September 2011

Time for a break

time for a breakI love social networks.

They’re how I follow the news, get different perspectives, stay in touch with friends — and make new ones. When people complain that online connections are just a poor substitute for “real life”, I just shake my head and tell them they’re doing it wrong. And as I’ve argued passionately in Cognitive evolution and revolution, The future of civil liberties, A grassroots social network activist’s perspective, and Freedom not fear, combining social network and real world activism is a great opportunity to regain our rights online and off.

But there are downsides as well. Facebook constantly changing its interface and finding new ways to violate my privacy, the arrogance and elitism of the guys running Google+ and their evil naming policy (along the incessant circling over the last few days), Diaspora*’s inability to edit posts or block obnoxious people … and the time I spend checking FB, G+, D*, Twitter, Quora, Dreamwidth, tribe.net, free-association and elsewhere.

So it’s time for a break from social networks.

See you in a week or two!

jon

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In chaos there is opportunity (part 11 of Diversity and Google+)

Google+ in rainbow colors

I’m flashing! Back in 2006, the Ad Astra project proposed a strategy for Microsoft to outflank Google by leveraging its employee base and social technologies. One of the key insights: social computing technologies allow a company to tap into the combined energy of employees and their networks. This can be a huge asset — and one that potentially grows non-linearly as a company grows. Alas, Microsoft took another approach, investing in algorithmic search to compete with Google head-on, and ceding the social market to Facebook, LinkedIn, and others..

Five years later, it’s Google in the role of a large company trying to use its size as an advantage against a more nimble competitor. If Google’s 20,000+ employees can work together effectively and are sufficiently motivated, they’ll be a huge asset in the “battle for social.” Tying bonuses across the company to success gets everybody to focus on the company’s priority. From a strategy perspective, a great move by Google.

Which doesn’t mean it will work.

— me, in a comment Prisms, Kool-Aid and Opportunity April 2011

One way to look at Google+ through the lens of what Robert Scoble calls the game of all games: the battle between Facebook, Google, and “own identity on the internet.”  In that context, it was a brilliant move against all the other big US-based corporations run and owned primarily by white guys who are fighting over who can profit from mining our personal information and selling our eyeballs to advertisers.

And in a lot of ways, it’s worked out quite well:
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Notes from Underground: Equinox+One and Solitude

Tonight at the Atrium -- Equinox+One

rainbow matrixSummer ended quickly in Seattle this year. One day it was sunny and 80 degrees; the next it was cloudy and 60. DJ Anomaly’s Thursday night Equinox+One marked the official start of fall with a great set — and some familiar faces. “Hey, I remember seeing you years ago at Infected Mushroom and Astral Projection at Premiere … what’s new?” Good times!

D was out of town over the weekend, so after a long day of work on Saturday, instead of going out I decided to stay home, put on a DJ Anomaly mix, and enjoy the solitude.   At first I was thinking it would be a night filled with introspection, checking out old journals and photos and blog posts and reflecting on what’s happened and where I’m going next.

But as I listened to the music, my mind wound up turning off …

So instead I just enjoyed myself.

I heart psytrance.

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The Trend is in the Wrong Direction: Reflections on the Field Trial (part 10 of Diversity and Google+)

Also published on We Get Google Plus, Diaspora *, and G+

Google+ in rainbow colorsFor the past 12 weeks we’ve been in field trial, and during that time we’ve listened and learned a great deal. We’re nowhere near done, but with the improvements we’ve made so far we’re ready to move from field trial to beta, and introduce our 100th feature: open signups.

— Vic Gundotra, Google+: 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99… 100.9/20/2011

Many aspects of Google+’s field trial went extremely well. Hangouts are clearly G+’s “killer app”.* It’s been remarkably reliable for such an early stage project: no “fail whales” and (at least for me) a lot fewer bugs than Facebook. G+ has a lot of momentum with social media experts, photographers, and 20-45-year old guys; and most of the reviews have been positive.

From a business strategy perspective, Google+ has been a huge win, highlighting how many people want an alternative to Facebook. Facebook’s fighting back, copying and improving on many of G+’s features and completely reworking their profile page. But with so many users sick of the constant changes, declining software quality, and postponing the IPO, they’re in a difficult — especially with Google’s far greater resources. Advantage Google.

But there are a few flies in the ointment …

It’s beginning to look a lot like MySpace

Every time I post a photo of me or a female friend, the photo gets all sorts of

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Talk about a hostile environment (part 9 of Google+ and Diversity)

also posted on G+ and on Diaspora*

Google+ in rainbow colorsI feel very let down by Google’s behavior. I had hoped to escape the heavy-handedness that is Facebook, but that is not to be.

I’ll have a presence here; I have to, professionally. But the joy is gone.

— Kathy Gill, Google+ As An Identity Service Is Bait And Switch

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4 Things Diaspora* can learn from Google+

Part 2 of A crucial time for Diaspora*

Diaspora* logo variant by Giorgio

This weekend I received an invitation through Facebook to join Diaspora. I had tried to join Diaspora last year when I learned about their Kickstarter success while writing my book on crowdsourcing, but I couldn’t get in. So of course I was curious and went immediately to sign up.

And then I was puzzled. Diaspora looked just like…Google+. Or did Google+ look just like Diaspora?

— Aliza Sherman, Google+ meet Diaspora – or maybe you know them already?

Yeah really. Dan Tynan, in Will the real anti-Facebook please stand up?, comments that “Given that G+ emerged some seven months after Diaspora went public, I’m guessing Google was taking notes.” Sure, the basic idea of having Aspects (in Diaspora) or Circles (in Google+) to organize your acquaintances isn’t new,* but G+’s web layout sure looks a heckuva lot like Diaspora’s.

