I find the term IRL offensive.

Well, not the term as such, but its common usage.
I know where it’s coming from and it may even make a certain sense, but still. I dislike it. A lot. Assuming you all know the term I’ll spare you the definition, you all know where google is.

Referring to your local social circle, be it at school, at work or at your gym as “IRL” (in real life) may seem logical at first, but – to me – it’s actually rather bad taste, and in some situations downright offensive.
The fact that it’s often used carelessly makes it even worse in my opinion.

By using that term when talking to people you primarily speak online, you basically imply that you don’t consider those people part of your life.
They are gone when you disconnect or turn away.
You insinuate that they don’t have an impact on you, that you don’t actually care about them. They are not important. Not real.
I don’t assume that everyone using that term uses it with intent to hurt, harm or offend, I just guess people don’t give much thought to it. Maybe we all can try to stop doing that.

Or as a friend said: People seem to have this weird sense of separation, as if the technology prevents meaning. Especially when, in reality, the opposite is actually true. Technology enables a lot more than it takes away.

Just think about the people you’ve met “online”, those you talk to regularly. Those you’d never have met if it wasn’t for the internet that you so cruelly separate from your “real life” by using those three letters.
Would you be the same person without them? Would you have experienced the same things? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have.

So yes, all of those, all of YOU are part of my real life. Part of what made me who I am.
I will not debase that by sticking the IRL sticker to things or people that just happen to be geographically close enough to me so I can interact with them without the internet between us.

I’m not saying it’s wrong per se to distinguish between your internet interactions and whatever you do with your body. Just please, please don’t go around saying one is less real than the other.

There are enough words out there to make up your own terms of it, if you really feel you have to.

In the end, do what makes you happy, but think of what the people on the other side might feel. They’re real, too.

Prospective-Buyer-shaming.

Because I’m having so mich “fun” with this and the “fun” continues, here’s an annotated transcript of one “conversation” with a prospective buyer.

I put something (new, original packaging, sealed) up for sale.

Price on amazon: Between 200 and 210 Euro.
My asking price, because I know people are going to negotiate: 190 Euro

April 24th:
“Hey, is the watch still available?”
“Yup, still here. :)”
“Well, it’s mine if it’s still there on May 1st!”
Interesting. That’s practically agreeing to my asking price. In fact, among tradesmen in Germany that conversation, in writing, amounts to a binding contract.
“Okay, I’ll let you know if I sell it before then, can’t make promises.”
“Of course. We’ll have to talk about the price first. I can get a new one for 5% more on amazon.”
Waaait a minute. Didn’t you already agree to my price? So my reflexive reply isn’t all that surprising:
“Correct. Or you could have a new one from me for 5% less than amazon.”

May 1st:
I decide to let him know that it’s still available. Their reply:
“I thought so, considering your price. Make a suggestion”
Uhm. Yeah, antagonizing the guy you might want to buy something from is always a good idea, right?
My suggestion is part of the add. Looking forward to your interesting suggestion for a pick-up price. I’ll have you know that your first messages were more than a bit misleading, in that case.”
“Well, you won’t get rid of it for more than 150€.”
“Good luck finding another one then.”

Newsflash: I’d love to sell the thing for a decent price, even a bit lower than my asking price. No problem at all. But if you’re an ass about it, I’d rather give it away than sell it to you.

Which I just did. I gave it to a coworker who’d expressed interest in it. He’ll do me a favor some time, or maybe not. He’s cool, he gave me a few leftover Dollars so I have some small change on my road trip for bus fare or such in the first days.

And I don’t have to deal with stupid impertinent jackasses anymore.

 

Olli’s Saturday School – No such thing as Thanksgiving

Most of you probably know, but the American Thanksgiving tradition does not exist in Germany, unless you count US Americans living here.

Well, it’s not entirely true. We do have our own Thanksgiving which is called Erntedankfest.

Ernte = harvest
Dank = thanks
Fest = festival, celebration

It is a Catholic holiday that had various dates since the 3rd century, due to harvest happening in different months depending on the climate you’re in. The German Episcopal Conference put it on the first Sunday of October but didn’t force the communes to celebrate it on that day, so while it is usually celebrated in some way, it never became an official part of the lithurgy. In some places it just dictates the theme of the weekly mass, maybe the kids in kindergarden learn something about it that week or have a little celebration and in some places there are – sometimes massive – processions.

And that’s about it. What we do have is Black Friday. Sort of. There’s no actually tradition for this, it’s just that businesses in Germany exploiting the fact that people can be goaded into into spending money by declaring an arbitrary sales day. People see it in US TV shows and on the internet anyway, so why not take advantage on it?

Something similar that is a tradition is socalled Mantelsonntag. This translates to cloak Sunday. Historically the Sunday before All Hallows people would go into town to get a new cloak for the winter. Today this became an arbitrary reason to open shops on Sundays in cities with a predominant Catholic population.1

I don’t want to dwell on commercialism with this lesson, so here’s a few funny words or figures of speech that might entertain you.

The German word for a lucky devil. someone who is always lucky or just got hit by an insane stroke of luck, like winning the lottery, catching a spectacular spouse or dodging certain death by pure luck is called a Glückspilz. A luck-mushroom.
That probably comes from the poisonous Fliegenpilz (fly agaric) being a symbol for luck.
As well as a four leaf clover or vierblättriges Kleeblatt, a pig (Schwein) or a chimney sweep (Schornsteinfeger). The latter supposedly will bring luck if kissed. Depending on who is doing the kissing and what the sweep looks like, it’s either a self-fulfilling prophecy or maybe even the sweep being the lucky one. Also don’t go around calling people Glücksschwein. It’s bad luck. You might get a punch to the face for that.

A jester or prankster, someone who constantly plays pranks or makes jokes is a Spaßvogel. A Jestbird.

A favorite among many non-Germans is the word Kabelsalat, translating to cable salad. A tangled mess of cables in a drawer, box or behind your hifi system. There’s no specific dressing recommendation for it.

Now the final piece. Ever had one situations where two people say or do the exact same thing in an instant? Or when you and a friend text each other at the same time asking to hang out? Or you make the same joke, have the same idea or come to the same conclusion at the same time?

It happens. Great minds often think alike. You’d think there’s a literal translation for that in German, but there’s not.

The German expression for that is zwei Dumme ein Gedanke.
Dumm
meaning stupid you might think it’s not exactly a compliment but in that case it is often used in an endearing way. Gedanke is the German word for a thought.
So the best impromptu translation would probably be two fools, one idea.

Have a nice Saturday, folks!

Footnotes
  1. All Hallows being a Catholic holiday []

Longing for whales

One of the many interests I’ve pretty much always had is whales. I’ve read a German translation of Moby Dick as a preteen, saw the Gregory Peck movie around the same time.

I vaguely remember seeing a dolphin show at an amusement park when I was a kid, I’ve always liked aquariums and it’s difficult to get me away from penguins, seals or walruses at zoos, especially when they’re active. Or sharks. Or whatever.

So whenever I had the opportunity to go to an aquarium, I went. Denmark, UK, New Zealand, Virginia Beach, etc.

But even befor that, whales were special. I had non-fiction books on whales, I watched the occasional documentary or movie if it just involved whales. I think that’s part of the reason why Star Trek IV is one of my favorite Star Trek movies.

I don’t think I ever thought I’d actually see real, big whales out in the wild. They’re not exactly commonplace in Germany or wherever I’d been in the first 20 years of my life, but then I got invited to visit a friend in Seattle in 2006. I’d already had my flights book when we had to cancel the whole thing due to him becoming a father for the first time. Would’ve been awkard because the day I’d arrived was the actual birth day of his daughter. Or within a few days at least.

Needless to say, while happy for him I was angry at the fate and the world, because one of the things we might’ve done while I was there: Go watch Orcas. Actual black and white beautiful whales in the wild. Even if only from far, that would’ve made my decade.
So I sulked around and talked to a friend on instant messenger who tried to console me and told me to find another trip somewhere beautiful. Googled a bit and said “How about Iceland? Iceland has whales!”
So I booked a trip to Iceland and reserved a seat on a whale watching tour on one of the days with nothing else planned. I was giddy with excitement, right up until the moment the telephone in my hotel room rang and the receptionist told me the trip had been called off due to bad weather.

Iceland was absolutely gorgeous, though.

iceland_493

The next time I even considered the possibility of seeing whales was on my trip to New Zealand in 2013. Unfortunately we didn’t find any whale watching opportunities on our North Island round trip, and we didn’t catch any whales on the week on Norfolk Island afterwards.

What consoled me a little was the fact that we saw a school of dolphins on the boat rip to White Island. Seeing those beautiful creatures swim, jump and frolic all around as felt magical.

 

southpac_0381

southpac_0385

And my first time snorkeling (Emily Bay, Norfolk Island) also made for an awesome experience and nice pictures.

IMGP0177

 

Right now I’m working on my next attempt at seeing whales in the wild, planning for my trip to the US west coast followed by 5 days on Maui. Hopefully catching a whale or three in my lens and finally having that experience.

 

Well, maybe not that trippy, even though that’d be might cool.

This blog post is in 2D for your convenience

I like going to the movies. I like the experience of meeting with friends, going into the theater and watching a new movie on the big screen. Okay, I do get annoyed at the occasional inconsiderate people playing around on cellphones, sometimes even taking calls1 having conversations during the movie, etc…

What kind of annoys me is the compulsion every producer seems to have with 3D. To the point where I get annoyed when I see movie posters or trailers that proudly display

RANDOM TITLE – THE MOVIE

IN 3D

How is it that this feature is so important, that it has to dominate so much of the advertisment? Sure, it’s an impressive technological feat, but in the end, it’s a gimmick. Especially the way it’s used in movies, as I’m told.
It doesn’t make a bad movie good, it doesn’t make a good movie better, it doesn’t further plot, characters or anything else but everyone is onto the Dimension-Train.

Sure, with action movies and that stuff it can be more immersive, more overwhelming, but does anyone actually need that?

When 3D started to go mainstream with James Cameron’s Avatar2 I was still hoping it was a gimmick, a short-lived fad. But every movie theater and their moms started to upgrade their equipment, and it was rather popular. From what I heard, up to today Avatar is still the one movie that did 3D best.

So, good job, everyone else who made 3D movies since 2009. Way to make the best of 5 years.

I saw Avatar in good old regular 2D. Liked it well enough and didn’t miss ANYTHING.

But hey, people want to produce and watch movies in 3D? Guess what, that’s actually fine by me. I’ll just go watch the 2D version with my friends.

Let me just check the schedule of the local cinema. Oh. OH. Aw. Big surprise, all showings of the new movie out this week are in 3D. On three different screens of the 7-screen cinema. Maybe next week? No. Maybe in two weeks? Maybe.

My real issue with the whole 3D crap is that I don’t get to choose. I have to either watch in in 3D or make it a pain in the ass for my friends to schedule actually seeing a movie with me. Or wait for the bluray and watch it on my tv.

Jeez, man! You might think. Cram a sock in it, and go watch the movie in 3D if you want to see it this bad.

Ok. I’ll do it, and I’ll even stop complaining, if you promise me to go watch the next movie you see the way watching a 3D movie feels for me. No complaining allowed.

  1. I have to wear glasses. So you put on glasses, too. Even if you don’t actually have to. Even if you wear contact lenses, because those aren’t an option for me. I
  2. If the movie is 3D, you’re good. Get your 3D glasses. If not, wear a slightly bigger set of glasses over your first pair. There has to be something in it, empty frames don’t count.
  3. Now the fun part. Tape one of your eyes shut. Or wear an eyepatch3. Due to my eyesight, most of the time I have slight depth perception troubles that are even multiplied when trying to see a 3D movie. It currently doesn’t work at all on me.4
  4. Watch the movie. Hope you enjoy it. Do not take the glasses off, even if it is a full lenght triple feature of all the Lord of the Rings special editions.
  5. On the way out, open your wallet. Grab at least half of what you paid for the movie and throw it in the nearest trash can.

And THAT is why I’m so pissed off that it’s nigh impossible to even find a 2D showing of a new action movie in the first three weeks.

 

So…any good movies out recently? ;-)

Footnotes
  1. seriously, you just paid 20 bucks for the movie, dump the phone! []
  2. Thanks for nothing, James. []
  3. I feel ashamed to admit, that I typed ipatch the firet time []
  4. Used to be better with a different set of glasses, but those were so thick and heavy it wasn’t worth the bother []

my one true love

Don’t fret, it’s not as cheesy as the title might suggest. As some others, this blog post was prompted by the 52 photos project. This week’s photo prompt: hearts.

