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I’ve been wondering why they do this too June 21, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in Just for Fun.
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Subtext: “News networks giving a greater voice to viewers because the social web is so popular are like a chef on the Titanic who, seeing the looming iceberg and fleeing customers, figures ice is the future and starts making snow cones.”
xkcd: Public Opinion.

The Dangers of Geolocation February 17, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Mashable has read my mind again – or rather, I should say, Pleaserobme.com, has read my mind. Over the weekend my Dad pointed out that I had posted his vacation days on his [Facebook] wall, and that this could be dangerous. I pointed out to him that Facebook could be private, given the right settings. But he made a good point, one I have thought about time after time when I look at my Foursquare app and decide not to use it. The same goes for declining Twitter’s geotagging options. When and why did we ever decide we should tell the public at large where we are at any given time? The idea goes against everything we have been taught to do–leaving a TV on so that people think you are home, keeping location secret on dating sites, and, more generally, enjoying a thing called privacy. These sites are just another step in the annihilation of privacy. My paranoid-“down with the man” side sets off alarm bells every time I see (and use my own) GPS enabled devices, knowing that this is just one more way for people to know exactly where I am. Sure 911, Onstar, and other services use these tracking technologies to save lives, but what about Federal agencies using telecommunication records to find criminals? No one would argue that law enforcers should not have access to cell phone records, including geolocation data, with a warrant. But CNET reported less than a week ago that, “the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts.” Really? Says who? If the government has a reason to look at my records, then go ahead, but if not, I’ll hold onto the last vestiges of privacy, thank you very much.

But enough about the government, Pleaserobme.com, has brought a very important problem to light–the dangers of revealing your location to an online audience. The site compiles posts from Foursquare and calls them “opportunities” (meaning opportunities for you to rob them). It will be interesting to see if this site, which is gaining a lot of attention on Twitter, will be the demise of Foursquare (which has recently been dubbed “the next Twitter”), or if people will continue to blithely post their whereabouts. What do you think?

A Candid Convo with the Infomavens on Google Buzz February 11, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Okay, so I am totally taking the easy way out with my post today and just posting the g-chat Dataduchess and I just had about Google Buzz. It somehow seems appropriate. I also wanted to post this because I get a little sick and tired of hearing about how “Millennials” use technology. It makes me feel like a lab rat or some newly discovered species in the depths of the ocean. So – this is how some Millennials use technology:

From computerworld.com

Dataduchess: Hey – what do you think of Google Buzz?
Pupfiction: OMG – I was really about to chat you the same thing.
I really like the layout. I just don’t like having to update another thing.
Dataduchess: I don’t like it so far – but the only messages I’ve seen are millions of comments on Mashable’s posts.
Pupfiction: I don’t really understand what the notifications are about.
Ohhh – do you have it hooked to Twitter or your RSS?
I just have my friends so far, which is like 20 people.
Dataduchess: I like all this social media stuff, but I don’t want another place to update – I’m already way overloaded and over stimulated.
It’s mostly just my friends from my gchat addresses – but yesterday Mashable posted a link so you could follow them, and I did it, not really understanding what it would look like (since I didn’t actually have the function yet).
Pupfiction: Oh no!
Dataduchess: So today, it was unveiled, and all I had was 17 posts by Pete Cashmore, with hundreds of comments on each; overwhelming for a start!
Pupfiction: It’s like Facebook only you are forced to see and know about all the comments.
Dataduchess: Yeah – that’s how it seems.
Pupfiction: Whereas you could get the post without the comments in Twitter.
A bunch of my friends have posted pics and I really like the format for that.
Dataduchess: I don’t know, I’m willing to give it a chance, but it really doesn’t seem to add to the Google experience, and it just overlaps the bad parts of Twitter and FB.
Pupfiction: And what happened to Wave?
Are people using that or is that over?
Dataduchess: idk – I haven’t opened that in weeks.
I don’t think it caught on.
Buzz seems to replace that too.
Pupfiction: So much hype for nothing.
Dataduchess: I think “invite only” puts a damper on things.
Pupfiction: And there was too much of a learning curve.
It was too complicated.
I feel compelled to use Buzz because my friends are.
Dataduchess: Haha, you’re such a follower.
Are they friends who also use FB and Twitter, or are they starting from scratch with Buzz?
Pupfiction: They use FB and a one uses Twitter – you know – our head of advertising – dirtyern12.
A lot of my friends still don’t “get” Twitter.
Dataduchess: Yeah, I know very few people who “get” Twitter.
Every time I tell anyone something I heard, they’re like “oh, where did you hear that?” and I feel dumb saying, “uh, Twitter.”

