Monthly Archives: September 2007

why I am not going on the academic job market

I have decided not to go on the academic job market this year. I’ve wanted to be a professor for a long time. I still want to be a professor. Just not now.

Making that decision was quite hard for me. If all goes well, I will have my PhD next summer. Thus, it is this fall when I should go on the academic job market. To be proper, I signed up to go to every academic conference in my field this fall. (For those not in academia, academic job opportunities are posted in the fall, with applications due throughout the fall, and interviews taking place in the winter/spring. Finishing graduate students normally go on the market during their final year. Academic conferences are key places for being seen and feeling out different departments and practicing job talks.)

Before he passed away, my advisor and I had many long conversations about whether or not I belonged in academia. He told me that I had too much energy to do research and that I would find academia maddening at this stage in my career. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with his logic. My reasons for wanting to go on the job market were simple: I *love* teaching, I *love* students, I *love* research. Peter kindly reminded me that this is not what academia is about – he used to joke that the University paid him to attend meetings so that he could keep up his hobby of teaching. Peter was infinitely patient about most things, but boy did he hate bureaucracy.

I feel the need to explain why I’m not going on the job market in a public way, mainly because everyone keeps asking and I expect that it’ll be ten times worse at 4S, AOIR, ASIS&T, and the smaller academic things I’m doing this fall. By no means am I rejecting academic research. Last time I quit academia, I published more academic papers and attended more academic conferences as a non-academic than ever before. I love scholarship and I love the research that academics do and I love academics, especially when they wear tweed coats. I have every intention of doing research when I finish my PhD. I just don’t think that I can stomach doing it as a 1st year assistant professor right now.

There are multiple reasons for which I think that going on the academic job market doesn’t make sense for me right now. The major ones are:

1. IRB/human subjects. I am a huge supporter of ethics in research, but my experiences with IRBs (at multiple universities) have been nothing short of miserable. I feel extremely claustrophobic right now because of it. I will save the details of my anti-IRB rant for another time, but the short synopsis is that I think that IRBs are destroying social scientists’ ability to do good qualitative research and ethnographic research in particular. In theory IRBs are about ethics; in reality, they are about protecting universities from being sued. Qualitative (and especially ethnographic) research is seen as risky because it’s not controlled and structured and formulaic. I do not believe you can do true ethnography under an IRB and it depresses me to think about all of the data that I’ve collected that I cannot use in my dissertation because it didn’t fit into an IRB-approved protocol. I’m told that not all IRBs are as bad as the ones that I’ve faced, but “not as bad” is not good enough right now. I want to do research that is guided by ethics, not institutions.

2. The tenure process. I have been watching friends go through the tenure process and it makes me sick. There’s no room for innovation, for playing outside of the rules. You have 7 years to publish X articles in the *right* journals in the *right* way. My favorite phrase associated with this is “Least Publishable Unit.” In other words, what’s the minimum contribution you can make to get a good publication out of it. I don’t write like that and I don’t want to. I also think that most of the “respected” journals are so locked down as to be inaccessible to broader audiences. I want to be an academic, not a hermit. I believe that academia is an institution built on knowledge creation AND dissemination. My goal is to write for public audiences, to make knowledge palatable and interesting and accessible. I want to contribute big ideas that will make a difference, and to leave the mini-contributions for my blog.

3. Overhead. I had this intense conversation with a young professor about the hells of starting up a new lab, applying for grants, starting new syllabuses, advising students, attending meetings, being stuck on the shitty committees, constantly reviewing, etc. He lamented that there was no time for research. I’ve heard this over and over and over again. Becoming a professor at a top tier university seems to mean death to research. Being a professor at less prestigious institutions seems to mean unengaged or unmotivated students. I’m not ready for either. I do a lot of “community service” right now (Nicole and my JCMC special issue will be done next month!), but I need to do research. I have too much energy to do research right now. And I need to work with brilliant students who are just as enthusiastic as I am.

4. Geography. One of the hardest lessons that I learned was that geography *really* matters to my sanity. I need to live in a city, where I can go dancing at 2AM just to work out some raw energy or grab sushi at midnight. I like to joke that I need the people around me to be more crazy, most intense than me, just so that I feel calm. Living near a major international airport increases my sanity tremendously. And having a beach nearby is extremely important for helping me feel grounded. I need sun because being seasonally affective isn’t so good for being productive. I also want to be surrounded by Big Industry both for consulting reasons and to remind myself of what the corporate world looks like. Right now, I can’t imagine living anywhere in the U.S. outside of NY or LA. That’s not very useful for going on the academic job market. And besides, there’s a part of me that wants to live abroad for a while anyhow.

5. Lack of flexibility. I want to do research – fieldwork – outside of the U.S. This means traveling and having the flexibility to travel. I want to consult and speak whenever it’ll be interesting and helpful to do so. I want to run to DC whenever a bill gets proposed that is nightmarish. I don’t see how this is manageable as a first-year prof. To complicate matters, academia is all about long-term. That’s why tenure is seen as such a reward. I’m not sure that I’m ready to be in a single place for the rest of my life, or even for 5 years in a row. I want the flexibility to jump around and that’s just not fair to academic colleagues.

These are the major issues. The worst is really the IRB. I can’t tell if the pain in my stomach when I think about IRBs is nausea or a murderous desire. Either way, it ain’t pleasant. But any which way you read it, I can’t imagine a full-time academic position that would make sense for me now. And I don’t think that I’d be good for an academic institution right now either. I think I’d make a great advisor, teacher, and researcher. But I don’t think that I’d make a good colleague right now. I need to work out some raw energy first. I still hope to go back to academia, but I need to wait. I can imagine a future where I’ll find the tenure game entertaining, know tricks to manage the overhead, and need less flexibility. And maybe IRBs will one day wake up and get it. OK, maybe not. But still, I can imagine a way in which I’d be a good colleague, but right now, I fear that wouldn’t be the case and I’ve already burnt enough bridges by being a punk-ass public grad student.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that it’s academia OR industry. I think that industry research is equally FUBAR, but for different reasons and I can’t imagine having my research locked down inside of one company. I just think that there has to be another way. I’m toiling with ideas of consulting, independent research, ::shrug:: I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve decided to let the wind take me where it will. I will focus on my dissertation this year and then I will see where I end up. My only plan post-graduation is a desperately-needed vacation. And then I will look for what’s next. I will not even entertain the possibility of jobs until after a vacation. That’s kinda terrifying (especially since I need to figure out health insurance), but I’m looking forward to it. Freedom…

San Diego mayor backs same-sex marriage

In a tearful explanation to the San Diego community, Republican mayor Jerry Sanders explains why he decided that he would support the gay marriage bill. It’s a stunning display of courage, bound to turn the Republican party against him in order to do what’s right for his lesbian daughter, gay friends, and the San Diego community. I have to admit that I totally broke down crying listening to him and I hope that more elected officials have the courage he had to do what’s right rather than play to a religious-lead campaign of intolerance. (Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger still seems bent on vetoing the state bill that would define marriage as a civil contract between two people.)

For more coverage on this historical moment, click here.

Note: my personal belief is that marriage is a flawed institution and I would like to see it obliterated entirely. Given that this is not likely to happen, I strongly believe that everyone should have access to the rights afforded by such a commitment. I personally wish that there was more public discussion of those rights and the reasons behind why society supports unions. Those opposed to same-sex marriage are typically involved in myth making instead of reality checking. Many of us know painfully well that marriage does not inherently protect children nor does it guarantee that the partnership will last. Yet, we also know that marriage allows us to get access to our partners in times of medical crises, keep our foreign-born partners in the country, etc. Economists also know that marriage statistically reduces stupidity (thus, the logic behind cheapened car insurance and tax benefits in general). Functionally, marriage is a commitment that is rewarded economically and socially because it makes for a more stable and prosperous society. All signs seem to point towards the same being true for same-sex marriage so the objections to it are more philosophical than functional, rooted in intolerance rather than societal efforts towards a collective good.

