Episode Eleven – Break for Contemplation

I thought I’d take a break from my life commentary and put something slightly more subjective on here. As you know, I’m currently sitting at my mum’s house in the Borders – I couldn’t work the thermostat so have retreated to within the depths of my duvet for the time being. I also happen to be listening to “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. I just remembered a day when Grant and I were walking to my flat, a couple of days before he was due to leave. I believe I was crying. A bunch of drunk (or maybe just obnoxious) students were singing “Three Little Birds” loudly from a window, and the guy walking in front of me in the street started singing along as he wandered away ahead of us. Of course, in a situation like this there was nothing I could do but begin to softly join in, and as you’d expect from the old Marley, I began to feel quite a bit better. : ]

Anyway, that’s a side-note. The intended subject of this blog is technology.

Basically, my feelings on the subject are currently: wtf.

I’ve pretty much got a handle on Facebook and Google and the Internet in general, really. I think I’m doing fairly well just by having a WordPress, with eleven whole posts and counting – I even managed to add pictures to some of them! But really, there’s such a huge and ridiculous amount of other stuff out there that I’m beginning to feel more than a little overwhelmed. When I tried to put a link to my MobileMe page on my Blogroll (and no, I’m not actually entirely sure what a Blogroll is either), I found I had to edit my Widgets (while I’m at it, what is a Widget?) in order to have my links appear at the side of my blog. That was simple enough, I just dragged and dropped the “Links” widget into the sidebar. But then I saw all these other Widgets I could be using, and behold! A whole new can of worms was opened up.

What, for example, is this del.icio.us contraption that I’ve been seeing references to for a while now? I decided it was time to check it out – what if it was something incredibly cool and unmissable? What if it was one of those things that, once you’ve discovered them, you wonder how you ever lived without it? So I typed del.icio.us into my web browser and waited for the next stage of my life to begin. Turns out, del.icio.us is a “Social Bookmarking” site. The basic idea behind it is pretty simple – in the same way that you can bookmark your most visited sites on your computer, Delicious allows you to store them online so that you can access them quickly from any computer. (I do apologise if everyone else out there is already aware of the wonders of de.icio.us, but it is brand new to me and somewhat exciting). Not only this, however, but you can also see what other people are bookmarking – you can browse bookmarks by tag, and find the most popular bookmarks in your particular area of interest. Your bookmarks will organise themselves by tag, so you won’t have to decide whether that rendition of “Single Ladies” goes under “funny” or “horrific” – they’ll automatically be filed under all the tags assigned to them. Predictably, you can also pick a specific person and see what sites they’ve bookmarked – sound familiar? Del.icio.us call them your “fans”, but I’m guessing it’s equivalent to a “follower” on Twitter. I just signed up for the site, and am already finding it confusing. Where is my profile picture? Isn’t that essential for social networking sites? How do I find my friends? How do I file bookmarks away neatly so my guacamole recipe doesn’t show up on my list unless I need it? I’m already regretting my decision.

.

Another thing I’ve been having difficulty with is the idea of RSS. I’ve been seeing these orange buttons popping up all over the web, and I’m beginning to worry that there’s a huge realm of stuff on the web that I’m missing out on as a result. I want in on this tiny orange secret, and I just can’t seem to find accessible information on it. How have I missed out on all this new shit? It seems to me that for this much new stuff to have appeared without my notice, for the past ten years I must have been wandering around with my eyes closed and my fingers in my ears. In a cave. On Neptune. I still fail to see where my grandma has difficulty switching off her mobile phone. I still shake my head in disbelief when I think of the time she had to call for help getting to a webpage – she’d typed in the address but she hadn’t pressed “Enter”. And I still can’t comprehend what it must be like to live in a house with NO internet access whatsoever. But I am beginning to see how technology has swept along and left her behind. It is so easy not to keep up with new developments, and I am aware that if I don’t take drastic action, I will be the grandmother (or mother, or sister) who has to have the simplest of things spelled out for her time and time again.

The problem is this: if you’ve got to the stage where you don’t understand a lot of the stuff that’s going on, such as Web 2.0 and XHTML, it’s terribly difficult to find a foothold and get an explanation of RSS or of Widgets or whatever. Everything refers to each other, so I feel like I’m going around and around in circles trying to figure out what’s new on the Internet. How on earth does one keep up? And my biggest question is this: Am I the only one who feels lost, old and overwhelmed by the huge expanses of information and services clamouring for my attention online?

I’ll try and keep updating you on how I’m getting on with this. It’s all a little too much for me for now, but you never know – if I ever manage to find that foothold, you’ll be the first to know. On the other hand, comments giving clues on where to start would be more than welcome!

Yours bemusedly,

Megan.

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