Accidentally opening cans of worms

As part of my general musing on social media and our behaviour there, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s generally not the place in which to have an informed discussion about a contentious issue. Twitter especially – 140 characters is not conducive to erudite arguments. Regardless of the platform, nuances are missed when views are typed rather than spoken. There’s a tendency to type first, think later. To not care about the person whose avatar you’re responding to. To always reply, because you can.

A direct result of this was a decision to not get involved in such discussions, unless what I could bring to the table was helpful. For example, I recently stayed silent during a 150+ comment Facebook thread on feminism when one commenter ranted over many comments and in thousands of words as to why feminism undermined men. (Other people got involved, it wasn’t like their views were going unopposed.) I don’t get involved when friends who have opposing political views to mine rant on social media. There are times and places for these kind of discussions and quite frankly, I really don’t think Facebook or Twitter ever is that place.

That is not to say that I sit and let debate pass me by. That I don’t raise my head above the parapet on things that are important. [In fact, I have two defined areas in which I’m committed to speaking up, but perhaps more on that on another occasion.] I also have a huge amount of respect for friends/acquaintances/random people on Twitter who do stand up for their opinions and receive vitriol from total strangers in return. It’s just really, I’d rather be speaking my piece in real life, with the nuances of the spoken word and preferably the convivial atmosphere of a pub.

But, every so often, these debates come right out of left field and I inadvertently get caught in the midst of them. Like earlier this month when an innocent photo in my holiday album accidentally resulted in a can open, worms everywhere situation.

It was from my Parisian adventure in July and had actually gone entirely unnoticed initially, until a friend commented and I replied – throwing it into the newsfeed of many of my friends. All of a sudden, things went a bit mad…

Parisian Locks

I happen to have a VERY strong opinion on the issue of ‘love locks’ on bridges (anywhere, not just in Paris). I’d ranted about this during the Easter Chateau Duffy trip and had been shouted down by a couple of people who accused me of being a bitter single person, moaning about the things couples do to express their love. Now, if you’ve read this blog for more than a couple of months, you should be well aware that I am a hopeless romantic. That nothing pleases me more than gestures that could be taken straight out of the plot of a Richard Curtis movie. I am not bitter or twisted. My issue with love locks is that the bridges came first, the locks came later and the former was not designed for the purpose of the latter. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the locks are causing big problems for some bridges – so much so that some Parisians are calling for them to be banned. For goodness sake, in June, part of the side of the Pont des Arts collapsed because of the locks!

Anyway, this photo prompted a massive discussion as to whether it was right to remove them; whether people were right to put them there, whether those criticising it were being unromantic etc etc. As I was moving house at the time, I didn’t get involved until late in the day – right after a friend provided the scientific evidence for my argument being correct (thank you geeky friends), but by that point the photo had already been shared by someone I’d never met (a friend of a friend) who was criticising my views over on their wall.

(Oh, and someone suggested coloured ribbons would be an excellent lightweight compromise on the padlock thing. Happy couples of Europe, try that for a while and see what happens!)

It’s now died down, I think everyone’s happy, and we’ve moved on. But I mention it to demonstrate the craziness that can be caused by something that really, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t something to get your knickers in a twist about. And, if this can happen over an innocent photo, what on earth do we expect to happen when it’s genuine hot potato of an issue? 

Making friends with Facebook

Ah, Facebook. Possibly the most hated of the social networks, in terms of its insidiousness and ubiquity. People can opt in or out of Twitter, but in the 21st century, for people of a certain age (and those above it), it seems as essential to have a Facebook account as it is to have an email address. I have friends who have deleted their Facebook accounts out of fear of lack of privacy, or simply because it was reducing the quality of ‘real-life’ friendship. [Such a description makes it appear that online relationships aren’t real. I disagree with such a view.]

Being the ‘social media queen’ that I am (someone else’s words, not mine), I obviously have not relinquished my account. I may post there less now that I’ve embraced Twitter with open arms (I really should remember to copy some of my tweets over once in a while), but it’s still the main way in which I keep track of many of my friends and it’s kept many a friendship alive that may otherwise have fallen by the way side. Thus, I was obviously just a little excited to receive a text from some friends I was due to visit in California, informing me that we had dinner plans at the Facebook offices.

Facebook. For dinner. The place where Zuckerberg works. The company immortalised in The Social Network. The network whose app features on practically every smart phone. Facebook.

1 Hacker WayFacebook offices, 1 Hacker Way

I was incredibly lucky – my friends, the fabulous Chan-Fam, had a close friend who works there and who hosted us for the evening. I’m indebted both to him and to SiNing for organising it in the first place – it is already a highlight of a trip that’s barely half-over. From the moment I inputted my details into an iPad Facebook app in the front lobby, to the moment we left, my eyes were as wide as saucers. I was one happy geek!

Facebook Pass Got to be said, I was loath to give this up at the end.

