Twitter updates, hackathons, YCombinator

My last post got me thinking about passively digesting information and how that concept can abstracts all the way out to hackers and creating great products.

Passively digesting information can be exhausting. While I’ve recently got back into Twitter and Facebook, it was nice to unplug for a month or so.

That said, there are several downsides to *not* staying connected. For instance I went to this TEDxBeijing event and the whole time I was thinking, “what the hell did I used to talk to people about at things like this.” It really takes practice and being in the social media “flow” (for me at least) to feel like I have fluffy new, current and cool, stuff to talk about.

Another downside. I’ve totally missed out on my friend’s lives recently. I really don’t know what is going on with them. Or, at least not to the level I did before. danah’s talk referenced how your friends can turn into celebrities. You watch (or receive via Twitter) their every move, you wait to hear about how that meeting s/he was stressed about went. Or, if someone’s mother liked that gift they got for her at Wal-Mart. Silly little things like that. People are always surprised that I’ve never seen 24 or MadMen or even Friends, really. That the only TV show I’ve ever watched (almost) all the way through is Battlestar Galactica (thanks to Melissa). Well, who needs all this when I have the lives of my friends to consume and laugh about.

Back when I used to talk about things other than Chinese. Back when I had to evangelize Twitter because no one had never heard of it. I would say that Twitter helps me passively digest the life’s of those I care about.

This is actually very powerful. And still very true, if you use Twitter as I did.

The value occurs in the real world. Face to face. Being “peripherally aware,” as danah calls it, allows for conversations to start at a higher level. Between people and about topics.

There is a vocabulary that is formed. There are black boxes. There is the ability to say one word or phrase and evoke in another person a whole set of feelings, memories, or information. This is the kind of stuff I love.

Minimized backstory. Everyone has less and less time in their day. What do I want from the 30 minutes I get to talk to my friend or loved one per day? I want to talk about something of value, something that I can help with, something that can bring us closer, that we can share. And generally it takes a while to get there. So, I tweet. And I ask my mom to tweet, and my uncle, and my cousins who are off in college, and my college best friend who I want to keep up with because I love that guy. I get these people’s updates to my phone and then when we do have time to chat we can start at a higher level. She/he can reference a meeting, a day when X happened, etc., and I get it. It helps put things in context and it helps accelerate the conversation to one of feelings and emotion (hopefully).

For news or events it’s the same thing. There is a shared vocabulary. Saying one thing like “the situation in China today” gets you on topic because you heard a bit about this already.

For me, there is a macro level to this as well, which I think I fell in love with while taking computer science classes. It’s the black box concept again. Or, the shared vocabulary. The more we can compartmentalize and thus abstract away from a concept, or a thought or a process, the sooner we can move up in scope, up in our thought process, up in what we can envision. And thus create.

I believe when you can do this with multiple people, when you add more processors, you again accelerate your ability to jump scope. This is why computer programmers often code all night or for five days straight or for three months in YCombinator. They don’t want to lose the high-level they are, in that moment, capable of processing at. And this this this is where the greatest things happen. This is what my friend Andrew wanted so badly to recreate with a “startup house.” This is flow.

And I miss it.