The First Time I Understood the Value of Anonymity
July 26th, 2011, 11 comments

There's a great conversation going on about why social networks, specifically Google+, shouldn't require that all its users register using their "real" names. To catch up, read Skud, Caterina, and Anil. I've got nothing to add to their points, except a quick personal story.

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To China and Back

July 25th, 2011, 13 comments

I just returned to the States from a trip to China, where I toured Beijing, Shanghai, and surrounding areas. I climbed the Great Wall, walked through Tian'anmen Square, "ate" a cup of tea at the plantation where the leaves grew, visited a jade museum, a silk factory, and a handmade carpet factory. I saw vacuum-packed chicken feet, got an herbal prescription from a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, tasted "trotters," used a squat toilet, sailed on a dragonhead river cruise boat, and did my best to circumvent the "Great Firewall." It was a good nine days.

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Kevin Kelly’s Six Months to Live
July 25th, 2011

This oldie-but-goodie 1995 episode of This American Life features Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired and Cool Tools blogger. His story of a "new beginning" had me welled up in a Beijing airport; subsequently spent the rest of my vacation pondering what I would do given only six months to live. It wouldn't be too different from what Kevin did. (Thanks, APJ.)

Edward Tufte’s “Slopegraphs”
July 11th, 2011, 1 comment

Charlie Park says the sparkline's lesser-known sibling, the slopegraph, is about to get its day in the sun. I'm already thinking about interesting ways to use these in ThinkUp.

Blogger/Twitter co-founder Evan Williams on blogging’s future
July 8th, 2011, 1 comment

What’s changed is that "blogging as we knew it" is no longer the easiest way to express oneself online, so it is not the choice for the most casual users. You have to be a bit more dedicated to blog than to tweet or post on [Facebook] now and then.

Indie personal bloggers are much fewer and far between then back in Blogger's heyday. That means people who are doing it are more dedicated to personal publishing than ever, and that there's the first ingredient of a great blog.

This Is a Social Media Background Check
July 7th, 2011

Mat Honan, who is ripping it up at Gizmodo, on employers running social media background checks on job candidates:

We ran background checks on six Gizmodo employees, including our editor in chief Joe Brown, and all but one came back clean. [..] I flunked hard. When that happens, Social Intelligence creates a report, which it would then send to an employer. And if you don't get a job because of your social media report, you can request a copy. Mine's filled with delightful details, like "subject admits to use of cocaine as well as LSD," and "subject references use of Ketamine."

Basically, I may never work again.

iTerm2 Hits Version 1.0
July 7th, 2011, 2 comments

Awesome, free, open source Mac OS X Terminal replacement offers a bunch of features over Terminal.app. Worth mouseless copy, paste history, and instant replay alone. (via)

Google+ Help: Public Profiles
July 5th, 2011, 4 comments

While "the stream" in Google+ gets tweaked for better privacy control, Google Profiles are now required to be public. From the help document:

We believe that using Google Profiles to help people find and connect with you online is how the product is best used. Private profiles don’t allow this, so we have decided to require all profiles to be public.

Keep in mind that your full name and gender are the only required information that will be displayed on your profile; you’ll be able to edit or remove any other information that you don’t want to share.

If you currently have a private profile but you do not wish to make your profile public, you can delete your profile. Or, you can simply do nothing. All private profiles will be deleted after July 31, 2011.

On requiring that users enter either Male, Female, or Other into the "Gender" field in Google Profiles (argh, gender is not sex), Danny O'Brien writes:

A strange omission in an otherwise very sensitively put together service: I'm a bit (honestly, very) weirded out by the fact that G+ requires you to provide a gender, and then makes it compulsorily world viewable (try editing who gets to see it in your profile).

That's often a particularly sensitive bit of information; especially if you identify as "Other". I mean, I can't be the only one thinking that constructing a list of people who identify as Other in a local area isn't something that we want to enable. Or women for that matter.

Speaking of gender identity, it appears that only 10% of G+ field testers identify as female. I'm trying to get a confirmation or denial from the Googlers-in-charge on that.

