Posts Tagged 'Facebook'

Cool New Facebook Feature

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

I joined Facebook when it was “The Facebook” and you needed an approved school’s .edu email address to join. I’m talking around six months before it was opened up to all colleges, and then opened up to the public.

I’m not trying to be all hipster on you. I’m making a point. Bear with me.

Back then I only joined because my classmates all joined in a frenzy when our school’s .edu address became accessible in one of that last waves of schools to be added. If I didn’t join, I would have missed out on all the sharing of assignment tips and whatnot on there. Being that I went to an art school, we weren’t sharing answers (since most of our grades were from projects). We really were sharing tips on how to get the uncooperative gouache to work right, or reminders about what the professor would be looking for in the finished project.

Then I quit going to school, Facebook opened up to the public, and I started having problems with Facebook. So I quit using it. In fact, I deleted my account and stayed off the site for two years. Then my coworkers wanted me on there, so I joined up again and resolved to keep it simple. No applications, no “friends” I didn’t really know… I thought I had it figured out (and for the most part, I did).

Though I still doubted whether I really needed it.

Then I did an experiment to see if I really needed my Facebook account and friends. Eventually, I concluded that I could (and should) live without Facebook (mostly for simplicity’s sake).

So these days I watch Facebook (and people on Facebook) with a bemused detachment.

Boy did I have a good laugh at their latest feature: Groups for Schools.

HA! At first I thought it was some sort of joke. But a quick Google search revealed that this is for real. Facebook is actually introducing an exclusivity angle for .edu addresses, rolled out to groups of schools in waves, as though it’s something new. So let me get this straight:

  1. Introduce exclusive social network for schools.
  2. Realize everyone wants in and open it up to the whole world.
  3. Attempt to sell idea of exclusivity again.
  4. ???
  5. PROFIT EVEN MORE? Yeah right.

Wow. Are they just trolling college students?


Rhino Skull Troll-Face: U MAD?

Actually, I’ve seen something like this before. I read about it on the New York Times website a while back. It was a really neat article about how marketing companies pry into our private lives and use psychology to get us to buy and use their products.

When they first got started, it seems Febreze had problems selling a product that eliminated odors. They were actually doing very poorly as a business. However, their researchers (or someone) stumbled upon a woman who actually used their product. When they visited her, they found that she was using it as a finishing touch in her household chores, not to eliminate odors as it was intended to be used.

This crazy lady would make the bed with fresh bedding, then spray some Febreze on it. She’d wash and fold her laundry, then spray some Febreze on it. The bottle said, “eliminates odors!” Yet she was spraying things that already smelled good.

Rather than asking the lady from what height she was dropped on her head as a baby, they asked why she did it. Of course she wasn’t all that sure, but she knew she liked the way it smelled. So the Febreze guys looked at each other in disbelief, returned to the lab, and increased the perfume in their product. Then they turned around and marketed it again.

This time it wasn’t marketed as a product that eliminates odors; it was marketed as a product to make clean things smell nicer: Like a spray-on liquid air freshener that makes things smell pretty. Their commercials showed people doing what that crazy lady was doing: spraying it on things that were already clean.

Eventually the product really took off. This baffles me to no end. But the funny part is, once they were selling really well and making a ton of cash, they changed their advertisements again. They started telling people, “Oh yeah, and our product eliminates odors too.” They actually never removed that feature, but people didn’t care about it at first. After Febreze got big and made that announcement though, people were going, “oh cool.”


Anyhow, perhaps what Facebook is doing isn’t all that different from what Febreze had to do. Maybe Facebook is trying to get back to its roots.

Or maybe they are just crazy.

Simplicity, Productivity Boosting, and My Kindle

I'll be covering this topic.

I’m challenging myself to cover three huge topics and do it in as short a post as possible because I want you to actually read the whole thing.



Simplicity has always been a thing for me. I have an entire site set up dedicated to seeking elegant simplicity in the things I own (though it’s been neglected for a while). Then, I read a book by Joshua Becker called Simplify. After reading it, I knew what I had to do. I had a vision of what I wanted my home to look like.

