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Aug 29 2007

Can we dispense with desktop apps?

Jamie Barrows

Yucca Plant

How much of what you do on a computer every day is online? Do you really need many of the desktop apps you have on your Windows, Linux, or Apple computer? Depending on what you use your computer for, you may be able to ditch many of the apps you use for online ones.

ZenHabits, a really excellent blog has an interesting and highly useful post about moving your computer needs and work online. It has a lot of good applications and ideas for doing all your computer work online. I’ve actually been moving a lot of my computer work to web based apps myself for a while. But until I read the article, it was mostly unconscious. I wasn’t really putting an effort into moving online, it was just happening.

The advantages of moving your work online, are significant. No longer are you tied to a specific computer or location. Any computer with an unrestricted Internet connection is theoretically “your computer” since all of your stuff and work is online. And the applications you are using are not OS specific. So you aren’t tied to a specific operating system or platform.

The disadvantage is of course that all your stuff is online. Which is actually the advantage as well. But when you don’t have a connection, you can’t get to any of your stuff. And if the web based app you are using is experiencing downtime, you are out of luck.

In my case, I’m online most of the day. So I think the advantages, at least for me, outweigh the disadvantages. Of course, I’m not able to completely ditch all my desktop applications. I still have to use Visual Studio for my work, and there are a few small applications that do things I haven’t been able to find online substitutes for. But over all, most of the things I use my computer for, can be done online.


Aug 21 2007

Do people want the facts or do they want opinions

Jamie Barrows

Eye Glasses
Techdirt has an interesting article on the changing face of media today. It seems that more and more people worldwide, particularly younger people, actually prefer to get their news from admittedly biased outlets.

That is, they don’t try to get their news from the main stream news outlets. They get their news from blogs and editorials. People actually prefer to read a story that contains the opinions and analysis of the reporter. They prefer it to reading stories or watching news that is just the facts. And more news outlets are taking note of that. Changing their reporting style to fit what their readers want.

Is this a bad thing, or a good thing? Is it good that people want biased news,or analysis of news over straight reporting? Well, I think it can be both bad and good. But mostly I think it’s a good thing.

If you only ever get your news from people who share the same biases and viewpoints you do, you will have a very distorted view of the world. Even if the facts in the stories are all truthful, reading the viewpoints of only one side will not give you a real picture of what is happening. Facts can be easily downplayed or enhanced in an editorial format. So that is bad.

But is that really any different from getting all your news from the normal reporting outlets(Main stream news networks)? I would say not. All news reflects the opinions and biases of the person reporting. The only difference is that in an editorial or analysis format, the bias or opinion is not hidden beneath a vernier of objectivity. In an editorial or analysis piece, you don’t have to try to guess the bias of the reporter.

I think that is really what is happening these days. Most people recognize these days that no matter how much a major news outlet claims to be objective, it isn’t. So they would rather get their news from someone who isn’t in effect, lying to them. They would rather get it from someone who tells them straight out which side they are reporting the story from. I know I do.

Getting your news that way isn’t really a problem, as long as you are careful to read opinions from all sides. That is the great thing about the Internet. You don’t have to look hard to get news from many different points of view.


Aug 20 2007

Contradictions

Jamie Barrows

Girl Hiding her face


Our lives are filled with contradictions. We believe all kinds of things, and use those beliefs to justify our standards and actions. But usually we won’t apply those beliefs to every situation or aspect of our lives. Just the ones we feel comfortable with.

Sometimes we even believe things that are contradictory in themselves. Beliefs that can’t both be true, but that make us feel better. We just refuse to face the logical conclusion of those beliefs. Why? Because then we might have to change, or accept a truth we don’t like.

I fully understand this mindset, because I do it myself nearly everyday. It’s something we all do. We don’t think about the contradictions in our beliefs. Because as long as we don’t think about them, we don’t have to confront those contradictions.

But what happens when you are forced to confront that contradiction? Do you examine the beliefs and resolve the contradictions? That is what we should do, but most of us rarely do that.

Most of us go on the defensive. We like our contradictory beliefs, and we want to hold on to them. We start avoiding the person or situation that is forcing that confrontation. We do our best to hide from it because as long as we hide from it we don’t have to deal with it. We stick our heads in the sand and pretend not to notice things we would rather not notice.

Other times, we go into attack mode. We demonize the thing that causes the confrontation. If the person, organization, or situation can be painted as evil, then we can justify avoidance. So we discredit the thing that is causing the confrontation. We don’t deal with the contradiction, we attack whatever is bringing that contradiction to light.

Too often I fall into the avoid or attack patterns when I’m forced to confront a contradiction in my life. Most of the time I don’t even realize I’ve fallen into one of those patterns. I’m so used to it that the response is almost instinctive.

When I started to write this, I was going to give some examples of contradictions I’ve found in my own life. But I don’t think I will. I don’t want to be the thing that forces a confrontation of your beliefs. Mainly I don’t want to invoke one of the responses I mentioned in this post. I’d rather you just thought about contradictions on your own.

That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to find and deal with the contradictions in my life now. Rather than waiting for a confrontation. And I’m going to try to keep in mind my tendency to avoid or attack when I am confronted. Hopefully I can do better at this than I have in the past.


Aug 13 2007

Me Centered Religion

Jamie Barrows

This past Sunday, the pastor of my church preached a message on Christian love and how church members should be demonstrating it. He showed the above video during the message to illustrate his point. The video is a parody and exaggerated, but it nevertheless holds a lot of truth. Most Christians are only interested in what they can get from going to church. Today he wrote up a pretty good post to his blog about it. Here is a little excerpt from his blog:

“Too many believers are more preoccupied with being blessed than being a blessing. We have bought into a greedy, indulgent message thinly veiled behind prosperity. Where preachers are known for being slick salesmen and not the servants of all. Jesus came to give us life that overflows with so much love, joy, and hope that it spills on everyone we know and come into contact with.”

The message really struck me. Way too often Christians, me included, are not radiating that love and joy that we should have.
I encourage you to follow the link below and read his entire post.

Cross

Something random. something inspiring: Overflowing?


Aug 8 2007

Are all opinions equally valuable?

Jamie Barrows

Meerkat


First off, this entire post is just my opinion. Now that we got that out of the way, I can begin my little rant.

Are all opinions equally valuable? This isn’t a politically correct or popular question to ask these days.
In the Web 2.0 world, every blog, news site, and search engine is filled with people posting their opinions on everything under the sun. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The freedom to post and publish your own opinions and viewpoints is one of the very best things about the Internet. No longer are we tied to a few elite columnists and reporters for our news and analysis. But the ability to post does not necessarily mean you have the knowledge to contribute meaningfully to a topic.

The overall consensus in both the political world and the Internet world seems to be that all opinions are equally valuable. I think this is somehow an extension of the post modern idea that all positions, even contradictory ones, are equally true. But as I posted in a previous post, that is simply impossible and not rational. But lets get back to the opinions question.

Are some opinions more valuable than others? I would have to say yes. You might say that that is not really all that controversial. After all, that is why we get the opinions of experts. Who would you go to for opinions on law? Lawyers. And for opinions on health, you would go to doctors. So we can all agree that some opinions are more valuable that others. And the thing that makes them more valuable is knowledge and experience.

But if there are valuable opinions, then why can’t there be worthless opinions? While it isn’t popular to say so, I believe that opinions by people who do not know the history and facts of a situation are useless and worthless. Not just less valuable than those of experts. I mean worthless. If a person does not know anything about what he/she is giving an opinion on, then there opinion is useless.

Does this mean that I think that only the opinions of experts are useful? No, but I do think that voicing an opinion without first learning the facts about it is pointless. Far too many people simply parrot the sound bytes of politicians and news reporters without ever finding out the facts for themselves.

In this day there is no excuse for that. Nearly all the facts and history about almost anything are online. Anyone can read those facts, if they just put a little effort into finding them. So it’s just not that hard to be informed and knowledgeable about something. And that is all you really need to have a valid and useful opinion rather than a worthless and pointless opinion.
So do your opinions fall into the valuable group, or the worthless group?


Aug 3 2007

Stress

Jamie Barrows

Rope Knot
I have a tendency to get stressed out a lot. I hide it well, and put on a good front that makes me seem relaxed. It’s such a good front, that most people think I’m pretty laid back. But the truth is that I’m not all that laid back.

I get frustrated and worry about things that just aren’t that big a deal. I guess it has something to do with my need to feel that events and situations around me are under control. And I really need that feeling. I don’t need to be the one doing the controlling, but I do need to feel that someone is in control. Just letting things happen bothers me.

Sometimes a real or perceived lack of control and organization will cause me to take a leadership role where I shouldn’t. I try to control a situation where I don’t have the authority to do so. Or where organization is not really needed. That usually just causes me more stress. Other times, I’ll be unable to do anything about the disorganization for one reason or another. Then the stress will build until I grow irritable to those around me, or I remove myself from the situation.

The truth is that most of the time it makes no real difference to the final outcome. A lot of times that situation doesn’t need to be controlled and organized. Simply letting things happen is good enough. I’m stressing myself out over nothing or over things that can’t be organized. Trying to do something about it doesn’t relieve my stress, it just increases it for myself and everyone around me.

Just the other day I was complaining to a coworker. I told him that the lack of organization and control in a particular project was stressing me out. He made a statement that sounds flippant, but is actually true. He said, “Control is just an illusion.” And he was right. Even when I feel that things around me are organized and controlled, I’m just fooling myself. So why stress?

If I can just remember that I don’t need to have things around me controlled and organized, then I won’t get so stressed.