Saturday, November 22, 2014

Super is super.

So I was browsing through my news feed, ever so casually, when I noticed a trend. A few outlets had posted this weird black and white picture of Bill Murray with old-school 3D glasses pasted on. I decided to actually read the headers for these posts and I found out that yet another new social network was upon us! NOOOOOOOOO!

Under normal circumstances I would have scoffed at it... but these are tough times. You see, I am currently unemployed, which means I only interact with my immediate family. I thirst for human interaction so badly that I re-activated my Facebook! So I bit. I read a little about it and downloaded the app. I set it up and started posting nonsense immediately.

After playing with it for a while, I realized even though that my knee-jerk instinct would have been to uninstall the application and go on with my life, I was having fun, even laughing out loud! It's brilliant, actually.

First, let me lay down some basics:

Super does not feature complex social structures like Facebook or Google+, instead you just follow people, a lot like on Twitter.

Your posts are always public, but unless someone is actually following you the post will probably drown in a bottomless pool of noise within seconds. You can't share or retweet other peoples' posts, and you can always just delete your posts. This makes it all feel a bit ethereal, the main appeal behind Snapchat.

You can make posts semi-anonymously (ANONYMISH is the exact term), where those who follow you will see it but your name won't be there. It's a lot like whisper, but people can still find out who you are. The Super FAQ stresses this is meant to be playful.

OK, now let me cover the details. Every Super post is composed of 6 key elements (7 if you count your identity):

A super starter, or prompt, the little header-like bit on top of the post. You choose one from a list that rotates occasionally. Things such as THE BEST, MY FAVORITE or THE SEXIEST. You are expected to continue the sentence. I think it's brilliant because these starters always set the post up with a positive, fun foundation. It also makes it hard to treat it like you would other social networks.

The body text, where you finish your thought. They have limited character space, but it's usually enough. The text is always uppercase, but if you're an uppercase hater like me, it's actually quite refreshing because since everything is uppercase and posts are always squared, nobody feels like they're using larger characters to invade your screen. Also, it's a font that looks nice in uppercase. Brilliant! It's also pretty interesting that this field is optional.

A background image. The app runs a quick image search based on your body text, and the results are usually dead-on or hilarious. If you think none of the images offered are a good match, or if you're aiming for something more specific, you can refine your search, upload an image, take a picture with your camera, or choose from some a gallery of colorful works of art. Now, people posting images with a black background and white text (or vice-versa) on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ is my greatest pet peeve, but again, Super makes it work by making it intentional! Again, it no longer feels like someone is using a large image to invade your screen only to share a short blurb of text. It boggles the mind how brilliant the concept is!

A signature. Your posts are always attached to your name (unless anonymish), so you don't really have to sign them. Yet, you are asked to. And if you sign with your name, you're not getting the joke. Most people use this last bit of text at the bottom of the image to credit the post to a generalized group (hipsters, kids nowadays, no one ever), a fictional character, or blatantly lay responsibility on someone else. Some others use it as a punch line, much like Twitter users will use hashtags for punchlines. It's truly amazing how clever this is. I think on a previous version signatures actually worked as hashtags, linking similar posts togther, but the function was removed.

An optional link so you don't litter your precious post with an ugly URL!

An optional location so you can post things like THE BEST BURGER JOINT. And use the application like some kind of Foursquare. You can also search for nearby posts.

Oddly enough, the only part of this that is truly optional (besides location, link and your identity) is the body text! You HAVE to choose a header (or stick to the default chosen, usually "THE BEST") and signature and force you to be creative, and take a minute to rearrange your thoughts, as opposed to just blurting out whatever is on your mind. The result, I think, is many users realizing their post is not fun at all and deleting it before uploading it. You, the reader, get only the good stuff.

These limitations make it nearly impossible for wannabe marketers, corporations, or spammers to advertise their wares. The fact that is has terrible SEO means people joining the network is word-of-mouth type deal.


Really, now, give it a try. It's fun! First, try browsing through the EVERYONE feed to get a glimpse of how fun the community is. Then, think of a few fun things to share and watch as the community gives you loves (likes) and feedback. Swipe left on your posts to share them on other social networks.

Link your phone number, Facebook and Twitter to it and enable notifications so you get notified as soon as anyone you know joins, because it may be a while before anyone you know joins.

Oh, and be sure to follow me, look for 201d!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Maybe I'm an atheist

The last couple of years have been pretty weird.

I think it was roughly three years ago, before I ragequit Facebook, that I changed my "religious views" field therein to "Agnostic". It's weird if you consider three years before that I was posting some rather .. uh .. gnostic posts here.

