The Obligatory Google+ Blog Post


There have been enough articles about Google+ on the net, so I’m not sure how much more you can possibly take, especially since I don’t think I can add anything sensationally new to the story.

Basically the fact that I’ve been pretty active on Google+ should tell you enough to know that I’m liking it a lot.
What does it for me is the simplicity of the design. Facebook confuses me to no end with all the different status updates coming from all kinds of sources and now that I have Google+ as an excuse the only real reason to log in there is to play Farmville (So what? I can’t have a guilty pleasure?). Basically half of the time I don’t understand why Facebook is doing what it’s doing and I never had the motivation to find out.
However, it is only fair to say that I don’t believe that you really should compare Facebook with Google+. What I can do with Google+ is pretty different from what I can do with Facebook, it just happens that Google+ tends to my needs a lot more than Facebook – which I mostly signed up for because it was the one place that all our Vietnamese developers were and which I mostly stayed on because I got hooked on Farmville.
Since I also have a blog as well as use Tunblr and Twitter I already had everything I needed to share whatever I feel like sharing with the rest of the internet.
Facebook in that way is really more a place where I connect and interact with people I personally know. For me it never was and probably never will be the primary place to share information or exchange opinions.
Therefore since most of my activities on the web are in one way or another interest driven, I never really took to Facebook. Apart from commenting on others‘ posts and pictures, adding a status update every now and then and harvesting watermelons, most of the content comes from add-ons that cross-post whatever I initially have posted on other services.
With Google+ though, I start to see my Tumblr account in danger. I use Tumblr mostly to quickly share funny or cool stuff I find on the internet. This is also something that Google+ is insanely good at. I’ve heard people saying that they think Tumblr is still way more powerful in its options. While this might be true, this is not really an issue the way I use it, so for me switching to Google+ would probably just make my life easier.
I also noticed that I use Twitter a lot less since I have Google+, but I would guess that it’s not in the same kind of danger that my Tumblr account might be in.
The simple reason why I prefer Google+ is that interaction and feedback there is extremely good. On most posts I get at least one +1, a share or comment. It feels so rewarding to know that people read and like what you say and little attention seeker that I am this makes me happy. After less than two months I already am in more circles than I ever had followers on Twitter or Tumblr. I don’t want to define myself by the number of people who claim to be interested in what I say, but it helps to stay motivated.
Mostly the concept of circles works better for me than the bidirectional relationships of Facebook, which to me always felt like making some kind of friendship commitment that I’m not always completely happy to make. The sad truth is that a lot of the status updates of my friends are of no relevance to me. Google+ at least at the moment is a lot more about content and information which I enjoy a lot more than reading about one of my high school friends heading off to their vacation.
There are a couple of other things that work extremely well, like the automatical photo upload from Android phones. I had turned it off initially because I was unsure but now I use it all the time and love it. Nothing like getting home, logging on to Google+ and having all the pictures I took right there to share.
I hope Google+ stays as focused as it seems right now. Since I can control the content of my stream I’m hopeful that this will be the case. I also hope that they stay true to their idea of simplicity and ease of use. I tinkered around with Google Games for about 30 minutes last night and was amazed how well it worked with the integrated social aspect. Angry Birds does a terrifically well job there – try it and you’ll know what I mean.
And in case you want to find me… here I am on Google+.


Language Decisions in a Connected World

Sometimes I get the feeling that the world is growing bilingual. What I mean by this is that I constantly live in two languages alternating between the two all the time and without really spending a lot of thought about it.

I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one and I notice that for a lot of people in and from Germany who spend their time on the internet it probably is the same. Ever since the rise of the DVD and the internet we have access to media in foreign languages that we didn’t have before. I remember the thrill of being able to watch a movie in English back in the nineties or actually finding the book you wanted in English at a bookstore.
Now it’s normal to have the original audio for any movie you watch on DVD or BluRay and you can order pretty much any book you like in the original language from amazon or other online retailers.

But most of all there’s the internet. With the pages I visit regularly, the discussions I have and the online media I consume via YouTube and podcasts I would guess that I spent at least 50% of my time consuming content in English – a language that I didn’t start to learn until I was nine years old. I actually think it’s more than 50%, but I don’t really have a way to measure it.

This also means that I constantly have to make decisions about in which language I write whatever I choose to share on the internet – and it’s not always an easy decision.

In short, decision about which language to use boils down to a few simple parameters:

a) How many people to I want to reach?
b) Where are these people?
c) Is there a specific group of people I want to reach?

And finally there’s gut feeling or the simple case of something sounding better in either German or English.

I think I tend to write in English more often for the simple reason that I assume that most anyone who is interested in what I write is capable of understanding English, so I don’t run the risk of somebody not understanding what I’m writing about.

The only place where I stick to one language exclusively and by my own decision is this blog. Since I put more effort in these articles than for most anything else I publish on the web, I want my posts to be available for as many people as possible and not put up any language barriers.

The other place where I use English only is on goodreads, but this is due to the fact that in the forum I’m active in discussions are in English. I’m pretty sure there are discussion boards where people write in German, I’m just not a part of them.

As for the other places I write and publish stuff, tumblr I think is 99 to 100% English because it’s mostly reposting of things I found.

Twitter and Google+ though are both. These are incidentally also the sites where I actually interact with other people so sometimes the language choice is easy, since I’m reacting to something and naturally use the same language. Here though I sometimes deliberately decide to use German instead of English.

Sometimes it really is a question of what I think sounds better… especially with Twitter where I have to shove content into the space of 140 characters, this is really comes into play. Sometimes I use German because I really think what I write about will be mostly interesting to people from Germany, since they can relate better to what I write.

And here’s another thing: Sometimes it feels like I’m drifting away from my own language. I notice that since I read and write so much in English I start to think in English, too. Which I think is totally weird, since I’ve never even lived in any English speaking country. But I guess I expose myself to this language so often and on such a regular base that it just becomes second nature to me.

As a consequence I might decide to use German, because it still is the one language where I have next to no doubts at what sounds right and what does not and where I am still most confident in making puns and playing word games. This also might mean that not all of you understand what I’m writing about, but I’m okay with that.

What I would like to know is how other people who grew up with English as their second language only handle their language decisions on the web? Do you make conscious choices or does it come naturally? Do you have your own native language pockets which are unaccessible to people who do not speak that language?

Also, for the native English speakers, are you aware that a lot of people out there are deliberately shoving their native language aside and actually using a second language to communicate on the web? Because sometimes I forget myself that this is technically a foreign language for me, I’m just so used to using it that I don’t think about it anymore.

Three New Things (More Applicable Wisdom from George R.R. Martin)

2011-07-30_16-15-39_415„Learn three new things before you come back to us,“ the kindly man had commanded Cat, when he sent her forth into the city. She always did. Sometimes it was no more than three new words of the Bravoosi tongue. Sometimes she brought backsailor’s tales, of strange and wondrous happenings from the wide wet world beyond the isles of Braavos, wars and rains of toads and dragons hatching. Sometimes she learned three new japes or three new riddles, or tricks of the trade or the other. And every so often, she would learn some secret.

On Saturday I learned that there’s something called the Lorenzian Waterwheel which due to how it’s constructed will change its direction in a completely chaotic and therefore unpredictable manner. I learned that microfiche has a durability of about 500 years (compared to the meagre 30 years CDs are expected to last). And I learned that the reconstruction of a finial of the Cologne Cathedral that serves as an example of how big the finials actually are has info panels in a lot of different languages including the Cologne dialect.


This Saturday we went to a children’s science museum in Cologne called Odysseum. Without any children, naturally. People who know me might already be aware of the fact that I love going to the zoo, or better even, the aquarium. I also love any science museum with hands-on experiments – and the only reason why I wasn’t disappointed not to go to the Exploratorium in San Franciscos was because we went to see Where the Wild Things Are instead. So, yeah. I’m only an adult by appearance. And by the fact that I earn my own money and pay taxes, I guess.
But leaving behind the whole thing about how I think there should be way more museums where you can touch stuff and push buttons and turn handles and make things move or change or whatnot, and going back to the original quote from A Feast of Crows by George R.R. Martin.
The girl in this quote is asked to go out each day and come back with three new things that she knows now that she didn’t know yesterday. It’s such a simple rule that I think we all need to add this little rule to our lives. Each evening I should ask myself what I learned today. And make sure that I don’t cheat.
Just like in the book, there should be two simple rules.
1. It’s gotta be something new, something I didn’t know when I woke up that morning.
2. Only facts count. No guesses or something somebody told somebody else without having confirmation.
The second rule is kind of interesting, because the nature of facts are tackled in the book as well and the rule can be bent a bit to accomodate for a grey area of not-quite-facts.
„Tormo Fregar will be the new sealord.“
„Is that what they are saying at the Inn of the Green Eel?“
[…] He swallowed and said, „Some men say there is wisdom in wine. Such men are fools. At other inns other names are being bruited about, never doubt.“ He took another bite of egg, chewed, swallowed. „What three things do you know, that you did not know before?“
„I know that some men are saying that Tormo Fregar will surely be the new sealord,“ she answered. „Some drunken men.“
Learning three new things each day might not sound like a real challenge, but making it a daily ritual might help being a bit more attentive in your daily life and paying attention to what you stumble upon in terms of little bits of facts and new knowledge and actually remembering what you learned at the end of the day.
In fact when writing this article I actually had problems coming up with three things that I really didn’t know before that seemed worthy enough to count. So, maybe it is a challenge after all.
So, if you read this at the end of the day, what three things did you learn today, that you didn’t know before?