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My uncle died suddenly this year. He was unbelievably caring - and not just to family - but to everyone he ever met. His funeral was jam packed with everyone from homeless people to executives of multi-billion dollar companies.

I always thought that his ability to always have you, and whatever you had last talked about with him, on his mind at any moment was some kind of supernatural gift. I was surprised to find out at his funeral that he actually kept an excel spreadsheet of everyone he met and what they needed and were going through. He reviewed this constantly.

It didn't lessen his genuine love for everyone, just let him be a little more super human.




I feel like him doing that with a spreadsheet is more impressive than having some kind of photographic social memory.

He cared about people enough to make familiarity and kindness a discipline and habit that he lived. Despite many of our apps, life hacks, and "social medias" we miss the simple insight; social kindness is rooted in just giving enough of a damn to have a discipline for it. Any tool is secondary.


"social kindness is rooted in just giving enough of a damn to have a discipline for it" -binarypaean

Well said! Thanks for sharing!


This is exactly what Facebook should be. An augmented agent to help us be more helpful and empathetic to friends and family.

I'm sorry for your loss. Your uncle sounds like a great human being.


But what it really is an advertising platform. I mean if Facebook charged for usage then I'd pay for it.


That's pretty much what FB and the government use it for...


Yeah, fb should kill this open source startup! ;p Seriously, though, i think it would really creep people out if fb had a feature to take notes about what you talked with people who aren't even joined up.


But not one uses FB. I got friends who are on Line and WeChat exclusively. Some part of the world don't have access to FB.


"Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded" - anonymous, but often attributed to Yogi Berra


Because it gets late early?


1.28 billion daily active users on average for March 2017 [https://newsroom.fb.com/company-info/]

would greatly disagree with your statement. It may not be the answer for everyone, but it could be that tool for a large chunk of the world's population.


This is what a lot of us who don't hate Zuck's guts actually do use FB for.


It's not that I hate Zuckerberg that I find it hard to use Facebook, but that I trust them less than the other super-presences outs there (justified or not), and I dislike how it changes my perceptions of some of my friends. The constant posting of inane shit starts to look less like keeping in touch and more like an addiction to my eyes. I still like those people, and enjoy their company, but being constantly exposed to their posts feels like being in their living room as they crack open that 8 AM beer after waking up. It gets uncomfortable, but it's also not something I'm sure it's my place to butt into, since to this point it appears mostly harmless.

It is the best tool to keep in contact we currently have though, so I do pop in every week or two to check on notifications. The times I go longer I end up missing events friends have put together and not notified in other ways about, so I try to remember to check in fairly regularly.

I only hope they don't swing their attention towards those of us that shun the feed any time soon, and try to find a way to tweak our reward response for that as well (or at least in a more effective way. I'm sure they've put at least some attention to it).


I still sometimes wonder if anyone else has a good name for what Facebook lost somewhere in the switch between the much more ephemeral "Status" system of 2004's TheFacebook to today's "Posts" and their littered, ad-filled home the "News Feed".

Even the "Notes" system in the middle of the transition was more "opt in" than firehose and a bit more rare and curated by the fewer users using it.

There is a spirit to the old systems lost to the new ones that I can't quite name. In the rush to increase communication overall, and build an addictive platform that people feel a need to check often, perhaps too much of the signal has been drowned out in noise. But that doesn't feel a strong description either because the signals become so different, too.


Separation of responsibilities?

Statuses were great as a brief update of a friend's change in their state of mind. I could follow up as I saw fit, often just keeping it in mind for the next time we met up.

Posts and news is just a steady steam of information... repeated opinions, content that forms their opinion, attempts at converting others, or minor events that would have been interesting to talk about but bland now that I've seen the highlights online... Often in impersonal monologue form, or equally impersonal many-to-many chat.

Those features gutted the middle of the friend spectrum, their UX no longer aligns with natural social patterns. Humans talk more and about different things as we become closer friend's, slowly acclimating to each other. Facebook is optimized for tight social groups. News posts are useful for my inner group, but I had to unfriend most of my more nebulous connections because their updates were basically spam in the context of my life.

