Monday, April 30, 2007

Staying Connected At All Times

Many people, particularly the younger crowd, have immersed themselves in online social networking. New sites are continually popping up for sharing details about your life and many of the newer sites are allowing you to do so from your mobile phone.

In Social Networking Leaves Confines of the Computer, one creator of the technology explains, ”exhibitionism will exist as long as there is voyeurism, but we are in the business of helping people stay in touch with the people who are close to them.”

Fans of the technology use it to update their friends, family, or complete strangers on their daily lives. Some use it to share their travel experiences, like Walter Zai, who captured his African safari via his mobile phone for instant online sharing.

Services like Twitter provide continual messages from users answering the question, what are you doing right now? At the time I wrote this, problemboard was “feeling raindrops despite no clouds. I hope those are raindrops...,” while anjibee was “wearing my pink eskimo joe's tee that ronnoc sent me and pink jammie bottoms. might just wear them all day... .” Interesting.

Whatever the venue, social networking is will definitely be around for a while. New technology will continue to tweak the playing field. So, what am I doing right now? Walking away from the computer.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Office Hallways Growing Longer

First technology brought us telecommuting. Now some companies have opted to go virtual. Virtual companies seek the skills they need, at a price they can afford, without worrying about locale. The Internet, email, and other technologies allow individuals to work together from miles apart. In The Long Hallway on A List Apart, Jonathan Follett offers some important advice to anyone considering a virtual company.

His advice is easily transferrable to most businesses. To be successful virtual (or non-virtual) employees should:

  • Understand the importance of a solid process

  • Know how to network

  • Have strong written communication skills

  • Set boundaries on how and when to communicate with other team members

  • Trust in their team members

With the amount of virtual communication in today's world, it's good to know that some of the same old rules, not to mention a little common sense, still apply.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Green Issue for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and to show its eco-friendly side, The Week magazine launched its first ever green issue on Friday. Rather than distributing a printed version, this issue, sponsored by Lexus, will run for one week on The Week’s website. Along with the usual features, special focus has been placed on environmental concerns like global warming and what it means to “go green.”

Don’t be mistaken. The Week has not moved its publication to the web for good. They are still dedicated to their print magazine, but they understand that in this changing world, consumers get their information from a variety of sources. What better way to spotlight the environment, than to save a few trees?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Maybe Dogs Can Keep Up

"They say a year in the Internet business is like a dog year... equivalent to seven years in a regular person's life. In other words, it's evolving fast and faster." -Vinton Cerf

The Internet, as with most technology, evolves quickly. Is it possible to keep up? I spend far too much time on the web. Between my job, my personal errands, and my blogs, it's a wonder I still find the time to cook, clean, and spend time with family and friends.

Despite that "quality" time with my computer, I still find myself behind the curve sometimes. For example, I just joined the blogosphere this year after roughly 70 million other blogs came to existence. I now find myself playing catch-up. So while it may be tricky keeping stride, isn't that what makes technology so exciting?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Second Lifer’s Real Life Slips Away

This clever video narrates the story of Molotov Alva who “disappeared from his California home,” and reappeared in Second Life, an online virtual world. Alva describes how he came to existence in Second Life, trying on various clothing styles and even body shapes, before resting on one closely resembling his real life appearance. He has created a garden of photographs from his life before the virtual world to help him remember where he came from.

Whether taken seriously or tongue-in-cheek, this video shows how quickly one is able to shift their existence. Are those that immerse themselves in Second Life, removing themselves from real life? How are their relationships being affected? Since the video is titled “Episode 1,” I eagerly await the subsequent editions. This looks like a story worth watching to see if Alva returns to California.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sanjaya. Need I Say More?

American Idol always has the country abuzz. As with most trends, I joined late. This is the first season I decided to actually try watching it to see what the hype is all about. And they gave me Sanjaya, so the “idol” part still has me a bit baffled.

While I can’t say he is something to be worshipped, he has caused quite a stir on the Internet. Nielson Buzz Metrics said in a press release yesterday, “public captivation over American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar is massive and reflected deeply in the blogosphere.” His name is most closely linked with Howard Stern and Vote for the Worst, he is commonly noted as unworthy of top 10 status, and beauty care companies are getting an extra boost thanks to Sanjaya’s ever-changing coiffure.

Vote for the Worst is proving it is a force to be reckoned with. There is plenty of speculation that the reason Sanjaya survives from week to week is due to this campaign. Here is a case of the Internet being used to cause movement among the masses. What a powerful vehicle. No wonder the presidential candidates are making such strong web presences. There is definitely a subset of population entrenched in it.

Thank goodness the Internet is finally being put to good use. It’s nice to feel you have a voice on the bigger issues.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Television More Exciting Than Real Life?

At Easter brunch yesterday, the conversation passed quickly through the usual family updates and comments about the restaurant of choice. With the trivialities out of the way, the discussion turned into a detailed exchange about The Sopranos. I was amazed to find that a table full of grown-ups was animatedly analyzing the lives of fictional characters. Are our own lives that boring, that we look to television for dialogue? Did I just miss the point since I have never seen even one episode of The Sopranos and generally try to limit my television viewing in favor of more appealing activities?

Somewhere along the line, TV went from being merely a source of entertainment to being a deeply ingrained part of life. The same is true of online social networking. In fact, I would venture a guess that many people accomplish their social networking while watching television. They probably feel accomplished- look at me, I’m multi-tasking! I’d put some clever reference here about the characters or last night’s plot, but, alas I was drawing and missed the season’s first episode.

Perhaps one day we will realize that there are plenty of stories from our day-to-day life worth sharing with others. Perhaps we will all become characters on some worldwide internet-based reality TV show. Perhaps we will someday realize that the person whose blog we read lives right down the street. Until then, any one care to discuss The Apprentice?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Worth a Read: Created Personas

Yesterday Foresighter posted an entry called The Artist's Staircase. It discusses the premeditated personas that are placed on social networking sites and begs the question of how real the personas are. Now that we can actually create our "selves" rather easily, will these creations enter in to our face-to-face interactions as well?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Magazine's Special Issue to Hit Web, Not Newsstand

The Week, a weekly news magazine, is issuing a special edition about the environment. Rather than printing the special issue and distributing it via mail and newsstands, it will be posting the issue on its website for one week beginning April 20.

Because trees will not be as endangered by the online posting, this method fits nicely with their environmental theme. Furthermore, The Week hopes that this will help expand their online presence in a world that is shifting to mixed media.

The idea has also proven enticing to advertisers. Lexus will be the sole sponsor for the special issue, for which they will also receive a series of print ads after the special edition.

The Week says, “ we’re trying to be as agnostic as possible about serving our readers in all the different media.” Consumers are becoming more finicky about how they want content and magazines like The Week that want to accommodate are presenting in multiple formats.

Despite the plethora of media formats available today, I’m still skeptical that print will ever go away completely. There are still a number of places where it makes sense to leverage print, at least for now.

Related Articles:
Online Experiment for Print Magazine

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Anonymity on the Web

Interaction on the Internet is, no doubt, different than in real life. One such example is the ability to remain anonymous which can leave some users with a feeling of power and abandon.

When they know their face cannot be seen and, in turn, they can’t see the face of anyone else on the web, some users see the opportunity to hurt other people. Seth Godin originally wrote about the problem with anonymity on the Internet in 2004 saying:

“It’s ironic that we’ve set up two very different standards for our trust. In the real world, we’re skeptical of strangers. At the supermarket the other day, someone picked up my favorite brand of olive oil. I waxed on about how great it was, and of course, the shopper put it back and bought something else instead. Online, however, we’re happy to believe whatever image someone sends along, or buy something from a spammer.”

I’m not sure I entirely agree with the last sentence since many users these days glance right past ads and delete unread emails from people I don’t know. Then again, online purchases account for a large share of transactions, so we have become comfortable forking over money to companies whose faces we cannot see. Either way, it’s an interesting commentary on our society that we are fairly comfortable online and often not as comfortable in the physical presence of strangers.

Seth revisited this topic last week adding, “Anonymity hasn't made the web a better place. Instead, it has allowed some of the worst ideas ever to get published.” He suggests that eliminating anonymity on the Internet would go a long way towards banishing hurtful commentary and reducing spam.

I’d like to believe that it is that simple, but how would it be regulated? What sort of consequences would be set? Wouldn’t it just keep the honest, honest?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Moving From Online to Real World Disorienting

Switching from the online world to the real world can be jarring. When your mind has been so focused on the computer screen and typed interactions, it can be disorienting to “re-enter” the real world and conduct normal activity. After tuning out the world around you, it can sometimes take seconds or even minutes to adjust to a different way of functioning. If you have been working on the Internet for a long stretch of time, then find yourself interacting with a human face-to-face, it may even feel awkward for a moment to remember that you actually can use your facial expressions; you don’t have to rely on emoticons. Your phraseology may even change. Such are the dangers of living a virtual life. Interactions may become more difficult. Isolation may grow to be comfortable.