Some Thoughts on Social Media

24th September 2021

Note: These are raw thoughts and not a PhD thesis, and therefore should be treated as such.

In my opinion, social media networks like Twitter, Instagram, and to some extent other microblogging platforms, are underutilised and I think we could gain so much more from using them.

In short, I think that social networks are more enjoyable for everyone when people share everyday life, opinions, ideas, life updates, progress, and real experiences.

I’ve noticed a few things that I think are misconceptions on how we should treat social media:

  • Every photo needs to be perfect. The background can’t be distracting, you must be in an amazing location, with no mess, and you must also be a professional photographer.
  • Your thoughts need to fit within the expectations of others.
  • If you do not provide context, then it is wise to assume the worst possible scenario.
  • You must treat yourself as a brand.
  • Sharing a curated feed of your best moments makes you interesting.

While I don’t believe I’m the messiah brought to Earth to fix every problem with social networks, there are a few things that I think we forget when it comes to using them:

  • We are all real people.
  • Our lives in most caress are drastically different to what we share online.
  • Real-life is what other people can relate to.

It’s always seemed fascinating to me how we all seem to understand that social media doesn’t represent real life, but we still get caught up in it. It’s like we’re all wilful subscribers to an alternate reality, where we get triggered by purposefully emotive headlines, opinions that differ from our own, and from people that we do not know.

But imagine if we used social networks to share our real-life experiences. We all have them. We can all see the distinction between what happens in real life and what appears on social media.

I think that is where has felt different to platforms like Twitter for me. In a sense, it feels slower, but at the same time, it feels like you are connecting with real people. Whereas when I use Twitter, most of the time it feels like I’m interacting with an online account rather than the person behind it.

I’ve definitely fallen into the trap before, where I’ve used Twitter as a place to share perfect photos, links to my blog posts, and anything else that can bring external validation. But I think I’m going to try and just use it like a normal person for a while, and see how it goes. Nothing I do is perfect, and it won’t ever become perfect. So the only thing I’d ask is that if you do see me on Twitter, please treat my public posts as coming from a real person, not someone simply out to cause havoc.

Thinking Out Loud: What Is It To Be in Control of the Media That You Consume

28th July 2021

When one of these services or your subscription ends, your access to your media ends instantly.

After reading a recent article on The Atlantic, “What Will Happen to My Music Library When Spotify Dies?”, by Joe Pinsker (via Pixel Envy), I started to think about what is it to own your music.

I’ve been subscribed to various streaming services in the past such as Apple Music, Spotify, and Rdio. And with some basic maths, I can work out that if I’ve been streaming music for around 10 years (at least), and you put a rough average of £8 as a monthly fee (counting in some small discounts along the way), then that would mean a total of £960 spent on temporary access to music.

I don’t mean to create any hysteria by that figure, as it’s been over a ten year period, and I’ve no doubt enjoyed listening to the music. But I wonder how much it would have cost if I had to purchase every song that I listened to in that period. I currently have around 3,000 songs added to my Apple Music library, and I’ve surely listened to countless other songs as well. So it sounds like I’ve got my money's worth. But I’m still suddenly left with nothing if this service goes away.

It’s certainly an interesting thing to ponder. Because on one hand, music streaming platforms give you access to their vast collections of songs and you can listen to them on practically every computer possible. But on the other, at no point do you own this media, you are merely paying for the privilege to have temporary access to someone else’s music.

When I think about ownership of media, I start to think about the music I’ve streamed, but also the books, audiobooks, tv shows, and movies that I’ve purchased digitally over the years.

And while I theoretically can access this media forever, these purchases exist solely in Apple’s ecosystem. There’s still something that I need to maintain to access my purchases. For without myself owning and using a device that can access the movies I’ve purchased from iTunes, these purchases are worthless. This means that they do not result in ownership, like purchasing a CD, instead what you own is access to this content on platforms that the distributor deems suitable.

One example is buying a movie. If you purchase a physical copy of a movie on DVD, then you are free to watch that DVD on any DVD player, or you can even transfer the movie to your computer into a digital file and have even more freedom. But if for example, you purchase a movie in the iTunes Store, then you have no control over the copy that you purchased. Sure, you can watch it on platforms that have access to your iTunes purchases. But what if for some reason, you lose access to your iTunes account? You can’t export the movie files, you can’t burn them to a disc, and there would be no way for you to access your purchases on any new device either.

Then again, is any of this actually a problem? The reason I purchase movies is to watch them multiple times. I really don’t care about the ownership aspect, I just want the privilege of on-demand access to the content that I like.

It also applies to music. It doesn’t matter whether or not I have control of the raw files, what I care about is being able to listen to my favourite songs whenever I want.

So maybe I don’t need to rush off and start my own personal media collection, as the balance of access to vast collections of content compared to the relative costs are currently working in my favour.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference. As always.

However, after this little thought experiment, instead of realising that streaming services are bad and that I need to “own” everything I consume — which is what I thought would happen — it’s led me to believe that the bigger problem lies right in the middle of streaming content and owning content. In the places where you are required to pay the premium of long-term ownership, but do not have total control over your personal copies.

Because yes, while using streaming services, you do only have temporary access to content. But at least that is reflected in the price that you pay. Just as you would pay more for a physical copy of a movie or album because you are paying for the control and ownership.

Therefore, while I’m not planning on quitting streamin services, I may stop purchasing media from stores such as iTunes, and instead, opt for a physical copy (usually that the same or lower price) which I then control and can store digitally if I so wish.

Writing in the Ghost Editor

29th November 2020

I can't quite figure out what caused this transition, but recently I've been writing my blog posts on the web directly in the Ghost editor, and I'm rather enjoying it. A while ago, I would have only thought about using a native app, whether I was writing on my Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

But writing in the editor feels to me more like I'm actively writing on my blog. Not just writing something that may be shared later on to my blog. Maybe that makes sense, I'm not so sure. But there definitely feels like a distinction in my head.

I've seen some comments in the past about writing in online editors being bad, with them being slow, not having a good UI compared to native apps, and even having the possibility to lose your progress. But I don't think the web is that bad anymore. Or at least the Ghost editor isn't. If you want to check it out, Matt Birchler made a great video about the Ghost admin interface.

I wonder what the current consensus is on writing directly in a web interface. Is this behaviour still weird? Or am I simply joining everyone else on this one?

Thoughts on Adaptive Background Environments

29th November 2020

I wrote previously about something called ASMR rooms. Which I found to be a rather interesting idea, and possible solution to help keep me focussed on a task, by providing my brain some background sounds and visuals to keep any distractions away.

Since writing that post and experimenting with various videos, I'm starting to think of these videos as background environments. In that the idea is to immerse yourself in these scenes, in order to remove distractions from the physical environment in which you are actually located. But I've become fascinated in how the experience could be improved.

My current thinking is that the videos should match the real-world environment and to an extent, local time. Because, I don't think a warm room with a crackling fireplace would be as effective on a sunny afternoon, or icy morning, as it would be later in the day when the sun has set. Because in that case, the video changes from being separate to your physical environment, to an extension of your real-world surroundings. But with some added visuals and background noise.

I can't see it being feasable for a product to be created to automate this, but it would be pretty cool to have something where you'd have a constant stream of ASMR room videos, but they'd also adapt to the time of day, seasons, and possibly local weather. For example, a winters day could feature a snowy courtyard in the morning, followed by a library in the early afternoon, then you could watch the sun set over a vista, and relax by a fire in the evening.

One idea that may work is a livestream to rotate through videos, but maybe localised to a timezone/country to align itself with sunrise/sunset times and seasons. I don't know how interested other people would be with that, but I'd certainly watch it.

This may all seem a bit weird, or just me taking something simple, way too far. But this is the kind of stuff that goes through my head.

The M1 Chip

11th November 2020

So Apple has finally announced the first Macs that will run on Apple Silicon. To be specific, there is a new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13", and a new Mac Mini. And they all have the new M1.

This is still early on, and there's bound to be more information as time goes on, and as people eventually receive their machines. But, it leaves me with some questions regarding the M1, Apple's idea behind the Mac lineup, and Apple Silicon in general.

Is an M1 always an M1?

With all three new Macs having the M1 chip, I assumed that the only difference in power would be related to how much power it uses, and the thermal capacity of the machine. As in the Mac Mini is plugged in constantly, so it can draw more power. And the MacBook Air doesn't have a fan, so it needs to maintain a lower temperature.

But while it appears that the M1 is the same across the models, there is one machine which has a slight variant. The cheapest MacBook Air for some reason has an M1 with a 7-core GPU. And all of the other machines have an 8-core GPU.

So are all M1 chips the same? Does the "7-core GPU" variant actually have 8-cores, but one's switched off? Or did they literally make two options of the same chip, with 1 GPU core being the difference? If they are physically different, is does M1 represent a chip family?

Is CPU configuration now dead?

With the new M1s being the same, apart from the weird MacBook Air situation, there is now one less thing you can configure when purchasing a Mac.

Sure, you have the option of a 7-core or 8-core GPU on your MacBook Air, but this is not configurable in the same way that memory and storage are.

Maybe from now on, the chip will determine the model. And if Apple does start to separate Mac models by chip variants, will we ever be told more about them apart from the number of cores and the iteration?

What chip will be in the next tier of Macs?

Even if we class the Mac mini, MacBook Air, and MacBook 13" models as being transitioned to Apple Silicon, there are still four more models that run exclusively on Intel chips, the MacBook Pro 16", iMac, iMac Pro, and the Mac Pro.

I think they will obviously feature higher performant chips than the current M1 chips that are available. But I wonder how far they will go, and at what rate. Because although the MacBook Pro 16" is a laptop, it's the high-end model, and will therefore need to be much more powerful than the 13".

But when it comes to the other three models, they all have one benefit over the laptops, in that they have a constant power source. And the Mac Pro can go even further due to it's larger size.

Apple said they wanted to transition the whole Mac platform to Apple Silicon in around 2 years. But I wonder if this means only having Apple Silicon Macs available, or just by having an Apple Silicon option of every Mac, while still selling various Intel variants.

How many chip variants will Apple sell at once?

This isn't exactly a major question, but it will be interesting to see how many Apple Silicon chips will be available to buy at a single time.

When the whole platform has transitioned, I wonder if at one point they will all run the same M class chip with variants on certain models. And at what rate are they upgraded?

The iPhone chips are updated every year, so it will be good to see the same behaviour for M chips. Although would that mean every Mac gets updated every year? Or just certain models?

Is the memory limit a problem?

The Macs that have the M1 chip are all limited to a maximum 16GB memory. That doesn't seem great to me, since the Intel MacBook Pro 13" supports up to 32GB memory, double its replacement.

Maybe this is a technical limitation? I thought initially that it was a limitation from the M1 chip, but I've also seen suggestions that it's due to the type of memory, or even due to the heat generated from larger amounts of memory. So it could even be a product decision.

And although the limit is pretty small, will it actually be a problem? iPhones have much less ram than Android phones, and they're by no means slow. So maybe the tight integration of Apple Silicon and macOS will create the same benefit, and memory will go further on Apple Silicon than an Intel equivalent.

These are the questions I have right now, and I bet there's a load more that others want to be answered too. We'll simply have to wait and see what happens.