Facebook The Inside Story

Facebook Phenom

In late February, we were treated to a new piece of nonfiction about a phenomenon in social media, Facebook: The Inside Story, by Steven Levy. Other books have been written about the infamous social network, but this one is the latest and, I think, greatest. Rather than a review, I just want to share some of my thoughts about it.

Inside Story Insight

Of course, this new book tells the story that billions of people are familiar with: a computer whiz-kid created a website under dubious conditions. One thing led to another, and now he earns billions of dollars while billions of people scroll a newsfeed…The End.

But what makes Steven Levy’s book different and better than the ones before it is the inside info. The deeper details behind the rise and prominence of Facebook and the dominance of its leader, Mark Zuckerberg, are now available to the public.

If you’re like me and have any interest in the story of Facebook with its superlative defying highs and lows, then you’ll likely be intrigued or fascinated by the inner workings of the company. You’ll read about the principles and policies that fueled Facebook’s meteoric growth. But more interestingly, you’ll learn about the people behind it, including some of the executives.

A Verdict

With all this knowledge about Facebook gleaned and gathered into one all-encompassing narrative, it seems that a final verdict or judgement can and should probably be made about the company and its leader. And I understand this tendency or temptation.

The surprising start of Facebook in 2004 remains historic. But it’s the most recent controversial events, from the 2016 US presidential election to the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, that beg for explanation and evaluation. To that, Steven Levy’s work does provide a lot of insight.

But, in my opinion, I think Levy does an admirable job of presenting the inside story of Facebook as facts, both the light and the dark, without casting any stones. Levy’s book is not an exposé but more of a historical narrative. I think the reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

The impression of Facebook and Zuckerberg that I got from Levy’s book is that there was a lot going on all the time, and it happened very fast. Zuckerberg’s strengths and weaknesses affected billions of people, so there should be an appropriate level of responsibility and accountability.

Yet despite the particulars that the book reveals, I don’t think there’s enough clear evidence for me personally to make a sweeping judgement. It’s complicated. It seems best to neither generalize or over-simplify the machinations of Facebook and the motivations of Zuckerberg.

Network Effect

The value of Facebook: The Inside Story to me is not in gaining a final say for or against the company and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Instead, what is gained is a good true story told well, a nonfiction narrative about one of the greatest influences and influencers ever.

The story is simply remarkable; to me, Facebook remains a phenomenon in the grand scheme of world history. It’s the overwhelming profundity of an underwhelming website created hastily in a college dorm room that grew into far more than anyone could have ever anticipated.

Have you read the book? What’s your opinion? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Unblocking The Block Editor

A Blockade

If you are a blogger on WordPress, then I’m sure you noticed that well over a year ago, this new thing called the Block Editor arrived. So began the push against the old-school, I mean ‘classic’, editor. I resisted; you probably did too. But I knew it was futile, like telling the Borg to leave you alone. So here I am, being assimilated to the blocks.

Word Blockage

Blocks are fundamentally awesome. Because Lego! By their nature, blocks are for building things, like a website or, maybe, a blog post. But bloggers are not builders, they’re writers. Right? We pour words into a draft. Then we edit them. We don’t edit blocks. Except, I guess, now we do.

In late 2018, when I checked out the shiny new editor of the blocks, I thought it was interesting, but I did not see its potential. I just thought it made plain writing harder. Like, everyone knows Writer’s Block is not a good thing. That’s why we writers like a distraction-free blank canvas to allow for maximum word outflow.

Now in early 2020, I started refreshing my blog theme. Besides writing only articles, I decided to try adding shorter blurbs called “Asides.” This was a bit of change to my blogging workflow, so while I was at it, when I opened the editor and it asked me to convert to the new blocky one, I figured it was time to get on that train. It was an avalanche of change.

The Unblocking

Once I made the mental shift towards accepting the Block Editor, then it was simply a matter of time and attention to learning and practicing it. A key issue I had to resolve first was whether or not I could still use my normal writing workflow…without being blocked. (I prefer intentional puns.) To my relief, yes, I could!

In a nutshell, I write all my article drafts in Google Docs, then I upload directly to my blog using the WordPress Add-on. It looks like this:

Google Docs Add On

I’m happy to report that this great Add-on works with the Block Editor. By some tecno-wizardry that would make Gandalf proud, my Google Doc Draft Template gets converted to all the blocky things. It just works! (Knocks on wood, crosses fingers, and prays.)

The ABC’s Of Blocking

What about all those blocks? Why are there so many? What do they all do? What’s with all the new buttons? How does it all work?

Hold on, change is hard, but it’s okay.

First, you must embrace the fact that the Block Editor is going to steamroll you sooner or later; it is inevitable! Once that melodrama eases up, then you may begin playing with the blocks like you’ve got a pile of Lego. Let your imagination and creativity go with it. Just start snapping the basic blocks together. Set aside time to do this; you’re gonna wanna focus.

Second, repeat. That’s it! All it takes is a little time and practice. For the most part, when it comes to an actual blog post, you won’t really need a whole buncha fancy blocks anyways. Your bestie will be the Paragraph block. You might also wanna try the Header block. There are a few blocks for writing, and maybe a few for layout, that you’ll want to get familiar with.

Now Blocking. I Mean Blogging.

The Block Editor is not bad. In fact, now I think it’s pretty cool. It does offer more capabilities than before. And yes, more features often means more complexity. Yet it works. I’m still learning all the ins and outs, but I have not run into any block-busters (ok that pun is kinda weak). And recently, WordPress shared some good new info about the creative abilities of the ever-improving Block Editor; I found it helpful.

For straightforward writing, I think the block paradigm is kind of overkill. You really just need a blank page and maybe some text formatting (WYSIWYG) when you’re ready to polish and edit. But for website and blog building, the Block Editor is really good. Maybe over time, I will come to learn how beneficial it is to writing.

Give change a chance.

Are you a Block Editor hold-out like I was? I get it! Have you been assimilated? Me too! Add your comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

A Bunch Of Stuff

Mess Messes With Me

Like you, fellow internet surfers, I’ve been cooped up in the house a lot lately, even working from home for several weeks. You start to look at your surroundings when you’re in one spot for a while. That’s when you notice things. I guess I’m a bit of a neat freak because what I see is killin’ me: clutter. This topic is one I seldom write about, but that may change the more I am stuck in my humble abode.

Simplify Stuff

Although it’s not one of my top three blog subjects, Minimalism is something I’ve posted about before. Not because I’m an expert on it. To the contrary, it’s because I have too much stuff and it bugs me a lot. Clutter, bad. Minimalism, good. I need more of “less.”

Less is more, right? I believe in the virtue of simplicity. Also, scientific studies show that clutter causes stress. Mess = stress! Who wants that?

Here are a couple sources about the stress of mess:

Why Mess Causes Stress

The Unbearable Heaviness Of Clutter

The tendency in my house is for any horizontal plane to accumulate eclectic piles of stuff:

  • Stuff that should be put in its proper place.
  • Stuff that has no proper place yet.
  • Stuff that should be trashed.

Seven people living in a small house is a challenge, and not everybody is organized. Despite my responsibility to manage my household, I don’t have the level of control over all the clutter as much as I wish. So I’ve been trying to focus only on my own accumulation of things. That alone is putting me to the test.

Collecting Clutter

Over the years, I’ve kept and collected quite a number of items. In particular, I’ve held onto two whole cardboard boxes full of “cool stuff” (…Star Wars Lego sets from the 90’s!) that I can’t seem to let go of. None of it is really worth much money at all. The value of these things is not monetary, it is sentimental.

I once read somewhere about how we attach ourselves to things that represent us. So if you were to get rid of it, it’d be like tossing out a part of you. But then I’ve also read that if you bite the bullet and sever that attachment, you will realize at least two things. One, the detachment itself is not as difficult as you felt it would be, like quickly ripping off a band-aid. And two, you become more free.

Once that thing you’ve held onto is gone, it’s not just one less thing taking up space in your closet, it no longer takes up space in you. Even if the thing is mostly “out-of-sight/out-of-mind,” it is a burden hanging onto you, maybe in the back of your mind or deep in your subconscious. And now I get to say it: instead of you possessing things, things are possessing you!

Carefree Conclusion

I’m sorry all that sounds maybe too philosophical or abstract, but I hope it makes sense. If nothing else, I’m sure you can identify with the feeling when it’s hard to let go of stuff that you know has no real value outside of sentimental.

I guess it’s safe to say that the inner tension is between my rational mind and my emotional mind. The latter has been winning for a long time. But the longer I stay cooped up in my house, the more rational I’m trying to think about clearing the clutter. Not only will my closet be clean, my subconscious will be clear and hopefully a bit more carefree.

Do you have a clutter crisis? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!