Google+ and Building Better Online Privacy Models

July 5th, 2011, 15 comments

Apologies to those of you following me on Google+: this post is a rehash of conversations I had this weekend on the service.

The original conception of the Facebook "Wall" was based on the whiteboard college students hang on their dorm room door. Students who lived in your dorm could walk down the hallway and jot messages for the room residents on those whiteboards. ("Ultimate frisbee on the quad at 4pm today" or "Dinner tonight?") Any student who walked down the hallway could see those messages. When you're 22 and your most significant life experience is college, your dorm room hallway is your main community of neighbors and friends. As an adult who has graduated from a few schools and had a few jobs, you've got multiple hallways. That's the problem Google+ Circles attempts to address: letting users define their "hallways."

Now, a student would write something much differently on her best friend's dorm door whiteboard than she would on a flyer she plastered on every public corkboard on campus. The way we talk and what we share differs based on who we think can see and hear those things. From what I can see so far, Google's doing its best to recreate that sense of who-can-see-what-here in Google+.

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Andy Hertzfeld on Giving Credit Where Credit’s Due
July 1st, 2011, 1 comment

Now some people are saying that I'm responsible for the broad visual refresh now rolling out across Google, which couldn't be further from the truth - in fact, I'm not even sure I like it.


Google is now highlighting authors and content creators next to web pages in search results, and it just started working for this blog. Here's how to hook it up for your site. (Hint: use the http, not https, link to your Google profile in your rel="author" link.)

June 30th, 2011, 2 comments


Harvard Business Review: What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women
June 30th, 2011, 2 comments

That finding can be explained by differences in social sensitivity, which we found is also important to group performance. Many studies have shown that women tend to score higher on tests of social sensitivity than men do. So what is really important is to have people who are high in social sensitivity, whether they are men or women.

Steven Levy on Google+’s Apple-esque Design
June 29th, 2011, 1 comment

[Larry] Page seems to recognize that this project in some ways requires a different approach from the Google norm. One variation that users will notice comes in interface design — conspicuously, in Circles. With colorful animations, drag-and-drop magic and whimsical interface touches, Circles looks more like a classic Apple program than the typically bland Google app. That’s no surprise since the key interface designer was legendary software artist Andy Herzfeld.

The former Macintosh wizard now works at Google — though he loves the company, he had previously felt constrained because its design standards didn’t allow for individual creativity. But with [Google+], he had a go-ahead to flex his creative muscles. “It wasn’t a given that anyone would like what I was doing, but they did,” he says.

Traditionally, Larry Page has been a blood foe of “swooshy” designs and animations geared to delight users. He feels that it such frills slow things down. But Page has signed off on the pleasing-pixel innovations in Circles, including a delightful animation when you delete a circle: It drops to the bottom of the screen, bounces and sinks to oblivion. That animation adds a few hundred milliseconds to the task; in the speed-obsessed Google world that’s like dropping “War and Peace” on a reading list. “I’ve heard in the past that Larry Page he didn’t like animations but that didn’t stop me from putting in a lot of animations in, and Larry told me he loves it.” says Hertzfeld. “Maybe Apple’s resurgence had a little bit to do with it.”

What Google+ Learned from Buzz and Wave

June 29th, 2011, 32 comments

After a half day of using Google+ with the limited number of people I know in the field test so far, I like it a lot. I will love Google+ when and if all my friends show up and stick around.

I've been been watching Google flail around social web apps for a few years now, so what I appreciate most about Google+ is that it's a well-thought out product informed by past experience. The more I use Google+, the more I see just how many lessons Google learned from Wave and Buzz, such as:

Don't even test a social product without email notifications. One of Wave's first mistakes is that it went out to test users without email notifications about new activity. New users would receive an invite, jump in, send waves, leave, and then when others responded to those waves after they left, those new users had no idea. If they didn't return to Wave (many didn't), the replies went unacknowledged, creating a lonely experience for the people who did come back.

G+'s email notification handling is particularly elegant. It gives you the choice—on by default—to let your friends who aren't on yet know there's something going on.

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The Data Liberation Front Announces Google Takeout · The video might be even better than the product concept. Takeout your data here. June 28th, 2011, 2 comments