Posts from December 2018

My Year in Social Media

Last year around this time I talked about trying to stop contributing to corporate social media: Facebook-Free in Twenty Eightee-n. That went ok. I stopped using Instagram altogether. I posted three pictures to Facebook in 2018. I deleted my Twitter account in August (Twitter Breakup) and then went back and claimed my username so it couldn't be used for evil. (I got my username back too late to save the 11-year archive which is mildly annoying—but also ok.) And I do still read Twitter ocassionally through a significantly smaller window. I didn't post to Flickr at all. (That might change now that they're under new ownership.)

So that's some kind of progress. How is my current relationship with social media? To put it in meme terms:



Leaving social media does not make it go away. If you work on the web in any capacity (I do), the big sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are omnipresent. It seemed like each week of 2018 brought a new jaw-dropping revelation of Facebook mismanagement. Google leaked user data, hid it, and employees were in the streets asking for fair working conditions. Twitter is a platform for Nazis because they incentivize engagement above all things and do not adequately handle abuse. I agree with Anand Giridharadas who posted this Twitter thread: "Trying to fight a predatory, politically connected monopoly through heroic personal responsibility doesn't work." We need regulation.

So that's depressing! I wouldn't call it heroic responsibility, but I did change my online habits quite a bit in 2018. I now read and post social messages via Mastodon which is a distributed kinder, gentler Twitter. I wish more people would make the switch so I could close my Twitter reading window altogether. I stopped posting photos online which is something I used to enjoy. I'll make an effort to post them here more frequently.

In October I did start posting more frequently to this site which means I also started paying more attention to my site metrics. Last week I made a snarky post about Google Analytics which was my poor way of processing this. I deleted it because the fact is, Google Analytics is a necessary tool if you work on the web. Necessary, but I don't like the way it turns people into numbers. So that's a tension I'm trying to live with and the answer might be that I shouldn't use web marketing tools for personal projects. I'd like to have a way to know if what I'm writing here is being read and resonating, but not if it means getting alerts and notifications that traffic is dropping, engagement is lower, and people are bouncing away forever. There has to be a more humane way to visualize and engage with web audiences.

My wish for social media in 2019 is for new leadership at all of the major web companies. I don't think we'll ever see them disappear, nationalized, or regulated in a meaningful way. I'd like them to have a less central role in how we create and share online. I think some new leaders could steer the companies away from growth-at-all-costs toward a more ethical relationship with users. I'd like to see them usher in the era of maintenance! That's where they take the amazing tools they've built and optimize them to work within society.

Best Games of the Year

This is my completely arbitrary take on my favorite games from this year.

The top honor goes to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.

Curse of Strahd cover

Specifically, Curse of Strahd which my game group has been playing for all of 2018 and probably most of 2017. It has a good balance of role-playing, puzzles, and fighting and the atmosphere is just different enough from the default D&D world to keep you guessing without feeling completely foreign.

Best Board Games

Blood Rage cover

I've had a lot of fun playing Blood Rage lately. It's set in the land of Norse myth and at first glance it looks and sounds like a classic player vs. player fighting for area control game—and it is that! But there's a surprising amount of strategy involved. There are some great mechanics around losing area control which makes it tough to know how to block other players. It's a great combination of analysis and action.

Root cover

Root is another very different kind of area control game. It has asymmetrical play which means each player is using different mechanics to get victory points. It takes some getting used to and I had to play through a game before I even started thinking about how to optimize my turn. Having an experienced Root player on hand to answer questions is also a plus. Once you make it though those barriers, the game has a lot of turns and surprises and gives you a lot to think about. I found myself going over potential Root strategies days after playing.

Catan cover

The classics are classics for a reason. I played a lot of Settlers of Catan this year because it's my family's favorite game. Even kids who can't read can get the hang of Catan pretty quickly. It's also a great way to introduce someone to Eurogames if their only experience with board games is Monopoly and Scrabble. (Which are fun too but not the full spectrum of what's possible!)

Best Card Games

The Mind cover

A friend brought a self-printed DIY version of The Mind to a game night because he'd heard it was popular in Germany and there wasn't a way to get a copy in the US. We played this weird game where you put cards in numeric order with sly communication and luck and we were genuinely cheering our successes. I'm not sure it counts as a game, but whatever it is it's dramatic and everyone has fun.

Keyforge cover

I've been having fun playing KeyForge with my son as a nice change of pace (for me) from Magic. KeyForge has a clever design where every deck has a unique set of cards and is evenly matched against other decks. The deck names are algorithmically generated, sometimes with humorous results. It is a nicely designed resource-gathering game where you can use cards without an energy-style mechanic. It feels a lot lighter than Magic but it has some complexity with different styles of play (fighting vs. stealing vs. spells) possible through the different factions. If you think you'd enjoy Magic without the deck building/collecting aspects you'll probably enjoy KeyForge.

That's it—happy gaming!