Tuesday, 7 April 2009


It's funny how most of the time (despite having been labelled at times by my kids as an early adopter) I think I'm way behind the rest of the world at keeping up with the net side of life - happy to reply to the odd email and even surprise a friend or relative with the occasional unsolicited epistolary screed when something needs to be reported. Then stuff happens, as it sometimes does when least expected, that suggests I'm not the only one to have less than a full grasp of what's going on.

Let me confess, in case you assumed otherwise: getting to grips with a raft of new communication technologies is daunting to me. Having decided, now that I have time on me hands, that I need to use it once and for all to get a bit creative, and to try to catch up with what the kids are doing, I now find looking at the babble of messaging in all the various forums gives me a headache.

Once upon, we had the phone (expensive) and snail mail (slow) and telegrams for emergencies; my father was a veritable poet of the telex at work in the 60s and 70s, but refused to go near a computer until the day he died. Then we got the fax and thought we were mighty smart; then email conquered all, and still looks to me like a pretty good standard for when you want to say what you really mean. I have even got used to chat on various platforms, and wouldn't be without txting when the need for instant communication arises.

Now there's Fakebooc with its constant demand for your 10-second-attention-span, and join-this-and-that loopiness (though I suspect many users get happy with the instant homepage stuff but don't actually use the full facilities), Twitter which I haven't really got to speed with (and don't want it cluttering up my mobile all day); photo sharing sites like Flickr; Skype (jolly good for cheap phone calls), any number of ways to chat in realtime (Skype, Gmail etc) and tons more I don't even know about, each doing a different mix of stuff and adhered to by a different cross section of people.

In some ways I'm still stuck in the snail era, when correspondence meant shirking the dreaded thankyou letters following birthdays and christmas; and when I left the nest, never getting anywhere near emulating my mother's faithful regime of an aerogramme "home" to England every week whether there was news or not; let alone becoming a celebrated man of letters (beyond the sort Milligan characterised Secombe as: "He has three of mine he hasn't answered"). I'm not even a habitual E.T. - phoning home is not a second-nature daily ritual like it is to Angela's family, so I guess people know me by my mysterious silences.

But just when, galvanised by my own struggles to get a routine relationship going with the new world of correspondence and postings, and by one or two messages from contemporaries suffering similar diffficulties, I was starting to crystallise some thoughts on it all - look whatthis - who would have thought that seasoned and serious bloggers would admit to sharing my unease? Thanks Damian and Jolisa for putting it more amusingly than I might have.

Of course on the other hand there's always my favourite hardnewsblogger Russell Brown who unsurprisingly seems at ease dropping into twittermode when required, like for reporting instantly from Foo Camp. And let's hear it for Cheryl Brown (no relation I think) whose multifarious facebook postings add class to the medium (and legions of other maestros I have'nt yet spotted, no doubt). And not to forget my darling indispensible geek wife to whom all this and more (wikis!) is stock in trade. And Stephen Fry and John Cleese twittering away. And even some of the chitchat on my friends, old and new, put on facebook can be highly entertaining, when it isn't plain puzzling or disquieting (I'm persuading myself like it or not...let's just say in the end it's what you make of it).

It's certainly my intention to keep up emails to friends and family about some of our detailed doings, but they may be necessarily occasional (hopefully less so than recently, now the settling-in period is about over), as there are so many people to write to. The answer is of course to send the same email bulletin to everyone, with suitable changes for different groups; but the blog is obviously the best way to perform that function for descriptions of life here, carefully written and published once, for all interested parties; so that is what a lot of my energies are going into.

My sons who have grown up with the net of course (thanks in part to the the old early adopter - the thrill of bringing home and setting up that magic new 1984 cassette-tape Amstrad still tingles, and it turned out not to have been such a bad investment of scarce pennies after all, eh), expect me to know the ins and outs intuitively; they seem to put up with my frequent silences but may not realise it's due to timidity as much as can'tbebotheredness. If I can get my head round constructing a post (with photos and all) via the admittedly very user-friendly Blogger template, anyone can.

There are those who (like Damian's newsroom colleagues) have expressed misgivings about dealing with this here blog stuff. After my reassurances or dares, I hope you are reading this and realising that fear not, you don't have to interact at all, just hit the website and enjoy(?) my words and pictures, and tell others about it if you like. (Although comments are definitely welcome if anyone has time - just follow the on-screen instructions - and will hopefully reassure me I am on the right track to my intended purpose of describing this place entertainingly; or at least that someone is reading it.)

Later will try to put photo albums on probably Flickr. Also toying with Facebook and Twitter at various people's insistence, but can't quite get with the breathless triviality of most of what people put up. But am finding Skype very useful, either Skype-to-skye, or skype-to-phone for very cheap calls, or for chat, also gmail chat. All these communication channels were a conundrum at first, but you end up just responding to whoever pops up wherever, and keeping on blodging in hope of an audience

What I am sort of aiming for is to settle on a definitive selection of platforms to communicate on, even though this may not actually be possible given that (1) if you want to keep in touch with everyone you probably have to reply to them on whichever channel they have settled on using, and (2) the pace of chance won't let up, so by next year there will be a new different mindset/trend/craze sweeping us all along. In that vein, I've just finished reading a very good novel called Air by one of my favourite authors Geoff Ryman which tackles this whole conundrum from a highly original angle, takes a bit of getting into (and the ending is weird) but I recommend it (along with his other novels, Was and 253 - short titles but good ones).

The only thing seems to be to keeps all channels open and assume everyone else does the same and gets time to reply; and hope that we don't all drown in a sea of soundfacefriendtwitbites. At least I have got the blog somewhat under control, and will continue to focus on it, with photos that fit the stories (and probably also post a few photo albums somewhere else suitable). Hopefully it will gather a (small but select) following who will have fun posting comments, follow links to photo albums and other stuff, and provide a welcome feeling of it being a bit of a conversation.

But my son Ed is right when he says you mainly do this stuff for yourself, like an augmented diary that you are willing to share; on the other hand I note the backgrounder in the local paper the other day (sourced from the NY Times) about the facebk generation, where happy young users were quoted saying stuff like "We know we are all mini-celebrities and we love having an audience (however small) for 15 minutes or more through the social network sites…"; yeah, well...

Thanks for listening, I feel better now. Please do comment if you feel similarly, or that I need setting straight. Next (or when I can get a few more fotos done and uploaded), back to more interesting stuff about the neighbourhood and further afield.

P.S. If i could find the Guradian Tweekly on any newsstand here this might be funnier...

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