Monthly Archives: May 2007

Harvard Business Review Case Commentary: “We Googled You” (newly interactive)

In each issue, the Harvard Business Review has a section called “Case Commentary” where they propose a fictional but realistic scenario and invite different prominent folks to respond. I was given the great honor of being invited to respond to a case entitled “We Googled You.”

In Diane Coutu’s hypothetical scenario, Fred is trying to decide whether or not to hire Mimi after one of Fred’s co-workers googles Mimi and finds newspaper clippings about Mimi protesting Chinese policies. [The case study is 2 pages – this is a very brief synopsis.] Given the scenario, we were then asked, “should Fred hire Mimi despite her online history?”

Unfortunately, Harvard Business Review does not make their issues available for free download (although they are available at the library and the case can be purchased for $6) *but* i acquired permission to publish my commentary online for your enjoyment. It’s a little odd taken out of context, but i still figured some folks might enjoy my view on this matter, especially given that the press keep asking me about this exact topic. (Update: apparently HBR has the case without responses on their site for the Interactive Case Study.)

“We Googled You: Should Fred hire Mimi despite her online history?”

Update: Apparently, unbeknownst to me, HBR has decided to make this case study the First Interactive Case Study. While they don’t share all of our responses with the public, they invite anyone to respond to the case with their own feelings on the matter. They want people to submit to their site so that they can publish the best-of, but personally, i’d be *stoked* to hear how all readers of this blog would respond to this case study. So, please submit something, but also add your thoughts to the comments or post your response to your blog (and comment the URL) so that we can all read your thoughts. I found this exercise mentally fun and i hope you do too! (tx Andy Blanco)

“Significance of Social Software” in BlogTalks Reloaded

Last fall, i spoke at BlogTalk Reloaded. They’ve turned a bunch of our talks into full papers packaged and published as a book titled: BlogTalks Reloaded. My piece is The Significance of Social Software. I look at the culture surrounding, technology of, and practices embedded in social software. It was a fun keynote and it’s a fun piece in print so i hope you enjoy!

The Significance of Social Software

“Digital Handshakes on Virtual Receiving Lines”

I gave a short talk at the Personal Democracy Forum today. I put together a crib for anyone who wishes to get a sense for what i said. Very simple talk with one point: politicians should reach out and shake virtual hands with young people rather than just putting up flat profiles on social network sites. Anyhow, if you’re interested, enjoy!

“Digital Handshakes on Virtual Receiving Lines”

Cannes Film Festival

That ridiculous picture to the left is me walking the stairs at the Cannes Film Festival. ::giggle:: I came to Cannes to give a keynote about youth and their engagement with film and new media. In return, i got tickets to the opening night of the festival, including a short by David Lynch and the premier of My Blueberry Nights (a Kar Wai Wong film starring Jude Law and Norah Jones and Natalie Portman and others). So i had to get all dressed up and walk the red carpet. Thank goodness for the SF designer Miranda Caroligne being so kind as to make me a dress for the adventure. It was walking remix! Totally purrrfect!

Following the premier, i got to go schmooze at dinner with a bunch of folks that i’m sure i’m supposed to know but am dreadful at recognizing. I’m currently back in my hotel giving my feet a rest before running off to a post-party party (sponsored by Louis Vuitton of all people). This whole thing is quite absurd. The glitz, the glam, the gawkers. I feel *way* out of place, but it’s a fascinating ethnographic adventure. Still, no one can believe that i don’t know who this that or the other person is. Doo dee doo.

More later… just thought folks (like my mom) would enjoy the pics!

Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization

Last week, i had the honor of joining three amazing (quant) social scientists on an Internet Caucus panel in DC. David Finkelhor (Director of Crimes Against Children Research Center), Amanda Lenhart (PEW), and Michele Ybarra (President of Internet Solutions for Kids) all presented quantitative data while i batted qualitative cleanup. I have to admit that i was concerned about this panel because folks throw the 1/7 number (formerly 1/5) all the time to fearmonger. I was very pleasantly shocked to find that all of us were completely on the same page and that most of the press coverage of Michele and David’s work has been terrible in representing the implications of their findings. I was very pleased with how this panel played out and ecstatic that the Internet Caucus chose to put the video up online (even if it requires Real – props to anyone who converts it to MP4 or uploads it to YouTube):

panel video and audio

PDF transcript

You don’t have to listen to me but i’d strongly encourage you to listen to the other three. They do a fantastic job of presenting solid data that debunks the myths that the press has been propegating for quite some time. For example, David highlights that putting up real information online has no correllation to sexual predation. It’s a great panel so enjoy!!

Update: Loud props to Michael Herzog for turning this into a playlist on YouTube:

Update 2: There is now a PDF transcript of the panel.

quality of Google searches?

Question: has the quality of Google search gone downhill in the last few months or is it just me? Every time i search for an event-based thing, i get crap from 2005 instead of what’s relevant now. I suspect that this is because of the blogger impact on event-type items, but it’s really annoying. It’s also annoying that they’ve stopped correcting my atrocious spelling. I mean, it’s all fine and well that lots of people in the blogosphere can’t spell in exactly the same way that i can’t spell, but the #1 type of search i do everyday is spell check. I throw something god-awful like Cziskentmihalyi into the engine knowing that it’ll return Csikszentmihalyi. This still works quite well for names but it’s stopped working for lots of regular words that i just can’t spell to save my life. How pathetic is it that i’ve started opening up Word for the little red squigglies instead of relying on search? Or maybe both practices are weird…

I’m especially irked that when i search for addresses, they almost never come up. This evening, i searched for “1457 Third Street Promenade.” No dice. I added Santa Monica, CA. No dice. I decided to see if Google Maps would find the address and to my shock, it couldn’t find anything and kept giving me just Third Street generically. I went to Yahoo! Maps (which i prefer in old-skool mode anyhow, but hate typing in addresses to as i’ve noted before) and voila, that worked. I still desperately miss the days when addresses just worked in Google. I can’t believe how many times a day i shove addresses into the searchbar.

