The Waving Flag: Quality Time

Monday 24 July 2023

Quality Time

Anyone who spends any time online knows the benefits of using the Internet as well as the annoyances.  The key is to strike a balance between the two, and ever so slightly in favour of the former.

Recently, I've been reappraising my own use of the Internet; from social media, through hobby forums, to online chat.  This was prompted by a realisation that sometimes I would be "clicking for clicking's sake".

Here are two things that I've done in the last week to improve the quality of my time online and free up time to devote to my hobbies.

Minimum Twitter
In the last six months I've written two posts about the demise of Twitter and what it means for me.  It's fair to say that things are still in flux, but one thing is clear: my use of Twitter has reached a bare minimum.

As of today I only use Twitter to do two things.  Firstly, I keep up to date with Warrington Football club (WTFC) and my fellow fans. Secondly, I follow a few hobby "influencers" & some normal hobby people.

Any interaction is by direct messages as I no longer tweet, retweet, like or otherwise interact via the public interface.  Effectively, the vast majority of my Twitter use is now in "read only" mode.

I see this situation lasting for some time as the people I follow are unlikely to move to the Fediverse any time soon.

A world beyond Facebook
I have been a long term member of a small, if well established, hobby forum.  As with all such things my interest has declined over the years, but until recently I still visited the forum every once in a while; mainly out of a mix of curiosity & nostalgia.

Each visit yielded only a few interesting posts and I have been wondering why I bothered for some time.  Nonetheless, one of the topics I really liked was the "what have you painted recently" thread.

From looking at this thread, it is clear that many forum users are not that technically skilled.  The number of photos posted has declined significantly since the forum reached its image hosting limit many months ago.  Some users manage to use an image hosting service or post links to their blogs.  Others struggle, reducing the overall value of the thread.

Recently, however, the behaviour of one member made me realise that the time had come to leave the forum.  He repeatedly posted image links which lead to a private Facebook group which shows nothing but a notice saying the group is private!  To cap it all the "author" thinks this will encourage people to join Facebook and then join their group.

This is shameful on so many levels:

  • The link is utterly pointless unless you are prepared to join Facebook, if you don't already have an account, and then apply for membership of the group. Talk about deferred gratification.
  • As nothing is visible, the links provide no motivation whatsoever to go any further. The pictures could show expertly painted miniatures or be of complete and utter rubbish.
  • Clearly, the poster expects Facebook to act as a content delivery network or an image hosting service; which it is not. Presumably, this is because he can't, or doesn't want to, use one of the many image hosting services.
  • Facebook profiles all visitors to their site so you get a shadow, or non-member, profile as soon as you click the link. If your cookie security is bad you'll also get quite few tracking cookies as well.

This is just plain disrespectful of fellow hobbyists and is probably born from their limited technical understanding and abilities.  Time to move on.

Closing remarks
That's it. One less forum and minimum Twitter (or should that be X?).  Slowly but surely I feel I'm getting more control of my use of the Internet.  This leaves more time for things like painting and writing blog articles.  


Tiberian general said...

An informative and interesting post to read, I enjoy the use of the online hobby community and hobby forums but I agree with you on the strange use of facebook to promote the hobby.
I have heard gamers and small wargame businesses complain that the ideas or products are not reaching the wider gaming or hobby community, stating that they post regular updates on facebook? I find it strange that it is assumed that everyone is on facebook (I have never joined), it appears to me very self limiting to insist that fellow hobbyist join a private group without even a public page for interested parties to get a feel for what the group is about.

Happy painting and gaming,

Vexillia said...

Thanks for the kind words Willz.

As far as small businesses are concerned they may be seduced by the apparent volume of traffic on Facebook into thinking this is an effective, and free, advertising medium. Sadly this isn't true as regular (unpaid) posts are throttled by Facebook's algorithm so that as little as 3-6% of the potential audience (followers) see any one post.

For others it may be the only way they know to chat & share images because they have never bothered to look outside the walled garden of Facebook. So, apart from the odd website or legacy forum, Facebook becomes their online world.

Vexillia said...

Time saving latest: I'm on the verge of abandoning the Lead Adventure Forum. I've used the RSS feed for the last six weeks or so ignoring uninteresting threads via Thunderbird. I've been shocked by how little remains. The only reason I've not left is that ignoring stuff is really efficient. I'll give it until the autumn before deciding.

Andy McMaster said...

Again, interesting post. I've shut down Twitter a few times recently and reactivated after the 30 days. Each time I find myself eventually descending into the pits of less positive tweets and getting more and more annoyed. My problem really but I'm so tempted not to reactivate this time. Which is a shame as there are some great hobby zones on there.

Facebook has been deactivated for over a year now. I keep the account as Messanger is my only link to some people.

Instagram I'm less and less interested in. Not that I used it much.

Mastodon I like. It's (very) slowly picking up hobby content (though seems more GW based). Someone posted an interesting article on why people struggled with Mastodon. A lot of the negatives I viewed as positive...
Forums. I have the one I host for friends. Small but fun and mostly quiet. And I visit the Fife and Drum forum a lot.

I've been thinking of spending more time on LAF. Not sure where else there is.

And I REALLY should do more with my blog...

Vexillia said...

Hi Andy

[1] I've found the Society of Ancients forum has proved very interesting in the last year. Sadly, it's mainly for members with a few public areas.

[2] The switch from Twitter to Mastodon does take a bit of getting used to. The use of CW (Content Warning) to truncate a post in the timeline is one of the best features. It's also the one that ex-twats can't get their heads around and they type away with no thought for their audience.

[3] I still follow your forum "The Loose Association of Wargamers" forum. Mainly by RSS.

Andreas Johansson said...

Ah, the Lead Adventure Forum. I just checked and I last posted there in March of 2021. It was - still is for all I now - a nice place but never built up enough conversation on subjects that interest me to keep me checking in regularly.

For sharing photos of painted miniatures, my favourite place is the Miniatures Painters Guild at BoardGameGeek. You won't get discussion of the historical aspects of historical wargaming there, but there's lots of people happy to discussing painting techniques.

Vexillia said...

Nice to know I'm not alone with regard to the LAF. Thanks for the pointer to the Miniatures Painters Guild. I'll follow the RSS feed for a while and see how it goes.

Vexillia said...

I found a great Firefox extension that really tames X (Twitter as was). It's called Control Panel for Twitter and the default values do a great job of removing the crap. The options allow you to tailor it to your own tastes. It's also available for Chrome based browsers.

Once X is under control, it really surprised me just how little is going on and conversely how much crap X was pushing my way. The digital decluttering continues.

Vexillia said...

A quick update after a few months of following the Lead Adventure Forum, and few others, via their RSS feeds with Thunderbird.

I started by using the "Ignore Subthread" option a lot. This allowed me to scan the first few messages of a thread and decide if it's worth reading properly and following. I also set the item retention policy to seven (7) days. Plus I have a healthy filter list for SF & Fantasy keywords.

This approach has one drawback, popular threads (that I'd ignored) reappear when the ignored root is deleted after seven days. After a while, I realised the best solution is to use filters to remove these threads permanently.

This takes a both patience and persistence but the end result is clean feed of new and potentially interesting items.

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