The Online Purge Starts With Twitter

In my last post, I talked about making a fresh start online. I've started taking some steps to do exactly that and it starts with Twitter.

I've been on Twitter since it was made public in 2006. I have tweeted a TON of things over the last 9 years, most of which is probably not relevant anymore. I have also accumulated several Twitter accounts over the years, accounts that probably should have been removed long ago, and I deleted those accounts.

I did not want to delete my main Twitter account, I just want to delete everything I've posted. How do you do a mass purge of tweets? Deleting tweets one by one when you only have a few is fine—I did this on another account—but how about when you have more than 40,000 tweets like I did?

There are actually a number of tools out there that claim to do this. However, if they are only working with the Twitter API, you won't actually delete all the tweets. This is because the various API calls that query your most recent tweets will only show your 3200 (or so) most recent ones. If you delete all of those (as many tools do), then older tweets will still exist in the system. If you happen to know the tweet ID, you can still query them.

However, I have found a tool that runs on Windows and can actually delete all your tweets. It's called Twitter Archive Eraser. It's a free tool that runs on Windows-based system that will work with an export of your Twitter archive and delete all your tweets, one by one. I actually use it on my main Twitter account and it worked great, deleting more than 40,000 tweets in around 9 minutes.

For accounts that have 3200 tweets or less, you can use any number of websites, iOS, or Android apps out there. The one I chose, based on a recommendation from Stefan Constantinescu, is called Delete Tweets. It has a big red button that does what it says: deletes all your tweets. You can pay $2.99 for a "pro" version that will give you some filtering options (i.e. you can choose to delete only some tweets). You can run it regularly from your iOS or Android device to reset your tweets back to zero.

The next step is to do this with Facebook.

Thinking About A Fresh Start Online

One of the guys I've followed for years on the Internet has taken what some might call a drastic approach: he's purged his Twitter account of tweets. Given the ephemeral nature of Twitter, this actually seems somewhat appropriate to do. Also, things that you said years ago in the heat of the moment, things you may not say or think today, could easily come back to haunt you.

I'm thinking of taking this a step further and doing some culling of all of my various online presences. I've been on the Internet more than 20 years and I've managed to bring forward a ton of content—content that, quite frankly, may not entirely be relevant anymore.

I've also got far too many presences on the Internet. Some of them it makes sense to continue to maintain, others not. I almost want to blow it all up and start over. Or maybe seriously cull what's out there, starting with my Twitter accounts. I have a dozen of them. I actually deleted four of them today and completely emptied the tweets out of another.

Has anyone actually gone through this exercise of cleaning up their online presence or nuking it entirely? While I'm sure I can figure out the mechanics of actually doing it, anyone have any tips or tricks they want to share?

Taking A Minute

Okay, maybe a minute is too long, but certainly you've got 30 seconds for a habit with a lifelong impact:

Immediately after every lecture, meeting, or any significant experience, take 30 seconds — no more, no less — to write down the most important points. If you always do just this, said his grandfather, and even if you only do this, with no other revision, you will be okay.

I must do something like this unconciously as there are so many conversations or situations where I cannot recall the exact details, but I can usually remember the key takeaways. This generally works well for me, though taking a moment to write it down couldn't hurt.

That said, people might have different ideas about what is important. This is where I sometimes run into trouble, but as the article suggests, you'll get better at figuring this out over time.

A Bag-Carrying Member of the CPAP Club

Since I got my CPAP machine, I've started noticing how many other people have them as well. How do I know? This unassuming grey bag.

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I notice at least one such bag every time I'm in an airport. It's possible I saw such bags before, but since I didn't know what was in them, I didn't think much of them. Now, because I carry one of these bags myself when I travel, I know.

This morning I encountered someone someone right in front of me in the TSA line. He saw my bag and said "better make sure we don't get our CPAPs mixed up." Agreed, that would be an unpleasant surprise.

We exchanged a few pleasantries and comments about how CPAP haas made sleeping easier. He also called out the type of machine I had:

"A REMstar, right?""Yup," I said.

It's like being in an exclusive club. Granted it's not a club most people would want to be a part of, but if I have to have one, I might as well embrace it.

