The pandemic causes a variety of social ‘firsts’ for me, to take place online. Today it was a farewell party for a colleague at Frysklab who is retiring. On the plus side doing it remote means it’s easier to attend, but it is also harder for everyone to ‘mingle’.

Last weekend I suspended my FB account. During the months of the pandemic I increasingly felt the irritation with FB build up again. Two years ago I deleted my previous Facebook account, after having stopped using it half a year before it. I did it then foremost to delete the existing history, and created a new account. I told myself it was the only way to connect to some people in my personal and professional network. That isn’t false, but it’s also not true in the sense that this is an overwhelming effect. FB is not without use, I’ve been able to keep up with the lives of various people I care about, and have been able to respond to their life events because it’s easy to share for them, and easy for me to respond on my own terms. That is a valuable human connection. Yet, when you’re having fun in a toxic swamp, you might be having fun, but you’re also still in a toxic swamp. I cherish the interaction with people around me, but rather do that in a pleasant environment which FB is most definitely not.

My original intention this weekend was to leave the account suspended for a few weeks to see how that felt and to maybe get back in later. I realised that that is basically to let the skin irritation of the toxic swamp fade away for a few days and then expose myself to a next batch of irritants.

Then today two things happened.

Om Malik wrote about FB’s toxicity as a company, and to vote with your feet. One vote in itself isn’t much. Yet “If you don’t make good use of your vote, you enable those who would … destroy what we value. Facebook is no different. You might be one person with just one account, but you are not powerless. Being a part of Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithmic empire is a choice. If you believe that Facebook is causing long-term damage to our society, and you don’t agree with their values or their approach to doing business, you can choose to leave.” He left FB half a year after me, but still maintained his Instagram and Whatsapp account. He’s ditching that now too, because of FB the company. He’s right. If you think you’re in a toxic swamp, why stay at all within its vicinity?

The second thing was that the mail man came. Bringing a lovely hand written note from Peter. With kind words about our friendship and how our blog writing and adjacent interaction crosses the ocean between us. His card was a great example of having fun outside of the toxic swamp. Not that I think that I should return to sending postcards only, it just points to the spectrum of other channels we have at our fingertips that aren’t FB.

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So, like two years ago I deleted my FB account again today, and in 30 days it will be gone. FB is betting I will try to log in within that time. I know I won’t. Because unlike two years ago I have no hold-out reason left to go back into the toxic swamp. On top of that, if I did then I’d have to return here and eat my words 😉

Today we joined the HSTM20 Unconference, organised by our friend Oliver with logistics support from Peter, who live on Prince Edward Island in Canada. HSTM stands for Home Stuff That Matters, that last bit is a nod to our STM birthday unconferences, so this is as Peter said today, another branch on the evolving tree of unconference events.

The Home, in Home Stuff That Matters points to us all being home due to the pandemic, and to the two questions we discussed. What have you learned from the pandemic that you want to keep for the future? What do you like about the place where you live?

We were over 25 people, from around the world, across ten time zones, so from morning coffee time to end of afternoon, and evening. It was a nice mix of familiar faces and new ones, spending two hours in conversation. It was good to see dear friends, as well as meeting people again we first met last year when we visited Peter, Catherine and Oliver on PEI for a face to face unconference.

The event also showed how well Zoom works. With over 25 participants from literally around the world, with a wide variety of bandwith and tech savviness it worked without issue, splitting up from a plenary into multiple groups and rejoining into a plenary. It’s in a different class than other tools I’ve been using, even with its dubious information ethics.

Regrouping ourselves as Oliver’s tribe this time, it was an excellent way to kick-off our weekend.

Part of Oliver’s tribe in conversation today

My friend Peter has a conversation with Cynthia King, about life and death on PEI, landing in and joining a community, belonging and actively creating community. Taking in podcasts is not my thing, but I very much enjoyed listening to this one.

Favorited Peter Rukavina – making community on PEI by The Belong Podcast • A podcast on Anchor (Anchor)

Peter Rukavina shares his life experiences about belonging to a community and navigating his way through challenging times.

My blogging friend David Orban lives close to Bergamo, the epicenter of Italy’s Covid19 epidemic. I had been wondering how he was doing, and last week he posted an update. It reads as an odd mix of being comfortable at home in the spring, a lazy Sunday that in Italy has been stretching over 3 weeks now, personal concerns over family, and the awful realisation that the silence outside actually conveys the enormity of it all:

Since there is no traffic, [ambulances] don’t even use the sirens, in order not to unnerve you. The churches stopped ringing their bells when people die, as it would just keep ringing.

Bookmarked Our Life In Times of COVID-19 (David Orban)

I have been in full lockdown in Italy, outside of Bergamo in the North, which has the highest concentration of infected people and fatal cases, for the past two weeks. The streets are empty. There …

(via Peter Rukavina and Roland Tanglao)

I really like this metaphor by Robin Sloan. I would never call myself a ‘real’ programmer, or a programmer at all really. Yet, I’ve been programming stuff since I was 12. In BASIC during my school years, in assembly, Pascal, C++ at university, and in Perl, VisualBasic in my early days at work (which included programming the first intranet applications for my then employer), and currently in PHP and Applescript (to get my websites/tools and my laptop to do the things I want). Except for some university assignments all of that programming was and is because I want to, and done in spare time.

I too am the programming equivalent of a home cook (which coincidentally I also am).

Robin Sloan also hits on what irks me about the ‘everyone needs to learn to code’ call to action. “The exhortation “learn to code!” has its foundations in market value. “Learn to code” is suggested as a way up, a way out… offers economic leverage … [it] goes on your resume.”

People don’t only learn to cook so they can become chefs. Some do! But far more people learn to cook so they can eat better, or more affordably, or in a specific way…..

The above is I think an essential observation. Eating better, more affordably or in a specific way, translates to programming with the purpose to hone the laptop as your tool of trade and adapt it to your own personal workflows, making it support and work with your very own quirks. This is precisely what I don’t get from some that I quizz about their tool use, the way they accept the software on their laptop as is, and don’t see it as something you can mould to your own wishes at all.

“And, when you free programming from the requirement to be general and professional and scalable, it becomes a different activity altogether, just as cooking at home is really nothing like cooking in a commercial kitchen.”

Removing the aura of ‘real programming’ from all and any programming except paid for programming, might just break this ‘I’m not a programmer so I better accept the way software works as the vendor delivered it’ effect.

Me and Boris cookingMe and Boris Mann cooking in his kitchen in Vancouver in 2008. Coincidentally we connected through our desire to shape tools to our personal wishes. Programming as a home cook, brought us together to well, home cook. His blog still is a mix of cooking and programming well over a decade on.

Liked An app can be a home-cooked meal (Robin Sloan)

For a long time, I have struggled to articulate what kind of programmer I am. I’ve been writing code for most of my life, never with any real discipline, but/and I can, at this point, make the things happen on computers that I want to make happen. At the same time, I would not last a day as a professional software engineer……
I am the programming equivalent of a home cook.