Posts Tagged ‘google

I’m uninstalling my Facebook for Android app today. Three main reasons:

  1. It continually tells me I have new messages I already read
  2. It is always running however often I use my app killer to shut the damn thing off
  3. It can see where I am, who I am calling, and read my text messages if it wants

I don’t have a problem with anonymised data being used to fund the free exchange of information online by helping marketers to target people efficiently and effectively. But many mobile apps can see and use too much of our personal information and communications as standard. So starting with Facebook I’m taking a stand on this…

Google said: ‘From the beginning, Android has had an industry-leading permissions system which informs consumers what data an app can access and requires users’ approval before installation.’

Tom Kelly

This ‘approval’ comeback completely misses the point… we want the app so we click yes, even if we don’t agree with or understand why it wants access to so much of our mobile data.

I’d suggest as a first step before the law catches up with this problematic area that the Apple App Store and Android Market include a ‘report unnecessary data collection’ button on every app in their collections so that potential users can report that although they want a certain application – they would like to protest at the level of information it has access to.

Some might argue that if we want free apps we need to pay the price by giving over everything about us to unaccountable corporations and institutions. I’d argue that if your business model depends on intruding upon people’s private lives to the extent of needing to know where they are all the time and who they are calling the world can do without your sociopathic stalker-esque enterprise. Seriously.

A few weeks ago I saw Wael Ghonim at LSE speak about his new book Revolution 2.0. I found the talk most enjoyable – his authenticity and passion were a pleasure to listen to. The discussion afterwards was mainly on the political situation in Egypt – understandably given the session was run by the LSE’s Middle East centre (not the Media and Communications school where I recently studied).

But when I fortunate enough to have the chance to ask a question I dived in with a social media one… asking him about anonymity in relation to his administration of the Facebook page credited with being a catalyst for the Egyptian revolution… given the success he described with bringing people together would have been impossible if real names were used throughout the process (he had mentioned earlier that working with others on the “We are all Khaled Saeed” Facebook page .. they did not reveal their true identities to one another during several months of organising). I also cheekily asked that he comment on the Google+ policy on real names in relation to this vital civic question..

Wael did not answer at great length – he said he was not on Google+ (nothing if not apparently honest to a fault!?) and that anonymity on the Facebook platform did not matter so much to his activities, since whilst running a Facebook page no one can publicly see who the admin is. He also said he trusted that Facebook would not have done anything dangerous with his data… that they could have traced him via IP anyway (I will cover this in a later post).. and he trusted the platform would not have misused what it knew about him.

I was grateful for this answer – but to pick back up on it… I would argue our brief exchange leaves wide open a rich and urgent territory for consideration in relation to online participation, democracy and identity:

  • In a short-term ‘revolutionary’ situation – using a social platform hosted in one country to discuss issues, organise and challenge the state of another may well be highly possible (for now)
  • But anonymity / pseudonymity which enables citizens to develop understanding and contribute to political commentary (particularly over extended periods of time) without fear of judgement or consequence from peers, colleagues, employers and state powers is not being built into the major social platforms in popular use by the mainstream in western democracies (for example, when you comment on the wall of a Facebook page – your real name is publicly visible)
  • As Sanna Trygg, myself and many others have argued, online comments can contribute to healthy public debate in general and open our media up to a more diverse and democratic discourse
  • However any social platform which stores real identities with political commentary may be used as a ‘technology of power’ which enables users’ opinion and interest data to be used against them for state or commercial purposes
  • Furthermore, contrary to the attitude of much ‘big media’ towards lowly unidentifiable commenters, on average, it has been found that online participation using pseudonyms often results in higher quality participation than that conducted using ‘real names’

This indicates the need for urgent attention to ways in which identity can be handled differently, more sensitively, by all using, designing, hosting and regulating participation online. If anonymity / pseudonymity as an option is more valuable and indeed safer for individual safety and liberty in any online forum where critical civic dialogue takes place… the case must be made and won, the software adapted and norms altered… while they still can be.

Some are saying traffic is declining to Google+ (Notice how awkward it is to put a full stop after a plus sign? I’m afraid such sentences will have to go unpunctuated).

A slight lull in early-adopter traffic doesn’t seem to me to be a big deal. As for my part I have felt the real personal usefulness of the platform will come only when the masses arrive. Sure it’s interesting seeing all the techies and social media megastars feel their way around and build up circles of the usual suspects. But it’s when all those barely overlapping groups of friends and interests I hold dear come over from Facebook and Twitter – and develop neat little profiles so I can add them to the correct circles – that’s when it will move beyond being professionally and technologically interesting – and become the crucial social platform that Facebook never quite was.