CPAP Only Works When You Wear It

I did something I haven't done before: I got up in the middle of the night to pee and forgot to put my CPAP mask back on. This meant, for a few hours last night, I slept in my bed without my CPAP.

This isn't the first night since I got my CPAP that I didn't wear it, mostly because I've had a couple of red-eye flights since then. CPAP usage on an airplane isn't feasible, at least in coach. However, its the first time I've slept in my bed without the mask on since I got it.

And, sure enough, I snored. How do I know this? I've been using the MotionX-24/7 app to track my sleep and record sounds that happen while I sleep. Since I got the CPAP, mostly all it picked up was me rolling over and the very occasional quiet snore.

Last night, it picked up truly proper snoring. I have no idea if I snored the whole time I didn't have the CPAP mask on or not. I do know the CPAP only works if I wear it.

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Alcohol: It's Not So Great For Your Heart

From Time Magazine, How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?? [time.com]:

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

This paragraph hit home because this is exactly the reason my mom died about two years ago. Her heart was, according to the autopsy, enlarged. I'm not sure how much she drank, but I'm pretty sure it was more than a drink a day for many, many years.

My mom was not the only alcoholic in my family. As a result, I made a decision relatively early in my life not to allow alcohol to control my life. As a result, I do not drink alcohol on a daily basis.

Turns out that early life decision ended up being smarter than I thought.

Too Much Chewing Gum

From Samantha Jenkins: Too much chewing gum may have played role in death of 'vibrant, happy and fun-loving' teenager:

Too much chewing gum may have played a role in the death of a “vibrant, happy and fun loving” 19-year-old shop worker.

An inquest heard Samantha “Sam” Jenkins, 19, of Felinfoel, Llanelli, collapsed and died suddenly after complaining of a headache at home in June 2011.

The inquest heard Samantha’s cause of death was cerebal hypoxia (brain swelling) caused by convulsions due to low salt, magnesium and calcium levels in her body.

But experienced Morriston Hospital pathologist Dr Paul Griffiths who carried out a post mortem examination also suggested her death could have been contributed to by the laxative effects of excessive consumption of sugar free chewing gum – her favourite brand being Trident.

In my own experience, I've found modern-day chewing gum, which is often sweetened with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, to be the equivalent to crack cocaine: if I have one piece, I gotta have another when the flavor goes away. Repeat until I've chewed the entire pack of gum. And, of course, the packs of gum are bigger than they used to be.

While this article focuses on the evils of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners as the potential cause of her death, I'm guessing the real cause had something to do with the fact she clearly swallowed her gum:

Dr Griffiths told the inquest when he carried out the post mortem examination he found five “large lumps” of bright green coloured mint smelling chewing gum in Samantha’s stomach, something he had never encountered before.

Clearly it's an issue of "too much chewing gum" as the headline suggests. That said, while I'm all-in on the idea aspartame may not be so great for humans, blaming the aspartame as the sole cause of this poor girl's death is a bit of a stretch.

What's Wrong With Security?

"But father, what's wrong with security? Everybody likes to be all cosy and safe."

"Yes," Mr. Murry said grimly. "Security is a most seductive thing."

"Well — but I want to be secure, Father. I hate feeling insecure."

"But you don't love security enough so that you guide your life by it, Meg. You weren't thinking of security when you came to rescue me with Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which."

"But that didn't have anything to do with me," Meg protested. "I wasn't being brave or anything. They just took me."

Calvin, walking besides them with his load of wood, said, smiling warmly at Meg, "Yes, but when we got here you didn't go around whining or asking to go home where you could be all safe and cosy. You kept yelling, where's Father, take me to father! You never gave a thought to security."

"Oh," Meg said. "Oh." She brooded for another moment. "But I still don't see why security isn't a good thing. Why, Father?"

"I've come to the conclusion," Mr. Murry said slowly, "that it's the greatest evil there is. Suppose your great great grandmother, and all those like her, had worried about security? They'd never have gone across the land in flimsy covered wagons. Our country has been greatest when it has been most insecure. This sick longing for security is a dangerous thing, Meg, as insidious as the strontium 90 from our nuclear explosions that worried you so about Charles Wallace when you read in science at school that it was being found in milk. You can't see strontium 90. You can't feel it or touch it. But it's there. So is the panicky searching for conformity, for security. Maybe it's because of the Black Thing, Meg. Maybe this lust for security is like a disease germ that it has let loose on our land."

This was an excerpt from the manuscript of A Wrinkle in Time that was cut from the final book. These pages were recently found by the author's granddaughter. The book was written in 1962 and was one I read as a child. In fact, I can still imagine my second grade school under the spell of the Black Thing that had caused a sameness, a conformity in the Madeleine L’Engle tale.

Why was the passage cut? I didn't put the earlier part of the passage in, but it referred to communism, which could have dated the book. Personally, I don't think it was the case at all. I think it's because the passage was a bit too close to the truth. It doesn't take much to see the parallels between what governments around the world are doing and these statements.

Writing To Understand

In high school, I started doing documentation for computer-related tasks, mostly because my teacher at the time told me my skills would be more valuable1. In college, the job I had working in an engineering computer lab also involved documenting various systems administration activities I started doing2. Even in my first post-college job, I ended up writing a fair bit of documentation, mostly for internal use. The writing that some people know me for was the stuff that was prominent on phoneboy.com in the late 1990s and early 2000s: FAQs on Check Point FireWall-13.

This post is not about what I've written, it's mostly about why, and it's actually pretty simple: it's so I understand whatever it is I'm writing about.

Sure, that isn't how I started writing. It was because I wanted to convey something to someone and I didn't want to have to explain it multiple times. Which of course never quite works out the way you hope but it does help reduce the number of times you're asked about it, as well as the quality of the questions you get back.

I've noticed, over years and years of rinsing and repeating this process, that once I take the time to actually write it down in an effort to explain it to someone else, I usually learn whatever it is I'm writing down to the point where recalling it is pretty easy. This only works for relatively simple tasks and concepts. For the more complex topics, it's more of strong mental pointer to whatever it is I wrote so I'll know where to look when it comes up.

However, I've also noticed that in the last several months, as I've experienced some new health issues, I've started sharing them with the Internet. Many people don't care or are even turned off by this, which doesn't bother me. What it has allowed me to do is to better understand my condition and take steps to improve it.

Bottom line: The writing I do outside of work is for myself. If someone else happens to benefit from that, all the better, but it's definitely not a requirement.


  1. I also wrote a bunch of horrible poetry
  2. I also wrote a bunch of horrible poetry in college, too
  3. A few of you know know me for blogging about other stuff, maybe.

Blame the Color TV, Revisited

This is an updated version of a post I did back in 2012.

Does anyone remember watching a black and white TV? I do. My dad had this TV that was older than I was. It also, quite literally, took a minute to warm up before it showed its black and white view of the world.

I remember seeing the old Spiderman cartoons. You know, the one that started airing in the late 1960s but probably reran infinitum during the 1970s. I remember when I saw it on TV. A Color TV.

Like many shows in that era, the show opens with the phrase "in color" to let everyone know the show could be seen in color. Naive me, I thought when I saw it on my dad's Black and White TV, it would say "In Black and White" instead. That seemed perfectly rational to my little mind.

My kids, of course, have never watched a black and white TV. Since we've gone all digital, they won't ever see one. They might see something in Black and White if they watch a really old movie or TV show. Or some more recent television program that goes Black and White for effect.

There is something to be said for watching a program in black and white on a crappy-ass 14 inch TV with a mono speaker on an antenna. You got some sort of picture, if you were lucky, but your mind had to fill in a lot of the details. Certainly with the TV shows of the day, you had to.

Recently I started watching old episodes of The Twilight Zone. All 165 original episodes were filmed in black and white as TV shows of that era were. The special effects were practically non-existent by today's standards but the stories were quality. They hold up pretty well more than half a century later, such as this seminal episode entitled "To Serve Man":

These days, programs are in full 1080p with Dolby 5.1 digital surround sound. You can see every pimple and wrinkle on the actors face—and let's face it, they're all actors. Even the newscasters. Especially the newscasters. And the people on so-called "reality" TV shows. It leaves little to the imagination, exposing the amorality of our collective humanity for all to see.

And, quite honestly, I think we're worse off for it. Even moreso than I did when I wrote the first version of this post in 2012.