Thankful

I was born in Mexico and migrated to the United States in 1996. Thanksgiving was not something we celebrated in my hometown. I wasn’t even aware of what it meant until much later. Eventually, I thought of it as the “turkey” holiday and a day when we had the opportunity to be thankful.

Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in the United States, Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. I learned about this from a Wikipedia article. It began as a day of giving thanks for the harvest’s blessings and the preceding year.

It’s been twenty-six years since I immigrated to the United States, so I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving 26 times, and I can say that this holiday is truly extraordinary. I am very thankful for my life, my family, and our health and luck. Of course, not everything is perfect, but everything is far from horrible, and I am thankful for that.

Thanksgiving is now the perfect opportunity to take some time from our busy lives, pause for a moment, think of the things we can be grateful for, and enjoy a meal with family and friends – if possible.

I dearly hope you all have the same opportunity I have to celebrate this holiday, and please accept a virtual hug from me. I am also thankful for you and for your family. Finally, I am grateful that this world exists, the people, nature, and everything that makes it so special and unique.

Happy Thanksgiving, and cheers to you all!

Birds flying in Central Park - 2022

A strangely boring week

This is the title I wrote back on March 1, 2021. I remember opening my word editor and typing the title, a strangely boring week. Back then, we were still amid COVID-19 fears, regulations, etc. I remember thinking this has been a very boring week in the middle of the chaos.

A boring week meant to me, a good week, a very good one. Everyone around me was OK, with no stresses or fears about the things I could not change, and no pending projects I couldn’t finish. I had enough to be comfortable. I felt calm by blocking the outside noise.

One key element to my positive boredom was that I had picked up reading and writing (again), replacing the time I spent on social media sites and watching the news with reading books, writing, walking and watching my favorite movies. The activities above manifest the best version of myself, transforming my relationship with my family, myself, and everyone else around me.

I’ve had more boring weeks since then, and I can manifest them quite easily now. I understand that I have the privilege of not having to worry about basic needs such as food and shelter, and for that, I am grateful. But having the basic needs covered is often not enough for most people in the modern world. Many of us live with anxiety, spending many hours every day browsing social media, watching the news, and feeling like crap because of it. It’s like a drug, you know it will make you feel bad, but you can’t stop it. It’s stimulating, and it isn’t boring.

The younger version of myself was more like I am when I am bored. Growing up in Mexico, my worries were simple things for the most part. Of course, some things made me sad and worried, but at least these things were happening to me or around me, which meant that I could do something about it. The internet didn’t exists yet, at least not in the form that it does now, and I consider myself lucky for it. The internet is extraordinary and has helped me grow in my career and financially. But the reality is that it can potentially ruin lives, families, and even countries due to its reach and addictive attributes.

Boring is often seen as a negative thing. Constant stimulation is all around us. We can’t get enough of it. To break that habit of constantly looking at our phones, which is today the primary tool for the social media drug, you have to be aware and do what you can to avoid it. Finding a new habit that’s easy to do instead of looking at your phone is the best way to avoid social media. Having a book near me, or my journal and pen ready, makes this task much more manageable. Also, I do give myself time to use social media, but limit it to specific times of the day and only for a limited number of minutes.

Have you noticed what happens when you see someone yawn? Or when you yawn yourself? Well, the same mimicking behavior occurs when you see someone glancing at their phone, it makes you look at yours too. When people look at their mobile phones, around half the people nearby will start checking their phones within 30 seconds. This automatic response is due to people mimicking each other without realizing it – what scientists call the “chameleon effect.”

Boring is a good thing. Embrace boredom and don’t feel like you have to entertain yourself when you are feeling bored. My most focused reading and writing have been when I felt bored. Some of my best ideas have come from boredom. So seek boredom, embrace it, and allow it. When social media pulls you into the chaos of the “world,” remember that these mediums are programmed to incite fear, rage, fear of missing out (FoMO), and many other negative emotions.

It is normal to want to know what’s going on and to share a post with friends and the community. However, spending most of your time in a world beyond your reach is not OK. In social media, you absorb the negative stuff, and you rarely get to absorb the good. Boring is something that social media, the news, and the internet actively avoid. It’s not good for engagement, it doesn’t capture attention to sell their ads, so many resource to sensationalistic headlines, even when the facts aren’t all that sensational.

Stay away from social media as much as you can, seek news and articles that inform you if you have to. But make it a priority to read books and do other things that doesn’t require you to participate in social media and its continuous push to engage your emotions.

I hope you have a boring week. Cheers.

The internet is not what it promised.

Imagine seeing something wrong. It’s clear to you, and it’s there. It’s obvious. Yet, we can’t do anything about it due to all the noise and the magnetic attraction that people have towards public figures, even when some public figures are increasing the noise for even more attention and personal gain.

The internet didn’t democratize communication as it promised. It didn’t give everyone a voice. Instead, it gave a few selected people a direct way to communicate to their large number of fans or followers to help them continue growing their brands and influence. Ev Williams, one of Twitter’s founders said that everyone should have a voice on the Internet, but the problem today is that while most people have a voice, all the attention is given to those with a megaphone.

Most people are still on the sidelines, scraping for attention via comments, replies, and, if you are lucky, the random viral post. We are still on the bench, just watching the game and not playing. You can try playing, not one stops you, but most popular online sites and communities will make it very hard for your message to be visible. Unfortunately, the internet, or at least the modern internet, is designed to do just that.

There are indeed people who created a brand and accumulated a large number of followers on the internet, and that is great. But it is a challenging thing to do. Platforms prioritize the message and visibility of famous people, and their message is less important than their fame and the number of followers. But do they have the best content or the best message to share? Maybe, but not always, not by far. There are many people out there who are incredibly talented and don’t get any attention due to how these platforms are designed.

I understand that giving everyone attention is not possible. Still, it would be ideal if the internet helped relevant and good content to surface and be more visible to all, regardless of who’s sharing it or creating it.

Many public figures complain about a small percentage of humans having a ridiculous amount of wealth but fail to look at themselves in the mirror and realize that it is also just a tiny percentage of humans like them, having a ridiculous amount of attention and influence.

The first version of the internet was a good idea, but the current social media platforms are not. They are similar to a TV show. We are here watching, pretending that we have a voice or any meaningful participation in it, while we are being told by a tiny percentage of humans what’s good and bad, how we should feel, and increasingly causing just madness and conflict among all of us.

Paying $8 per month for Twitter Blue

I remember when I first heard about Twitter, it was already the way it is today, not just a short messaging system (SMS) to share quick updates as it was initially. So I joined late by geek standards. The name was already Twitter and not Twttr, as Noah Glass originally named it. The idea for the short messaging app to share updates was Jack Dorsey’s idea, an engineer at Odeo’s at the time. Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass founded Odeo in 2004, but along with Jack Dorsey, Ev and Biz bought out Odeo in 2006 and started Obvious Corp. to develop the idea behind Twttr further.

Below is an image of A sketch, c. 2006, by Jack Dorsey, envisioning an SMS-based social network

Jack Dorsey, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Twitter as we know it debuted in July 2006, and I joined Twitter on September 2008. I remember working at a small software consulting firm when I discovered Twitter, and my feeling about Twitter was very different at the time. It was fun, a lot smaller, but also a bit naive. The top users at the time were people who were inventing schemes to grow their number of followers. People will offer to follow you if you follow them. It was like a game.

Many years later, Twitter has become a news source and an important communication platform for journalists, writers, politicians, etc. However, the average Joe gets lost in a sea of messages, replies, retweets, and long threads, mostly from people with blue checkmarks, a verification badge given to journalists, people with a public identity, and a few others. The idea behind this verification badge is that it protects them from scammers trying to impersonate them.

My first Tweet!

The reality is the blue checkmark has become a status symbol. It is a fact. The idea that only people who are journalists, influencers, or public figures can have a verified identity by having a blue checkmark to confirm it makes no sense to me. If Twitter allows everyone to go through a verification process to verify that they are a human and not a bot or a fake account, that will help alleviate some of the issues around fake accounts, bots, etc. What it will not be anymore is a symbol of status, which might be why many people do not want to see that. There will be no symbol that separate them from the rest of us.

If you use Twitter, you know what I am talking about, and you probably are also aware of all the drama and upcoming changes due to Twitter’s change in ownership. However, I still need to find out whether or not what is being talked about on Twitter about the new changes is accurate.

What has been confirmed is that Twitter will start charging $8 per month for a feature called Twitter Blue, which already exists and currently costs $5 per month and includes advanced organizing features for your notifications, top articles discovery, and a better reading experience + the new verification option, it is not a bad deal. In addition, Twitter will likely continue adding new features for Twitter Blue subscribers.

With the new Twitter Blue pricing, this company will have a new revenue stream, or at least increases an existing one, while allowing more people to verify that they are real people and not bots.

If Twitter is an important application for you, then paying $8 per month is okay. However, some people pushing back on having to pay this amount every month are often the same people who have suggested that some of their success has been due to their presence in this app. Others have mentioned that they’ve found jobs and advanced in their careers because of Twitter, yet they push back on paying $8 per month. It’s hard to pay for something you were getting for free. I understand.

Twitter will evolve and be a better application in the future. But only time will tell. It does have a lot of potential.

Would you pay $8 for Twitter Blue + a verified blue checkmark?

Happy tweeting.

Working remotely

Many people have experienced working from home for the first time in the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many want to continue doing it. I don’t blame them. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to work from home (or remotely) full-time since 2014. Before that, I worked from home a few days a week as a software engineer for HomeAway (acquired by Expedia.com) in Austin, TX.

Working from home has enabled me to save time by not having a commute and having fewer meetings to do more things that I enjoy, for example, writing posts like this and many more that I never published—going for long walks, taking road trips with the family, and even traveling abroad for more extended periods. However, not everything has been perfect. I do miss the in-person interactions with colleagues and even strangers. Going out to lunch with co-workers, having to wear more than shorts and flip-flops every morning, and having a clear separation between home and work.

Having a clear separation between home and work was probably the hardest thing to do initially, but it is under control now. It is too easy to end up working endless hours with the excuse of how important work is, and continue doing it all of the time when you are home. The truth is, your personal life will always be more important than any job, but understanding this and separating your work from your personal life requires a lot of discipline when working from home.

Some people are not qualified to work from home, and I am not talking about the people who are needed to be in a place physically to do their job; instead, I am referring to the people who are easily distracted and can’t focus on their work and end up slacking off instead. Working from home and doing it successfully requires discipline and effort.

Working from home is feasible and probably the best way for some people to work nowadays. If you can do your job from a computer, then I don’t see why a company wouldn’t let you work remotely if that is what you desire. At the same time, some people enjoy going to an office, working with others, having in-person meetings, etc. The ideal situation is to have a balance, but it is essential also to be part of a team where there is general agreement about the work location and hours.

I am unsure if I will continue to work from home forever, but I know that it has been a positive change in my life for many years. It has made me more productive as I can focus on my work better, and it has also helped me financially as I don’t require a second car, and I save some money in gas and food by not going out to lunch as often as I did when I worked at an office.

In addition, I am trying the four-day workweek, and so far, it’s been positive for me, my team, and my company. I feel more energetic when I am working, I feel happier, and my work-life balance actually exists. When I am not working, I use the time to pursue my hobbies, which also benefit my job. I like keeping up with technology and changes in programming languages, architecture, etc. And more importantly, I feel that I am no longer in this rat race.

Even when I still have a work routine, it is well-balanced, and I have enough time to decide what I want to do with it.

My ultimate goal is to wake up every day and do what I want, where I want, in the terms I want. That is happiness for me.