At first I was caught by surprise. Hearts? I don’t have anything to do with hearts in my archive! Where am I going to find something heartsy to photograph?

Well, here’s what I came up with.

my one true love

my one true love

Yup. If I ever had a “true love”, it’s probably books. Lost in a good book is when I’m happiest. It’s my escape from everything. My personal time machine, my portal into another world. The story might be sad or even gruesome but reading, living a fictional character’s feelings has always allowed me to forget everything around me for a while.

Even when I didn’t need it, I enjoyed it.

Some proverb says “a book is like a garden in your pocket”. I like to think that a book is like a vacation.

I’ve started early, and I’ve read pretty much every kind of story, I guess. As a toddler1 I couldn’t get enough of a certain children’s book. I’ve had it read to me so often that at the age of three or four I “read”2 it to my sister who is two and a half years younger than me.

It must have been bliss for my parents when I started to read by myself.
Comics from the doctor’s waiting room are among my earliest memories. The “Fury” novels by Miller3 and the Winnetou stories by Karl May4 probably were my first novels, I must have started with them at the age of  nine.

I had two main sources of books. Our village library, ran by the church, was one of them. I’d usually spend my Thursday afternoons there, browsing for new books to read. That is, as soon as I overcame my initial shyness and started going there on my own. It was ridiculously cheap to rent a book for up to a fortnight5 and I never returned a book late.

The second source was friends of the family. People that somehow knew6 that I was the bookish kind. Those were the best days, when a box of old books was dropped off at my parents’ place and I had a new pile of books to devour. I think I was about 12 when I first read Moby Dick.7

Starting with the bibliography of Karl May and his wild west/Northern Africa stories I devoured everything from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to Alister MacLean’s WWII thrillers. Spy stories was something I grew into in my early teens, but I also didn’t stop at the classic adventure stuff of J.F. Cooper or Jack London.

Back then, finding gifts for my birthdays or Christmas was really easy. I’d usually get some book and the warning “don’t read it all in one night”.

Ha, one night? Yup. One night. A lot of kids fight with their parents about staying up late to watch TV. I never did. I went to bed early, opened a book, turned off the light when my mom shouted, waited 20 minutes, turned it on again, hoping nobody would notice. Occasionally they did.

Practise made me a fast reader, so one of the requirements for book gifts I kiddingly gave when asked would be “600 pages plus”.  I also never had trouble reading books more than once. When I watch a movie or play a video game for a second time, it occasionally feels like a waste of time to me. This NEVER happened to me with a book. There are several books8 that I know I have read probably about 20 times each. I am not exaggerating.

Being a rather fast reader helps, I suppose. I don’t skim books, I actually remember lots of details from the books I’ve read. But starting early and literally reading heaps of books of nearly every genre helped with that.

To illustrate: I must have been about 16 when I went into the library, not exactly knowing what to look for. So I asked the librarian, who’d known me for a while, if there was anything interesting, preferably long. She asked me if I’d heard about Noah Gordon’s “The Physician”9. I hadn’t, so I took it with me. On a Thursday. You should’ve seen her face when I brought it back on Sunday (the next day the library would open). It took me two and a half days to read it.

Of course I’ve  always had phases in my life where I didn’t read that much. I just wasn’t in the mood, couldn’t find anything that kindled my interest for a while, didn’t want to reread any of the books I had around or simply didn’t have time and leisure because I was in the military. But there was always a point where I turned back to my one true love. Books.

A big “reading phase” started when I was introduced to the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. It was in 1997, on our first orchestra trip to Poland. I sat next to the drummer for about 18 hours, and he had a book with him. Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures. He giggled a lot, so at some point I skimmed over a dialoge between Victor and Gaspode (yes, I remember). He noticed and told me I could read along if I liked. I was a little puzzled, hadn’t talked much to him before, but since we had nothing else to do and I was faster than him anyway, I just followed it for a while. Then at some point he got tired and handed me the book. “Start from the beginning if you want to.”

I finished the book before he woke up again, borrowed a few Discworld  novels from him after we came back and owned about 20 less than a year later.

Basically it became my big reading obsession for the following years, and I will buy every Pratchett novel on release day as long as he keeps publishing.

Hang on, you might notice that I’ve read a lot, you probably know I like fantasy and scifi. I didn’t write about Tolkien yet. Well, Tolkien. Long story short, I can’t remember at what age I first read the Lord of the Rings, but I must have been just out of my single digits. Then I nearly forgot about it and about 5-7 years later remembered it and got the English green paperback. Satisfied? Not every book nerd started with Tolkien, but yes, it’s been a big thing for me too.

Anyway, in my late teens/early twenties I couldn’t enter a book store without coming back out with an armful of books, apart from that I occasionally asked friends or the local book store for recommendations. Shelf space was becoming an issue, since I was unwilling to throw away books. Ever. I still have some of my earliest, boxed away for pure nostalgia.

That kind of became a dampener for my reading of new things. Money never was much of an issue, books probably were my biggest expense until I moved out of my parents’ house and that wasn’t that long ago. Shelf space, though…

Enter eBooks. I have long been reluctant to get an eBook reader. I felt weird for paying money for something that was “only” the infrastructure for content. I feel weird when I remember myself thinking that. But at some point a positive review from a friend and christmas changed that. I jumped over my shadow and told my parents when the inevitable and dreaded question about what I wanted for Christmas arose again: “A Kindle would be good.”

I got one and right now I wonder why I didn’t do it earlier. I’ve had it for two years now, and while I will always order or buy paper books, my eBook reader has become indispensible.

Hesitating to buy a book unless I felt it was too expensive for now10 is a thing of the past. I don’t mind the prices, because I pay for the content, not for the medium. And my sporadic contact to writers on twitter, their blogs and other sources made me a little more sensitive to how book prices are made up11 and how creatures actually do depend on that money or the sales figures, so I won’t ever bitch about the price difference between eBooks and paper books again.

While paper books are a pretty thing I actually get more value from eBooks. Sure, there’s some disadvantage,s and they might be tied to my account at a company, etc.

But my reading habits don’t leave me with much of a choice. Before ebooks, when travelling I usually took a big book with me. And was stuck with it. I had to be careful so I wouldn’t read it all on the flight to my destination or even lose interest in it. And I’d have to lug something like Tad Williams’ “Otherworld” or one of the hard fantasy political intrigue gorefests of G.R.R. Martin with me for a 10.000 mile round trip, just to buy a massive paperback at the airport so I’d have something to read for the flight back home.

This is where I love my Kindle most, aside from not breaking my wrist when reading a 900 page cold war thriller in bed. I took it with me on a trip to the South Pacific, had two dozen books on it, some new, some old, got a pre-ordered one while on the free wi-fi at Auckland Airport and it all weighs less than a regular paperback novel. I just stuff it in my backpack along with a charger and I have a whole archive to choose from. Things can’t get better for someone who reads up to 200 pages an hour.

My book collection keeps growing, due to following and occasionally interacting with writers on twitter, and probably the biggest money drain in that directon, following John Scalzi’s (he writes awesome sci-fi, too)) blog at http://whatever.scalzi.com . He regularly posts the “Big Idea” guest blogs, where writers can post about their new books, specifically the big ideas behind them.

He got me hooked on Myke Cole and Seanan McGuire, to name just two, and the most recent post is about “The Martian” by Andy Weir, a really gripping story about a man stranded on Mars after his mission went belly-up.

Side note: read this post. Get the book.

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/02/11/the-big-idea-andy-weir/

I’ve sort of followed Andy Weir from his earlier web comic days to his creative writing forays and am thrilled that he finally gets the recognition he deserves, and he is a really nice fellow, too. (Hi Andy, should you ever read this!)

Ok. Books. My one true love.

I’ve you’ve read this far, congratulations. And thank you for bearing with me, for looking into my past and into my soul.

I guess if you did, you are a reader anyway. If you have the chance to influence kids, encourage them to read. It is the greatest gift you can give. Don’t force them though.

Myke Cole (who wrote the awesome Shadow Ops Trilogy, the final novel just having been published in January)  is leading with an example I cannot label any different than awesome. He has an ongoing deal with his niece that he will buy her any book she wants. As simple as that. I will try to follow in his footsteps in that regard, hoping to be the godfather or uncle of a child soon enough, so I can maybe pass my love for books along.

Good night, I’m going to go read something now.

Footnotes
  1. so I was told []
  2. well, recited []
  3. that black mustang stallion, you might remember the old monochrome TV show []
  4. a German classic, not sure how well they are known in other countries []
  5. I love that word []
  6. I suspect my parents told []
  7. as I said, I read about everything []
  8. some of the Winnetou stuff, Terry Pratchett’s “Interesting Times” and Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” to name a few []
  9. It’s a story set in the early middle ages, German paperback had roughly 1200 pages []
  10. even though I can afford it, I won’t pay any price []
  11. not talking about the German fixed price thing []

dressing up

Today’s post does not only contain a picture for the 52 photos project but is in fact about this week’s challenge, called “ALL DRESSED UP”.

I’ve never been one for dressing up much, except maybe for a few occasions as a kid. In Germany we don’t have1 the kind of halloween tradition the US have had. What we have is the socalled 5th season2 wich involves a lot of dressing up.

I’ve never been into cosplay of sorts myself, I’ve been dressed for the occasion when I helped out at a medieval reenactment fair, but that’s pretty much it.

Dressing up fancy is also something I avoid. My comfort clothing for leaving the house varies a little with weather, but it’s pretty much jeans and t-shirts. Maybe a hoodie or sweater.

For festive family stuff like christmas dinners a shirt might be in order or a nice jumper.

I am lucky that there is not really any sort of dress code in my company, unless for special occasions. Generally if it’s clean and not offensive, I can come to work in jeans and a t-shirt I bought at a heavy metal concert without getting as much as a funny look, despite having a position that is associated with suit and tie if you go by the job title.

Of course there’s times when something a little more businesslike is called for. We’d have customers at the company or at an event we host, or we visit a customer or a supplier to discuss projects, partnership, business.

The preferred dress code for that is … suit and tie. Whenever I wear suit and tie, I feel a little out of place. Not as bad today as a couple of years ago, but I still tend to think people will notice that, or notice that I don’t like it, etc.
It sometimes feels less like a suit and more like a costume. All dressed up. It just doesn’t feel like me. I don’t really need or want it, but I accept it when it’s deemed appropriate.

I try to avoid that by only going for suit and tie when I absolutely have to. For most occasions I can get away with dress pants or even dark jeans, shirt, and a softshell jacket with our company logo. Or a company polo shirt.

So that’s at work. There is another thing I have to get all dressed up for. I play the tuba in the orchestra from the village I grew up  o.n At most of the performances we wear sort of a traditional uniform. I don’t like that one very much, but I’ve worn it for twenty years no and got sort of used to it.

Then there’s military. No, I’m not in the military any more, not even the reserve, but I’ve done my military service back when it was still active in Germany and even added three months to it. I mostly enjoyed that experience, and I didn’t even mind the uniform. Well, I never wore the dress uniform, so I guess I got lucky. But I liked the camo stuff. It looked reasonably good on me, and it was very practical3. Also it had a meaning of sort. It showed affiliation to something bigger, and the unit I served with actually did something important.  So there’s that.

If you take in what I’ve written about that topic so far you might get the idea that I am somewhat pragmatic. Well, it’s true. And it’s reflected in my thoughts about clothing. Sure, I will notice and even admire something nice or beautiful. I might like it, and even want to wear it. But at heart I usually will judge clothes by usefulness first. If I deliberately get all dressed up it will ultimately be because I have to. It’s cold. It’s wet. Someone wants me to. Or maybe I have to climb around on an active volcano and don’t want to breathe in too much sulphuric steam or get hurt by falling rocks.

So here’s a couple of pictures I found of me being…

 

All dressed up!

 

Footnotes
  1. or at least we didn’t when I was young []
  2.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_in_Germany,_Switzerland_and_Austria []
  3. leg pockets! []

here be dragons – friends from the internet

A lot of the people1 reading this probably don’t even need to be told what I’m going to write in my first post, because it’s – in a way – about them.

Internet people. Internet acquaintances. Internet friends.

And here goes. Even today2 people like me will get looked at in a slightly weird way if you tell them something like “a friend I met on the internet”. I’ve occasionally tried to avoid that phrase when telling things regarding those people, because it’s often easier than facing skepticism  when you just want to give some context to something that has happened.

To a lot of people out there, the internet is a tool. They use it to buy books or movies, plan their holiday, copy their homework from wikipedia, watch cat videos or even catch up with old friends, relatives, colleagues or even people they met on their holiday. “Real life people”.

Granted, a lot of these people are from that generation that did not grow up with the internet, but there are as many younger than me who hold the same views.

The internet is full of phonies, liars, criminals, or worse. You can’t meet real people out there. You can’t make REAL friends out there. Dating websites3 don’t count.

HERE BE DRAGONS

Well, first of all, even if most people who know me probably wouldn’t think of me as “shy”, I am not the kind of guy who just goes out and “meets new people”. For some reason I have trouble going to a pub or bar and just randomly strike up conversations with people I’ve never met in my life. I don’t go dancing or to the village fair to meet new strangers. I’m social enough, I love having company and if I find some common ground to connect with someone, if there’s a certain spark, I might even be talking your ears off before I realize it.
If it doesn’t happen that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like you, it’s just that I often need a little warming up.

The internet makes that a lot easier for me. Whether it’s the old web chat rooms, IRC, forums and starting earlier this year twitter, I have had little trouble finding likeminded people of all age groups and various nationalities online and met quite a few in person, but more of that later.

So I wonder, what makes people think that “internet people” aren’t real people as well? Why is it okay to go to a pub, disco, barn dance just to “meet people”, but not into the forum of a gaming community, a chatroom on IRC or join twitter not just to stalk Justin Bieber but maybe have some fun random encounters and maybe even make friends and meet people?

“Oh, but that man/woman from the internet could abduct, kill, say bad things to or even rape you!”

Yeah, like that’s never happened to anyone who’s gone to the pub on a Friday night.

I’m not saying that you should throw yourself at the first person to suggest you meet up  in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. For heaven’s sake, trust your guts, make sure someone knows where you are, have some basic safety measures. Whether you go to the pub or to your first meeting of your new internet community.
I pride myself on having a pretty good judgement of people and I probably also got lucky with the people I met, but I’m willing to bet that in most internet communities you will find people that are looking out for each other. More likely than at any local watering hole.

But whatever reasons you give to people, there’s always some who will disbelieve or remain skeptical. So maybe take a moment and think about what awesome social things have happened to you that you have to thank the internet for.

Here’s my list, in chronological order, of the parts the internet played in creating my social life and a large part of who I am. Well, the parts I remember or was able to reconstruct from my picture collection.

In 1997 still in school I first entered a certain webchat, met a girl, and after a couple of days of chatting, we decided4 we’d start writing letters. We’re still friends, see each other occasionally5

2003
I became a regular in a webchat and joined a web radio6 that was based in that chat. I am still a member, albeit inactive. There I met people from throughout the country and beyond I still count among my best friends.

It’s also where I met my first girlfriend. It didn’t last very long, but I also met her best friend at the time, who became one of my best friends and our friendship continues to this day. She got me into Doctor Who two years ago.

I went to my first community meeting7 and started meeting up with people I’d never seen before.

2004
The webchat and webradio became a circle of friends. I went to three community meetings that lasted a whole weekend.8

Also some coworkers got me to join a large-scale browser game where I met people from all over the world via the game itself. I quit after a while but I stuck to the IRC network people organized their tactics in.

2005
More of the same things of course. The highlight of the year: An American from said game I met in IRC had become something between an acquaintance and a friend. He was married to an Italian and they were planning to marry a second time for her family which still lived in Italy. And I got invited. Which was pretty exciting. But as his wife put it: “You spend so much time with these people online, if he’s  a friend, why not?”
That was a first for me but I actually didn’t even think twice about it. We’d spent hours chatting about pretty much everything, and it wasn’t the first time I got to meet internet people and their friends and family. So I flew into Rome, got picked up by his wife at the airport and actually had lunch with her family before I even met him. It was eerie but they were very welcoming, and ‘lo, there was nothing awkward or weird about it. Look, he’s human just like us. ;-)

Also in 2005 I started writing product reviews and parodies for a large community and product review website. I don’t write for that website anymore, but I’ve found friends there as well, there’s a meeting once a year and it never fails to be awesome.

2006
I visited my cousin in Manchester, England and met up with several friends from IRC, two of which I joined on a train to Newcastle where we’d go see Iron Maiden and share a hotel room.

2007
Apart from the usual community meetings, a friend I met through the web radio and seen in person twice for a weekend each chatted me up on an instant messenger.
“Hey, what are you doing?” – “Oh, just checking trips to the United States, but the single room surcharge is offputting” – “When are you planning to go?”
We went there together and had great fun when people assumed we were either a couple or siblings until we explained that we were just “Internet friends”. Oh, and I also met up with an internet friend in Las Vegas.

2008
I paid a visit to a friend and her husband in the UK. I met her via an internet forum that belonged to a webcomic both of us were reading. To this day we’re friends and I’ve visited on two more occasion. I’ll miss her 30th birthday next year because I’m going to be on a road trip along the US East Coast, visiting … yup, internet friends. Friends.

2009
The year I met my current ex.9 We’d talked before, online, on the webradio, had a few phone calls, and then we hit it off on the anual community meeting of the web radio. Basically camping, a day of team building games, bbq, board games and all that. Quite a few relationships began that weekend. Oh, remember the best friend of my first girlfriend? Yup, met her again after years, and while the relationship with my girlfriend didn’t last, that friendship made it through ten years and two relationships, still counting.

2010
Things were a little quieter on the internet front, but my girlfriend and I visited a lot of common friends that year

2011
We’d moved in together, but the relationship ended in April. I met up with more internet people that year, but the highlight was the trip to Ireland. I had booked that for me and my suddenly ex. Cancelling the trip would’ve been rather expensive, but my friend who I toured the states with was available, and even though we hadn’t met up even once since 2007 we just continued where we’d left.
So the relationship ended, and suddenly I had more time on my hands, so besides connecting to my internet family I also started up playing an MMO10, getting to know awesome new people, becoming friends with them.
Another friend had vanished from the internet for months due to financial and internet connection issues and there were dozens of people trying to reach him. We’d all feared the worst because of what we knew about his medical background, but everything turned out right.

2012
I took a round trip around southern England. Basically I flew into London, rented a car and first visited MMO people, then my webcomic friend who got me hooked on BBC’s Sherlock, and after that someone from IRC who I dragged around London for a day.

2013
You thought nothing could top the wedding? Well, it certainly will be one of the all-time-highlights of my internet bio, but it turns out that one of they guys from the MMO lives on a tiny island in the South Pacific, and I’d gotten a travel voucher for my 10th anniversary at my company the previous summer. Long story short, banter happened, I got invited, booked three days later and then dragged a friend and coworker 20.000km across the globe, drove 10 days around New Zealand and took a plane to spend a week in paradise and still have more or less constant contact to him/his family.

In the same year I went to Cardiff with two internet friends11 and a boyfriend, we met very nice people via the couchsurfing organisation and got to see the Doctor Who Experience.

Also I joined twitter, and I’m pretty sure that at one point I’ll start meeting up with people I’ve found there. Dammit, if I had a teleporter, I’d probably spend more time buzzing around as a cloud of highly energized molecules than at home.

As to next year, I’m looking forward to meet all kinds of internet friends, from a gaming community, friends I’ve talked to on IRC from 3 to 7 years and who knows who else?

Hey, maybe YOU know me and you want to visit? I’m sure we can arrange something.

So. Yeah, I guess the internet is full of phonies and it’s not worth spending any more time there than it takes to order a book or watch a few cat videos on youtube.

TL;DR
The internet is awesome, there’s great people to discover and a lot of them just mean the world to me.

I don’t even distinguish between “internet” and “other” friends anymore, unless I have to explain where I met certain people.

Thanks for bearing with me, this got longer than I thought. And I mean every word.

Olli

Footnotes
  1. Funny, my first blog post, I don’t even know if anyone will actually read this, but I start with “A lot of the people” []
  2. or maybe more than ever? []
  3.  Never used any, not that I mind people using them, but I kinda stick to the regular social networks. For now. ;-) []
  4. well I suggested []
  5. Once a year or every two years, I’d say, depending. []
  6. Just a bunch of people who enjoyed streaming music to a bunch of friends and talking nonsense. I’ve been a show host and member of the organisatorial commitee in various positions, including leading the whole kindergarden []
  7. actually chaperoning said best friend []
  8. basically a group of thirty 16 to 40-year olds went camping, including bbq and board games, nobody killed anyone. Amazing, huh? []
  9. Is that the way you say it? Huh. []
  10. something something spaceships []
  11. one of them the girl I met via my first girlfriend []