Social networking media is a hell of my own making

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp!, Grub.it, Brightkite, Gowalla, Loopt, Tumblr, Newsvine, Digg, Del.icio.us, LinkedIn, Spoke, Google Buzz, Flickr, Ning, Friendfeed, Jaiku, Plaxo Pulse, Bebo, Hi5, Xanga, Koomk, YouAre, Multiply, Yammer, StatusNet, Vox, Shoutem, Streetmavens, myYearbook, Posterous, Tagged …

It is all a little much to handle unless curating profiles on the various social networking sites is your full-time job. It seems like everyday we get a new place to share information, link up with friends and post the yammerings of our daily existences. I’m all for it. I love social media and I believe it is the future.

But there are pitfalls. For example, I received a private message on Facebook last week from the mother of a friend. She just got her first computer and was checking out Facebook. She found her son (much to his chagrin) and then found me. Now, what is my obligation should she ever figure out how to ask to be my friend? I’ve met her once or twice, but I’m not certain I could pick her out of a lineup. But she is my friend’s mother. Am I obligated to be her friend?

Facebook surpassed 500 million users this month. That makes Facebook the third most populous country in the world (if you’re into geographical metaphors). That’s half a billion people voluntarily turning over their personal information: posting vacation photos, videos of their cats, cell phone numbers, addresses etc…

This week, someone posted a torrent file containing profile information on 100 million Facebook users. Today, I read where a huge list of major corporations have downloaded that file. And why not? It’s free info on 100 million customers.

Old Spice launched a major social media campaign and it looks like the effort paid off. Sales of Old Spice products rose by 106 percent for the month and 53 percent over the last three. So, there are some valid reasons to dip your commercial toe into social media.

Did anyone notice a big exodus from Facebook during the big privacy news cycle? I didn’t, other than a few articles about upstart companies trying to be the next Facebook. “Ooooo, they’re awful, but I want to be just like them.” Bah.

My current social media fixation is FourSquare. But even it has competition. Yelp! has started letting users check in at locations and since Yelp! already has a giant database of businesses and users, it might be in a position to kill FourSquare. Then there’s Gowalla (which I can only get to show distances in kilometers), Loopt (which doesn’t make an app for my phone) and BrightKite – all of which do the same thing.

If you’re a business owner, which do you pick? You don’t. You set up a profile on all of them and make sure someone in your organization is managing those profiles and keeping your information both consistent across them all and up to date.

If you’re a user, which do you pick? That’s up to you and how much time you’re willing to give to a phone app, I guess. But there is another factor: the effectiveness of these sites is based on the number of users. I have more than 300 “friends” on Facebook, about 60 “followers” on Twitter (@jutopia, btw), about four “friends” on FourSquare.

If you choose a site where none of your friends are participating, then it isn’t very social, is it?

You could choose them all, but then you get into that list at the beginning of this entry and soon you’re walking into your grocery store and checking in on five different apps so you can be mayor of the grocery store, duke of the frozen food aisle and baron of the pharmacy.

And for the record, I currently hold four mayorships in FourSquare and will fight like a rabid dog to keep them, despite there being no reward at all at any of the venues other than the knowledge that whenever anyone checks in there, they’ll see my photo wearing a tiny crown.

Hell may be other people, but social media hell is other people who’ve checked in at my bus stop more than me.

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iPad week one

This week I endeavored to use the iPad as much as possible in both my personal and professional lives. I used it in business meetings, the grocery store and for entertainment.

It is new enough that people are curious about it, which is cool. People want to know what the big deal is and I guess I did to. Is isn’t a new technology. It’s just an interesting and elegant way to package existing technology. What makes it interesting is how Mac chose to prioritize features and how that will make a difference in how many of us experience media.

The checkout clerk at Publix played a tune on Classic Cat Piano.

At a client meeting today I took notes using Evernote, synced the files to my desktop computer, my home computer and my cell phone. This afternoon I used Teamview to remotely access and share files from my desktop Mac.

It is a remarkable tool. The boss called it a toy.

I encountered three others this week and heard of two other sightings second hand. In one case, a colleague said her son gave one to his wife for Mother’s Day and, since he is stationed in Singapore, she has the only one in the country. She reports that people stare.

I will confess to using it for email because I like the little “sent from my iPad” in the sig file.

I don’t call it a toy.

I recently came into possession of an iPad. And while it is indeed the coolest thing ever, there are some problems. Carrying the thing is problematic. The device is new enough to still attract attention, son pulling one out in public still feels weird.

