If you haven’t noticed, there has been a subtle addition to the right sidebar. It’s true. I’ve been baptized into the world of micro-blogging. This blogger is now also a twit…er…er. I realize that this may come as somewhat of a surprise to some of you, particularly since I’ve in the past taken great delight in skewering and belittling everyone’s favorite micro-blogging service, even to it’s face. What could have changed my mind? Well, a number of things. I shall conveniently list them.

  1. I realized I had more reasons to hate Facebook, and I was already on that. On Twitter, people subscribe if they’re interested in what you have to say. How wonderful it is to have quantified self-worth! On Facebook, we’re all just subscribed to each other by impulses of “friendedness.”
  2. At it’s best, Twitter is largely what blogging originally was designed to be, a way of sharing links to cool stuff we’ve come across. Twitter gives us a chance to fly on ahead and shout back to the flock. Also, it gives me something to do when I have something to say but I’m too lazy to blog. I guess that explains this.
  3. I just turned twenty-eight and I realized that I’m simply too young to be technologically jaded. Besides, I work as a educational tech consultant. What kind of example would I be setting by ignoring the hottest craze in social networking (circa 2007-08)?
  4. In my head, I disliked Twitter users more than than Twitter itself. For a while I really only regarded Twitter as a knock-off of Facebook status updates. The users were the ones that really grinded (ground?) my gears. You know, the folks that I had branded a collective of hive-minded, self-glorifying windbags? Okay, that’s not exactly what I said (the “windbags” part is new), but yes, I was thinking it. Well, I don’t believe that’s true anymore, because I am one now and I am not a self-glorifying windbag, I’m a blogger. There’s a subtle difference.
  5. Twitter is “catware, and I’m a cat person. Dogs would love Facebook, which rewards even the most passive user (*ahem*) with constant companionship, praise, and attention—even if it’s undeserved. Twitter, in contrast, is reactionary, self-serving, and independent. Also, “friendship” on Twitter can be a one-sided agreement in which the follower (cat owner) says “I’ll pay attention to you even if you don’t give two s**ts about me.” Heck, even if I am following someone else, it’s about as passive as watching traffic, or a washing machine.

So, yes. That’s it. That’s my conversion statement. I’ll take no questions, but you can “tweet” at me if you feel like it.

“Douglas Coupland has no Facebook or MySpace page”
-Douglas Coupland’s website

I warned you. I said that once we stopped eating animals it was a slippery slope. Next thing you know plants would start getting all high and mighty. Well, it’s happened, and now there’s a tree on Facebook.

No, really. There’s a damned tree on Facebook.

a tree with a face, from Lord of the Rings

What you can't see is the Macbook Pro he's typing on.

Yes friends, trees have officially entered the social networking (oh, it’s on Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube too) circle. We’re not talking a fan page or a tree group. This eighty-six year old tree is posting and tweeting like a boss. Scientists in Brussels have rigged up a tree with environmental sensors, a microphone, a camera, and a digital camcorder, giving us human folk a chance to expand our ecological horizons and find out what trees “think.” It’s a cool and playful idea, and certainly pretty impressive for an eighty-six year old plant with no prior technology experience (or central nervous system, for that matter). Of course, you’ve got to think of the flip side: while this may be a landmark accomplishment for a tree, what does it mean for human beings?

Facebook: So easy, a tree—an entity with no functioning brain—can do it.

Ok, ok. So the tree isn’t actually doing anything besides rocking its inherent tree-ness. It’s technically the computers attached to the tree doing all the work, and we certainly aren’t talking critical thinking here. We’re talking straight data aggregated into readable information, devoid of purpose or substance. It’s not like the tree is generating wisdom or even knowledge, for that matter. That’s all okay, provided we’re still talking about trees.

Facebook: Have all the depth of a tree.

But we’re not, and if Facebook were a gauge for sentience, there’s little separating the plant and animal kingdoms. Sure, the tree has generally better grammar and spelling than its human friends, but they also say “to err is human.” Beyond that, the tree has proven to be our equal in the ability to post inane drivel in a public forum. In an honest assessment of the depth of our Facebook correspondence we’re slightly above seagulls (by using of multi-word phrases), but a smidgen below The Sims. It’s harsh, but at least Sims creatively express aspirations.

tree facebook status and comments

My favorite reply would probably have to be: "i love horses."

As we see above, every time the tree updates its status, it receives dozens of replies (and hundreds of “likes,” whatever that means). One can draw one of two possible conclusions here, both of which are concerning for very different reasons: 1) people actually believe they are talking to a sentient tree or 2) people want others to see they’re talking to a tree. I assume if they had something important to say, they’d send the tree a message instead of posting on its wall. Of course this would violate Web 2.0 rule #7: why say something privately, when you can say it very, very, publicly?

Facebook: It’s all about you. Your “friends” may as well be plants.

I’m not sure how to assess the quality of online social interaction, and I’m not sure it can be done in any meaningful way. I’m fairly convinced that the answer would be meaningless anyways. I’m only asking you, dear readers, to take an honest look at your online correspondence and ask yourselves in what way(s), if any, have you shown more depth than a tree?

Reality: Separate the folks from the trees.

Is it just me, or does everyone on Twitter sound like the exact same person?

10 minutes ago via Extroverted Introversion

After a chat with some folks a few days ago, the conversation ended with the new version of “goodbye” which is “lets keep in touch, are you on Facebook?”

Feeling adventurous, I [rep]lied, “no.”

Facebook/Narcissism

I liked the graphic, despite it not being particularly clever.

My comment was returned with a look so horrified I thought I’d accidentally said “sorry, I’ll be dead tomorrow.” This, of course, got me thinking: is the self-obsessive collaborative web nothing more than a form of collective death-denial?

We’ve grown to identify Web 2.0 as the “collaborative web,” but what are we really collaborating on, but a war against self-denial, or more bluntly, death? Perhaps if we all clump together as much banal, utterly useless data about ourselves, we’ll be too big for death to swallow. The antithesis of self-obsession is essentially self-denial, and what is death but the ultimate form of self-denial? If we don’t accept death, one day we’ll perhaps evolve into pure energy composed of tweets, pokes, and emoticons.

Gizmo Duck

You know, I was going to include an image of Scrooge McDuck swimming in a pool of money as a metaphor for our decadent hoarding of information, but Gizmoduck is just so much cooler.

The Information Age has shown some disturbing trends as of late, notably, an almost obsessive fear of deletion. More and more online web features stress the ready availability of the past to the point that it may as well be the present. Twitter feeds keep a running log of all of our past “present status,” Gmail encourages users to archive as an alternative to deletion, and the internet wayback machine obsessively archives pages, thus serving as an electronic version of its namesake. We have the space, why not just save everything?

I’ve heard the arguments for security, posterity, historical record, and all the like, but I’m not convinced. According to my own Scrooge McDuck Theory of History, no matter how much we obsessively hoard and accumulate data, we’ll only be later obsessed with what we couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t save. Douglas Coupland made the argument that the over-informed age has made spirituality and philosophy concerns of the past. I’m expecting this next generation to have a serious case of death-denial.

It sounds morbid, but should there be a Facebook status for “deceased?”

You go ahead, Webby dear. We quad-zillionaires have our own ideas of fun.”
-Scrooge McDuck

Ugly Mug at the Counter

Have I seen this place before?

I chilled in the cleverly named Ugly Mug before a lax Wednesday night gig at Burdigala Wines. In spite of their following the PDX coffee shop paradigm to a tee (chalkboard menu, Stumptown coffee, secondhand furniture, local artwork, microbrew, kooky color scheme, free Wi-Fi, vegan menu, *yaaaaaaawwwwn*), I had a pleasant stay. I was there for nearly two hours and didn’t see one Mac (well, except mine). They are nice enough to provide power strips for laptop users, which, in my experience, is a sign of cafempathy. They did get into the spirit of the season with a community diorama auction, with proceeds going to a local charity. In this season, and particularly in this day and age, it’s nice to little snatches of humanity as we gradually lose touch with physical community. Of course, it’s also difficult to build a diorama as a Facebook group.

Diaramas on the wall.

Dioramas: because anything that ends in "o rama" must be awesome.

As I sit back and proofread my latest stroll through blogsville, I realize two things. First, I need to stop making up words and use a thesaurus. Secondly, it doesn’t take a college level of critical analysis to realize that my “reviews” are short on criticism and long on complain-ism. This would trouble me more if it weren’t for the fact that this is a blog, which is essentially a web surfer’s license to rant. I recently read William Deresiewicz’ article “Faux Friendship,” which examines the new phenomenon of the social network “friend.” While I do not necessarily fall in line with Deresiewicz’ nostalgia for old world friendship, his article confronts one of the most common misconceptions about the world of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 does not foster collaboration, it fosters self-obsession with collaboration and correspondence as mere byproducts.

