The Internet of Facebooks

I’m struggling with the idea of Facebook for Work. Facebook is already at work. It’s also at red lights and in the bathroom and it’s probably open, lurking, somewhere on the machine you’re using. Right now. Just act cool. Maybe it won’t know that you know.

Using Facebook at Work
Using Facebook at Work

 

Do we need specialized Facebooks? I guess it makes sense as an enterprise enterprise.

The thing that bugs me about it is that they are continuing to burrow further and further into our flesh. Like that weird eel in Stranger Things. Having it remxoved is going to be an inpatient procedure with one night in the hospital at best.

It’s getting to the point where everyone will have a Facebook account, but also, everyone will be forced to have one.

Because their job will require it.

Their families will require it.

And because they used Facebook connect to log into their creme brulee torch, they’ll need it at least once every year or two.
Or figure out how to access their My Creme Brulee Torch account using an email address.

But that seems like a lot of work. Remember dealing with two factor authentication on the Keurig? That’s a Saturday we’ll never get back.

Getting Back to Basics

I like gadgets. I like notebooks. I like pens. I like backpacks. And oh boy, do I love apps.

I have a bit of a gear problem.

And in a podcast cue and RSS reader full of people who like to talk about the latest and greatest of everything from Apple gear to note taking to creative work, sometimes it’s nice to have a counter. An angel on the opposite shoulder from the devil.

Patrick Rhone is good for that. He’s the voice of simplicity. Of quiet calm. He stands out from the frantic storm of newness and upgrading and always searching for some kind of new way to hack one’s life.

In a piece he wrote about continuing to use his iPhone 5 in the wake of yet another iPhone release, he relates to the Amish and their technology: 

You see, it is not that the Amish shun modern technology. It’s that they take a very long, mindful, and considered approach as to what technology to adopt, weigh the pros and cons of how it might affect them, their homes, their communities, their way of life and if any of those trade-offs are worth it. Phones, for instance, are fine — as long as they’re not in the home and used only when absolutely necessary. And, if it’s not in any one home, then why not just have one phone in a central location that the whole community can use? So, one can see from this example that really what is at stake with the Amish approach is a question of true value — beyond the material — that every technology must pass and only applied in specific ways in order to be adopted.

I write about this because I’ve found myself over-building systems for work. I’ve been using too many tools, and I’ve been spending far too much time trying to find a better way to do X,Y or Z. Especially Z. Especially if Z works on iOS.

Enough with the Fiddling!

I have notes and saved links and blurbs of text in way too many apps. It’s become difficult to find information that I’ve captured. I’m also at a loss for how to deal with a lot of what lands in my email inbox. When I find an article that I want to read later, it can wind up in any number of different places. I have too many options for what to do with it all, so I put it everywhere. And then I can find it nowhere.

I have too many email apps. Too many ways to make outlines or mind maps. I have apps hanging around that have been waiting to revolutionize how I work since I downloaded them months ago. I have apps for automation and list making and WOW do I have a lot of text editors.

I have text editors with automation built in. I have text editors meant for writing books. I have text editors with built in previews, and text editors that can publish to websites, and text editors that sync to Dropbox, but also text editors that have their own built in libraries that sync through iCloud. I also have text editors that are meant to send text to other text editors.

A giant warehouse of spatulas for every occasion.
Thousands to choose from in every shape, size, and color.
And because we eliminate the middle man, we can sell all our spatulas factory direct to you.
Where do you go if you want to buy name brand spatulas at a fraction of retail cost?
Spatula City!
Spatula City!

It’s time to streamline … to get back to basics. Develop a way of working and stick with it.

And somehow try to stay away from the new and flashy and loud.

Surveillance Capitalism

Maciej Cegłowski makes Pinboard.in. It’s one of my favorite places to put articles that I’m never going to read. He’s also a gifted writer and really thoughtful about the role of technology in society. I don’t know how to pronounce his name. Either of them.

