September 2011

Suggestions from Last Year’s Hackathon Winner (part 7 of TechCrunch, Disrupted)

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011

J’aime Ohm won the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon as a solo hacker with a personal safety iPhone app.  WiseDame’s tag line is “making safe living easier, one application release at a time”. It takes basic safety practices – letting friends or family know what time you expect to be home,  leaving a note about your plans for the day – and makes them better, faster, and easier.  Brilliant.

And a great case study in agile software engineering, too. J’aime started with an idea for a product she wanted and a set of use cases based her own experience. Next she talked with a bunch of potential early adopters who were variants on a target persona (”women who go out”) and had enough information to build a prototype. Which she did, and iterated rapidly continuing to get feedback, all in less than 24 hours.

— me in Now *that’s* what I call disruptive, October 2010

What a difference a year makes!  Last year’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco took place in the aftermath of the the Arrington Kerfuffle and Angelgate, and wound up with AOL acquiring TechCrunch.  This year, it’s in the midst of an ugly breakup, involving “tense severance negotations” between AOL and former editor Michael Arrington.   Pass the popcorn!

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What can Diaspora* learn from Google+?

At last year’s Blue Hat conference, I gave a short talk on What Diaspora* can learn from Microsoft.   Now, I’d like to do the same kind of analysis with Google+.

Ten weeks into the G+ experiment, what are the key learnings for a privacy-friendly distributed social network.  Here’s a few early thoughts.

  • Diaspora’s on the right track.  Google+’s “circle” concept and page layout look like they’re based on Diaspora’s work — and imitation is the sincerest form of flatter.
  • Diaspora’s current functionally + longer posts + easy link sharing + video = enough to get people excited
  • The estimated 40% of people online who prefer “screen names” or pseudonyms are a really good target audience right now.   Geek Feminism’s excellent list of Who Is Harmed By a “Real Names” policy could be the basis of a great go-to-market plan for Diaspora
  • Gender is a text field, but corporations run by cis guys still don’t see it that way

Your thoughts welcome, either about these ideas or new ones!

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Notes from Underground: Intention and Transition

laptopAfter last Saturday’s inflection point, the week was filled with writing, outlining, and business modeling.  Oh and Google+ of course.   Anxiously masculinity under threat, structural oppression, and nymwars … no shortage of interesting topics!  In a depressing kind of way, that is.

So once again I was ready for the weekend.  Friday night, we dropped by Gibbous, DJ Anomaly’s bi-weekly, for a couple hours.  Saturday was burn night on the playa; here in the Seattle area, it was Intention, again with DJ Anomaly.  And then Sunday, while the Temple of Transition burned in Black Rock Desert, I was back at The Atrium one more time for Transition.

It was a sparse crowd and the DJs were okay but nothing out of the ordinary.  D stayed home writing and I wound up running into a friend I used to hang out with a lot a few years ago.  After we exchanged hellos and caught up on what was happening, she told me that she was thinking of buying a new Android phone but was concerned about Google tracking her.   From there we drifted to a discussion of Google+ and pseudonymity.

The two of us first met online, at a social network site where almost everybody used pseudonyms.  I spent most of my online time there for a couple years, back before Facebook and Twitter.  The discussions were great, the people were interesting, and over the years many of us wound up meeting and often becoming friends in real life.   Long-awaited first meetings, dancing at Bar Sinister, zooming through the streets of DC at 3 a.m. on the back of a scooter … you don’t need to know somebody’s “real name” for any of this.

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Still a Ways to Go: the Suggested Users List (part 7 of Diversity and Google+)

Google+ in rainbow colors

Google Plus launched a “suggested users” list yesterday. I’m not on it, and I bet you aren’t either, particularly if you’re an educator — because, well, there aren’t any educators on the list.

— Audrey Watters, Personal Learning Networks and the Google+ “Suggested Users” list

The Google Suggested User List reads like the typical San Francisco Bay Area tech firm’s view of the World: most of the “interesting and famous people” are white, and if they’re black, they’re male rappers or athletes. Hello, Snoop Dog, Chamillionaire, 50 Cent, Dwight Howard, and Floyd Mayweather!

A couple of weeks go, Google community manager Natalie Villalobos asked for feedback on why people’s friends weren’t staying on G+.   One of the things that came up was that it was often very hard for new users to find people the thought would be interesting to follow and engage with.  There are a lot of creative ways to approach this, for example Ardith Goodwin’s suggestion of a welcoming committee.  Instead, Google+’s decided to take the same approach that worked out spectacularly badly for Twitter two years ago.  Will they fare better?

The early returns aren’t encouraging.  Dave, Robert,  and others immediately criticized the idea of a “suggested users” list and Bradley’s outreach to the Twitter elite.  After Bradley responded in Dave’s comments, and then  shared more details Saturday morningRobert asked to be removed from the list.  Bradley responded again in Robert’s comments.  And the discussion rages on.

Vic Gundotra: We value diversity. Including diversity of opinion

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Anxious Masculinity Under Threat: Google+ and Diversity, part 6

Google+ in rainbow colorsGoogle+’s naming policy isn’t failing because it’s poorly implemented, or because Google’s enforcement team is stupid. It’s failing because what they’re trying to do is (1) impossible, and (2) antisocial.

— Bob Blakley, Google+ Can Be a Social Network Or The Name Police — Not Both, Gartner Blog Network

I wonder what folks at Google thought of Chairman Eric Schmidt’s description of Google+ as an “identity service” which requires people real names? So friendly! So out of sync with what they’ve been telling the media! So … creepy!

It’s hard to see this going over well in the rest of the world, where everybody is sooo eager to share their personal information with a US company so that it’s subject to the PATRIOT Act. And here in the US, Gartner is only the latest to point out how destructive this is for Google+.

Despite its imperfections Google+ was on track for being a grand slam, taking a big chunk of audience from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and yes even Quora.* And now? The joy of the brilliantly-executed launch has dissipated. Passionate early supporters are now so anti-Google that they’re switching to Duck Duck Go and even Bing.


“Operational excellence”?

How embarrassing.

Anxious masculinity under threat

Basically, any situation in which a group of less privileged people makes critiques or observations of the dominant group in a way that threatens to upset the dominance of that group, to change the established order somehow, or to at least make the established order seem less virtuous, normal, and inevitable, is a situation in which the tone argument gets pulled out.

Sheila Marie on “the tone argument”

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Top 15 Privacy Panels for SXSW — Don’t Delay! Vote Today! (UPDATED — deadline tomorrow!)

SXSW,March 9-18 2012We’re heading into the last few days of public voting for SXSW 2012 proposals. Votes and comments count for about 30% of the decision-making process, and so advocating for the panels you want to see is important.  The deadline is Friday, September 2.   So please vote, comment, and share this link with your friends!

There are quite a few interesting panels on privacy.  Here’s a selective list.  To start with, a few on pseudonymity — ripped from today’s nymwars headlines!

There’s another nymwars panel that doesn’t make my short list: Identity on the Web: Are Handles Dead? by two people from Google.   Unsurprisingly, most of the comments it’s getting so far are negative.

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