Hello world!

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

España, y lo que nos queda

La jornada electoral del 26 de junio de 2016 la cierra la desazón, sentimiento compartido por quienes creíamos que algo ya estaba cambiando. Y es que España, como país superviviente de los vicios europeos, sigue al pie del cañón en su inquina por sobrevivir hecha escombros. No nos equivoquemos, que estos resultados no son capricho del verano; llevamos siglos pensando igual, y transmitiendo por vía sexual ese germen tan español de ser bravos y bobos como nuestros progenitores.

Casi diría que esta jornada de entreguerra electoral se ha mantenido con ejércitos de palmeros, de cualquier bando, aupando a líderes caducos que podrían haber sido sustituidos por muñecos de trapo sin que nadie lo notase. Lo salvaba, otra vez como de costumbre, la batalla en el campo de exclusivas periodísticas, y la esperanza de que tantas balas hiciesen mella en la opinión de aquellos que han votado corrupción, movidos por el miedo infantil a que acabemos como Venezuela.

Pero España es tan conservadora y predecible que aún me siento imbécil por pensar que esta vez iba a ser diferente. Y digo conservadora en alusión principal a partidos como Izquierda Unida, cuyo nombre y actitud del militante conforman un oxímoron que sólo se mantiene porque todavía bebe de las letanías filomarxistas de principios del siglo XX. Y lo mismo para Pablo Iglesias, que ha dado por sentado que una camarilla leninista funcionaría hoy, pero se ha olvidado de cómo castiga esta patria la arrogancia, por muy inteligente y mucha carrera profesional que uno tenga, porque los votantes también conservan este aspecto. Quizás Albert Rivera se dé cuenta, en uno de sus viajes a ninguna parte, de que España ni es ni será de corte anglosajón y que aquí nadie quiere tener un trabajo más que dar un pelotazo.

Aunque los golpes duros nos han venido, como los recibían en los prolegómenos del actual régimen esos “rojos” y “maricas” de corte “judeomasónico”, por la derecha. Esa derecha que ha innovado en sus formas manteniendo un fondo más fresco que el panfletismo izquierdista; esa derecha que antes era de tecnócratas, Opus Dei y Falange, y hoy es de liberales, democristianos y patriotas.

Siento que no tengo las competencias emocionales para enfrentar lo que ha pasado. Los resultados no reflejan las encuestas, pero el carácter español avala los resultados. Tan improbable parece que haya habido un fraude electoral masivo, como probable que el ministro Fernández Díaz y una camarilla de monjas hayan hecho algunas trampitas. Berlanga debería haber orquestado esta película, en la que hasta unos perdedores —de Ciudadanos o Podemos— se ríen de otros perdedores por pedir auditorías; donde unos de mal perder se cabrean con los de mal ganar, pero por tarugos más que por tramposos; donde los militantes del PSOE acusan de su fracaso a la campaña de otro partido de izquierdas.

El escenario más plausible es que no haya habido tongo, y eso es aún peor, pues abre las mentes a cuestionarse el valor de un voto en comparación con otro. Las causas penales del Partido Popular y casos como los EREs en Susana Díaz —que seguramente piensa que ella es Andalucía— contrastan con el apoyo público masivo a que estas dos entidades de carácter sátrapa obtengan la regencia de todo un país. Y en esta encrucijada, se siembra la duda de si hay que ser socrático por ideales, demócrata hasta las trancas y beberse la cicuta, o ser prepotente y considerar que los que votan a un partido de corte mafioso formado por élites extractivas sufren alguna disfunción de carácter intelectivo. En resumen, que cuesta saber si hay que estar del lado de la humilde ingenuidad o la insultante prepotencia.

Entre conspiraciones que no son, trampas de hecho, una fe ciega en el sistema electoral y el desprecio egótico que sigue inflamando las dos Españas ignorantes a su manera, a un servidor le queda considerar qué sería de su vida si configurase sus rentas para bajar al Moro, vivir a cuerpo de rey siendo republicano, y pasarse la vida al sol escribiendo poesía. Porque España no tiene arreglo, porque no está rota; funciona así, y seguiremos siendo así.

Posted in Notas políticas | 1 Comment

Notas sobre la meditación

Hace poco me preguntaron si era budista. Dio la casualidad de que mi respuestas coincidió con otra que más tarde encontré perdida entre las páginas de El Espejo Vacío. Yo sólo estudio el zen, si es que hay zen que estudiar.

Habida cuenta de que mi iluminación pasa por devolver el cuadro de luces a su posición original cada vez que mi casa se queda (semanalmente) sin electricidad, que quede claro que no soy un experto, y que lo que sigue no es más que una colección de notas personales relacionadas con lo que siento cada vez que me siento —doble significado— a no hacer nada. Ojalá a alguien le ayude a entender algo.

1. La experiencia que proponen el budismo, la secta zen y otras tradiciones similares no es una cuestión de fe. No hay nada como un Dios paternalista, y en ese sentido el budismo es ateo. Cuando se habla de “Dios” no se refiere a la figura de un Creador, sino al Todo, el Universo, el Cosmos, La Verdadera Realidad, el Zeitgeist Inmutable A Todos Los Tiempos. Ya me entiendes: que Oriente y Occidente usan la palabra “God” pensando que hablan de lo mismo cuando se refieren a cosas distintas.

2. Las religiones monoteístas-paternalistas (judaísmo, cristianismo, islam) proponen una serie de preceptos que hay que respetar para ser un buen creyente. Por contra para el budismo, los ingredientes para ser feliz no viven fuera del sujeto; ser feliz es más una cuestión de aprender a estar en paz con uno mismo, una decisión personal, no un checklist por completar para contentar a otro. Las religiones basadas en la fe te obligan a confiar más allá de la evidencia con promesas más allá de la vida. Como diría Steve Hagen, el budismo persigue un estado mental y para eso no hace falta creer en nada ni hacer nada más allá de sí mismo.

3. Es fácil ser una religión cuando tienes La Torá, La Biblia o El Corán. Ni el budismo ni el zen tienen libros canónicos; y pese a que el Dharmapada y Hogen son nombres famosos, no existe dogma en el que creer sino que se produce una exploración colectiva del fenómeno religioso, por lo que la forma de entender el zen es escuchar a quienes han estado allí antes. Recuerda que nadie tiene una Verdad que ofrecerte que sea más válida que la tuya; únicamente te muestran el camino.

4. La idea de que la realización, la Iluminación, es algo que todos albergamos ahora, ya. Esta idea puede parecer digna de un libro de autoayuda, pero para mí es un concepto revolucionario. Mientras nuestra cultura vincula la acumulación a la realización, el budismo entiende que ser feliz es aprender a no necesitar, por lo que cuanto menos desees y te apegues a lo que te rodea más fácil te será ser feliz; con lo que si acabas por no desear nada, la Iluminación será palpable. Para mí es el equivalente a ir retirando todas esas lonas que cubren nuestra luz interior: pensar que si no haces A no serás B, creer que hay que hacer C, preocuparte por qué dirá de D cuando le cuentes lo de E, las posibles consecuencias de F sobre G, y toda esa colección de pensamientos contingentes que no hacen más que mantener la mente en un estado de perpetua agitación. La Iluminación es el estado subyacente a nuestra experiencia consciente, el inocente y amoral estado de “ser” tan similar a cuando apenas medías un metro y eras capaz de vivir enfocado en un presente feliz, sin preocuparte por chorradas.

5. Para el zen existen dos formas mayores de percibir: entender y observar. La razón y las emociones permiten abstraer el mundo, prevenirlo y sobrevivir, pero nos encierra en la idea de que tenemos que seguir pensando y por consiguiente juzgando nuestro entorno para seguir adelantándonos a sus movimientos. Observar, por otro lado, nos invita a aceptar lo que llega tal como llega, sin juicio, sea música, palabras, sensaciones, noticias, etcétera; esta es la práctica habitual de la meditación, en especial de la no-mente, y aunque la vindique cabe subrallar que la Iluminación no atañe únicamente a la consecución de este estado receptivo sino que tiene que contemplar todas las formas de entender en su conjunto.

6. El zen puede ser contradictorio por una sencilla razón: La Razón. Cuando se intenta racionalizar toda la experiencia, incluidos los sentidos, se está colocando un filtro antropológico dentro de la experiencia que distorsiona su sentido original. Por eso se dice que la Iluminación es un estado mental. En el momento en que la sientes, pararte a pensar qué sientes te aleja de ella.

7. Todo cuanto puedes hacer para sentir aquello de lo que hablo es nada, cuanto menos mejor. El objeto de la búsqueda se encuentra perdiéndose y abandonando tal empresa. Cuando medito me invaden ideas que tienen que ver con cuándo acabaré, con la postura, con lo que tengo que hacer, con si mi vida tiene sentido, etcétera. La solución pasa por abandonar todas esas quimeras tan pronto como te das cuenta y volver a centrarte en observar algo; empiezas con las respiración y acabas asimilando gradualmente mucho más.

 8. El satori no es la meta, pero es una agradable consecución. Inmersos en la práctica del Buda, existen momentos de “entendimiento”, accesos de lucidez que ocurren cuando nuestra falta de esfuerzo surte efecto. Se puede pasar mucho tiempo sentado hasta que se dé, pero eventualmente sucede en quien practica: de pronto sentarte en medio loto no te molesta, y la espalda encuentra el equilibrio vertical, y respiras hondo, y disfrutas al exhalar el aire y… Y ahí está, Eso. Durante un segundo, o dos, quizás incluso menos, no piensas, nada te molesta, y solo ERES. Pasado el primer satori, puedes decidir ignorar el Zen lo que te queda de vida, vivir agitado el resto de tus días; lo que ya no podrás negar es que hay un estado de calma infinita al que podrías acceder si siguieses practicando (porque está ahí, porque sólo hay que quitar las lonas que lo cubren).

9. El kōan es una herramiente muy útil en el estudio del Zen. Un kōan es una formulación que espera una respuesta elucidada a través del entendimiento del Tao (perdón, de Dios). El lenguaje textual nos obliga a racionalizar lo que se nos dice; por eso, cuando se recibe un kōan por primera vez, que ha sido formulado desde la intuición, ni su contenido ni la respuesta que el maestro espere como acertada tienen por qué ser congruentes. Pero, si el discípulo tiene la mente abierta y ha reconocido la Iluminación a través de la meditación y los momentos de satori, la respuesta debería nacer de forma intuitiva. De forma análoga, los kōan se formulan como llaves a la Iluminación, y algunos discípulos meditan durante años sobre el mismo hasta que el maestro acepta una respuesta válida. Se entiende, claro está, que el kōan puede actuar como una bomba de relojería una vez el sujeto lo comprende a través de la meditación, como una Autopista Hacia El Cielo.

10. La ciencia y el budismo son aliados. Los monjes se han estado sometiendo a experimentos, bajo la premisa valiente de que si algo no es verdad no tiene sentido seguir aceptándolo.

11. He meditado de muchas formas. La respiración que mejor me funciona es una inhalación de cuatro segundos, sostenida siete y seguida de una exhalación de ocho. A veces he dejado el tiempo correr, mientras que ahora marco veinticinco minutos en un reloj de cocina (como el de la foto). Me siento sobre un par de zafus hechos a mano en medio loto, con una manta y el calefactor ahora que hace frío. Si un día no lo hago, no me preocupo; algún que otro día he decidido parar de súbito y meditar expontáneamente. A veces me he sentado como los occidentales. Al final, lo que cuenta es la práctica consciente. De nada sirve sentarse si uno no entrena el aspecto vital clave: la consciencia, estar presente, observar sin juzgar, en lugar de soñar despierto. Hay que ser consciente, insistir en centrar la consciencia sin forzarla, y con el tiempo la plasticidad neuronal (o el hábito) hace el resto. Para el inexperto, diez minutos al día bastan para notar los efectos pacificadores al cabo de una o dos semanas.

(Y esto es todo por hoy. Si tienes dudas, puedes ponerte en contacto conmigo, aunque seguramente tendrás un centro budista cerca donde te puedan dar mejores pistas)

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Ethos 2 + Bonus

Ethos es un juego de rol minimalista diseñado para improvisar partidas rápidas y versátiles, que puedan ser extendidas tantas sesiones como se quiera sin encontrar las limitaciones clásicas de un sistema de reglas demasiado simplista.

DESCARGA ETHOS 2

A grandes rasgos, Ethos es una mezcla entre los sistemas Risus y Cortex, pretende representar cualquier género y emplea dados de 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 y 20 caras. La mecánica emplea clichés —descripciones generalistas de los personajes— y una colección de reglas sencillas para resolver los conflictos mediante tiradas.

La segunda versión de Ethos mejora el sistema de resolución de tiradas, resuelve inconsistencias y amplia el contenido y las posibilidades del juego. El manual incluye ejemplos de enemigos, aventuras y nuevas reglas.

Bonus

Añado a las descargas las aventuras Freybur y Una bala, un voto, que jugamos en la Tabula Rasa (F1, F2, B1, B2). También podéis descargaros la primera versión de Ethos.

(Si has desarrollado material para Ethos, por favór házmelo saber y lo colgaré en esta página)

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Weightless Gadgets

It’s been a long journey, yet it’s just the beginning.

In 2013, I founded Ubik Transmedia in order to design and develop interactive media such as Soffice, Cheff or Flatland. Unfortunately, I had to abort shortly after. Me, my company and the world around were carrying too many issues to make any leap feasible.

My depiction of “The Ubik” piled on a mountain of earlier venture attempts and, for a while, I resigned to live in the verge and worked for companies fitting the role of UX design. But regardless of such specificity, we all know the basics of being an employee: conform the local culture, stay useful, get paid. — But what if the local culture forces you to avoid your inner self? What if usefulness is driven by a criteria that erodes your criteria? What if your earnings don’t help enlightenment but alienate you from it? What is left of you after you become a pleasing servant? I’m aware some people feel happy to fit. Fitting is not inherently bad, but that’s not for everybody, and surely not for some maverick like me, now that I am young and can take risks.

During this meditative gap in 2014, I knew about Pieter Levels, who was planning to boost his career in a way that resembled what Ubik Transmedia did, but in a much more concise and productive fashion. His venture motivated me to compare both enterprises and infer a third way describing how I’d like to move from now on. Early on, reading A Fine Line by the master designer Hartmut Esslinger pushed me to trust my skills, rather than seeing my insistence on the need of processes for marketing, creativity and development as a whim from a spoilt brat. And there were all these intellectual breadcrumbs in You Are Not A Gadget and Who Owns The Future by Jaron Lanier that I felt inspired; the world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved. I had been attending the RailsGirls meetups in The Netherlands and, indeed, flipping my career would be a matter of will and study. Even the security expert Chema Alonso told me it’s never late to embrace a path through technology (muchas gracias, Maligno).

I had for certain that you can miss a chance, but learning from experience still stays entirely up to you. All what had happened, rather than a collection of failures, turned out as a collection of lessons. So I’ve been setting up the basics, according to Maslow’s Pyramid: physiology, and safety. Took me some savings and almost a year to move back to Spain and build The Base, but here it is: a creative space free of mortgage, corporate politics, or anything that clashes with the idea of freewill. It does not pay for my bills itself, but neither asks for half of my income nor drains my mood in pointless meetings. Plain and simple, it allows me to understand, design, envision and test. There’s no other agenda than the one I set (and trust me that eases the mind in a way just a few companies could ever deliver).

From now on, I’m planning to go through 2016 developing ten MVPs. A year after, I will be validating them on the market, selling some or compiling a great portfolio to move on. These products will run on Ruby on Rails and will be mostly based on problems I issued myself, as Levels points in Make. Every now and then, I will report what’s next. So far, what’s next is deciding which ideas to implement and how the process is going to be. Codename: Artifacts.

I am going to freelance 😉

*Deep breath*

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I will probably unfollow you

In the beginning there was not much, and my head said:

MY PROBLEM: building a personal brand on the Internet and becoming inspiring to people, without over-complicating things; one account.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: to reach a critical mass of followers so the content I am creating for free pays me back in terms of reputation, for which I should achieve a cooperation loop in between getting branded and being inspiring.

IMPLIES: Be worthy to your audience and experience the responsibility of keeping them close.

And here the problem comes: network asymmetry. Because, on the Internet, everything boils down to the fact that a few are followed by many while most of the people get barely no attention. It happens everywhere, and it seems to be a natural behavioral pattern in networked systems in which all the agents compete for the same resource (in this case, fame). This means two things:

  • Jargon Lanier stating our current network designs are dehumanizing and alienate us to the idea of being defined by a set of diminishing ciphers.
  • From Facebook to Twitter, all the social networks append all the demagogy-driven functionality you can imagine. This is: if you were Hitler on Twitter, you would probably still win a flamewar against @DalaiLama.

Fortunately or not, there are two wide profiles of media users that fit this natural model that builds from financial monopolies (pure evil) to information monopolies (pure evilness): collectors and readers; those who drag attention and those who prefer to follow. And hitherto, the model would be right if that was all, but it is not. The reason why I am writing this is because I know someone already felt bad because of how this apparent “natural order” works.

Prosumers are here to stay, as Henry Jenkins would state. There are those who read and write, who watch and film, who do and do on both sides of the information game. For those, it is as mandatory to be aware as to be listened. And for them I swear I feel bad when I unfollow them after they followed me, because I understand how hard it is to be ignored when you are doing your best to fulfill and audience. But, as a prosumer —and this is my first, I think, good reason to unfollow— I do really need to filter my timeline and do not have time nor criteria to do so with lists; this is an issue of cognitive overload.

Secondly, and this is the mean reason, I think Twitter accounts that parallel followers and followed tend to have a reputation problem; either because there are taken as #FollowBack maniacs craving to ascend or because it looks like they want to befriend everyone, as if everyone would be equally meaningful to them (a bit too unrealistic).

Twitter itself was framing a situation: it will be hard to ascend, and it is forbidden to ascend in a dirty way, but on the other hand the only way of branding yourself is ascending. So what I needed was very clear: a fairly ethic way of gaining followers without going into the “dog eats dog” world they have invented. I wanted a base of real followers who were interested in who I am because of what I say, despite I cannot track all of them because my attention span is limited. And then it arrived, THE IDEA.

Tweeting without followers is like shouting in the middle of the ocean, using the hashtags as a temporary way of staying in the surface; while massive follow/unfollow cycles, aside of forbidden, are an easy way of getting an audience that does not engage with you (as a matter of fact, you will be followed by the #FollowBack maniacs or worse, bots). I then recalled some lessons of ludology: there are the “ludic” cheaters, those whose cheating is part of the game while not trying to finish, ruin or win it. I applied this sort of reasoning in order to find way of letting my people know that I am here and I offer quality content without:

  • Buying a follow.
  • Using software to run batch queries on undetermined masses of human beings.
  • Expending two to three years devising an executing a full-time personal branding plan.

So I decided to go for dedicated follows with later unfollows to those who would not call my attention or repeat too much feeds I already had. A way of telling “hey I am here” without telling it too loud, but strong enough to motivate a click on my nickname. And a hand-based way, person-by-person.

This is how I do it:

  • Fit a clear description of who I am and what I do.
  • Program selected content on Klout so my audience gets targeted articles with the keywords they want.
  • When my last three or four tweets sound appealing, I look for accounts that broadcast UX content and then select among their followers.
  • Some follow backs come in, from people who usually profiles as a reader or from mere followbackers.
  • Then I get rid of those who ignored me and those who simply need a follow back (I do not want people following me just because).
  • In the meanwhile, I carefully select from the new followers who is uploading original content.
  • There are some other strengthening techniques, such as liking many tweets or provoking conversation and debate.

I go to bed thinking I am doing an effort for them every time I go for content or write it myself, and I hope that pays for me ignoring what most of them do, as most of them do not even have a blog.

Indeed, Twitter is as dehumanizing as its design. Many para-linguistic elements are lost, and therefore we are limited to the functionality they implemented. As a UX designer, I sometimes wonder what if social networks achieved to be any social, for real, instead of a collection of ideology and demagogy with a few thinking individuals every now and then; because of the way they work, that is the behavior they are breeding. For now, all we get is the jungle, and I do think we should accept our current designs do not allow us to behave —and win— as humans do in non-virtual environments.

By my side, I accepted, long ago, that I cannot take online behavior as if it happened in real-life. This means, that I shut myself every time someone unfollows me. Twitter is a toy and it works how it works. I agreed on the idea that any mistake will be taken as a great offense, that some individuals will lurk on my past attempting to expose me, that some people will simply insult me or that some others will capitalize my miseries for their benefit. Following this new scenario and considering its flaws, what I did was finding a way of letting someone I am interested in knowing I am here to share good content. But if you ask me if the whole mode is wrong, I will agree. For now, all what we have is accepting a double profile: our side in the net and its ways to survive there, and out side in real life and its ways to survive there. For the times that come, I hope to be the one that designs something that does not comply with asymmetric networking.

All this said, I hope you understand me. I want to be ethic and pragmatic at the same time, and I cannot ask you for what I am not giving. Due to all this, I am easy: if you want me to follow you, follow me back as if you were knocking to my door. If I like what you share, I will follow you. If you unfollow me, I will still liking what you share, hence I will not unfollow you. The good thing of all this is that no individual can get to make the difference, not in my account but neither in yours, because success is an aggregated issue; if you really behave, people will eventually come to you and you will not need to use this tricks for long. And still, sometimes I simply follow people with a few dozens of acolytes just because they look like incredibly cool people.

Posted in Púlpito | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Facebook is losing mojo

I put myself away from The Facebook for six months. Back into the jungle, I realised it is not the same. Something is going on for bad, even if the company is selling us the opposite idea. Facebook constitutes no utopia nowadays, and it does not seem this will change for better in the near future. Here are my reasons.

You are not a gadget

Facebook executive team is its worst stakeholder, because if they do not make profits they will jeopardize themselves, and hence they need to think more about money than humanity. Business is business.

As Facebook does not rely in a pay-per-use business model, they went into the same add cycle Google does. The great difference lies on the fact that, while Google serves links primarily, Facebook attempts to digitalise your social experience. We are used to see branded third-party content, but the idea of having our life franchised and marketed still sounds odd, regardless of the herds of technologists saying this will be the future. So far, this is the present and it is not working well.

In his book You Are Not A Gadget, Jaron Lanier unveils the dehumanizing state of the present Internet, leading to the construction of information monopolies that set the majority of humans as pawns to fuel the system but that get almost no benefit from it. We Facebook users go into the Facebook, share our lives and all what we get back is:

  1. The empty promise that being able to do such thing without using the email, FTP, messaging applications, or free software CMSs is a great privilege that we should value.
  2. A monitoring system that spies our private chats along with tracking our online activity, impels us from avoiding it for a little bit of intimacy and serves adds.

Given the circumstances, I would be ready to pay a yearly fee if that avoids me being diminished down to a marketing vector. Because it stinks. It is purely clear that all the design patters Facebook is implementing for the shake of the user are in fact for the shake of some pockets.

No one cares

We may be realising our lives are not that socially interesting after all. A decade or two ago, a digital-free social experience meant that you were more on control of your opinion about your life; but nowadays, we have been driven into a model that automatically compares us to each other. The more we take part, the more we accept the trade of putting our subjective experience next to others’.

Subjectively, your life cannot be better or worse than how you are able to envision it. Socially, this changes a lot; a small difference of perceived joy in between known people might make you feel like a loser. It is not that we build up this winner loop consciously, but as we select what we upload to Facebook and others do so, the mind compares automatically. The more we spread, the more the comparing events happen, up to the point that we are either winners or losers at the popularity game.

What could have been a pleasant intimate experience turns out to look like a mediocre day compared to a slightly better executed picture or a viral video. And the aftermath of it is that attention goes to the bombastic while unsuccessful stories breed the fear to share again. In a descending loop, the Facebook participation either dies or exposes mediocrity (I am sorry, but no coffee picture with your best friend can beat this cat video).

The perverse Like cycle

The Like button is a perverse design pattern that makes us look for the emotional prize of being accepted. On the process, your content defines you, your likes target you, and the relationships you stablish trough them indicate the connections in between you and your contacts (badly tagged as “friends”).

This is the factual indicator that no one cares, and in absence of likes you can feel ignored. However, Facebook does not order all what everybody posts chronologically, but selects what is shown to each person. As you may imagine, you will not be seen and “liked” as long as Facebook does not want so. As the network is not horizontal, all the maths will tend to benefit viral content in order to enhance participation. In this process, who is not being viral will be put in the crossroad of accepting submission or feeling unpopular.

With all, limiting success to a single value as “like me or not” works against the concept of quality and confuses it with quality. If you have been working on an intellectual level and you see more cat videos overwhelming a work of years, it is not hard to guess you will get tired of the joke. Wasn’t the Internet meant to enlighten us all?

Naggy activity log (The Goship Ghost)

We all had a big mouth in our lives. It is not that what we do is strictly private, but having a gold peak behind us reporting all our movements makes us feel out of control. If you congrat someone, it seems a little bit redundant that a third goes around telling everybody that you did so. The same if you make a comment about a movie, or read a book, or watched a video, or yelled about the prices in the supermarket. It is not strictly private, but if someone wants to know about all those trivial things the best idea is to come and ask.

Back to The Facebook I realised that third-party content is appearing on my timeline because a friend of mine interacted with it. I will be honest about this: I am avoiding liking or commenting content, because I do not want to flood my contacts’ walls with my activity. I feel like overly exposed, even when the information was already there. It is like having a bad friend who does not care about the way you do politics socially, who is underlying in front of everybody what you do regardless of what they may think. Also, it puts you out of control of how much you talk, as anything you do may be turned into a post in the face of other who may not be interested; and the more this happens, the worse their opinion about you will get.

This would be easily solved if Facebook understood society as a collection of people circles rather than as an absolute exposition of our day-life.

Unavoidable clearance

Facebook wants to be friend with everybody, but it is like a bad partner that does not want you to leave. So, when you realize it is over, they urge you to prosecute them in a court in order to delete you permanently. The reasons for this are still uncanny, as one less user would not damage the platform. Why to store all my private chats and serve them to everybody? Why to keep a backup of all my posts after the account access has been deleted permanently? Why to keep my likes all over the web when I just want to disappear?

This sort of obsessive behaviour breaks apart the friendly contract. For all its uses, Facebook must be treated as a tool as well, so no social sincerity can be put on it knowing that they will not respect your intimacy (I am not even talking about privacy, but about a fairly acceptable personal space everybody should respect if you are willing to be aside).

Conclussion

Facebook is losing mojo because it pretends to be social and friendly while the way it uses you to make money is getting too obvious and more important than how much you enjoy being there.

So for the future, this is my advice: do not take Facebook as friendly, but as a device to market yourself, as a mean to your ends, as something to manage your personal brand and coordinate social actions such parties. But, by any mean, base your life in a platform that is asking you to respect it while giving so clear signals that they will not do so towards you. Here is the ambiguity of the network.

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5 perverse design patterns that mess your brain

“Read”

When it happens: when you receive a message trough Facebook, WhatsApp or similar media and, after opening the conversation, the other person is told that you read the message.

Why it is perverse: it creates an inner compromise with the other person based on the fact that you know, and therefore you must do something about it. If you wait too much, it may seem that you are ignoring the other part, so you will feel pushed to correspond with feedback in a reasonable period of time. This can lead to vague placeholder responses, anxiety on complex matters and misunderstandings.

What the alternatives are: just avoiding to place it and play with online/offline statuses. People is free to take their time, moreover if everything is media-biased. Nowadays citizens suffer information overload, and pushing them to respond to such overload only leads to uneasiness. Media must allow people to say no to it.

Personal thoughts: if people is getting tired of Facebook, it is not just because they are pushed to produce media nobody is really interested to see, but also because Facebook is putting the stability of their social relations in danger by forcing everybody to talk to everybody even when there is not much to say. We are comparing our traditional language codes with the digital and that does not seem a good idea; because we are not machines, our machines must not force us to deal with them as if they were human.

Infinite scrolling

When it happens: when you are searching for information and then scroll for more, and more gets loaded, and then more, up to the infinite so there is no way of reaching a “bottom line” unless you exhaust all the content.

Why it is perverse: it lacks of quality criteria and merely emphasizes quantity. It creates the expectation that you will eventually reach your goal, although it does not offer a clear way of reaching anything but constitutes a gambling approach to information. As if it was a casino, you roll your wheel or slide your finger with the hope that there will be light at the end of the tunel. Unfortunately, there is hardly any light; but your expectations fuel the system trough lots of almost-it. In the meanwhile, they will track where you click and will show adds (noise).

What the alternatives are: pagination, categories, tags, search forms. Anything that narrows the scope the more the user chases a goal.

Personal thoughts: infinite scrolling is making people look like zombies. In practice, it delivers fake promises full of viral titles —which content is not that good after all—, friends with a seemingly more interesting lives and a lot of uninteresting noise; however, it creates a gambling feedback loop that makes people uncritical about what they are exactly looking for but a brain-prize. Same as giving a cookie to the good dog. The only case when it seems legitimate is when it is used to display data that has been retrieved trough a proper search function fencing the output.

Information placeholders

When it happens: when you are scrolling infinitely trough a list of content and the information has not yet been loaded, you get a mock-up drawing that will be later on substituted by the real content.

Why it is perverse: it distracts attention and creates the expectancy that the information that will be loaded will be somehow relevant. Nevertheless, a placeholder does not ensure what you get will be really meaningful.

What the alternatives are: browsers include loading bars that indicate how much of the document has been loaded, along with search functions. In case this was not possible, placing a “more” button will make the user aware that there is too much information to surf without search criteria. Pagination is a good old-school trick.

Personal thoughts: dynamic loading can be used for great purposes, such as real-time search filtering, dashboard solutions or workgroup applications on the mood of Google’s suite. Using it as an emotional hook sounds careless towards the user’s willpower.

Like

When it happens: when you publish a content on a social network and you contacts can mark it as favorite, liked, worth, thanked, and so.

Why it is perverse: it seems like a Like, but it creates a loop of social acceptance in which not getting any like in comparison to others feel like being irrelevant or ignored. If you do not get liked enough, you may start feeling bad.

What the alternatives are: not putting anything and let sharing speak by itself, encouraging debate, implementing voting functions that make opinions more “colorful”.

Personal thoughts: liking content was Facebook’s emblem and tracking system, and nowadays is making many users feel reluctant to sharing content with their contacts as they do not want to face its most usual counterpart: feeling ignored. This mechanism may create a descending participation loop. Contrary on twitter, where perishing short comments match perishing likes, same as people laughing at jokes on informal conversations.

Login to…

When it happens: when you want to interact in a place you do not visit often, and the price for it is allowing the site to access your Facebook/Twitter/G+ credentials or either giving away registration data, email verification included.

Why it is perverse: it encourages monitoring over participation, and makes the task of keeping privacy consistent very difficult. It also sounds like some sort of blackmail in which speaking your mind is paid with networking your identity trough different sites.

What the alternatives are: anonymous, captcha-driven commenting. Everybody should be allowed to change identity or to unveil themselves, as they please. Anonymity should be Internet’s channel specificity unless users really want to reveal themselves or were hurting others.

Personal thoughts: there is a big debate on how much a persons should be forced to identify themselves on the Internet. In my opinion, privacy is even secondary on this subject; the problem lies on the fact that, as we address different publics during our social interactions, we may not want someone to be able to track and put together all our opinions in different contexts; therefore it is a matter of circles, reputation and behavioral discretion. Allowing us to state an opinion while being discrete about our identity is the easiest way of cutting the breadcrumbs that interconnect our digital footprint, too. This matters, in example, when looking for a new job; it does have more to do with how politics work than with conspiracies or anonymity totalitarianism.

 

(Original header picture)

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Mis 5 estigmas de Philip K. Dick

Mucho se ha dicho sobre quién fue Philip K. Dick, sobre todo para encumbrarlo como el genio más prolífico de la ficción científica. Sin embargo, tras unas pocas novelas, no es difícil colegir que lo que Philip proponía iba más allá; su obra propone un cuestionamiento sistemático de la Realidad, Lo Real y los estatutos de la Conciencia. Como dijo Terry Gilliam, “para cualquiera que se pierda en las inabarcables y crecientes realidades del mundo moderno, recuerda: Philip K. Dick estuvo allí antes”.

Hete aquí una presentación de mis cinco primeras lecturas. Ojalá te sirva para leer otras cinco. Casi libre de spoilers.

The Cosmic Puppets (1957)

Marionetas Cósmicas

En un arrebato de melancolía, Ted Barton llega a Millgate, su pueblo natal. Pero Millgate no parece el mismo. Millgate no ha evolucionado. Millgate ha cambiado, como si el verdadero Millgate jamás hubiese existido. Esta obra es un deja-vu inverso, un “yo nunca he estado aquí”. Al tiempo, sugiere un ensayo metafísico sobre órdenes de realidad que se afectan de manera tangencial, y un desafío a nuestras certezas, incluso cuando éstas han sufrido la humildad intelectual que les imbricó el paso del tiempo.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)

Los tres estigmas de Palmer Eldritch

Palmer Eldritch viajó a los confines del Cosmos y está a punto de volver a la Tierra. Su llegada amenaza la franquicia de juguetes psicotrópicos Perky Pat: una serie de muñecos que, tras el consumo de la sustancia CAN-D mediante la cual funcionan, permite a grupos de hombres y mujeres encarnarse en las figurillas y compartir experiencias psíquicas en una ficción psiquedélica, erótica y festiva. Sus competidores investigarán qué puede haber ocurrido con su opositor más allá del Sistema Solar, y tratarán de descubrir qué nueva droga ha traído Eldrich, si no es la droga quien le ha traído a él.

Ubik (1969)

“Glen Runciter ha muerto. ¿O lo han hecho todos los demás?”. Tras sufrir un atentado, el fantasma del magnate de la industria antipsíquica parece firmar mensajes para sus subordinados. Uno a uno, todos empiezan a sufrir las consecuencias de un mundo que invierte su evolución y se dirige al colapso. Mientras la realidad se cae a pedazos, la única solución que parece capaz de frenar la catástrofe se repite como ecos de una pesadilla: encontrar el inmutable Ubik, en un mundo donde todo cambia.

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

El hombre en el castillo

Los nazis vencieron. Esta ucronía explora un mundo donde los Estados Unidos pertenecen a los herederos de Hitler. Con todo, nada ha cambiado tanto, y de entre los escritores alguien publica una novela que presenta una versión alternativa de la historia en la que los Aliados ganaron la guerra. Semejante ofensa al ideario nacionalsocialista conducirá a una búsqueda de su autor, y a un descubrimiento de la inusitada verdad que inspiró la obra.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

¿Sueñan los androides con ovejas eléctricas?

La obra cumbre por ontonomasia, y una zancadilla sutil a nuestras presuposiciones del día a día. Rick Deckard tiene el oficio de cazar androides que se hacen pasar por humanos, hasta que él mismo se ve envuelto en una trama que cuestiona su lealtad a lo establecido y su propia identidad humana. Desarrollada en una Tierra marchita por la actividad industrial y nuclear, pone en duda que nuestra naturaleza y la de nuestros recuerdos sea fiel a quienes creemos ser, y cuestiona nuestra autoridad moral en lo relativo a cómo trataremos a los androides cuya conciencia supere el valle inquietante y sea virtualmente idéntica a la nuestra. ¿Cómo diferenciar a un humano de una réplica exacta del mismo?¿Cómo dirimir qué conductas están motivadas por la conciencia y cuáles por meros determinismos automáticos?

 

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