TED Talk: Hire the hackers!

As a freshman in college, I made… some poor choices involving computers. (As all such stories go there was a girl involved, but I was not interested in her. My friends were. There were plenty of other girls I was interested in tangentially involved though.)

As a result of the poor choices, we were brought before the Assistant to the President for Information Technology. He tells us we violated federal law. But also… When cases like ours come before him, he wished that he could hire the culprits. A few years later he really would hire me for my first professional job. Not having done that really stupid thing might have me in a completely different career. Having this story about coming close to getting expelled over using a computer was the most exciting thing that had happened to me. Okay…. It still is.

Over the years, catching university students breaking the academic code or law with computers brings to mind that conversation. Some of my best work stories are tracking down and interrogating them. I do wish we hired them. I am friends with a few of them via social networks still.

I have previously heard the computer geeks / hackers are more likely to have Asperger syndrome. BBC on Gary McKinnon’s diagnosis.

P.S. Parallel Play: Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger’s was an interesting book to read. It solidified my belief I do not have it despite being one of the most relatable books I’ve ever read.

Better Circles and Lists

Last week I blogged about Facebook Lists and Google Circles being similar concepts so nothing Earth shattering.

The problem with is both reliability and validity. The imperfection of human recall and recognition means both Lists and Circles have glaring obvious holes in establishing the correct connections. As users increase the size of their social networks, the problem just gets worse as errors accumulate and the effort at resolving them becomes more daunting. At this point, most people of which I am friends with on Facebook after 2009 are not in a list. Those who are probably are not in all for which they qualify. Google+ probably will end up in a similar condition in a year or two.

Wedding

The girlfriend of friend of my brother added me on Facebook to see wedding photos and tag herself in them. I happened to take of her and her boyfriend dancing and tagged him. The photos are in my Weddings album where family and my brother’s halo list could see the photos. She still could not see the photos until I realized my mistake and added her to the halo list.

Klinsmann Excitement

A friend had a great Google+ post about Klinsmann’s hired as the US soccer coach. It is the kind of thing where I probably want to post to friends who like the game and no one else. It is easy to pick out who hold certain roles. Correctly recalling who have specific interests seems much more daunting.

What I would like to see are recommendations about my potential connections based on mutual properties, interests, and connections. We already are asked to name our work places, education, interests, and location. People who are connected probably belong in the same group. The things we post probably are already being analyzed to determine how to advertise to us. Use that information to help us better identify who will be interested in what we share.

Obviously, no one should completely rely on recommendations any more than the recommendations of whom to befriend or instructions suggesting one drive a car into a lake. Okay… Maybe those who completely rely on technology to tell them what to do deserve the consequences.

Dorm, Major, or Race

“College freshmen are more likely to make friends with peers they share a dorm room or major with than they are to befriend those from similar racial backgrounds…”

I barely remember my roommate from living in the dorm freshman year. He was as much a stranger to me as the person you routinely run into at the store. I felt trapped living on campus when I wanted to be a few miles away in my own bed. His leaving town on weekends to go see his girlfriend was good for me.

My initial declared major was pre-engineering. None of my true friends were also pre-engineering, but then again my true friends were mostly met in high school. The few friends I made in college were all over the place major-wise: pre-law, biology, chemistry, philosophy, english, education, business. They were people I met either in class or at work.

The researchers used Facebook as the measure of who are friends. Given most friendships on Facebook are weak ties rather than strong. The people we know well, trust, and hold great affection reflect our strong ties. The people we barely know, but on whom we depend for the information social networks convey are our weak ties. Facebook is excellent for this. From this perspective, if I were a freshman in college today, I probably would be getting as many people in my classes as I could. (This is why so many of my coworkers are in my list of friends. Don’t worry, Glenn, you are more than just an acquaintance. :))

Dunbar on Facebook

You’ve read my previous posts on Dunbar‘s Number, right?

Go on…. I’ll wait.

Remember the one on Scoble and Facebook? Good. For a while, I fastidiously ensured my number of friends stayed below 150 because I took the idea of Dunbar’s number as a life strategy. Then I let it slip to 200 which I pared back down to 150. My laziness let it hit 500.

It appears Robin Dunbar is now studying Facebook users to see ‘if the “Facebook effect” has stretched the size of social groupings.’ He says despite the large number of friends people only interact with about 150 of them. Maybe like most of psychology, the subjects are college students who supposedly are almost all on Facebook. In the real world, most of the people with which I have regular interaction, exactly those Dunbar’s number covers, are not my Facebook friends.

My Facebook friends instead are my information buffet. Social networks are how we keep in touch with what is happening in the world. My information technology friends provide me what is happening in my career field. My photography friends provide me with useful tips for a big hobby. Also, the bigger our social network, the more opportunities for help from or being consequential strangers. Social networks are a strategy not a replication of the brain.

The term “friends” used by Facebook, I think, is a brilliant marketing ploy. People would much rather show up as my friend than my contact.
🙂

Trusting Social Networks

Sunday at brunch we had an interesting conversation about Facebook.

Establishing the appropriate privacy levels to the various constituents see appropriate material is hard. So hard it takes a long pages of text and screenshots to just paint a picture of what to review for the top 10 Facebook privacy settings.

We were discussing how to make the Facebook world we touched more private. How to keep those we supervise or those who supervise us at bay once accepted into our social circle. Few of us only post things our grandmothers would find acceptable, so how do we ensure grandma will never see that picture? This meant banning grandma from seeing the Wall or photo albums or tagged photos.

I had heard we would soon be able to change the privacy levels of individual posts.  This privacy granularity comes at a price according to the New York Times:

By default, all your messages on Facebook will soon be naked visible to the world. The company is starting by rolling out the feature to people who had already set their profiles as public, but it will come to everyone soon.

People like walled gardens. Taking a term from Seth Godin, interacting with just the handpicked few forms a tribe.

If sunlight is the best disinfectant, then social networking on Facebook will die should it be exposed to the world (or too hard to remain private). The most common criticism of blogging is the whole world is in your business. People like the faux-protection of participating online where Google cannot archive it for posterity. This is why Facebook experienced such explosive growth.

Hopefully users will be able to deal with keeping everything as private as they like. Otherwise, we’ll be looking for another walled garden. Maybe I’ll even end up back on my private Twitter account?

Expression Costs

(This started out as a blog comment for Sania’s post Facebook Killed Your Blog. I’m posting it here first.)

We share blogs with the whole world. So our blogs get lost in the noise, bolstering the need for a whole industry optimizing getting found in search engines. Its a concerted effort just get noticed. That’s because blog readers have to seek out blogs to follow, subscribe to the feed, and follow. Finding the best blogs to read is sometimes difficult and more from word of mouth than anything search engines provide.

Blogs also tend to have a lot of information to digest. Social networks have just a line or two with maybe a link to more information. Blog readers typically are designed around the idea of collecting all the posts and letting the user pick which to read. Social networks typically are designed around the idea of just showing recent posts and letting the users choose how far back in time to read.

As technologies lower the costs to express ideas (aka get easier), blogs will get left behind as they have become upside down in value. The costs of writings, reading, subscribing, and commenting on blogs are more expensive compared to micro-blogging or status updates.

Why blog when hanging out on social networks are so much easier? Blogs can only survive as long as they have information worthy.

Why blog when readers are no longer reading? Posting blog entries on social networks does help keep traffic levels somewhat by getting exposure.

As bloggers providing valuable expression leave blogging, the value of blogs decrease. People will still blog. It just won’t be the popular thing to do.

Blame It on Oprah

Ev said, “To those asking: Site slowness today had nothing to do with @Oprah.” Social networks are amusing and fun at times. I’m just a fan of moderation. Too much of anything will ruin it. Ever since Twitter became the new Golden Tool of PR, I knew it would be a matter of time.

Friends and coworkers bring up Twitter as though they have nothing else to say. Apparently the web sites we use define who we are just like fashion did in the 1980s and 1990s. Well, I am a black teeshirt and shorts guy.

🙂

So… I’m spent on < 140 characters.

Update: Maybe not… I’ve culled the list of people I am following from 96 down to 37. Maybe more if I look at it anymore. (Even the 10 most extraordinary tweets couldn’t diswade me.)

Boredom Correlates to Mistakes

We never get to stay bored at work for very long. Every day has an emergency from something caused by a user of the institutions we host, the admins at the institution, or even people who work for our project. Wait…. Maybe it is the boredom which is the cause of the mistakes which keeps the rest of us from really getting bored. So eliminating the boredom in one part of the system would cause boredom in other parts.

Thankfully our philosophy is to automate monotonous activities as much as possible. Computer brains do not get bored to make mistakes.

According to Dr Eichele of Norway and Dr Stefan Debener of the UK, when the brain switches to autopilot is when we are likely to start making mistakes. The brain economizes by shifting electrical activity from the prefrontal cortex (attention) to the default mode network.

I can’t want for them to figure out brains which sit in the default mode network are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. 🙂

Of course, the worst mistake you could possibly make is to get bored enough to get involved in social networks.

Why One Should Not Connect With Egoists on Social Networks

“Second, if you add me as a friend I assume you want me to send you emails and interact with you.” — Plaxo: the social monster? – Scobleizer

Robert is the geek equivalent of Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears or Lindsey Lohan: A sad trainwreck we all thank a higher being that its not us. People don’t care what he has to say or endorse. They just want appear “cool” to their other geek friends. Because he does not know us, we don’t expect him to actually contact us.

The further a number of connections rises above 150 (Dunbar’s number), the more people listed who are not really a friend. At 5,000, he would require unheard of levels of emotional intelligence (I just don’t see it) to know them all well. Therefore, its clear the connections from Scoble’s perspective is to market to them (aka spam).

Are You a Battery?

Yup. I would take the blue pill every time. 🙂 I’m happy being a battery. If I didn’t want Facebook to have control of my data, then I would not give that data to Facebook.

Show your anger with your feet. Leave and make all of your zombie followers go with you! Build your own open meta social networks. That’ll show the evil Facebook community (oh, right, you have and no one cares). LOL Just stop whining that you cannot do whatever you want.