Review of @AJKeen #digital vertigo

One of the very few books I have reread.

Andrew Keen’s book is a brilliant critique of social networking as we know it.

Keen did his research – be that it looking back to ancient philosophers, the history of computing, social change in the US and globally – and has managed to explain much of what has happened.

The book is interesting in that he builds it (1) around his interactions at a conference in Oxford, with a number of the  ‘leading lights’ of social networking and (2) the characters of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, ‘Vertigo’.  He  quotes widely from those who promote the benefits of  social networking and those, like himself, who doubt its real value.

He does not mince his words (P118) – ‘you see, social media has been so ubiquitous, so much the connective tissue of society that we’ve all become like Scottie Ferguson, victims of a creepy story that we neither understand nor control…It’s a postindustrial truth of increasingly weak community and a rampant individualism of super-nodes and super-connectors’.

The references alone could tie you up for weeks.  But I believe he has done all of us a service in highlighting what’s wrong with much of what is being put over as good for society.  Well worth taking the time to read.

Questioning the value of the online experience

Just finished reading Digital Vertigo by Andrew Keen.  Excellent book – should be compulsory reading for anyone like me who spends a reasonable amount of time participating in/ contributing to social networks.  Questions the value of much of this – and the gradual elimination of privacy.  More of this anon.

This piece from the Verge provides another perspective.  Paul Miller has recently completed 12 months ‘offline’.  And while he saw/ experienced benefits he missed the online experience and the online community.

The reality is that online communities do not replace traditional communities, facebook friends do not equate with ‘friends’ – but they do provide another communications channel. I think, as more and more data is gathered (e.g. location fro mobile devices) privacy is greatly undermined – if not eliminated.  But here is Miller admitting he missed it.

Swings and round abouts.  I probably stay in contact with some people (primarily in other countries) on a more regular basis because of social networks. But perhaps some of the communication is lesser than were I to phone more often, travel to meet more often write more letters.

 

 

 

 

Do technology companies such as Google have a social responsibility?

Read an interesting piece in yesterday’s New York Times.

Google has had this promise of many years: ‘Don’t do evil”.

But the playing field is changing.  Unfortunately the walled gardens are in business e.g. facebook.  This poses real challenges when you want to be able to search against everything of potential relevance but facebook won’t play ball.

Apple is another example of a wwalled garden.  Apple wants us to live in their garden, using their Apple storage and Apple devices.  Another problem for Google.

So can Google prosper and not do evil?

Interesting to see Reid Hoffman of Linkedin commenting.  Linkedin has built up a huge database and network based on data provided by site participants (for the most part not using the paid subscription version of product).  Does Hoffman/ Linkedin have a responsibility to these users?

In many respects the most interesting observation in the article is the reminder that in most cases the creators of new social sites (and other technologies) have very little idea as to what the eventual impact of their invention will be.

 

 

 

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Pinterest demonstrates that social media continue to evolve

Pinterest meets a user requirement not served by Facebook or Twitter

Just starting using Pinterest.

My initial forays remind me a little of when I started with twitter – why am I doing this?  But Pinteret looks like it is gathering traction fast.  Interesting to see that there continues to be room in the web2.0 world for new applications, new platforms.  Twitter, Facebook, FourQquare do not service this market.  They may integrate but the founders of Pinterest have found a new angle, a platform allowing users to interact in a different way.

Karlin Lillington’s review in the Irish Times provides an interesting perspective on the emergence of Pinterest.

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2011 reflections on IT

Another year has whizzed bye.  Maybe it’s something to do with running your own consulting business, having a very active family and having a curious mind.

So what sticks in my mind in terms of technology – looking back on 2011?

What have I really liked?

I have been very happy with my Android phone – Samsung II.  Great phone, easy to use, great camera, easy integration with lots of social networks etc.  Would be lost without a smartphone.

Have found myself leaning much more towards Twitter than Facebook.  Have really found Twitter useful in terms of work related research, staying in contact with other professionals, developing my own profile.  Notwithstanding this Facebook is a daily platform for me – and has lured me into chess.com.  Typically have one or two chess games on the go (48 hours to move).

I have stuck with FourSquare.  Most of my acquaintances run a mile from FourSquare – why would you want to share your location?  I think this type of location based software has a long way to run.

Have enjoyed listening in to TWIT.TV (Leo Laporte’s This Week in Technology).  I tend to download the podcast and listen to it on one of my walks.  He has had some great guests during the year and some great debates – even last week with regard to restrictions on software copying.

Leo Laporte has got me to sign up to tow of his sponsors: www.Audible.Co.UK and Carbonite.  Audible I sue to download books which I listen to when walking, taking public transport, even at home rather than reading the physical book (nice break for the eyes).  I am using Carbonite to back up my data.

I have implemented encryption using TrueCrypt – seems to work very well.  And seems to be gaining in popularity wherever I go.

And EverNote – what a great application.  Increasingly I find myself using Evernote to capture meeting notes.  And it’s available on my Android phone when I need to access a note.

Finally – Google+.  I definitely like it.  And it looks like it has traction.  But then Google has some influence!  And I should say I have had a great year with Google Apps – has not let me down.  The world needs Google and Microsoft competing – at least you can now shop and compare between the two cloud offerings.

What have been my other observations?

Lots of disillusioned IT teams in corporate world.  Lots of them working with reduced budgets, smaller teams but many of the same challenges.  Many of their users have lots more technology available to them at home or on their phones – real challenges in providing stimulating corporate IT environments to end users.