What do you think about Google Buzz?

And in case you are like the Infomavens and value privacy (in contrast to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s beliefs) here’s an important article to read to make sure that your gmail contacts aren’t made public. Some of us Millennials still treasure a little mystery.

Can Social Media Break Through the Paywall? February 5, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in InformationIssues.
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Newspapers have been struggling to maintain revenue and readership, as readers have replaced their print subscriptions with free online resources. Notably, the New York Times recently announced it was considering putting its online content behind a paywall, meaning it would only be available to subscribers. This comes following a number of other print media sources installing paywalls, including the Wall Street Journal.

But these days, social media plays a huge role in the spread of all kinds of media, whether it is a video going viral, or a news scoop breaking on CNN’s Twitter feed, or an announcement of award nominees on the Oscars’ Facebook Page.

That’s because people like to be connected and find things in common. Before the Internet, before TV, before radio, before paper even, people would gather and spread the news or stories. The only reason some of the ancient classics have survived was because of the oral tradition of gathering together and repeating stories over and over through the ages.

Now, I’m not even remotely trying to claim that we need to be able to share news through social media for posterity, just pointing out that it is in man’s nature to want to share the things he finds interesting (at least that’s how it seems to me).  Whether it is through Facebook or Twitter, or even e-mail, sharing links to interesting stories or funny pictures, or current events – its a way of connecting with each other.

For better or for worse, more and more the electronic connections are replacing the face-to-face connections, or even the voice-to-voice. It’s not just kids and teenagers either – email and instant messaging have replaced walking down the hall in offices, and texting has replaced phone calls for many people. With many of my friends (if they can even still be called that) the only interaction we have any more is sharing articles and bits of information found on the internet with each other, via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or even this blog.

You might be surprised to know that I am actually a proponent of Intellectual Property Laws. I understand why and how they are are intended to work to promote progress and the proliferation of information, when not abused to prevent it. Maybe I’ll try and explain it someday, but for now, lets just say I get why the newspapers feel not only the need, but the right to limit access to their content. And I’m not going to argue that I would feel differently if it was my company that was hemorrhaging profits while giving away product for free. However, knowing how people interact with their news and their media, and their sharing sites, it still seems to me refusing to allow users to share content is a mistake.

This article points out that newspapers who put their content behind a paywall, do in fact see a drop in traffic to their site, which in turn leads to less revenue from advertising. Can the revenue generated by subscription fees make up that difference? We’ll have to wait and see… But, the problem of sharing still remains… how many users will want to subscribe and support a site that doesn’t allow them to share their favorite topics?

The Double Life of the (Academic) Librarian January 29, 2010

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Libraries everywhere continue to adopt Web 2.0 technologies, embracing sites like Facebook and Twitter to assist in outreach. Often, librarians are asked to become an active part of this community, creating their own user pages. This is true in any kind of collaborative, wiki-type environment. Participants are prompted to create a profile in order to create a sense of community. In a single day, I am unable to avoid the proliferation of social media into my job as an academic librarian. And while this is a positive improvement for the library I find myself facing the same dilemmas that teachers face when they set up a Facebook account: what are my parameters for accepting friend requests; what should I/should I not post; what kind of privacy settings should I adopt?

From Jazz Modeus's Flickr Stream, Creative Commons licensed

Public libraries have certainly embraced the image of the hipster librarian, bespattered with tattoos, perhaps even a piercing, and carrying an organic tote bag displaying though-provoking literary quotes (excuse the stereotype). Not so for the academic librarian. Academia prefers a little more conformity. While our employers may want us to show our individualism and personalities in reference and information literacy sessions, it is not hard to forget that we are professionals working in a professional environment. Working so closely with college students is a sticky situation in itself, especially for those of us who are younger. What role do we adopt? While you may say – librarian and librarian alone, it is not always that easy. We work closely, on a daily basis, with student workers who are far closer in age to us than our co-workers. We share more in common with them as well. Facebook is not a foreign place for us – it has been our mode of communication for some time now. So when our colleagues decide that we should attach our Facebook page to the library’s Facebook page, what do we do? Create two pages – one for the public and one private? This is the exact scenario that my colleague faces.   And while we may not have pictures of us guzzling beers or setting fire to couches, don’t we have a right to keep pictures of our latest camping trip between friends? How do we keep our individuality and our privacy in a world that demands we share?

The (Possible) Effect of Social Media on Democracy January 27, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Read Write Web’s article on the superficiality of Obama accepting public questions via platforms like YouTube on today’s State of the Union address made me wonder, not for the first time, if technology will once and for all engender the birth of a true democracy. Semantically, America is not a democracy, it is a republic. We elect officials to speak for us. The opinion of each and every citizen is not taken into account. Logistically, a true democracy has always been impossible. Let’s pretend for a moment that the “digital divide” doesn’t exist; that each and every citizen has access to the internet (which hopefully most do in some form or another, via the public library).  Will the use of social media sites enable us to take a step closer to becoming a true democracy, to having the opinions of every single person heard? Is that something we would even want? Will social media really be able to accomplish such a feat?

Obama is notorious for using Web 2.0 technologies and the internet to gain popular support for his platforms (most notable now, health care reform). And today’s user-interaction with the State of the Union address is just another example of his innovation. Read Write Web asks if these attempts are mostly an illusion, as user questions can easily be ignored or filtered without the knowledge of the public (and within YouTube’s restrictions). Participants will also be using Google Moderator to vote which questions are most important to them. While I agree that this type of interaction is not the same as Obama “holding court”, it is important both in its symbolism and its utility.

From Vanity Fair, click on image for the full article.

It is symbolically important in that it shows the White House to be an entity that cares for the opinion of each and every citizen. It also shows that the White House is not a dinosaur and has embraced technological change. (But we already knew that with our young, charismatic Blackberry-addicted president, right?) And while queries can be easily ignored, if a topic comes up repeatedly enough and with enough force, the White House will become aware of it, whether they acknowledge it or not.

This method of communication is useful quite simply because it is easy and immediate. Using the web is clearly less time consuming than writing letters. The White House, with the help of YouTube and Google, can easily quantify the information, something that would be quite laborious with previous methods of data-mining. The novelty and possible anonymity of the platform will also likely involve citizens who might not otherwise be so vociferous.

Read Write Web further criticizes this method of interaction by arguing that large groups can come together to sway the numbers. But is this really a detriment? Isn’t this what groups have been doing for years in the form of petitions, walk-outs, strikes, and protests? While the concerns of a few may be buried by the concerns of larger, more organized groups, at least this platform will give them a reason, and a way to organize for such future occurrences.

What do you foresee as the possible implications of the confluence of social media and government?

Death to the Listserv! January 25, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Every day, all day, I am bombarded with listserv emails – 90% of which I am completely uninterested in. Many of these listservs are ones that my supervisors have suggested I join as a source of information and guidance. Once in a while I see a topic that looks interesting and read a few of the emails, but these discussions often devolve into barely veiled insults and vitriolic comments, or pleasant but unhelpful reiterations of the same idea. The only listserv I have enjoyed with relative consistency is the one from my graduate school which often has job listings. This too is most often irrelevant to me, as students use it to sell textbooks and even list apartments, but the repetition of deleting mass emails is worth the occasional local job listing.

So why use listservs at all? While it is helpful to post a question on a subject you are unfamiliar with, the same information can usually be gleaned from blogs or library web sites. Perhaps the listserv is, as Greg Lambert calls them in his June 2009 article in the AALL Spectrum, “lazy research.” Since joining Twitter, I have found the social media sites a wonderful source of information for libraries and librarians. But, like many other Twitter users, it took me months of forced engagement and exploration to truly understand the nuances (and language) of Twitter. I am nearly a “born digital”, and if it was difficult and time consuming for me to grasp the multitude of ways to harness Twitter’s plethora of information, than I can only guess how difficult and frustrating it would be for librarians who have been in the profession for a much longer time.

Lambert’s article provides a good list of the of pros and cons of listservs and in the end agrees with me, that a new model needs to be embraced. While we both mention Twitter, its defining characteristic is that posts can be no longer than 140 characters. Most librarians, news sites, blogs, etc. bypass this stipulation by posting a shortened URL to their Twitter post. But most librarians do not have their own site, so I don’t know if using Twitter can exactly replicate the quantity of information shared in a listserv. Twitter could possibly link to a wiki, a web site that any librarian could alter and share information on; but would the confluence of two Web 2.0 technologies make the process of sharing information unnecessarily difficult? Probably. Lambert’s most enthusiastic suggestion is Nings – social networks that allow user created communities to be as wide or as narrow as they choose and to share media in a number of different formats. Nings, like any technology, have a learning curve, which may be a detriment to some. I believe it is just for this reason that listservs have persisted for so long.

Listservs are simple, requiring only the use of email, a skill even the most seasoned librarian has mastered. So why is it that librarians haven’t adopted social media for professional development and collaboration even though most libraries boast their own Facebook page, and many have blogs and Twitter feeds? I think the answer is that librarians are often [1] too busy and [2] overwhelmed at the idea of learning another new technology. (And let’s be honest: a class on a new technology is always unhelpful to those digitally struggling and superfluous to those already embracing Web 2.0 technologies.) What is the solution? How do we smoothly transition as a profession from the outdated model of the listserv to the collaborative, nourishing environment of Web 2.0 community sites? I haven’t a clue! What’s your thoughts?

Please read the entirety of Greg Lambert’s article from June 2009’s AALL Spectrum here.

Help the Pentagon Find the Red Balloons December 4, 2009

Posted by dataduchess in Uncategorized.
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Starting tomorrow morning, the Pentagon’s Research Agency, DARPA, invites you to help it study the capabilities of the internet. They will release 10 red 8-foot balloons in random places around the country, and internet users (aka social networkers) will have to work together to collect the GPS data for each balloon.

The first person to submit correct data for all 10 balloons will win $40,000. The competition will explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.

Here’s the Official Site – its not too late to register!
Also, see this article from Monday’s New York Times.
(via New Scientist)

Web Trends to Watch in 2010 December 3, 2009

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Pete Cashmore, CEO and founder of the social media blog Mashable and now a writer for CNN.com, has come up with his list of the “10 Web Trends to watch in 2010.” While my eyes usually glaze over by point three of such lists, I was happily surprised to find myself agreeing with Cashmore’s prescient points. Particularly compelling are his points on the soon-to-be ubiquitous GPS, information overload, and convergence of functions in one device. Cashmore, unlike other netizens, intelligently (I believe) predicts a short faddish life for the kindle. He also argues that more information, while seemingly attractive, may not always be helpful. Cashmore closes with his most compelling argument, one that has already been a hot topic among librarians, teachers, parents, copyright lawyers, artists, and anyone else interested in privacy. He states, “We’re seeing the ongoing voluntary erosion of privacy through public sharing on Facebook and Twitter, the rise of location-based services and the inclusion of video cameras in a growing array of devices…Expect personal privacy — or rather its continued erosion — to be a hot media topic of 2010.”

What do you think will be the hottest web trend in 2010?