It was clean. It was orderly. We only had the things we absolutely needed or really, really wanted. No junk. No perpetual messes. No clutter.

But I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it alone. So I had my wife read the book on my Kindle. She agreed that it would be good for us to change the way we view our stuff, and we began.

That was back in January. So far we’ve de-cluttered over a third of the rooms and spaces in our home, and the areas we have cleared out are still immaculate. It feels great. I am a little less stressed even. I can’t wait to be done, but I suspect it will be less of a destination and more of a mentality, a lesson for our children, and a process. We will forever be questioning what we own, what we need, and what we use. It is a beautiful thing.

Along those lines, and before I move on to the second topic, I have to mention the simplification of my digital life (which began before even reading Simplify).

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you’ll know that I have gone back and forth with Facebook for a long time. My last post on the subject mentioned that I had divided my Facebook existence into two accounts as an experiment to see if I really needed or wanted it.

Well, the experiment ended about four months ago. I realized that I just didn’t really need or want Facebook, so I shut down my accounts entirely.

Hurray for scientific experimentation.

On to topic number two: Productivity Boosting.

So last week I stumbled upon this article about fixing procrastination. Being the procrastinator that I am, I bookmarked the article and decided to read it later.

Then, the next day, I realized the irony of that approach with that sort of an article, and I printed the article, thinking that if I carried it around long enough I’d feel more pressure to read it than if it sat in my inhumanely long list of bookmarks in the To Do folder.

An iron, because I said irony.

So I carried it around in my book bag and even kept it on my nightstand for another couple of days, hoping I would read it.

Eventually, when I was about to condemn myself to a life of expert-level procrastination, I read the article.

I liked it. It was simple. I like simple. I could start immediately. Well, sort of… OK. I started the next day.

I highly recommend you read the article, but here’s what you need to know in order to follow along: The idea is that you pick three or four broad-ish goals to accomplish every single day, and if you meet your goals you put a big, fat, gratuitously gratifying “X” for the day on a special calendar reserved for this process. If you miss a day, you break the chain of X’s, which is bad, and you… um, you… well, you just allow yourself to feel horrible about breaking your chain, then you renew your resolve and go at it again the next day, or something like that.

In the end I wound up having to adapt the idea a little, since some of the specifics wouldn’t work for me and I kind of got lost on a couple of the ideas since my printer had an issue with figuring how images and text interact.

So I drafted up my Productivity Plan (the four goals), and decided that I would only hold myself to completing three of the four goals each day.

My goals are to exercise, simplify, write, and relax. I don’t want to expect myself to do all four every day because I don’t believe in exercising every single day (I have to have at least Sunday off, RIGHT?), and some days I just don’t have time to simplify something, or maybe I just can’t work up the energy required to do any writing because my soul has been drained by my sadistic government employer… I wanted some leeway to account for non-perfect days.

Vacation time, sick time, and other extraneous circumstances can be explained in the calendar by, instead of marking an “X,” marking an “S” for “sick,” a “V” for “super rad vacation that was totally too awesome to afford me any time to be productive,” or an “E” for “END OF THE WORLD, FORGET MY GOALS.”

Mostly, I anticipate a string of X’s.

So I printed off some pages of calendars. I wanted all of the days in the year to be on one sheet of paper, so I went with this calendar. I printed three years’ worth to keep me busy for a while. Then I got a super cheap-o folder from Target, and picked up these fat markers for $3.50 while I was there (sometimes Amazon prices are awesome, other times they are scary dangerous – as of this writing those same markers are selling for over $8 on Amazon).

You can't tell me this isn't an awesome hat.

To help with the exercise thing, I got a nice pedometer a few weeks ago. I also got a really awesome hat, but that’s completely unrelated.

Then I stapled the current year sheet to the front of the folder, put the extra year calendars inside with the article printout and my Productivity Plan, and started marking X’s the next day. Today is the second day of working under this slave-driver. So far, I’ve been quite productive and I like it. I also really like my hat.