Understanding the economics of the cloud is challenging.  If I have 100 Offce/ Exchange users does it make sense to sign up to Office 365 (or Google Apps)? Do the price points make sense?  Green field site v. established business.  Many people unconvinced about the economics.  Many people committed to cloud approach.  Debate is vigorous.

Regardless, operating from Ireland, with its current economic challenges, web based technologies are being embraced and lots of entrepreneurs emerging with ideas which exploit these technologies.

 

 

 

 

Why publish your data?

Attended the ‘Opening Up Government Data’ day in DERI, in Galway, today.  Some interesting presentations and demonstrations of tools such as Google Public Data Explorer and Simile Widgets – to enable you to work with linked open data.

In one of our breakout sessions we discussed why companies would choose to share their data – ie publish it in formats which are easy for others to consume (e.g. csv, not pdf).  Granted many businesses have web sites, describing their offerings, providing some background on the company, potentially inviting comment or queries and answering some Frequently Asked Questions.  But very few offer much data arising from their product or market research, their production statistics or their sales campaigns.  In general they would regard this information as confidential and constituting some element of their ‘Competitive advantage’.

Today’s seminar really focused on government publishing data which it might be argued belongs to the citizens.  However, understandably, there was plenty of discussion around this in terms of the efforts required to publish it, the potential ownership of the data, maintaining the data going forward, etc.  There was some discussion as to whether ther should be a charge for this data on the basis of the costs associated and the potential for companies to generate come commercial benefit.  Plenty of solid reasons were put forward for publishing the data – transparency, accountability , etc.

Much of this debate brought me back to thinking about privacy, Mark Zuckerburg’s general approach with Facebook, differing attitudes to publishing personal information on sites such as Facebook, twitter, google+, foursquare, etc.  Why do some people choose to share their views on politics, on the economy, their location in a restaurant – whereas others want nothing shared?

I think this question ‘Why publish your data?’ can be addressed in all of these contexts – individuals, government and corporates.  And the answer is  – because the person or the organisation sees some value in its publication.  At the personal level the social networks and smart phones have made publishing data so much easier.  What we are now seeing emerge for business and government are a range of platforms and tools which may all of this a lot easier for government and companies.  And a little like individuals – not sure that anyone has really worked out where all of this is taking us.

Some newspapers have figured it out – by making their content available, by marking it up semantically, they become more relevant to more entities for longer.  But that’s a little different to publishing data which is a product of lots of research completed at your own cost – on the basis that it’s good for society or that of I do it then someone else will publish other data in exchange which I can exploit.

 

Interconnected becomes hyperconnected

Excellent piece in today’s New York Times from Thomas Friedman (previous reference).  Greatly enjoyed his previous book ‘The world is flat‘.

Friedman touches on a three ideas:

  • Advances in technology (since The World is Flat in 2004) e.g. twitter, facebook, freelancer.com are threatening white collar rather than blue collar jobs
  • Stop talking about outsourcing – really just a question of sourcing
  • There is now only good, better and best – and our schools need to catch up

Friedman has it right.  Social networking, mobile technology, free videoconferencing, tools to support collaboration, sites to rate resources – it’s all making for a world where you can assemble the best resources you require to do any task.  Increasingly there will be less room for inferior service.

Are you distracted when watching television?

In this era of smartphones and tablets even when we do watch the traditional television we tend to have another device on the go.  at the most basic level people continue to text while watching television. Many will be engaged in social networking while watching television e.g. commenting on Twitter or Facebook while watching a movie or a sports event.  Also if online you access to sites which may provide more information about the event e.g. players statistics, match statistics, actor profiles, etc.  and, of course, in many cases you will actually be watching the TV programme on a device such as a smartphone or a notepad.

Interesting piece here about potential use of semantic tags/links to improve the tv experience in this environment.  The general observation of the negative impact of traditional TV advertising is very interesting – given that there may be more effective ways to advertise through use of metadata/ semantic tags.

…and of course the usual challenge – lack of agreed standards for all of this.

 

 

How much impact is Google+ having on Facebook?

I have been blogging recently, again, on the question of the misuse of the word ‘friends’ in the social networking world.  The use of the word ‘contacts’ by Linkedin may be a better use of the English language than ‘friends’ by Facebook.

Interesting developments recently from Facebook – it would seem that privacy and the meaning of ‘friendship’ are beginning to be of concern to Facebook.

The latest is the introduction of the ‘Subscribe’ button.  This looks like the introduction of Twitter type ‘follow’ functionality – in  Facebook context.  Will be interesting to see how the Facebook community takes to this option.  Looks like we will all get to choose the level of updates we will be bombarded with my our ‘friends’.

One can only wonder whether it has been the emergence of Google+ which has finally brought some real changes in Facebook and how its user community are treated.  (Perhaps no different to Ryanair beginning to be a little bit more passenger conscious as it seeks to compete for business passengers?)

No sign of a slow down in use of social networks

I come across anecdotal evidence of people becoming bored with social networks – suggesting they may shut down their Facebook account, don’t see the point of twitter, etc.  Latest report from Nielsen on the US market firmly gives the lie to this.

The reality appears to be that people are spending more of their online time in social networks.  And that’s not really very surprising – particularly if they are managing their participation in a way which provides them with value e.g. using Twitter to follow particular interests, using Facebook or Google+ to interact with specific groups of people.

I posted the other day on the subject of ‘Friends or Not‘. Social networks are not without their negatives e.g. irrelevant data, self  censorship, etc.  But the plain reality is that they do offer all sorts of ways to present information in context.

Would be interesting to see similar analysis for the local marketplace in Ireland.  I suspect it is not very different.  I think the other day I heard back from a younger family member ‘No I did not get your email, I use facebook’.  Things continue to move on in social networking and instant messaging.