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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Pinterest? Nope.  §

© 2011 Aron Hsiao

Pinterest caught everyone’s attention this year, but it’s not going to last.

I asked for an invitation and began to try to pin only to find that I was only ever to pin one thing—a repin from something already on pinterest.

Every other single thing I tried to pin from around the web (a decent number of things, none of them commercial in nature, linking to any selling website, or even advocating for any political platform, bill, or candidate) was blocked as spam. This included things like graphic art, classic cartoon frames, and an image from the scientific journalNature.

I went to Google to search for “pinterest spam problem” assuming I’d find posts from frustrated others experiencing the same thing.

Instead I found lots of material on how Pinterest continues to experience commercial spam overload and has a userbase increasingly outraged at spam despite these protections.

Without even trying to dig into the technical reasons why the apparent mass of porn and diet spammers are managing to pin, while individuals with an interest in, say, biology research or pop art can’t pin a thing, what this tells me is that Pinterest is basically over, even if they manage to fix the problem.

They have already lost the wave.

Pinterest, we hardly knew ye.

— § —

In 2010-2012 we committed the sin of having taken on too many things at once—of having made our lives too complex.

Two new kids, a cross-country move, adding new jobs, leaving old jobs, and a Ph.D. program is simply not tenable in our system.

For at least eight months following the move, life was literally 100 percent overhead even with two parents “at home.” Between kids, shopping, paperwork and administration, and home maintenance, there was zero time left for productive work of any kind (i.e. productive labor with links to the economy outside the home).

Even now, as we rapidly approach a year past-move, only about 25 percent of my daytimes are available for actual productive work. I get maybe 10 hours a week for labor, to squeeze in teaching, grading, reading, writing, and editing. It’s ridiculous and frustrating.

The rest of the time is still spent on the phone to various institutions, completing and filing paperwork, driving around running errands, or in childcare.

Moral of the story: do not try to finish a Ph.D., start new jobs, move across the country, make an old house livable, solidify an immigration status, and have two kids within the same two-year time frame.

You will end up doing nothing but the administrative tasks involved in each of these. You’ll have the permission and the documentation handled, just barely, but literally none of the substantive work on these tasks will be done, because you won’t have time left over after the administrative tasks to do the substantive things.


Time and the Macademics  §

© 2012 Aron Hsiao

In a house containing a toddler and a near-newborn, a clean home office is a rare and fragile thing, to be appreciated before it fades.

— § —

For extroverts, the social world is safe and the natural world is dangerous.

For introverts, the natural world is safe and the social world is dangerous.

— § —

A vignette on the speed of modern life, even in the stuffy academy:

I have been looking for a literature and citations database to help me to manage my ever-unwieldy collection of journal articles, books, conference proceedings, etc.

After reading reviews and trying out time-limited demos, I’d decided on Papers over Sente because I preferred the Papers interface and because Sente cost somewhat more after academic discount than did Papers. So I pulled the trigger on Papers—or so I thought.

Turns out they want evidence of your academic affiliation and time for a human to look at what you submit. They say 24 hours max until you receive your academic discount coupon.

At first I sat waiting impatiently, checking my mail every 10 minutes or so, wanting to be done with the purchase. But within a few hours, I was reading comparisons again and trying out different sets of features than I’d initially evaluated. Soon I’d changed my mind based on some of the more arcane Sente features and some of the community tools I discovered along the way.

About four hours after submitting my request for an academic discount to Papers, I purchased Sente instead, which happens to require no wait for human verification for its academic discount.

If Papers had offered the same, I’d be a Papers customer now instead.

You can’t ask people to wait 24 hours for anything in the online era. It’s just not competitive.

— § —

As an illustrative wrinkle to end the story, within 10 minutes of my purchase my bank’s fraud department called me to verify that I’d indeed authorized the online software purchase.

No way they think waiting 24 hours is a good idea in today’s world.

— § —

So now I use DevonThink, Sente, and Scrivener together as part of a growing “workflow.” I’ve become a completely stereotypical Macademic.

— § —

Whatever helps me get the dissertation out of the way. Thank the stars I’m not still trying to code all of my tools on my own in Linux.