The War Against Outliers
An article in Forbes suggests that people without Facebook accounts may be viewed with suspicion. This is based, largely, on: a Slashdot story (flagging a German news story), a woman who wrote to an advice column, and anecdotal evidence of job seekers and employers wondering aloud "about what it means if a job candidate doesn’t have a Facebook account".
The Forbes author says:
The idea that a Facebook resister is a potential mass murderer, flaky employee, and/or person who struggles with fidelity is obviously flawed. There are people who choose not to be Facebookers for myriad non-psychopathic reasons...but then goes on to add:
But it does seem that increasingly, it’s expected that everyone is on Facebook in some capacity, and that a negative assumption is starting to arise about those who reject the Big Blue Giant’s siren call. Continuing to navigate life without having this digital form of identification may be like trying to get into a bar without a driver’s license.
OK. I buy some of this. It is the 21st century after all. Most people have a cell phone, a home computer, some sort of web presence. If you don't use the technology, people wonder about you, just as (back in the 20th century) they would wonder about you if you didn't have a television, a telephone, a bank account or a drivers' license.
Then I read another article that took things one step further, saying:
Great – so here we are again. More evidence that to “fit in” you have to do what everybody else is doing. It’s just another variation of the idea that you must conform to extrovert standards to be considered “normal.” And that bugs the hell out of me.
As an Introvert myself (and a huge fan of social media) I'm offended by this summarization.
Privacy in the Internet Age
I read an article today, in Read Write Web, on Facebook's "privacy changes". The headline screamed "Facebook's Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over" .
Well, apparently that's not actually what Zuckerberg said. That was an interpretation for a sensationalist headline. What he said was:
People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.
Who Owns the Data?
Here's what Robert was trying to do:
I was alpha testing an upcoming feature of Plaxo Pulse .... It is a Facebook importer that works just like any other address book importer.
What does it collect?
Names and email address and birthday.
It did NOT look at anything else. Just this stuff, no social graph data. No personal information.
I wanted to get all my contacts into my Microsoft Outlook address book and hook them up with the Plaxo system, which 1,800 of my friends are already on.
It’s ironic that you can import your Gmail address book into Facebook but you can’t export back out.
I sympathize with Robert's plight; I recently triggered a "bot sensor" myself on a site. (I wasn't even using a program, just looking at a lot of pages in sequence!.)
But what's interesting to me is that most of the discussion doesn't surround Facebook's policy or whether they were within their rights to turn off Robert's account, even temporarily. Much of the discussion concerns whether Robert Scoble had any right to the data he was "collecting".
Hiding Behind the DMCA
Whatever happened to old-fashioned courtesy?
I recently linked to a cute photograph at icanhascheezeburger.com. To avoid network bandwiidth issues, I put a copy of the image file on my server and linked that back to the original page.
Unfortunately, in this case, the original photo was apparently "borrowed" without authorization from the person who snapped it. When the person who took the photo found out, the fur began to fly. She started sending out stiff-necked, stiffly worded notices to ISPs, mine included:
I am writing to you to avail myself of my rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized...Ye gods.
Do You Pass The Joel Test?
Do you work for a Tech company? Are you part of a software team?
Does your team pass the "Joel Test"?
Seven years ago, Joel Spolsky (Joel on Software) created "The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code". He calls this his "own, highly irresponsible, sloppy test to rate the quality of a software team".
The neat thing about The Joel Test is that it's easy to get a quick yes or no to each question. You don't have to figure out lines-of-code-per-day or average-bugs-per-inflection-point. Give your team 1 point for each "yes" answer. The bummer about The Joel Test is that you really shouldn't use it to make sure that your nuclear power plant software is safe.
A score of 12 is perfect, 11 is tolerable, but 10 or lower and you've got serious problems. The truth is that most software organizations are running with a score of 2 or 3, ...
A friend of ours recently pointed out that the Joel Test is part of the submission form for job postings to jobs.joelonsoftware.com. I think this is great. However, I would add three more steps.
In yesterday's Good Morning Silicon Valley, by John Paczkowski:
That's always been the problem with Net community: people
Want to know why social software is doomed? Digg Corrupted: Editor's Playground, not User-Driven Website, Suspicious Digging, Digg Censors Stories That Offend Sponsors, Digg Corrupted and Digging Fraud.
Addicted to the Computer?
[This essay has been hanging about since February, waiting for the Chronicle to publish their article. It's beginning to look like that isn't going to happen. So... here we go.]
I am a member of the San Francisco Chronicle's Two Cents program (a pool of people who agree to be accessible to The Chronicle via e-mail to provide commentary on the news of the day and share their expertise and experiences). I receieved this note in the mail:
Our Reporter would like to hear from people who think they or their children might be "computer addicts'' — people who spend between 6 and 10 hours a day on their computers, Internet or otherwise (chatting, browsing, gaming, shopping, etc.), not because of their work but because they find it difficult to disconnect.
If you can help with this story — or if you know someone who can — please send me a brief e-mail that tells how much time you spend each day on the Internet and whether you consider it a problem. If it is a problem for you, have you done anything or are you planning to do anything to scale back?
You say this as if it's a bad thing.. :-)
I decided to respond...
Can You Pass the "Human" Test?
On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.
in The New Yorker, 1993
It may be OK to be a dog, but these days more and more sites ask you to prove you're not a computer program (aka a "bot"). Bots wreck havoc around the net, signing up for mailing lists (so they can send spam), commenting on weblogs (with thinly disguised spam), stuffing ballot boxes, and "scraping" pages for anything they can get (including email addresses so they can send more spam). More and more sites are forcing human visitors to prove they are human by solving a "simple" puzzle called a Captcha .
Continuous Partial Atttention
Well over ten years ago, I took a programming course given by my then-company. Each student was seated in front of a computer. To our surprise, these computers were on the company network! This made it simple to check email, etc. during the class (while otherwise ignoring the class itself)
Fast Forward a few years.
The Math You LearnedSteve Yegge has posted an essay, entitled Math For Programmers, in which he posits that
- Most programmers think they don't need to know math
- Most programmers are correct, but...
- Math is a lot easier to pick up after you know how to program
- They teach math all wrong in school (at least, in terms of a future as a programmer)
- Knowing even a little of the right kinds of math can enable you do write some pretty interesting programs that would otherwise be too hard.
- Math can be fun
It's an interesting essay; I agree with much of it. I found the follow-up comments to add quite a lot to the discussion (even though a few of the people commenting seem to have stopped reading Yegge's essay at about the third sentence.)