Yes, you can communicate on Twitter!

Topsy's collection of @WorkingWriter's first tweets

I have a story to tell. There may be lessons to learn, but I guess we’ll see.

One Little Tweet

It started a few nights ago, when Twitter called my attention to this post by Zeynep Tufekci about Facebook:

She was responding to this post by someone you may have heard of:

I shared Dr Tufekci’s post, but thought it might be a little wordy, so I rephrased it a little:

See those numbers next to the heart and speech bubble? In the 11 years and 1 week I’ve been on Twitter, I don’t think I’ve gotten that kind of feedback for any single post. Twitter even followed up with an analytics report! Over 20,000 sets of eyeballs saw my little sentence! If you’re reading this post because you saw the tweet, Welcome!

But the endorphin-goosing traffic of social media love was just the beginning.

A Twitter Conversation

So while my iPod is giving me minute-by-minute updates of all the people who connected with my words (a wonderful thing to happen to any professional writer), I also suddenly receive feedback of a somewhat different sort: “Straight up wrong.”

At least it wasn’t a personal attack from some white nationalist. After my pride recovered a little, I offered a brief response:

BTW, Cory is a total stranger to me. He studies math in Stanford, California. If he goes to the school with the same name as the town, you might conclude that he’s way smarter than I am. You’d probably be right. It is still a little thrilling to have a conversation online about something — anything — important.

He responded:

I didn’t think I was pushing a “they don’t sell (data) at all anymore” idea, but rather something else:

If you think Twitter has become a place where conversation is no longer possible, and is only a place where conflict over politics gets ever more heated, I offer this small miracle in evidence:

Thanks, Cory Griffith! Mathematicians can still be human.


There is hope that the world can learn something from this Facebook atrocity. If we can have online conversations that don’t end in flame wars, that’s a great thing. If we can understand the real problem with Facebook’s vacuuming up of their users’ personal information, so much the better.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has gotten in hot water over this. It might be the last, but that’s up to us. That’s for another post, though. In the meantime, do read the Guardian story that Cory linked to when I was “straight up wrong.” They’ve been doing some fabulous work on this story overall. If you can, send them some cash to help pay the writers, editors, printers and web people too.

Let me close with the same words I finished my chat with Cory on:

Some questions come to mind: How did I handle this conversation? Is there something I could have done better? Have you been involved in online conversation, flame war, or something in between. What communication lessons can you share from them? Of course, comments on Facebook’s data practices and business model are welcome here (and on the Michael McCallister Facebook page) too.  

openSUSE Strategy Discussion Takes Shape

A few weeks ago, I noted that the openSUSE Community Project was working on a new strategy. The purpose of the discussion is essentially to answer the question “Why openSUSE?”

I have to admit that, while I have a knee-jerk positive response to any democratic process that ends in a vote on something important, I wasn’t completely certain what the point of this exercise was. Today I’ve got a clue:

A strategy statement should answer the following questions:

  • Who are we?
  • What are the goals?
  • In which time frame?
  • By doing what?
  • Who is our target?

–openSUSE Strategy Process document

In the newly created openSUSE Wiki space, you can get a solid grasp of where this discussion started, how it has progressed, and what the next steps are: Portal:Strategy – openSUSE. If you’re interested in participating, be sure to visit these pages (in addition to the proposal links below):

Today marks the beginning of 16 days of focused discussion on the four main strategy documents developed by the openSUSE board (yeah, I’m late to the announcement on the community statement):

These discussions are taking place in the openSUSE Forums and the openSUSE-Project mailing list. They end on August 10, 2010 and the board will revise the proposals based on the discussion to date.

I may have some ideas to share here about the proposals, but I’m going to make my opinions known in the project first. You should too. If you want to say something about the process, though, feel free to comment here too.

By the way, regular readers may be noticing an uptick in frequency for “Notes from the Metaverse.” I’m trying to develop some consistency in posting (that is, at least one post per week) without diluting the quality of the posts. That said, it is summer in the northern hemisphere, and your humble scribe is heading out for a week with family and friends in Boulder, CO. Please forgive me if the posting takes a break too, unless something blogworthy happens, of course.

Shiny new openSUSE and WordPress toys to play with

Happy solstice all! It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, and open source development teams are busy kicking out new versions before going on holiday. Of most importance to readers of this blog are this past week’s release of WordPress 3.0, aka Thelonious, and the first release candidate of openSUSE 11.3.

If you haven’t rushed to pull these down (or been nagged to do so by your dashboard), here are your links:

WordPress 3.0 + Announcement Post

openSUSE 11.3 RC1 + Announcement Post

In some ways, even more exciting than the software releases was the release for discussion of a Strategy for the openSUSE Project. This is a proposal from the openSUSE community board (composed of equal parts Novell employees and elected community members) to create a future for this distribution and its community.

Note that each statement contains three lists of activities describing current activities the openSUSE Project does and possible future activities (or tasks). The first list (“We need to be excellent in the following”) describes the items that we want to do really excellent and better than everybody else. The second list (“We will try to do the following effectively”) are needed to do but we don’t need to strive for excellence, just for effectiveness. The third list (“We will not focus on the following anymore”) are activities we will not do at all as part of the project but rather rely on other FOSS projects.

This is exciting because it represents a serious opportunity for openSUSE users and community participants to have a say in the direction of the distribution, and a significant sector of the Linux community as a whole. If you care at all about Linux generally, and openSUSE in particular, head first for the wiki page to read the documents. Then head for the openSUSE Forums and have your say.

Between assorted family obligations and some wacky DSL issues at my house this weekend, I haven’t had much time to play with any of these toys (or read the strategy documents). I did upgrade to WordPress 3.0 with no hassle, but haven’t implemented any of the new features. I’m upgrading my openSUSE install on VirtualBox Tuesday, and hope to have a summary of that later this week. With some good fortune, I’ll get the strategy documents read this week too. You’ll certainly see more about that here. Meanwhile, feel free to contribute your own ideas on any of these items (or the coming of summer, for that matter) in that Comments box below.

New Orleans under fire again

Three years after Hurricane Katrina exposed so many ugly realities about life in the United States — chiefly our failing infrastructure and the government’s casual hatred of the poor and African-American — Louisiana is again bracing for another catastrophic storm.

I try not to delve into politics here at Notes from the Metaverse, but I know that technology and technical people played an important role in relief efforts in 2005. We can do this again in 2008. Andy Carvin from NPR has set up the Gustav Information Center (see the badge to the right there) to help coordinate things.

One of the first resources available is the Gustav wiki, designed to manage “static information” like agencies accepting donations, places for the displaced and survivors to find immediate help and the like.

With great hope that New Orleans and its people survive, I hope that as a worldwide community, we do our best.