Onward to 2010

Update: I cannot help but find it somewhat cosmically funny that Tim Bray would begin his more recent post with the sentence “In 2010, you are whatever the Net says you are. Deal with it.”, which seems to be the definitive update to Scott McNealy’s “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

Okay, so here’s the thing: I’m moody of late, for a number of reasons.

One I can tackle here is the season itself – it is not always the island of peace and contentment most people would like it to be, but sometimes carries a tremendous amount of personal stress (memories, kid herding, family absences, misunderstandings, the works), and even though it has its upsides (we had over a few friends we hadn’t seen in months the other day, and it was fun), it’s not balanced. There’s just no real sense to it when you ought to be able to do mostly the same all year round.

I’m seriously considering elevating one of my friends to the golden throne of Guru of Anti-Christmas, for this is a season that seriously messes you up to such an extent where (even on vacation) you start wishing it was a regular period, and she had it all figured out weeks ago.

Another reason is that, as one of my bosses remarked offhand recently, I am “one of the perpetually dissatisfied” when it comes to being involved in stuff I’m proud of being a part of (but still needs improving), an approach that tends to overflow work boundaries and insinuate itself into the various nooks and crannies of my life, be they personal or public.

And I am not exactly known (or got to where I am today) by having natural, bred-in British-grade politeness (although I can generate dollops of it on demand) and am most definitely not a hypocrite, so I need a way to vent, or at least direct some of the natural frustration that comes with a continuously stressful job towards something else – and in my case, writing works best.

But guess what, Scott McNealy got one thing right back in 1999, before he started sinking Sun into the ground, and a decade before Twitter and Facebook emerged as the antithesis of privacy as it was hitherto known.

It’s not just about the great (if rather inconsiderate) “you have zero privacy anyway” soundbite.

These days, and thanks to the amount of trivia we spew onto social networking sites, I’m starting to think that we need to be rather more circumspect with whom we share whatever lies within the confines of our skull, and what I wrote four years ago regarding blogging not only still applies but could be re-cast today as the three rules one of my former bosses (currently head of Microsoft Japan) used to jokingly refer to as “the Mafia principles”:

  1. Think a lot
  2. Speak as little as possible
  3. Leave nothing in writing

…and, rather fittingly to this day and age, it would fit in half a tweet and still convey most of the same overall meaning as my ten-point post.

Obviously, these days people will hardly have the time or patience to read your blog but go directly (do not pass go, do not collect $200) to your Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, because reading blogs is boring and prejudice (or voyeurism) is a much faster, more egotistically satisfying way of appraising people – and, statistically, you’re likely to find more to disagree with in a Twitter stream than in a properly written piece of text.

Plus we’re wired (as a species) to seek emotional highs (positive or negative) rather than intellectual ones, so the chances of you actually having instant gratification by looking at a social network status update are better than sitting through a text such as this, so you’ve probably left by now and tried to track me down on Twitter or Facebook to get a “feel” for me.

And guess what, none of those tweets or Facebook updates is me, or representative (to a large extent) of my personality, abilities, or interests. And they (like the hundred or so RSS feeds I still try to track, somewhat like drinking from a firehose) are still wasting time I’d rather be using for creating stuff.

Which is why I’m (again) stepping back. In a few hours, my Twitter account will be private. Apologies to my 700-odd followers, but I will be following only 42 people – a fitting figure – and have split the folk I’m sort of keeping track of but who continuously spam my timeline into a bunch of themed lists.

My Facebook profile will only be visible to people with whom I have made a conscious decision to actually have friendship with (or attempt to do so – I do love challenges, and saved me some), and my online presence as a whole will continue its gradual shift towards something else (perhaps even nothing)1.

Not everyone will be happy about some of the (seemingly arbitrary choices) I made, but that’s life for you.

I do, however, still need an outlet of sorts, so writing is still very much on the cards – and as I shift gears, I’ll probably add a “stories” namespace to this site and have an alternative RSS feed for that alone.

And those, all jumbled together and interwoven in a rather uncharacteristic fashion, are my resolutions for 2010, of a sort.

Forecasts are another matter. Although I can be pretty sure that we’re not going to have flying cars next year, I couldn’t care less about there being an Apple iSlate or a Google OS2 and the only thing I know for certain is that things will change, again and again, as I face some hard choices.

That’s the bit I didn’t pay enough attention to in past years – the New Year is not about what other people will do, it’s about what you ought to be doing, and start planning accordingly.

1 LinkedIn has been a surprise in more ways than you’d expect, and I’ll be tending to that as time allows, but it has a fairly different (and more palatable) focus that I can take in stride. I will also consider having other folk publish here, but don’t ask – I already have the right ones in mind.

2 Oh, I do, really, but only if any of them could be used as both a media consumption and a creative tool – and by that I mean having text input and decent writing tools as good as a netbook.