March 12, 2010

iPhone, FriendFeed discover my security leaks

Just when I think I've plugged all the security leaks and repaired all the walls, a simple maneuver reveals just how much I don't know about the computer or Internet.

I need my own IT department. Really.

I'm just a week into the month-old Google Buzz. I thought I'd set things up so limited information about me was available until I completely recover from a hack and stolen, or perhaps I should say borrowed, accounts.

My profile, including contact information, looked great (limited) on the laptop's FireFox, Safari and Internet Explorer. What a surprise when I unexpectedly look at my profile through the iPhone Google application. There, for the whole world to see, was my home address, multiple email addresses, and some notes foolishly stored in a Gmail Contacts form.

I shouldn't be surprised - my iPhone/Facebook application continues to let me do things I can't on the web interface. Sometimes, that's a good thing.

Facebook privacy control an inside job

Not quite as disturbing, but interesting, was learning that choosing the audience for an item on Facebook only works on Facebook. That means items that I customized on Facebook for family-only or for game-players only are making their way to my FriendFeed account. I don't think I broke the rule of say only what you're willing to see on the front page of a newspaper. But I'm sure a few folks were surprised by what thye read on FriendFeed where I tend to stick to technology, journalism, health care and not family, farming or Facebook tricks.

March 11, 2010

Google Play easy to dismiss

Two quick reasons why I expect to keep resisting Play, a new tool form Google:
  • Information overload.
  • I'm a word guy person.
Play, just introduced on the Official Google Reader Blog,  and popping up when you log into Reader, is a graphic representation - think slide show - of the blogs and pages you subscribe too. Plus, if you signal you like a post, Play will come up with suggestions for you. Here's what the company said:
"It's designed to be a fun and easy way to browse interesting items, while Reader is a highly customizable way to organize your feeds, keep track of what you've read, and much more."

Information scarcity - Not!

I find it ironic that this suggestion capability, which Reader already did on a smaller scale, comes into play when I'm actively reducing the number of subscriptions. I don't seem to have a problem with finding things to add even though I rarely even check over on Toluu to see what feeds those I respect have added.

I especially don't need Play suggesting that I add feeds I've dropped.

Google Reader kept suggesting over and over (way too many times) that I try Play so I did. Perhaps it is my word orientation, but the slideshow presentation took too long.

I'm a skimmer and want the headlines, not pretty pictures. The picture view wasn't even compelling enough for the crafts, quilts or bead categories. 

And I don't want to have to figure out what the pretty little icons mean. I get the star, might get the square smiley face for like, but not the share one or the first four. (Seriously, a TV  means start the slide show? That's not where I watch slide shows.)

And the menu presented? Where did that come from? What's wrong with my categories - web, crafts, journalism, news, non-profits and the 'net, etc.?

I just want to cruise through my feeds. I want to comment easily when I share. 

Need to improve

Google Reader could give me three things:
  • Once is enough, with comments please
  • Easy way to see comments, likes on what I share
  • Ability to choose how long to keep by feed or category

Google could improve my Reader experience by knowing reading a post once is enough. I'd love it if once I read a post I didn't see it again even if all of the folks I'm following like the post enough to click on the share button.

That one time experience would be richer if the comments collected on other shares would bound together with the post. Probably a nice thing for the post author too.

I want to know

Sometimes, I do feel like I'm in a rowboat on the ocean. Even though I keep seeing the number of people subscribing to my shares going up, I wonder if anyone likes my shares, my thoughts, my likes?

I'd love to see what happens after I'm done sharing. (It'd be nice to know too if someone comments on what I write in this blog.)

I want control

Last, but not least, other priorities get in the way of reading my feeds. Take yesterday when the new refrigerator was to be delivered. Twice, I emptied the old one in anticipation of delivery any moment. Twice, a phone call canceled  the delivery, which means it all went back in.

I wish I could tell Google Reader to never, ever, let feeds from some people pass through unread, some can disappear after 24 hours and the rest, well, let me decide.

And speaking of control, please, could I stop seeing the plea to play already. :)

March 10, 2010

Pinches, pants trick help separate dreams from reality

Sometimes, I pinch myself to make sure I'm awake and not dreaming. Or I walk to a mirror to make sure it's me staring back. Or I check carefully to make sure I'm in my web accounts.

