Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s complicated: Why we need a new etiquette for handling what’s private and what’s public

Very timely and thorough look at the online private/public debate!


The private vs. public divide used to be relatively straightforward: things remained private unless you disclosed them to someone, either deliberately or accidentally — but even in the case of accidental disclosure, there was no way for your information to reach the entire planet unless it appeared on the evening news. Now, a tweet or a photo or a status update could suddenly appear on a news website, or be retweeted thousands of times, or be used as evidence of some pernicious social phenomenon you may never even have heard of before.

But you posted those things, so they must be public, right? And because they are public, any use of them is permitted, right?

A universe filled with nuance and slippery ethical slopes is contained in those questions. And while many of us have gotten used to the back-and-forth with Facebook (s fb) over what is private and…

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Where do we go from here?

Well, the next few months are going to be really interesting. The experiences I’ve had with social media and with this blog have started to help me outline how I might go about seeking opportunities to interact during my year in Australia.

I had intended to use social media to reach out and get to know people. However, it wasn’t going to be my main focus. I’ve learned that a healthy social media profile is only part of the equation. I will also need to carry out some on-the-ground work to head out and meet people face-to-face, which was also part of the original plan but now carries much more weight, since an online presence is not enough on its own. The social media aspect just begins and solidifies the in-person relationships I will be building. So, really, it’s social capital building that I’m going to be engaging in and it should be the strength of my weak ties that moves this forward.

Shaking Hands by Nicola Corby (flickr cc)

Shaking Hands by Nicola Corby (flickr cc)

So, here is where I start. I’ve begun to research and connect with individuals and businesses in the Adelaide area on Twitter. Complimenting that, I’ve also been researching organizations through their websites and other social media presences. I will probably remain focused on Twitter and LinkedIn in order to lend some credence to my professional skills, abilities and experiences. The blog will further reinforce my intentions in order to offset any concern there may be that I’m “selling” and improve my chances of being considered in earnest. If I am successful, this should increase the sense of safety for those I’m engaging with and hopefully result in affiliation.

In addition to my professional work, I’ve also started a personal blog to share more personal experiences that aren’t necessarily work-related. Another important skill that I’m learning to manage is maintaining multiple streams of information – in this case work and personal. I know that I’m far from mastering what goes where, but a healthy respect for the differences is important. Equally important is knowing where they can overlap. Maintaining both blogs has been a real challenge. I think that we have always maintained separate streams of communication in our lives, but having all of this information online in common formats has meant that we have had to decide what to put where and keep in mind that it is much more difficult to separate the two than it is in real life, where distance can be a contributing factor.

Now I just need to articulate what I can bring to the conversation, not just the technical details of how I will do it. What do you think? What’s missing from my plan? Do you think that this is going to be a helpful way to mange my own profile and connect with others?

88 Keys to a Fluid Internet

Warning: Broad and unrefined speculation follows.

This week I tweeted:

This was an indirect reaction to a blog post by Maureen Crawford (Press Pause, Let Go, Let Flow), including her tweet stating “Internet is liquid not solid”.  Musings on several other posts by MACT cohort colleagues Kelly Spencer (The Power of Flow in a Network) and Rohit Sandhu (Globalization through the lens of networks) kept these thoughts tumbling over the last 24 hours. What I’ve been mulling over is how fragmented I’ve felt my time spent online has been over the past few months.

This past month, my nightly routine has been:

  • Open Tweetdeck and see what’s going on
  • Check email on my phone or tablet
  • Check online new sources
  • Check blog sources
  • Check facebook
  • Check course outlines
  • Prepare blog post
  • Prepare wiki posts
  • Check LinkedIn
  • Find a new Social media site and see if it’s useful, or offers anything new
  • And several other steps I won’t bore you with

Yes, push notifications on my tablet and phone automate this process somewhat. Yes, news aggrigators mean that I can check multiple media sites at a glance. Yes, I’ve come up with a system to manage links. However, it still feels very static, despite the comfort level that I have begun to feel. Then I realized what was wrong: I’ve been pressing the keys but I’m not making music.

007/365 - Keys

I’m not yet at the point where there is melody in what I’m doing online. I’m pressing each individual social key but only occasionally is there relation to what I’m composing. I’m not sure if this is just me or if it is a technical fact of an instrument that is still in the early stages of development.

Then @dianambrown challenged me to develop the idea further:

Here is my response to date (requiring much more thought), continuing the musical metaphor, in three steps (and purely speculative):

  1. In order to continue developing the skills necessary to one day reach the potential of cross-internet mastery, we need more practice and the ability to personally tune our instruments. I think that practice is coming in droves, considering the amount of time that we’re spending attached to our devices. This tuning process is taking a bit longer, although it is catching on with coding being introduced in some classrooms, especially in the UK.
  2. As we are developing our skills, we will also continue to develop new systems to fill in the gaps in our communication ability. The number of apps launched each day is staggering. Filling in the holes in our networked lives has become big business and the only way to get a foot in the door in a saturated app market is to find something nobody else is doing.
  3. Of course, the last step is the hardest to describe. In my tweet back to @dianambrown I called it “personally relevant design.” What I meant by this is really being able to plan, select, modify, and launch our own set of features, using the skills and theory developed in practice, across the platforms selected to further our own means. This is the process akin to playing each note in a song and having the result be music, rather than just a series of tones. This is where online communication might begin to feel individual rather than an appropriation of someone else’s ideas.