In short, the Facebook complex is like a mini town. There are several buildings, all arranged around what looks like a main street – complete with a open square in the centre. In common with many of the tech companies in Silicon Valley, Facebook provides its employees with a lot – free breakfast, lunch and dinner; gym facilities; hairdresser vans and masseuses that visit regularly; bikes to travel around the campus on; kitchens crammed full of goodies in every office block; numerous free beverage vending machines; bathrooms with endless supplies; and even a movie night in their ‘town square’, complete with nachos and popcorn…

Facebook vending machine You’ve got to love a branded vending machine…

Facebook town square Gearing up to show the Avengers.

Bathroom suppliesOk, yes, I took photos in the bathroom. Those are toothpaste-loaded toothbrushes…

Micro KitchenMicro-kitchens. I was invited to pick out something – so I had a package of ‘Facebook Twizzlers’. 

The offices themselves are, in some ways, just like any other open-plan office – except that in many ways, they’re not like any open-plan office I’ve ever worked in! There are breakout areas and meeting rooms, but with added artwork and graffiti walls. There’s an entire room that seems to be dedicated to playing computer games. There are vending machines that sell computer paraphernalia. And, there was plenty of publicity around that plugged Facebook’s ‘Women in Timeline’ campaign, highlighting significant women in history.

Facebook Offices

Facebook Art

Facebook vending

Facebook humour

I confess, I did leave the offices wondering whether I could get a job there. Perhaps they might need a chaplain? Safe to say, I could’ve spent a whole day exploring and chatting to (not un-cute) geeks. So, next time Facebook changes something in a way you don’t like, this is where those annoying geeks are based…

Oh, and talking of geeks, next time you’re using a Google product, imagine people eating their lunch here:

Google offices

And when you’re using one of your Apple devices, the thinking behind it happened here:

Apple HQ

Oh, and this happened…

Eating the Apple

Ah, the simple pleasures of being a geek. As a bonus, I get a second bite of the apple (ba-dum-tsch) next week, when I go to an actual meeting at the Apple offices. Who knows, I may even treat myself to an iPad at the Apple Company store…

Oh, and if you want to put in an order for one of these classic t-shirts available there, let me know.

Apple Tees

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail…

When I travel, I like to prepare. I have an A5 notebook entirely dedicated to packing lists – it lives on my bedside table and contains the details of what I’ve packed for every trip since around 2008. Yes, I am *that* anal.

However, I’ve become rather blasé about packing for vicar weekends. We have lots of them, I need the same things each time, it’s only two nights – what could go wrong? I hate to generalise, but there’s rarely a residential when one of the men hasn’t forgotten something fairly crucial. Toothbrushes are frequently neglected, in fact one friend has now forgotten his twice, including once in France – resulting in a very amusing Franglais conversation in a corner shop in an attempt to procure one.

But, as of this past weekend, I can no longer mock. On Friday, as I unpacked at our latest residential, I realised I’d forgotten my hairbrush. Inconvenient, but by no means a disaster. Especially as I had packed my new hairstyling gizmo (the Babyliss Big Hair – it’s amaaazing), which would brush my hair as I dried it on Saturday morning. Plus, various people offered to lend me one. Easily solvable.

During Friday evening’s lecture, a thought crossed my mind. I pondered which pants I’d packed. (Yes, this is the kind of thought that crosses my mind during a theology lecture. I’m sorry. I’m very easily distracted.) I couldn’t remember and, worse still, I couldn’t recall the action of placing them into my bag. Hmmmm. This could be a difficult one to resolve.

Before bed, I remembered this pondering and checked my bag. No pants. But, at least I had the opportunity to handwash them, and hope that they’d have dried on the radiator (of my very toasty room) overnight. I came up with a couple of back-up plans – namely using leggings as underwear (but only after checking that they weren’t the pair with an unfortunately placed hole in the seam) and persuading someone to drive me to Sainsbury’s sharpish – but fortunately, they were dry by morning. [Why did this have to happen the very weekend I’d decided to risk an outfit that was simply a long top and leggings??]

Obviously, I’d also tweeted about this misdemeanor. Not in a ‘Oh no! I’ve forgotten my pants!’ way, simply: “Hmmmm, looks like my hairbrush wasn’t the only thing I forgot this weekend… #MajorError”. And obviously, my sister instantly knew what I’d done and invoked one of her favourite memories of me from primary school, ending her tweet with: “Does dad need to do another emergency pants delivery?” Yes, one day, when I was 9, I’d worn my swimsuit to school, realised when getting dressed afterwards that I’d forgotten my underwear, and I suspect (though I can’t remember) then threw a wobbly and insisted that my Dad came to school with some immediately. Everyone’s been there, surely?

Facebook revelationsA Facebook status in the same vein. I only went as far as to like the correct response…

In fact, I’ve been there as an adult. Not often, occasionally I’ve forgotten my pants on a swimming day, but never before for a 48 hour trip. On this occasion, blame lies entirely with my new weekend bag. I was clearly so excited by my recent purchase (less than 2 hours prior to packing) and all the extra space it had compared to my gym bag, that I decided not to fill it to its maximum capacity.

I am an idiot.