He recently gave a talk about The Moral Economy of Tech in which he argues that social media is becoming a requirement of modern life, but using it is putting all of us in a bad spot: 

Companies that perform surveillance are attempting the same mental trick. They assert that we freely share our data in return for valuable services. But opting out of surveillance capitalism is like opting out of electricity, or cooked foods—you are free to do it in theory. In practice, it will upend your life.

The reality is, opting out of surveillance capitalism means opting out of much of modern life.

He then goes into “THE INEVITABLE LIST OF SCARY SCENARIOS” in which data is used against people. The scariest scenario being the one where we have to pay more attention to LinkedIn at international borders.

What we’ve done as technologists is leave a loaded gun lying around, in the hopes that no one will ever pick it up and use it.

I used to be in the camp of “I don’t care if anyone knows what I’ve checked out of the library,” but that was before we saw the extent to which crazy ideas could get crazy amounts of crazy people excited. Before Brexit and Trump and removing headphone jacks.

The Work Required to Have an Opinion

From the Farnam Street Blog:

Charlie Munger used to say something along the lines of “You’re not entitled to take a view, unless and until you can argue better against that view than the smartest guy who holds that opposite view. If you can argue better than the smartest person who holds the opposite view, that is when you are entitled to hold a certain view.”

Good discipline. Especially now.

There’s never been a better time for people to loudly hold opinions without the hassle of facts or consideration of opposing points of view.

Politics has become more polarized and emotional than ever before.

Nonpolitical topics, like whether women can be game developers, are becoming political proxy wars.

Online news consumption takes place on platforms that are using the very height of human technology to surface content that confirms our biases.

Social interaction online has devolved into digital trench warfare. It doesn’t matter what the topic is. It might be anything from abortion to fly-fishing lures, but you’re sure to find radically polarized sides firmly dug-in, barraging the opposing force with links featuring inflammatory headlines and unread body copy.


People of substance. We don’t have many of them anymore.

Those who are capable of holding two conflicting ideas in their head at the same time.

People who are willing to hold their own beliefs to the fire. Re-evaluate their stances over time.

They might have an opinion that isn’t popular, but they’ve at least thought about it.

And I think they’ve earned the right to it.

Your Data and The Wrong Stuff

You aren’t worried enough about your personal data.

I worry about my personal data online now more than ever. I wasn’t concerned at all a few years ago. That was before I realized how much of it was being collected by how many companies. No spoilers, but it’s a lot more than just Google and Facebook.

Having used Ghostery on my laptop for the last six months, my eyes are open to the sheer number of trackers online. The fact that I haven’t heard of most of them might mean that I don’t know much about the business. But it could also mean that at least one-or-two of them are wobbly startups, clinging to life, a botched round of funding away from going tits-up.

This is the way your data privacy is violated. Not with a bang, but with a whimpering Stanford grad.

What happens to your data when one of these places goes to the great tech-conference in the sky? The next time you see it might be on your credit report or in some kind of ransom note.

I’m sorry sir, but your credit report shows that you have an unhealthy obsession with fusion jazz, and we’ll be unable to extend this loan to you. And if you don’t give us a thousand dollars, we’ll tell your kids about your Warhammer 40k collection.

But that is nowhere nearly as fascinating as what’s being called LOVEINT. It’s a problem common enough that the intelligence community has a government-speak acronym for it. Imagine high-school jealousy, pettiness, and emotional instability powered by Big Data.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and with rosemary, at least that’s what your data profile indicated.

Richard wrote about it over at Sanspoint:

But another aspect of all that data collection is whether we trust who has access to it. I’m not talking about malicious hackers getting access into the Facebook database and finding out everything it knows about everyone. I’m more concerned about the stereotypical jilted ex who uses their access to do a deep dive into what their company knows about their former partner. No matter how well you lock down what other people can see on Facebook, someone—likely multiple someones—at the company have access into the database.

Yes, the people who have access to this stuff are likely big shots who have been vetted somehow. But never forget the NASA Astronaut that drove from Houston to Orlando wearing a diaper.

Even people with The Right Stuff can misplace it and spend days sitting in The Wrong Stuff.