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Posts Tagged ‘linkedin’

The iPad

I wonder how many blog posts have been written so far about this device only a few people have actually seen and handled.

I kept up with the live blogs during the presentation yesterday. I ooh’ed and ah’ed at the screen shots. I got excited about the price until I found out it was for 16 gigs. I read the Mashable article on what the iPad doesn’t have.

I wrote a status update about the name… but I suppose I will get over it.

The list of things it doesn’t have kind of surprised me, I have to admit. The lack of ports, the need for adapters – it kind of made me wonder what the plans are for the device. I agree with my friend Lou, and probably a lot of other people (but Lou is one of the only people I know personally who went to MIT), that Apple is planning on being a lot more disruptive with this device than it would appear at first glance.

I think the most interesting and incomprehensible move is not opening it up with an SDK for developers. I’m sure/hopeful they will eventually, just as I’m sure they’ll develop a better way for it to sync data with clouds – it will have to, to survive in the market.

There are a handful of other slightly confusing moves, most of them from a hardware perspective — but you know, the iPhone didn’t come with a camera at first either, and now look at it – one of the few devices making augmented reality a reality for us.

All in all, I’m reserving judgment until I get one in my hands.

I wish everyone else would, too.

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Lately my friends and I seem to fall into two camps – those who don’t see issues with Facebook’s new privacy policies, and those who do.

I am way more freaked out by the privacy issues linked to always-on location services than I am by Google search results. Surveillance, anyone? (But that could be because I don’t understand the tech all that well.)

Everyone has their own lines, their own boundaries, when it comes to being online.

I learned my lessons on what not to say a long time ago, the hard way.

There is the embracing side of me, that sees the web as a unique place to express myself as well as an expression of the global consciousness. A place to share and be shared with. A place to connect. In all reality I have nothing to hide about my life and I understand that most of what I’ve done with or in my life is really easy to find out about online – that’s where the understanding how the web works thing comes into play.

There is a transparency to our lives we don’t control any more. Our data is owned and spliced every day. Our emails indexed, supposedly for the purposes of delivering relevant ads. That’s… kinda scary. The way I look at it is something like this: it’s a karmic thing. The whole world is communicating about private things, every day, using this medium. It’s a mutually assured destruction scenario on a global personal scale. So the lid will likely remain on pretty tight for the foreseeable future – my lifetime, maybe?

For example, public records. You can easily discover that I was married in 1996. You can find that I have no outstanding liens or a criminal record, and maybe you can find out that I’ve gotten two speeding tickets in my lifetime, but you wouldn’t be able to know – because you weren’t there and it happened in my real life and I reserve the stories for cocktail parties – that I have gotten out of 5 or 6 tickets just by being respectful and nice to the officer in question (though others in the car called it “flirting”). So there it is – I’ve told that story – and now it’s out there, forever. But that’s ok. I’m ok with that story.

My rule of thumb online is this – say my kids are going over my digital records all Bridges of Madison County -like one day. And they find a blog posting. Will they fall over dead about my secret life? Or will they say, mom thought about and did some interesting things before and after we came along?

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Information Flow

When I really get to thinking about information and technology, it ends up being visual to me. I can see myself standing in a Tron-like vector-based grid with information flowing around me. I can reach up and select the pieces I want. Magnify them. Consider them. Make them part of my own consciousness, my own flow of information. Share them with others, contribute my perspective. Or reject them and move on – let them slide into the flow of someone else’s grid.

In those moments I view the web and its attendant offshoots as a thing that works much like the human mind. It’s kind of … lovely, in its own way. A system that reflects its creator. A mind map of the universe. A beautiful, multilayered, multicultural, multilingual, multipurpose mind map.

It’s my purist way of viewing technology as something that can help all of us.

Crash into reality, though, and it’s a little different. I don’t interact with it as this pure system. I have to pick and choose, manage my flow.

To that end, I have always been one of those people who is entirely utilitarian in my use of any and all technology. I have to be. I will download just about anything and play with it, but if I can’t use it, sayonara, hasta la vista.

My life is too busy to sit and play with Twitter all day. If it were my job to play with Twitter all day, if I had a strategic, beneficial-to-my-life reason to use it, that would be one thing.

But right now, that technology would be mostly personal in its use, and I can’t live in this overly communicative space, this place where I tell people what I’m doing all day long instead of doing it. I like having a life, not talking about having a life, not telling the same ten people all day long about what I’m thinking.

Same thing with LinkedIn. In a phone conversation I had yesterday I was questioned – why do I only have 43 contacts? Why am I not more active in network building? Well, because frankly, LinkedIn is kind of… anachronistic, because it’s all about “only” professional interaction and that’s a myth in the social media world (she says, knowing this post will go to the LinkedIn flow). I’m there because I have to be, but most of the action for me happens on Facebook. Professionally and personally. It also does not escape my notice that some of my best friends from before I became a professional anything are very into the same tech I am.

It may be the way people who work in technology interact with it and each other. We truly connect — we share content, thoughts, emails, status updates, photos, and we are comfortable using technology to do it. In the background, even as we use it, we are thinking about the tech itself — it runs like a subroutine through my consciousness. So technology, in its way, is part of all the threads that make me, me. As a result, when I’m there, I know that I genuinely connect with others on Facebook.

In connecting with your own network you connect with the whole collective, and Facebook is brilliant for contributing to the collective. The flow is so fast that people have to choose what to pay attention to, and I am always watching the flow pretty closely. I notice what people pay attention to, what they comment on, how they use the information I add to the flow. My mother is on there, and probably ignores my posts about augmented reality while my former boss thanks me for the link. My former boss is also a friend, and she probably ignores my posts about my kids’ last report card. But my mom picks that thread up and runs with it. An old colleague posts something about her baby teething – and I help out with a tip or remark of my own. Yesterday I posted something simple about a facial I was about to get, and people from across the spectrum of my network had things to say — 10 things, as it turned out. All I did was put it out there, into the stream. A tiny blip.

It’s beautiful, really. And while it does blur the lines between the professional and the personal, social media does that whether we acknowledge it or not.

Facebook is where my information flows. That’s where I select what I want to add to my consciousness, how I communicate with people in the online space. It’s where my network is. It’s where I invest time in growing that network. It’s my grid.

My friend Sarah and I, we have a lot of information flowing between us on Facebook and elsewhere. She inspired this post with one of her own.

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Google Wave Input

I’ve been using Google Wave for a few weeks now as a beta user.

I read an article about a survey Google put out to gather user feedback. The questions seemed… very … milk-toasty. As in, one of the reasons for liking Wave was that it is a shiny new toy? Er?

Having released the survey to a bunch of developers, I would think that the questions and therefore the feedback would be… more specific, maybe? Maybe they got tons of feedback in the free-form text field at the end of the survey.

So here’s my specific feedback for Google. I submitted a lot of these in the form of “ideas” in Google’s Product Idea area, which is a Twitter-like space where you can contribute or vote on other people’s ideas.

Widgets
The widgets are really, really important – as important as the App Store is to the iPhone. It makes Wave customizable, personalized. With so much going on, personalization is important.

Widgets need to be run like the App Store, installable to a toolbox/ribbon view, maybe, within the specific wave’s interface or the user’s consistent interface.

Widgets need to be interest-area-specific. As in, gamers need their own set of widgets; weather freaks need theirs. I need project planning widgets like mind maps and wireframes. People need to have collapsible toolboxes of widgets for the kind of waves they work in most often, and recommendations need to pop up every now and then for new widgets to keep them flowing into users’ toolboxes.

Update Rate
Thus far I’ve joined public waves for various topic areas just to get a feel for how a wave will work. One for project management dorks like me, one for that Getting Things Done guy, one for Kindles. They flex in how much people use them, but when traffic is high, and the update rate is immediate — I am able to see what someone is typing as they type it — those waves can seem like they’re on some kind of time-lapse. I get that it’s an international, open thread and people are playing with it, but I can see having a conference wave in which the conversation moves really, really fast; and waves in which I don’t really want people to see what I’m typing until I’m really done typing it (editing and checking for typos).

To that end, Google needs to make refresh rates a customizable option, by wave types (public vs. private, professional vs. personal) and by individual wave – this is another aspect of personalization. Some users will want to set them by wave type and be done with it; dorks like me will want to get more granular. I should be able to do both at any time.

