Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spring cleaning

In my case, that means in part going through my inbox with a sharp eye and saying “can I unsubscribe from this?” I was astounded to figure out just how many times I was able to say “yes” to that question. The hope is that the inbox gets a little bit less cluttered.

I’m sure some marketing department got a little bit sad. Every unsubscribe routine is a little bit different, but the usual drill ends with a plaintive “we’re sorry to see you go, did we do something wrong to offend you?” Either you ignore that screen, or you click the politest thing that makes sense to click. Sometimes there’s a super-sad follow up automated email, “you’re off the list now, did you make a mistake?”

No mistake. I don’t need your weekly advertising specials, your cheap flights to places I’m not going to, your chirpy newsletter full of details of events I’m not going to. Trust me, if I need you, I can type your URL into a browser. What I don’t need is a daily / weekly reminder that I’m not interested right now.


Remembering Alfio Vielmetti (1911-2008)

This eulogy was read for my great-uncle Alfio (Auch) by his nephew Zorba. Alfio Vielmetti died in 2008 at the age of 96. I think of him when I am out on my walks, and I miss him when I wish I had someone like him to talk to about city council.


My uncle Alfio lived a life centered on family and community, with lessons learned hard in early years, and applied for a very long lifetime. Many of these lessons came from his father, Max, and Max didn’t discuss, he announced the lessons – and in some cased, how they were going to be learned. One of the earliest and strongest was sharing, and with seven siblings, there was plenty of constant reinforcement.

Brothers worked to help one another –to be there when needed- after all, Auch had an older brother named Rock. They all worked as kids, then as students at Ann Arbor- always working. Always remembering the hard times- that when they were kids, their shoes were stored once the weather turned warm- and they stayed there until the fall. Working for the iceman- that was tough work for a kid, but it helped make for a pretty tough kid.

Auch had a real love of working with his hands- building things, fixing things- his own, but also for others. He’d show up with the right tools to get a project going – or finished. He was generous with his time and talents- right down to answering a lot of questions from hyper-inquisitive nephews who wanted to build things too. He built a cottage at Spread Eagle pretty much from the dirt up, and helped Howard and Mitch keep their places going across the lake.

He was always providing for the family- building things, fixing things, making things better.

There was great pain in his earlier years, with the death of his wife Marge during the birth of his son David, but he found a new partner in Lois and with her support rebuilt the Vielmetti family home over 7 years down to the smallest detail –building the ”’components”’ of the smallest details., while building a business and partnering with his brother on various ventures.

Auch was a lifelong supporter of this church, not just going to mass every day and helping out financially, but working with Father Mark on the history of the parish and helping to identify folks in pictures and stories. He had a prodigious memory in regard to the people and history of Norway.

One of Auch’s fathers great commitments in life was to education- and as usual, Max walked the walk, sending every one of his children to the university of Michigan. Auch took it to heart as well, checking in on the next generation- verifying mid-story to see if they indeed knew the meaning of some of his terms and references, as well as founding standing scholarships at the Norway-Vulcan High School.

A couple of years ago I was at the hospital visiting Auch while he was recovering from cancer surgery, and before he unloaded on the doctors and staff about what they did right- the surgery; and what they did wrong, everything else; and how he was going home that day, regardless of what they thought, that he had his nephew and Jack Osborne there to spring him- well before all that, we talked about charity. No- that’s not quite right- I mostly listened. I listened as he told me of the importance of having charity in your life- in a very broad sense –in that we are all in this together, and that you owed something as your share- your contribution to your family, your friends, your town, and your country.

He pitched in on every level- from installing a new pump at our cottage, to establishing scholarships at the high school, to spending years following Patton across Europe during the war. He spoke of the easier kinds of charity- where you could send a check to folks doing good deeds here and there in the community- the world, and the closer in version- the one where you showed up, spent some time and effort to help out. The one where you had to get up, and get out.

In his later years Auch did a lot of walking. I mean a LOT of walking, some of it right below us when the weather was bad, and I am convinced that his amblings had a lot to do with the length of his stay with us. He walked every day to the library to read the WSJ, he walked to the stores and the bowling alley, and also, You see, on a lot of his walks, he went to sundry houses and visited the sick and the infirm- just a stop in to see how they were doing- and to cheer them up he said. Now if he was on tear about the city council, I’m not certain how cheery it was, but you get the idea.

The walking tours made for better health through exercise – as well as better health through helping others.

Auch was a good man who has left a rich legacy by example, and a lot of us are going to miss him.

The Chicago Sun-Times gives up on newspaper comments, for now

The Chicago Sun-Times has given up on publishing reader comments on its stories, at least for now.

Starting this weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times and the other titles in the Sun-Times Media group will temporarily cease to run comments with our articles.

Why? If you’ve read newspaper comments, you’ll know why already: they are awful.

The world of Internet commenting offers a marvelous opportunity for discussion and the exchange of ideas. But as anyone who has ever ventured into a comment thread can attest, these forums too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content.

It takes time, effort, energy, and love to engage with readers enough to make the stream of their comments to be anywhere near as worthwhile to read as the professionally produced stories that sit at the top of the page. Too often the news organization treats comments as an afterthought, or if they do think about it they are woefully unprepared to handle the burden.

It hasn’t always been the case, of course. Once upon a time (he says, shaking his cane) the letter to the editor was carefully edited, double checked for identity, and only run with some consideration. For the most part, newspapers have given up on their opportunity to corral the best of public discussion into their own pages, leaving it instead for the idiots on parade.

More about the Sun-Times decision:

Fark says

As frank as FARK comments can be, the worst seen here excel far beyond the idiocy seen on newspapers. At least Farkers have brains

Poynter reviews other news organizations that gave up on comments, including Popular Science.

Chicagoist gives sage advice: “A sage piece of Internet advice is often a simple one: don’t read the comments.”

Chicago Magazine understands the cost of turning reader contributions into something useful.

Turning readers’ invective into smart dialogue is not a new challenge—but now, it’s a bigger problem than ever. Solving it takes a lot of manpower, and some well-designed software.

Rage against changes in the telescreen

Facebook is changing; in this particualr case it’s a reorganization of the messaging functions into their own app. From Techcrunch, the predictable cries of frustration from people who are used to what they have.

Still, a unilateral forced migration is the exact kind of change Facebook users hate, and this will only breed more paranoia that their social network could change without their consent. Taking a slower “We’re switching everyone eventually, so you might as well do it now” approach might have gone over better than “Your familiar chat interface will be destroyed in two weeks whether you like it or not”.

We don’t like it when our telescreen is changed.

The telescreen is from George Orwell’s 1984. An excerpt

Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the overfulfillment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plate commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. but at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You have to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

The burden of diligence

Every day, read the email. Answer, as best you can, yesterday’s email. The yesterbox technique helps out, though it’s not perfect.

Follow interesting people on Twitter, but not too many interesting people. Manage the tricky relationship of “friending” people on Facebook, knowing full well once you have befriended someone it’s a huge social transgression to unfriend them, even if you don’t care for their particular brand of cat videos or politics. Post something clever enough frequently enough.

Attend to the matter of staying in touch with people who are a long ways away, hoping that they will come to town during travel season. I have been using Contactually to help me sort through making sure that people don’t completely drop off the map. Every day I could reanimate a half dozen old relationships; I’m lucky to do that once a week.

Somewhere all in here, post to this blog. I think I’ve reached the era of peak blogging. This site has steady state traffic that’s not overwhelming, and if I want to get comments on something it’s easier to post to Facebook. I keep posting out of a sense of diligence, because I’ve been doing it for a long time, and because there are some things that you need to be diligent about even if there is no obvious reason why.

The 2014 Conversation Prism seen through the eyes of the a2b3 lunch


Developed in 2008 by Brian Solis, The [Conversation Prism] is a visual map of the social media landscape. It’s an ongoing study in digital ethnography that tracks dominant and promising social networks and organizes them by how they’re used in everyday life.

In 2009, I wrote up how the a2b3 lunch organizes itself through the eye of the this system. I ran across it again, and decided to do a repeat.

[Conversation Prism];
* Social networks: Facebook, Yahoo Groups

You’ll see Yahoo Groups show up in lots of the entries, because the a2b3 mailing list is the heart and soul of the whole effort. Facebook plays second fiddle, with a lot less people watching the a2b3 group on Facebook, and a lot less traffic to that group.