Because one of my goals (the relax goal) deals with reading, it’s now time to mention my Kindle.

I decided to get a Kindle a while ago, and I did. And I’m very glad I did.

I didn’t promise a review, but here it is: I really love my Kindle and if you are on the fence between nook and Kindle, do your stinking homework. Don’t just ask me what to get. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, and the decision is yours because we live in a free country where choices are awesome. Embrace the choice.

The only “problem” is that now I have way too many books to read. I already had a pile a mile high (closer to three feet wide, in the bookshelf) of physical books to read (though those are very lazy-making since I think I have a paper allergy or something). Now I have over a hundred books on my Kindle that are waiting to be read.

It’s just too easy to add books to your Kindle library. They have this Kindle Daily Deal thing where books are put on super-sale. I know I picked up at least one $14 e-book for just $1.99 (a great book that I wanted to read – don’t judge me; I know you’re thinking back to my spat about simplification). I also picked up one of my favorite titles, which normally lists for $11.95 (but currently sells for &7.81), for just ninety nine cents! You can see how books can start to pile up. Some of the daily deals are free books, and I regularly catch wind of book promotions through Google+ where authors are giving their books away for free.

So I’m in the middle of reading the Hunger Games trilogy (almost done with book 2), but when I finish I’m going to have a reading list that puts all of my other “to do” lists to shame.

Oh, and they have this Kindle Owner’s Lending Library where many of the best-sellers can be borrowed for free. Indefinitely. You can only have one borrowed at a time, and you can’t borrow more than one per month, but that gives me easy, free access to so many good books it makes my head spin. That’s how I’m currently reading the Hunger Games. All of the books in that trilogy are free for me to borrow, for as long as it takes me to read them.


Alright. That’s enough for this post. I sure would like some comments from you brave, intrepid souls who made it to the end of my post. What are you currently reading? Do you use an e-reader? Do you have any productivity tricks? Do you like hats?

Let’s Try Something New

Blue Nintendo 3DS on display in Nintendo booth...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve got an idea. I’ll try something new today. Blogging.

Yes, it’s been a very long time since I’ve written anything on here (and my family blog is feeling equally abandoned lately).

There are a few things I wanted to share (briefly) today before I get to work. I’ve lots to do and little time to do it in.

First, I had a lot of nightmares last night. At least a few of them were due to some knowledge that I happened across recently. Read about it at your own risk. You will quickly realize that many people incorrectly use the phrase “well hung” when referring to a gentleman’s manhood. Also, I never want to think about that phrase ever again.

In other quick news, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my new Nintendo 3DS. On Friday my wife and I had ours in StreetPass mode while we rode the Metro to the Eastern Market area of DC. I got one StreetPass tag and my wife somehow managed to get two. I’m still puzzled about that since we were side-by-side nearly the entire time. Yesterday we rode the Metro to Crystal City (which wasn’t nearly as cool as it sounded from the Wikipedia article) and we didn’t get any StreetPass hits at all, despite being out there nearly all day.

At least next weekend we know we’ll get quite a few StreetPass tags when we attend the StreetPass DC meetup. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m trying to find all the 3DS owners in the DC area to encourage them to come.

OK, now for the work. I’ll be reposting this on Facebook since it primarily concerns my Facebook friends.

I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’ve decided to split my Facebook presence into two accounts. One account will be a sort of exclusive club. Only my favorite family members and my closest friends will remain my friend there. This account will be the one I currently have. It will likely become unlisted (so as to prevent future friend requests).

I will then be opening a new account (possibly under the name “Brain Haddad” – which corresponds to a Gmail address I’ve owned for quite some time to catch emails mistakenly sent to the typo version of myself). Anyone who I remove from the “exclusive club” account will receive a friend request from this new account. These people will largely consist of family members I don’t keep up with very often (or I don’t know them very well, even through Facebook) and coworkers who I like but haven’t developed a genuine, deep and meaningful friendship with. If I feel that I am developing a deep, meaningful friendship with any of these people in the secondary account, I will “graduate” them to the elite account with a friend request.