a different approach to medicine

Jay Parkinson is a doctor in Williamsburg who does e-visits. Think you need stitches? Send him a picture and he’ll advise via video chat/IM/email/etc. It’s a pretty fascinating approach to medicine and I’m curious how well it’ll scale. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t play nice with health insurance. I’m having a hard time imagining who will pay a annual fee for this who wouldn’t have health insurance. Don’t get me wrong, I’d *love* to have a personal doctor but the cost would be prohibitive for me. And it’s all fine and well to do this instead of traditional health if you’re relatively healthy, but if things go dreadfully wrong, you’re going to want health insurance. Does a practice like this discourage young people from being responsible in maintaining health insurance? Anyhow, I’m fascinated. Cuz goddess knows I hate clinics and hospitals.

(Tx Ryan Shaw)

travel schedule from hell, bright white light at the end

I’m about to embark on what can politely be called the travel month from hell: 12 cities, 3 countries, 13 different talks (with far too little overlap). I can bitch and moan, but there is a beautiful white light at the end of this horrid tunnel: hibernation. That’s right, the moment we’ve all been waiting for… (or at least the one that I have): Starting November 1, I will go into hibernation to write my dissertation. From thenceforth, only personal travel (weddings, burfdays, Xmas), no conferences, only 1 paid gig per month. I’ve been practicing the word “No” lately and am getting kinda good at it. And I need to be because I think that I will be in hibernation for a good 6-9 months. Crazy, eh?

Thus, this upcoming month of conferencing is bound to be a nice little social hurrah before I disappear into the world of dissertation. As usual, I don’t schedule anything during conferences but I’m always hanging around the conference or in the hallways and love adhoc socialization and food outtings. So, if it’s your thing, hopefully we can play at any of these public events:

(Oh, and to pre-empt the question that I’m getting frequently these days and am bound to get at all the academic conferences, the answer is: no, I’m not going on the academic job market this year. I’ll explain why a little later.)

social scripts for rituals and ceremonies, of religion and culture

Last night was the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. For Jews, this means celebration with family and friends, eating apples and honey, sending postcards to friends, and wishing all well (“Shanah tovah!”). One of the things that I love about Jewish holidays is that they are typically filled with friends, family, food, alcohol, and celebratory attitudes (except for Yom Kippur which is a bit more serious). As a non-Jew, I have a deep admiration for the various rituals that are a part of Jewish holidays. I especially love how my snarky secular Jewish friends are more likely to modify them to make them more fun rather than reject them. Consider the Dr. Seuss Haggadah we did for Passover one year. Christian holidays don’t quite have that flexibility, unless you consider the way Americans turned the day of Resurrection into an opportunity to gorge yourself in chocolate and chase after plastic eggs. I guess that’s fun too, but it’s a bit different since I can’t work out what bunnies have to do with Christ nor do I think of over-consumption of material goods for personal desire as a fun-ification of a holiday. I’m more down with the excuses to bring together friends and drink that I am with the excuses to buy gifts.

I especially appreciated last night’s holiday because I spent the night before at my advisor’s memorial service. On one hand, it was so good to see everyone and to hear people share their stories of Peter. I love that man and it’s hard to stomach the reality that he’s gone. Yet, I’m not so good at group mourning. And the whole memorial thing made me antsy and uncomfortable in ways that I can’t yet articulate. But I think that part of the puzzle has to do with the way in which major events are ritualized (or not) in American society.

Standing outside, Mimi was talking about the differences between the American approach to death and memorial and the Japanese approach. She told me about how there were prescribed activities that you do on certain days in certain ways. Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you know exactly what you’re supposed to do, who you’re supposed to say what to, when you are supposed to show up, etc. We don’t have that. Nowhere was this more clear than when you looked around the room at what people were wearing. Some people had dressed up, some wore all black, some wore what they normally wore, etc. At one point, I was teasing someone about their suit and he responded with a remark about how it was what you’re supposed to do. And then another person (in casual wear) responded that Peter would’ve wanted people to be comfortable. The fact that that conversation happened shows the way that we’re not sure what to do when how.

At every step of this process, I’ve felt like a total fuckup. Do I send flowers? What should the card say? Should I show up to the widow’s house? Should I send a letter? What should I say to the widow, to the children? What should I wear to the memorial? Everyone’s response to me is always to do what would make me feel better and I want to scream at them that having a script would make me feel a hell of a lot better.

Social scripts are funny things. Most of them stem from religious traditions, but are deeply embedded in society as cultural practices. Not a single one of the Jews at my house last night could explain why honey and apples, but they all knew that’s what you do. And they were all able to tell me the Jewish traditions for mourning. And the Jewish traditions for weddings. And the Jewish traditions for holidays. And the Jewish traditions for births. My friends have a Jewish social script and they all know it, even if they preferred to modify it (shiva, but chairs allowed; chupah and glass, but no rabbi; apples or afikoman, but no kosher meal; bris ceremony, but no knives). Yet, most American folks can’t even tell you what the social script is supposed to be for most situations and it’s so damned modified that everyone around you is imagining an entirely different script. Every wedding I go to has different dress code expectations, gifting expectations, and social norms. I’m at a loss for how to participate in mourning, at a loss for what to do when a child is born.

Are the lack of social scripts in the U.S. because Christianity never had strong traditions that would be continued by secular ancestors? Or because American scripts have been defined by Hollywood that changes the traditions with each generation? Or because the U.S. didn’t really melt diverse scripts into one, but boiled them out to be non-existent? Or because we’re too damn rebellious as a secular society to have any patience for any expectations? Or why? Why do we not have social scripts that can help frame the situation for the crowd?

I’m finding myself frustrated with the lack of social scripts and then curious about my desire for a more “conservative” way and then frustrated because I’m at a loss for how to make sense of these social situations. It’s not that I want the social script to be definitive… I just want it to be there as a guiding principle that allows people to focus on what they’re really trying to focus on: a joining of two lovely people, mourning, celebration, etc. I’ve been re-reading Goffman lately and I’m reminded of all of the social scripts that used to exist in society that we’ve so diligently destroyed. As a rebellious college student, I loved the destruction of traditions. Now, I just want to be able to relax into a script every once in a while, even if that script can be annoying at times. It’s not that I want the scripts to be rigid, but I want conscious engagement with and modification of the scripts rather than an outright rejection of them. Maybe I’m just getting old.

blotchy burns on my legs from my Macbook

I acquired my black Macbook late in the spring and was doing a lot of traveling until mid-July. Since then, I’ve been at home working on my laptop all day and all night. I purchase laptops because they’re LAPtops (regardless of Apple’s avoidance of that term) – I need the machine in my lap so that my hands can be at the right angle to prevent my carpal tunnel from flaring up. This is why I haven’t owned a desktop in almost a decade. (Managing my CTS is a longer story, but laptops are the only thing that I’ve found to work.)

Much to my horror, a burn started emerging on my lap this summer. It’s just like the woman who reported this last year. It’s kinda creepy actually. The burn is all blotchy and it shows where my laptop clearly sits. I didn’t feel it happening, but it’s noticeably there and very much in the shape of my Mac. (And it makes it clear that I angle my Mac funny on my lap.) In fact, when it first started to appear, I ignored it because I thought maybe I had done a bad job with the suntan lotion on my thighs. But it got worse and then it dawned on me. I had heard about this problem, but I thought they had fixed it with some firmware upgrade. But it is distinctly the shape and size of my Mac. And it most definitely happened this summer and I have done all of the upgrades requested.

The eerie part is that it’s not going away. I went to Burning Man (which meant 5 days without the laptop) and when I returned, I found a wooden lap-seat to place the machine on, but it still hasn’t gone away. (In the meantime, the burn I got from getting seared by the Temple embers has gone away, as has the slight sunburn.) I’m starting to get a wee bit creeped out. What kind of burn is this? Did my laptop cause more damage than I thought? Are people who aren’t seeing the burn still being affected by whatever is causing it? I never thought that my Macbook was that hot – it was always comfortable in my lap with my yoga pants on. The burn happened without me noticing pain. And there’s no dreadful sound or anything. Just a creeping blotchy ugly burn that doesn’t show any signs of going away.

(Photos not getting posted cuz my thighs are *not* my sexiest feature.)

SNS visibility norms (a response to Scoble)

A few days ago, I lamented the tech crowd’s Facebook fetish. Scoble raised the bar by responding to all of my nitpicks. Now, it’s my turn again. Tehehe.

I think that Scoble summed it all up perfectly with this:

“But what I don’t understand is why so much of the tech crowd who lament Walled Gardens worship Facebook.” Because there isn’t anything better. It’s like why we are so gaga over the iPhone. The iPhone is locked up tight and doesn’t let us play. But it is so superior to the alternatives that we’ll put up with all the walls.

He’s totally right. And what he’s really saying is that I should recognize and accept the hypocrisy within the tech crowd. They will happily say one thing loudly, but if the cool new glittery toy that they want has major failings, they’ll bite – hook, line, and sinker. I’m not convinced that FB is “so superior to the alternatives,” but I totally see how it plays into the values and aesthetics of the tech crowd. Maybe we should start calling FB (and other tech toys) “Precious”? And then we can run around in demented voices saying “One tool to rule them all!” ::giggle:: (OK, that’s probably not funny, but it’s late and I’m entertaining myself here.)

Anyhow… what I really want to address was a realization wrt visibility that I had while reading Scoble. In writing my earlier post, I was thinking primarily of teens when I was talking about visibility. Scoble points out that he really WANTS to be super visible, searchable on Google, etc. And he references the career-minded college students who will relish said visibility. This made me think about the different factors at play when it comes to visibility on social network sites.

MySpace started out as PUBLIC PUBLIC PUBLIC. They only added privacy features when they welcomed 14 and 15-year olds and for a while, you had to lie and say you were 14 to get a private profile. While the teen crowd was not using MySpace as a hyperpublic platform, artists were. They wanted to be as public as possible, to get as many fans as possible, to SEE and BE SEEN. This wasn’t just the story of musicians… even semi-porn divas like Forbidden and Tila were all about being hyperpublic and there were certainly teens who thought they’d be the next American Idol or Top Model by being found on MySpace. There are folks who want to leverage the platform to be the object of everyone’s gaze. As it expanded, MySpace received unbelievable pressure to add privacy options, to protect its users (both young and old). Even though a MS Friends-only profile is about as private as you can get, MySpace is constantly shat on for being dangerous because of exposure.

Facebook differentiated itself by being private, often irritatingly so. Hell, in the beginning Harvard kids couldn’t interact with their friends at Yale, but that quickly changed. Teens and their parents worship Facebook for its privacy structures, often not realizing that joining the “Los Angeles” network is not exactly private. For college students and high school students, the school and location network are really meaningful and totally viable structural boundaries for sociability. Yet, the 25+ crowd doesn’t really live in the same network boundaries. I’m constantly shifting between LA and SF as my city network. When I interview teens, 80%+ of their FB network is from their high school. Only 8% of my network is from Berkeley and the largest network (San Francisco) only comprises 17% of my network. Networks don’t work for highly-mobile 25+ crowd because they don’t live in pre-defined networks. (For once, I’m an example!)

