Sunday 29 August 2021


IRC, Internet Relay Chat (Image: Wikipedia)
Eki knows I hate cell phones. But when he told me if I bought an 11 or 12 iPhone I could take better videos than with my camera. And it had a stabilizer. I was hooked and bought an 11. Told the Apple staff to install WhatsApp and forgot about videos - I wanted to talk. Called Eki. He didn't recognize my voice and said he hated WA – he only used it for texting – easier and quicker than talking. But after a couple of days, I was talking to Texas, Missouri, Colorado, New York, Great Britain. I was on a WhatsApp high.

Then a pal, who had lived, and worked in the Middle East, told me she heard on CNN that Jamel Khashoggi, the Saudi Washington Post reporter, who was brutally murdered by the Saudis, had bought a bunch of cheap cell phones and gave them to contacts in Saudi Arabia with WA installed. They were hacked by Saudi agents.

India, with 400m users - many of them living in remote villages - was terrorized by WhatsApp videos of children being eviscerated for their organs. The videos turned out to be faked. WhatsApp (owned by Facebook), unlike Apple, doesn't screen content. These APPs are like penny candy - cheap and tasty - they get us hooked and can do a lot of damage. But they sure are fun.

Sources: Sharon Heller, the Economist, Apple staff

Next week: Is FINLAND on digital HEROIN? 


Where should I start? Perhaps not all the way from the dial-in BBS days, but IRC might be it. Because that was the first time I fully realized that online discussions can be the ultimate time sink. They can devour all your free time, and creep into the not-so-free time too.

Lightwave 3D version 4.0, 1995 NewTek inc.

At the time, in the mid-1990s, I participated in IRC chats about 3D animation. At first, it was a really meaningful discussion between peers on the IRC channels, a small and tight group of mostly professionals who were at the emerging frontier of desktop 3D animation, which had just become somewhat affordable enough for even small to medium-sized post-production companies.

The discussions then transformed, almost unnoticeable over a few years, into a helpdesk for newcomers. I'm not saying it was a bad thing per sé, but it took all the time I used to have to learn that stuff myself. What's more, people started demanding instant answers and were pissed off if I didn't reply with a solution to their problems immediately.

So I cut the IRC cord.

So did a few dozen other 3D animators that used the same software I did, Lightwave 3D. They had formed an e-mail list for professional users, and I was lucky enough to be invited at some point. It became a different kind of time sink, discussions were not all necessarily work-related anymore, but it was much more enjoyable this time. 
Amazingly, the mailing list still exists after over two decades.

This brings me to WhatsApp and other modern 
forms of online discussion. There are many, and they all are time sinks. So one needs to pick the battles.

So, I indeed told Maggy I hate WhatsApp. Why? Simply because I cannot completely opt-out from it.

There are WhatsApp groups I must follow. And that is a distraction. One more thing I need to remember to check. I've had some issues with people that have been - again - angry with me for not instantly replying to them on WhatsApp. Even after telling them that I *DO NOT* follow it daily.

If it was only that, the problem would be manageable. But there's also the Slack groups for some jobs, the Telegram groups for others, the Discord server for yet another issue, and so on.

Not to mention the usual suspects, SMS messages, e-mail, Facebook Messenger, and online forums (which I have more or less phased off recently). Luckily I never got into Twitter in the first place.

So, as far as communication goes, what do I prefer? It depends.
  • If it's something that does not require instant action, e-mail is still my favorite. I can reply when it's convenient - when I actually have time - and often with a solution to the problem at hand, be it posting Maggy's blog or making corrections from a client to a TV commercial. Want something done? E-mail me, and I will e-mail back to you with the finished product when it's done.

  • If you want to notify me of something, send an SMS. Even if it's just a text reminding me to check my e-mails ;-)

  • If it's urgent, or if we need to have a more detailed discussion, call me. The phone still works, and it's more efficient than writing for a fast discussion.

  • If it's related to a team project, I prefer making a group in Messenger. Facebook is something I and most others check pretty regularly (yes, one more time sink), and Messenger comes with it. It does pretty much everything important that WhatsApp or Slack or Telegram or Discord do - without the need to remember to check a separate app.
So, I guess I do not hate WhatsApp itself. I hate constant distraction and unnecessary time thieves, and spreading the attention across multiple discussion platforms is the pinnacle of that.

Now please excuse me, I need to e-mail Maggy that this text has been posted on the blog.


No comments:

Post a Comment