The issue of maintaining privacy online is a tricky one for me. In the first place, I’m part of Gen Y and we love the Internet and being engaged online. That mandates giving up a certain degree of privacy. On top of that, I lean toward over-sharing – I believe, in most cases, everyone is better served by honest conversation about everything; keeping topics taboo serves no one’s best interest. So I’m ok with having a pretty public life.
And I like what Penelope Trunk has had to say about privacy vs. celebrity: privacy, as she paraphrased Ashton Kutcher, is the new celebrity in this web 2.0 world where anyone can be a 5-minute sensation. I, like most people, fall into the category of people who can benefit from having less privacy. I want to benefit by being known online as a good writer and thinker of interesting thoughts.
But having a baby on the way has made me think differently.
At our baby shower last weekend, cousins from out of state said “Put pictures on Facebook as soon as you can! We can’t wait to see the little guy!”
But when I do that, I’m giving control of these images of my newborn son to Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg, who seems to truly not care about privacy. Maybe because he adheres to the same philosophy as Trunk, in which case what am I worried about? Who knows what kind of digital wonders my son will see in his lifetime. Everyone puts baby photos on Facebook these days; he’ll be in good company if shit ever does hit the fan.
At the same time, I do think there are other ways to share photos online without handing over almost limitless information to advertisers. And I’m not the only one with an icky feeling: Germany is protesting the use of facial recognition software on Facebook.
Maybe I’m foolish, but I trust Google a helluva lot more than Facebook. At least they provide a rich preferences page where you can see what they know about you, and thus what in turn advertisers know about you.
I do recognize the benefits of targeted advertising in theory – I only hear about products and services that might actually be useful to me – and maybe the icky feeling I have about how intrusive that is just means I’m part of Gen Y and can, however vaguely, remember a world without the internet.
Which is something Baby Williams will never be able to say.
For real you guys: I’ve ingested an insane amount of information today. Now I know what Baby Boomers talk about with “information overload”, except it’s not overwhelming in a negative way; it’s more like my head is full os so many thoughts and ideas and images that I’ve got this fantastic high going on right now.
Often, my husband and I fantasize about running away from it all to our own little farm in Maine somewhere or, my preference, a gorgeous mostly deserted island. I tell him romantically that I could survive anywhere as long as I had him…and an internet connection.
They say you have an addiction when your behavior negatively impacts other areas of your life. I don’t think I’m addicted (but of course an addict would say that) but if I was, Google Reader was my gateway drug. I love Google Reader more than any other web app I use. Except maybe Twitter. Between the two of them, I’m almost never out of something to read or see. When there is a lag – usually on Friday nights when most of the world is out and about and my nine-month pregnant self is at home glued to my Blackberry – I whine about it to my husband, who helpfully suggests I read one of the books I’ve piled around the house.
But books are so OLD and SLOW.
Anyway, I’ve got just over an hour before a social engagement where I’ll have to talk to people face to face so I intend to ride this high out a little longer.
The hangover is going to be a bitch in the morning I bet.
This post from the Harvard Business Review today sums up exactly how I felt when Netflix emailed me to say they’d be raising the price of my current package by 60%. Eddie Yoon provided just the language I was looking for:
But as a consumer, I have no problem being generous to companies that have a track record of being exponentially more generous to me.
He explains that generous companies are those that provide great value consistently and lists all the ways Netflix has become increasingly awesome since it’s inception. And though Yoon, like me and everyone, doesn’t necessarily like parting with his hard-earned dollars, he says he is certainly willing to pay for goods or services that are worth it. He says this:
Netflix’s history of generosity proves to me that they will take my money and invest it in an ever-improving product.
Sure, I would like my favorite products and services to be cheaper, but I would really like them to be improved to make my life better.
And I wholeheartedly agree with both sentiments. That’s what I mean when I say he provided the language I was looking for.
My family lives on a very tight budget, especially now that I’ve lost my my full-time job and that we’re expecting our first child. We’ve cut ruthlessly into our monthly expenses, but continue to pay $12 per month for The Economist and set aside as much money as possible for food, not only so we can afford to get sustainable, high-quality products, but also so we can afford to go out once a week at least because that’s something we love to do. In those instances, we’re paying for our priorities.
So we’ll pay almost whatever Netflix asks because the enjoyment we get out of our membership are worth it to us. Besides, like Yoon said, we hope eventually we can replace our irritatingly expensive cable subscription with just Netflix and, even if we can’t, we trust that Netflix is going to at the very least continue to provide a great service.
It’s this concept of value that gets lost on the web these days. Even in the wild west environment of the web, there are things worth paying for. It’s great that you can get almost any album or movie for free online somewhere, but I don’t mind paying at least $10 for the latest record from a favorite artist, because that artist provides me with something worthwhile. The least I can do is pay him or her for the trouble.
Anyone who follows my Twitter feed knows how much of a The Next Web (TNW) junkie I am. It’s absolutely my favorite place for online industry news for many reasons, not the least of which is it’s coverage of international and political online industry news as well. I am a political news junkie too, you see, which is why I follow a few pet news stories, like how the Chinese government is negotiating the fine line between economy-stimulating online innovation and communist top-down control. One of my pet new storylines is the explosion of online innovation in Africa. The the middle class is growing rapidly and that is creating a huge new population of consumers that love their mobile phones.
So clearly, this story from TNW this morning about the launch of Kenya’s first mobile apps development lab caught me eye. The new m-lab is designed as the next level for web innovators who incubated their ideas at Nairobi’s iHub.
It’s incredible how developing nations can skip the steps that today’s developed world took to reach its current level of economic development and the way populations of those developing nations grapple with the implications of such leap-frogging, and navigate uncharted territory, is fascinating. But aside from being and interesting news item, this is crucial information for every smart online professional.
There are still huge opportunities online for anyone in the US alone, in addition to developed Europe and Asia. There was a hullabaloo in early June about the Pew Internet and American Life Project report that said 13% of Americans use Twitter, up from 8% one year previously. That’s a fantastic increase, but folks—that’s still a tiny number of Americans. So when I tell you that smart online professionals are thinking about how to take advantage of opportunities in Nairobi, don’t think I don’t realize just how much untapped potential exists closer to home.
But the fact remains: the long-term future of the internet and web-based business lies in tapping the growth of developing nations like Kenya. Smart online professionals are thinking about that, and that’s why you’re here.
One of my favorite blogs to read every day is the Harvard Business Review for the variety of topics it posts about and the its interesting angles on the news of the day. And one of the my favorite stories of theirs in a while was this one, which talks about how physiological research done 50+ years ago is not only relevant, but basically predicated how social media would impact our world today.
The reason I loved this article from HBR so much is it affirmed for me, again, that there is very little we can’t know about the world around us if we study history. There is so little truly new, groundbreaking, or revolutionary out there; the same stories repeat themselves over time and everything that astounds us today has a context that makes it less sparkly and new, perhaps, but more relevant. The ipad is a truly wonderful thing that finally launched the tablet computing sector and will change how we use technology, but its just one iteration in a long line of new gadgets that humans have adopted. And though it’s impossible to predict how the latest social media start up will change things, it is possible to guess based on how that start up fits into its own historical context.
And the great thing about the internet is that the history of everything can be organized in such a way that its easier to find and apply to modern life. The internet is about connections; between people, yes, but also between ideas and things. The web makes it easier for humans to spot those connections and make inferences from them. And the more effectively people can apply the knowledge of the past to what’s going on around them today, the better off everyone will be.
If you’re that optimistic about human nature, of course.