Gotcha Jerks Part II

If you have not read Gotcha Jerks, then please do first. I recently ran across The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb which goes further. Here is my favorite quote from it.

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

It makes a great point that part of what makes discussion politics on social media problematic is the false-consensus bias where we assume people we like should always think the same way we do because they are awesome like we are. Liking the posts of Facebook friends who state things with which we agree or defriending / unfollowing people who disagree, leads to the algorithms creating an environment for ourselves where the information coming to us drives the FCB into overdrive. If we are only seeing the stuff where we agree, then we are blind to other positions out there. Going even a leap further to knocking down Straw Men certainly alienates the Other Side. They will defriend / unfollow us which leads to the same result.

I reluctantly have culled people over their behavior during the election season. I also did not expect things to get better November 9th. In my mind, this animosity has been ever increasing since 1998, so I saw no reason for it to end. Both candidates held unfavorable numbers by majorities of likely voters, so  whoever won would cause butthurt.

Family Feud is a game show where people try to guess the common answers to a poll question. If people had no FCB, then the game would be completely pointless. People would provide fairly accurate responses leading to people only uncommonly getting answers wrong. Instead, from what I have seen of the show, it seems hard for contestants in general.

Advice from The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb to consider:

A dare for the next time you’re in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don’t try to “win.” Don’t try to “convince” anyone of your viewpoint. Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to “lose.” Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it. No one is going to tell your environmentalist friends that you merely asked follow up questions after your brother made his pro-fracking case.

Not long ago, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling for a very conservative coworker to call me the only liberal he knows that he can discuss things. We disagree, but we respect each other enough to discuss things. I am not hurt by our disagreements. And as much as he tries to act radical, I suspect a lot of it is poker bluff acting.

Further reading:

WP to G+

WordPress Jetpack finally enabled publishing to Google+. So, I guess my blog posts will finally head there.

UPDATE: Google permissions are hard. The first test post showed it was “Shared privately” which by looking closer appeared only to myself. My default permissions for approved applications is “Only Me.” I had to go into Settings > Manage Apps & Activities > edit next WordPress.

TED Talk: Risking Redefinition

This is the first TED Talk I get to post because I know the speaker rather than just know of them. Rebeka was originally a new employee in training who really did not need it. Over the past few years we’ve followed each other through social media, so I was aware of the elements of this story. So I am glad she got the opportunity to put it all together through a venue like TEDx.

I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.

If the video below does not work, then try this link Risking Redefinition : Rebeka Geer at TEDxUGA.


Data portability is good both for users and systems. But I like being able to export my data for another reason: search. Some times I want to build on an old conversation. It would be easier with an eidetic memory. Lacking that, knowing the terms I would have used, searching for it should yield that conversation. Except social media sites tend to suck at search. Twitter only goes so far back. Facebook searches contacts, pages, etc but not content like status updates. Even this WordPress site is far better at a term entered matching the same term that exists in the system.

Twitter intends to let us download a file with our tweets. I am excited because I can search it.

“We’re working on a tool to let users export all of their tweets,” Mr. Costolo said in a meeting with reporters and editors at The New York Times on Monday. “You’ll be able to download a file of them.”

Probably it will disappoint. The main disappointment will be that replies from others will not be present. So I will see where I address something to someone else, but not what they said to prompt the response or other’s followup. It will be like listening to someone have a conversation on a mobile phone where you get only half the conversation. At least, when I went to look at my earliest entries in Facebook’s archive file when it operated like Twitter, that was the disappointment I had.

P.S. What a bad title, right?

One of Many

The Learning Management System (LMS) has been a despised technology by some ever since I started working with one, WebCT, in 1999. At the time it was deemed crappy technology that had to improve or die. So today in 2012, about 13 years later, I have to roll my eyes at the pundits writing about how the current technology has not significantly changed in a decade (really more than a decade) because it still offers the same tools and will die unless it adapts.

My first few years, 2006-2010, of working at GeorgiaVIEW, our active user counts doubled every 1.5 years. We plateaued at around 290,000 and grow a few thousand a year. Numbers of actions in the system still doubles every 1.5 year. That is insane growth. Growth unlikely fueled by people despising use of the tool. Right now, we are getting pressure to migrate Summer 2012 content for the Fall 2012 start in Desire2Learn1 because instructors roll over the classes from term-to-term. That speaks of long term consistent loyal use not occasional only as little as have to use. For something on the verge of death, it is hard enough keeping the users happy.

I am a database administrator not a faculty member (or dean or vice president for academic affairs or provost). It seems to me though no one would say, “When you teach a class, the white board in the room is the only tool you can use.” Instead, the push would be to add to the available tools in a neverending pursuit of finding better ones. So we see pressures to integrate the LMS with a variety of similar specialized services. Many are textbook replacements or supplementary services designed specifically for student needs. Others are social media. More and more the LMS is just a portal: a place to organize where students really go to learn.

Also, as an IT guy, I think it is important to have a plan B. Things sometimes fail. As a student I was always annoyed when the instructor had to leave the room for 20% of the class to go track down a piece of chalk because the remaining ones were too small to write. I applauded once in my junior year because the instructor happened to have a piece of chalk in her purse just for that contingency. Similarly, faculty members and even students should think about what to do when the LMS is not there. Heck, what should they do if everything the university IT runs like the web sites, email, portal, and network all disappear. It can happen.

When the university bureaucracy selects and administrates a tool, they will adhere to university policy which adheres to higher education laws. When a faculty member selects and administrates a tool, they should do the same. Unfortunately, that means the faculty member becoming familiar with policy and law. Another challenge is running into different interpretations. An example: a user following @VSUENGL1101 on Twitter could be reasonably expected to be a student at Valdosta State University enrolled in the subject English class 1101. Some say that violates the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. Some disagree, so it is being debated. The law is old and did not likely anticipate social media, so naturally there is movement towards an update.

I doubt the LMS will simply die because there is something better. Instead it will remain one of many tools for years to come. Like the land line, television, JavaScript, still camera, WiFi, non-smartphone, and (God forbid) pagers.

Note 1: Desire2Learn objects to their product being called an LMS. They prefer Learning Environment on the grounds it integrates with so many other tools.

P.S. This totally is from a sustaining technology perspective. Guess I should write this from a disruptive technology perspective.

To Blog or to Share?

This blog has suffered from my sharing on social media. Where I used to post every day, even just one liners to go check out a web site or a story, that activity is now all on Facebook, Twitter, Google+. HackEducation does a weekly post of news. I am thinking about doing something similar for the things I would normally just share.

First, other sites tend to die. screwed me by my not understanding their technology. By using it to cross-post, every link and every image used their shortened URLs. When they lost the database, every link and image was broken. I think works better, so I have it making a backup of this blog at and (Well, except the tags do not go over.)

Second, I can control the format and quotes better on this blog than social media. Sometimes I wish I had quoted more of an article when it disappears behind the paywall, is moved, or removed.

Finally, it would be good for me to spend more time thinking about things before I post. About a tenth the things I intend to post on this blog, I give up on posting and instead share on social media. I feel like there is more thought and intention that goes into a blog post.

P.S. Originally this post started before Christmas. I had it scheduled for today. Setting the goal for the year ought to help.

Follow on Google+ Too…

Nearly two weeks ago, Google+ launched Pages, a version of a person profile for non-people. (Google does know the Supreme Court deemed corporations people too, right? So corporations should have a person profile.)

Companies desiring a social media presence have created a page in addition to their Facebook pages, Tumblr, and Twitter accounts. Over the past couple weeks, I have seen a number of posts on Facebook and Twitter alerting me to the new G+ page. They invariably ask me something like “Make sure to follow <corporate name> on Google+, too.”


I am already following you on one of these which is how I saw the message. Following you on two, three, or more social media sites gets me what exactly? The same post multiple times. Maybe I notice something important faster. That might be one in two hundred posts? More likely I will shift the important followings to where I tend to spend most of my time.

This is the same strategy I use for following friends. At least some of them tend to post different things in different places.

TED Talk: Trust, morality – and oxytocin

I heard about “eight hugs a day” months ago. I have brought it up in conversation a dozen times since. Glad the video is finally out.

Where does morality come from — physically, in the brain? In this talk neuroeconomist Paul Zak shows why he believes oxytocin (he calls it “the moral molecule”) is responsible for trust, empathy, and other feelings that help build a stable society.

Some interesting points:

    • Countries with high numbers of trustworthy people are more prosperous.
    • In an experiment, the more money a person received (trust), the more money they would voluntarily return (trustworthiness). Oxytocin increased with trust.
    • Massage, dancing, praying increase oxytocin.
    • A con works by schemer demonstrating he or she trusts the victim which produces trustworthiness.
    • Trust key to society and species survival.
    • Using social media produces increases in oxytocin.
    • Give eight hugs a day to make yourself happier.

If the below video does not work, then click Trust, morality – and oxytocin.

Competitive Edge

Found a Backupify blog on controlling employee access to social media odd. Preventing employees from discussing work on social media may help, but really you need to operate like the Manhattan Project. Sequester them in a town you build in the middle of nowhere, go through all of their correspondence paper or electronic, and control who they can physically see. People are going to talk about what they do.

Really, the issue is a business whose survival relies totally on secrets is one blabbermouth away from total destruction. The secrets are the problem not the employees. When owners and managers get to the point they cannot trust employees, the employees need to leave and take all their knowledge with them.


Are people in the United States more insular? Is technology getting in the way of us being able to communicate? Why is technology breaking up marriages according to NPR? The line which stood out to me is:

But opportunity is a key predictor of infidelity, and social media have increased opportunity exponentially.

Just 10 minutes before this aired on NPR, I was talking to George about my Dorm, Major, or Race post. The biggest factor as to the friends we make is opportunity. Kids going to a public K-12 school become friends with those in their neighborhood because that is who they are around all the time. Kids going to a college where they are unlikely to have easy access to high school friends means the kids become friends with those people they are around all the time. I proposed to George changes in who people consider their friends has more to do with where people spend time than a decrease in the need to be social.

Those of us who spend most of our time online will be friends with those people interact with online. Those of us who spend large amounts of time in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, or grocery stores get to know the other regulars and employees approximating friendship. Hobbyists getting together become friends precisely because they  spend so much time. Humans are social creatures so we spend time with others wherever we spend time. Even those isolated from the general public in prison develop ties with the other prisoners around them. Wherever we spend our time is the source of our new friends.

Every time we choose to spend time with specific people we choose to strengthen neural connections with those people. Physical contact like a hug which triggers the neurotransmitter oxytocin making us feel bonds to that person. Seeing *hug* or /hug may not deliver the same effect, but I suspect it delivers something similar. It may be just enough that we like the feeling.

Compared to hanging out in the neighborhood, social media provide richer opportunities. Being “friends” through social media result a win-win effects without taking as much effort on both parties. The risks are also lower for social media friends. Your friend across the street might judge you for the embarrassing thing you did out in the street, but your Facebook friends only know if someone blabs about it. So much easier to make and hold these relationships compared to what we go through locally.

Knowing the people who live in nearby buildings is useful. Positive social bonds means in ambiguous situations the assumptions will be positive rather than negative. The more neighbors who think positively about me, the less likely they will assume bad things about me. (Like that I look like a scary Muslim.)  As a knowledge worker I often put too much value on the person with ideas I like over the physical body to help me accomplish actions. I do occasionally need help doing things I cannot think my way through.