So I’ve had a go explaining Google+ to a few of my nearest – and also to a photographer and a taxi driver. Here is kinda how it went – and may as well form my personal invitation to the early majority – the next wave of converts, who I believe most of us need to make this thing work for us.

Dear dearest,

I’d like to invite you to join Google+ 

(No, it’s not about search, although it is from the people who make the search engine.) 

It is a new social network that allows you to share and communicate with friends and others online.

The great thing is you can see what people are posting – and choose what you post out – according to what you are both interested in and / or the relationship you have with them.

You can do this because Google+ has circles. Circles that you create, but no one else can see.

You can put people into as many different circles as you like.

And it’s really easy to drag them in and out of circles, for example if you move jobs.

Once you have created some circles – you can post items to people in them, and they can post items to you. 

Circles make it really easy to share what you’re doing, and follow what you’re into, without overlapping when you don’t want to.

So you won’t share pictures of your endless gardening project with your boss at work. Nor news about the latest raucous work party with your old friends from university or your aunties and uncles.

You can also easily follow and share news about your interests, without boring people you know won’t be interested in them.

But if you’ve just got married, and you want everyone to see the pics from your big day – you can share that with lots of your circles, or all of them.

If there’s something, on the other hand, you’d like to share with the whole world – you can make a post public. This is useful if you’re a writer, event organiser or entrepreneur and want to spread information as far as possible.

But if there are people you want to keep out of your life for whatever reason, it’s easy to put them into your blocked circle. They will never see any updates or photos restricted to your circles – even if they try and follow you.

So that’s it*. Tons of control over all the information and people in your life. Less chance of offending or boring the people that matter to you. More chance of connecting with people around common passions and interests – whether you know them in real life or not.

But ah… the Facebook question. Why do you need this when you have Facebook? One answer is – Google+ makes it easier to be you. To be all the things you care about, and maintain all the different social connections you have – simply. On Facebook it’s hard to share with and see content from selected people only – Google plus has solved this problem by making it much easier to have that control. 

Why not try it? Creating circles is really rather fun… then sharing to and reading from them – that’s when it really gets interesting.

If you need an invite let me know. Hope to see you there soon…

*There’s actually more to Google+ such as hangouts. In these you can use your webcam to video-chat with a group of up to ten people. It’s like free web conferencing software for everyone. People are already experimenting with hangouts in interesting ways, e.g. to hold virtual guitar lessons. But getting started with circles is the main thing.

I’ve used Google Reader many times to create bundles of blogs for monitoring and outreach in line with topic interest areas. The beauty of it is once you have compiled a hard-hitting list of blog RSS feeds you can share them as a bundle with others on your team… without them even needing to know what RSS is. This also makes it particularly easy to hand over when moving on to the next project.

The tool is also very useful to integrate different bloggers’ material into sites from an editorial perspective – when I set up the Guardian Global Development blogosphere the display of external blogs was run via Google Reader. The highlighting of specific blogposts on the back-end was achieved via an editor or community co-ordinator simply starring posts from Reader’s blog-post view – again, making for a simple content management user experience.

So I thought it worth highlighting what Michael Tieso has done with his list of 160 independent travel bloggers – because it’s not often you see someone being as generous with their efforts identifying good blogs. He has used Google reader’s capacity to share blog bundles publicly – compiling a list of over 160 independent travel bloggers for anyone to subscribe to.

You can find the travel bloggers bundle and subscribe to it here (you will need a Google account to use reader). For those of you new to reader – doing this means all the latest posts from those travel bloggers will appear in your reader from now on. You will also be able to search within that specific bundle in your Google reader for items of interest. Michael Tieso can be found @artofbackpackin on Twitter.

Sea life picture from My Itchy Travel Feet

“Like” culture is antithetical to the concept of self-esteem, which a healthy individual should be developing from the inside out rather than from the outside in. Instead, we are shaped by our stats, which include not just “likes” but the number of comments generated in response to what we write and the number of friends or followers we have

Neil Strauss

OK, I know it’s greedy. But I just can’t choose. Should I tell Google+ to personalise my web experience, or not?

You see, when it comes to ads, I’m fairly OK with that. I kinda like it that everywhere I go on the web now, nice shoes flash around in the corner somewhere. But content? Content? The truth is Google, I’m scared. Every time I go to hit the radio button Eli Pariser’s words on filter bubbles come back to haunt me.

But I can’t be in and out. I would love to know what’s inside the filter bubble Google would love to tailor for me. But I don’t want to miss out on the great wild web it cuts me out of. In or out. That’s the choice. Whatever happened to shake it all about?

This blog is about utilizing and optimizing the social web for business, pleasure and social change

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

The views in this blog do not reflect that of my employer