The Facebook experiment- quitting fb for 50 days

19th may, around 11pm

Like any other normal day, I was browsing through my news feed on facebook. There was a constant stream of troll faces, weird facts and other kinds of ‘not so important’ clutter flowing in. I had spent the whole evening looking at various profiles, multiple photos and going back in time through my timeline. It was quite evident through my timeline that in the past few days I had invested a lot of time into facebook and gained nothing out of it. Overall, I started hating myself for overdrafting my wastable hours. We all love to have fun and facebook at times adds some zing to our otherwise mundane lives. But when something becomes an obsession, and there is nothing to gain out of it, it starts getting on your nerves. I didn’t like it and I made this decision to quit facebook- at least for a temporary period of time.

What prompted me to quit facebook

There were various reasons as to why I quit facebook. It was not a momentous decision and I did take some time before I pulled the trigger.

  • Things that inspired me to quit facebook
  • Uninspiring things inside fb that inspired me to quit fb.

Things that inspired me to quit fb

1.  Matt cutts’ 30 day challenge video.

My self-imposed fb exile is not my first. I followed the 30 day challenge to quit drinking aerated drinks for a month. It lasted for 32 days before I started drinking cola/pepsi again. There were two things to take away from that challenge:

a) Its important to let something go albeit for a short period of time if you are addicted to it, and

b) It helped me to de-addict myself from cola and even though I didn’t completely stop drinking aerated drinks, I do prefer mineral water or fresh juices over them- contrary to what I used to do before the 30 day challenge.

The 30-day challenge video (watch it, you will feel inspired):

 2 .   Paul miller’s experiment of quitting the INTERNET:

This is one feat I can never pull off. Rather, I wouldn’t like to. But I wanted to try something I could really do and quitting facebook is nothing compared to quitting internet. Read about Paul miller’s experiment.

3.   It was simply boring.

 Uninspiring things inside fb that inspired me to quit

Its right there in the first para of my article: troll jokes. When it was new, it used to amuse me. Slowly, it started getting boring and then it became annoying. It is annoying  to see every other post in your feed contain ‘bitch please!’ jokes. I must admit some were really funny, but most weren’t.

There are three kinds of posts on fb: ones that are genuinely good and likeable. Then there are posts which are for informative purposes mostly from caring friends, and the third type is from those who have the sole motive of generating likes for their posts. Naturally, the third type of posts are the ones which get the least amount of feedback. Those are the people I loathe for.

And did I mention all those downright crappy apps in fb? The ‘xyz viewed your profile zillion times’ and the ‘john found out he will die in october next year’.. they are all over the place. These and all the crapville apps. They are the weeds in the facebook garden.

Birthdays: There is one good thing zuck’s billion dollar enterprise helped us with. Remembering our friends’ birthdays. Nothing wrong there, but the way people started using it is demoralising. This is how people on fb wish their friends:  A notification appears, they go to their wall, and type ‘Happy birthday !’ with or without the exclamation mark depending on how lazy the person typing is. Some other busy people would type- ‘hppy b’dy!’. The same people won’t even care if you died.

The sad part was that even I was falling for this and fake-wishing others. Most of these fake-wishes were exchanged with people I didn’t know well or I didn’t know at all. What’s the point? its just a waste of time.

Gender bias

You know which gender gets more attention on facebook. They can get the conversation started just by updating a status about anything. Even an emoji is more than enough to garner likes and a trillion comments. Idiots to blame.

Did I really miss facebook?

The answer is no and yes. I will do the no part first. As I have written already, there are a ton of things I don’t really like about facebook and you don’t miss something you don’t like. Neither did I miss it nor did my friends on facebook notice that I wasn’t there since the many past days. It was a  reality check, which showed how unimportant my presence is in others’ news feed or friend circle. It shows people are too busy doing their own thing. But there is nothing wrong about that. Friends who follow me on twitter did know about my #noFacebook challenge though. So, what did I miss?.. which leads us to

What did/will I miss about it?

A couple of things. Firstly, photos from friends. Facebook has primarily become a photo sharing social network. They even acquired instagram and released a dedicated photo sharing app a few weeks back. Apart from that, I miss updates and messages from those who use fb as the only online communication tool- messenger, groups etc. These few things will make me use fb in the future and not completely dump it.

The other social network

I am an internet addict. To be precise, I am a twitter addict. I love twitter and it partly fuels my ‘ I don’t miss facebook’ feeling. There is a lot that I have learnt from twitter and there is a lot of amazing stuff shared there. Its unfair to compare the quality of content on facebook to that on twitter. This is not to say that I expect everyone on fb to share the best content in the world, but no one asked you to share filth anyway. To quit twitter would be a herculean task, but I don’t intend to do it just for the sake of challenging myself. There is nothing to hate about it, and it would be only be foolish to do so- for the simple reason that I would be missing out on a lot of great stuff. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any useless good for nothing tweets in tweetverse but let me be clear- the facebook crowd is much much more dumb than the dumbest tweeps.