I do not mean for this secondary account to be an insult to those who find themselves missing the original “Brian Haddad” account from their friends list. It will essentially be my primary Facebook account, but I will not be checking it every day. I will likely check it every other day or even once a week sometimes. I intend for this account to occupy much less of my time than the current one does. Also, I will allow more people to befriend me using this account since it won’t matter if I have more than 100 friends there.

Eventually I will likely either delete one of the two accounts or convert one into a Fan Page (depending on which one is of more value to me at the end of the trial period – which could last anywhere from a few months to more than a year). Thanks to Jasper for pointing out that possibility.

If anyone has any questions or concerns about this process, please leave a comment and I will respond immediately. You can watch this post at WordPress and I may add a FAQ if enough people are asking the same questions over and over.

Remember, I love all of my friends and associates, but I struggle with keeping my social awkwardnesses from getting in the way of living a normal-ish life. These strange things that I do are my way of dealing with a strange, chaotic world that makes absolutely no sense to me most of the time.

Facebook: The Great Debate

Facebook logo

Image via Wikipedia

An awesome friend of mine recently posted to Facebook:

I have to see the world to understand it.

I replied:

And I have to understand the world in order to see it.

Who is right or wrong here? Many times, there will be a black and a white, a clear distinction between the truth and a falsehood. Other times, it may not be so neat and easy to distinguish correctness between ideas. Sometimes neither side is an appropriate view, and a middle-ground must be sought.

Here is another example. A friend of mine recently struggled with the following two ideas:

I pay for the game because I can’t stop playing it.

I can’t stop playing the game because I pay for it.

Turns out, when he quit paying the monthly fee to a game that he was addicted to, he quit playing easily. Having already paid for a month he made extra time to play the game because he didn’t want the money to go to waste. Removing the obligation, in this case, removed the addiction.

Sure, it won’t always work that way. Sometimes these two-way arguments have a clear right and wrong, like this one:

I poop because I eat.

I eat because I poop.

Sure, one could go into long philosophical arguments and biological and physiological explanations of how the second condition could also be true, but essentially this is a simple cause and effect situation. Trying to make the second one true only obscures the fact that poop is a byproduct of the body’s system of removing nutrients from the food. Pooping happens because of our need to eat, not the other way around.

Other times there is no clear right or wrong. Sometimes the right or wrong will lie in the eye of the beholder, other times it will vary by circumstance. Many times both sides will have some validity and it will be up to the individual to find their own balance between the two.

A battle has raged for years in my head around Facebook. There are two main camps in this war:

I have it because I need it. Keep the account.

I need it because I have it. Close the account.

There was, at one time, a third position that existed in my mind, one that proposed a middle-ground truce between the two, but that one is dying a slow and painful death. I’ll explain that one after I’ve explained the positions of the main arguments.

Before going too far into this, there is something you should know about me. Most people might casually define socializing as having and interacting with friends and acquaintances. Mostly, I agree. However, socializing is work for me. It is hard work. I feel that having close, reliable friends is of paramount importance, but unnecessary socializing is difficult and should be avoided at all costs. Good friends are both chosen and come to you on their own. I could write an entire supplementary article on good friends (and I might one day) but for now just know that I see Facebook friends as belonging to one of four categories:

  1. Family
  2. Good, Close Friends
  3. Acquaintances & Associates
  4. People I don’t really know or care much about

Now, here are both sides of the battle in my head over Facebook. I encourage you to join in the internal discussion with your comments below.

Argument One: I Have It Because I Need It

Every time I think the other argument might win, this one has pulled through and kept me from closing my account. Facebook has become ubiquitous and prominent in our society. Growing up I made phone calls to friends who were not physically near, or we exchanged letters in the mail. The Internet came along and made long-distance communication an integral part of our lives, and changed everything.

