Regret v. remorse

Let’s distinguish between regret over an action versus remorse about an action:

  • Regret is a negative conscious and emotional reaction to personal past acts and behaviors
  • Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after he or she has committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or violent.

Every so often there’s a “top regrets of the elderly/dying” sort of piece that makes the rounds. These are heavy pieces, but they’re usually vague. What sort of specific regrets do people have? they wish they had “let themselves be happier,” or “expressed their feelings” more often.

These sorts of things are hopeless as signposts for improvement among the living. Why? They’re sentiments, not insights. They’re generalities, not specific points of remorse due to specific actions or missed opportunities.

Look at those definitions again. You end up with “regret” over banalities: Not partying more in college. Not hitting the gym more often. Hooking up with the wrong person. Eating too much. Seeing a bad movie. These are regrets, but because they’re also generalities we’re unlikely to be things we’re really remorseful about, because what would be the point? (Regret sometimes hangs out with its cousins, false nostalgia and romanticism.)

When we’re asked about “things you regret,” I think the real question is often “What are things you feel remorse over?” We have minor “negative emotion reactions” all the time. We sometimes face tragedies over which it’s worth feeling remorse, like missing the birth of a child, or being cruel in a friend’s final moments, or getting passionately or violently physical with someone you love. It’s worth feeling remorse over corrosive aspects of our personalities that lead to specific misdeeds for which we can atone. It’s probably not worth feeling regret over the thousand small incidents of negative emotions that flood our daily experiences. I suppose that’s the sort of distinction I’m trying to draw out here: you might regret something, but it’s the things you’re really remorseful about that you’re most likely to feel the need to really make amends for.

(And carrying remorse with you, that accumulated weight of anger, fear, self-pity, and emotionalism, makes the Christian duty to live with joy really impossible. Confession allows an unburdening and a way to obtain specific forgiveness for specific wrongs.)

I care much more about learning what you’re specifically remorseful over than the fluffy and sentiments we have come to call regrets. Remorse describes those things we genuinely hurt over, and until we can speak about them to one another we likely can’t heal or really make a change.

So let’s ask each other about what we’re remorseful about, rather than what we regret. The answers will probably be better.

Basic social needs

Albert Wenger writes:

As part of my thinking about a possible World After Capital, I have been looking into human needs. A framework that is frequently mentioned in that context is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is a great example of something that remains a popular reference point despite being largely a conjecture and having been superseded by subsequent research (which tends to be much less well known).

There are two psychological needs though that appear to be quite robust across different studies: purpose and recognition. Apparently most of us do much better if we have a strong answer to why we are doing something and having someone else recognize our efforts. On this basis it makes a lot of sense why many people in the Rust Belt are suffering. We live in a society that (wrongly) equates work with purpose. So if your work goes away so does your purpose. Add to that the feeling that your plight is not being recognized and you have a toxic combination. …

One of the most common mistakes I observe among entrepreneurs in leading their company is that they keep too much in their head. They have the whole vision, mission and strategy there and know for themselves how a particular piece of work fits with it (probably my manager knew the answer also). But instead of communicating that again and again they simply keep it locked up in their head. And it is easy to see why that happens. Communicating takes time. Time they feel they don’t have…

Recognition is equally powerful. Even when you know why you are doing something, if your work is not recognized you will eventually become demotivated. …

As a society as we are heading away from traditional work we need to think hard about where purpose and recognition come from. In the meantime though as entrepreneurs and investors we should help live this in companies.

Purpose, recognition, communication.

A messaging system, not a library

Adrienne LaFrance writes on the void that is the internet:

The web, as it appears at any one moment, is a phantasmagoria. It’s not a place in any reliable sense of the word. It is not a repository. It is not a library. It is a constantly changing patchwork of perpetual nowness. …

“There are now no passive means of preserving digital information,” said Abby Rumsey, a writer and digital historian. In other words if you want to save something online, you have to decide to save it. Ephemerality is built into the very architecture of the web, which was intended to be a messaging system, not a library.

Culturally, though, the functionality of the web has changed. The Internet is now considered a great oracle, a place where information lives and knowledge is stitched together. And yet there are no robust mechanisms for libraries and museums to acquire, and thus preserve, digital collections. The world’s largest library, the Library of Congress, is in the midst of reinventing the way it catalogues resources in the first place—an attempt to bridge existing systems to a more dynamic data environment. But that process is only beginning.

In the print world, it took centuries to figure out what ought to be saved, how, and by whom. The destruction of much of Aristotle’s work deprived humanity of a style of writing that the philosopher Cicero described as like “a flowing river of gold.” What survived of Aristotle’s writing wasn’t prose, but more akin to lecture notes.

Twitter Moments

Twitter Moments has been great in my first few weeks with it. It feels like a natural evolution of the service, and I hope it is developed faster and expanded into more categories. It feels like the most natural “what’s happening”/news source I’ve seen on social platforms so far, and Moments often clues me in to something that I wasn’t seeing elsewhere.

In casual usage, I’ve unfortunately found myself often forgetting its there. The blue dot over that tab, meant to signal the equivalent of “unread messages,” immediately became a fixture in the app for me. It’s just here, and it doesn’t often cause me to take action there.

Despite that, I’d be comfortable with Moments becoming the new main screen within the app, a sort of parallel of Facebook’s News Feed. Move the home stream into the center, let me create multiple streams to swipe between like I can swipe between Moments categories, and then eliminates Lists.

That’s my ideal Twitter at this point.

Electric Objects

I was sitting on a roof in Old City, Philadelphia last summer catching up with a friend when the topic of art came up.

I had mentioned I that I’m a fan of art that’s special enough to be heirloom potential—stuff that has meaning, but that’s also thoughtfully presented and made with quality enough to last a century. Electric Objects was brought up as a semi-counter, with the idea that art like so much else might simply become another internet of things component in the home.

Ever since seeing the Kickstarter that launched Electric Objects I’ve been a fan of the concept. There’s definitely a place for it in the home. The idea of buying digital licenses for art on a regular basis is compelling, too.

All of this came back to me last night in Ocean City when I walked into Steele’s Fudge Shop and saw their display of live video feeds from throughout the town. The quality was generally poor, but the idea feels neat.

Imagine your home office with a displaying that cycles through live cameras of your college town, your favorite vacation spots, maybe where you grew up.

Improving live streaming

James Franklin was in Philadelphia last night to throw the opening pitch at the Phillies game. I wasn’t there, but I was able to watch it thanks to Onward State and Periscope after receiving a push notification that they were live.

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about Periscope or live streaming. I still see tremendous value there and I’m still engaging with Periscope somewhere between “daily” and “a number of times per week.” Meerkat hasn’t developed in a way that’s interesting to me, and many of the key personalities that had me excited about it early on have left, so I deleted Meerkat recently.

Periscope recently added a feature I think they probably should have launched with, which is the ability to follow users but also mute them—meaning that their latest streams show up in your stream, but you won’t get a push notification every time they go live. There are many interesting people on Periscope who just stream way too many times per day, to the point where I had to unfollow them because it became intolerable. I know friends who’ve deleted the app entirely for that reason.

What I’m still waiting for, and what I think will give Periscope tremendous value, is the ability for streams to be saved permanently to your profile. This would put Periscope somewhere between YouTube and Snapchat—great value for advertisers long-term and for brands, personalities, and institutions streaming great stuff, while still letting most users stream short-term and have their stuff disappear immediately or after 24 hours.

Also seeing Periscope streams become compatible with iOS multitasking would be key when the iPhone 6S and refreshed iPads come out. Lots of great content, but not necessary that I want to engage with 100% focus.

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Per post push notifications 

I’m a fan of push notifications. If tried and refined per app, they’re tremendously useful. Basically the contemporary equivalent of having a personal assistant in many ways.

There are still some major areas where push notifications aren’t even really an option, which I’m frankly surprised by at this point.

One of those is with podcasting, though Overcast is an exception. It’s great being notified of a freshly released episode, because while I like certain podcasts I’m not in love with any of them enough to actively remember to check.

Another area without notifications is books. Neither Kindle nor iBooks have options to push notify for useful scenarios. What if one of my books receives an update? What if a favorite author releases a new book? What if I made progress in a recent book but haven’t opened it in the last few days, or weeks? I should be able to choose push notifications for these scenarios. And it’s a fact that I don’t open iBooks as much as I should considering what I have in my library.

And probably the biggest area that push notifications should exist but don’t really is for websites. Change seems to be afoot, somewhat. As of OS X Yosemite, sites can prompt for notifications. But on iPhone/iPad, it’s frustrating that I can’t opt to receive push notifications for new posts from favorite sites, blogs, etc. Medium does their in their iOS app for authors you follow, which is great. I hope WordPress incorporates this with their Reader stream at some point.

There are plenty of sites that don’t post frequently enough to be worth a place in bookmarks or favorites, but that I’d like to hear from when they post sporadically. And I’d like to be able to do that simply rather than hacking together a workaround solution.