What did I gain?

After doing so much, did I really gain anything out of this? Yes. I am a lover of design and like to design interfaces. Its one of the interests I have and would like to pursue as my career. Recently, I started a new design blog- designfort.wordpress.com, designed something, learnt some new design tricks and read some good articles elsewhere on the internet by not using facebook. I didn’t increase my productivity by a great level, but I sure did have a good feeling about it. Plus, deleting facebook apps from my phone and tablet put an end to the disturbance caused by the stupid notifications I used to receive.

Secondly, this experiment has inspired me to quit some other things ( I havent decided what) for 30 days or more.

Conclusion

This experiment shows me how facebook is not that important in our lives. But it also is a great platform to socialise online and be up to date with what your old school friends are up to. There are many who love facebook and may be, my reasons for hating facebook aren’t justifiable. As I mentioned earlier, I do love some things about facebook that will make me come back to the site soon. But as with my ‘no aerated drinks for 30 days’ challenge, this experiment has helped me gain the will to click the sign out button when it really matters and not just fool around for the whole day.


The iPad mini could sport a retina display and still cut costs.

john gruber on the iPad mini’s display :

I believe the iPad Mini (or whatever it’s going to be called) uses the same display as the iPhone 3GS. So instead of cutting these sheets into 3.5-inch 480 × 320 displays for the iPhone 3GS, they’ll cut them into 7.85-inch 1024 × 768 displays for the smaller iPad. Same exact display technology, though — display technology that Apple has been producing at scale ever since the original iPhone five years ago.

I think a better alternative would be to use the non-ips retina display found on the ipod touch. It will work out considerably cheaper than ips retina displays. Producing those in large quantities shouldn’t be a problem for apple. Plus, they could use the retina moniker to market the ipad mini. I don’t see Apple taking a step back in display technology just to cut costs.

The steep learning curve of Photoshop

In an era where most interfaces are uber-simple to use, Photoshop and its other Adobe cousins from the creative suite are certainly not one of those. I came across this amazing piece at ‘Rands in repose‘ where the author compares Game design and Application design. On photoshop’s design Rands writes:

The plethora of online Photoshop tutorials demonstrate its power and its flexibility, but I believe they also demonstrate its poor design. Think about it like this: what if each time you plunked down in front of World of Warcraft, you had to spend an hour trying to remember, wait, how do I play this?

I have always wished that Photoshop were easier to use. The learning curve is way too steep and could lead to endless hours of frustration. Perhaps its more about a form vs functions thing for Photoshop’s developers. The functions are way too many that it outweighs the importance of form and design. Usability gets crushed under all that overload of features. And when you realise that, you start thinking; ‘its indeed a herculean task to create a photoshop that’s at least half as simple to use as the current versions.’

But then, when I thought further, I realized that the truth is not what it seems like. The major problem with Photoshop is that it tends to be over-ambitious. It does too much, and in the end as I said, Usability is crushed. It would be much better if Photoshop had a strict goal of photo-editing and some other functions. Not just that, there are other reasons as well. We, the users are also to be blamed for using Photoshop as a one-stop tool for all our creative needs. There is a reason why dedicated tools like illustrator, fireworks and the like exist.

It’s all easier said than done. While we can endlessly rant about how poorly designed photoshop is, one can’t take anything away from its mighty capabilities. As Rands writes in the article ‘Two universes‘, some games/applications have too much reliance on exploration and some have too much reliance on explanation. The day when Photoshop’s creators strike the right balance between explanation and exploration, it will be a win-win for all of us- the creative community, the end user and Adobe.

Metro Twit: the twitter app for windows that is visually rich and delightful to use

Let’s face it. Good looking apps are hard to come by on desktops and esp. Windows in general. When it comes to twitter apps, there is a sea of them on almost all platforms. And each app tries to make a mark by introducing new features and some go unique through their design. Metro Twit does the latter. Its more about the design and less about the features. Lets keep the best for the last and talk about some new features first.

Undo tweets

This is the biggest features of all, and one of my favorites. Undoing a tweet doesn’t mean deleting it. Its an equivalent of editing tweets. When you undo a tweet, it deletes the tweet first and takes you back in time so that you can edit it and resend it. However, I found that it lets you undo only the most recent tweets. I am not sure how long recent is here, but it seems like it won’t let you undo tweets more than 20-30 mins old. Still, its a pretty nifty feature and a godsent one for those who fire off tweets without giving it a second look.

