TLDR, 4 gruesome letters that are the digital equivalent of a teenager shrugging and walking away in the middle of an epic speech (or regular nag-a-thon) recited by a parental unit. It’s a sign of the time. Whenever we are presented with information that grows beyond a certain volume, our micro sized attention spans switch off and go looking for the next picture of a fluffy cat on the internet.
There, in one paragraph I have completely summarized the problem Bloggers are facing today TLDR: Too long, Didn’t read. Since we have been scrolling vertically through Twitter feeds, Instagram pictures, Facebook posts and Linkedin updates our ability (or should I say ‘interest’) to go through large blocks of text has slowly started to erode away. We want our stuff fast in easy to consume small byte sized blocks. Perferably 140 characters or less.
For writers this is a challenge: Imagine being Marten Luther King, but only getting 30 seconds to deliver your ‘I have a dream’ speech before the crowd wanders off to play Pokemon or scroll Reddit. There just isn’t enough time to get the message across.
Results ? You cut corners. Condense arguments, leave out supporting information or even facts altogether. If that still isn’t enough its time for an provocative headline, or some ye-old click-bait. And if your content just isn’t cut out for this? Tough, they have already scrolled past your post and are looking at cat video’s.
“Well, you will just have to write better material then” That is the general response you get to when you lament the problem. But should we really do that? Some stories or arguments should not be broken up into 140 characters, they should be told with all the facts or with views from both sides of the fence. The constitution wasn’t written on a post-it either. So what to do ?
Write better, snappier sentences, short paragraphs, leave in plenty of whitespace and some interesting funky examples and emphatic visual analogies the reader can relate to. That should do the trick. But what if they still don’t make it to the 3rd paragraph?
I’m thinking of exchanging the written medium for video or audio. If you don’t have the time/interest to ‘read’ something, perhaps you would like to “listen’ to it instead. The “Storytime” podcasts have always been a big favorite of my community, “Reading out” a lengthily blogpost in a gripping audio-recording does make for some interesting reading. Perhaps a video recording using an autocue to read out the text ? Would that help?
I leave you to ponder (if your eyeballs ever make it down here) the question of TLDR. Should we continue to starve our attention spans with small bite sized information? Do we want to live off ever smaller growing pieces of content? Shorter blogposts, video’s, podcasts? Do we nibble our way trough the all-you-can-eat buffet of the blogosphere ? Is it TLDR or TLDC (Too long, don’t Care).
Tap.. tap .. taptaptap.. Grunt, blowing sound, tap tap TAP.. yeah, it sounds like somebody is frustrated behind their keyboard write ? Some Shmo pounding out an angry flame mail to a bunch of co-workers with half the org-chart splattered across to to and bcc field. But .. thats not the case. It”s just me trying to write up a little blogpost on a computer that suffers from dying butterflies.
Downside ? It makes EVERYTHING you type sound like an angry hate-mail to POTUS, even if you are doing a love letter.
‘Chokin the butterfies’
The butterflies I refer to are the keys on my keyboard. In Apple’s grand opus of “Thinking Different”, somebody in the giant glass donut thought it would be a good idea to radically change the way they keyboard worked on their new Macbook Pro’s. So they decided the butterfly key would be a great idea. Superslim keys that have virtually no “keytravel” (How ‘deep’ your key goes when you tap it) and that make the keyboard look like a giant touchpad. Upside ?: Cool and pretty thin (allowing them to thin-down the laptop a few millimeters). Downside ? It makes EVERYTHING you type sound like an angry hate-mail to POTUS, even if you are doing a love letter.
DD I press ‘i’ ?
But the biggest downside is that these keys are NOT dirt resistant. Tiny mote of sand or dust gets underneath your key ? Boom. no more room for travel. If you are lucky the keystrike is still recorded and you get your character on the screen, but it “feels” like you just didn’t strike that key. And that totally throws you out of the zone. If it is worse , the just doesn’t work at all and you end up POUNDING the letter out of the laptop by jamming your finger on it with too much force required.
‘Cupertino is gonna fix it’
Its a known issue with Apple and they promised to fix it in the NEXT generation. But for the current owners ? Well, there is a replacement program. Only you need to bring us your Macbook Pro so we can fix it. Well, Fix it is a big word, they are going to replace my keyboard (AND my Touch bar AND my battery, because the glued it all together) with similar hardware. So the chance that THOSE butterflies are going to “clog up” is still very real.
Well, the only thing I can do is wait for my Mac to be back. In the meantime I’ve ‘Fallen back’ to my Dell XPS 13 laptop (Running Windows 10 Pro) and that is NOT a bad place to be. The machine is slim, light and fast and the keys are .. well, better. Rattling out blogposts like this kinda feels like being a coder pounding out the next killer app. No dead butterflies here 🙂 Keep you posted.
Fear of the dinosaur
I am really scared of a T-Rex. And when I say that i’m not talking about the 30 foot giant dino that scared the living crap out of those poor kids in the original Jurassic park film, but the little grey one that pops up in Chrome, when you don’t have an internet connection. Because that means that I am “Offline”. And these days “Offline” equals being lost at sea, or stuck in a cave, or stranded on one of the moons of Uranus. Or worse: Being stuck in a cave at the bottom of the sea on one of the moons of Uranus. You catch my drift: Being offline is bad.
Beyond the Blackberry: Offline is bad
Why is this? I vividly remember a time where 95% of my day was spent “offline”. Only when I would need to get “on the internet” would I use a little box that made screechy noises to temporarily connect my wonky PC to the world wide web. These days a computer without an internet connection is about as useful as can of window defroster in the Sahara.
It all changed when we got the first smartphones with a permanent connection. Those “Blackberry’s” in the hands of avidly tapping CEO’s would give them the infinite power to be connected all the time, everywhere. It was cool! That meant you could spam them 24/7 with useless questions like “When do I get a raise” knowing that would help to get a rise of of them (Hah).
But somewhere along the line this all changed and we needed to be connected all the time, first so we could be pinged and dinged 24/7, then because we had a massive case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and next because all of our data and our applications were in the could. No pipe? No Party.
The cloud is a blessing in disguise. Sure: our data was safe from failing hard drives and homework devouring K9’s, but we need a permanent pipe to get to them. That’s ok, bandwidth is cheap and connections are ubiquitous, but not omnipresent. Commuting by Train from Brussels does mean that at times the 4g connectivity on my phone is spotty and at some points cuts out altogether. Very annoying when you are in the middle of a cloud based session and not reliable at all. But instead of fearing those moments I’ve begun to embrace them.
I’ve found out “Offline” is great time to blog, to tinker with video’s. To edit down Audio file or to meticulously murder and decimate any mails that are hanging around in my inbox.
The luxury of begin without a connection
There is an incredible luxury about being offline because all the distractions you might encounter go away. No more pings, dings and doodah’s from Facebook or Whatsapp. No more side-quests to hunt down a life-sized My little pony on amazon. No silly youtube cat video’s that eat hours of your time. No more emails that drop into your inbox right when you are in the middle writing up a killer reply to the previous mails. Just … you, your keyboard and your computer. The virtual doors to your man (or woman) cave a closed, the doorbell is unplugged and you get to soak in the digital bubblebath of your own creativity (or focus) without being disturbed.
I’ve found out “Offline” is great time to blog, to tinker with video’s. To edit down Audio file or to meticulously murder and decimate any mails that are hanging around in my inbox. The sweet 90 minutes of Downtime I get as I zoom through the Belgian spotty cellphone-covered countryside are actually the most productive ones of my day.
Make the tech work
Sure I have to make sure the tech works. That means most of my services and clients need to able to ‘handle’ offline. Syncing to your local drive is a great option. Apps like Onedrive, Onenote, Outlook, Dropbox all have the ability to ‘work offline’ and push/pull incremental changes once the packets from the inter-webs return. Not every app or service support that. But think about it. If you NEED constant connectivity to do that one key thing you need to do, you are very vulnerable should the handy workmen decide to accidentally rip up your internet connection while doing some digging.
