right, the wood veneer hollowcore that leads to the Subway, cheap gold handle hang loose.
Inside, we order, joking with the staff. I worked at a Subway back in the day and am proud to have found the same knives for home. My husband cut himself the first day using them, just as I did. The sandwich artist agrees that it has to happen to everyone their first day.
We sit down, eat, watching the rain fall from swollen grey skies, watching a contracting van and an SUV pull up to the drive-through.
I comment, “If we were to come back here, I don’t think this place would still be here. I don’t think it would have ever been here.”
My husband agrees.
We finish our sandwiches and leave, not looking back.
Having spent a few weeks on Micro.Blog, I have a few thoughts on the functionality and interaction between a home blog and the M.B system. Yes, I’m going to be That Party Guest, but as the platform is developing I think it is important to discuss where the design intersects with experience.
One feature that I appreciate is that initial posts start from your home blog, keeping your creations your property, while ongoing responses stay in the M.B system so that you don’t overwhelm your blog with short @ responses. Additionally, the deliberate design decision to not include likes/favorites and instead push the community to use our words to respond is a good one. However, I’ve noticed that in practice these two things mean that my timeline of people I follow on M.B has turned into a long string of decontextualized short responses to other people. It makes reading my timeline a bit like walking down a pristine white hallway and catching snippets of people talking here and there, a field of disconnected sentences that require that you open the conversation to investigate what sparked the comment.[note]Having written all this, I did find the ‘Show mentions to only people I’m following’ option, but it doesn’t exactly fix the problem I’m having. I want the discoverability of others, but with less friction.[/note] Many posts are nothing more than versions of “@— I agree.” or “@— You raise an interesting point.” Taken in isolation, these kinds of comments make me curious about the original post, but when my entire feed consists of these lines, each requiring me to click on the post, click Conversation, and then pop to the top of the thread looking for the original subject, it starts to look like work to decipher other people’s enthusiasm.
Of course the solution that Twitter implemented for this challenge is that of being able retweet, sharing what someone else has posted directly to followers. Since that function has been turned into a tool for harassment, I think on the whole this is a better design but I also think there is some room for creative improvement in how we can show enthusiasm for someone else’s creative work.
That all said, the feeling of work might be more a fault of the design of the pop-up interface used in the default M.B app than anything. Even switching to Icro‘s more Twitter-like “swipe to see conversation” functionality[note]Edit: Turns out the default app has it too, but you have to be careful not to tap when you attempt to swipe or else you get a pop-up menu instead.[/note] makes it seem more fun to jump into conversations. [note]I would really love it if the colors in Icro didn’t skew so orange/red. Anytime I swipe left and select a reddish option, my brain screams that I am deleting something.[/note]
A related problem is that even though I followed people for their blogging/social posts, these are getting lost in the strings of responses. It makes me appreciate the functionality of separating Tweets from Tweets & replies in a way that I hadn’t really thought closely about before. I’ve seen some conversation about the relationship between M.B and an RSS reader. As it stands, I’m happy to keep those two things separate[note]Though some way of easily finding which of the many blogs I follow are on M.B and a way to easily switch from following in one place versus another would be welcome. That might be more of a matter of creating a common practices for the bloggers to follow rather than a functionality to be built into M.B.[/note] but I would value a timeline view that doesn’t include replies. As it is, I find myself drawn to the Discover feed because I am in many ways more likely to see people I follow’s main posts there than in my Timeline. Being aware that my responses to others causes the same diluting effect on my own posts also makes me question whether a response to a person has value for followers as well[note]Assuming there are people following me, of course. :)[/note]. That’s a performative calculation that I’d prefer not exist in M.B.
The other major challenge with the structure of M.B is how it requires posts to forgo a title. By design, social media-type posts can only include text in the body of the post. If you put a title in, M.B automatically switches the post to a link with a title. This works great for an essay but would be silly for a one- or two-line post. So, in practice that means many posts with no titles, which works fine on a day-to-day function but for long-term post management in my WordPress install, it’s a mess. My list of posts after a week has already become a wasteland of (no title), distinguished only by their categories. When I went to clean up photos in my media folder, I needed to check which version of a photo I had used in the final post. Doing this through the wordpress backend was such a waste of time that I finally just went scrolling through my public blog pages instead. This is unfortunate in a platform that is billed as being built on blogging–the functionality should add, not complicate.
These issues aside, I have been pleased by the framework and community that is already in place at M.B. I just hope that as it develops, there will be continuing conversation about how best to balance the blog with the micro.[note]After spending so much time reading tumblr, it feels like I should end with a “In this TED talk, I will…” conclusion. Is there such a humorous denouement convention in M.B?[/note]
This is a great reminder of what a luxury it is to work on things we care about in this world.