The joy of stats

Occasionally, I get abuse from friends because of my passion for social media. More fool them – this passion’s currently making a group presentation for Vicar School an awful lot less painful than it might have been. In fact, Monday morning saw me finally succumb to Google+. Yes, I realise that it is one of the more pointless of the social networks, but I am very firmly entrenched in the Google world and it was going to be key to an experiment we’re planning as part of the aforementioned presentation. [In a nutshell: next Monday morning will see a 4 person Google+ liturgical hangout for morning prayer…]

In addition to occasional abuse, I also get the odd gem of a link that makes my nerdy heart very, very happy. On Sunday, one such beauty turned up via Twitter – initially I was sceptical, thinking it to be a dig at my geekiness (the tweeter concerned has quite a reputation for such behaviour) – but on further inspection it was revealed to be really quite genius.

It seems that one can use the mathematical search engine Wolfram Alpha to generate a statistical report on your Facebook usage. Social media combined with stats?? Be still my beating heart…

All I had to do was sign-up to Wolfram Alpha, input my Facebook details and within minutes I had a stack of pretty graphs and fascinating facts about my Facebook history. [Oh, and for doubters out there, fear not – this is completely kosher.]

So what have I learned?

For starters, some basic facts about myself – that on Sunday I was 31.09 years old and 10 months, 28 days away from my next birthday.

The programme said it had reviewed 433 posts and I know for a fact that my (nearly) 6 year sojourn in Facebook world has generated many more posts than that. For starters, for a good long while I was a minimum of a status-a-day kind of person, so that’s 365 to begin with. Anyway, it’s still interesting to deduce information from that evaluation, including:

  • My most-used words in statii are: time (26), last 21) and good (20). Interestingly, ‘birthday’ comes in at #8.
  • An average of 3.67 people like my posts and an average of 2.54 comments are received per post.
  • The average length of my posts is 19.09 words and 118 characters. [I’m guessing that stat was significantly higher pre-Twitter.] 
  • 69.2% of my Facebook friends are female. (I knew they’d be in the majority, but I am surprised at how high it is.)
  • 58.1% of them are married. (Interestingly the stat is almost identical when split between genders.)
  • My oldest friend is 48 [actually, that’s the oldest friend who lists their date of birth] and the youngest is 18. 
  • 13 of my friends are called Rachel, 8 have the surname Jones. (8 of the friends, not 8 of the Rachels. Don’t think I know any Rachel Joneses…) 

The report told me a few things I knew already, like the fact that I post way more statuses than I do photos or links and I hardly post any videos. But it did reveal my posting habits in terms of the time of day and the week when I tend to post:

And what was my most liked post? Oh, how I was longing for something witty and erudite that summed up just what kind of a person I am – but no, my most liked status was this one:

You Facebook Timeline haters are fools – do you know how easy Timeline made it for me to find this? Simples. [Oh, and there’s a long back story to the heckling thing…]

My most commented upon post did make me chuckle though and fortunately there’s a previous blogpost that provides the context for it:

Many of the stats only related to the last year or so, but I did discover which my most commented on photo is – disappointingly, it’s a photo of socked feet from 2007 where we had to guess whose foot was whose, but happily a photo of French advent calendar for cats was joint first. Oh, and this was my most liked photo:

Turns out nothing amuses Facebook more than childhood nostalgia and bad poetry…

Friday Fun from the past

Happy Friday! My brain is a little weary, so let’s head straight into the fun…

Have you ever wondered how historical events might have been documented if social media had existed? Wonder no more – here’s what it would have been like if historical events had had Facebook. My particular favourite is the creation of the world:

Continuing the whole God theme, on Monday morning during college worship I discovered the existence of an educational computer game that helped unsuspecting kids learn memory verses in the 90s. Anyone else indoctrinated via Captain Bible? The concept was a simple one – Captain Bible used Bible verses to defeat his enemies, but those playing the game would have to find them from a database. On reflection, it doesn’t actually sound that fun, but you can try for yourself as downloads are available. Or, you could just watch this guy play it…

We had no such thing in our household. Instead, we had a Learn Biblical Hebrew CD-Rom. My sister can still sing the Hebrew alphabet to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. I guess that’s a whole other kind of indoctrination?

Computer games involving ancient texts are rather brain testing for a Friday morning, so how about something that’s simply delightful? Like a toddler dancing – with serious moves. Utterly awesome. (It comes right after the stuff about martial arts in the video below.)

Finally, something that could send you into a spiral of YouTube distraction – so don’t say I haven’t warned you! While on holiday with Americans, I heard of a satirical TV show that I doubt will ever grace British screens because it’s so reliant upon an understanding of Portland, Oregon. For those not in the know, the city is one with a reputation of a bohemian, granola-loving, organic-obsessed, jewellery-making population. As explained in one clip, it’s as if it never quite emerged from the 1990s. It came up in conversation after I’d mentioned the danger of putting a DVD on and pressing ‘play all episodes’ – someone mentioned a Portlandia episode in which a couple do just that with Battlestar Galactica and end up losing their jobs and trying to create a final, final episode:

There’s a wealth of clips online that are a joy to watch – especially one in which a couple quiz their waitress about the origin of their chicken and end up going on a little road trip. It’s all quite, quite beautiful. Portland may now have gone up several notches on my ‘list of US cities to visit’ – although it was already quite high, perhaps because at heart I am a jewellery-making, 90s-loving, geek…