End of the year and time to reflect on a few things. Every year I try and make some predictions, see how I’ve done on some others, and plan out some goals for the rest of the year. I also like to reflect on how technology positively and negatively impacts my life. Every few years I also look at overall behaviors and challenge the assumptions of those behaviors.
First I want to look critically at my social media profile and whether the return on investment is worth the time sink and cost. My job is to be a researcher and professor in technology not to be a social media maven. As a professional curmudgeon nobody is going to mistake me for being socialable. To be quite blunt I’m not the guy you ask to your dinner party though you may buy me dinner for fixing your personal computer. As such I need to look and see whether things I spend time on support my interests and career goals. Do my career and life goals align with what I spend time on? There is also another component in should I be associated in social media properties that I don’t participate in? Is it even considerate to be (un)involved?
Many of my professional contacts are involved on every social media platform currently available. Whenever a new social media tool hits the street they sign up immedately. They have used tools to automate their posting to multiple platforms. When you actually read the multiple platforms you see the same posting from some individuals showing up many times. LinkedIn is a great example of this phenomenon and the auto posting of Twitter status messages as LinkedIn status messages. The same could be said about FaceBook. Inherent in this discussion is my expectation of a social media environment as interaction. The social media environment has become the land of broadcasters who never listen. The existence of robots and automated RSS feeds to various social media platforms with no social interaction is instructive on the validity of social media to me.
One of my goals is to inform and enhance the understanding of technology. Unfortunately social media has become an extreme echo chamber. Rather than complain about that phenomenon I try and be involved in a variety of different aligned activities. Inherent in that position is the idea of who I’m talking to but not listening to. That is the problem with a lot of the social media platforms. I want to be involved in social media activities so I can ask questions and crowd source solutions. Unhappily I see a lot of people talking and not a lot of people listening. For there to be communication you first have to listen. Since I’m basically an introvert I do a lot of listening.
From the perspective of content consumption Google Currents, FlipBoard, and the ubiquitous Kindle applications represent much better strategies for me to listen. The selective use of RSS feeds ensure content is delivered in a way that I can use. As such any website that only produces a synopsis feed rather than the full story feed I have deactivated. I noticed that when I discontinued synopsis posting that RSS feed subscribers doubled in about 90 days. I also noticed an extensive increase in content stealing, but I’m not getting paid for Selil.com postings.
I have had a presence on various Google properties like YouTube, Blogger, and Google Plus. I also have a presence on the ubiquitous FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Diaspora. I’m in the process of reducing all of these to a much smaller footprint. Over the last three months I have been testing the placement of Selil.Com content on various website to see which services drives page views. In order of precedence the places that drive page views are 1) Twitter; 2) Facebook; 3) GooglePlus. With the number of “friends” highly variable between services, and controlling for that variance, Twitter is still approximately three times more effective than the other two combined. To put that in context Twitter is not definably better than doing nothing.
I use a form of watermarking in my writing that is harder to describe than actually do. I engage in this to see if particular ideas have any kind of viral nature. I place code phrases over time that are not natural to the domain at particular points in my writing in such a way that they become very obvious when you see them contextually in other peoples writings. To further the goal of authorship analysis I place these kind of code phrases (memetic references/concepts) in particular contexts to see if they are being exfiltrated to other populations. By far this phenomenon is most exhibited within emails to specific email list services by particular authors. It is likely the authors are not even aware they have changed their use of language.
So far I have deactivated my Diaspora and Google Plus accounts. I’m in the process of deactivating my FaceBook account. I will likely before the end of the year discontinue my LinkedIn account. I’ve disabled, closed, or otherwise ceased use of most web forums that I’ve participated in completely. Many of the vBulletin based forums do not allow you to close out your account which is an interesting conundrum. Last year I dropped a particular service during this same process and they continue to send me email. They will not accept a firstname.lastname@example.org email or similar unless you respond to their email verification.
Similar to this I have been unsubscribing or server side blackholing any corporation, organization, or service that sends me email unsolicited. Several organizations I’ve dealt within the past have harvested one (or multiple) of my emails over the years and use that information to email me events and or synopsis of their activities. Since it is automated they don’t realize that they are sending me two, three, or even six copies of the same email. True to cyber tradition of SPAM clicking unsubscribe on the email has almost zero effect. I’m also ceasing all printed magazine subscriptions and only reading magazines available through the Kindle application or Apple News Stand application. One thing that any future web based services is that if they build social aspects into it I’m pretty much guaranteed to pass. The use of FaceBook as a log in mechanism is also the kiss of death.
|Google Plus (done)||YouTube|
|Facebook (done)||Twitter (maybe)|
|Blogger (done)||3 mail list services|
|Various list serves (done)||Various RSS Feeds|
|Summary RSS feeds (done)||Mendely (maybe)|
|Most web forums (done)|
|US Mail delivered magazines|
A note on leaving social media services. Some people post on the service something to the effect of “you all are lame, screw you, I’m outta here”. In no way is that what I’m doing here, I don’t feel that way, and I didn’t do it on any service that I deactivated. Most of the social media services are free to join and usually free to exit. Many people I consider friends and colleagues belong to these services. I just deactivate the account and don’t expect anybody to notice. In fact most of the deactivations listed in the table above happened a long time ago and nobody noticed. If anything it is further proof of me as the invisible Internet entity. I am not the drone you were looking for.
A few years ago going through this process I narrowed my technology footprint substantially. The first step in that process was to go to one computer for most things, and then sync my BlackBerry to get contacts and calendar. The replacement of my RIM BlackBerry with the Apple iPhone made that process much simpler. The iPhone 3GS allowed me toss the TomTom GPS for my car, and add it to the growing pile of orphaned devices. This year sees the addition of an Apple iPad (64gb, wi-fi only) to my technology stack and the end of my Windows 7 NetBook for traveling purposes. The iPhone 4s was a substantial improvement but only an incremental not revolutionary improvement on the iPhone 3gs.
With the addition of the Apple iPad I no longer needed the NetBook or the Kindle that I had been carrying. Since the iPad Kindle application syncs in the cloud reading across the various devices is substantially better than expected. Also, my device count is reduced again. Now my personal technology suite is represented by a MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone. The cloud services with these three hardware platforms allow me to use them near seamlessly. The addition of the new generation Apple TV makes for near seamless content delivery.
The new job requires that I have an agency supported MacBook Pro for turning in my time card, creating travel arrangements, and a BlackBerry for accessing email internationally (not that it ever works). These two devices are orphaned most of the time and only brought out to prove I haven’t lost them.
My family does not watch broadcast television and likes to soak up a complete television series in a lazy Saturday afternoon rather than over many months. We purchase the highest speed broadband Internet access that we can, but do not purchase a telephone or television plan. Services like NetFlix, Hulu+, and RedBox allow us to access entertainment content as we see fit. As previously mentioned the iCloud and iTunes Match services from Apple are excellent additions to this environment.
It should be noted that our primary family entertainment device over the last few years has ceased being AppleTV (we own two). The Microsoft xBox 360 gives us access to Hulu+, Netflix, and serves as a DVD player along with being a console with some of the best games on the market. The AppleTV is still used for previously purchased content and music services, but the device in the family room is rarely turned on. This next year will likely see the retirement of the first generation AppleTV as was the case for the Sony digital content delivery hardware earlier this year.
All of this put together is about making the technology support my life and remove parasitic elements form the equation. Of course, you never know if there was something special in a technology solution until you actually shut it off. I’ll be talking about some more year end clean up in the last two weeks of the year.