For years I’ve been using the same username for many websites but with different passwords. I did it for convenience but I also had this vague idea that I was crafting some kind of an overall online identity which would be uniquely identifiable as me, would be consistent over time and would serve as an informal history to build my technical reputation and credibility. But now that I see the results I don’t like it even though there are not any individual postings or fragments of data that I’m ashamed of or embarrassed about. It’s just that when I see them all together the effect is unsettling and feels like I’ve been under surveillance all these years.
In some cases I made either bad choices or misinformed decisions. For example, by way of Googling my name recently, I found my work phone number in the web archives of a members only listserv for people in my industry. I recall making the decision to put my phone number in my email signature because I was posting specific information that I thought would help guys doing my same job in other organizations. There are few enough of us that I figured I’d be happy to help if one of them were to call me to ask for more details or advice. The problem is that, while I knew that registered members (i.e., people in my industry) would be able to search the archives, I had no idea that the thread was going to end up on Google. That was just simple misinformed decision. But my initial settings on my Twitter.com account turned out to be a case of making a genuinely bad decision, then forgetting all about it.
It’s right there in my “Friend Updates:” Apparently, my friend Tom — you know, the MySpace founder guy who is everybody’s default Friend — has added a new song from some singer-songwriter or other to his profile.
However there’s one small problem with this. Tom’s not my Friend.
When I first signed up for MySpace over a year ago (yup, I was late), I thought that it was a stupid idea to have Tom as one of my Friends, so I de-Friended him almost instantly.
So, if Tom’s not my Friend, why am I being told about the music he’s adding to his profile?
quarterlife, the much-hyped new series from the creators of such shows as thirtysomething, Once and Again and the eternal My So-Called Life, debuted a couple of nights ago to what some are calling “the worst ratings in 20 years.”
I don’t think that this was what NBC had in mind when they announced that they had picked it up from, er, MySpace amidst a busload of hype. Given the fact that it had a pretty high profile and was debuted during a time where there is very little serious drama being broadcast, their expectations must have been that it would at least hold its own.
And yet it failed, miserably. Why? The flip answer is that it sucked, but that’s only part of it. The full answer is a bit more complicated.
When the world’s most popular social network decides to get into the social news business, you expect them to make it, well, social. On the contrary, the new MySpace News site is anything but social. In fact, MySpace has left out just about every feature that makes competing social news sites like Digg and Reddit so popular and addictive.
There’s ample opportunity for innovation in social news. The current leading sites tend to have a decided tech slant. As a result there’s plenty of room for social news that is either more general in focus, or more narrowly targeted to a niche not well served by Digg and others. MySpace News does nothing to capitalize on this opportunity.
As is my sometimes habit, I ventured out into the real world this week to take the pulse of real people who use real new media. Nobody was paid nor bribed in the course of these discussions and all opinions reflected here represent the opinions of my (anonymous as they shun fame and fortune) focus group, expanded this time to include a few voices from the legal profession.
So here is what they’re saying out there in reality. Remember, real people with real money to spend on goods and services: