Ways to moderate Facebook’s influence in your life

Well, for starters, of course, you can just not use it. But if it’s a useful online watering hole/neighborhood pub/back fence, here are some ideas. I’m not an expert, but some of these are actually based on experience.

  • Do your writing on a blog and post the links on Facebook instead of writing in the posts. You can either customize or automate an excerpt or teaser to get people (hopefully) to go to your blog to read it.
  • And speaking of that blog, if you aren’t paying a webhost for it, that means there’s probably advertising on your blog that you may or may not have any control over, and which the blog host is using to make money off of you and your visitors.
  • Join some other social networks and do the same thing there (post links to your own hosted content).
  • Get your news from a news organization. If it is online, be prepared to pay for it.
  • If you see great information or entertainment (on Facebook or elsewhere), take the time to go to the original source and share that link on Facebook. If you are not already familiar with the source and confident in its veracity, try to confirm the facts first (or, you know, just don’t share it).
  • Don’t use Facebook to log in to anything that gives you an alternative.
  • Don’t imagine that Instagram is where you will go: it is owned by Facebook.
  • Google Plus is at least in the business of using your personal information for its own benefit, but don’t depend on it not  selling your information to others.
  • Always remember that if you are not paying for it, you are the product, not the customer. Keep asking who benefits and where the money is going.
  • Recognize your own role in whatever you think is a problem. Learn how to set your privacy settings; be skeptical; unfollow or unfriend people and pages liberally; remove the app from your phone. (If you can’t stop checking Facebook, that’s not Facebook’s fault, that’s something you need to figure out a way to deal with. /end cranky old man mode)
  • Don’t engage on Facebook with things you don’t want promoted. Facebook does. not. care. if you think something is funny, untrue, outrageous, or awful. If you respond in any way, it just increases the likelihood that your friends (who might never otherwise have seen it) will see it. If you share it, even to ridicule or debunk it, you are just helping to spread it around.
  • Look for other, niche social networks that will meet some of your needs. I am on a very quirky, obscure platform called Plurk (seemingly popular with teenage Korean girls), which is an outpost for groups of people from Second Life. One of the original attractions was that it didn’t police identity or names.

Thank you, Google

(This post is starting in the middle of a conversation. It’s in response to Google’s account name policy for its new social networking service, Google+. In brief, Google has conflicting policies about what you can call yourself and is implementing them inconsistently. Try an internet search for “real names policy” or #nymwars.)

Ha! I cleared out my gmail accounts (one for “suttonkenneth” and one for “otenth.paderborn”), and so I also figured I’d clear out my contacts. That resulted in erasing all the people I had in G+ circles. Oh well, that’s probably for the best. I’ll put back in only the people I want to communicate with via G+ (which may end up being vanishingly few, after all).

As of tonight, I’ve found a replacement for Google Reader (I’m using NewsBlur); I’ve set up an Otenth email account on my own internet host as well as a “use this email when some website requires one” account (as I should have done long ago), cleared out the gmail box, and set up a “vacation” responder on the Otenth one with no end date; I’ve deleted all Google docs that were mine alone, leaving some Radio Riel shared docs that I’m just not sure what would happen if I wipe them (I’m happy using Dropbox to share files); I’ve deleted my YouTube account and will carefully assess whether I “need” to have an account; turned off or deleted analytics, and several other arcane services. I’m no longer staying signed in to Google when I leave a Google service, so that if I want to use Google search it’s not getting all gummed up with whoever Google thinks I am or thinks I know.

I’ve turned off Gchat, which I actually enjoyed quite a bit with a tiny handful of people. I haven’t set up any replacement, but there are lots of alternatives.

That leaves only the AetherChrononauts calendar created with my otenth.paderborn gmail account as the unresolved, not easily replaced service. I *have* fully shared permissions with my “real name” self, should anything happen to the pseudonymous account.

Time will tell if Google plus becomes something irrelevant to my life, or if they manage to articulate (and practice!) a coherent policy on account names that will allow any of us to feel secure using their services. I had a thriving, nascent community of online friends for the first couple of weeks I was in Google+. Almost all of them are either gone or ignoring it now.