At that point, if we ever reach it, our submissions to each other would reach a new level of meaning (hopefully understanding). Of course, at this speculative level, it sounds very utopian, and is meant to be so. Some of this may tie into discussions about the semantic web and, taken to its extreme, human-machine collaboration not dissimilar to conversations about technological singularity.

In any case, our ability to manipulate our experiences online, in order to achieve a more personal communication style, has already begun and has certainly come a long way, even in the last decade. Learning about and experiencing online communication in the last month has granted brief flashes of insight. At some point, I hope that they can coalesce into a coherent whole.

Who do you know?

The Usual Suspects (Images: IMDB)

An interesting thought occurred to me while reading Charles Kadushin’s Understanding Social Networks today. Engaged in a discussion on one aspect of network theory, he references a study by Killworth and Bernard in which they planned a survey intending to finding out how many people their subjects know. “‘Know’ is defined as having had contact within the last two years” (Kadushin, 2012, p. 110). My immediate reaction was that this was a very vague way to trying to determine whether or not you know someone.

Leaving aside the esoteric question of whether or not you can ever actually “know” someone. I thought it might be interesting to try to determine how I would come to an understanding of how many people I know.

I started simple. I figure that I know (or ought to know) my family. Luckily for me, my family isn’t too big. There’s my immediate family, my aunts, uncles and cousins, and those who have married into the family, as well as their extended family, whom I have met and would probably be able to pick me out of a police line-up.

After that, it got a whole lot harder. Here’s my short-list of groups:

  • Close family friends
  • Neighbours and community members
  • Work (colleagues, clients, suppliers)
  • School (colleagues, professors and administrators)
  • Social (sports teams, social clubs)
  • Online (social meida, blogs)

Then I started to realize that there may be people who I would still consider a contact but I haven’t connected with in a long time. A great example are some friends I recently got in touch with from Australia. These are guys that I went to high-school with back in 1993-94 who I last spoke with in 2000 and who, through the wonders of Facebook, I wrote to last month and, despite the length of time we haven’t communicated, were happy to hear from me (or so they say) and would like to get together with to catch up when I’m down there. Although they wouldn’t fit the Killworth and Bernard criteria, I would still count these as people that I know.

Finally, I thought, what about people that I know who don’t know me? I can think of several examples, specifically from my work life, of people (let’s say speakers at conferences), who I have had dealings with and who I would consider that I know, but they may not say the same about me. Maybe they would recognize my name, or my face. However, taken out of context they wouldn’t be able to put the two together. Would that still be considered someone I “know?” This type of “knowing” someone is further illustrated through social networks like twitter, where you follow someone and get to know them (in a certain way) through their outgoing communication, but who may not follow you back.

It’s certainly a daunting task to determine who you know. I can appreciate the challenge that Killworth and Bertnard had to deal with in order to determine the parameters of their study.  Through this process, I have determined that there is no way that I could actually come up with a specific number of people that I know. This is for two reasons: 1) because the criteria for determining who I know is impossible to determine and 2) because I’m limited by my memory. I’m sure that even when thinking about my family, I’ve left out certain people who I would definitely say that I know, but I won’t remember that until I see them or hear from them next.

Offline sources:

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks : Theories, concepts, and findings. New York: Oxford University Press

Network Activism

Yesterday’s “The Day We Fight Back” was, some say, underwhelming. Although nearly 250,000 signatures on is significant, it does not seem to be eliciting the same type of response that we have seen with other online campaigns. Most notably, the mass blackout of websites in 2012 in response to SOPA and PIPA .

Wikipedia SOPA (flickr cc Search Influence)

Wikipedia SOPA (flickr cc Search Influence)

Do you remember seeing this image when you went to Wikipedia on January 8, 2012? Did you see anything like this when you went to Wikipedia yesterday? It is hard to match the visceral power of starting at a black page with white lettering telling you that you won’t be able to use the service if these acts are successful. In contrast, a pop-up bar at the bottom of the page you came to see is pretty easy to ignore.

Part of the challenge is in the difference between the threat of something that might happen in the future vs. something that is happening right now that you wouldn’t have noticed had someone not told you about it. In a great article by Lance Ulanoff on entitled We Were Supposed to Fight Back Yesterday? I Didn’t get the Memo, he outlines a several ideas about why this was a “failed” campaign (look harder at that url link: Ulanoff notes the stark contrast in the way that notification was handled, specifically by Wikipedia.

One other point that Ulanoff makes, which is echoed in George Arthur’s article I mentioned yesterday, is the fact “Those who did organize and fight back are the people who have already been doing so.” This made me start to wonder how Charles Kadushin (2012) or Yochai Benkler (2006) would view the situation.