It's not a new sensation. I mean really how many people get to be in Willie Nelson's house, or get to tell  William Holden why a scene in Network movie is unbelievable or share a cup of coffee with Garrison Keillor?

I get that not everyone talks regularly with authors or finds their suggestions/thoughts and names in books. I understand that not all get joy from standing on a stage before thousands or arranging the event that brought people together. I know some find no thrill in watching the plants that grow from an idea seed carefully planted, pruned and watered.

Recognize validation

I savor successes. It validates my ideas when I learn that someone I respect has chosen to subscribe to my blog, Google Buzz or FriendFeed. I can't help but smile when someone tells me I'm like sunshine even after I've missed a deadline. Or picks out a piece of my writing to launch their own thinking.

I seek signs that will lead to more success. Sometimes, the perfect message pops into your inbox. Today, it was Chris Brogan's newsletter that was titled "I Don't Fit In - Do You?" He not only perfectly describes how I feel, he shares what he did/does with that concept to make a life script that works for him. The timing of the message is unbelievable perfect.

Recognize signs

Brogan answers my thank you (a bonus) and when I go look for the web address so you can sign up for his newsletter I stumble across "My Love for Blogging." That's the post I needed today as I work my way through some changes.

Just yesterday at a lunch with some former co-workers, I realized what I don't want to blog about anymore - Advance Publications. That's sad because it is something I know. That's sad because I think I'm the only one that was watching all of them and that's how I discovered the trends. That's sad because that's the only reason some of you come here.

Don't be sad

In fact, sadness is the very reason I don't want to blog about it anymore. Despite the optimism of the three Michigan newspapers adding a Tuesday newsstand-only edition to its three-day lineup, the long-term outlook is horrible. I find it hard to go to funerals and I don't want to cover any more either.

Yes, I hope that somehow Advance will find a vision that works and that it can execute - I'd like to keep getting that pension I earned with way too many 60 hour work weeks. Yes, I'm thrilled everytime I see an idea recycled and improved. Yes, I think the news business is vital to communities.

Recognize limits

But, like you, I only get 24 hours a day.

Whether I'm overflowing with self-confidence or drowning in pity, I know my Advance days are behind me. My eyes sparkle when I'm exploring other subjects. So, I'm moving on.

The best part? I'm moving on because I carry within me lines from my grandfather who wanted me to succeed even when others did not. The same man who coached me to believe "trust  no one, not even your own mother" also tattooed into my brain that every person puts their pants on one leg at a time, making them no better or worse then you and always making them approachable.

Still, sometimes I pinch myself to make sure I'm not imagining the conversations and encouragement. Sometimes, I visualize that person putting their pants on. Sometimes, I just say thanks.

March 9, 2010

Rudeness, 'too good for me' don't belong on Internet

My latest trip to the rant box began with a post I mostly agree with -  For Many Families, Facebook is the Real World Web.

Indeed, if I had to limit myself today to just one Internet tool/service Facebook would be my choice.

Fortunately, I don't have to choose just one service because I make time to try other services and tools. I like testing the new products, talking about the new ideas, and figuring out how to use it to do the most good. I'm an information junkie, an early adopter, and, in the eyes of some, a techie or geek of long standing.

That eagerness makes me different from the majority. And, like in the physical world, I feel a need to respect differences and not make everyone be me.

Feeling left out

If most of the family are meat-eaters, how polite is it to force every gathering to be held at the best vegetarian places? And, if I give in and go to their restaurant of choice is it OK for me to roll my eyes and tsk, tsk when they order the 16 ounces of red meat?

When I read Louis Gray's post on families on Facebook, I felt like a meat eater at the world's best vegetarian restaurant. I needed to stop using Facebook, the utility service with lots of good but no best tools, and start using the superior tools like FriendFeed, Twitter, SmugMug, etc. In other words, force feed me the tofu.
"I may prefer Google Buzz and FriendFeed and Twitter and SmugMug and all these other best-of-breed sites for their specific use cases, but thus far, I haven't been able to convert the family to converge with me there."
I don't get that urge to move folks who are comfortable with an all-you-can-eat place over to the sushi bar. That means I don't get why he or anyone else would want to move a family who is using one tool to do more communicating then ever before to a suite of tools.  I think it's rude to want family to give up what they like for something shinier.

But there's a clue in this piece of his post:
"But even more than the raw numbers, the impact Facebook has, from sharing, to members' gestures, to the act of friending and unfriending, cannot be overstated. For while many of us digerati get all atwitter about newer, shinier objects, the mainstream Web has made Facebook their central gathering place to talk with casual friends, family members, and even talk business. Now, activities online affect those offline, and offline events directly impact a response on Facebook."
(Check his post out for some good examples of how his family uses Facebook.)

The new divide

Like I said, I agree with most of what he wrote so I posted at the blog site:

"You've captured the new divide so well. Early adopters, techie people may prefer the new shiny stuff. They may like specific tools for specific tasks. But most people want one-size, one tool for all. They feel safe on Facebook and they can ramp up fast.

Just tonight I watched how fast a series of "Notes" spread. They started as blog posts, but I learned how many people were more comfortable with Notes then with blogs. They also liked the ease of sharing with their own unique audiences. Trust me - more people read the notes I shared then I'll get through Google Reader.

I find that organizations and businesses also are finding it easier, quicker, better to be on Facebook then on the web or out Twittering or even Yahooing. The statistics and feedback are easy to understand and quick to get. The pages remind me of the days of GeoCities and other templated sites. Fill in the blanks and go.

Heck, I even have a new appreciation for the community that can grow around the social media games and applications. I started playing and using them so I could write about them.
But the community aspect is powerful. When I was silenced for a few days on Facebook, I was surprised at how many people missed my comments, statuses and even my FarmVille updates (Hey, they give you a category and box to write in.).

There are some amazing things happening in the Facebook ghetto - or is it the non-Facebook interfaces that are the ghettos and silos?"


Silence surprises

Later, I was surprised again. Despite comments being posted, there was no sign that the blog author was reading them. But if you allow comments at your blog, do you have an obligation to acknowledge them? How quickly?

I'm still uncomfortable with what I did, but I started replying to the comments because I believe if you know something you should share it. And I don't see Facebook as evil (challenging, yes.)

Yak, yak, yak

I also jumped into the conversation on Google Buzz, where again the attitude of superiority because of skills comes through over and over. My blood pressure went up when Gray replied almost instantly to a commenter:
Tyler Romeo - When I read this post, I came to a sort of depressing reality. I agree that Facebook is essentially taking over the world, even when there are better services for the specific features it offers... "

And the reply from Louis Gray - Yup. It is depressing, isn't it! :(.
Excuse me, but for all its faults, Facebook has a lot of pluses. And it is simple and sometimes simple is good. Plus, here's what got me to take a closer look at Facebook and start offering intro classes - people are using Facebook instead of email, voice mail and old-fashioned post office mail.

(By the way, I'm glad I stuck with the Buzz conversation because I think it expanded what needed to be said.)

I was rude 


Meanwhile, a post I started on the topic was prematurely published and I sent an apology to Gray for the crude attack (hey, it is hard for me to criticize in public. When I do, I like to make sure it is a fair piece.)

But before the email exchanged ended, I told him I thought he was being a snob and wondered about his family's reaction. It sounds like his family isn't annoyed by his stance that superior services are available. But as he admits, most of his family probably hasn't read the post. (I'll argue that most of his family finds his Facebook stream overwhelming and skip most of it. Maybe I'll use that idea for another post someday).

Consider audience

That statement was a stark reminder to remember his audience - early adapters or people keenly interested in technology. For them, the blog post is right on, another opportunity to wish more would see the errors of their ways and jump on the next shiny thing.

And that led to more questions for me and why so many posts remain scattered across the Internet or unpublished in this blo:
  • Who am I to tell someone how to use the Internet or any of its tools?
  • Do I know the whole story?
Perhaps Gray is acknowledging the comments off site or in another way? Maybe he is time-starved with other obligations (Indeed, I sat on this post long enough that he is talking over on the blog now.)
  • Who told me that my way - educating and helping people to use the tool of choice, in this case, Facebook, more efficiently and security - is right?
     Perhaps it is better to have people seeking the next best thing, something stronger and more secure then Facebook.
  • Why do I think those with knowledge are obligated to use that to improve what they can?
       See that last perhaps. Besides, Facebook is too old for those with influence to pressure the company into creating a better product.

     And, if I publish this post, have I now taken on the mantle of rudeness and superiority?

March 8, 2010

Sometimes, we cannot even choose our friends

Some people are sunshine just by showing up. Some create warmth by leaving.

Everyone who stops on your path contributes to the person called you. But you get to decide how to use the gifts.

That thought was inspired by a field of sunflowers that popped up in FarmVille and the struggles of friendship, especially online friends.

Online friends are great, but sometimes they lose out. Those online friends know only what we put out there. They miss the grimaces of pain that might cloud our judgment. They get only the starkness of words. They see just a glimpse of me.

There is no casual bumping into each other. There is no way for intervention by caring friends. There are no shared events, no run-in-to reach-other at the grocery store or a neighborhood event.

A block is better then the personal protection order at maintaining separation.

You are left with arranging the flowers, the gifts, left behind.

March 7, 2010

Celebrate: Daughter is cancer free


It took 14 months, but finally enough hair to style.
The odometer on my car gives a clue to the pace of the past five days - 935 more miles were added picking her up at the airport, escorting (sort of) her to the medical appointments and dropping her back off at the airport.

The good news is there is no sign that that cancer has returned and the just-turned 26-year-old needs no more chemo. She was even able to get the port out.

There's Tamoxifen and checkups every three months, but mostly this battle against breast cancer is over. Fighters do survive Stage IV, stupid doctors and the odds. (Need background? Check these links.)

Chasing away debt

We've also finished paying off two of the three big debts incurred while she was on her employer's insurance. (She'd been better off without any as then the government, or a charity, even some of the doctors and hospitals would have helped). We hold our breath that those who forgave debts continue to do so and we can continue to pay toward the debt that is bigger then what many make in a year.

Still, it is disheartening to learn that the thousands of miles driven in 2009 and the medical bills do not lead to any tax breaks for her or us. Equally daunting is the new costs of insurance, new medications and new treatments such as physical therapy and counseling. Do not get me started on the Obama health plan.

I remain grateful for second chances, happy that a buyout that ended my career gave me a second chance at attempting to be a good mother and provided a cash cushion. That the cash lasted just long enough helps me believe that God does provide what we need just in time.

Replacing cancer

She's doing better with the end then me, seeing the incompatibility of a lifetime of joy with her companion of the past eight years and learning to separate. She's found classes to take, new people to hang with and is exploring her newly adopted community. She is moving onto new ventures, including a ride-along at the Bristol Speedway, whitewater rafting and skydiving.

Those ventures remind me of how things like hot-air ballooning, road trips and festival-hopping were the norm for me, pre-kid days, pre-multiple sclerosis days and pre-buyout days. But that's another post(s) as I try to figure out just what it is that a people-pleaser with a mishmash of skills is supposed to do next.

Deja vu, all over again

On a more personal level, she's been re-establishing her independence. Even though the books and counselor told me that it would happen, even knowing it in my mind, does not make it easier.

I want to barge into the offices where doctors deliver their statements. I want to be asked what would I do when her work calls once more time. I want her to eat, even like, the meals I fix, praise the redecorated room and rejoice that I've made new friends.

It cuts to the bone when she critiques my driving, saying what a waste it would be to die in a car crash after surviving cancer. And, oh my goodness, she has learned way too well how to send my "angry" face, my "are you kidding" face and others to me.

A planned celebration of a salon visit goes badly when I'm banished to the waiting room and later told to shut up when I make a suggestion.  Of course, later I'm told I heard that wrong and I'm too sensitive.

Keep eye on end

For 10 months, we were together constantly with me living with her or her moving in with my husband and I. For the next five months, we were in contact multiple times each day. But that contact has slowed and this last visit home was hard.

I have become the stupid mother of a teenager once again. I remind myself that this stretch for independence is good. That this, too, shall pass.

But mostly, I remind myself that this kid I wasn't supposed to have, that this woman who fought the battle of a lifetime and won, that this amazing person with a quirky sense of humor and a big heart, loves me.

I've written about my daughter's battle with cancer before - hey, it helped keep me sane. Check out the background and list. Or try these: