Not 'liking' politics on Facebook

Last week, one of my friends sent a message that he was surprised I liked an certain organization on Facebook. I didn't strike him as that kind of a guy, he wrote. The organization was a political action committee. I like hundreds of other groups and politicians on Facebook. Social media is one of the most direct ways elected officials and those running for office use to communicate with their supporters. This is an invaluable tool for reporters like me.

But the message made me uncomfortable. He saw that I "like" the page via an ad Facebook ads have become a common and effective way of marketing a page. Some of the best ads show users which mutual friends also like a page. The ads give off the appearance that, "Hey, join your friends and like this page too."

I don't really like most of pages I "like," especially any of the political ones. My employer knows this, most of my "friends" know it, and the politicians should know it, although, I met one who kept seeing I liked his opponent in an ad and was upset.

But no matter who all knows this, people often forget these lines while on social media. We go on sites like Facebook to post and interact with a wide variety of content. Someone could browse photos a friend posted from a recent trip, then comment on their mothers status, then see a political ad for a politician that I "like."

How long does it take for them to change their context of thinking? They just spent some time interacting personally with the site -- not in a professional manner, which is under the context I "like" the certain page. They may not immediately think about why I like the page. Clearly, my friend did not make that connection.

Who I actually endorse in real life is only known by me, God and the ballot. And that's who all needs to know. As a journalist, it's my job to provide readers and voters with the best, unbiased information. Facebook can confuse it all.

So what to do? I am un-liking everything on Facebook that I actually don't like. It's going to take a lot of time, there's a lot of them, but I think it is vital as social media spending will likely reach a high this election.

To keep track, I am adding them all to the so-called "interest pages," something I have not used but look forward to testing.

This will give me another stream to check for work-related Faceboking, but hopefully allows me to spend less time getting distracted by personal feeds while I am at work.

If that doesn't work, I will have to try other methods. But hopefully my name, which I hope is trusted when it comes to political news, isn't used by algorithms to give off false impressions of my opinion.

Self control, reflection and binge watching 'House of Cards' Season 2

Like many others, I am happy for a new season of House of Cards. The show has the perfect blend of style, storytelling, plot and politics. With all 12 episodes released at once (on Valentine's Day), how much can we really enjoy the season?

Watching blocks of four or five episodes at a time, viewers don't have the time to comprehend and question what it happening, as they would if episodes were released one a week, or even one day at a time. It is one binge after another.

On Friday night a friend and I watched four episodes. We took 20 to 30 minute breaks between each one: grabbed a beer, discussed what we saw and what could happen next. This quasi "water cooler conversation," I found, made enjoying the show much more enjoyable, much more than watching four episodes in a row.

This to be true for other shows. When I first started getting into this new generation of TV, it was with "Six Feet Under" and "The Wire" on HBO. Each week there was a new episode and after, a 30 second preview of what was coming next week.

I thought a lot about the episode and the preview in the following days. I guessed where the writers would take the story next. This time spent thinking let me know the story and characters. And when the new episode was released the next week, I found it incredibly enjoyable: how correct was I in my predictions? And the year-long breaks for seasons only exemplified that.

The breaks let the shows breath.

So, should "House of Cards" and other episodic stories be released at once, or should we treat it like a 12-hour movie?

I would like former.

Will I take things slow with the second season of "House of Cards"?

I would like to, but it will be hard with only 9 episodes left in the Netflix queue and a full weekend....

Update Feb. 16: What happened? I binged watched episodes all day yesterday (when I was supposed to be packing). It's hard to not watch when they are all laid out.

As my good friend Alex Smith of mine posted on Facebook this morning in response to this article:

I very much like the idea of a 1 episode per day distribution plan: simulated water cooler helps one comprehend a story's unfolding plot & characterization.

However I don't approach House of Cards (US) as a television series but as a 12-14 hour theatrical production. I imported this attitude, as HoC was imported from the UK original that foregrounded the Shakespearean dimension.

The one Mac app that lets me enjoy more of the Olympic games

Using Afloat while watching the Olympics while writing a post about using Afloat while watching the Olympics! Let me start by saying I know multitasking is bad. It can have adverse effects on your memory and make you overall less productive.

But it’s that time every two years where we have the Olympic games: a series of international sporting events spread over two weeks.

The one thing I’ve always liked about the Olympics is that so much of the experience is casually following along with the games. I usually don’t give any event my full attention, but it’s nice to have an event on in the background. With NBC streaming most of the games live through the Internet, we have a perfect way to fully participate in the magnitude of the games.

But how do you keep an eye on the games while doing other stuff (e.g. at work?)

I use a little app called “Afloat” (link) which allows you to have specified windows stay at the front of your screen as well as choosing their transparency level.

I use the app frequently at work when I need to follow something on CSPAN and want to use the computer for other things. I find it easier to follow along this way than having just the audio playing in the background.

Screenshot 2014-02-09 14.08.47After downloading and installing the program, a list of simple commands are added to the “window” section of the menu bar. You choose to keep the window in the front no matter the application. Where it’s a real winner to me is that you can also choose to make that window translucent. Transparency can be toggled with a keyboard shortcut or through the menu. There is also a more detailed menu page to get the settings just right.

My main browser is Safari and I use Google Chrome for most video and streaming needs. So having Google Chrome up for this works well.

I have to position the windows just right to have enough space to do other work. It often feels cramped on my 15 inch MacBook Pro screen, especially as I am used to having my applications run full screen.

I’ve had issues, though, setting one window as transparent and in front for an application I am also using for another purpose. It can be confusing when you are switching back to that program and not know if you are in the window you want to type in or the translucent one.

But these small trade offs are worth it to monitor something while going through e-mail or doing research for another article; wether that is floor remarks from a certain member of Congress or, this time of year, watch a biathlon or luge.