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

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.

 

 

 

 

What’s happening with google+?

I tried out Google plus at launch time (more accurately when I got an account).  However I have continued to treat is as an experiment pending proper integration with google apps.  Where is that?

Google owns most recent results make for impressive reading.  But what of google+?  Seems to me that Facebook has been doing a good job of making their platform more useful – in terms of using it to communicate with different groups/lists of users.

This report suggests that google plus may be struggling to maintain initial momentum.  Obviously there have been some unfortunate PR incidents  – suggesting that not all senior Google execs are equally committed.

It;s a difficult space – when you want to break into a market dominated by Facebook.  For now I think Google plus has sharpened up people at Facebook.  But that cannot be the end game for Google.

Who is afraid of who?

I hear plenty of discussion about people’s concerns over security of data in the cloud. We actually have lots of legislation about where personal data can be held.  And we, in Ireland, tend to think in terms of it’s being OK so long as within Ireland, then Europe and then US.

Interesting piece in today’s FT referencing concerns in US about potential purchase of Yahoo by a Chinese company. Seems they have also had concerns about Deutsche Telekom acquiring a carrier in the US.  And the final reference in the article to concerns re the volume of data now held by Google.

This is moving quickly.  Privacy is on the line.  Many of us are using all sorts of cloud based services to support us in our work and our personal lives.  To be honest most users have no idea(and less interest) in where the data is held.  At least until Facebook is so on our faces in changing the rules as they see fit.

I suspect Chinese and US authorities (and many others) already have very detailed profiles on many people based on online activity.

 

Why will facebook not just leave us alone?

I am a regular and active facebook participant.  I enjoy the platform and some of the interaction afforded me.  But I am becoming weary.  I am beginning to think that I need an independent advisor to monitor changes implemented by Facebook and determine how I should adapt to each new change.

The news appearing over the last few days suggesting that after you log off from facebook they continue to monitor your actvities is disturbing.  Hard to believe that any company would believe that people would want this to happen.

Not surprising to read of pending actions.

Also think the partnership with music companies whereby your friends on facebook would know what you are listening to (by default) is a little creepy.  Facebook seem to claim that since we all like things social this is the way we want to go.  I don’t think so.

Will be interesting to see whether the Irish Data Protection Commissioner reaches any interesting conclusions.

Is it time for more of us to abandon Facebook?

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.

Friends or not?

Jay Baer just beat me to it.  In his case this article seems to have been inspired by the tragedy of a suicide of an online friend.

I’ve blogged on this topic before – the misuse of the word ‘friend’ by social networks such as facebook.

Friendship takes time and lots more.  They develop out of all sorts of situations but they take time.  The trust in a friendship is not built online.  It requires real socialisation – being with people in different situations.  Some friendships last through rows, disappointments, whatever; other friendships dissolve.  And then retrospectively we questions whether it was in fact a friendship.

Baer touches on another interesting point – the self censorship that we exercise in online communities – because the ‘friends’ are not all friends.  And a downside of this is that the communication does not server to promote/ reinforce friendships as a result.

Initially many of used Facebook got friends and blogging, LinkedIn and even twitter for business.  That has since changed radically – a network of 700m+ people (Facebook) is too big to be ignored for potential business advantage.

Baer says that he is going to make a real effort – even at the cost of less online contributions.  I think he is right.