Project: Evolution in Action

Project: Evolution in Action | RocketHub

ScienceFund is like Kickstarter for Science! Pitch in money to help researchers collect and analysis data like this important work on analysing the spread of bacteria.

Choosing sides in the Social Network War

I just wanted to chime in on the current huzzbabuzz about the new social network on the block, Google+.
Access to the network is filtering out slowly from the social circle of Google employees, so at the moment G+ has fairly nerdy content. There is also a lot of excitement amongst these early adopters and some people are saying they will delete their Facebook accounts and never go back because G+ is so much better. I agree it’s better but I’d like to argue for a cool down period before people start drawing lines in the sand and pressuring others to switch.

I think you should think of social networks as if they were cities.
There are a lot of these cities and towns right now all with very different cultures and populations:

  • LinkedInPark
  • Gplussopolis
  • FacebookCity
  • Tumblrtown
  • Stumblessauga
  • QuoraCommune
  • MySpaceVille
  • Yahooburgh

Many people ‘live’ in multiple cities and this is as it should be since they all offer quite different experiences. The thing with G+ is that it is more general than most of these services and in particular it seems that the goal is that very soon more  features will be added so that G+ will completely subsume the features of Facebook and Twitter. So, you know, it is war in fact.

But keep in mind it is war between the companies running these services, the populations don’t need to get involved.

We probably all have a home city, a social network we live in more than others. For most people that’s Facebook. It’s like the suburban heartland megacity of social networks. Its pretty much where everyone is, its good, could be better, it’s full of drive-thrus fast food, highways and casinos; but it’s hard to change things now because its so damn big.

For other people their home is Twitter.
Twitter is so cool you don’t even need to talk, you just exchange compact, knowing glances and handshakes. Its Seattle, Montreal or the Village; it doesn’t need you and your paragraph length diatribes.
But now we have G+. It’s cool, technically savvy, fast and connects everything. It’s San Francisco and all the nerds are moving over and proclaiming in their old haunts how much better everything would be if all your pleebs just switched over too.

Just because you move to a new city and like it better doesn’t mean you abandon the old one entirely.  You still know alot of people in the old place, people you care about, one would assume. Hassling those people to come live in your fancy new city, even saying you’re just not going to call or visit the old place because it so out of date, well, that’s kind of rude.  You wouldn’t threaten to cut all contact with people just because they refuse to move to another city in the real world, so why do it in the virtual world? (I know its not exactly the same, since you probably will still email or meet these people in real life, but there is a personal tone developing to the community you use which seems unnecessary)

Some people just don’t like moving and may never move. When it comes down to it, these social network cities are about the people in them, not the technology we are using. So I’m still in FacebookCity and I’m going to stay,  or at least keep visiting, as long as I have lots of friends there, which will be for a long time I expet.

But lets just say I’m not buying a new house there anytime soon and I’m spending a lot of time visiting the shiny new metropolis. So if you want to stop by, I’ll show you around.

You Can Tweet Us on Twitter, Where the Heck Else Could I Tweet You?

I’ve got a nagging pet peeve about how the media are explaining all the  new ways of communicating with them. I’ve heard CBC and CTV doing this but I’m sure everyone does.  Maybe this happens with all new forms of communication but its time to recognize the pattern and learn from it.

It is completely redundant to say “You can tweet us on Twitter at  …”.  Well that’s nice, exactly where else could I tweet you?  Either people know what Twitter is and can tweet you, or they don’t know what Twitter is and now you’re just confusing them.  Depending on which of these people you care about more you should say one of the following:

  • “You can tweet us at …”
  • OR “You can contact us via Twitter at …”

You see? This isn’t confusing or redundant and the second one has the advantage of letting people know that Twitter is a communication system rather than a “tweeting system”, whatever the hell that is.

Think about how silly this redundancy is in terms of other communication media, it’s exactly like saying:

  • “You can email us using you email program at …”
  • “You can call us with a telephone at …”
  • “You can write us a letter and mail it to us through the postal system (or a private courier is you desire) at this address…”
  • “I spoke to Bob Smith today in our Toronto studio via modulated air vibrations.”

There are words like speak, write, call, email, tweet that tell us what the communication medium is.  If you are worried that not that many people know how to use said medium you can just say “You can also contact through UnfathomableNewTechnology at ….”.

Is that clear? Or do I need to come down and tell you in person via translating my body to your location in physical space?

Google Takes a Step to Reclaiming “Do No Evil” Status

Sometimes you think the world can never chance, companies and governments won’t ever really improve or open themselves to scrutiny, they’ll never backtrack because in the end all they care about are money and power.  Well, maybe that’s true.  And maybe, Google’s famous desire to “Do No Evil” is naive, pie-in-the-sky silliness.  But today, Google did something good.  They released a new feature, called Government Requests, that lists requests from national governments to either see Google’s user data or to take down items from their search results.  Some of these requests could be for really good reasons, like removing child pornography or catching criminals under court order.  But google doesn’t comply with all the requests, and they tell you how much they do for each country.

So the stats are bound to prove interesting for citizens in lobbying their governments to be more open.

Check it out, then go ask your government to be open about what the requests were for:

How not to get people to pay for news

 He’s going for it, Murdoch has announced that Times Online will begin to charge, get this, $1.50 a DAY for access to their online news!

Oh ya, that’s gonna work out great. I am not against papers trying to implement incremental charges to fund their journalism costs. Nothing comes for free and advertising is not free. But any pay for access system needs to account for how people actually use the internet and how much a single read is worth.

I find articles by searching, linking from aggregator blogs or following links on twitter. So I’m not going to log into a particular newsite, pay $1.50 and then read a whole bunch of articles that day. I might read one article from your site, if its comes to the top in my google news search, or a big blog links to it. But if it asks me to pay I just go back and read an article about the same event from the Guardian or the New York Times. Now maybe they’ll all make me pay, you say. Well, they won’t, if just a few are free they’ll get a lot more readers and their advertising will become profitable. (more…)

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