How did that happen? I read those posts just now and seems past me was already leaning quite hard on the "maybe" philosophy. Some things I read make me want to slap myself repeatedly, but I choose not to edit those posts. Those are historical documents! The following will contradict my previous writings, but I feel I kinda understand what the dude who wrote those was thinking.

It has been established that I will not rewrite history, so let's add more context, instead! Cue the flashback sound effect!

I was raised a catholic. I was baptized and all... but then that was pretty much it. My family only went to church on special occasions. I got the basics, sure, I was able to fit in with the masses. But I had many, many unanswered questions.

In my pre-teen years I'd lay in bed thinking for hours. If god created everything, what created god?

By the time I was done with high school I was a closet atheist. I never brought it up for fear of being disowned. Oh, and yes, there was a sliver of fear left. I didn't want to anger god in case it turns out he was there all along.

But then suddenly I was in a pew, admittedly to impress a girl. But eventually I started liking the church. The people were friendly, it was a fun atmosphere, and then there was the fallacy I didn't see coming. The false dilemma; I was given an alternative to catholicism, along with a long list of things that were wrong with catholicism, and I reasoned, much to my eventual chagrin, that if A was wrong, then B had to be the answer.

I have no regrets. The whole thing lasted about 10 years. I did not hurt anyone, and I didn't make any harsh decisions. But I wouldn't do it again if I had a chance.

In my last years of church going I started seeing the cracks. The congregation stopped smiling. The pastor started scolding. I felt the constant judgement and contempt. I don't think they changed, though. Maybe they saw something in me, and gave up on me. You see, I tried very hard to believe, but my prayers were never answered. Things kept going wrong. I kept losing one job after another. Me and my wife argued more and more. I was convinced something was wrong with me. I suppose I was not the only one.

Pentecostal church is very physical. Lots of instant gratification going on. People being healed, the dancing, the speaking in tongues, the falling back when hands were laid upon you... Oh, yes, the laying of hands! I remember getting a few good shoves while I was being prayed for. It was pretty rough at times! Every time I took a step back to regain my balance. I waited for the real thing. I was supposed to black out and have a supernatural experience, and instead I just got pushed. I think this enraged the pastor.

I started seeing people lie at the pulpit all the time. I saw people with questionable morals telling others how to act. I was outraged, but for a good while my faith didn't falter. I was trained by the church not to lose heart due to people being flawed, and I was warned about the false prophets.

One day a guest preacher said that god had asked to pray for someone who was born with a deformed arm. Nobody approached the altar. We all knew who she was talking about. A few days, in casual conversation, this person brought up that the arm was fine at birth, and it was deformed in an accident. Busted.

To make things worse, every sunday it became harder and harder to get the kids all dressed up on time. So we started missing services. Sleeping in on sundays is divine, let me tell you. And in those days where we might be able to make it on time, we chose not to go.

I stopped praying. I stopped wishing. The habits died pretty quick. The bitter thoughts came back, slowly and steadily.

I started to carefully play attention to science subjects I had only skimmed through before, looking for answers. I made a point to understand the theory of evolution and the big bang theory. I also learned what a theory is! I think that's when the agnosticism clicked. All these years I had missed (and my old blog posts will prove this) the true beauty of science.

A true scientist is not ashamed of saying "we don't know, but we'll get back to you on that as soon as we find anything". A true scientist wants to be questioned. There are no absolutes, no authorities, and nothing is sacred. I learned that science is not an alternative to religion. Science will not provide answers to spiritual questions. You're not supposed to believe it, you're supposed to understand it.  So I stopped trying to believe in science at about the same time I stopped trying to understand faith.

Today I'm perfectly fine knowing that I will rot and be forgotten. All record of my existence will be obliterated. Maybe in three or four generations, tops, but that's a negligible amount of time when you consider infinity. Oh well, hopefully this blog will be around for a few years beyond that.

Life is not pointless, all my actions will make infinitely small ripples through the cosmos. I am a good person, not because of a fear of hell, or a promise of heaven, but because I want my legacy to make the universe better when I'm gone, and because I want my limited days on earth to be happy.

Am I an atheist? Maybe, sometimes. I don't go preaching godlessness. But I'm not preaching anything I can't prove (and explain) either. Sure, sometimes I feel outraged and want to choke people while yelling "BUT THERE IS NO GOD!" straight into their misguided little brains, but that's only sometimes. For example when people use their faith to justify an evil act, or when they're being assholes.

So, is there a god? Is there an afterlife? I have no reason to believe so, but I'll get back to you if I find something, in the meantime, follow the teachings of Wil Wheaton (don't be a dick) and you should be fine!