I have another good friend who recently dropped his text messaging plan. He downgraded his iPhone to one of the most basic models of cell phone available, and told AT&T to block all incoming text messages. He says he’s doing it to save $10 a month and because he was relying on it too much. Now, when I want to text him to ask him something simple, I have to call him. I might be interrupting something, I usually end up wasting more time than if I had just fired off a text, and we often wind up having a pleasant conversation that leaves me wondering if maybe it wasn’t so bad to drop texting after all. I mean, I make fun of him a lot for not having texting, but how much damage has he really done by dropping it? There are numerous pros and cons, and in the end this is clearly something that he sees as the right thing to do.

We’re not here to debate on whether texting is necessary or not though. Personally, my wife and I rely on texting far too heavily, as do most of my coworkers, family and friends. I’ll be keeping my texting plan. Even if it didn’t start out this way, I definitely have it because I need it.

It’s entirely possible that Facebook has graduated to the same status as texting. Without Facebook there are several people I know I would lose contact with, some of them being family members or really close friends. I could say we’ll exchange emails, subscribe to each other’s blogs, and text each other, but I know that won’t happen with a few of them. In a sense, if I wish to keep all of the social ties and connections that I currently have, I need Facebook. That’s the way the world is now.

Argument Two: I Need It Because I Have It

And this is the way it begins, right? Before something like Facebook exists, nobody needs it. Sure, some relationships weren’t happening before it existed, and one could argue that those relationships need Facebook (and they do), but how badly do I need Facebook?

Let’s face it, Facebook is just a giant online socializing arena. If I loved socializing, I would love Facebook. The fact is, I like having connections with people, but socializing is work. Sometimes, socializing is painful and annoying. Some people who I would absolutely love to spend time with face to face can be downright annoying on Facebook. Anyone else have that friend who never uses Facebook for anything but advertising for things that they are passionate about? I would remove that friend, but they are close to me and I want to keep my tie with them in Facebook because of that closeness. I would block them from the feed, but what if they have a bad day and post a non-advertising status message and I miss an opportunity to be there for them? So instead, because I love them, I endure their many posts about things that I should buy. Multiply this times the sixty friends I have on Facebook, and you can see how it starts to wear on me.

It’s not that all of my friends are marketers, but many of them try me in other ways. I love them all, but I don’t want to have any part in immature dramas or “he said, she said” communication melt-downs. What about that person that I go to church with and they post a nasty status update filled with cursing and nasty things about their neighbor? Does anyone else have that one friend who seems to post nothing but complaints all the time?

There are many alternatives to Facebook style social networking. I love typing emails and reading blogs. I only wish more of my friends would make the time and do the work to have a more traditional correspondence with me. If I close my Facebook account I will be cutting off many good social ties with people. Then again, before Facebook I wouldn’t have had those ties, and I would have been perfectly happy without them. So, do I really need to keep in touch with those people who wouldn’t keep in touch without Facebook?

Argument Three: The Best of Both Worlds?

Of course, both of the above arguments have quite a bit of truth to them, so finding a balance becomes necessary, right?

Categorizing each and every one of my friends by priority (see the priorities above, numbered 1-4) and deleting all who fell into the lowest priority brought my number of friends down below fifty. It felt good. Checking Facebook took less time, and it was nice not having to worry about those people I didn’t really care about.

However, now that I’ve lived and worked where I do for a little longer, I’ve begun to add acquaintances and associates from work, a category that I feel is important due to the fact that Facebook is often where people disseminate work-related information, and my friends list now numbers over 65. For someone like me, that is a lot. Still, not a single person in my friends list can be trimmed out. They are all in the top three priority categories.

This is where Argument Three fails. This is why the battle is primarily between the first two arguments. I am doing everything I can to ensure that I do not have excess in my friends list, and still it grows uncontrollably. If I get even more discriminate with who stays in my friends list, I know that it will be bad. Even if Facebook isn’t important to me, it has become such an integral part of our society that the act of removing a coworker from your friend list can be considered offensive. I do not wish to hurt relationships, I only wish to be relieved of the strain that Facebook puts on my life.

Final Thoughts

If I keep Facebook and simply endure its rough spots, just like everything else in life, then I am keeping a tool that is an important part of our modern society. If I delete my Facebook account like so many have done, then I am removing a heap of heartache and stress from my life and may find that I can live without it just fine. Either way, with either decision, regrets are sure to creep up from time to time, and I will likely revisit this argument at some point in the future.