Columns, filters ,image previews and Multiple accounts

Columns aren’t new in Metro twit but it feels more polished to use in the new version. There are enough options that come with columns . You can re-size, rename and manage notifications for the columns apart from Pausing updates, refreshing them and a few other standard options. Filters also work the same way as they do in other apps. There’s global filters and account filters. Image previews have a small issue . Even though image links open inside the app, you cannot view thumbnail previews in your timeline. I couldn’t find a switch in the settings to enable that. Not a big issue, and maybe the developers thought it won’t fit into the metro UI and will make it look cluttered. Next is Multiple accounts. Adding multiple accounts is very easy and quick ( they have a dedicated button to add more accounts). Its a new feature in Metro twit but the sad part is that its supported only in the Pro version. The Pro version also removes the ads which appear in the free version.

The Design

As I said, Metro Twit is less about features and more about the design. Metro is one design language I love a lot, and MetroTwit oozes with Metro. I still wonder how Microsoft’s designers could come up with a design which completely relies on words and typography and yet be so good. With the final release of Windows 8 fast approaching us, Metro Twit is already in line to be called as one of the more established metro apps out there. I look at MetroTwit and Metro in general as a chocolate bar embedded with raisins. There’s something to be discovered in every bite and the end result is a delightful experience. There are some nice words thrown all over the app which greets the user whenever an action is performed. Here’s an example of what the app says when you change the theme of the app:

No peeking 😉

There are plenty of places where you will find the app playing with words, but that’s just a part of how good Metro UI is. Everything from the icon to the various elements used, its all about simplicity and elegance. That said, the app’s UI could get too busy at times, when there’s too much happening and a lot of those delightful words are flying around.

Conclusion

MetroTwit tries to cater to both casual and power users and succeeds to an extent. There’s still a lot of scope for improvement as power users will find some features like scheduling still missing. Its a great app, especially for those who love metro apps. Also, its no slouch, as its fast and sleek. Metro UI takes some time getting used to, so please give the app some time to impress you.The app used to be buggy earlier, but it has shed all that baggage and is in its best avatar now.

Those of you who don’t really like metro, but love twitter, should check out my post on the Top Twitter clients for windows and mac.

This will be a revolutionary touchscreen for the iPad 3

This will be a revolutionary touchscreen for the iPad 3

  • This will make iPad revolutionary and not evolutionary.
  • Skeuomorphic interfaces will thrive and shine because you can feel textures.
  • Will be one big leap for touchscreen devices.

Update: Nothing of that sort. iPad of 2013 could sport this. Maybe.

Improving the iOS spotlight screen

I have always felt that the spotlight area in iOS( the universal search screen) is underutilized. There’s a lot of screen real estate there which can be put to better use. In iOS 5, Apple introduced the ability to tap and hold any word and see its definition(The tap and hold feature doesn’t work in spotlight area strangely). Handy feature, but it can be further enhanced if we could simply type any word into spotlight search and view its definition. Just like in the pic below:

A simple define option would be just great. This would make the inbuilt dictionary functionality even more useful. Right now whenever I need to find the meaning of some word, I just go into messages app and tap and hold to define.

Bring some siri-like functions for non-siri users and more

Almost a year ago, Palm added a feature called just type to its WebOS. The same idea can be applied here as well. There should be options like Tweet, Update FB status, Message etc for whatever I type in the text box.

Now to some siri-like functions: How about typing in weather and see a nice weather widget slide in? Type 2+2 and show the calculated result? There is a lot that can be done. Simple questions which we ask Siri ; “Do I need a raincoat?” , “How many bytes in a kilobyte?”  when typed should show some quick results just like Siri answers. Or something like “wake me up at 6 am” should just let me set an alarm right  from the spotlight screen.

You must be thinking that this feature wouldn’t make any sense for 4S users. They already have siri. But let us be honest. Siri doesn’t always get things right and its not always possible to speak to our device for eg. when we are in a meeting, etc. And Siri doesn’t understand some accents yet. During such times, you can quietly write your iPhone/iPad some instruction to get simple things done. Of course, there is an issue with throwing too many options at the user while typing, but some intelligent algorithms and Apple’s elegant design can easily take care of that.

This kind of a feature will make iPhones even more smart. Easier to use. I really wish Apple tried to implement something like this in iOS 6.

Windows 8 registry shows nine separate flavors to choose from

http://www.engadget.com/2012/03/02/windows-8-versions/

One of the few things I don’t like about Windows. Why can’t they go for one universal version? Or a maximum of two: Home and Business.

iCloud just works. Not.

