Aug 012012
The world is pulling too much from me right now.
It’s time to re-adjust, re-align, re-configure, re-group, and reflect. Definitely reflect.
I mean, I always reflect … it is a big part of who I am and is a big part of the structure of my day. I spend time each and every morning in quiet contemplation on my yoga mat — some might call it meditation. Each evening I also pause before I go to bed, too, to process the day’s events, though not in as regimented a manner as I do in the morning — at night I typically do it while washing my face or as I close the book I’m reading. I try very hard to consciously make that time reflective rather than worry about or inventory what will happen the next day. I’m not always successful, but it is an active goal.
But lately, I can’t shake the feeling — an intuitive, gut, CORE feeling — that what I’m doing is not enough. This, my “normal” regular balance — plus yoga and other exercise — isn’t enough.  And quite frankly, it’s driving me crazy that it isn’t enough. (“But it’s been fine up till now! I was balanced a few weeks ago!” These are the arguments I have with myself in my head.) Indications are that I need more reflection. And wayyyyy less extroverted energy. I feel like my Vata dosha is tipping the scale a bit too much. 
This might surprise people who know me well, as I am a classic extrovert. I gain energy by being around people. I am very social — too social, some might argue, for my own good (right, Mum?). Well, this is one of those times, I guess. They are rare in my life, but not unheard of. I don’t typically do all-or-nothing. And I don’t typically cut out social activities, either. But from time-to-time I do need to re-focus. The last time I took such measures was probably 3 or 4 years ago. 

I suspect some of this has to do with my being rather unhappy about a handful of Very Specific Things happening in my life at the moment. Unfortunately, I’m not able to go into more detail about these Things right now. (Hey, you know me — as soon as I can, I will. 🙂 )  Also unfortunate is that these Very Specific Things are things I have little control of. I do know that waiting for things to change is just not working for me. And thus … rock—>me<—hard place. I don’t do so well with life stasis in general, and this kind of stasis is my least favorite. 

So. I need to re-evaluate and re-configure, and maybe just spend more time spending time. I do sense that being active on Twitter and Facebook is not making things better right now. I am not sure it’s making it worse, either, mind you. These two networks are my favorite networks for several reasons: I have close friends and colleagues in both places, I feel comfortable in them, and although they have completely different modes and I use them very differently, they both fulfill a need for me to be connected to people and to learn and to grow. I am tremendously attached to these networks and the people who connect with me in them. However, these networks demand energy from me (there’s that Vata again), and as I said earlier, my intuitive sixth sense is kicking in to LOUDLY tell me that I need to redirect that energy. It needs to be better spent elsewhere at the moment. I’m not sure where, exactly, but I do know that lately Twitter and Facebook have been feeling like they are sucking energy out of me. It is NOT normal for me to feel this way. Hence, the decision to withdrawl for a bit.

Earlier today I decided to read my monthly horoscope. I try to stay up-to-date with Susan Miller’s posts (thanks to Rae Rae for putting me onto her!), but I often miss a month here or there. Anyway, today I thought, “Oooooh it’s August 1st. I should see what’s what.” And here was the first bit:

A big, tender full moon will brighten the very start of the month, August 1. It will fall in your privacy sector, Aquarius (9 degrees), so you may simply want to sit back and enjoy your own company. You’ve not had much time to simply take it easy, sleep a bit later than usual, and simply think about your next moves, but this full moon will allow you all the time you need.


I guess I’m on the right track. I have not been 100% myself lately, and I really want to be.
Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding as I renegotiate my balance. 

I will still be reachable on Skype, email, Instagram, Flickr, my blog (remember when I used to do that?), GChat, SMS, and … old-fashioned phone. I’m not disappearing. Just disengaging from the networks that demand interaction from me — interaction that I greatly value and normally thrive on. I want to be in that headspace again, and I will be, in good time.  

I’m going to try this social network fast for a week, starting Monday… and might go longer. We’ll see. Oh, and if you’d like to join me, that’s cool too. 

[Edit: 2-Aug-2012] I decided I will respond to DMs within Twitter. At least for now. So there ya go. 


Dec 182011

Lewis Holloway, the superintendent of schools in Statesboro, Ga., imposed a new policy this fall prohibiting private electronic communications after learning that Facebook and text messages had helped fuel a relationship between an eighth grade English teacher and her 14-year-old male pupil. The teacher was arrested this summer on charges of aggravated child molestation and statutory rape, and remains in jail awaiting trial.

“It can start out innocent and get more and more in depth quickly,” said Mr. Holloway, a school administrator for 38 years. “Our students are vulnerable through new means, and we’ve got to find new ways to protect them.”

Social media doesn’t “make it easier” for teachers to form “boundary-crossing relationships with students.” It makes COMMUNICATION easier, period. If teachers have poor judgment about communicating appropriately, that’s a different story.

Likewise, “Facebook and text messages” did NOT “help fuel a relationship between an eighth grade English teacher and her 14-year-old male pupil.” Poor judgment and inappropriate conduct did that!

Let’s be clear about what’s to blame and who is responsible. The communication medium is not the enemy. There were teachers doing inappropriate things long before the Internet. Did we ban letter-writing? And if we had done that, would that have solved the REAL problem — that of obvious teacher misconduct and violations of trust, relationships, safety?

Teachers who communicate and behave inappropriately should be treated with appropriate consequences — sometimes yes, those are criminal. What are those “appropriate consequences,” you ask? Well, I’d say it depends on the professional code of conduct which governs the teaching body in the state/province/country where one is a teacher.

And how many states/provinces/countries have those, hm?

(Not too many, last I checked.)

We have them for doctors, lawyers, even engineers. But not teachers. Let’s raise the standards and values of the teaching profession, and see what happens. To everything. But banning electronic communication is the wrong place to start that journey.

Jan 262011

Now, users’ off-Facebook activities are basically part of the Facebook ecosystem thanks to “Likes” published all over the Web. If you click the Facebook Like button on any given site, that data is transmitted to your own Facebook profile and can be promoted by marketers in ads to your friends.

This is getting ridiculous. You’d think they have learned from the Beacon lawsuit. Ever since FB linked “likes” to specific pages, I’ve been careful to only include those things I “like” that I trust; usually this means I know the people behind it or I trust the organization. But now, this means they’re using my “likes” to market those things to my friends? That’s awful. I would never want to market things to my friends, unless it was something I felt very strongly about.

Hmm… maybe it’s time to only include things in my “likes” that I think are worthy of telling all my friends about. This is completely changing the meaning of the word “like” for me.

Now it should be “Like and want you to like it too.”


Nov 292010

Can Diaspora succeed?

It’s still too early to make a judgment about the project’s chances for success. There are a lot of rough edges, but it also has a lot of potential. If the developers continue to move it forward and manage to overcome some of the early performance challenges and add more functionality, I think it’s likely that it will attract a niche audience of open source software enthusiasts, privacy advocates, and Facebook refuseniks. As we have seen before with the modest successes of the similarly focused StatusNet, it’s not hard to get open source software developers to join an open source social network.

It seems unlikely that a project as small as Diaspora will ever have the visibility or appeal to truly compete with giants like Facebook, but it could still have an important positive impact on the industry by raising awareness of privacy issues and encouraging better interoperability among established social networks. It may seem far-fetched, but Diaspora (or something like it) could someday help to inspire change in the social network arena in much the same way that Firefox has helped to reinvigorate the browser market and accelerate conformance with open Web standards.

As the abuses and technical gaffes of the mainstream social networking operators contribute to growing concerns about privacy and autonomy in the cloud, it’s possible that users who are sensitive to such issues will begin to appreciate the availability of more open alternatives. Even if the open source options never gain serious mainstream momentum, they have the potential to draw some attention to the underlying issues that they are trying to solve. Diaspora doesn’t have to topple the entrenched giants in order to inspire positive changes in the industry; it just has to get a critical mass of people to start thinking more seriously about privacy issues and the right kind of interoperability.

Yeah, it’s way too early to tell if it’s going to be a hit or not. But regardless — it is going to shake things up and perk up awareness, if nothing else. Right now it’s clunky, limited, and simple, but I suspect in the coming months it’s going to change a lot. I do hope that it pressures the Social Networking (self-proclaimed) Guruz to move toward some kind of standardization when it comes to user privacy and control.

If you’re on Diaspora, look for me —

May 182010

With this backdrop in mind, I want to talk about a concept that Kirkpatrick suggests is core to Facebook: “radical transparency.” In short, Kirkpatrick argues that Zuckerberg believes that people will be better off if they make themselves transparent. Not only that, society will be better off. (We’ll ignore the fact that Facebook’s purse strings may be better off, too.) My encounters with Zuckerberg lead me to believe that he genuinely believes this, he genuinely believes that society will be better off if people make themselves transparent. And given his trajectory, he probably believes that more and more people want to expose themselves. Silicon Valley is filled with people engaged in self-branding, making a name for themselves by being exhibitionists. It doesn’t surprise me that Scoble wants to expose himself; he’s always the first to engage in a mass collection on social network sites, happy to be more-public-than-thou. Sometimes, too public. But that’s his choice. The problem is that not everyone wants to be along for the ride.

Ah, yes. But Zuckerberg is confusing transparency with sharing. I can be transparent. I will be honest, and you can know all the reasons for my choices, friends, etc. But that doesn’t mean I want the whole WORLD to know. That doesn’t mean I want to share my transparency with strangers.

May 122010

It used to be that I could limit what strangers saw about me to almost nothing. I could not show my profile picture, not allow them to “poke” or message me, certainly not allow them to view my profile page. Now, even my interests have to be public information. Why can’t I control my own information anymore?sxchen, New York

Joining Facebook is a conscious choice by vast numbers of people who have stepped forward deliberately and intentionally to connect and share. We study user activity. We’ve found that a few fields of information need to be shared to facilitate the kind of experience people come to Facebook to have. That’s why we require the following fields to be public: name, profile photo (if people choose to have one), gender, connections (again, if people choose to make them), and user ID number. Facebook provides a less satisfying experience for people who choose not to post a photo or make connections with friends or interests. But, other than name and gender, nothing requires them to complete these fields or share information they do not want to share. If you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t.

Translation: Take it or leave it. We know we gave you more choices in the past but we won’t anymore. We will pretend you like it better this way.

Again, total B.S. Who ARE these people? You’re telling me that the majority of 400 million users — that’s 200 million people or more — had public profiles? And how dare you tell me why I’ve come to Facebook (“to facilitate the kind of experience people come to Facebook to have”) — I do NOT come to Facebook to have public experiences. In fact, THE reason I came to Facebook initially was because it the privacy options were so customizable. Now you’re requiring me to make my name, photo, gender, and connections public. Damn you. Curse you for assuming you know what I want.


May 122010

The second part of your question reflects what is probably the most common misconception about Facebook. We don’t share your information with advertisers. Our targeting is anonymous. We don’t identify or share names. Period. Think of a magazine selling ads based on the demographics and perceived interests of its readers. We don’t sell the subscriber list. We protect the names.

Except when we don’t, like when we made every person’s name indexable by google by default. Or when we gave your name to Microsoft when you visited their new docs site. Which you had to do to opt out of our latest ‘personalization’ scheme.

Exactly!! This is maddening. I know this. The targeting is anonymous but it’s still information that we did not ASK to be shared. I know this because I have a Facebook fan page, and I have access to all the data of my fans via Facebook’s developer API. Luckily for my fans, I’m not evil and I don’t intend to use all that information. But the point remains, it’s there. And my fans did not opt for that information to be shared with me or anyone else, ever. Facebook simply made it so, and oops — didn’t tell them.

May 122010

Clearly, this is not enough. We will soon ramp up our efforts to provide better guidance to those confused about how to control sharing and maintain privacy. Anyone interested in these topics should become fans of the About Facebook Page and the Facebook Site Governance Page — two valuable sources of information that already provide regular updates to more than 8 million users. We will also expand the education information in our Privacy Guide to offer much more specific detail on these topics. Additionally, other upcoming announcements will dramatically improve how we communicate about change.

Translation: we will add more confusing material reasurring you all over our site. We will depend on you to be a ‘fan’ of our policies to keep you minimally informed. We will continue to refer you to help pages that aren’t updated in sync with our interface.

Seriously. This is ridiculous. Facebook is telling me that I have to become a fan — oh, and publicly, btw — to know about its site governance and changes on its privacy guide? That is absolute B.S.!!! I’m with Chris on this one.

Developers and geeks who want to do good, not evil: would you PLEASE make a new social network site for us to use so we can leave Facebook?? I really wanna be done with Facebook now, they’ve made me so angry, but I feel locked in because it’s the only network that like, 90% of my friends are on.


Jan 292010

I was just thinking how fast the day has gone, and why have I done so little, sitting in my pajamas and sipping coffee, when I realized in the last two hours (and a bit) I have:

  • organized 3 group meetings
  • sent 5 emails
  • had 3 IM conversations
  • had one Skype conference call
  • made notes re: conference call in OpenOffice
  • booked a conference room
  • edited two wiki pages
  • uploaded / added to my Flickr photosets and galleries
  • conversed on Twitter about photo editing tools with Rob and Colin
  • had a FB IM chat with an old colleague about using Twitter in his English classroom 
  • checked in on a FB group for a project

… and ALL of the above is for school or my professional development.

Somewhere in there, I also managed to find time to:

  • coordinate a social outing (yay NYC restaurant week!)
  • change my FB profile photo (it's doppelganger week, yo)
  • have a lengthy SMS conversation with my mom about which Taiwanese restaurant she should lunch at in Houston
  • email some recipes to a friend who is starting her own detox next week

Who said I couldn't be productive and be comfortable at the same time?! 🙂

Image: untitled by db*photography under CC2.0