Douglas Coupland's new book: Generation A

Hm, I think I think this post got derailed a bit. Look, a new Coupland book!

As a Facebook “user” with my privacy settings set to ultra-paranoid, it’s been some time since I’ve actually logged in and participated in any real facility. The heyday of my Facebook activity was when I was actually having face-to-face contact with most of the people I was “friended” with (to differentiate from “friends with”). I’ve found that my Facebook interactions merely reflect my actual interactions, in the sense that the only people I send messages to are people I would otherwise be communicating with personally. What is sad is that if it weren’t for the convenience of Facebook, email, or text messages, I might actually be calling them.

Coffee & cake at the Ugly Mug

Coffee & cake at the Ugly Mug

Unfortunately, the issue of self-obsession goes far beyond our social networking habits. Now Google and Yahoo are returning Twitter and MySpace feeds as search results, under the guise of “real-time” search. I’m reminded of an in-class exercise in which students dissected the Google privacy policy, uncovering the not-so-subtle way that the information age  erodes privacy standards under the guise of “improving service.” I don’t believe search engines are out to get us, we’re out to get ourselves, literally. Real-time search gives our information age data-diet what it’s been craving the most—a healthy dose of “us.”

Of course, I could make the same excuse for self-obsession that I made for friendship. As the world changes, it’s no stretch that the words that describe it would change along with it. Perhaps “selfishness” needs redefinition. How about selffriendness?

“…instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.”

While there’s all kinds of reasons not to love franchising, it does allow you to get on a plane in New Jersey, land in Singapore, and still be able to satisfy your Double Whopper with cheese craving. Sure, I’ve never had that craving myself, but there’s something to be said for dependability. With so many franchises, regions must establish their individuality by filling in those spaces between with local flavor. The danger, however, of too strong a sense of identity, is that the local flavor falls into monotony that could make even Starbucks feel fresh (and by the way, this new Via tastes better than their normal brew…).

Masks. How expectedly random.

Masks. How expectedly random. The conveniently located power strip, however, is quite original.


Tiny's Coffee on Urbanspoon
The Portland condition seems to be defined by a push toward the kooky side of liberal. In fact, some locals run the risk of throwing their back out trying so hard to be individuals. Unfortunately, when everyone is weird, the dude on the corner decked out in LL Bean stands out. In the effort to become hip and 3dgy (because “edgy” just doesn’t cut it anymore), many Portland…ok, ok, Northwest coffee hotspots have begun to feel blandly predictable. The bouquets of event flyers, local artwork, eclectic color schemes, veggie vegan food selection, Voodoo doughnuts, chalkboard menus, and yard sale tables and chairs have all become…routine. What else can you offer me?

Have I been here before?

Have I been here before?

The clever places manage to follow the PDX template, but find unique ways to fill it in that aren’t always as obvious as “weird.” Tiny’s Coffee on MLK wins by being serving up a helping of accommodating eclectic with a side dish of eclectic accommodating. While my first impression of Tiny’s was all that I would expect, upon closer inspection, they found unique ways to color within the lines.  I had more electrical outlets than I could ever need (Seriously. Over a dozen), a menu more than happy to serve carnivore needs, lots of floor space with plenty of tables, arcade pinball,  and an ATM in the corner which was also a nice touch. The layout also does some fascinating work with levels that I don’t quite understand (“Is that a window? Is that a window? Is someone watching me from up there?”).  Tiny’s certainly has the Portland look and feel, but has an identity all their own…well, except for the other Tiny’s on Hawthorne.

That coffee table looks suspiciously like a baby grand piano.

That coffee table looks suspiciously like a baby grand piano.


Elevated Coffee on Urbanspoon
Elevated Coffee on way north MLK took a whole new route altogether. Like Tiny’s, they serve Stumptown Coffee (*yawn*), offer free WiFi (no-brainer), and adorn their walls with art (actually, you can’t really go wrong with that). The main difference is the decor, and I’ll be honest here: It’s been some time since I’ve seen such a well-decorated café. The black and white scheme and new(!) furniture stopped just short of swank, and settles nicely into sleek. The internet terminals , bookshelves, and local art provide a personable balance to the white baby-grand piano in the corner that provides a dollop of chic. Arts-wise, Elevated Coffee reaches out to the jazz-ish crowd, with shows on Saturday and Sunday, and I may just break my futon again just to have an excuse to stop by and stare at their decor. Seriously, this place is gorgeous.

…if only they could do something about that Twitter foolishness.

How much can you fit into 14o characters? Well, the sky’s the limit. With over 10 million users, Twitter is undoubtedly the new power player on the Web 2.0 scene. I decided to sit down with Twitter and get the 411 straight from the source. What makes Twitter tick? I’ve got the scoop right here.

Extroverted Introversion: Hello, Twitter. It’s nice to finally meet you in person.

in starbucks with juliosus. an honor & a plesure!
7:00 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

EI: The pleasure is all mine. This has been a wild year for you. How do you handle all the attention?

@juliosus being twitter aint eZ. I should kno!
7:00 PM Jul 13th from TwittR in reply to juliosus

EI: What about it isn’t easy?

@juliosus Ive mastered brevity, now I just need everyone else to pay attention. lol!
7:01 PM Jul 13th from TwittR in reply to juliosus

EI: We’re the only ones here. The @ isn’t necessary.

@juliosus I cant help it. tweets are the wave of the future!
7:01 PM Jul 13th from TwittR in reply to juliosus

EI: A recent Harvard Business school study seems to imply that tweeters are egotists obsessed with self-importance.

@juliosus SO not true! I live for sharing info with my besties.
7:02 PM Jul 13th from TwittR in reply to juliosus

EI: …information about yourself.

juliosus says Im self obsessed (WHATEVER!). What do u think?
7:02 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

@juliosus twitter is a doll! Juliosus needs to leave twitter alone!
7:02 PM Jul 13th from Linzey605 in reply to juliosus

@TwittR Awfully big words for a guy who doesnt tweet. Im just sayin…
7:02 PM Jul 13th from JakeINdahouse in reply to TwittR

EI: Who are you people?

@JakeINdahouse Thx! juliosus needs to get in the know…
7:02 PM Jul 13th from TwittR in reply to JakeINdahouse

@Linzey605 I know, right?
7:03 PM Jul 13th from TwittR in reply to Linzey605

EI: Um, ok…I didn’t say you were self obsessed. I’m just calling attention to the fact that research shows that 10% of Twitter users make up 90% of tweets.

Sooooo many dead accounts. If you can’t handle me, don’t step up to the table! LOL!
7:03 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

EI: I don’t think that answers my qu…

Facebook is SO last year! Its good to be IN!
7:03 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

Facebook is wondering what all the fuss is about. Who uses twitter anyways?

@Facebook you just wish you though of it first. SORE LOSER!!!
7:03 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

Facebook is pretty sure it thought of this first.

@Facebook U wish U were MYSPace! HAHAHAHAH!
7:03 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

EI: As much as I hate to interrupt here, I’d like to get us back on track. So Twitter, I guess it’s safe to say that you’ve embraced your popularity.

@AplusK: no, Ashton, thank YOU! Loooove the pic!
7:04 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

EI: Twitter?

Coffee with juliosus. *yawn*
7:04 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

EI: Um, am I boring you?

@juliosus thanks for noticing. btw. So excited! Awesome night tonite!
7:04 PM Jul 13th from TwittR in response to juliosus

EI: What are you up to tonight?

Embedding in myspace tonite. I luv u myspace!!!!!!!
7:05 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

EI: I’ve heard the rumors about the close relationship between you and myspace. How would you describe your relationship?

@myspace UR SO HOT!!! see you tonite! =)
7:05 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

EI: I can’t take much more of this…

Myspace is TOTALLY gonna score 2night! at 7:24 PM July 13
Mood: Cool cool

EI: Okay…last question Twitter. Where do you see yourself in five years?

@youtube embedding with MYspace tonight. U better be there!
7:05 PM Jul 13th from TwittR

Utube4eva (1 minute ago)

omg U are SUUUUUCCCCCHHHHH a HO!
Ill be ther!

EI: Ok, I’m done.

“OMG i was saying how i couldn’t afford the gas to fly daddy’s jet to the riviera this summer, and this barista totally rolled her eyes at me”
babesmcphee