For some people, one of the three arguments will be the correct answer. For other people, there may be no clear answer. For me, I feel that a decision needs to be made. While I seriously consider closing my Facebook account almost daily, I have talked myself out of it or neglected to make any changes due to apathy every time. On several occasions I have “reenacted” the third argument, harshly reevaluating each and every friend on my friends list, sometimes making a cut or two, other times walking away with a sigh of defeat having realized that, like my waistline, a few inches have been added and there is nothing I can do to shed them.

Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely love all of the friends and family that I have on Facebook, and I enjoy the interactions I have with them as well as my esteemed coworkers and acquaintances. However, not all of my interactions with Facebook are pleasant, and I often feel that I might be better off without Facebook.

While this decision is mine and mine alone, I do enjoy hearing what other people have to say about things. So, for fun, I have a little poll here that I would like you to vote on, and I encourage discussion in the comments.

You Need to Read This and Watch the Video

"Arabic Language" in the Arabic Al-B...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m basically just reposting this from a note that I wrote on Facebook.

A good friend of mine recently shared a video that is labeled as scary, alarming, etc. I had seen the video advertised long ago with the same description, but figured it was an edited video with the important context removed.

Boy was I probably right. Unfortunately, we may never know because I’ve been unable to actually track down the full video, but I want you to read my comments on the video, then click on the link at the end and watch the video with my notes in mind. Even if you’ve seen the video before, read my notes and watch it again. Please. Here are my comments:

Ooooh, I could go on and on about this, so I’ll try to keep it brief.

The short version: It angers me when people see stuff like this, heavily edited and out of context, and believe exactly what the editor wanted them to believe.

In the end of the video you can see [the speaker] against that big banner with lots of script. The big red words read, “Arabs before and after the Gaza war.” I believe this is a conference about the western world’s misconceptions and prejudices about Arabs, and the “resistance” that he mentions is the resistance against westerners assuming that all Arabs are terrorists. When he says (with plenty of sarcasm mind you) that they should pray to Allah that a redneck succeeds in blowing up the Lake Michigan nuclear plant, I think he went on (in the part that was edited out) to explain how that would wake up the Americans and make them realize that their biggest source of terrorist threats are already inside their country.


[Perhaps one of the worst cases of this edited video attempting to scare us with out-of-context phrases appears when the speaker says that his audience should fight the resistance using “any means necessary.” He says, “any means necessary” with such sarcasm that I am led to believe that he is making a reference to something he said earlier, and his audience knows that he is not seriously talking about using ANY means.]

Go back and watch the video with this new context and imagine what he might have gone on to explain after each cut in the video. There is nothing in there that is clear evidence that this guy is an extremist. His speech is very articulate, educated and proper. He is not speaking any local dialect, but is speaking Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) – a technical language that is only used in media. Any time he spoke of anything that would be bad, he was clearly being light and ironic about it – not serious, angry and passionate like a terrorist would be.

It is ridiculous that Americans judge so harshly from a few words taken out of context. No offense to you of course, but I wish we could see the whole speech in its proper context.

Oh, and I did understand quite a bit of what he said, which is a testament to how clear and educated his speech was because my Arabic has become nearly useless since I haven’t used it in over a year.

In short, there is nothing scary, alarming or bad about this video. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t an American (not REALLY) because of stuff like this. Foreigners see us acting like this and just laugh at how narrow-minded and ignorant we can be. I wish I were associated with a more educated, bridled group of people, but I won’t find a group like that anywhere in the world. 😦

And here’s the link. The video is less than ten minutes long, and doesn’t seem to play in Google Chrome (though it worked fine in Internet Explorer).

Thank you, Gwen, for sharing this. I hope I haven’t offended you, but you can see how this sort of thing frustrates me. Who knows? I could be completely wrong about all of this, but isn’t it better to assume that our brothers and sisters in this world are not out to get us?

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January 2021

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