The interesting thing is that Scoble wants to make Facebook do what MySpace does. He wants to be a micro-celeb with a bazillion friends/fans and he wants to interact with all of them. And he wants to do it on Facebook because he sees that as more his space than MySpace, even though the other is set up for that. (I can’t really see the porn-Scoble or the emo-Scoble, but it sure would be funny.) He’s bumping up against the fact that Facebook was designed to be closed, to be intimate, to be tight. It was what made its early adopters value it. And now, for whatever reason, Facebook has decided to move in the direction of MySpace – slowly tiptoeing to being a very public service.

It makes sense to attract those who want to be public, but how public can they go without affecting those who relish the closed-ness? For the most part, Facebook has been immune from privacy-related attacks from the Attorneys General and press. They’ve been toted as the “right” solution. Can people who want to be private live alongside those who want to be PUBLIC? How are boundaries going to be negotiated? It seems to me that this all comes back to context and context is really getting cloudy here. It seems to me that there might be two totally different sets of expectations emerging without an in-between solution. And I have a sneaking suspicion that the “solution” is to push people into accepting being public.

I feel the need to address folks’ response that it’s all about the privacy settings. Someone out there has to have public data on how frequently people change settings vs. staying with the defaults. (I’ve seen plenty of private reports on this, but don’t know of any that I can cite.) Let’s just say that defaults matter. Very few people change the defaults. They are more likely to shift their behavior (or leave a site) than change the defaults. Thus, a move to force people to “opt-out” is not only about dictating the social expectations, but also setting people up to face the costs of those defaults, even if they don’t really want to. I don’t really understand why Facebook decided to make public search opt-out. OK, I do get it, but I don’t like it. Those who want to be PUBLIC are more likely to change settings than those who chose Facebook for its perceived privacy. Why did Facebook go from default-to-privacy-protection to default-to-exposure? I guess I know the answer to this… it’s all about philosophy. Unfortunately, it’s not a philosophy that most of the teens I interviewed or their parents share. But this type of exposure is far more insidious and potentially harmful than the privacy trainwreck I documented earlier.

I think that one of the reasons that the tech crowd lurves Facebook is because they both want the “transparent society.” This is the philosophy that information dissemination can only be beneficial and that people should not seek to hide things. Embedded in this are unstated issues of privilege and normative views. It’s OK to be transparent when you look like everyone else, but go ask the gay Christian living in an Arab state how he feels about being transparent about his social world. Fleshing out a critique of the transparent society requires a different post, but I’m starting to get the sinking feeling that we’re all part of a transparent society experiment and my discomfort stems from a deep concern about who all is going to get washed up in that tsunami. The goal doesn’t seem to be about helping people maintain privacy; it seems more like pushing them to accept a world where they are constantly aware of everyone around them. Hmm…

controlling your public appearance

In the last month, I’ve received almost a dozen panicked emails from people who had commented on my blog at one point or another and were horrified to find that their comment was at the top of Google’s search for their name. In each case, I have respectfully altered the comment to an anonymous name. I prefer not to remove these comments because this leaves holes in my blog, especially when others’ comments are based on those earlier comments. Unfortunately, most of these people do not understand how Google’s cache works and write back in rage that it’s not fixed. I politely try to inform them that Google’s cache can take months to update and I cannot do anything to speed this up.

When people bitch about MySpace and Facebook being walled gardens, one of the positive things that I offer in return is, “at least those teens’ profiles aren’t in Google’s cache.” With Facebook’s opt-out decision, this is no longer the case. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a bit terrified of what this might mean long-term.