For example, the fam and I had lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. I let Max bring in the iPad. He sat and played with it while we waited for our food. It was a small little place in a shopping center, but still had several customers during lunch.

When the food came, I didn’t have a good place to stash the iPad, so I took it back to the car.

We ate our lunch and as it happens Dollie’s boss was there with her husband. Dollie apologized for not noticing her, but she said not to worry about it. She was “playing with her new toy” and was oblivious to her surroundings. Then she held out her iPad.

There I was thinking I would impress the locals with my magic box and mine wasn’t the only iPad in the joint.

Lesson learned.

It isn’t a toy. I’ve met two others who own one and both referred to it as a toy. Here’s the deal. I don’t mind being the 41-year-old man who plays with toys. I’ve been obsessing over a video game in which I am a cowboy, for Pete’s sake. So being a grown man with a new toy doesn’t bother me.

But this isn’t a toy. This is the future. This is Star Trek.

I will admit to being a sceptic when it was announced. But having held one in my hand, I have been convinced. In fact, I’m blogging on it right now.

I took it to work and showed it off. I reluctantly brought it with me to our staff meeting. I’m still trying to find a way to incorporate it into my professional life.


On Sunday, we took Max to visit his new buddy Justice. Justice lives on an alpaca farm. When we got there, his mom showed us the new baby that was born on July 4. They named it Indy.

Max was in a sour mood that day until his buddy rang him up on Max’s celly. Max had never been to his friend’s house before, so we needed directions. Being a typical pre-teen, he knew the address, but not how to get there. His friend tried to be helpful:

“it’s the one with all the alpacas.”

World Cup is over and as I predicted, Spain won. Congratulations to them. I was pulling for the Netherlands for a number of reasons, but the Spanish side was incredible.

I watched the second episode of “Louis” and found it to be an amazing improvement over the pilot. That’s a relief, actually, because I’d trashed the first episode so badly.

“My stomach hurts real bad . . . “

Rozzy, my seven-year-old daughter, is a bit of a drama queen. I say that because she is quick to turn any minor scrape into a life-threatening injury. A cat scratch? Might as well be an amputation. She usually says the same thing: “My [insert body part] hurts real bad.”

These injuries usually happen around bed time or school time and portend little more than an unwillingness to face the task ahead.

So, when Dollie texted me yesterday to say Rozzy was complaining that her stomach hurt real bad, I took it in stride.

The next morning:

DOLLIE:
Roz just threw up

ME:
Eww. She okay?

DOLLIE:
I don’t know, she just did it again.

ME:
Awww. I’m sorry, honey.

DOLLIE:
Taking her to dr just in case

ME:
K

DOLLIE:
Yak count up to four.

It turns out that this time, Rozzy wasn’t crying wolf. She was crying appendicitis. They checked her into Laughlin Memorial Hospital and cut it out. I made it to Greeneville in time to welcome her out of surgery. She looked pale and a little pathetic, but the surgeon said it went well and she would be fine.

Now it is a little after 3 a.m. and she’s been sleeping well, but has decided now is the time to watch TV. She likes to watch infomercials, so we’re learning about the Rug Doctor. She’s going five hours between pain meds and has managed to go to the bathroom without too much discomfort.

The staff here have been wonderful. In fact, Rozzy is the only patient on the wing, so we have the run of the place.

She’s a brave little girl.

Summer TV

When I was a kid (heck, when I was a younger adult) television during the summer was nothing but repeats of stuff we’d been watching all year. The conventional wisdom being that people don’t watch TV in the summer. They’re too busy outside enjoying their polo ponies or whatnot. That attitude severely underestimated the American diet for TV.

At least mine anyway. To this day, the new Fall Season is still one of my favorite times of year.

But the networks have gotten smarter and introduced summer series – new shows that premier in the summer to see if they can grab audiences. So far, they are pretty hit-or-miss, but that’s typical of any season.

For example: ABC’s “Wipeout” is fun to watch. This is the second summer for “Wipeout” and it passes the Mike Reed test for “reality” TV in that it shows lots of pretty people doing stupid things.

I watched the first episode of Louis C.K.’s new series “Louis.” It was written, produced and directed by him. It also wasn’t very good. It had a disconnected quality to it, bouncing between on-stage performance, home life with his two children and bizarre sit-commy scenes.

Typical example: He’s on stage talking about how his daughters go to public school and he volunteers there because there are literally no adults at the school. Cut to him chaperoning a field trip in which the bus driver doesn’t know where they are going, has no idea how to get there once he’s told and abandons the bus and passengers in Harlem when they have a flat tire. Louis calls a fleet of limos to take every one home.