The Interface
I get that there are lots of ways to communicate and that’s part of the beauty here. For the most part, the interface has been well thought-out to accommodate what’s going on. That said, there are an awful lot of little red, green and yellow lights, plus signs and X’s in this interface. As a user goes from the general to the specific, left to right, the interface should streamline, get more simple and be more customizable. Right now, in the left column is your contacts and chat list; in the center are current waves, sortable and searchable; and then on the far right is your actual wave. So by the time I get to the right panel (and I should have the option to collapse those left windows whenever I want), things need to get easier to see and do. Instead, my widgets and style buttons are sitting up there in a very text-heavy set of options for my current wave. Move the ribbons! Make them a popup control panel, or something.

Integration
People are talking about how it will need to integrate with apps like Outlook, that people in tech will be early adopters but to bring more people into the fold it needs to plug into current software.

To be honest, I don’t know how that can possibly work — it seems to me that it will end up looking like early Outlook/smart phone integration looked, which was just excruciating to view, much less use. The way Outlook is designed to work, with every discrete content type so specific and separate in its own silo of data, and the contact record being the primary key for all activity, I have a hard time seeing how it might work (then again, I’m no Google developer). Outlook is really a contact management system with task management layered on top of it. Entourage is the closest Microsoft product I know of to how Wave groups and organizes content and users — in Entourage, the project is the organizing principle and everything flows from that. Well, I’m sure they will figure it out. If it extends the platform to more users, they’ll figure it out.

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“Readers don’t know what they need or what they want. I’m here to give them what I know they need,” the editor said.

“Actually, in the reader survey, they told us exactly what they want in the newsletter,” the marketing guy said.

I was not only watching two stubborn egos in a death match neither could win, but  two different approaches to b2b publishing — two views of authority — duke it out in that conference room in 1996. I remember walking away thinking in my 23-year-old Webmaster brain, so what does this mean for the website? Now, I know it should have meant a lot for the site’s strategy. (I think I even went behind the editor’s back and asked for the survey results.)

The question was — and arguably, still is — who has the authority? Does an editor, who knows the subject area inside and out, know better than the people paying for her publication what the steady diet should be for the reader?

Does a web developer know what a modular publishing tool should start out looking like if she’s never spoken to the end users? Does a GUI developer know what a new web user needs to guide them through a shopping cart if they’ve been shopping online since Amazon launched?

You can kinda tell where I fall, right? On the side of gathering intelligence from your collective and using that data, intelligently spliced and interpreted, to drive your strategy. I believe in small launches, gathering feedback, more launches. Perfect the product on a continuous basis.

It all used to be very much the other way around. Spend a ton of money, work toward a huge launch, and then sit and wait for the data to come to you. Then, with a rather feeble toolset, try to figure out if phase two is still viable at all. Not a whole lot of listening going on with that approach, it’s more of a traditional software development way of doing things.

With a toolset (I used to dream about) to look at user behavior, all of the current websites out there to use almost as tools themselves, and all of the savvy users we now have, we have an opportunity to use the knowledge of the collective to build a better product and continue building it as we go. Google has brought this process mainstream, taking open source to a whole new level. It’s very cool to have input into their new product, Wave, as a beta user.

Even Apple has gotten on board with the iPhone, allowing the development community to build apps and then distribute them through the App Store. As much as I love Apple products, it must be said that Apple used to be even more of a proprietary black box than Microsoft.

We have opportunities and tools to start simple with community building, getting feedback, and launches that can happen in more rapid, adaptive phases. It’s pretty cool, actually. To be able to put a product out there and welcome your users’ feedback and data you need to alter and improve it. Takes out so much guesswork, but leaves room for great ideas and surprises along the way.

A brave new world, not without drawbacks, but for those that have the stomach, a lot of fun – kind of like the crazy, wild west days of Netscape 1.0.

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My kids… have cell phones

I used to think giving kids cell phones was akin to baiting them with nicotine addiction. Here, kiddies. Have a gadget. Start small. Gateway drug.

So 5 months ago, when I walked into the AT&T store and let them pick out the phone they wanted (within reason) I … well, I wasn’t unaware of the hypocrisy.

But I had good reasons for the reversal.  I wanted my kids to feel as though they could call their father or me, without having to ask the other parent. I wanted them to have access to us without feeling any weirdness about the “other parent” as my ex and I marched through our divorce.

Then I noticed some interesting things about how they used their first piece of communications technology. Worth noting.

At first they behaved much like I did with my iPhone when I first got it. Changing ringtones, playing with features, adjusting menus. Asking me how to do things, like teach them how to send text messages.They lovingly plugged the charger into it each night, next to my iPhone. They checked my iPhone to make sure I had their numbers in my Favorites list, which is about the shortest Favorites list anyone has ever seen.

When I went away to Seattle for a few days I exchanged several texts a day with my daughter – some of them were real conversations.

Then the toy lost its novelty. None of their friends have them – so much like my Google Wave account, their phones are kind of limited in scope and application.

At some point in July, Jackson lost his phone for three weeks without noticing. Now, if that had happened to his DS, he would have torn the house apart. But the phone? Meh.

How they use their phones now – well, battery conservation fiends that they are (after a lifetime of Mom saying, “Did you turn that off? Don’t waste the batteries!”), they turn the phone on to make a phone call. If they see other messages they check them. Then they turn the phone off and plug the charger back in.

Wow. They don’t carry it anywhere with them. It stays in the house. It’s a device with a discrete use for a very short period of time. They are the same way with the computer. They’ll cruise around YouTube and watch weird cat videos. They are each dabbling in online research for homework. Every now and then they decide they want to send an email. But for the most part, the computer is there for discrete tasks. Not for getting everything, anything done. Not for communicating with the world. Not for work.

Technology, it turns out, is not as big a part of their lives as I might have thought.

To wit: every single night I’m with them, no matter what we have going on, I still bust out their old-fashioned paper books, and we read. Right now, Jackson is reading Swiss Family Robinson and Camille, Scalawagons of Oz (yes, a follow up to the original Wizards of Oz) and a really cool book called The Underneath. If I don’t read at least ten pages from each book to them, it’s a serious problem.

The real kicker is that the house rule around computer and phone usage is for me. That’s right. We have limits on computer and phone time … for Mom.

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Yesterday I bought a little piece of software called MacJournal, made by Mariner Software. I bought it because for many years I didn’t consistently keep a journal – no one seemed to see anything wrong with going through my personal things in my house – but I need to now. Have to. For writing, for everything, I need a journal that I can password protect, and this one has encryption. My mom uses it and recommended it (I guess this means I won’t be hacking hers – not that I would). She also bought WordPress for me – made by the same company – but I haven’t given it a good run-through yet.

I am notoriously cantankerous about paying for software, but I have been trying to shake that disease  because I no longer technically work in the web industry and so cannot expect great free demos that never expire.

Here is the email that was in my inbox this morning:

Thank you for your Mariner Software order. This email is regarding your order yesterday.

I’m wondering how everything went for you? If you would like to share your comments about your shopping experience, why you decided to buy, what we could do better, or have other feedback, we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to email any feedback that you have. Again, thank you for your business.

Regards,

Logan Ryan
Director of Marketing

Wow. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Now, I know it is an autoresponse message. I know this guy isn’t sitting at his desk waiting for the purchase notifications to come in and then writing personal messages to every customer.

But still. Logan Ryan is inviting me to email him and even left his phone number in his sig file.

I’m going to email this URL to him after I post it. For the record: It’s a software company that focuses on developing Mac software, so you know I’m kind of biased due to my Mac fanatic thing.

The purchasing experience was fine, the GUI was smooth, the steps made sense, and it was what I expected. There was only one page of “don’t you want” for their other products, which I respect and appreciate. And when I popped back over to input the serial number, it was prepopulated from the website (nice touch!).

The software itself is what I expected; I really like it. I can insert video clips and images into it – just about anything I can find that could be dragged and dropped – and I can select entries for publication to my blog, which I did last night with an entry about the tricycle I had when I was a little kid.

And I encrypted the whole kit and caboodle – it was really easy.

Score one for community building, Logan.

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