I like 'The Internet.' I like it a lot. I interact with an at-glacial-pace-decreasing-number of the myriad of services available 'on' it as I understand more about what I need from it. It wasn't always thus but since Q1 1997 I've found it to be indispensable.
Google is my friend. I resisted the temptation to sell my soul to it for the longest time. And then I signed up to everything. I resisted the call of Facebook for years and, though I'm yet again deactivated there, when I fell I found it useful.
Twitter and App.net (ADN) – different services, different uses. In the same way that I found Twitter to be at first exciting and for the moment and then restrictive because of the post character limit, I find ADN to be a place I can contemplate my timeline and relax into the higher character count. No-one would ever describe my posting style as abrupt, terse, or concise. Certainly not inflammatory.
Nearly everyone on ADN behaves like adults, even those not legally entitled to be called such by dint of their age. Nearly everyone has silly moments. Nearly everyone, even when arguing about deeply-held beliefs, is courteous and, I believe, most attempt to allow discourse instead or riding roughshod over what they believe to be opposing factions' opinions.
There are of course, an odd number who fail to hold to the high standards I set*, but I recognise that if an individual holds a particular viewpoint strongly-enough it's pointless to try and change it.
I even like it when things go wrong and apologies are made and attempts made to fill the cracks instead of papering over them.
I emphatically do NOT like being told to shut up and compared to a naughty schoolboy for engaging in a discussion about a subject that pains me. I'm an adult and can behave as I choose, when I choose, and where I choose.
In my entire adult life no-one apart from my wife has told me to shut up and escaped my undivided attention. In my 17 years online, no-one has ever told me to shut up – apart from a Russian youth on Twitter who misunderstood my attempts to help solve a problem because I misunderstood his poorly-phrased question. The stream of unnecessary invective thrown at me led me to the inescapable conclusion he'd recently discovered English sweary stuff and I was in the right place at the right time – for him.
One attempt at conciliation over, blocking was easy. These days though, well, I have less time to piss about around hopeless causes.
I care deeply about maintaining a positive and so-far-lifelong approach to fairness and tolerance, the same towards race and gender issues – and, trivially, not taking sides in Apple vs Android and other similar silly stuff – an approach that my parents instilled in me from an early age. Not beat into me with a big stick but showed to me with their love and kindness. I've been extraordinarily lucky that my life hasn't been blighted by nastiness, apart from the torment inflicted by one particularly difficult managing director. By the same token I've not yet achieved president-of-the-world status – but happiness means different things to different people.
It's not an exciting approach.
Anyone who knows me understands something of who I am, and may even understand most of what I mean here. Anyone who doesn't could take the time to learn.
But not everyone gives a damn. And, do you know, that's fine – the Internet is, after all, big enough for everyone. I have no objection to people saying what they like, when they like, where they like. Where views repeatedly and negatively impact others and the torment caused could be avoided by a moment's reflection, then there comes a point at which engagement should cease.
I have another philosophy. It's closely linked to something I wrote above. I complain. I complain about lots of things. I complain about the weather, the speed of the internet, poor web design, my iPhone 5's excellent battery life [edit may be required!], the traffic, the weather again, food, the abysmal choice of television despite the eleventy trillion available channels, Eastenders (UK), the decline of Dr Who post-Jon Pertwee and again after David Tennant, the crap £35 tablet we got as a first for our youngest daughter and which I recently inherited as we upgraded her to first class, envelopes that don't seal with my saliva, the new picture frames we must buy special hooks for, the speed at which my unattended cups of tea cool, motorists driving past past the speed limit with their phones clamped firmly to their ears prior to parking on the pavement on the yellow lines, the weather yet again, the price of bread, my stupidity in not retaining the entirety of my Asimov novel collection, hospital food and signage, the…
Ok, I complain.
You may have heard of the Psion Series 5, a brilliant but inherently unreliable portable pocket computer, way ahead of its time and genuinely useful. I'd owned it's precursors, the also unreliable but brilliant Series 3 and 3a. When the 5 arrived I saved and saved for and then and spent loads of money on it. The next logical step, I needed some home banking software to get my finances in order. I tried a few and eventually came across Nigel Bamber's Home Bank. It fitted me well, but not perfectly. I outlined the possible improvements to Nigel and, do you know, he agreed. He changed the program and I fell into his cunningly-laid trap (not true, I volunteered) and spent time designing icons for the bloody thing. I think my name may be in the credits somewhere if anyone still has a working example. Though not a complaint, I attempted to help, and found the process very satisfying.
It's pointless listing the number of times my subsequent and little ideas have subtly changed stuff, even usually for the better. I'm no improvement machine when all's said and done.
I also shout. I shout at the cats, I shout at the girls, at my wife, at aeroplanes, idiot boy racers with stereo systems more powerful than their car engines. If the moon annoys me one day…
Shouting is a waste of time, energy and opportunity. I never, ever, rubbish genuine attempts to improve. My daughters (4 & 7) often struggle against what they see as insurmountable odds. They share a silly dance, running around the room, hands waving high, shrieking "It's impossible!" It should be endearing but…
Spelling was a problem for the oldest. Maths still is. Obviously, we all start from zero knowledge and get better, all at our own pace and often despite the best efforts of professionals an an incompetent parent (e.g. me!) She's become a voracious, and I really do mean voracious, reader. Her stories are really good too. Short due to her age, her lack of concentration, but good. They show imagination possibly beyond her years. Her expression and grasp of words when reading out loud – it's a joy to me. To us.
We got her end-of-year school report today. She's not perfect but I was so, so proud reading it. 'A' grades for effort all the way down. Imagine me sat there with a big, silly, grin and tears rolling down my face. With her at 7 years old being exposed to an idiotically-extensive and advanced-compared-to-my-40-year-old-studies, you know what? I don't care about the occasional 'average' grade for attainment. She TRIES! Proud.
This unwarranted emotion may have something to do with my wife being in hospital. But looking across and, for today, having no-one to share this with right there and then…
Before bedtime this evening the same oldest daughter rushed out of the room and cried. She wouldn't tell me why. Stood there with tears pooling in her eyes, and then sobbed. So I applied the hot poker and forced it out of her. The non-trivial cause of the angst: a picture she'd been working on using a dark blue felt-tip pen had gone wrong.
A quick Google Image search and some well-chosen Leonardo Da Vinci sketches to the rescue, a chat about the evolution of a painting from outline (say pencil) sketch through shaded image to… I now have a sketchy portrait (pot belly, beard, moustache, reading glasses, interesting hair) waiting to be completed tomorrow and then coloured in.
(Unfortunately the spreadeagled man complete with anatomically-correct thingy appeared not far from the Mona Lisa whilst scrolling through Google Images, but nudity's not a big thing here. And thankfully the appendage doesn't yet appear on my portrait.)
I'm a rubbish parent though. Occasionally a complete, total, and intransigent arse. I can catalogue every flaw in my personality and the way each impacts both of my lovely daughters. Do I improve, can I improve with age?
Well, you can bet I try my very, very best to get it as close to right, as close to fair and as close to consistent as I can. So yes.
But, when all's said and done, an arse remains an arse. Me – I'm a good wiper.