Facebook's features no doubt provides better revenue from ads/targeted spam for shareholders, but they've lost what I found useful for networking and developing new relations. If anything, their new features are impediments.

At this point, I've completely dropped Facebook in favor of email and chat (mix of apps)... It's a better experience than Facebook news and posts, obvious data privacy wins, and my friends and I can share higher resolution pictures without coupling to any specific platform. I haven't found a good alternative for networking, aside from LinkedIn (okish) and plain ol' phone calls/sms/in-store meetups. Maybe that's the best there is.


I think this gets close to the meat of it, yes. TheFacebook in 2004 was still something closer to its yearbook metaphor: here's the people I met this year in college and here's what they wrote on my yearbook that year.

I guess the real emblematic touch point of the change over the years is much more from each person's "Wall" being the important push hubs of conversations to the "Wall" being subsumed by the modern "Timeline" and relegated to an annual flurry of birthday well-wishers and not much else.

That opt-in push mentality versus opt-out pull mentality is quite different: I'm going to go post this cool thing on my friend's wall BECAME I'm going to post this cool thing and maybe all of my friends might see it in their news feeds (if the algorithms deem it maybe worthy and my friends haven't muted me).

Maybe that's why "Events" still seems like one of the bright spots in Facebook? "Events" for the most part still retains a lot of an "opt-in push mentality"; for the most part you still create an event and explicitly invite friends to it. Certainly the News Feed has the pull sort of events and the "I'm Interested" interest pull buttons, but the events I really care about still follow that classic push model, and probably always will...

In TheFacebook we delegated responsibility to post things we cared about to our Walls to our friends. In Facebook we find that responsibility to curate the things we care about in our News Feeds has been delegated to algorithms and advertisers somewhat beyond our control.


I think the new equivalent of "I'm going to go post this cool thing on my friend's wall" is "I'm going to send this to my friend on Messenger", although that can be borderline too once you start talking about groups with more than two people.

I agree Events is the highlight of Facebook these days. Although, it has been steadily corroded as well, and FB Messenger's Plans has muddied the waters a fair chunk.


Weird programming analogy that works for me: it went from being a library to being a framework. For your life.

As in, Facebook used to expect you to have to come and poll it. There was information there about the current state of things, and that information was replaced when people updated their status et al. You had to look, and look often, if you wanted to keep up. It was addictive, in both the good and bad senses of that word.

Today's Facebook is active, making your interaction with it passive; it keeps up to date on things for you, and notifies you when it thinks you would be interested in knowing something. You're the delegate module. You don't talk to it; it talks to you. You never actually have to check it or look at it.

Actually, for another analogy: today's Facebook is almost like a secretary. (It'd be one for real if it could guess your intentions well-enough to automatically accept/reject event invitations.) Like a secretary, there's no reason to go bother them. Nothing useful to be gained by polling. Zero addiction potential.

What's popular these days? Snapchat. Guess why?


enlighten me...


`derefr` might've implied snapchat is addictive because you _have_ to poll it constantly like once everyday


I wonder if you have a slightly over-romanticized view of the old FB. I got on FB sometime in 2007 and for a few years it was overrun with quizzes and games and such spam. It was a different kind of spam from ad-spam but today's FB seems much more streamlined in many senses.


2004 when I first joined was a year or so before a lot of the quizzes and games and such spam. At the time the "spam" was a large collection of "Groups" that had silly in-joke names specific to your College/University. That time "Groups" were more like a list of hobbies than the "Groups" of today. "Photos" also didn't show up until a few months after I first joined.

I'm not saying we should romanticize the incomplete, under-developed TheFacebook of 2004, but only that the things that made it viral on college campuses in 2004 are very different from those that made it viral among the masses in 2014. I'm not sure which one is better or worse, it's definitely complicated. But there's definitely that feeling that Facebook is not TheFacebook any more. Not just branding, but in... spirit, maybe? Like I said there's word missing that I'm curious to find.


"Fun"?

Facebook was fun in 2005. Now it's just ... addictive.


It's hard for me to think of it as "addictive". Every time I use it, I end up scrolling briefly through about 20 different 10 QUICK TIPS, YOU WONT BELIEVE WHAT THIS DOLPHIN DID, and RECIPES MADE TO LOOK QUICKER THAN THEY ARE before I leave.

Facebook was much more engaging when I actually saw words and images coming out of people who I know or once knew.


I use Facebook as my primary tool to keep in touch with friends, but at some point it's become almost unusable for it.

My main issue is people tagging each other in those "Tag a mate who X" or "@g has to X" shitposts. It just clutters my newsfeed with useless shit.


Yeah, I don't get that. I see some people who like to reflect their interests online but I don't consider it inane or addiction. You have a hobby, why not share it online?


It becomes a problem when you've got people who are incredibly single-minded about something.

I don't mind my coworker's weekly posts about car stuff at all, even though I have no interest whatsoever. And when he posts some progress on some car repair he's doing, I'm glad to see he's doing something he loves.

But when my SJW friend posts yet another ridiculous over-the-top post about how all X are X, and somehow thinks this means they aren't be prejudiced themselves, it's hard to handle. You can't tell them anything, either, because there's something different about you that makes them think you're unable to empathize with them, or understand what they're going through.

Some of them are so incredibly obviously wrong, too. Like: All cops are corrupt.

This is a person who is pretty fun to be around and hosts parties that are fun. In person, they aren't so overbearing about this stuff. But online? They're a monster who can't be corrected or even debated with. If you do, you're X and can't understand.

In short, I think you're fortunate not to have anyone single-minded like this on your Facebook friends list. The only real solution is to just unfollow them, which is horrible because you then miss the posts from them that you actually want to see.


I have a slowly-brewing notion that it will eventually be a matter of etiquette, to ensure that any content your produce is properly tagged such that people can treat you as a subset of yourself. Eventually—hopefully—it will be seen as incredibly uncouth to intermingle personal, political, and pastime content into one feed with no ability to re-separate them.

But that time is, sadly, not today. Until then, building feed-readers with topic-analysis auto-tagging might help.


One thing I've been noticing about Mastodon[0] is that it is incredibly easy to segregate your personal, political, and pastime posts, trivially by having multiple sites in multiple browser tabs, but even better with a client that supports multiple accounts. You can tie your different identities together through your profile, and import/export your subscription lists between instances. And everyone who follows you can follow only those of your identities that they are interested in.

[0]: https://joinmastodon.org/


Hmm, well I admit I do hide posts from a few of my friends. It's pretty easy, you know.


I don't think there's anything wrong with people posting about their hobbies, or what's up in their lives, even multiple times a day.

I have people that post multiple times every hour. Sometimes 8-10 times an hour for short periods. Generally it looks like reposting everything they read. They become a one person news aggregator, if by "news" we mean Facebook posts tailored for meme propagation (which means a good portion of them range from misleading to blatantly false).

I don't really use my feed, so I'm not bothered by the posts being in my feed for my own sake. I'm just a bit worried that they've become obsessed with Facebook attention to an unhealthy degree.


That's what you think you'd LIKE to use FB for. But remember, the medium is the message. You can't escape the interactive narrow mindedness of FB because it is inherent to the design of the overall product.

In reality, you use FB to have your data packaged up and sold to advertisers, brands, and government agencies. You're the product, not the customer.


Having everyone watch all your interactions with your nearest and dearest creeps me the fuck out. I'm more private than that


Yeah, but if you have 10 or more friends your 'wall' gets littered with all kinds of useless information. Unless you unfollow and explicitly tell to not to show any of their likes and other random information.


I do exactly this and have no problem with FB. I only friend people I actually know and care to have interactions with, and I kick anyone who's posts are overall more worth my time than not off my feed. This means my feed is actually worth scrolling through (and takes maybe 10 minutes every couple days to get through) and if I want to see what's going on with some particular person who isn't on my feed, I can go to their page and skim through.

I don't get all the hate on FB. Sure, the default is mess, but that's what most people want, and if it's not what you want, there are means to control it and still have a powerful communication tool. A tool is what you make of it, and it's really not hard to make use of FB in a sane way.


Unless FB facilitates this use (which it doesn't -- back in the day, maybe) then whether one hate's Zuck's guts or not is not really relevant.


I agree, but they do make it harder to use for anything but posting memes every year.


If you want to become a generous person such as him, when do you know when you've reached a limit in compassion? Would someone like your uncle ever think, for someone who is excessively rude, uncaring, disagreeable, unfriendly: "he is not worth my time, I should move on?"


That's a great question!

Actually, the last time I saw my uncle, I asked how he could be generous, and yet not be taken advantage of or stuck with horrible people.

He said that what he'd learned to do was to condition whatever help he was offering on the person taking some tiny step first. Often, it was as simple as "make up a budget for you and your wife to go on a three day getaway, send it to me, and I'll write you a check." He said that almost everyone who was just in it for the handouts couldn't be bothered.

My uncle also mixed a lot of his giving with encouraging young people's talents. He'd hire students who were excited in X, to do X for him in some way. He hired students to take photos, make music, decorate houses, build apps, archive things, paint, and who knows what else. He even hired a student to make memes. This way the students not only got money, but grew in their skills and were excited that someone wanted their work.

There were, of course, some rude and uncaring people in his life. But those people didn't want to spend time with him so there was never really a conflict there.


This is great stuff. My aunt would pay us to read books. We had to provide a hand-written summary/review to her to collect. I can't remember the exact amount - somewhere between $8 and $18 each.

One of the reasons why I think your uncle's gestures made such a big impact is that he made gestures that rewarded good things AND he wasn't a relative to many of the people he interacted with.

When I was about 10 yrs old one of my dad's best friends asked me about my grades and I was proud to say I got straight A's. He reached into his pocket and gave me a $5 bill which was a lot back then for a kid and I knew he didn't have a lot of money too. It was fun spending it at the arcade and also bragging a bit to other friends. :) I'll actually never forget that moment because it was the first one I can recall where a non-family member / non-teacher praised my grades.

The only other moment I can recall was from grade school when an older student used to hand out fireworks to those that showed their report card with straight As. You can imagine how all the top students rushed out of school ready to redeem their report card for some fireworks their parents would probably never buy except for maybe July 4th. Possibly dangerous but absolutely brilliant. A cheap fun reward that literally celebrates the accomplishment.

Most of us get told how special and amazing we are by our parents and family all the time growing up. Often times the praise isn't really deserved since we're special snowflakes. When a stranger, family friend or anyone not related gives praise or reward it can be extremely impactful and reinforce that we're on the right path and that it really does matter. Those moments get seared into our memories.

I'm working on figuring out how to do some sort of unannounced cash or gift reward to those with straight As with one of the local public schools.


Your short retelling of your uncle's kindness has rather inspired me to be more diligent in my approach to being kind to others. Thank you for sharing!


It really is a thoughtful and beautiful gift to his uncle beyond the grave which is truly amazing.


You don't have to be best friends with someone like that to be kind to them.

I think the limit should be in allowing that person to take advantage of your kindness.


On the contrary, keeping that kind of a file up to date would require effort and caring more than if he did not have to.


Your uncle sounds like an interesting man. I wish I could have known him.


I'd echo that sentiment.

I'm also curious as to the format of the spreadsheet! How did Uncle add new events &c - just modify a cell or add a new row with some kind of key?

I'm interested in tracking interactions with my adult education students...


Been thinking about this at the same time I've been trying to find a use for Airtable. It seems like a great product but I've never had an obvious use case until now. Seems like it could be a great fit.


That's a great story, thanks for sharing it with us.


Whenever someone gets a new app idea in our office my one colleague always asks "Can it be solved with a spreadsheet or an instant messenger?". Well I guess this comment answers that question.


Idea: A web site / app where you write what you and your friends have/need, then via social-graph and match-making, you are introduced to other people via friends of friends, and on a set date you do the exchange, so you receive the apples from person A and send your oranges to person B. I used goods in this example, but it should be all but goods or money, it should be like favors, jobs, dates, fishing friend, etc.


Dale Carnegie wrote about doing just this in How to Win Friends and Influence People. This is very common among successful people, and shows an astonishing level of caring imo.


yes, i'm sure homeless people and billionaire execs rubbed elbows, trumping their class antagonism!




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