I don’t hate Facebook, I just think it is flawed… no we are flawed

I’m guilty of bashing Facebook. My sister has brought this to my attention. Okay, good point and readers of this blog and my other online venues deserve an explanation.

Actually it is not the technology that is flawed. Like many other things in life it is human behavior. The ability to write something about someone and post it to millions of folks is almost magical. Sadly if it is a negative comment, the author is insulated from looking into the eyes of the subject of the posting.

Text has little context, it is very easy to hurt folks feelings. I went on a Facebook diet after reading a series of disturbing postings. I care about my family and friends and it is very distressing to read them bashing each other.

Is this the fault of Facebook? Of course not, but they have flaws in their user interface. I have no idea what the difference is between posting on my Wall and posting to “friends”. I don’t like that I can’t really edit a previous post. The privacy settings are a mess. The joke is that they had a Initial Public Offering because they couldn’t figure out their own privacy settings.

Terry Gross on NPR’s show Fresh Air  had a show called Keeping Your Kids Safe Online which featured the author of Talking Back to Facebook. I strongly recommend that parents and educators give it a listen.

Do I use Facebook? Of course, evidence is the FACEBOOK Family page and New Ipswich page that I created. I did this because I like to facilitate connections and I understand the technology. These pages were created for the Facebook community since the majority of users are here. However the quality assurance part of me realizes how badly Facebook has been slapped together, so that is my reason to push the Google alternative.

Both entities are mining our personal information for profit. If is is “free” we are the product, but at least Google is more elegant with their data mining.

For me a big part of sharing is the large catalog of family photos in my possession. I spend hours adding keywords, geographic data, labels, captions and more to these photos. Facebook tosses all that aside and uses a proprietary database. They even throw away time stamps and rename the files. For me that is a complete FAIL.  Also once uploaded to their database, I am prevented to block downloading and re-sharing .

I have many photos of living children. I want to share the photos but I want to be assured that I know exactly who the audience will be. That audience is usually my immediate family and closest friends.

We are social animal, this is a fact but what do you make of seeing a couple at a restaurant, each staring at a little screen instead of looking at each other? Does that disturb you? It is worthy of contemplation.

My choice of flawed social networking remain Google+ find me there.

Word Clouds and Ripples

Have you ever seen a word cloud?

This is one I created for the blog blog.poltrack.net. They are created by linking the frequency of words in a document to the font size, boldness and sometimes color of the words. Obviously SNOW has been a prominent noun in my blog.

You can create your your own from the website wordle.net.

You can create one from pasted text, or any website that has a RSS feed  (try musings.poltrack.net).

I recommend you read the FAQ on this website, it’s very entertaining especially the question about the “Sexsmith” font.

This cloud tells a bit about my use of words, but has no information about their importance to my readers. I get a vague idea if I get a comment or a +1 check mark, some analytic data about page hits and time on page but it is a hit or miss exercise.

Google+  recently added a new feature called Ripples showing how public posts are shared (on Google+). Presumably if your post  is interesting and compelling it will be re-shared.  For example the Dalai Lama:

Hi, it’s John Poltrack for {insert product here}

How would you like to have your Facebook profile photos used to advertise a product to your friends? Isn’t that a fun way to sell products? You probably didn’t realize that you agreed to this chicanery, but you did (yes you did!). You can un-agree to this by going to your profile and ….

Settings -> Privacy -> News Feed and Wall -> Facebook Ads –> (Appearance in Facebook Ads) and click “no one.”


Will they use your photo? Read this posting on Download Squad.

Greetings ETI, how are you doing?

I was listening to the podcast of “Go Ask your Father” on This American Life which featured a story about Allen Tough told by his son.  Professor Tough’s life’s work has be the search for contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. In the podcast his son recalls how his father would listen repeatedly to the Pink Floyd album “Dark Side of the Moon”. I suppose this choice of music might prove inspirational. Personally I thought the whole “Hearts of Space” catalog would have been a better choice.