Are you a constantly connected cloud-crackwhore that cannot live without a public IP or a 4bar wireless signal ?
Enjoy the silence
So here is my question: How much CAN you still DO offline? Are you a constantly connected cloud-crackwhore that cannot live without a public IP or a 4bar wireless signal ? Are your workflows so tied into the cloud that without them the only think you are good at is grunting like a gorilla as you wave your useless smartphone around ? I’m dying to know. You can tell me all about it, when I get back online.
What apps do you prefer on your platform ? Third party apps or Native apps ? We go through the pro’s and cons of both in today’s video-rant.
Driving in the car, I ponder what new smartphone I could get and the bizarre differences in prices and specs that you can find on the android phone market. I pose the important question: Flagship or Midrange ? What is the perfect phone for a geek.
More then meets the eye! It’s the tagline for the classic Transformer series and also quite fitting for today’s blog about ‘security through obscurity’ when it comes to .. your laptop bag. You guys know i’m kind of a bag-man. I love my laptop bags, backpacks, messenger bags cases etc.
Most expensive laptop bags scream: “STEAL ME! Expensive stuff inside”
I have quite the collection (mostly Thule and Crumpler bags) and can spend quite a bit of time deciding which carry-bag is going to be appropriate for my daily mission on the road. Lately I have been traveling a lot via public transport and I started to notice something: Most expensive laptop bags scream: “STEAL ME! Expensive stuff inside”. It might be your company issues “stock” HP or Dell laptop bag (Ugh, I hate those) OR your pretty expensive hipster PC backpack that gets you into trouble. Why ? Not because your gear isn’t well protected against physical shocks, but because nefarious people KNOW by certain ‘tells’ that you might carry something valuable.
We all have certain “Tells”
These “tells” might be the brand and size of your bag but there are also other things that might tip people off. What kind of phone do you have there, what type of earbuds, how about the shoes you wear ? Or your clothes? All of those things pulled together might give a possible pickpocket a pretty good idea of how ‘wealthy’ you are and what the chances might be of getting a good ‘catch’ when they lift your gear without you knowing it.
Are their shoes shiny, clean and expensive? Is that an Apple Watch ?
Playing the “Tell” Game
Lately I’ve been playing the “tell” game on the train to Brussels: Trying to ascertain the “value” of a “target” using my powers of observation. (Just by looking) and it is a lot of fun to do when you get it right. Is commuter X in front of me nothing but a poor student with a crummy laptop or might there be a Dell XPS15 in that bag ? I take a look at their phone, the state the phone cover is in. I take a look at the headset he has on. Just a couple of no-name earbuds or are we talking a 500 dollar Bose here? Clothing gives a lot away. Are their shoes shiny, clean and expensive? Is that an Apple Watch ? (Then there should be an iPhone in there somewhere). When you really start paying attention there are a lot of ways we inform the outside world about our lifestyle and the tech we are carrying.
What are YOUR “Tells” ?
So I challenge you to take stock of your outward signs techno-wealth? Do you flaunt your Apple watch on the subway? Does your backpack show what brand of laptop might be inside? Are your noise cancelling headsets draped around your neck as you walk to class? What signs might you give pickpockets that you might be quite the catch?
Start by hiding the obvious
I’ve started thinking about this during my trainride into Brussels and thinking: How can I start hiding the obvious. One of the things I thought about was my backpack. So I started this little experiment in “hiding” my gear in something less “conspicuous”: A 25 euro general purpose backpack from Decathlon (a local sporting and outdoor store). These things are ubiquitous. College students, soccer-dads, blue-colar workers.. They all seem to have them and use them for a variety of uses. Schoolbooks, Lunch, Sporting gear .. you never quite know what is inside. Ideal for hiding my tech stuff. No ?
Of course the bag needs some “work”. I’m not gonna shove a naked Macbook Pro into a 25 Euro nylon sack. I’m not insane. The bag is going to need some adjustments to keep everything safe AND I also want some additional measures to fly “under the radar” of nasty people who want to steal my gear. I”ll tell you about those in my next post.