What’s that they say about the sincerest form of flattery?

And conveniently enough, a large corporation has just spent millions of dollars on a “field test” that offers plenty of learning for Diaspora*. Thanks, Google!

So last week I started asking people what they thought Diaspora* could learn from Google+. Since then Kathy, Helena, Greg, Amy, Stephen, Gretchen, Dan, Paul, Andreas, David, Cindy, Geeky, powlsy, Drew, Terry, Sylvia, Edward, Anne, Hrafn, Shiyiya, Cavlec, Wiring, Madeleine, @PRC_Amber, @blakereidm, Arvind, Dan, and many others came up with new suggestions and refined the list in discussions on Google+, Dreamwidth, Diaspora, Twitter, earlier draft, and email. Thanks to everybody who got involved! As usual, the majority of the good ideas came from others; all of the clunkers and mistakes are mine.

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A crucial time for Diaspora*

Diaspora* logo variant by Giorgio

Although we’ve been quiet for a while, it’s because we’ve been working hard, head-down.

We’re thrilled to say we’ve built the first stage of a new social web, one better than what’s out there today: a place where each of us owns our own information, where each person controls his or her own privacy, where no-one is a product, and where we all control our own destinies.

— Maxwell, Daniel, Ilya, Sarah, Yosem and Peter, Diaspora* is making a difference

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Constitution Day 2011: Freedom not Fear

In the aftermath of my events on Sept. 11, 2011, I feel violated, humiliated and sure that I was taken from the plane simply because of my appearance. Though I never left my seat, spoke to anyone on the flight or tinkered with any “suspicious” device, I was forced into a situation where I was stripped of my freedom and liberty that so many of my fellow Americans purport are the foundations of this country and should be protected at any cost….

This country has operated for the last 10 years through fear. We’ve been a country at war and going bankrupt for much of this time. What is the next step?

— Shoshana Hebshi, Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit, Tales from the Heartland

The F-16 fighters that had shadowed the plane before it landed in Detroit and the SWAT team that dragged Shoshanna and her two Indian seatmates from their seats was responding to the crew’s report that … somebody had been spending too long in the bathroom. On the same day, F-16s also scrambled for another flight where … three people made repeated trips to the bathroom. WTF?

Following a catastrophic national event, such as 9/11 in the United States, conditions are anything but ordinary. The people are traumatized, they long for someone to make them feel secure, and an ancient paranoia switch is once again waiting to snap on. Under these conditions, fear mongers thrive. Their characteristics are so hand in glove with the trauma reaction of the population that their identifying behaviors are scarcely “seen” at all. In short, after we have been thoroughly traumatized, we cannot see the devil.

— Martha Stout, The Paranoia Switch

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What Diaspora (and everybody else) can learn from Google+ (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  WORK IN PROGRESS!  FEEDBACK WELCOME!

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Booberday: Google+ and Diversity, part 8

Google+ in rainbow colorsSummary: it’s a “share pictures of your cleavage because of… breast cancer! yeah!” meme. That meta-meme is potent, folks. Got something you want people to do? Claim it’s about preventing or ameliorating or alerting or grieving breast cancer. You are now the untouchable saviour. The end.

— Mary, on Geek Feminism

A surprising number of guys don’t seem to get why so many women found the G+ weekend meme of sharing pictures of cleavage under the guise of “breast cancer awareness” offensive.   Mary’s article is a great roundup, with quotes from Christa Laser, Randall Monroe, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Peggy Orenstein, as well as links out to Twisty on I Blame the Patriarchy and Lauradhel of Hoyden about Town … but even so, there’s plenty of whining about “censorship” and mansplaining about how women who feel objectified are just wrong.  Sigh.

As M. M. Faulkner said six weeks ago on Pay Attention People in Why Women Users are Important for Google+,

Furthermore, although making a joke here or there, posting a somewhat mysogynist photo, or remarking on women’s love of Farmville may seem harmless enough, I think we need to recognize there is a larger picture. What I am speaking of is a collective conscience that forms when people are bombarded with the same images and messages over and over and over. The message for the past week has been ramping up and it seems to be suggesting that we are simply are not as “ready” for Google’s latest social media network. It reminds us, as women, we are in the “wrong place” at Google Plus.

Of course there are plenty of exceptions.  All of the people I’m following steered clear from Booberday, and guys like Randall Monroe and Mohamed Mansour (who worked overnight to get out Filter Stream for Google+) really stepped forward.  But still.

A heck of a lot of women have been talking for months about things that make Google+ a hostile environment to women … and Google’s largely ignored them.

I wonder what, if anything, they’ll do in the aftermath of Booberday?

Check out the previous posts in the series: A Work in Progress, Why it matters, #nymwars!, A tale of two searches, The double bind of oppression, Anxious masculinity under threat, and Still a Ways to Go

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Notes from Underground: Interim

DJAnomalySF: Tonight at The Atrium - Interim - psytrance!

interim flowersIt had been a week of solid work so by the time the weekend came around we were both more than ready for a break.  Friday night was 80s night at The Atrium … the champagne flowed freely and the hits just kept on coming, everything from Head over Heels to Two of Hearts (!), the Bangles to ABC.   The lighting made everybody look great, and there were cupcakes!  What’s not to like?

Sunny days and warm nights
Appreciating good friends
The moon smiling down

Saturday DJ Anomaly kicked off Interim with One World One Sky, of all things, but after that it turned into some serious psytrance and another great night.    The name struck a chord: we were both in something of an interim mood, enjoying a brief respite as the summer wraps up before heading into what’s looking like a packed fall.   And with 9/11 and Constitution Day coming up, my thoughts were as usual on social networks and civil liberties.

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