As a teenager, I was petrified of my mother finding my Usenet posts. It’s not that I said much on Usenet that would’ve upset her (although the Bad Religion tirades are a wee bit embarrassing), but I didn’t want her to see my political or topical commentaries. (Sidenote: I left the sexuality exploration discussions for IRC which ::crossing fingers:: weren’t recorded.) I used various handles, most of which are not findable by anyone other than my brother (and even he can’t find all of them). That’s not to say that there’s not a lot of embarrassing material online – I’ve been blogging for over ten years and I’ve definitely posted things that would be drudged up if I were to run for office.

The best thing about being an active blogger is that stuff gets buried by repetitive blogging. My new stuff goes to the top of the search engines, my old stuff fades away. And we have a name for anyone who goes out of their way to find that old stuff: stalker. And we don’t really wanna work for, date, or befriend genuine stalkers. If it’s public, but not easy to find, it’s creepy that you went out of your way to find it. (I’m fascinated by the creeps… and journalists… who go through courthouses and other public records places to drudge up tax records, legal motions, housing details, etc. It’s all public, but c’mon now…)

We’ve all heard that privacy is dead, but you can still control your public appearance and it’s really critical that you start doing so. Don’t whimper about how Google is destroying your reputation. Take control!

So here are some suggestions, for adults and teenagers:

  • Create a public Internet identity. I strongly recommend blogging, but even a homepage will do. Have a genuine all-accessible identity online that you’re cool with grandma and your boss reading. Don’t make it uber drab, but do provide context for who you are, what you do, what you’re passionate about, etc. Think of it as a digital body and dress it up as if it were going into a job interview. Blogging is especially good because you can keep updating your identity over time in a way that shows that you think. It’s much easier to get a sense of someone through their commentary on public affairs or life around them than through a static page.
  • Say NO! to Facebook’s public search option. Click “privacy” – “search.” Under “Who can find my public search listing outside of Facebook?” uncheck both boxes. Be proactive about this. You might not think you care now, but having your Facebook profile at the top of a search for your name might not be what you want when you’re looking for a job.
  • Expect unexpected audiences. Your profile on Facebook and MySpace might be “private” but when you join the Los Angeles Network or when you accept someone who knows someone, you might find that the audience viewing your profile is not who you expected. Are you prepared for this? Make sure that profile says what you want it to say, even to those you don’t expect. If you want to be a porn diva and make it in Hollywood, put up that slutty photo, but if you want to be a lawyer, you might regret that photo a few years from now. Of course, I’m sure there are porn stars who later became lawyers, just like there are actors who became governors.
  • Write blog comments as though you’re writing your own blog. The more popular a blog, the more likely the comments from that blog are to show up high on Google’s lists. If you write inflammatory shit on those blogs just to piss people off, it will come back to haunt you. (It depresses me that a huge chunk of the comments on BoingBoing’s new comment system are extremely negative.) Personally, I don’t think that you should be anonymous on a blog. I think that you should stand by your name, but write articulately. And blog on your own blog so that the comments are not at the top.
  • Treat video and audio just like text. Right now, video and audio aren’t searchable, but they will be. Don’t think that you can say or do anything you want on a video and it will never come up. That Neo-Nazi video you made and put up on YouTube cuz you thought it was funny will eventually be searchable and associated with your name. Are you really ready for that to appear at the top of a Google ego search?

(If you have other suggestions, add them to the comments.)

But above all else, seriously, create a public Internet identity, maintain it, link to it, build it, love it, hug it, and call it George. I can’t tell you how important this is. I used to say that a LinkedIn profile would do, but now that they’re so locked down to people who don’t pay, they don’t provide that value any more. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of registering a domain and figuring out HTML, just make a Blogspot account and make the Title your name. But keep it up-to-date so that when people want to look up who you are, they’re going to see that page and go, “wow, she’s really interesting.”

Yesterday, I was talking about this uber smart college frosh to one of my colleagues. His name is about as generic as it gets and he shares it with a few celebs – “Sam Jackson” – so I wasn’t expecting much when I threw his name into Google. Much to my pleasure, his college blog comes up as #4 on Google. Here is a newly minted college freshman who put together a blog about applying to college when he was in high school, has commented on others’ blogs in an articulate and engaging manner, and is genuinely actively engaged in thinking about the world around him. He’s attracted the attention of all sorts of folks and I have no doubt that people who wish to hire him (or admit him) have looked at this blog to get a sense of who he is. He makes it clear that he understands this medium and how to present himself accordingly. Hell, I intend to hire him precisely because he gets it.

Carefully crafting and cautiously managing one’s public image is a critical aspect of living in a mediated public world. Every advice column I’ve read warns people of the dangers of living online. I think that this is idiotic. People need to embrace the world we live in and learn to work within its framework. Don’t panic about being public – embrace it and handle it with elegance.

[PS: I’ve said a lot of this before in the Harvard Business Review.]

confused by Facebook

Social network sites have become powerful tools and platforms for all sorts of content and cultural producers. Starting with Friendster, artists leveraged the network capabilities to communicate with their fans. This took on a new level with MySpace, resulting in the explicit creation of artist profiles. Even within the constraints of Facebook, artists built groups and found other ways to collect and communicate with their fans.

Unfortunately, artists are continually learning that when they rely on someone else’s platform to distribute their message, they’re under their control. Friendster did everything possible to discourage bands from communicating with fans on their site. MySpace reversed this trend by supporting artists, generating all sorts of kudos from the artistic community. Unfortunately, Facebook seems to have taken on a more Friendster-esque policy. My friend Baratunde was recently burned by Facebook. In an effort to curb spam, they killed off legitimate uses of mass messaging, silencing those well-intentioned users that adored them.

I am utterly confused by the ways in which the tech industry fetishizes Facebook. There’s no doubt that Facebook’s F8 launch was *brilliant*. Offering APIs and the possibility of monetization is a Web 2.0 developer’s wet dream. (Never mind that I don’t know of anyone really making money off of Facebook aside from the Poker App guy.) But what I don’t understand is why so much of the tech crowd who lament Walled Gardens worship Facebook. What am I missing here? Why is the tech crowd so entranced with Facebook?

I’m also befuddled by the slippery slope of Facebook. Today, they announced public search listings on Facebook. I’m utterly fascinated by how people talk about Facebook as being more private, more secure than MySpace. By default, people’s FB profiles are only available to their network. Join a City network and your profile is far more open than you realize. Accept the default search listings and you’re findable on Google. The default is far beyond friends-only and locking a FB profile down to friends-only takes dozens of clicks in numerous different locations. Plus, you never can really tell because if you join a new network, everything is by-default open to that network (including your IM and phone number). To make matters weirder, if you install an App, you give the creator access to all of your profile data (no one reads those checkboxes anyhow). Most people never touch the defaults, meaning that they are far more exposed on Facebook than they realize. zrven a college network is not that secure. MySpace on the other hand is rather simple: public or friends-only. Friends-only is far more secure than the defaults on Facebook. And public is well-understood to mean anyone could access it (and often this is the goal). But I know all too well that privacy has nothing to do with reality – it’s all about perception. And Facebook *feels* more secure than MySpace, even if it’s not. Still, I can’t wait to see how a generation of college students feel about their FB profile appearing at the top of Google searches. That outta make them feel good about socializing there. Not.

It seems odd to me that Facebook is doing all sorts of things to go against what gave them such strength: group support for people who wanted to gather around a particular activity, tightly controlled privacy defaults, and simple/clean profiles (which have been made utterly gaudy by Apps). I think I’m missing the logic here. ::scratching forehead::

I guess it’s that they’re trying to attract a new audience. There’s no doubt that the 30+ crowd has jumped on board over the summer (although many seem already sick of it). Is that crowd sustainable? Is it worth it monetarily? Is it affecting the college participation?

To all you professors out there… what are your students’ attitudes towards Facebook this fall? Are college students still super enamored with it or has it lost some of its appeal?