Previous contact attempts were made using  radio transmissions and the gold anodized plaques placed on the Pioneer spacecrafts. But let’s face it, everyone must know by now that the real communication medium is the internet. The aliens are probably not only reading blogs but uploading cat videos to YouTube.

If you are an alien or know one, you may sign into the site. The URL is http://www.ieti.org/. Give a listen to the SETI song on that site.


You have been been “tagged”… lucky you!


Isn’t this annoying? You get an email from someone you know suggesting that they have sent you some pictures. If you don’t respond the site suggests that your friend may have their feelings hurt as indicated by the sad face emoticon 😦

If you spend the time to read the “terms of agreement” you will quickly discover that you are signing up for email from “commercial sites”. Isn’t that wonderful?

Think how happy the folks in your address book will be after they are “tagged”. Here is the “fine print” that none of us bother to read when we sign up for things like this:

E) Notice Regarding Commercial Email


Organize those tweets!

Warning! I’m going to be a little geeky here, so you may be excused if you are not interested.

I found myself overwhelmed by the number of “tweets” that appear from folks (and news sources) that I am “following”. The Twitter window is filled with “tweets” rolling in, many are just URL’s to articles from their syndication.

I was looking for a way to filter the tweets from family and friends which frankly is of more interest to me than the daily barrage of bad economic news and impending nuclear doom in Pakistan.

I was pretty happy with a free product called TweetDeck which allows one to create filters and groups based on search criteria, but it does not seem to archive the old “tweets”.

I’ve settled on a free product called “OutTwit” which integrates Twitter and Microsoft Outlook (Microsoft’s full mail program). I was able to create an advanced search criteria for family tweeters based on their user names:


The advanced search command is from: followed by the user name. After creating this filter I was able to collect the relevant tweets into a single folder under outlook. I chose the name Tweets – Family


As you can see I also have a Tweets – Friends folder. This program will only work with Outlook not Outlook Express

Facebook Manners

As an avid user of social networking sites, I thought I would share this video:

Say it with less than 140 characters

I’ll admit that I’m intrigued with twitter. It might be a childlike fantasy that we can have super powers and read other peoples thoughts. Apparently people are only too willing to post their thoughts online as long as the thoughts are less than 140 characters. As a result I no longer have that fantasy. Most messages demonstrate that the majority of us live very mundane lives. I find this vaguely reassuring, being ordinary.
One bright spot in this world of under 140 characters is the opportunity to write Haiku and Poems (at least short poems). It’s quite satisfying to conceive an idea and as you type it, watch a character counter tick to zero. It changes color just as it passes 10. Hit return and your pithy observation is born to the world (or as it is known the twitterverse). One person observed that many of the Haiku are written about cats. If you have a cat I don’t need to explain this.
I don’t see many poems or novels coming through, but it is just a matter of time. Haiku is big on twitter , really big. I have provided a link to a running feed of twitter haiku traffic (look in right column beneath the chickadee photo, scroll down).
In school we were always asked to write a 3 page essay or a 1000 word book report. Isn’t it great to be constrained to less than 140 characters?

Twitter, Skype, TweetDeck Oh My!

Let’s face it, we don’t build stuff anymore. Our economy is in free fall but we are really only good at finding ways to be distracted. I’m as open to distractions as anyone else so I’m onboard with all the micro-blogging tools (as well as traditional blogs and forums).

I tweet, blog, set facebook status, chat, GTalk, Communicate with Communicator, but I no longer Jabber.

I’m LinkdIn, connected to my Facebook friends, EONS bound, but no Classmates for me… they ask for $$

So how does one deal with all this? Obviously you need a social aggregator program. I’m using Digsby.

The CEO of Twitter was on CSpan last night. He did not inspire awe. The audience looked comatose. I bet they were twittering each other. He mentioned that Twitter has a good search function but it is difficult to find. Can’t search for the search, amusing isn’t it?

So what does a techno-geek do? Add more software of course. I now have TweetDeck running besides Digsby and Skype. Tweetdeck has search, TwitPic and TwitScoop. Of course the big news today is the Oscars. Can you guess what the twitterers are tweeping about?

Take a look: