Category Thoughts

Surveillance in the Post Boston World

Granary Burying Ground — Boston, Massachusetts

What happened in Boston was a tragedy and it’s amazing how fast law enforcement was able to track down the perpetrators using public and private photos. Just because they were able to track these two via surveillance footage doesn’t mean we all need to be watched more. This simple conclusion jumping is near sighted and of flawed logic.

Surveillance only treats the symptom (more accurately the aftermath of the symptom) and not the cause (lack of community, lack of respect for life, hopelessness, chemical imbalances, etc.). Adding more cameras won’t stop tragedies like Boston it just makes finding the assailants simpler afterwards. We need to look at the tough questions, the ones that potentially stop these tragedies from happening in the first place. Ironically, the populous knee jerk solutions often only add to the root problems. Additional surveillance won’t stop Boston from reoccurring but it will bring us one step closer to Orwellian dystopias becoming a reality.

 

For a counter argument read: We Need More Cameras, and We Need Them Now posted at The Slate. Though if you read closely all the wins were after the crimes occurred, even the preventative nature is based on the fear of getting caught afterwards.

Will Facebook’s new Pages be able to turn online marketing into a conversation?

Today Facebook announced Timeline for Pages and held an all day conference for marketers to learn the ins and outs of the new features. Facebook also took the opportunity to re-explain how social is core to social media marketing. They spoke of creating stories and not ads as the key to the new Facebook. They showed examples of how social media should be by showcasing brands like Red Bull, Ben and Jerry’s, and Macy’s (I’m guessing they still get perks for Miracle on 34th Street). They talked to industry leaders who all echoed the social media mantra. Still, it’s going to take some time for it all to sink in.

To this end Facebook presented a number of features in order that should empower those that want to embrace to the social of social media marketing. The Timeline is a huge step in showcasing a brands interactions online. It’s literally their social history. Sure, they can remove posts, but how much are you going to trust a brand that’s been online for years and has nothing to show for it. The Timeline will also feature posts from a user’s friend that mention the brand. This may include negative rants, but this is still to be seen. Lastly, the Timeline is a break from the marketing pages of yesterday (literally) which often featured “like-gated” content so the marketing team could brag about the number of Likes they had.

Other features to support the humanization of pages include the ability for a page (read: brand) to have direct correspondence with individual users, limitations of the types of images that can be used in the hero image (no “like us”, “50% off”, or other promotional type images), and highlighting the user’s friend’s brand related activities (mentioned earlier). They also added the ability for brand posts to be apart of the both the desktop and mobile news feeds (paid service, like Twitter’s promoted Tweets), though this one seems to support the old ad model more than socialization.

So the question is, will Facebook’s new tools along with the reminder that social media is a bi-directional conversation help change those clinging to the broadcast mentality? Will these new tools help champion the social among the social marketers or will they be bastardized to support the old regime?

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Watch the presentations here: http://www.facebook.com/business/fmc

The Internet (alone) will not discover you

The other day +Trey Ratcliff posted an article here on Google+ that suggested that if one does great work they will be discovered. I think this is an over simplification at best. It’s a myth that has been told over and over through out time. The suggestion that all one needs to do is great work to be discovered gives many the hope to carry on but for many it also suggests that the lack of discovery suggests one is not doing great work. I know TREY meant well as he’s great with promoting other photographers work, he even talked about some of the other steps in the process.

It’s his actions that touch on the other side of the discovery equation…promotion. Wether it’s self promotion (including networking) or some one else singing your praise, with out promotion your great work may never be seen.

In Trey’s video, he talks about how a painter (+Daniel Ibanez) reached out to him in a Hang Out and shared with him some photos of his paintings. Trey liked the work and shared it with his network, members of his network liked and then re-shared the work. Clearly people connected with the paintings (quality) but it was the promotion (artist to Trey, Trey to his network, his network to their networks, etc) that helped the Internet discover NAME.

Another great example of how both parts of the equation are needed. Recently there was a storage locker full of photos that was purchased during a lot sale. The buyer (John Maloof) digitized a few and then posted them online. The photos were great, and story went viral. They took off because they were great photos, but with out his discovery and promotion one of the largest collections of street photography would have been lost. Luckily for us this isn’t the case and we can now enjoy +Vivian Maier’s work both online and in galleries.

Even with the Internet there are thousands of photographers/writers/actors who are doing great work that will never be discovered/appreciated/noticed. This is true for every media, every art form and even in your 9-5. This doesn’t mean not to keep doing what you’re doing, but do it because you love it, not for the fame.

I think Trey would agree, the best advice is do what you love, do it as best you can, share what you’ve done and don’t be discouraged when the zeitgeist of serendipity passes you by. When you are discovered don’t forget all the hard work, promotion and people who helped you along the way.

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Trey Ratcliff’s original post:
The Internet will Discover You

Vivian Maier’s work
http://www.vivianmaier.com

Ticketmaster lawsuit: Sticking it to the man…or does it

I doubt there too many people who are pro-Ticketmaster regarding this case (or in general) and that’s totally understandable their service is horrible, their fees excessive and their monopoly on shows/venues leaves us few options. Though after reviewing the class action lawsuit it seems that the winners in this case are the lawyers and Ticketmaster.

The lawyers are guaranteed to collect $16.5 million and those effected will get a credit towards their next purchase at Ticketmaster. Then there’s fine print, one can only combine 2 credits at a time (for a total of $3) and they expire in 48 months. So the more you were effected, the more you need to support Ticketmaster to collect any restitution. Makes you wonder how many other “class action” suits are nothing more than thin veils for lawyers to extort big businesses.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t approve of Ticketmaster ripping off their customers, but will this lawsuit really stop that? I think not, but competition will.

 

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Class Action Lawsuit Against Ticketmaster – Better Business Bureau

Steve Jobs – The Pot & The Kettle

No one can deny Steve Jobs did great things for Apple. Not only was he a founder, but he brought them focus and drive to create some of the most beloved/mimicked products to come out in the last few years (read: decade). Still, Jobs wasn’t living in a vacuum and as much as Apple innovated things they also took the best features from what was already out in the market.

So when I read about Jobs vent about his deep anger with Google (or his personal vendetta against Adobe) it makes Jobs look more of a petty, spoiled boy throwing a tantrum rather then the visionary we all respect him for. And it’s true in many ways Jobs was a spoiled brat with a giant frail ego, but his personality short comings are less memorable then his contributions and I hope in memory it’ll stay that way.

Jobs tears into Google in upcoming biography

Efficency vs. Happenstance

I don’t often read the news paper, you know the one actually made out of paper? I generally read my news online through feeds or links from the people I follow on Twitter and Google+. Though these are great ways to keep up with things I’m interested in, they often lack the random find or articles off my self-beaten path. I found the change of topics inspirational and puts my usual thoughts into a new context. Ironically, or just happenstance, the night before I was reading an article (online) regarding online discovery methods (search, recommendations and hierarchical) and how they limit the discovery process.

There’s got to be another way to filter through the noise while allowing the chance for random discovery. The efficiency of the current models slowly limit our chances of happenstance by only showing us things of known interest. They never would have provided me with the diversity of information I received by flipping through the Sunday paper. On the other hand, I don’t always have the luxury of time that I did today. Things like this only fuel my quest to find that something in-between.

A few buddies and I have been looking into ways to filter the noise even when it’s within our own bookmarks. I know we’re not the only ones that bookmarked something with the plan of going back sometime and then slowly forget what we’ve bookmarked or how we tagged it. Sooner or later the bookmark collection becomes a graveyard of links and a new system gets adopted. So we’re looking for a way to efficiently find what you’re looking for while providing the juxtaposition of other potential items of interest so the Sunday paper experience can continue in this digital age.

What do you use for discovery? Bookmarking, tags, existing services?

Response to “Why Facebook is the New Yahoo”

Mike Elgan wrote a nice controversial article called Why Facebook is the New Yahoo where he states:

“Sure, Facebook looks massively successful. With a mind-boggling 750 million users, the social site can do no wrong, right?

Wrong.

Look closer, and it looks like Facebook can do nothing right. The company has tried and failed to launch or integrate new services that might thrill users. But users aren’t thrilled. And now its strategy appears to be: Just copy Google+.

Don’t look now, but Facebook is quickly becoming the new Yahoo.”

Well written and catchy but if we all took a time machine back to when Google was announcing that they were killing Google Wave or when they launched Buzz the comments from the tech press focused on how Google lost it’s edge, or was confused as to where it wanted to go or simply Google doesn’t understand social.

Now that Google+ is public (beta) and making waves it seems that Google either learned from their mistakes, gained a sense of vision, everyone forgot all the shit talking that took place last year, or some combination of the three. So now it’s Facebook’s turn to feel the wrath of the tech fueled fads that are nearly as cliquish as what we see in high schools across the country. Let’s face it the popular kid can’t remain popular forever and right now Facebook is feeling the heat regardless of Google+.

With that in mind Mike Elgan makes some solid points regarding Facebook’s recent history. Their fumbled attempts to catch on to the latest trends. Their popularity shift from the wanted élite to being everything to everybody. Their struggle with the weight of their own existence. All of it dead on. Including the remarks regarding Yahoo’s struggle to find its place in the new world order. Still I wouldn’t count Facebook out of the race just yet. Google and Apple are two good examples of companies that were down but clearly not out.

RE: Why Facebook is the New Yahoo

Scams, Chain Letters and Other Pests

Every few months I get an email forward (of a forward) from family members warning me about this, that or the other thing. At times it’s just to me other times I’m CC’ed along with their entire address book. On the plus side these occurrences are happening less and less, though I hope that’s because they’re getting wise to the mass of scams out there. Non-the-less, they still happen and it makes me wonder how big of an issue this really is outside of my bubble of tech savvy friends.

Though those of you reading this are more than likely more tech savvy than world at large I’m sure you have family and friends sending you similar stuff. How do you explain to them they can Google the claims or usually even the email’s subject line to find out this scam has run for years? How often are you pointing them to Snopes or other debunking sites so it’s not your word versus the hype of a well crafted scam?

I know it’s a game of cat and mouse, once you educate the masses to verify sender & reply to email address, URL names and other tell-tale signs the scam artists add a little twist re-ensnaring the less informed. For example, the one featured above struck me as well crafted to skirt past the slightly informed as it has “bankofamerica.com” in the URL, but rather than being followed up with a “/” it’s just part of a long list of sub-domains. (I’ve removed a few characters for when some smart-ass wants to follow the link and mark the receiver’s email as valid and the receiver as gullible to scams).

If it sounds too good to be true or sounds like something that should have been on the nightly news but hasn’t it’s probably a scam. This is no different when online as it would be face-to-face though some seem to forget their sense of “street smarts” once they’re online. As a User Experience Designer I wonder what causes this difference of reaction between online and the physical world. Is it the feeling of being overwhelmed by technology? That it must be true as so many others are sharing it as truth? Any thoughts?

Ok, now send this to 5+ friends in the next 24-hours to save a young Nigerian prince in need of a new career.

Google Plus a Second Look

I’ve been using Google+ for the last few days, nearly exclusively to get real feel for it over the other options that are so ingrained in my day-to-day. After a few days there are number of things that really stand out to me and other based on things I’ve been reading online.

The biggest stand out is Circles and how they affect your Stream (think News Feed in Facebook). I really like the idea behind Circles and the ability to publish content to the right people rather than one size fits all. I would also love for my organization of people into Circles it would also influence the content I receive. For example, if the “friends” circle is only for close, real-life friends, and “acquaintances” is for those people I’ve met but not necessarily close to, shouldn’t that also influence who shows up in my stream. In my case I added Robert Scoble to my “follow” Circle as he often has interesting things to say. When I say often, I mean he post multiple times a day. Now he overwhelms my global Stream. I know this is partly because he’s posting more than my other connections but I want to know what my friends are doing/saying way more than an acquaintance (or follow). Granted this is not everyone’s use case for G+, so I suggest that Circles and how they bias the content in your Stream be controllable.

