while I was waking up…

This post is dedicated in memory of Gil Scott-Heron.

Connectivity, seamless integration, multiple digital devices all connected to my habits and likes. The seamless options to integrate my blogs with my social media accounts…..all provide wonderful opportunities. They simplify many tasks and interactions I deal with on a day to day basis. At times these can get messy and I understand that many of these integrations between the digital devices I use and social media platforms I interact with are still trying to evolve. I believe the future of this convergence of digital devices and communication platforms will only get more seamless and effective, that is exciting. For users the potential is huge in leveraging  these tools and opportunities into our social and professional lives.

and now……

I am noticing something, and it seems in the last few months all this seamless integration of digital devices and social networking media is generating some caution by a few. For me the first odd event was when Facebook suddenly decided without asking me (actually they never asking me anything especially if there are changes) that it would only feature in my news feeds the friends I interact with on a regular basis and not the  friends who I just interact with rarely or periodically…. my news feed narrowed in its diversity of people I could see. Good news you can change this, and I did. The issue is who should make the decisions for us?

I also am noticing with my search results (Google/Bing/Yahoo) that they tend to be little different when I search the same topic as my wife and kids….. the search algorithms seem to learn my likes and dislikes and then provide me with information which falls into my previous search patterns and within my opinion and interest range. Diversity of opinions or information which I do not agree with seems slowly to be pushed away from me, I am reading only what I want to believe .  This seems to be a growing trend as explained in an excellent: TedTalk Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

The Apple Developers conference again showed how our devices, operating systems and virtual worlds are now taking on more tasks without us having to be involved, as a way to increase our efficiencies. Now you do not need to save in OS Lion, if you have iCloud there is sinking of content between different devices automatically without you being involved. Your digital devices in the Apple environment now can be independent of your desktop or laptop, giving these devices the ability to do all the necessary tasks right there and now. These are exciting changes and definitely provide the user with more seamless tasks which we do not need to be involved with. This in someways is pushed even further with the IOS5 function that if you have list or tasks to do there is a geographic locater embedded so when say you drive by a grocery store and in your IOS5 device you have a shopping list it will pop up and remind you of the list and the option of doing this now as it has located a grocery store.

The list goes on…. our technology tools and environments are being equipped with algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks which are becoming more intelligent, and at a level are given more independence to make executive decisions to enhance tasks in reaction to our online behaviors and habits. This is a huge shift, and with this a whole set of philosophical questions and dilemmas arise which delve into privacy, who has ownership, who gets to decide what these tools and algorithms do, and how much independence should they have? I am reading and seeing more evidence of this change, where we are asking our technology tools and systems to think for us and help make decisions. At this stage it all seems useful, helpful and harmless. Who minds having something save everything without you having to remember. Who minds having their devices do in the background of our awareness, updates, sinking, and analysis ? At this time it is useful and a time saver….and to be honest this has been going on for a while with a variety of technology tools. An example is commercial aviation which has been relying on automatic pilot controls for a large percentage of tasks related to flying. There are definitely huge advantages, and at many levels these make the processes we rely on more efficient and seamless .

As we move forward with our digital evolution:  our tools, operating systems and devices are given greater independence to manage our lives. The question I currently struggle with is at what point do we feel comfortable giving up control and let many of these devices  have complete autonomy of certain tasks, decisions, and information we get to have access too. To what point do we let convenience and efficiency erode potentially our own independence to make decision ourselves with these digital environments. There is no doubt that for the companies behind these tools, devices and operating systems, this control and information is becoming a critical commodity to generate information databases which leverage a greater capacity to target products, habits and behaviors effectively to the user. This then generating profits for the companies behind these devices, software and operating systems.

I am like many, I love the seamless integration, the fact that more mundane tasks are being taken over, and me not having to think about them. But when is too much, and when will we suddenly wake up and realize so much has fallen over to algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks that we have lost control and now are having many of our decisions and tasks dictated by others who we have little input with.

As Gil Scott Heron says so aptly ” the revolution will not be televised


find a place to hide……

So this week Google launches it social network: Buzz , a interesting next step for Google. Already folks are asking will 350 million Facebook users start switching, or at least the 160 million plus Gmail users who might be on Facebook? Buzz as I am starting to understand creates the option of integrating the many tools already available with gmail  blogger , maps, chat, sites, videos and more gmail/gapps tools….into one seamless entity all interconnected and able to help heighten my profile, information and news to a social network I create using these tools . Today I log into my yahoo mail and I am told at all times I can find out about what my contacts are up to, send message etc…a similar interface in the making by Yahoo with a different flavor. In tandem  Facebook Connect is available for developers allowing users to bring their identity and connections everywhere… so by using Facebook as your entry point updates, photos, wall posts, etc… these can be integrated with your twitter, blogs, wetpaint, mobile phone, and more……….

Quickly in the last few months suddenly we are seeing a more aggressive shift of engaging users on a variety of social networks, and portals like Google and Yahoo, to expand their presence and information to a large audience in real time. The idea is if I do a profile update in Facebook then my twitter feed picks this up, as would my blog, and my cell phone or even maybe my own web site. A one stop shop update for all about me!

There is no doubt this is kind of cool, and cuts down on having to post multiple times information or updates on my various Web 2.0 tools. The more I reflect on this, and with the framework that social networks default to public and you have to go and tweek the settings and parameters to make them private, I am realizing that we are entering a new dynamic where there is a push to be public as much as possible to as many of people as possible with our own information, updates, musing and more….. I am not going to be a judge on this, because to be honest I am still trying to work out what are my various options in the settings with these different tools. I am definitely spending more time trying to understand this and getting better at understanding my options to be private, and move from some of the public default settings these mediums start you off with.

…….so it is clear Web 2.0 and social networks are eagerly aggregating all our information for us in one place, thus allowing to socialize at many different levels through different mediums through one single interface available on multiple devices.

With this the question in my mind is the dynamic of privacy and public changing to the point we are moving to  a world, culture and expectation that within my social network, I will want to be able to find out where folks are, what they are doing, with whom, and when, to the point this is available to me on my mobile phone, my console at home, my laptop or some other device still to come all at once. Will this become an expectation and the norm?

For someonee who grew up where you could still be stupid and do rideculous things with friends and have no video, pictures, social network feed, update or public medium to share this….the new aggregate public profile on all my web venues is something I will need to get used and restle in finding a balance…..