When iCloud launched, Apple said that it just works. It turns out its not completely true. While many things like syncing of contacts, push mail etc work well, its the syncing between the iPhone and iPad apps that doesn’t work well. I added a reminder on the iPad and just forgot about it. In normal scenario, what would you expect to happen when icloud is enabled for reminders? You expect the reminder you added on your iPad to immediately appear on the iPhone as well. Well it turns out that the sync functionality works perfectly only when an instance of the app in case is open on both devices.

Same is the case with iBooks. You must open a new instance of the app to make it sync with other devices if its not running already.

Isn’t this method broken? Shouldn’t it just work, as promised? I hope things improve in a later update.

Some solutions to kill piracy. Without killing the internet.

A lot has been said and done to stop SOPA and similar bills over the past few weeks. I am no legal guy but I sure know that all these bills will eventually destroy the internet and won’t do much to solve the actual problem- piracy. I came across this article on the guardian which talks about ways to solve this problem. I would like to reiterate some of the points expressed by the writer and add some of my own.

Digital content is over-priced

First of all, the main reason for piracy is the content-providers themselves. The digital content sold online is simply over-priced. Don’t tried and tested marketing strategies teach us that aggressive pricing helps increase sales? This rule is followed when real products are sold; electronic appliances are sold; in short, it is followed for selling all non-digital content. The entertainment industry must price all the content reasonably. Also, they can stream content for free online with ads. No viewer would object that because we are already used to ads being sandwiched between shows on TV. And for content which is not free, price them at such a rate that people buy. I am pretty sure that there are plenty of users who respect artists’ work but don’t buy content online and turn to pirated stuff only because the legal copies are highly priced. There sure are people who still won’t shell out a single penny no matter how low-priced items are, but hey.. it will at least help reduce the number of users using pirated content. So, the gist is- Make content affordable first and there will be more profit.

Stop Geo-restriction

When a new TV show or Movie arrives in the US, its only available in the US- for years; before other countries get their hands on those movies/shows at a very high price. Why not take efforts to make all media available globally at the same time? Even this will reduce piracy. And come on, we are in the 21st cent. and Geo-restricting content is very outdated. All kinds of music, movies etc cater to the global market these days. So this makes perfect sense.

The above-said solutions will not eradicate piracy but alleviate it. Pirates will never go down and new methods to push pirated stuff will crop up every now and then. But these solutions will at least help recover losses to an extent. Its in the hands of many of those content-providers to come out with better pricing models and make people aware about their intentions. Give away freebies and you will earn some buyers. Digital stores need to be repackaged in a new avatar and made more attractive. Some new ad-models can also be thought about to make money by providing free/cheap content online- for example small ads can be embedded in low-priced downloadable copies of movies. There are many solutions available. This may or may not work out but at least they can try. Please don’t kill the internet in the fight against piracy.

After a month with the iPad 2: Things I like and don’t like about the device

Its been a month with my iPad 2 and I thought its a nice idea to share my opinion about the tablet. This is not an in-depth review but some quick thoughts on the iPad.

  • Display: Very good IPS display but not fantastic. Users of iPhone 4/4s will know what I am talking about.
  • Screen: Extremely responsive touch- just like all apple devices. They could do something about fingerprints though.
  • Apps: The best of the best are available on the app store. Flipboard is one of my favorites.
  • Battery life: Phenomenal.
  • The device feels great in hand. Could have been lighter, but its the best designed tablet out there.
  • Camera: Sucks. The front camera is actually better than the back one.
  • Software: iOS is great. The best tablet OS. And its only evolving every year.
  • The device feels very snappy. No lags whatsoever.
  • Music and videos: You won’t find yourself listening to music so much on the iPad. But its great to watch videos.
  • Reading books: Its a very good e-reader but not the best. From what I have heard from others, Kindle is the best. Again, iPad is still a very good device to read your books.
  • Games: Many games are better on the iPad than the iPhone. Especially board games shine on this one.
  • The newsstand concept is trash. But the intention is good.
  • I can assure that you can stop your newspaper subscription if you own this tablet. The news apps available are all too good.
  • iCloud: It got more attention than what it deserved when it launched. iCloud does a great job of keeping your Apple devices in sync but it won’t make you dump dropbox; because iCloud doesn’t let you store files in the cloud.
  • Browsing the web on this one is like a breeze.
  • The in-built speaker could do a better job.
  • Multitasking gestures are a big boon. And they are good to show-off 😉
  • You can use this as a photo frame. Run the slideshow and prop it on a stand.
  • The best tablet? Yes.
  • Worth the money? Surely yes. Casual users of the web can in fact replace their PC/Mac with an iPad.

I can talk a lot more in detail, but this gives an idea. What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments section.

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