On a side note, all the attention to Internet safety and good hygeine made me take a closer look at Facebook’s settings, too. I’ll no longer be playing a couple of games I quite enjoyed, because they “require” permission to get information about my friends that they have no business having. (I may be willing to give them my [now fake] birthday or my political or religious affiliations [which are blank], but I can’t justify handing over my friends’ information just so I can play Scrabble.)

So, thank you, Google, for showing me how foolishly I put so many of my eggs in your basket, for opening my eyes to my ignorance about the risks of internet identity theft, and for making me an advocate for pseudonyms.

Otenth and technology

I’ve been active in Second Life, where I’m known as Otenth Paderborn, for over four years, and I’ve only recently realized some of the effects of my participation on my use of technology.

First, some meandering backstory.

One of my favorite artists is Edward Gorey, who among other things created hand-drawn and ‑lettered books, some of which show “Ogdred Weary” as the author. What a fantastic anagram! It’s not just the use of the letters, but there’s a symmetry to the two names, Edward Gorey and Ogdred Weary. In moments of daydreaming over the years, I came up with an anagram of my own name that I thought approaches that aural relationship: Otenth Knutsen. Kenneth Sutton: Otenth Knutsen.

When I joined Second Life, one had to choose from among a list of surnames and create a forename that produced a unique combination. There was nothing even approximating Sutton available, nor anything that Kenneth seemed to fit well with (or where Kenneth hadn’t already been taken). So I turned to my heretofore unused anagram. But no Knutsen, either! On the other hand, I had no trouble with Otenth having already been claimed in any combination. I finally settled on Otenth Paderborn.

Eventually I discovered that I wanted to be able to communicate with my friends in Second LIfe outside of Second Life. I started using Google’s mail program, creating an email account for Otenth Paderborn. (This is very, very common among Second Life users.) From there I went on to explore and use several of Google’s tools: calendar and docs foremost among them. My personal calendar, which has been digital for years, went online in a Google calendar—which belongs to Otenth Paderborn!

Then when some of my friends were trying Twitter, I started that, too. Here’s the interesting part: I’m not really a cutting-edge technology user, and “Kenneth” is almost always already taken. So I signed up with Twitter as Otenth (it was my Second Life friends who made me curious about it, after all). One thing led to another, and soon I became reconciled to using Otenth as an online handle even for things that have no connection to Second Life.

So there’s the first and perhaps most obvious change in my relationship to technology: After using the internet for years, I’ve acquired a handle that I use fairly consistently (sometimes even without checking to see if Kenneth is available).

The second change is exemplified by my use of Facebook. I signed up for Facebook when it was opened to anyone, but I never really saw much use in it—most of my long-time friends didn’t use it much (or the internet in general). But then, as my circle of Second Life friends expanded, I discovered I knew lots of people who were using it. Once I was spending more time on Facebook, I began to find old friends and former coworkers, and I’ve actually reconnected with a couple of people because of Facebook. Which I started using because of Second Life!

The third thing is the oddest, and the one that I’ve only recently realized: I have been much more likely to try out new technologies as Otenth.

I’ve been using Dropbox for a while now as part of Radio Riel, the internet radio station I’m part of that has grown out of Second Life. A month or so ago I realized Dropbox would be handy for work—first just for my own purposes when I work from home, but then also for collaboration. And without thinking about it, I invited my coworkers to Dropbox—and they got emails from Otenth Paderborn! Well, I now have a second, work-only Dropbox account. But my personal Dropbox use is and will continue to be associated with my Otenth Paderborn gmail account. (I highly recommend Dropbox to anyone who wants to back up files in “the cloud,” to keep files synced between computers, or to share files with other people. If you use this link to join, you and I will both get a small bonus on the free 2G of storage anyone can get.)

In a similar fashion, I recently decided to pay less for telephone service, and I’ve shifted to Skype as my unlimited domestic calling solution. And of course as you will guess, my Skype account belongs to Otenth Paderborn.

Isn’t the Internet a strange place?

Authority vs. reliability

An interesting blog post and discussion about “brand loyalty” in journalism. At work we’re looking into how to make our blog posts more identified with individual editors.

Some academic research suggest that people are switching from an authority to a reliability model on the web. (See Lankes, R.D. (2008), Journal of Documentation.)

In essense what this means is that more and more people are trusting the person (or the several people) online whom they have come to know, trust, etc., rather than trusting the experts. . . . A particular journalist may engender more trust or loyalty than a station or news organization.

Step aside, brand loyalty; we’re loyal to information now » Nieman Journalism Lab.

Journalistic heavy lifting

Well, everyone else seems to be blogging Clay Shirky’s Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, so I may as well, too. I think there’s a lot of sensible points for us to consider at work with our quarterly membership periodical. The take away? We need to do something different. We don’t know (and can’t know in advance) which something different will work. Try lots of things.

Print media does much of society’s heavy journalistic lifting, from flooding the zone — covering every angle of a huge story — to the daily grind of attending the City Council meeting, just in case. This coverage creates benefits even for people who aren’t newspaper readers, because the work of print journalists is used by everyone from politicians to district attorneys to talk radio hosts to bloggers. The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model. So who covers all that news if some significant fraction of the currently employed newspaper people lose their jobs?

I don’t know. Nobody knows. We’re collectively living through 1500, when it’s easier to see what’s broken than what will replace it. The internet turns 40 this fall. Access by the general public is less than half that age. Web use, as a normal part of life for a majority of the developed world, is less than half that age. We just got here. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.

. . . there is one possible answer to the question “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as craigslist did, as Wikipedia did, as octavo volumes did.

Journalism has always been subsidized. Sometimes it’s been Wal-Mart and the kid with the bike. Sometimes it’s been Richard Mellon Scaife. Increasingly, it’s you and me, donating our time. The list of models that are obviously working today, like Consumer Reports and NPR, like ProPublica and WikiLeaks, can’t be expanded to cover any general case, but then nothing is going to cover the general case.

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. . . .

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.

2008 technology: Kindle

After eyeing them online, I finally handled a Kindle and talked to a couple of Kindle-owners last June. That rather undermined my defenses against buying one, and I finally broke down in August and bought one.

I love it!

Does it have room for improvement? Yes. The configuration of the buttons is a bit awkward. Putting the on/off and wireless switches on the back doesn’t work all that well with the cover (which depends on a little tab on the back to stay in place). Said cover comes off a little too easily.

Am I reading more? Yes, even if I haven’t been blogging the books. Neal Stephenson’s Anathem was really great. I’ve reread Swiss Family Robinson. I’m almost done with Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.

Is it legible? Yes. You need external light. One of the reasons I bought it is that it doesn’t shine into my eyes like computer screens and nearly every other electronic device I own.

Is it easy to use? Yes, with some caveats. If you buy books from the Amazon Kindle store, it is a breeze. If you want books from somewhere else, you need to be careful about format, and then you need to use a cable to transfer the file to the Kindle. It is possible to convert formats either by emailing the file via your Kindle email address, or to use a piece of PC-only software (which actually works quite nicely).

2008 technology: Android G1 phone

I’ve had this phone for a while now, and I’m still learning things about it. The “market” of applications is undergoing constant change, both additions and updates. It is obvious that Android is in its infancy.

Things I like about my phone:

  • the camera is pretty good (my Blackberry didn’t have one at all)
  • integration of Google mail, contacts, calendar, and maps is excellent
  • good sound quality on calls

Things I’m not a fan of:

  • the flip-out screen to reveal the keyboard feels loose; I fear it’s insecure
  • no touch-screen keyboard available
  • lousy ringtones
  • fairly short battery life (apparently you need to completely cycle it about once a month)

Nifty software I haven’t used much yet:

  • barcode scanner
  • voice recorder
  • Shoutcast streams