Mostly for my own reference, but also to invite comments about what others are doing, I'm taking stock of how I use (and don't use) various social media tools today in my personal life.
Twitter is probably the social media tool I post to most frequently. With close to 700 followers and 700 people I follow, I enjoy the quick and easy perusing of other people's tweets, the sharing of interesting / useful / important links, and the witty repartee that can result. Since joining in 2008 and initially making fun of it, I've come to embrace the challenge of saying something meaningful or interesting in such a small number of words.
I've found a good mix of Twitter accounts to follow that both give me access to articles, ideas and resources I know I'll find interesting, and accounts that challenge me to think differently about the world. I try to follow at least one link every day to a resource/site/article that I know I'll profoundly disagree with.
I just finished reading Steven Levy's In the Plex, a great history of Google, Inc.'s origins and growth, and a great insight into what the company could look like in the future, or at least how it might get there.
The story of Google that matters for most people is how it affects their daily lives (searching, web browsing, mobile phones, mapping/navigation, email, calendaring, YouTube, news, etc.) but I appreciate that Levy's book focuses on the personalities and processes driving the evolution of what is arguably one of the most transformative corporate and technological entities of our time.
It can be easy to forget that behind some of the game-changing products and services produced by the company, there were real people thinking through issues of privacy, dealing with cross-cultural considerations and navigating interpersonal dynamics all while trying to make a living and find a sustainable business model. They had/have desks, meetings, slide shows to give, families to care for, water-cooler conversations to have, and Levy does a great job capturing and re-telling those stories from the days of "two guys in a garage" all the way through the present days of life as an international corporation. This is not always done with the most critical eye - those with concerns about Google's operations or policies may be put off by the extent to which this book is an homage - but on the whole I think Levy is fair in calling out the moments when individual Google employees or the company as a whole screws up, and placing those in the context of Google's good intentions.
A few themes in what Levy's book revealed about "the Google way":
I've had a few days to play around with Google's new social network offering, Google+, and I thought I'd share some initial thoughts.
First of all, kudos to Google for "going for it" in the Facebook era. They're one of few players who actually has the resources and skill to make a serious go at a viable alternative to Facebook, and you've got to admire the effort. If the success of the movie The Social Network tells us anything, it's that Facebook has become mainstream and popular, and as generations of younger people look for ways to establish their identity in the digital age, they'll be looking for alternatives to the place where their parents and now grandparents also hang out online. By the same token, people of all ages and professions are trying to figure out just how to effectively and safely use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media tools in a world where we're being encouraged to blend our personal and professional lives together more publicly.
Is Google+ just the right thing at just the right time?
People are already writing about the high bar that Google+ will have to jump in order to see any significant migration of Facebook users, not the least of which is all the time people have invested in curating their lists of "friends" there. Facebook is going to make it as difficult as possible for its users to do any kind of exporting of account information from their system, and I don't think Google is devious enough to launch an unauthorized workaround. So people will be left to recreate their online identity on Google+, where the number of people you are connected to still largely drives your user experience.
I had a little fun with the users of the Palladium-Item forums who like to post anonymous rants. It resulted in at least one phone call threatening legal action against me and started at least one conversation about the nature of privacy on the Internet, so I consider that a mild success.
Jim Hair, photographer and community activist extraordinaire, announced he and his wife Vicki are moving back to California after he accepted a position there. Funny on a number of levels, but mostly so because of what they've invested in Richmond.
Jean Harper is at least fantasizing about a good joke, though I'm concerned about her allegations that members of the Earlham College swim team are promiscuous. Wait, does Earlham have a swim team? Ahem.
Energy Efficiency Jobs at Google: Get paid to save the world (or at least to develop technology that prologngs its life a bit). "Business as usual will not deliver low-cost, clean energy fast enough to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change...We need creative and motivated entrepreneurs and technologists with expertise in a broad range of areas."
You may or may not notice that I've incorporated some Google Ads into my weblog. It's my unabashed attempt to make whatever moo-lah I can off of this exercise in public writing (which does not, for what it's worth, have moo-lah generation as a primary goal). I'm not sure if I'll keep the ads: the concept in general already grates against my sense that there's too much advertising on your average website, and because of my affiliation with a certain company that does webhosting, it's not like I'm trying to cover any expenses of having the thing online at all. And yet, I haven't yet felt the need to take such a principled stand that I can ignore the allure of 5 minutes of HTML rearranging work translating into some level of income that wasn't there before. In any case, if they offend your (and here I am addressing the imaginary person who reads these ramblings with regularity because they are just SO inspiring) sensibilities, please let me know. Conversely, if you enjoy this stuff and want to cheer me on - financially or otherwise - I'll appreciate that feedback too!