Maybe i can convince myself to like the Yahoo! UI now that Google has even further screwed theirs up by cluttering the left-hand side. But i still can’t decide… am i just being old and crotchety about change or has Google’s search actually gotten atrocious?

Grr.. or maybe i shouldn’t switch because Yahoo! wants to give me a support group for crotchedy people rather than tell me that the real spelling is crotchety. At least Google tells me that crotchedy is urban slang, making me feel a bit less crotchety.

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We all know teens can’t spell. And parents blame technology. And they’re partially right.

In talking with teens, the lack of available namespace is something that regularly comes up. They can’t get the screenname they want on AIM or the URL they want on MySpace. So, they go with alternate spellings. It’s fascinating to talk to them about how they started mucking with the spelling of words to create accounts on this that or the other system. Can we blame the lack of meaningful namespaces for the destruction of English? Perhaps.

Once on these systems, they want to create a unique identity, something that really identifies them, something that has “personality.” Personality… personalization. Why not personalize the English language? Suh-weet. This makes it fun and expressive. (My favorite part of this is that when someone goes to copy/paste an AIM into Xanga, they have to be very careful to change the spelling to that person’s style if they’re going to mod the copy/paste and pretend like that was the real conversation.) So maybe we can blame the fact that teens are stuck at home, bored, and wanting to be expressive?

SMS is, of course, taking this to a whole new level. This is pretty well known outside of the US where SMS-speak has destroyed native tongues everywhere, but we’re only about a year into massive texting adoption amongst teens in the States. Now, they’re trying to be expressive using as few characters as possible. Remember when secretaries used to learn shorthand? Imagine how fast a teen today would be at that. Maybe we should train them to be secretaries and give them phones? Scratch that. But once again, the solution to a technological limitation is to mess with the English language. Hmm.

The English language is not actually that stable. Go check out some Old English texts and you’ll see all sorts of peculiar spelling of familiar words. It took a long time for English to evolve to its current structure. I can’t help but wonder if that evolution just sped up.

dysfunctional product design: Apple MagSafe Airline Adapter

I bought a new Macbook and ordered the Apple MagSafe Airline Adapter with it since none of my other airline plugs would work. When i opened it, i was horrified to see that it was a two-part thing: the cord and the cigarette plug part. I knew this was going to be a disaster. Sure enough, FIRST flight, the damn cigarette part gets stuck in the power plug on the plane and i have to leave it behind. I grumble the whole way off the plane about dysfunctional design. Who thinks it wise to make such a thing two-part when the entire structure of a cigarette lighter is to get stuck? ::grumble::

So i call Apple. They don’t know what i’m talking about when i talk about the airline power adapter, let alone the two parts. (They of course don’t sell a replacement head on the website.) I send them to their own product page. They promise to send me a new one. I get a regular power adapter in the mail (not the airplane one). I call them back and we go through rounds and rounds. After 25 minutes, i have to hang up to go to a meeting. I call them back a third time and we had to start completely over. Once again, the guy doesn’t know what i’m talking about. On hold, talking to manager, on hold. Just another minute. 15 minutes go by. 45 minutes later i’m livid and he asks me to hold again and the guy tells me that’s not covered under my warantee and i want to bite his head off. I tell him that it’s a poorly designed product destined to fail. He tells me no one has ever had this problem before. I tell him to read the blogs and the frequent flyer bulletin boards where there’s lots of bitching. He tells me he can’t do anything for me but he will tell his manager about the blogs. I ask him if i can just order just the head of the damn thing and finally, he tells me that’s possible but not through the site and i’m like i don’t care, just send it.

I realize that i’m just whining but i need to vent (and isn’t that what blogs are for?). I live on airplanes. 20,000+ miles this month. I _need_ my power adapters to work or i go batty, stressed because i can’t get work done. And my least favorite part of this “modern” world is having to call tech support for anything. They increase the likelihood of me getting a blood clot or ulcer by a very large percentage. Plus, it gives me unbelievable amounts of pain to watch humans become robots taught to follow scripts infinitely. Tech support structures seem stricter than even the military. And i want to be nice to them because it seems like a sucky job, but boy do they get my blood boiling. Must go do yoga. In the meantime, i ordered an extra battery and an extra airline adapter, all the meanwhile feeling cranky about how their fuckup is making me by more product rather than less.

social network sites: public, private, or what?

Over at Knowledge Tree is a recent essay i wrote called Social Network Sites: Public, Private, or What? For many who follow this blog, the arguments are not new, but i suspect some folks might appreciate the consolidated and not-so-spastic version. At the very least, perhaps you’ll be humored to see my writing splattered with the letter ‘s’ instead of the letter ‘z’ (it’s an Australian e-journal). There’s also an MP3 of me reading the essay for those who fear text (which is very novel since y’all know how much i fear audio/video recordings of me, but i did resist trying to sound funny while pronouncing the letter s instead of the letter z). And here’s a PDF of the essay for those who wishing to kill trees.

In conjunction with this essay, there’s a life chat at 2PM Australian Eastern on 22 May. This translates to 9PM PST on 21 May and midnight New York time (which is where i’ll be so hopefully i won’t be too loopy, or at least no more loopy than i am feeling right now).