The second big thing with Circles is the overlapping content and no quick way to see if you’ve already seen that content. My friend Arpit suggests a “read” option for posts similar to how it works in any email system or Google’s Reader…so they should be able to easily handle this from a technical side. This overlapping also rears its head when managing your circles. For this I think another friend‘s suggestion would be a huge help…displaying the Circles as Venn diagrams. Not for every view but it would be hugely helpful managing the groups.

My last thought on Circles is to connect them with Sparks (topics), Arpit touches on this with his “Smart Circles” idea in his post on ways to improve Circles. Currently Sparks is completely generic feeling with generic topics and stock art topic images. These should be join-able, like a public Circle based on around a topic. It’d be a perfect way to bring content I’m interested in into my Stream. For example, there’s one on recipes, as a foodie I’d like to join this and maybe post to it as well. Thus offing salacious recipes intermixed with my friends and family’s social updates.

One lacking with Google Plus’s Stream is the ability to +1 a comment. Though many feel this ability to “like” a comment on post is unnecessary within Facebook it’s actually something I felt myself looking for when reading stuff in G+. I don’t use it often on Facebook, but it comes in handy as a way to agree/acknowledge a statement without having to write “I agree”. Granted this may add little to a conversation on its own, but it does let the writer know their message was received/read and used as a way to filter responses on post with more comments than could be displayed in a reduced state.

Some of the other issues come from the newness of the service: lack of diversity of the membership (most conversations are about Google+, hello worlds and technology), updates being out of sync (Gmail is the most up to date, then site post refresh, then the Android app), and figuring out how it fits with the rest of my social outlets. Minor UI issues on the Android app which are both personal learning curve from previous experiences and potential misses on a V1 app. These things happen.

The issues above are minimal and far from deal breakers but when Google is up against Facebook and the habits of its 500 million users Google needs to over deliver again and again. Since they’ve already made some updates since Tuesday’s launch the future looks promising for Google Plus.

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Related articles:
- Some Ideas for Google Circles by Arpit Mathur
- Why yo daddy won’t use Google+ by Robert Scoble

Google gives social another try

Earlier this week Google launched their new social platform, Google+ and unlike their previous attempts (Wave and Buzz) this one isn’t a beta concept. Currently it’s only in limited release and invites are hard to come by, but beyond that, it’s anything but beta. Instead Google+ is a slick, well designed, full fledged attempt to compete with Facebook. Can they pull it off?

To improve their chances Google has created a clean and attractive UI for both the website and the Android app. Then they add features that people have been asking for from Facebook, like the ability to easily sort your friends into groups (called Circles with in G+); group messaging, think Beluga and GroupMe (called Huddles); group video chat, think iChat or Skype (called Hangouts); content recommendations (called Sparks), though I haven’t seen this is action yet; and this one is for the geeks, you can take your G+ data with you . Also with the Android app they also offer a “local” version of the news feed/stream which shows you the public posts from other G+ users nearby, they don’t even need to be in any one of your circles. Combined it’s a great feature boost, though I don’t doubt Facebook will follow suit with some of these.

So then why switch? Other then it’s new, clean, different, less noisy…at this point not much, as the critical mass hasn’t been reached but when it does it’ll be a force that Facebook will have to deal with. Which is good regardless of your participation with G+. Facebook needs a challenger, clearly MySpace wasn’t up to the task. Speaking of MySpace, think back to when it was the dominant social platform. Then Facebook was the new, clean, different, less noisy new kid on the block…so Google may still have a chance here. And just like MySpace felt back then, Facebook is feeling a backlash of interest from the fickle social masses that have OD’ed on the FB.

Overall, I have to say I’m impressed with Google+. It’s one of the most well thought out, planned and executed tools that Google has ever done. Only now has Google started to improve the design and UX of their search and email services. So I expect big things from Google here. Despite Goggle’s best efforts if the people don’t start using (or getting invites to) it, G+ will die from empty room syndrome and that would be a shame.

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Some related articles on Google+
- How to hack Google+ to send your friends invites (maybe) [TechCrunch]
- Andy Hertzfeld talks about not being the only designer behind Google+
- How To Recreate Google+ Circles in Facebook. by Ian Schafer
- Google+ code reveals intent to unleash Games and Questions to the social world [Engaget]