The Perils and Joys of Twitter

TwitterI’m an early adopter of Twitter and I really liked it when I started. Then I sort of just forgot about it for a couple years. I can’t really explain my neglect. I think I just got distracted by exploring all the other tools that developed, including, the Facebook monster.

Recently I have gone back to Twitter,  started to get involved again, and am remembering why I was originally drawn to this particular social media platform. From the beginning, Twitter’s structure has made it challenging to understand for the casual user. The open API adds another level of complexity with lots of third party apps building on top of Twitter adding functionality.

Th ability to direct Tweets at other users by including their handles, the hashtag (#) system allowing for Tweets to be discovered by others and categorizing content creates the possibility for a great amount of interaction between people of all types, not just your “friends” on Facebook.

The same features that can make Twitter feel like a worldwide open discussion also allow for trolls a bots to shadow that world. These things can make Twitter seem like a mean and frightening place. Many well-intentioned people have been driven off Twitter by its dark side. So, if you decide to play in that schoolyard you may need to arm your heart agains the bullies.

The complexity, the seeming chaos, the potiential threats, virtual and real life that can emerge, are all reasons that are probably why Twitter’s user numbers continue to struggle compared the anodyne but seemingly magnetic Facebook. But if you can wrap your arms and mind around all that, it can be a fascinating, exciting and fun place. This time around, I can’t seem to stay away for long. A day off Twitter and I fall victim to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). My fingers begin to twitch.

Still, I think of myself as a novice. Features have been added since I first started years ago. The third-party tools have changed. New strategies and techniques that I had never heard of have evolved. I barely have enough time to stumble around in the platform, let alone make a concerted effort to study the techniques for effect particiapation.

One of my stumbles forward was when I made the following post after listening to a podcast about free speech. Shortly after finishing the episode I saw a related news story and tweeted the participants in the podcast about that story.

This post caught the eye of many people. It was retweeted many times, “liked” (thes heart icon) by hundreds and a conversation with many, many people (the cartoon talk bubble icon) involved for about two weeks. Given the average life span on a Twitter news feed is about 20 minutes, this was astounding, at least for me.

It’s difficult to say what triggered this reaction. Probably, it was a perfect combination of the topic (free speech is a hot topic on Twitter), including the two Twitter handles of the people involved in the podcast and the news item about Richard Dawkins having his talk at U.C. Berkeley cancelled.

I’ve yet to recreate the success of this Tweet. I don’t consciously set out to do so. But it is in the back of my mind as I fumble my way. Since I do use the platform to also talk about my business, perhaps it’s time to learn, to make an effort to be more systematic, strategic and effective. If you’re on Twitter (and I encourage you to be), please follow me and see how I do. I will follow you back. Promise!

Roadside Assistance

Roadside Assistance

Travelling can be fun. It can also be fraught with trouble and misshaps, especially when you depend on technology to keep your life and work moving while on the road.

My work is all on line. So communication and work tools (phone, iPad, laptop) are essential. Two days into this road trip to Colorado I dropped my iPhone on a cement slab while trying to take a picture of a Clive Bundy supporter’s pickup at a rest stop in Nevada.

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The screen was shattered. While the phone still worked, I knew it could easily deteriorate with dust or water getting in through the cracks. So, using my phone I made an appt. at an Apple store outside Salt Lake City. It got resolved ($280 later) and we were back on the road pretty much on schedule.

Today, I did an OS update on my MacBook Pro. I downloaded the update through the App Store and set the thing to reboot while I went out for a run. When I returned, the thing wouldn’t boot. So, it’s back to another Apple Store this afternooon.

Update

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Absorbed by the Borg

Absorbed by the Borg

We Are All Datamovestoday

Already we feel compelled to post so much of what we do on Facebook in order to validate our activities or to prove how active we are or what scrumptious meals we make. We share our photos, our thoughts, our blog posts. We all (well not all are on Facebook [yet] and Facebook users are not equally compulsive [yet], I realize I am using hyperbole, but it’s getting harder to avoid, is it not?), OK, I do this.

And it’s not just what you normally think of as Facebook. The corporation is sucking in other tools that can be used to share your life data. I’m looking at you Instagram. Now comes news that FB has purchased the activity tracker Moves.

UPDATE: Moves just published its new Privacy Policy. As expected, here’s the relevant piece:

  • We may share information, including personally identifying information, with our Affiliates (companies that are part of our corporate groups of companies, including but not limited to Facebook) to help provide, understand, and improve our Services.

“…improve our Services…” can be very broadly interpreted.

We Are All Product

Moves tracks where you go, how fast you go and how long it took you to go there. To the right is an example of my activity for Saturday, April 26, 2014. It graphs that activity to mapping software as well. So, now Facebook knows that much more about me going back to June of last year since the app is in my phone and my phone is with me almost all the time.

While Facebook says it will not integrate Moves, Instagram, WhatsApp and other recently acquire tools into its social graph directly, this doesn’t preclude it from sucking the accumulated data into its vast maw and getting it to line up with all the other stuff I have voluntarily shared. And they can use that data in all sorts of ways to make money. I am the product. We are all the product.

Rage Against the Machine?

I’m really not sure how to think about this. I like Facebook. I love Moves. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of knowledge that Facebook gathers about me. Every time I login somewhere else using Facebook or even just browse the web Facebook is tracking.

And it’s not just Facebook, though it’s arguably the most successful behemoth. The Internet is awash with applications and  companies gathering and sharing my data. It’s huge business.

I could unplug. But since I make my living on the Internet, that’s not very practical. I could use counter measures and tools to protect my privacy, but that in itself could be at least a part-time job. Maybe I worry to much. Maybe, instead, I should relax as we will soon have reached that new Eden that Richard Brautigan wrote about in 1967:

“I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

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How are you handling your data/privacy in this brave new world? Comment! Please…

 

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Net Non-Neutrality

Update: If you’d like to comment on the new FCC proposed policy, the comment period is open.

I Loves Me Some Netflix. But Come ON!

When Netflix signed a deal with Comcast to pay them extra for faster, more consistent content delivery it was understandable from a business point of view. But it was clear that it violated the principle of network neutrality and that consumers were going to pay for it one way or another.Netflix

Sure enough, Netflix just announced it is going to raise rates for new customers, and while existing customers won’t see their rates change for now, as Netflix strikes the same bargains with other service providers it’s bound to happen that all our rates will go up.

FCC: Throwing in the Towel

And guess what, now that the Appeals Court ruled the FCC doesn’t have the authority to enforce Network Neutrality, the FCC has simply decided aw what the heck. Let’s just say we can have multi-tiered service after all.

I think the writing is on the wall. Cable providers are going to continue lose subscribers because of their high cost and bundled packages. People are going to use Netflix, Amazon Prime (which just signed a deal with HBO to stream older content), and Hulu through a Roku or Apple TV device, paying small fees to multiple services in lieu of high fees to a single source.

At least that’s where I’m headed. But then I fear the cable companies will start jacking up Internet service rates. So, we people at the bottom of the food chain will get bit in the ass one way or another.

 

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Rifting on Oculus Rift

Rifting on Oculus Rift

If you haven’t heard of the Oculus Rift, it’s a newly developed 3D virtual reality device that sits on your face like a large pair of goggles. It’s said to be immersive and quite amazing even at this early stage. It garnered a great deal of attention a few months ago, and then, when Facebook bought it for 2 billion dollars, even more press.

Without personally having the Oculus experience it’s hard to know what the excitement is all about. But clearly something is going on. Then I read this article about an elderly woman diagnosed with cancer, and having a wonderful experience just walking through a demo of a Tuscany village.

The story points the way to future possible uses of such technology beyond gaming. And then I got to imagining a care home where instead of a room full of elderly folks staring at Jeopardy on TV, all the old folks are sitting around with Oculus goggles being tended to by robots made in Japan. They are swaying, and oohing and aahing at the worlds they are experiencing. The robots put ice tea in their hands but it’s not used to wash down a fistful of medications.

Gosh, am I imagining my own future? Could be worse, I guess.

A Small GMO Victory

I wanted to share a small victory. A relative had proclaimed herself an anti-GMO person to my consternation. She started sending me links, all of which I refuted. Then she told me she’d watched these 2 movies: Genetic Roulette and Genetic Chili, which, so help me, I watched on a Sunday afternoon.

After I watched Genetic Roulette, I sent her to this page which refutes point by point the assertions from the first film (actually from the self-published book that the film was based on).

Then, I watched the second one, Genetic Chili and saw it was directed by the same guy. So, I looked him up on Wikipedia. From his entry:

A variety of American organic food companies see Smith “as a champion for their interests”,[1] and Smith’s supporters describe him as “arguably the world’s foremost expert on the topic of genetically modified foods”.[20] In contrast, Michael Specter, writing in The New Yorker, reported that Smith was presented as a “scientist” on The Dr. Oz Show despite his lack of any scientific experience or relevant qualifications.[3] Bruce Chassy, a molecular biologist and food scientist, wrote to the show arguing that Smith’s “only professional experience prior to taking up his crusade against biotechnology is as a ballroom-dance teacher, yogic flying instructor, and political candidate for the Maharishi cult’s natural-law party.”[3].

I also noted that much of the assertions in the second movie were based on the findings of debunked studies by French microbiologist Gilles-Eric Séralini

After that, she wrote these magic words: “You are starting to persuade me. The de-bunking of Genetic Roulette is pretty thorough.”

Yes! OK, it’s not definitive. It’s just a start. But hey, any movement toward the light I will take. The rest, now that she has the skeptical spark, is up to her.