  • Blog: Typepad

See the a2b3 category on my Typepad blog . Mostly the specific thing that gets blogged about is the a2b3 lunch non-summaries, which I like going back to but which also take enough time to do that I don’t always do them.

  • Crowd Wisdom: Yahoo Groups, lunch conversation
  • Questions and answers: Yahoo Groups, lunch conversation

The crowd is good about answering almost any reasonable question you throw at it, either at lunchtime or on the mailing list, and coming up with an answer. We don’t need Quora or their ilk to get a good answer.

  • Comments: Disqus, Yahoo Groups, lunch conversation

I converted over this Typepad install to Disqus comments, but really, the comments are in the discussions on the mailing list and over lunch.

  • Social commerce: ?
  • Social marketplace: ?

No one yet has found a reason or a compelling method to sell things to each other, which is fine.

  • Social streams: Twitter

There is an @a2b3 twitter feed that I very occasionally post to which has 500+ followers and only 150+ tweets. There’s an opportunity to improve on that effort. If I could, I would automatically tweet out the stream from Meetup, but I haven’t figured out yet how IFTTT plays with Meetup.

  • Location: Meetup, Foursquare

The a2b3 Meetup answers the question of “where is lunch going to be”, and provides nice maps. It’s the one piece of the 2009 landscape that was missing, and I’m happy with the results. Foursquare answers the question of “where do you eat lunch”. I put together a [map of recent a2b3 lunch spots on Foursquare] without too much work. Perhaps I’ll start checking in on Foursquare.

  • Nicheworking: ?

What is this I don’t even.

  • Enterprise: Slack

The enterprisiest tool I have for lunch is the a2b3 Slack instance, a closed system (you’re invited, just ask) which does chat (a la IRC) and newsfeed syndication. It’s great as a tool, but it’s not just the right fit for this particular group.

  • Wiki: Arborwiki (Localwiki)

Localwiki is a perfect fit for a local lunch group, because you can stash away answers to questions about the area as they come up and then refer back to them later as needed. Arborwiki has been running for 8+ years and has been a tremendous asset to a2b3.

  • Discussion and forums: Yahoo Groups

The a2b3 Yahoo Group is the key to the whole system. Without it, I guess I’d reconstruct a mailing list with Google Groups. Please don’t ever ruin it, Yahoo!

  • Business: LinkedIn

LinkedIn groups can be tedious to manage, and their discussion forums never took off. However, it’s an easy way to read people’s resumes, so there’s a LinkedIn group for a2b3.

  • Service networking: ?

Not sure what this is.

  • Reviews and ratings: Yahoo Groups, Arborwiki

We don’t need a separate review system when Arborwiki is there to either catch reviews or at least to point to same on Yelp. For real-time reviews in response to queries, there’s the Yahoo group. Who’s Angie?

  • Social curation: Pinterest

If you add a map to a Pinterest board, you can pin Foursquare locations and their photos. So I did.

  • Video: Youtube, I guess

Here’s a “how to organize lunch” video from Ignite Ann Arbor 3.

  • Content / documents: a2docs (Scribd)

a2docs is a place to stash government records for the Ann Arbor area. It’s powered by Scribd.

  • Events: Meetup

Meetup is new to the group since 2013. Over the span of 6 months I’ve used it to organize two dozen events. Meetup is a little bit pricy for what you get, but they have timing for meetup updates down pat and a very low-impact way of keeping people informed. Join the a2b3 Meetup to get weekly announcements of lunch locations.

  • Music: Soundcloud

The official a2b3 chime (played at 12:30pm on Thursdays) is hosted on Soundcloud.

  • Livecasting: Ustream

We don’t livecast meetings as a rule, but if we did, it would probably be through Ustream which I’ve used for other events.

  • Social bookmarks:

The a2b3 tag on pinboard captures bookmarks. Bookmarking is not from this decade, and thus it’s not religiously kept up.

  • Influence: Klout, I guess

I only say this because former a2b3 regular Joe Cothrel works at Lithium, which just acquired Klout.

  • Quantified self: ?

This is all about keeping track of what you do (e.g. tracking exercise with a pedometer or a phone) and sharing that with yourself or the world. Several people in the group do this but we haven’t all coalesced on any single platform to share.