Yifeng Wang

The One That I Can Go To

Jakub Arnold in his How To Teach Your Girlfriend Programming:

I wanted my girl to be the person I go to whenever I find something new that excites me, and I wanted her to understand it.

I don’t know about programming, but neither is this about programming. I hope when I get excited about some music I just listened to, a book I just read, or a movie—or even a basketball game I just watched, she can be the one that I can go to.

And Yes, Social Media Does Work

Does social media actually work? The answer depends on what you consider social media’s job (besides making money) is. For me, one important job for social media is helping people stay connected with their friends. And yes, social media does that job quite well.

The most basic action that you might take on almost all kinds of social media is posting. You go on social sites to post things, things about yourself. They can be words, photos, videos, or links—all kinds of stuff. What you post keeps friend updated about you, the current you. Via social media, your friends get to know about your new haircut, your new baby dog, the crazy party that you went to last Friday night, the song that you are insane about recently, the new movie that you went to theatre for and considered a total waste of two hours, and the Europe traveling you are planning on...

But why is it so important to tell your friends something about you? Or why would they give a heck about my crap, you might ask. They will, because they are your friends and they do give a heck about you. You meet friends in different life stages—high school, college, different jobs, and so on. But you and some of yours friend might be lack of topics to talk about after a while not seeing each other, and gradually you are less of friends. You don’t want this to happen; you try to make things like you were still living together (just like in school). So you call your friends, text them, and email them. But still, gradually, you don’t know what to call about, to text about, or to email about. Soon, you know less and less about your friends, and so do them. Sure you can just let things go and maybe cut these friends out eventually. But what if you don’t want to? What if some of them you treasure too much to lose? And of course there are some. That’s why you were trying to do all those calling, texting, and emailing in the first place. As you can see, keeping your friends informed via call, text, or email is something really hard (and almost impossible) to do in the long run. You need to know your friends enough to keep those phone calls going. But you don’t. You don’t know what happened to them recently. Social media helps solve this problem (not entirely, but still).

Besides, traditional methods require you and your friends to be involved at the same time. However, your friends don’t usually have free time when you want to call them. Social media, on the other hand, can be used by you and your friends at different time. You post a photo of your new baby dog while you’re walking him in the sunset, and your friends can see it and maybe reply to (or comment on) during their tea break the next day. To some degree, traditional methods are instant while social media is idle.

People used to lose friends because of losing connections. But with the development of modern technology, what happened doesn’t necessarily have to happen again.

Evernote’s One Thing

Many people praise apps that focus only on doing one certain thing. QuoteBook, for example. They believe focusing only on one thing gives the developers the ability to make the app do that certain one thing really well.

Evernote, on the other hand, sometimes is criticized for being “too big” or “too heavy.” But from another perspective, can we say that Evernote focuses only on one thing as well—letting users put everything in it?

Everything is Evernote’s one thing.

A Little Story About Amazon

Just a little story.

I found out that Amazon Prime was a charged service after I had been using it for about five months. I didn’t realize I was charged until a friend told me about that. I guess I didn’t notice its price policy when I first signed up for its one month trial and I just forgot about it. Anyway, I was thinking about writing an email to Amazon to ask about it. But don’t get me wrong, I like Amazon Prime; it’s a good service. I just feel kind of deceived (but I wasn’t: it was me who didn’t realize the service was charged in the first place.) However, I got an email from Amazon which said they had already cancelled my Amazon Prime membership and I would get a full refund in days within hours I clicked the send button.

I became an happy Amazon Prime member again soon after. How could I possibly think of a reason not to use such a good service from a company with such fantastic customer service?

This is probably the way how good business is done.

The Earth Won’t Stand Still Because I Missed That Kangaroo News

I love social media, and I still do. They pull the world closer to me. They keep me connected with my friends. They inform me in ways never before.

I have to, however, admit that regardless all these benefits that they give me, social media also have some side effects on me. On some days, they take me too much time. On other days, I’m afraid of missing out on what’s happening in the world as well as I’m afraid of missing out on what’s going on with my friends.1 But the worst part is that I’m afraid of all those unread counts: 100 new posts on Twitter and App.net, 70 unread items from the RSS feeds I subscribe to, and another 100 unread count from...insert another social site here. Those unread counts freak me out. They are like some tasks down the street waiting for me to accomplish. The moment when things become tasks is the moment when things become not fun any more.

So I guess it is time for me to do something about my fear. I didn’t find a good way to solve the problem until all of sudden, I realize that I don’t really need most of the information. The earth won’t stand still because I missed that kangaroo news. My friends’ life won’t be messed up because I missed one of their food photos on Instagram. The only thing that I might miss out because I stopped checking the news is probably the chance of missing out some precious real life moments because I’m too busy checking the news. Most of the time, news is irrelevant. This is it. Once I realized this simple truth, solutions are jumping out themselves. Here are things I’ve done so far:

  • Unfollow all the news accounts that I’m not interested in on Twitter.
  • Put people that I’m following on Twitter in different lists, so I don’t feel obligated to read all the unread tweets all at once.
  • Unsubscribe all the news feeds that I’m not interested in in my RSS reader.

These three things were pretty easily done yet they are now working great for me. Now whenever I refresh my RSS reader, no more hundreds of unread items waiting for me but a few things that I actually enjoy reading. So is my Twitter timeline. Nothing big has changed about App.net yet. But that's OK because I just no longer force myself to read everything.

Once again, checking social media becomes something that I’m happy and welling to do without causing me too many troubles.

  1. Update: Apparently, it’s already a thing, FOMO.