What I want to be when I grow up

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. When I was young, I wanted to work as a designer and one day own a design shop. I laid out newspapers in college in print. Then when the web became a medium of its own, I started learning HTML and CSS and tried to expand my work there.

I graduated college with a degree in Creative Advertising. It taught me I didn’t want to work in advertising. I wanted to work in design. But the economy was terrible and I had to find a job.

I fell into tech support. First supporting a rollout of Windows XP computers. Then moving into the world of quick printing then back to tech support. I’ve worked in some version of technical support since 2007.

In the past decade I’ve worked in some interesting places and some I’d rather forget. I find the challenge in solving problems fascinating. But fixing the same problem every day is a fast path to burnout.

I got out of straight technical support and fell into event management and webinars. An opportunity presented itself and I took it. And now a couple of years later, I find myself at another crossroads. I’ve hit a place where I need to make a major decision.

Where do I go with my career?

What I do

I could keep doing what I’m doing and work in Rich Media and Unified Communications. Explaining WebEx and teleconferencing to people. Organizing upgrades and planning future applications and tools to help communications.

I enjoy the technical challenges of building out a system for our customers. I want to help make their life easier and worry less about technology and more about what they do. I don’t want a chemist to worry about her WebEx account. I want her worrying about chemistry.

What I could do

Technical Writing / Documentation

I also have an interest in technical writing and documentation. I like to document how things work. I enjoy testing them to see how systems and applications work in practice. I need to know how something works and write it down so I remember it later.

I enjoy explaining how things work. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned and writing out detailed steps to repeat a process. I’ve always prided myself on my documentation work and always made a point to document as much as I could. Either for my team (or myself) or the customer.

I live by the idea of helping out Future Carl. I’m going to need this again and I won’t remember when I do so I better write it down. If I don’t help Future Carl out, who will?

Event Planing

There were aspects of my last job around event planning I enjoyed. I enjoyed the logistical planning for successful events. Granted, I was working in a single building (most of the time) and with a set group of people (government employees).

But I worry about the long-term appeal of the work. Will it get old after a short time? Will it be fulfilling? Or stressful?

Technical Track

I could go more technical. Find a path to take I enjoy. Whether it be in the realm of Unified Communications & Rich Media where I am now. Or if I take another branch from the tree of technology.

The problem with that is I don’t know what I want to do with myself. There are lots of things that seem interesting. But are they hobbies, fleeting interests or solid career paths?

The common thread in all my work is helping people and making things work better. I want to take the challenge out of technology and make it work for the people who need it. Not the other way around. I want to help people do their work better. I need to figure out how best to do that in a fulfilling and profitable way.

Facebook Boyfriend

I was an active and avid Facebook user for a very long time. I got an account with a .edu address before it was open to the rest of the public. I would check but I deactivated my account last September. And today I requested it be deleted. In 14 days it will be gone (assuming we believe Facebook ever truly deletes anything).

Merlin and John had an interesting exchange about Facebook at the end of episode 75 of Reconcilable Differences about the Facebook Boyfriend.

Audio Clip

Merlin: After Friendster and MySpace, Facebook came along and it’s so pretty and freshly scrubbed and it was like the boyfriend with the good job who brought flowers.

John: And dressed nice and combed his hair.

Merlin: Believed in event dining and having friends over and asking how your day went. And you had a pretty good boyfriend in Facebook and then at some point it became less

John: He started doing meth.

Merlin: Hang on. Hang on. Now we’re in a relationship. He still picks up his socks. But maybe he doesn’t always put the seat down. And then you get two years into it and you’re suddenly realizing things are stable? It feels stable. It feels like things are mostly ok. I have a lot of friends that are getting divorced and that’s really sad. But this is OK right? This is good… right?

Merlin: And now you’re 10 years into it and you’re still going, This is good, right? Because it’s familiar. But yeah. Maybe he’s doing meth and you haven’t figured it out yet.

Merlin: But would you walk into Facebook today as a new experience? Would you walk into that ecosystem today knowing the risks, benefits, ups, downs and what you’re actually going to put on the line?

Merlin: It really is going to be an ex-boyfriend in 6 months. He’s mean to other people but he’s nice to me.

This mirrors my experience with the service. It was a breath of fresh air from Myspace. Myspace was the wild west of media. It was Geocities with the same glitz and glam gifs. I used to leave comments with a 1000px wide transparent gif embedded in it for the spam sites. It would completely break the site of the spammers.

Facebook was uniform. It was fresh and clean and legible. It was the good boyfriend. It was a place to hang out and meet other people in college. There were no companies on it. No parents. No other people outside of schools. I still think the defining moment is when it opened up to companies and advertising.

Though that may be the least of it given where Facebook has gone since. Between the data leaks, privacy destroying bugs and general negligence the trade offs are too great.

I turned off my account last year because I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. It was so desperate to show me content, it would pull things from people I never knew and don’t care about.

The sister of your old co-worker’s boss had a baby.

Cool.

A friend posted in a group you aren’t interested in.

Neat.

Long ago Facebook stopped being about people and started being about sharing (mis)information.

I want to see how my friends and family are doing. Where did you go? What did you eat? What’s going in in your life?

Posting the same news stories repeatedly with a comment isn’t the same.

The few people I kept up with on the site were fun. But the rest of the site is a mess and I didn’t enjoy being there. I was in a couple of groups. So I used the Facebook Groups app.

Until they killed it.

It was time to make a decision. Was Facebook worth it? And that answer was no.

I deactivated my account on September 27, 2017. I wanted to make sure nothing broke when I did. I used the “login with Facebook” for a few things and wanted to make sure they didn’t fail.

They didn’t.

I also wanted to see if I could stop using the site. Did I miss anyone? Did anyone miss me?

Maybe? But just this last weekend one of sister-in-laws asked if I had seen something on Facebook she posted.

Nope.

I decided it was time to delete my account entirely after the latest in a long line of data breaches.

Facebook is gone from my life.

Swipes

I can finally start using the Android Gmail app. For the past few years I used Bluemail primarily for one option.

Swipe right to delete. Swipe left to archive.

For years the Gmail app would let you select either delete or archive. But not both. And I don’t want to triage email by opening it and clicking delete or archive. I want to swipe left or right and not have to look at them. Especially good for sales email where I am not tempted if I don’t open the message.

The latest update contained those magic words.

WHAT’S NEW
• You can now customize left and right swipe actions to more efficiently manage your inbox.

Bun Alert

I enjoy the creatures in my yard. Ever since we bought the house and I have windows on every side I love looking out of them and seeing what’s in my yard today.

We came from a rental townhouse. Despite it being an end unit, it had no windows on the end. So I had windows to the front overlooking the parking lot and back overlooking the deck. But there was a big grassy area leading to a playground on the side. But no windows.

I make good use of my windows now. Even though we are in a city instead of the edge of one there are still animals that come to visit. Less deer. More chipmunks and rabbits. The occasional fox and raccoon.

And of course birds. Finches of all sorts. Doves waddling around plump and goofy. Bright red Cardinals flapping from fence to tree. Blue Jays hopping across the yard.

Titles comes courtesy of XKCD.
Bun Alert, XKCD Comic

Book Thief

I am a mighty builder. I make mountains out of mole hills. That’s how I treat problems in my life. The unknown. The inconvenient. The wastes of time. The points where failure has occurred somewhere and I need to correct it.

Recently, I returned two books to my local library. I dropped them off in a stack on the return counter as I have countless times before. The library staff collected and checked in one book. The other book escaped.

Once I realized what had happened, via an email from the library. I went in to take care of it in person. Unfortunately, I went on July 4th holiday (Independence Day) and found a closed library. Which made sense, I was off work for the holiday as well, why did I think the library would be open?

So I couldn’t take care of it. Then I forgot about it for a few days. Until I went to look up another book to see if it was available. The website reminded me I had a book overdue.

Filled with anxiety, I was ready to explain and re-explain what happened. Ready with dates and times and the titles of both books. And it was all for nothing.

I spoke to a woman and explained what happened. She cleared the book from my account and went about her day. She sounded hurried and busy. She was short but polite on the phone, and resolved my issue (and my anxiety) quickly and professionally.

I had worried about this exchange. I thought I wouldn’t be able to prove I did not have the book it would haunt me. I imagines building up a huge overdue fee as the days turned into weeks. And the weeks into months. Eventually having to give up all use of the public library after being branded a book thief.

After the fact, my wife told me this probably happens everyday and they’re used to it. Books get misplaced. Scanners malfunction. Computer systems have bugs. And I’m sure some percentage of books do walk away.

But I will not bear the brand of a book thief. A Bad Patron. I did my part. Something else didn’t happen as it should have. It’s not a big deal. It’s a small issue to fix. But those small issues loom large in my brain.

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