Kadushin might talk about how the groups and individuals acted too much like a clique, in which all parties are more or less connected to each other. The lack of bridging connections (perhaps with mainstream media) may account for why there was not enough coverage or not a great enough understanding of the importance of the event. Benkler might add that there was not enough of a foundation on which the teeming masses could collaborate and build. Arthur and Ulanoff would probably agree with both of them.

The good news is that the perceived “failure” of the campaign is now becoming news! Coverage of the difficulties observed is picking up, which is continuing to raise awareness of the campaign. Perhaps this is a shift in online activism. Perhaps we’ll see a Shai LaBeouf type of “failure on purpose” attempt to gain some attention in the future – perhaps he is a ground-breaking artist.

Offline References:

Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks : How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press.

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks : Theories, concepts, and findings. New York: Oxford University Press

The Day We Fight Back


Today is “The Day We Fight Back” against mass surveillance. There are several ways that you can get involved:

In Canada, visit:

In the US, visit:

The campaign is getting very little in the way of traction in mainstream media. At the time of writing, there is no coverage on any of the major Canadian news sites (CBC, The National Post, The Globe & Mail), nor international sites like CNN or BBC. An great article by George Arthur in the Digital Journal provides a good overview of the issues at hand, but also identifies several reasons why the coverage might be minimal, including a lack of structure or a refined message to help communicate the ideals of the campaign. Despite this issue, over 213,000 signatures have been added to the online petition, and now that the work-day is over, it’s time to increase that number substantially!

Here’s a nifty infographic from

DayWeFightBackCSECpalace_650x500_040214 (1)

Is this blog post good enough?

After watching the following TED talk by Clay Shirky, Institutions vs. Colaboration, his concluding sentence has really stuck with me: “If we can see it in advance and know it’s coming… we might as well get good at it.”

Shirky is talking about what he sees as the transition between the traditional organization of labour inside a company to a more collaborative framework. I don’t dispute his conclusion, but it makes me wonder whether the idea of “getting good” at something is enough in today’s world. I’m sure that it wasn’t Shirky’s intention to suggest that we should only become “good enough,” but taking it slightly out of context in this way raises some interesting questions.

With so much flying at us in today’s connected world, it is difficult to master everything. I’ve found that I’ve had to pick and choose what I want to spend time on in order to “get good enough” at it in order to not feel like I’m making a complete mess of things. Added to this is the public nature of connecting on-line, which adds to the pressure of representing yourself effectively. Gillian Edwards, in her blog post “Are You Handsome Enough to Work Here” outlines how the important perception is, even if it shouldn’t be. Edwards gives the example of a study (Busetta et. al., 2013) in which different pictures were attached to identical resumes in order to find out whether the picture had a positive or negative effect on call-backs (it did). This is just one illustration of the importance of presentation, whether used to positive or negative effect. Extrapolating this resume example into the on-line world, any information that you provide can have a detrimental effect on your chances of success.

Interaction is key when building networks. In Kadushin’s Understanding Social Networks,  he states “Interaction generally leads to positive sentiments; these sentiments in turn lead to further interaction” (p. 75). So we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We must manage our profiles carefully, while still being open to any and all interaction. This leads me back to Shirky’s statement. If we are to present ourselves properly, how “good” is good enough? Also, if your visual presentation is scrutinized more than your content, on what levels must you be “good enough?”

There are differing opinions about when “good enough” is appropriate and when it isn’t. According to Jay Elliott, a former vice-president at Apple, for Steve Jobs, “‘good enough’ is never good enough” (2011). An article on declares that “Sometimes good enough is good enough” (Paley, 2013). Meanwhile Grant Wiggins, writing on Educational Leadership, tries to determine exactly how good is good enough (2014). The ambiguity of the word “good” doesn’t lend itself specifics, so the arguments tends to go around in circles.

I’m sure that there is a very long essay sitting here in front of me. However, I don’t like my chances of trying to determine, once and for all, what “good enough” is in a blog post. Here’s what I’ve taken away from Shirky’s talk, which might point to how we can get over the challenges facing us. The traditional, institutional world, looked at us like a resume. Everything facing the scrutineers was specific and individual. Attach a picture and that seems to have been the sole criteria for inclusion. Now, with our on-line persona, we are considered in light of our connections, under a collaborative lens. Leo Urrutia just wrote a great post called “Go, Network!” in which he outlines how this collaborative model aught to work (I’m not saying that it does, yet). Eventually, we may be considered in light of our contributions to the group. Using the resume example, it will not be a picture of us, individually that will make the difference, it will be the picture of our cohort.


Edwards, G. (February 5, 2014) Are you Handsome Enough to Work Here? Retrieved from:

Elliot, J. (May 2, 2011) Steve Jobs: “Good Enough” is Never Good Enough. Sources of Insight. Retrieved from:

Kadushin, C. (2012). Understanding social networks : Theories, concepts, and findings. New York: Oxford University Press

Paley, E. (September 2013) Sometimes Good Enough is Good Enough. Inc 5000. Retrieved from:

Shirky, C. (2005) Institutions vs. Collaboration Retrieved from:

Urrutia, L. (February 5, 2014) Go, Network! Retrieved from:

Wiggins, G. (December 2013/January 2014) How Good is Good Enough? Educational Leadership. Volume 71, Number 4. Retrieved from: