Friday, March 25, 2016

Embracing innovative attitude was hard for me

As much as I have always been a fan of innovation, it was more at a distance in the past. Maybe one of the harder things to absorb with our modern world is how close you can be to a simply powerful idea, which I like to say, doesn't care who discovers it! Whereas in the past I think thought was more about certain people with certain expertise.

Still it does usually require expertise, where wide knowledge across a variety of areas can be necessary, as you look at something from a different perspective, and notice that hey, here's something simply powerful.

However it is one thing to think about all of that objectively, and quite another if you're looking at something you realize is socially disruptive, and considering how to present it.

The idea doesn't care. And with the web you can put it out there easily enough, but what happens then? That can definitely be well outside your control.

But LOTS of people over time can tend to normalize the reaction I've noticed.

The web makes that possible. Your ideas can easily flow around the world, as people consider and react to them.

Years ago I was more focused on the experts in fields where I had what I felt were simply powerful innovative ideas looking for their approval. But that look to traditional authority was something I'd learned being brought up by my parents in a puritanical Fundamentalist Christian religion, which thankfully I never officially joined, and then getting my degree in physics as a solid fan of the academic community at a top university, and then enlisting in the US Army after graduating! Am definitely someone who appreciates authority!

Learning how you can appreciate authority, while accepting a quest for innovation including an acceptance of your own has been a struggle for me. Talking some things out now actually is about releasing the shame I've felt. And accepting that yes, I can go chase ideas of my own. It's ok.

James Harris

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Simply powerful ideas can make for interesting journeys

My interest in finding simply powerful ideas of my own, as I chase innovative discovery, has lead to what I think are fascinating journeys, as am pulled by what I think I should do with some of them.

But those simply powerful ideas have also lead to challenges in how I see myself! As I contemplated how others maybe saw me in the past, in contrast to how maybe saw me after my presenting them.

For instance, actually went back to my alma mater Vanderbilt University in 2003 to visit with a mathematics professor who had said he was open to an on campus visit. He'd rejected a mathematical paper of mine I'd submitted to a journal where he was editor, where readily admit submitted there because he was a Vanderbilt professor. As a sidenote, after his rejection I sent to another journal which published--then tried to delete and then keeled over and died--but that all happened a bit later.

I was happy to visit him and explain the argument in person, as well as see my school once again, for the first time since I'd left, back Spring 1991 when I graduated.

And it was SO much fun in ways, but also felt weird. I'd driven up from Atlanta metro area where was staying with so many mixed emotions. I knew I was far away from the mainstream I'd been taught. And I was a physics major. We'd actually had professors educating us about those people who think they have important ideas that are not being properly acknowledged.

One cool thing to me was had my SAME sturdy JanSport backpack with me that had had as an undergraduate! For some reason had bought a nice soft brown leather one sometime after 1987 and thinking 1988 or maybe 1989. And had brought it to wear like had done over a decade prior. It looked the same. I, of course, looked a lot different but students milling about didn't care. Some staff and one of my old physics professors though I think looked at me with a bit of concern.

Meeting with the mathematics professor went ok. He was nice enough but I'd wanted passion as we stepped through what I knew to be an important argument. It disrupted so much in mathematics I was certain! With his help I felt confident could send shockwaves through the mathematical community and the world. I got patience and some interest as I stepped through the mathematics on his chalkboard, but then was dismayed as the professor hit the door at 4:30 pm on the dot. As was leaving, trying to absorb having successfully explained without it seeming to matter much, noted that it looked like the entire department emptied, like a bell had gone off. Guess that was when everybody usually left. Not happily, went back to my vehicle and left Vanderbilt University.

But I was SO disappointed and unfortunately began to get angry as drove back home, which took about five hours. Guess my fantasy of what would happen had run into reality of what I should have expected. Innovative ideas rarely get just picked up if challenge and disrupt too much, no matter how simple or easily proven.

Got home and sent off nice email regardless of misgivings, more or less thanking. Got nice but to me dismissive reply. That got me back to mad, sent not so nice emails. Eventually got blocked. I think my email is STILL blocked by Vanderbilt University. And don't blame them.

Would take me over a decade to understand how hard it can be. But thankfully the web would be my friend and source of constant support. Through years of upset, disappointment and choice rants there was always a silver lining somewhere.

And today? Not upset. Just SO appreciative of the adventure and the journeys that with perspective, later are just fun to share.

James Harris

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My suggestions on using Twitter

Currently have 144 followers at time of this writing--as that thing can change--on my Twitter account which I think is a decent number. Kind of wonder sometimes why it's that high, but I'll take it. And have some suggestions for those out there who wish to keep their follower count low.

First off, have posted already that "followers" I think is the wrong word, as is more an audience in my opinion. So yes, if you're not entertaining? Don't expect it to get high.

So yeah, don't try to entertain people if you wish to manage your follower numbers!

However human beings like to compare themselves to others so you get really weird behavior on Twitter. Like I try not to follow accounts that start following me for a while, as I noticed that some of them? Would wait to see if I followed and if I didn't they'd drop me!

They were JUST FOLLOWING TO GET FOLLOWERS which is utterly worthless behavior.

So they didn't care about what I was tweeting. No interest in me as a human being AT ALL. I was just a way to try and get one more number which is useless as it's an audience number. So it's like you have these people trying to fill an auditorium when they don't have an act.

And that's about it. Don't try to entertain people, and don't follow just to get a follow back, and you too, like me, can I believe successfully manage your Twitter account.

But DO follow accounts that interest you. Follow just enough to have as many tweets in your stream as you like, without being overwhelmed. And look for areas of interest to you when picking accounts to follow.

It's your time. Why not use it to get the best information you can from the accounts that deliver it to you consistently, accurately, and fast?

I like to call Twitter the social media power tool of the 21st century. And learning to use it takes WORK. Some people try things that leave me shaking my head. But hey, it's free. They can do what they want. And it's not like I know for sure they're wrong!

However I strongly suspect some people see follower count as a status symbol. Yeah, maybe for celebrities or organizations, but to me? It doesn't matter under a million.

So if you don't have a million or more followers? Your Twitter account doesn't have status with me in that way. But I'm just one person with an opinion. Maybe others might be impressed?

Occurs to me that's actually quite arbitrary. Just an obvious metric. So does less than a million matter? To me? Yes. But that doesn't mean that's actually meaningfully valid I guess by some way I can't even think would actually fit here as typing. Really not that important I guess to me.

But if you're chasing status that way? I think that's interesting. It IS so obvious if you're trying. Hard not to notice.

Twitter is a fascinating place. Lots of players using all kinds of ways. Getting to the top of the heap there? Well everybody has an opinion on that one am sure.

I prefer to just enjoy Twitter as one of the greatest tools for communication ever devised.

James Harris

Coolest with Twitter Ten Year Anniversary

So Twitter celebrated ten years a couple of days ago, which turned into the coolest day for me on social media! So let's see how it looks to share here.

Looks good!

Oh yeah, and yes! My notifications went up. Got a bunch of retweets! Finally almost felt like maybe what people who get that all the time must feel.

So yeah, I got a reply from Twitter! And was just on Cloud Nine for the rest of the day.

These kinds of things should be memorialized. Yup. Most definitely.

Oh yeah, Twitter definitely knew how to do a 10 year anniversary! Kudos.

James Harris

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Who innovates the Innovators?

To me it is very obvious that ideas do not care who finds them. And while complex ideas or lots of ideas stacked together into some complex form are all over the place and critical to modern technology and infrastructure, there are all kinds of places where simple ideas rule.

And who are these people who are the simple Innovators? All over the place.

Like one of my favorite modern ideas is containerization for shipping.

Did a web search just now, and went to the result for the Wikipedia which was at the top. And will link to it here, but what I wanted is in a single sentence:

In 1955, former trucking company owner Malcom McLean worked with engineer Keith Tantlinger to develop the modern intermodal container.
And you know it's not a complicated idea. You have these rectangular containers that can stack well on big ships, be easily moved on and off, and can be trucked around easily.

Changed the world.

Luckily for me have been fascinated by simple powerful ideas for a long time. And am lucky enough to have some innovations myself! But I've talked TONS about them all over the place. Here I'm just talking the excitement of it.

Today reality is that Innovators are springing up all around us, many I'm sure unsung for the moment.

Our world is just beginning to understand the power of those people despite the famous names who have become celebrated I think because they were so specialized. Like just with computers. Or just with social media.

But that's less fun than those who can come, look at something, and figure out another way to do it. Innovate. And do that across a variety of areas.

Who innovates the Innovators? The web does, of course.

I say the modern technology that yes we tout so much has given vast powers at the fingertips of so many around the globe and is pushing minds far further than ever before. The web can be your teacher, your partner, your assistant, and your global distributor for the new ideas that YOU find.

Innovation has become a calling I firmly believe. And the next wave of global movers will be Innovators who can go into just about any area, check things out, and find better ways of doing things.

And change the world.

James Harris

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thoughts on idea and use complexity

To me before there was the notion of finding the great idea which could be complicated, but these days more and more think simple ideas rule where more important is great implementation. So I think idea complexity is a big deal, and can talk with some big name modern examples.

Like consider Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram where have focused on social media that I routinely use. Sorry SnapChat, not there yet with you but suspect will get to it eventually.

And Twitter has extreme simplicity at its heart which is a short burst message. That is not a complex concept. And Facebook at its heart is a way to "friend" people for messages. While Google+ lets you add people to your circles. And Instagram is a way to post pictures.

Before taking over the world I suspect if you'd claim to someone, say, in the 20th century that such simple concepts could so dominate they'd have laughed at you. Ok, maybe not laughed, but probably looked puzzled. Back then I know as was around back then, was more the notion of complex and powerful ideas. But we see reality of simple and powerful ideas.

Here's one of my favorite Tweets from Twitter celebrating the concept:
Which to me says so much.

It also highlights a reality that simple concepts can have levels of complexity though, as made use of whitespace to construct a structure versus putting all flat.

And Twitter actually has done a lot to let users get creative, including ways around limits on total words, where they use pictures with words in them, as pictures are allowed to be posted. That actually means I think that use complexity of Twitter is actually rather high as SO many ways to use it, even within its simple limits.

In contrast Facebook while seemingly broader in use, has I think less actual use complexity. Where I've felt that the company actually pushes people to use it in certain ways which means less to figure out! And may help explain rapid adoption.

But for instance, Facebook for a long time only let you "Like" something. Which I think was brilliant, and has only recently expanded how you do so, as it carefully raises use complexity.

In contrast, Google+ has am guessing some of the greatest use complexity of any social media though hard to characterize. And I find myself focusing on the concept of circles as powerful, but also gives an extraordinary amount of possibly complicated ways to use. And I've seen people usually just stick with a couple, myself included. And you have few limits on how you communicate, which I think fits with the philosophy of the parent company. But I think use complexity greatly slows adoption.

While Instagram has a simple concept, and is simple to use. And am not surprised is now controlled by Facebook, which am sure will keep it that way. And yes, plenty of people also find ways to increase use complexity on Instagram, for instance with photos with words, but even then, tend to use simply.

To me ideas are SO much fun. And ideas about ideas are meta-ideas and do find I go meta a lot, which is because I enjoy peeking behind the curtains of the show which is our ever more interesting reality.

Here have used idea complexity and use complexity as core concepts to explore some modern social media companies, with hypotheses about how usage can vary based on them.

Which is wild in a way, as am suggesting SIMPLE ideas, so low idea complexity helped lead to the dominance of certain social media, while usage complexity, can help explain their current total user numbers.

Twitter is in my opinion very complicated to actually use BEST, despite its simplicity in many ways. With Google+ which I prefer to call G+ coming in next. Followed by Facebook and then by Instagram, which I think has the lowest usage complexity.

But Facebook is the biggest in terms of total users, followed by G+, then by Instagram, and then Twitter.

Does that ruin my hypothesis then? I don't think so, as it gives me more room to ponder. But enough done already for one post! So will end here.

James Harris

Monday, March 14, 2016

Opinions on timelines for some web things

Found myself thinking how long in my opinion it takes to get certain web things really settled and going well, which got me to thinking, why not post my OPINIONS? So here goes.

For a blog, I think about two years will get a dedicated person or organization a decent handle, where total posts? Well that's one of the things to figure out, how much do you want to post? How much SHOULD you post for purposes of blog? How much will you actually post?

On Twitter, I think about five years, will maybe give you a good sense of things. But more and more I think Twitter is the one place where most people don't realize, including myself, just how huge the challenge actually is. But with that amount of time, there is a tweet history, again showing how much tweeting was done versus maybe one might think will do.

And on Twitter after about five years, I found I could look at all kinds of things and be surprised by what happened, much of it inexplicable to me, still. But at least am now less surprised by what may happen.

With others I think timelines are much shorter. Like a public page on Facebook am thinking should only take a few months to get a feel for what to do, if you know what you're doing. If you don't, like me, yeah you can muddle around for a few years until was like, I don't know what am doing. So I looked around more, and was more like, oh. Not sure if I can do what I need to do to make it more popular, but at least know better how that is done.

With Instagram, have the feeling that I still don't quite know? But I follow on Instagram. Looking at various accounts am thinking, with a guess, around 6 months?

And no clue with SnapChat.

Oh yeah, need to include Google+ as spend TONS of time there. But I don't have a handle on the question for it. So yeah, lots doing with what I prefer to call G+ but know I use it lots, but feel like is still developing much into something which should be rather potent. So later if all goes well with it, will have a firm opinion am sure.

Occurs to me is pointless to make an ever longer blog post when have covered areas where am most confident already, with my OPINION of how long it takes.

But is a great question to ask people I think: how long do you think it takes to get some web thing up and running well?

James Harris

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Talking some of my attention baseline

An important way I rely upon my one open source project is as an attention baseline, where I have focused on downloads from 2004, when it was created, to 2014, so I have a decade for reference. And there were downloads from over 150 countries, for a total of 35367, which yes, is a bit under 10 downloads per day for 10 years. And lots of days was literally like 9 downloads. I still find that rather odd.

But means can say something I created garnered interest from over 150 countries, which you may notice is far more compact where I focused on the most dramatic thing I think.

But that allows me to say have a global presence, with information that is publicly available so am easily checked by those so inclined.

Which means that can make sense from that perspective for me to look at things like giving my own appreciation awards, where I could reasonably suspect my choices could get wide attention from around the planet.

And checking Google Analytics where stats are not publicly available, so like to use them less for public declarations now, see that this blog had visits from 44 countries in last 30 days.

Those gestures of appreciation which I decided to call the Beyond Mundane Social Awards tend to be more industry, as picked out what I think are best performers in social in categories dominated by social media companies, technology companies or technology people, while the BEST award gives me more latitude to pick widely though with latest awards, ended up picking Netflix. Which is an arbitrary choice by me, but so far just my opinion.

So yeah that's a bit of background on how it can be relevant for me to give my own appreciation awards because as a person who has things that draw global attention that can actually matter. Where yes, would like that to be a good thing.

James Harris

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

More an audience than followers

Tech people can do interesting things, and qualify as one myself and have seen lots of examples, and maybe calling people "followers" on social media will go down in history as one of the most eventful mistakes ever made by them. People on social media like Twitter or Instagram don't behave like followers, say of some leader, but am increasingly certain, instead like an audience.

Which means you can have millions of people "following" on some social media account who simply do nothing when told by the account holder, which is so cool. So many examples of it, which I think shows the power of a word! You see "follower" and think, hey can tell them what to do! And audience members are like, you can try, and we can ignore you.

Like in Madison Square Garden before a sold out audience how many performers think now would be the time to hawk some obscure personal project? Or push a religion?

Some do am sure. Most I'm also certain, do not. If any break up the flow of entertainment bad enough, an audience can make them regret it.

And am NOT against people with huge social media accounts using them however they like, but think it worth noting why I believe they can fail miserably with attempts at using them as if they have followers instead of an audience.

If you've built an audience anywhere by doing a certain thing, then don't be surprised if they are uninterested if you throw something else at them, especially out of the blue. Like if you're a dancer, and decide to stop the dance to talk to people about important politics, don't expect them necessarily to cheer. Some people can pull that off though, should note.

But of course if you give your audience what they want? Then why wouldn't they cheer you, and maybe even, if you're putting it out there, buy related merchandise, say like people at a concert do?

And audiences can happily follow instructions, like doing the wave at a ballpark. But it's not like being ordered around by a leader. It's often about fun. Or could be about instruction like at a seminar.

So what would recent web history look like if Twitter had said "audience"? At least Facebook sticks with Likes. Which are probably closer to the reality.

Kind of thing that fascinates me as ideas to ponder. But yeah, now when I see Twitter account numbers, I see those as potential audience counts, and NOT as followers. And I say potential audience as lots of people clearly often are not even paying attention. The audience count perspective gives more like a rough estimate of how many MIGHT pay attention if that performer gave them what they want. Like you can play Madison Square Garden, but can you fill it?

Many of those "followers" may not even really like that person, if is a person, but DO like say the entertainment value, just like if at some entertainment venue.

Am I right? Time will tell. Am sure there will keep being people or entities as well like businesses that try to treat that audience as if actual followers, and can just see what happens.

James Harris

Monday, March 07, 2016

My comfort in web history

Growing up I had remarkable things happening early, so much so that I decided to post what I like to call the Hollywood version of my teenage story, when I went from not signing up for the SAT's to having the highest SAT of my graduating class thanks to MUCH help from a concerned teacher. But of course when you grow up, you need to do adult things, and it's kind of like being a child actor, as that past isn't what will matter as much.

And in 1995, realizing the academic glory days were well and truly past, I decided still I'd work on hard math problems to exercise my mind, while yeah am sure part of me wanted to believe there was extraordinary left. What happened was I ended up soon excoriated on something called Usenet where people ordered me to not put up my amateur math ideas.

The concept of 'haters' is well established now, but I ran into that back in the 1990's, before the 21st century, and was shocked. I also refused to be intimidated into silence, and over time developed a nasty following of people who would eventually stalk me across the web insulting me everywhere they could find me, like when I tried to post to a fiction newsgroup.

So how so quiet here now? Well it's my blog. Haters have to work hard to attack me here, and I can potentially delete off negative comments but have rarely seen any. Actually last time there was anything that surprised me was when I began posting some ideas of mine for data compression. Did research and yup, was considered a crackpot area. Had someone make what I saw as heated comments here, and simply yanked all of it off the web, where it has remained.

Did I once work on trying to find my own proof of Fermat's Last Theorem? Yes.

Do I now claim to have such a proof or continue to work on it? No.

Does that matter to my haters? Not that I've seen at time of this writing.

Reality though is, I never really took it all as seriously as many of the math folks hostile to me, which I think only made them more hostile. I just never thought it that wrong for non-mathematicians to try and figure out math too. And why shouldn't I talk about such efforts? To me was a free speech issue. And of course the math doesn't care who figures it out. Maybe to them? That's part of the problem.

But for most haters I don't think explanation matters that much.

For me looking at lots of web antics now familiar to most the behavior of haters is so familiar it's boring. I did address things a bit here but don't think it worth discussing much. As the gist of it was that it's not about ignoring the haters, as that doesn't work either, but understanding the parasitic nature of the behavior as an attempt at stealing someone else's attention.

These days have focused more on understanding things, including the continuing attention my ideas receive. As I have the best seat of anyone to study it, it occurs to me that for others things may be somewhat mysterious.

Like how can a webpage with broken links, written in 2002, insulting me keep maintaining search position? I study that.

How can operate quite confidently even in areas where I have less control over potential haters than here like on my Twitter? There's a reason there I'm sure.

What about my various claims? Are they true or not?

Well web history lets you check me on SO many things. And experts actually know what I have that is correct, I'm sure. While the web means I don't have to worry much about it.

Reference is a cool thing.

It's NOT about celebrity.

Like for tools I've created people just go get them, like so many other things, without pausing to figure all this other out. It's a good thing.

Meanwhile the complex tactics I use allow me to have a different perspective on the web, as a place primarily of wonder, and sharing of ideas, where people I used to call attention parasites learned the hard way it was better to keep their distance. And am talking EXTREME behavior should add, where you can see someone relentlessly stalk an intended victim.

To me I think it can be a problem when people are parasitic as can say, it's behaving like, say fleas, better not to have such people attracted to you at all! But yeah, if you see people attacking others for attention to themselves, seeing them as like fleas, you can see others out there as flea ridden, poor things. Haters can make them miserable and enjoy doing it.

Such is life.

Thankfully web is much more aware I think than years ago when I faced such behavior, and social media companies in particular are providing important tools, like muting, blocking and reporting! So things are improving, which is great.

James Harris