Life Plans and Chance Encounters

My job is one of the most interesting jobs that I can imagine. It’s nominally about brand strategy and communications. Which means that it’s about people, creativity and design.

But it’s also very much about working with students as they figure themselves out and prepare to head off into the world.

Some students arrive here with their future lives already scheduled out. They know the cities that they will or won’t live in. They know the kind of place they want to work. They know the timeline for when they will have kids, even if they haven’t met their future coparent.

What they don’t want to hear, and maybe can’t hear, is that reality isn’t going to cooperate.

The young are continuously warned by the old that the real world is nihilistic and angry. And bad things can happen to good people.

But this isn’t what I mean.

Long-term planners cannot account for the people they will meet along the way. The gravitational-pull of chance encounters is unavoidable and powerful. Even someone following the most carefully calculated trajectory can be nudged off-course by a short conversation with the right person or an unforeseen opportunity that falls out of the sky from the friend of a friend.

This is how people find themselves in careers they never knew existed. Living in cities they never planned on visiting. Surrounding themselves with people they never could have imagined meeting.

It’s not that planning isn’t helpful. It just can’t be counted on.


How social networks can be used to bias votes

We know that social media is being used to try to sway elections. There have been arguments about how effective it is. Granted, this is just one study, but I’d like to “clockwork orange” every tech company CEO with the report.

For example, when just a few yellow-party zealots were deployed strategically among a larger number of undecided players in the purple party, these bots were able to sway the majority opinion towards the yellow party. This was true even when the parties had exactly the same number of members, and when each player had the same amount of influence.

Source: How social networks can be used to bias votes

The Age of Comfort TV

When I was growing up, if we were home, the TV was on. It was like the house wasn’t “on” if the TV was off. We were just passing through or were ready to leave. That was also a time when programming seemed better for all-day TV watching. Before everything was reality or scripted reality, and before news turned into people yelling at each other. Now we have more control, but we still need shows that don’t require unblinking attention for 12 hours.

It seems that, in this time of unprecedented choice and quality, the so-called golden age of prestige television, most of us still want to watch half-hour shows about vaguely likable people in which everything turns out OK. Ideally from the 90s, but maybe the 00s. And preferably something that we have seen many, many times before. Welcome to the age of non-event TV.

Source: The age of comfort TV: why people are secretly watching Friends and The Office on a loop | Television & radio | The Guardian

Plain Text FTW

I’ve been trying to get students to start writing in text files when working on their portfolio sites, rather than writing directly into Squarespace. It’s not easy to do until after they realize they’ve spent more time adjust images than writing a coherant case.

I then recommend that they try writing in plain text, in a txt file, so that they focus on getting the narrative in place before losing 48-hours to cropping jpegs or finding the right combination of font ls for headers and body.

Most of them have no idea what I’m talking about. So I show them Text Edit. They seem appreciative. Then go home and continue writing in their browser. Like an animal.

I’d like to be able to recommend a better app for writing in plain text. Something that feels modern in how it works, but doesn’t let formatting or collaboration features get in the way.

All of which is to give an excuse for why I’m playing with IA Writer over the summer. It’s become a really great app, and it’s available on just about every platform. It’s got great features for a plain text app, and it doesn’t require a recurring subscription.

And it can post to WordPress…

BTW, this post is a test and not meant for human consumption

Chuck Wendig, Wanderers, and Process

I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s new book, Wanderers, and it’s a great read. I’m really enjoying it. His writing is good but it also reads easy. The ideas are interesting. And it feels strangely of the moment for a work of speculative fiction (maybe because it came out last week).

The tension in culture. The problems with our media environment. Government in paralysis. Cynical political actors. Gender identity. Right wing lunatics with swastika tattoos.

I’m not sure I’ve seen another author capture internet culture as well as Chuck does in this book. The snips he includes, from Reddit to Twitter to Instagram, are so dead on that they could only come from someone who actively spends time in online social spaces. The way the characters refer to social media is dead on. He’s in the culture, and can speak the culture.

One character I’m unsure of so far is the rock star. Writers seem to always struggle to write musicians that aren’t wafer-thin caricatures doing drugs, spouting rock & roll platitudes, and more or less living the Nihilist Way. Not sure if Chuck will be able to pull it off. It might be necessary for the character arc…so we’ll see.

But, as I mentioned, I follow him online, and his blog is a great read. He wrote an excellent post on what it was like for him to write this book. In it, he talks about the process of writing the book, and how the book dictated what the process needed to be, defying his expectations about how it would come together:

This book just didn’t conform to the way I thought I did things.

I don’t mean to suggest we’re not, in a way, experts at what we do. And I think we do need to sometimes trust the process. But sometimes we need to go beyond that, outside that, and trust ourselves more than the process. The process is not the book, and the book is not the process.

Books are gonna be what they’re gonna be. They’re gonna be as big as they gotta be and take the time that they need to take.

We all have process. But when you’re working with ideas and creative things, process usually has to take a backseat to the work itself. Because the work itself needs to be what it needs to be. Sticking to process can prevent that from happening. Like keeping a goldfish in too small a bowl will restrict it from growing to its full potential.