Incremental Updates

Every time Apple update something in their line-up that doesn’t quite live up to people’s expectations the finger pointing starts. Words like “incremental”, and the lack of “innovation” start being banded around along with the “should have been an S year statements”. I don’t agree with these statements in relation to the iPhone 13, however even if that is the case for you, these small steady steps forward are the best thing for everyone.

I struggle with the urge to upgrade more than most people. I obsessively get a new iPhone each year (yes even the iPhone XS) and more than occasionally look back and regret it. Each year the new phones indeed offer me something, however small, but I have come to terms with the fact that the drive for me to upgrade is one of habit and ego. When it comes to the device I use the most I just like something new, constantly. The sheer fact that I buy the pro phone each year is because it is new but being mindful of this allows me to see just how truly stupid it is.

This so called “lack of innovation” or “incremental updates” are exactly what our consumerist culture needs. Small updates each year help to dispel the myth of needing to constantly upgrade. Indeed, the actual benefits of newer models are becoming so small that when talking to others it is easier to put people off than ever. Leaving room for you to question the line up and be far more objective about stretching to upgrade. A positive further enforced by a line-up that contains overlapping features and, at least perceivably, very few compromises at each price point.

Sure, there are more capitalist ideas behind releases than I want to think about. There must be technical reasons but simple things such as moving camera lenses to new positions could be interpreted as making sure to show off the new phone. You can be sure each year there is also a new flagship colour too. However, a line up where you can get 90% of a phone at 70% of the cost is one that I applaud. Long may small incremental updates keep coming and someday even I might not feel the urge to buy, but I doubt it.

On Your Face Again

Very few times in my blogging life do I have to go extremely far back in my archives. Perhaps a year so to reference in newer posts but usually not far at all. Today I had to go right back to 2016 where I urged people not to put a computer on their face. Of course, referencing the now infamous Google Glass which had been floating around for a few years previously, but at the time the latest thing was Snapchat Glasses.

As I said previously, there are few things that really worry me when it comes to technology but being surrounded by other people’s recording devices on their face is chilling. Without doubt the improvements made to smartphones, particularly cameras have helped the world at least feel a bit safer. If you’re in any doubt you can pull out your smartphone and record what is going on. The effect being a small degradation of privacy with a positive benefit to life. Whereas Google Glass and Snapchat glasses felt like more than a step too far.

Indeed, it was like reliving the past when Zuckerberg lauded up their latest innovation along with esteemed Sunglasses brand Ray-Ban. They not only look pretty much the same as the Snapchat version, but with a much premium build quality, they are also set out to achieve the same thing – record as much of your life as possible. It’s at this point I start to think if I right in the thoughts I have about a product or am I just a grumpy old man that doesn’t ‘get it’. As much as I hate the approach of Living life through a lens, I must accept that that this is just how the world works now; but putting it on your face just doesn’t sit well with me.

I am pleased to see that thought has been placed on some of the privacy issues. An LED light when recording or taking an image at least instills some confidence in me that I am not being recorded all the time. Facebook of all people have thought about the push backs that people had against previous attempts to face computers and implemented safety as best they could. Sure, it doesn’t take much to stop the LED from working or cover it over, but this is less likely with you are stumping up at least £300 for a pair. Indeed, I do question if a pair of Ray-Bans on their face say more about the intended use than cheap plastic Snapchat ones? However, that is not only amazingly pretentious to say, but is also difficult to draw conclusions from.

Some technology I just don’t understand, and Face computers are one of the things I will never get. This is because the product is not for me, it’s for people that want to capture more things. Which in today’s world feels more understandable than it did even 5 years ago. I have no issues holding up a camera to take pictures, and I feel much more comfortable with people having to do the same. Indicating to me that my image is being recorded and making it easier for me to protest should I need to. We do indeed live in a world full of cameras, so camera glasses and no doubt AR ones are unavoidable. It’s weird that Facebook have allowed me to be at least a little more accepting of them, but I still have hope that they don’t take off.

What If Twitter Is Actually Empty

OK. Hear me out before you reply and do as Twitter says and read the post before commenting. The bottom line is, I don’t believe all the things in the post, but I do find it interesting to think about in the age of the modern web. Throwing around ideas and then debunking them in your own mind is a good exercise for finding truth when people are trying to deceive you — like they are on Twitter.

A couple of days ago I was introduced to a conspiracy theory that at first glance seems pretty out there. As with all of them, you’re never quite sure if people actually believe it or are just messing with others. The basis of the idea is that the internet died five years ago. Most, if not all, of the human created content you see online is populated by artificial intelligence and all the actual humans are gone.

If you search the phrase i hate texting on Twitter and scroll down, you will start to notice a pattern. – Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic

Seems out there doesn’t it. However, how many people on Twitter do you really know? Like in person know, a handful, more? As a percentage of the total people you follow I’ll bet it’s low — well all the others could be AI bots couldn’t they. Sounds bonkers, but when you consider that the PPC estimates that in 2020 at least 37.2% of all internet users were robots, and in 2016 they were responsible for 52% of the web traffic. Suddenly you start looking at the people you follow on Twitter with a side eye.

white robot near brown wall

It wouldn’t take much to fool us. There are already bots pretending to want to date you, pretending to be helpful customer service assistants, and much more besides. It wouldn’t take much artificial intelligence to tweet interesting things often enough for us to follow them.

What about other interaction I hear you all say. What about the blog posts, photos, and perhaps even videos that they also post online? The unwelcome news is that other content is pretty easy to fake too. Remember Tom Cruise playing golf? Ask yourself if that person you follow, interact with, and look up to could be fake and the answer is usually a high possibility.

Of course, this conspiracy theory goes much deeper into talking about the agendas of those that control the bots and the “various corporations that are in cahoots with the government to control our thoughts”. Which at this point I am surprised there isn’t some lizard people involved. However, let’s not forget that operations by organisations have been proven to influence not only election results but also general feelings around sensitive subjects. There isn’t much of a leap to suggest that corporations and more ‘friendly’ governments are using similar tactics.

I think you would be surprised how many bots you interact with daily, and these kinds of topics are interesting to think about. Then again, I could be a bot and this is simply to distract you from what is really going on!

The optional module, imagick, is not installed, or has been disabled – Digital Ocean

Before I start, the full disclosure is I don’t think this error message makes much difference. After resolving this I have not noticed any improvements with image handling, but some-people (me included) just like clearing warning messages! So, if you’re like me and just want to get rid of the bits of red on your WordPress health check then here’s some help.

The Error:

When running a WordPress health check you will get the following error

The WordPress Hosting Team maintains a list of those modules, both recommended and required, in the team handbook (opens in a new tab).

Warning The optional module, imagick, is not installed, or has been disabled.

What does Imagick do?

To use their own words “Imagick is a native php extension to create and modify images using the ImageMagick API”. it will enable you to edit your images much easier with the ability to add in loads of different effects and customisations natively in the WordPress media gallery.

It is also used to optimise the image you upload to WordPress and create different version fo images for different situations. Imagick also works with a larger range of image types and is thought to produce higher quality images overall. With that said, WordPress functions perfectly fine without it so installing is at your own risk and completely up to you.

The Fix For Digital Ocean Hosting:

On Debian/Ubuntu SSH into your server using terminal and do the following:

$ sudo apt install php-imagick
$ sudo systemctl reload apache2

If you run the PHP-FPM service, you also need to restart PHP-FPM service for Apache.

If you are hosting on anything else, or don’t have access to your server please consult with your host to solve this issue. Also note that the module is optional and not required, to reinforced what I have said previously I have noticed zero difference and merely did it to get rid of the warning – do so at your own risk.

The Death Of A Newsletter

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of a good friend of yours. The Greg Thinks Thing newsletter sadly passed away in its sleep because of neglect. It has a good run, reaching the ripe on age of fifty-two editions, and leaves behind much of its content in the form of blog posts ‘retconned’ into my blog as if it has always been there.

But seriously it’s gone. I tried my best to keep it going but since no more working from home and more blogging going on, I just don’t have the time to write it. Many of the resent things I tried to write specifically for the newsletter felt forced, or rehashes of blog posts so I will leave this excellent platform to those more suiting of sending things straight to your email inbox.

It served a great purpose though. I sailed along at the boom time when everyone and their pet hamster had a newsletter and wrote more during what was a tough time for me and my family due to COVID and national lockdown(s). It gave me something extremely specific to aim for and make sure that despite everything going on around me I published something very personal and got a lot of things off my chest. Sending them to people that really wanted to read them.

Which brings me to a larger point about the purposes of the things that I do. Newsletters started off very personal things, sent straight to us directly without messing about online. Like a direct message from a friend filled with thoughts and ideas. However, this has changed, newsletters are now a massive industry with top notch writing that is only available through email. Often linked to more controversial publishing Substack has also managed to gather up some writers that want to stand on their own and publish exclusive things only to the people that want to read them. Hiding everything away unless you pay for it.

Whereas I want the opposite. I have fallen back in love with writing again and long may it continue to bring my joy. I want people to get my thoughts however they want. Social Media, RSS, reading apps and there are even service out there like Mailbrew that will package it back up to an email if that’s your preferred method. Reading and writing is the most important thing for me, and the small thoughts that maintained more than fifty editions of my newsletter will just be blog posts now.

Thank you to those that read the editions. Or didn’t, you just signed up and that was enough. I enjoyed writing them immensely but it’s time to focus on different things and let those that can write better than I take you money and ping your inbox.

Refill My Glass

How do you write a follow up post? Especially one where you’ve changed your mind just because someone on the internet said you should have stuck it out? Or do you avoid writing it at all and just hide away in blissful ignorance. Those are questions for other days, but today I will write it because I did change my mind and return to using Glass and I am glad I did.

I did the same thing with Hey — the now divisive email app — and flip flopped around before diving in for a year. Glass is different though, I don’t really know what to do with it but I can’t leave it because it just looks so good. I missed looking at the awesome photographs in one of the best designed apps I have used for a long time. It was simply the lack of being able to find such an enjoyable experience anywhere else that lead me to begrudgingly stump up the £25 entrance fee and post a photo.

I don’t want to write about Instagram again, because all those words have been said. Yet the lack of every other existing service is the very reason I was pushed again to Glass. As much as the lack of interaction on my photos was annoying, and the same appearance of the photos I saw is still true using a different service with different aims takes a change in mindset.

I don’t want Glass to be another social media service where I follow everyone that I know (obviously I will do) I want it to be something different. I just want to look at nice photos that people are proud off and at the moment Glass is chocked full of them.

As everyone posts their best photos from their highlights and no doubt catches up with all the great photos, they have taken over the years I am impressed by the standard of shots. In fact, I am almost embarrassed to post some of mine, because they don’t feel up to the excellent standard of those I am scrolling past.

I have deleted so many photos that I thought were great at the time, and fine on Instagram – but now I am playing photographer I am not so sure!

For Money, or For You? →

Matt Baer on Writing Just Because:

we can see how lonely it might be to sit in a room and constantly create “content” so that we might one day reach financial success or high status. We’re each lonely individuated language machines, pumping out words (no matter what they are) for a far-off “audience” to easily digest. We mentally live in the future where we’re successful and recognized, instead of the present moment where real creation happens.

A spent much of this post nodding along to the thoughts on difference in writing for money and just for yourself. I’ve never been one to try and build a brand, or I’m rubbish at it, I am not sure which — but needing to write posts for money seems like it would suck.

The platform issues that Matt talks about a side, the reality is that you must now constantly churn out the ‘content’ your readers want or that overseers dictate. This changes the whole communication objective. Very quickly becoming stale and removing much of the social aspects that are enjoyable about of writing a post on the internet anyway. Pushing out words to tick boxes and make other people happy instead of asking questions and starting conversations.

Minimalism And Big Phones

Try as I might to be a good minimalist, I get lost along the way every now and again. I am never sure if I am doing this right, not spending too much time on taking instruction or being aware of how others deal with things. Yet there is one thing that I see constantly around those that title themselves minimalists and that is their aversion to technology and particularly phones with big screens.

I don’t use minimalism as a destination. I am not as crazed as some people that visit the sub Reddit and constantly worry about ridding themselves of more stuff, I just like having less things. What I do have, and what I do, gets some thought put into it and I only purchase what I really need in my life.

When it comes to tech, I love new things. I can’t help it, it’s my one weakness, and at this point I have given up fighting it. I spend quite a lot of my life online for my job and enjoy using my phone more than most minimalists would let themselves and I am perfectly happy with that. To me, my life is about making informed choices, being aware when those are being taken away from me and being willing to take a step back when needed. Which brings me to my feelings towards using big phones.

Hey look, you do you, but I used to give myself a tough time whenever I used one (that doesn’t sound like me at all does it). Sure, a smaller phone in general makes me much happier, but when you put thought into a purchase and having something bigger adds value to you, these feelings shouldn’t exist.

I constantly think about the people that worry themselves silly because they feel that minimalism means they must have less and less at the detriment of themselves. These is no end point, or goal to achieve, simply some rough things for you to think about whenever you think about bringing new things into your life. Being mindful of the things that you do, and the things that you buy to ensure you get the most amount of value possible. If a bigger screen on a phone does that for you, or I, then that’s great.

I have flaws in the way I approach tech in lots of ways. I am mindful of the way it can manipulate me, but also open to new way of looking at things. I like having a bigger phone because it is one of the devices, I use the most. I communicate on it for my job, my personal life and I write much of my blog on it. Couple this with the fact my eyesight isn’t what it was, and a bigger phone just gives me more value and I am sure it would do for others too.

I wrote many of these thoughts as a process for myself to understand why I am thinking about getting a max when then new iPhones come around but feel free to use these as your own excuse to not feel bad.

Writing Consistently

It’s hard work writing all the time. Some people seem to find it impressively easy and set off my imposter syndrome constantly. Yet for the most of us having the inspiration and then sitting down and actually writing the thing can become a mammoth task. Even more so when you do it constantly as there are so many things in life that can get in the way. When a friend of mine asked recently how I write so much, I looked bemused because I don’t write that much really. Not much that sees the light of day anyway, but perhaps my targets are much more than others.

There is no easy fix for publishing. A lot of the time you simply have to get out of your own way, and stop trying to fulfil demands you can’t meet. Everyone has big ideas, and can promise themselves, and others, to meet a level that they think they need to. However life always has a habit of getting in the way, and being present in the day to day things is more important that staring at your computer urging yourself to write something.

My writing comes and goes. At the moment I am publishing more regularly, but I am not worried when at points I don’t have much time to sit down and write something to publish. I don’t put pressure on myself to achieve certain levels, Mainly because I don’t make any money from my blog despite a few adverts and despite the fact that I like people on the web, my personal life is much more important to me.

I make loads of mistakes. Typos galore, and my grammar is never up to some many peoples standard (I have been turned down for so many writing positions it’s crazy) but that’s OK. Despite my imposer syndrome I have gotten used to just hitting publish and not worrying about it.

Sitting In The Chair is my most important, and most read, bit of advice to date. Simply writing stuff is the key to publishing more online. Much of what I write day to day is for me, formulating thoughts, recording things and linking ideas together. This could be journalling, putting things into Day One, or making daily notes, the most important thing is that you (and I) are writing things out.

It might sound like a meaningless tautology, but the reason I write so much is because I write so much — and you should too.

My Glass Half Full

The two week free trial I had in place for Glass comes up for renewal today and I am really conflicted. To the point where I think I might sit and wait for a bit before jumping in. Granted the cost is only £26 for a year currently, so what I stand to loose is minimal — but what I stand to gain isn’t exactly much either.

I stand by much of the thoughts I had originally in that I do really like the way it works. The founders of the company really seem to want to make something great for photographers, and I trust them to stay stead fast on their founding aim to avoid all of the social trappings spoken about when pitching the app. However my worry is I just want anything but Instagram and this is just the latest in a long line of attempts to replace it.

These thoughts on getting into yet another social platform do not happen in a vacuum either. Since diving back into taking pictures I have been thinking about what kind of pictures I like to take and also why I enjoying taking pictures in the first place. Worry isn’t the right word to use, but I certainly think about who I take photos for and why I share them. The words I use to describe it can have lots of delusions of grandeur. Using words like “artistic” and “self expression” when in reality they could simply be to try and make me look cool on the internet.

A Bit Of Validation

I havn’t quite found my ‘thing’ yet and as such take very varied photos, and the reality is I want other people to like them. They are taken as much for me as they are other people and I do worry constantly about making them good enough to share because they are important to me. James Popsys talked about making his photos about something, not just of something. Which really speaks to me when I start to think about capturing a split second of a scene and try to tell the story of why I took that image. Composing a story in one split second when the world around is constantly changing is like meditation to me.

But with all this fluffiness going on, turns out I like my images being validated and Glass doesn’t do that for me. I know this is the whole reason the platform was built, and I agree with its goal but maybe I just don’t need that at this point in my journey. I have a sinking feeling that my photos are not good enough when compared with the smaller number but higher percentage of actual photographers on Glass and they just disappear into the app.

When I scroll through the app, the people I follow are also very minimal. Many of those that flocked to the app have fallen off already, with many more to follow once the end of their two weeks trial arrives. In which case I may be left with a ghost town of dead accounts and photos that all seem to look the same.

Although they are improving things slowly the discovery is not where I want it to be, and the resultant people to follow list features loads of people that take the same kind of pictures and offer me very little in return. Invites are specificity being shared with a more diverse pool of photographers currently but even that doesn’t seem to have moved the needle yet. It doesn’t have much to do with diversity, but everything to do with an iPhone only, invite only barrier to entry — which could be intentional.

I knew this newness would wear off, and I knew that I had reservations right from the start. Don’t mistake this post for a full on trashing as I still think that in the long run apps like this are needed – I just don’t think it is for me currently. Turns out I quite like getting a few likes.

Update: Follow up here where I changed my mind and went back!