Mappish meanderings

This month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, drawing from my “Grab Bag of Delectable and Occasionally Edifying Interwebby Wonderments.”

Maps. You don’t have to be able to read them very well to think they’re kind of freakishly awesome. I’m not saying I can’t read a map, but I will confess to being directionally challenged from time to time, even when I’m staring right at the lines and squiggles and legends that are practically jumping up and down to get my attention.

So, yeah. We don’t always understand one another perfectly, maps and I, but the love is there, one-sided though it may be. (I kind of hope it is. The idea of a map loving me teetering toward the edge of creepy. May even have stepped right over that line. It might make a good story, though.)

I’m not sure where my affection (see, backing off the love angle here, now that I’ve creeped myself out) comes from, but childhood stories of buried treasure and the tattered maps with “X” marking the spot probably had something to do with it. Nothing like a financial incentive involving glittering jewels and gold doubloons to pique a person’s interest.

At any rate, the love affair (see how quickly I forget?) endures to this day, so I thought I’d share some mappish links with you today.

It was difficult to choose, because there are thousands of maps online exploring everything from where the world’s slaves live (apparently 60,000 of them live in the USA),  where the major walls of the world are or have been, and, of course, mustn’t forget Britain’s rudest place names.

National Geographic

NatGeo is the source of all kinds of irresistible cartographic largesse–these are just the tip of the iceberg:

Our Bodies

Healthline’s Body Maps lets us explore the human body in 3D, from multiple levels, from skin right down to bone. It’s super cool, even if you’re not a hypochondriac.

Social Media

I don’t know how old these images are, but The Telegraph has a stunning slideshow of maps showing Twitter and Flickr activity around the world.

A Different Kind of Transit Map

Here’s a tasty one for you. Amelia Greenhall, Adam Greenhall, and Jared McFarland took first prize in the 2013 Urban Data Challenge after coming up with this very cool Dots on the Bus project, and interactive visualization of bus route activity in San Francisco, Geneva and Zurich over a one-week period. That sounds way less interesting than it actually is. Also worth a look is the third place winners’ project, A City’s Heartbeat.

And, finally, I leave you with this mesmerizing glimpse of twelve hours of activity of New York’s MTA transit system.

A to Z Challenge: Twitter et al, and two bits of fluff

During the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge I’m posting what I like to describe as “semi-useful” procrastination strategies for writers and others who may need a little break from the task at hand from time to time.

I was going to bring this up yesterday, under “S” where it properly belongs, but I must have been distracted by the lure of Stickman or something. Still, I can’t let 26 days of blogging about procrastination pass without at least a mention of Twitter and its posse of social media pals. (See how neatly I’ve turned “social media” into a “T” post? Impressed? Think I’m a big fat cheat? No matter. It has to be done.)

Out of all the links I’ve posted and will be posting, there’s no doubt that the biggest temptations and time sucks are social media. My personal downfalls are Twitter and Pinterest, with occasional forays into Facebook. I’m not a heavy user of any social media site, but that’s because I’m very strict with myself, and, if I’m being honest, I suffer from periodic bouts of interwebby muteness when I can’t think of a single original, amusing or interesting thing to say, and so I escape into silence for a week or four, hoping I’ll still have a few friends and followers when I return. So far, so good. It was through Twitter that I started connecting with other writers, through flash fiction challenges, following writing links and basically just saying “hey.” In my experience, writers are some of the friendliest, most welcoming and most inclusive people in the Twittosphere, and I’m grateful every day to have found them.

It was also through Twitter that I solidified my friendship with the warm and wonderful (and massively talented) @jtvancouver, which is amusing since we were working for the same organization in adjacent offices at the time. She delivers awesome tweet, and even more awesome friendship,  and if you’re not following her already, you might want to rectify that forthwith.

In the mood for something completely silly? It doesn’t get much sillier than Take Me to Another Useless Website. Really. This is the zenith of silly. Or perhaps, more accurately, the nadir. You just load the webpage, click please and it will take you to–yep, you guessed it–a completely useless website. Rinse and repeat. One supremely silly website after another until your eyes glaze over in bogglement at the sheer volume of silliness available at your fingertips.

By now your screen’s probably looking a bit mucky from all that hard work, so maybe you should duck on over to to have it cleaned. (I know, I know, it’s a blatant ad and I shouldn’t reward them, but how could I not? It’s so adorable!)

So, how about you? What’s your social media booby trap? Or are you one of those admirable people who can ignore the siren song of tweets and likes and pins? In which case, please–PLEASE–do the rest of us a favour and share your secret in the comments.

Why I’m Divorcing Triberr

Here’s the thing. I’ve been on Triberr for a few months now, and I have to confess that I’m can’t seem to find the love.

On the face of it, Triberr sounds like a terrific idea. Just look at the menu of benefits it (theoretically) offers:

  • A gathering place for the “little bloggers” (as Triberr’s developers call us) to band together in cozy, bonfire-warmed tribes to tweet the bejesus out of one another’s posts;
  • One handy-dandy repository of links to share with the Twitterverse;
  • Mega-tweetage by our tribemates of our every bloggy thought in volumes hitherto unimagined;
  • Vast legions of visitors dropping by to bestow comments and a follow.

Really, what could be more fabulous?

Except, in my experience, the reality isn’t all that fabulous. In fact, in my experience–and I do acknowledge that yours may be very different–Triberr has become as much of a pollutant in the Twitter waters as, say, auto-DMs and auto-#FFs and auto-thanks-for-the-follows. I am so very much not a fan of auto-anything in social media. When we start automating our interactions, I think we pretty much override the whole “social” component of “social media” and step straight into botland.

I don’t know about your Twitter stream, but in the aftermath of our collective leap onto the the Triberr bandwagon, my stream has devolved into a great spammy wonderland of people “recommending” blog posts that they’ve probably never read to people who are highly unlikely to read them and providing precisely zero context for that recommendation.

Maybe it’s the cynic in me, I don’t know, but I suspect that many (if not most) people are approving and sharing many (if not most) of their tribemates’ blog posts out of a feeling of obligation and reciprocity rather than out of a burning desire to share something they’ve read and found informative, fascinating or inspiring.

I tried to come to terms with the bot-ness of my own Triberr tweets by visiting every blog I was promoting via Triberr. And commenting. Because, really, isn’t that supposed to be one of the reasons we’re using Triberr? To support one another’s blogs? Instead of just clicking the smart little “approve” button, I opted to click on the “share” button instead and to personalize my tweets to make it clear that I had read the post in question–and I stripped every tweet of that tell-tale “…via @randomtribemember” in the hopes that someone would actually follow the link.

That didn’t last for long. Too many blogs, too little time. I opted instead for only sharing about half the posts in my Triberr stream–the ones I had time to read, comment on, personalize in a tweet. The rest I ignored, or just winced and clicked the “Approve” button to share, even though I had no idea whether they were amazing or utterly banal.

But, you know what? I just can’t make myself do that anymore. I’m starting to feel like a spammer. I am a spammer. I’ve become part of the auto-occupation that’s stripping the “social” from social media and bogging Twitter down with a relentless, unending onslaught of tedious, impersonal, spam-o-rific linkiness.

And so I quit. As of the end of the week, I’ll be resigning from my tribes, turning in my bones and making my escape. I’m going back to old-school tweeting: having conversations and tweeting links to the blog posts I’ve read with a hint or two about why I think you might like to read them too.

So, how is your Triberr journey working out for you? Still loving the tribes? Or do you share some of the same (or different) concerns?

A Newbie’s Adventures in Twitterland #4

Replying, retweeting and DMs
If you want your reply to be seen only by the person to whom you’re replying and people you both follow, put their username at the very beginning of the tweet, like so:
If you want your reply to be seen more widely, put a word, a dot or a space before their username, like so:
Hey, @username, what a fabulous post on the Ret