Meh.

Another example: Louis goes on a first date with a woman and it doesn’t go well. They end up on a bench by the river and he tells her that he shouldn’t be the one who is nervous because he is a good man, a good earner and a good father. She should be the one who is nervous and trying to impress him. She runs from the bench and climbs aboard a waiting helicopter and flies away. Cut to him on stage talking about how the best case scenario for dating is that you find the love of your life, spend several years together and then she dies, leaving you alone.

This is disappointing for a number of reasons. Louis C.K. is a hilarious stand up comedian. His series “Lucky Louis” on HBO was absolutely great. This effort just strikes too many sour notes.

I am really enjoying “The Good Guys” on Fox. This is a series with a lot of potential. The characters are great, the music is outstanding and if you squint, Colin Hanks looks and sounds just like his dad. The show is about two detectives: Dan Stark, who, back in the glory days of 1985, saved the governor’s son along with his former partner who is now in a mental institution. Hanks plays his partner, a younger go-getter who hates the fact that he’s stuck in “routine investigations” following up on vandalism and petty crimes.

In the latest episode, Stark blows a big case when it comes out on the stand that he intimidated a witness by shoving a transistor radio down his pants and claiming it was a bomb. Leave aside for the moment where he found a transistor radio. Stark tells his partner that he can have the criminal back in jail within 48 hours using only the money in his pocket: $3.52. It is wonderful.

Stark peppers the show with tales from the old days and his philosophy on team work.

Typical example: The difference between the good guys and the bad guys is that the bad guys are just running around with guns. The good guys are a team running around with guns. In the old days, if we caught a criminal, we’d let ’em go  so we could call our buddies and catch him again together. We called it the catch, release and catch again program.

Funny stuff.

TNT premiered “Memphis Beat” staring Jason Lee from “My Name is Earl” as a Memphis detective who, get this, likes Elvis. The first episode was awful. I can just hear the pitch now: “What we want to do is make the city a character in the series.” Ugh. Look. I like Memphis. I like Elvis. I like Jason Lee. I like cop shows. But this just didn’t work. Pass.

“True Blood” is back on and the first three episodes were dynamite. Number four was a little slow for me. But while the vampire thing is playing itself out elsewhere, this series still has some interesting things to say. I particularly enjoy how vampire politics plays out, both internally and externally.

I had dinner with Badger the other evening and we discussed World Cup. Well, I discussed World Cup and he badmouthed soccer. He said he was glad that the US got knocked out because now he can ignore the tournament. I said that, from now on, when he comes to me with his observations about the NFL, MLB or the NBA, my attitude would be just as dismissive as his.

That struck him as fundamentally unfair. Heh. I’ve known Badger for years and he’s always asked me who I liked in whatever sport was being played out at the time. He’s tried over several seasons to engage me in sports and I’ve tried to participate. I tried to follow a team or watch a game, but I just can’t.

After telling him my analysis and predictions for the remainder of World Cup, he rolled his eyes and said he didn’t care. I reminded him that, even when the Titans are out of the playoffs, he still finds a team to support all the way to the big game. He’s a fan of every other major sport, but can’t work up a little passion for “the beautiful game?”

Nope.

So I said “Fine, now I don’t have to pretend I care about your sports, either. Personally, I’ve always found the NFL to be a waste of time.”

You’d have thought I’d slapped his face in the middle of Applebee’s.

“Hu-whaaaah?”

“At least with World Cup you have the spectacle of national pride, a truly global competition and it only comes around every four years, so I don’t have to waste a lot of time on it.”

Not an argument he was prepared to accept. Why? No instant replay. Not enough scoring. Referees have too much power. Flopping. Games ending in ties. The list goes on and on and I’ve heard it for years.

No. Soccer isn’t like other sports. There are different rules and traditions. Why is that so hard to accept? You don’t expect NBA players to tackle each other. The NBA didn’t have instant replay until just a few seasons ago. MLB still doesn’t have it. Hockey games aren’t high scoring and NFL games have inflated scores because getting the ball across the goal is six points, rather than one.

None of which matters because in the end, it’s just sports.

But for some people *cough* my brothers *cough* sports are the reason to own a TV. During the Ghana/USA game, I’d dropped by my buddy Roy’s house and he had the game on. I was impressed until he told me there was no other sports on TV at the time. Roy, at least, could work up a little passion for the game.

We’ve been told for more than 40 years that soccer was just about to blow up big in the U.S. We’re probably closer to supporting major league cornhole than soccer.