Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

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I see dead people

December 9, 2012

I have reached the age where many of the celebrities, politicians and other well-known people of my youth have passed into the great beyond. This natural evolution struck me recently as I thought about the world as seen through the eyes of my 9 year old daughter. Specifically, I realized that she has no anchor (pun intended) to help her understand the events of the world.

Growing up, watching the nightly news was pretty standard for me. From Walter Cronkite to Dan Rather on CBS, and later Ted Koppel on Nightline, there is an image in my head of the voice of authority delivering the news of the day. My mental lens of history is shaped by my interaction with TV news.

Let’s just say, for the record, I watched a lot of TV growing up. I secretly believe my entire ability to deliver a sharp and funny line is due to my nightly training by Johnny Carson.

Today, the kid typically gets an hour a day of screen time. For the most part, that consists of wretched sitcoms on the Disney Channel (no more wretched, I suppose, then my watching Gomer Pyle, USMC) or animation (Phineas and Ferb is top-notch). On weekends we all get to watch competition shows on the Food Network.

There is no turning on the tube (there is no tube!) to watch the evening news because the news flows constantly through the Internet to one of the six screens I have available at any given time. It is only when major events happen that I tend to turn to MSNBC or CNN (or, if I need a laugh, to FOX News).

Back to the original point. The kid has no anchor. She is still young enough that the news is mostly irrelevant to her, but that time is quickly coming to an end. When she does get interested in the world around her, she will turn to the net just like the rest of us. The concept of a voice of authority bringing the news to her will not likely exist. Unfortunately, she will likely not know how to separate the true from the false easily either (everything on the Internet is true, right?).

I think she is missing something and that is just one instance of how all the people that shaped my sense of the world are now gone. My kid is learning comedic timing from Austin & Ally instead of Carson and McMahon. She is a digital native and the world has changed, as it always does.

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The digital safe haven

January 4, 2011

I have spent considerable time and thought over the past few months examining my relationship with technology, media, and the Internet. This was driven in a large part by my frustration with the highly variable personal ROI I seem to get from being a “power user” all the time. Fundamentally, I have begun to seriously question just how much engagement is reasonable for someone trying to live a normal and happy life.

One of the most important insights I had (and I am not unique in this) was the need to create a “digital safe haven” for myself. There needs to be a time/place that is largely disconnected from the constant stream of news, email, social chatter, online shopping, picture sharing, blog reading (and writing), etc. This sounds easy, but really takes some effort and dedication. The desire to disconnect may be strong, but the allure of connecting is a very powerful counter-force.

My digital safe haven is my bedroom at night. Since I am currently sitting in the bedroom writing this post (much warmer here than my desk downstairs!) the “at night” modifier is important. Once the evening comes, my devices are banned from the bedroom. No phone, no laptop, no iPad. My Kindle is allowed, since that satisfies my desire to spend time reading. What I have done is stopped the endless inbound chatter from these devices that pulls my limited attention in far too many directions all day long. Once I head to bed, I also stop paying attention to the devices in the rest of the house. No more getting up to check the email at 2:00 AM or see what is happening on Facebook. No more waking up and checking my email before I even roll out of bed and stretch.

Radical? No. But, amazingly satisfying for me. I feel as if I have gained back some control of my time and my ability to focus through the creation of this safe haven. I have also determined that I am no less productive because of it (and may even be more productive).

My lovely wife respects my digital safe haven, but has decided not to follow suit. I respect that and just ignore her devices beeping and blinking on her side of the room.

I believe that there are larger implications for the creation of the digital safe haven. As we are all subject to the endless ubiquity of the digital stream, the ability to step outside and take a breather will become ever more important. What will companies do to support the desires of the individual to be “left alone” for a while? Will Facebook give me a way to specify an away period and then be able to efficiently catch-up when I return? Will my co-workers respect email responses that take longer than 15 minutes, even at 2:00 AM?

The opportunity here is two-fold. First, individuals need to have ways to regain their space and not be distracted. Second, businesses need to start thinking about ways to respect this shift and empower their customers instead of punishing them for missing the endless river of content that keeps flowing by.

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Twitter

March 7, 2009

Via Ryan’s blog:

I started a twitter feed for my product at Microsoft (www.twitter.com/microsoftvsts) and we quickly gain more than 500 followers. It is interesting to see how quickly a crowd will gather around something they value. We should tweet more often, but even just a now and then model of tweets seems to keep the audience engaged.

Personally I tend to follow people, not companies or products. I want there to be a genuine person behind the screen, not a designated corporate mouthpiece. There is a delicate balance in my mind between the authentically useful and the authentically fake.

Very curious to see the plan to monetize Twitter. If Facebook is an example, it might be a long hard climb to profit.

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Digital Footprints

December 24, 2007

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released their “Digital Footprints” report. This is a absolute must read for anyone concerned about how identity and privacy are changing in the modern world.

It describes the increasing amount of information we each leave in the cloud (they call them “digital footprints”) as well as the growing obsession with searching for information about ourselves (“ego surfing”). At the same time, the frequency with which people monitor their own information is pretty low (just 3% making a regular habit of it).

There are far-reaching implications for the way in which our identity has become something open to ongoing public scrutiny as well as subject to public “modification”. If your friends can post a comment about us on our own Facebook page, or on their own page next to a picture they took of us, then we no longer have control over public perceptions. Anyone can wage a smear campaign against us now. Legal recourse is possible, but information persists in search engines forever.

Sometimes I am fearful about the online information available about me. Although relatively benign (I believe), it still paints a picture of who I am and what I have done that yields insights into my life I would not always choose to share with everyone. But, I have made the voluntary choice to share it because I ultimately believe it is better for me to feed the river of knowledge rather than try to try and be the dam.

If you don’t already have Google Alerts set up for your name, now is the time.