I Am Too Googleable!

What a letdown.

I wanted to report on near completion of The Website Resurrection Project – but I had a mind-altering experience.

On the upside, I am not afraid of identity theft or surveillance anymore.

My dentist had to cancel an appointment the day before. I showed up some minutes before the appointed time. The practice was empty and dark, except for the assistants who told me:

We have eagerly been waiting for you!! We did not know how to reach you as we didn’t have your phone number!

Have you tried to find my phone number on the web? It’s on my business website!

Yes, we searched the internet – but there were so many search results coming up!!!! And we did not know which is your business page!

(Probably it was more like:
One of *these* pages is for business?!?).

You could have sent me an e-mail – I am usually very responsive! My e-mail address is on all my websites.

There was no e-mail address!

Uhm… sorry… I am very active on the internet … it is maybe difficult to sort all that out …

So it was all in vain.

I have a business page, three personal websites, this blog, and a German blog, and some weird older web projects. Find the canonical overview here. My usual response to an enthusiastic

I have checked out your website ! 🙂 !!

is

Which one?

And each and every of those sites has this overly correct legal information notice our online media law demands of me.

I even add the e-mail address though I might not need to.

As the Subversive Element I note on top of the legal information block:
Adding legal information to a site like this constitutes an act of subversion in its own right

Legal information needs to be accessible in a simple way, via a single click from any page. You then argue at court over the definition of simple and single click and if your visitors could or could not infer from a URL title such as contact that address information is to be found at this URL.

Most German wordpress.com bloggers have a legal info page longer than my most extensive posts. The About page of this blog is, at the time of writing, most likely illegal as the linked legal information is two clicks away from any post.

Tinkering with this was just a tiny part of The Website Resurrection Project – I have re-written loads of content, and didn’t leave any of the code or design untouched. All for the sake of clarity and serving the internet community well – and because I don’t have much other hobbies.

Using a browser I never use to logon to Google, a search for my name brings up a reasonable collection of results – my personal site being in the first place, legal info one click away.

Google has honored my efforts by recognizing my authorship for this website although I did not do take ownership in the Google-technical sense for any site – as my nerdy readers might have noticed on this blog. I wanted to save my pseudonym elkement and not trade it for the real name Google+ forces you to use.

I don’t think there should be any difficulty to spot my contact data. I am happy with the ranking – I am just worried about the subversive stuff is given less weight than the business-y. But that does not prevent clients who are my business social networking contacts from asking me for my contact data again – on Facebook!

So what’ the problem?

The IMP Log The Very First Message Sent on the Internet (6293913865)

How did we get there? How did it get started? This is the log of the first message sent on the internet in 1969 (Wikimedia)

_________________________________________

For German readers: Here is the law(s).

Blog Cleanup – Raking the Virtual Zen Garden Again

I am proud owner of a full season of Monk on DVD, and as a child nobody ever had to tell me to tidy up my room. I indulged not only in cleaning my Lego(*) world with a fine paint brush but I rather re-organized all my belongings in Feng-Shui-meets-OCD-style quite often.
(*) Lego is a registered trademark… etc.

As a consequence I have raked my virtual Zen gardens often, too.

Zen Garden (Wikimedia)Now I have nearly replaced all the gravel in this Zen garden.

It’s not that I don’t re-tag and re-categorize often, making extensive use of WordPress’ Tags to Categories Converter that keeps the old links intact. But tags and categories did not do it for me. I have filtered my posts using those in order to group them, e.g. for sending this collection of “relevant links” to somebody else.

It is probably a shortcoming of this particular WordPress theme but other than using the search function it is not possible to create a concise list of posts, consisting just of headlines and the first few lines.

So I tried to create that views I wanted in the old way: I have now compiled so-called summary pages, listing all blog postings in a certain “main category”. I have just excluded reblogs. Any other article shows up at (at least) one of these new pages linked in the main menu.

As a consequence – as the menu bar now really, absolutely, positively says it all – I was able to shorten my extensive tagline which is now much shorter than the blog title.

I have absolutely enjoyed this task – as Zen as it can get.

All my web sites I have ever run are also experiments in exploring the interplay of structure and content. I believe it is nearly impossible to set up proper “categories” upfront so that you can just assign all posts you ever write to them later. Only bureaucrats believe the world works this way. I have some experience with so-called top-down web projects that end up in epic tombs of a structure nobody is ever bringing to life with “content” – because it is too rigid.

But some limitations may not be that bad after all: Boundaries force you to get creative at a new level to hack them and work around. In a twisted sense I love my personal websites’ schema that forces me to attach one main category to every article. It is as much fun as subverting a well-meant survey or questionnaire by using the fields in ways probably not expected by the designer.

Another interesting effect I noted again and again is that I enjoy commenting on my own posts, including self-parody. I find it most natural to reflect on old postings by adding a one-liner some months later. On my other sites I take self-reference to bizarre levels and comment on my old German posts in English or commented on comments on comments etc.

In summary, I think I (we?) write and blog in order to remember or discover who we are, were, or want to become. [This is the sort of clichéd statement I will for sure ridicule in a later meta-comment of mine.]

But to make this work – at least for me – I need to have a look at the old stuff from time to time, and I have to put old images into a new frame, or I need to attach virtual post-its that put everything in a new perspective.

Zen Garden (Wikimedia)

The Web As I Want to Remember It

This title might be due to unknowing plagiarizing dejavu.org – The web as we remember it.

I haven’t visited dejavu.org in years, but I did now as I felt I need to wax nostalgic. This might be due to my recent tinkering with my websites‘ layouts.

As a child I crafted 200-faced paper polyhedra whose plans I developed from images of crystals in mineralogy books. I am maybe in the same state of mind today when I am moving around pixels, editing style sheets or debugging my home-grown content management system for these sites. This is raking my virtual Zen garden.

It is an anachronistic approach to what should today be interactive, responsive and created from templates. However, it really reflects some doubts of mine about what the web has become.

The first website ever - Tim- Berners-Lee's project

The first website ever – Tim- Berners-Lee’s project. The project has been made available at the historical URL again in 2013.

The web has been a quiet place. My sites have always been my secret fortresses on the web, only known to the most persistent stalkers. A new colleague in a project greeted me once appreciatively with You are The Subversive Element, aren’t you? As an aside: I have found that so-called personal websites – that ought not to interfere with business according to common wisdom – are perfect filters to single out people who are fun to work with.

I think there is no better exercise in becoming unimpressed by feedback, likes and comments as authoring a non-interactive website for years. The fact that somebody could read it provides just enough sense of accountability for the content. I wonder what it must feel like to grow up today, immersed in a web culture that fosters craving attention.

But what is more important:

We have given up on the noble notion of a page.

Today’s sites are frontends to applications that create a dynamic dashboard of widgets, thus dynamically re-arranged snippets and tidbits of information – very often ads on many popular sites but this is not my point.

I noticed this when mulling about responsive design, that is: making websites compatible with the limited display options of different devices. The main content – usually presented in some main reading pane should probably be created in a way suiting this presentation: Chopped to digestible tidbits instead of walls of text.

But guess what would be the perfect responsive design: The most ancient, 1995-style html page, consisting of header and body, and some paragraphs contained in that body. As long as you don’t start to create containers or columns in order to organize the content and/or make it appear more appealing, you will see the text flowing nicely from left to right on mobile devices, too.

I am just a dilettante web developer so please go ahead and prove me wrong. You can use this perfectly straight-forward (and interesting) website for testing.

Quite ironic in a sense that we tried so hard to layout our pages: First using these now abhorred frames, then tables (I killed my most obnoxious ones recently), and div containers controlled by CSS. Now we have a difficult time in letting all that nested automated stuff flow again from left to right.

I have found another, equally ingenious way to make a site responsive without actually doing so technically. I randomly picked Brain Pickings as it is very successful website. The site is the whole business – so it has to be user-friendly. Again I would ask the professionals to debunk my theory. Checking the code and using tools such as ScreenFly the site is not responsive in terms of adapting the presentation to the device. But the content pane is just 500px wide and thus fits into the width of many smart phones when those are rotated by 90 degrees.

What I like best: If you scroll down – everything moves! On many really responsive sites elements jump or stay in place when I did not expect it. And some of them simply do not work on desktop PCs as if they were designed having only the target group of 15% readers in mind.

It is exactly that anything-moves-when-scrolling that gives pages – including mine maybe – a dated look now. Do we expect to have different elements on (what was formerly known as) a page a life of its own?

I am reminded about what Nicholas Carr said about the emergence of eBook readers in The Shallows: He is not so much concerned about feeling and smelling physical items – an argument I could never understand anyway. But as soon long-form texts formerly known as books become available on eReaders, their content might get splintered into sharable little pieces. Readers might rather look for share-worthy snippets instead of reading the whole content.

Giving up on the ancient concept of a web page and replacing it by a sequence of twitter-like pieces presented in an intriguing way is probably the next stage in content evolution.

We have come a long way.

Tim Berners-Lee's First Web Server

Workstation used by Tim Berners-Lee as the first web server on the World Wide Web, displayed at Microcosm, the public science museum at CERN. Note the sticker! (Wikimedia)

Using Social Media in Bursts. Is. Just. Normal.

I have seen lots of turkey pictures last week and this has reminded me of an anniversary: When I saw those last time I have just started using Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

So a review is overdue, and I also owe an update to my Time-Out from social networks this summer. (If you don’t have time to read further – the headline says it all.)

I am not at all an internet denier. Actually, I had crafted my first website in 1997 and had pseudo-blogged since 2002. I made these pages – not blogs in the technical sense, but content-wise – the subject of last year’s Website Resurrection Project.

There have been two reasons for my denial of modern interactive platforms, both are weird:

  1. Territory Anxiety: It made me uncomfortable to have my own site entangled with somebody else’s via comments, reshares and the like. I prefer platforms that allow me to make them mine. Facebook and Google+ require you to ‘fill in form’ and put you at the mercy of their designers.
  2. Always-On and Traceability: For many years my job was concerned with firefighting – an inherent feature of working with digital certificates that have their end of validity embedded cryptographically. I considered it odd if panicking clients would see me sharing geeky memes while they are waiting for my more substantial responses. Notifications by corporate online communication tools conditioned me to loath any piece of technology that tried to start a conversation via flashing pop-ups.

These two reasons haven’t been invalidated completely – I think I just care less. Social media is an ongoing experiment in communications.

I am using social media in the following way: (This is not at all advice for using social media properly, but an observation.)

  • If I use a network, I want to use it actively. I don’t use anything as a sole channel for announcements, such as tweeting all new blog postings (only), and I don’t use automation. I don’t replicate all content on different networks or at least there should be enough non-overlap. Each network has its own culture, target group, style of conversation.

A detailed analysis of the unique culture of each network remains maybe subject to a future post. But I cannot resist sharing my recently started collection of articled on the characteristics of the most hated most analyzed network:

How to overcome facebook status anxiety
7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook
Does Facebook CAUSE narcissism?

I became a Google+ fan, actually.

  • The only ‘strategic tool’ I use is a simple text file I paste interesting URLs to – in case I stumble upon too many interesting things which would result in quite a spammy tsunamis of posts or tweets. This is in line with my life-long denial of sophisticated time-management tools and methodologies as Getting Things Done (which is less down-to-earth than it sounds). I don’t believe in the idea of getting mundane things out of your head to free up capacity for the real thing. I want to keep appointments, tasks, the really important items on the to do list, and thing to be posted in my mind.
  • Using social networks must not feel like work – like having to submit your entries to the time-tracking tool. I said often that my so-called business blog, Facebook site, Google+ site can hardly be recognized as such. (Remember, I said this is not perfect marketing advice.)
  • I don’ care about the alleged ideal time for posting and about posting regularly. It is all about game theory: What if everybody adhered to that grand advice that you should, say, tweet funny stuff in the afternoon or business stuff on Tuesday morning? My social media engagement is burst-like, and I think this is natural. This is maybe the most important result of my time-out experiment:
  • Irregularity is key. It is human and normal. I don’t plan to take every summer off from social media. I will rather allow for breaks of arbitrary length when I feel like that.

And I have found scientific confirmation through this scientific paper: The origin of bursts and heavy tails in human dynamics by renowned researcher on network dynamics, Albert-László Barabási.

The abstract reads (highlights mine):

The dynamics of many social, technological and economic phenomena are driven by individual human actions, turning the quantitative understanding of human behaviour into a central question of modern science. Current models of human dynamics, used from risk assessment to communications, assume that human actions are randomly distributed in time and thus well approximated by Poisson processes. In contrast, there is increasing evidence that the timing of many human activities, ranging from communication to entertainment and work patterns, follow non-Poisson statistics, characterized by bursts of rapidly occurring events separated by long periods of inactivity. Here I show that the bursty nature of human behaviour is a consequence of a decision-based queuing process: when individuals execute tasks based on some perceived priority, the timing of the tasks will be heavy tailed, with most tasks being rapidly executed, whereas a few experience very long waiting times. In contrast, random or priority blind execution is well approximated by uniform inter-event statistics.

Poisson statistics is used to describe, for example, radioactive decay. I learned now that it can also be applied to traffic flow or queues of calls in a call center – basically queues handled by unbiased recipients. The probability to measure a certain time between two consecutive decays or phone calls taken decreases exponentially with time elapsed. Thus very long waiting times are extremely unlikely.

The exponential dependence is another way to view the probably familiar exponential law of decay – by finding the probability of no decay in a certain time via the percentage of not yet decayed atoms. Richard Feynman gives the derivation here for collisions of molecules in a gas.

Radioactive Decay Law Decay Constants

Radioactive decay – the number of non-decayed nuclei over time for different decay rates (half-lives). This could also be read as the probability for a specific nucleus not to decay for a certain time (Wikimedia)

Thus plotting probability over measured inter-e-mail time should give you a straight line in a log-linear plot.

However, the distribution of the time interval between e-mails has empirically been determined to follow a power law which can quickly be identified by a straight line in a log-log-plot: In this case probability for a certain time interval goes approximately with 1 over the time elapsed (power of minus 1).

Power-law distribution, showing the yellow heavy or fat tail. This function goes to zero much slower than the exponential function.

A power function allows for much higher probabilities for very long waiting times (‘Fat tails’).

Such patterns were also found…

…in the timing of job submissions on a supercomputer directory listing and file transfers (FTP request) initiated by individual users, or the timing of printing jobs submitted by users were also reported to display non-Poisson features. Similar patterns emerge in economic transactions, describing the time interval distributions between individual trades in currency futures. Finally, heavy-tailed distributions characterize entertainment-related events, such as the time intervals between consecutive online games played by the same user.

We so-called knowledge workers process our task lists, e-mails, or other kinds of queued up input neither in First-In-First-Out-style (FIFO) or randomly, but we assign priorities in this way:

…high-priority tasks will be executed soon after their addition to the list, whereas low-priority items will have to wait until all higher-priority tasks are cleared, forcing them to stay on the list for considerable time intervals. Below, I show that this selection mechanism, practiced by humans on a daily basis, is the probable source of the fat tails observed in human-initiated processes.

Barabási’s model is perfectly in line with what I had observed in deadline-driven environments all the time. When your manager pings you – you will jump through any hoop presented to you, provided it has been tagged as super-urgent:

This simple model ignores the possibility that the agent occasionally selects a low-priority item for execution before all higher-priority items are done common, for example, for tasks with deadlines.

It gets even better as this model is even more suited to dealing with competing tasks – such as your manager pinging your while you ought have to respond to that urgent Facebook post, too:

Although I have illustrated the queuing process for e-mails, in general the model is better suited to capture the competition between different kinds of activities an individual is engaged in; that is, the switching between various work, entertainment and communication events. Indeed, most data sets displaying heavy-tailed inter-event times in a specific activity reflect the outcome of the competition between tasks of different nature.

Poisson processes and the resulting exponential distribution are due to the fact that events occur truly random: The number of particles emitted due to radioactive decays or the number of request served by a web server is proportional to the time interval multiplied by a constant. This constant is characteristic of the system: an average rate of decay or the average number of customers calling. Call center agents just process calls in FIFO mode.

Power-law behavior, on the other hand, is the result of assigning different priorities to tasks using a distribution function. Agents are biased.

Barabási is very cautious is stating the universal validity of the power-law. He also discusses refinements of the model, such as taking into account the size of an e-mail message and required processing time, and he emphasizes the dependence of the calculated probability on the details of the priorities of tasks. Yet, the so-called fat tails in the probabilities of task execution seem to be a universal feature irrespective of the details of the distribution function.

He has also shown that these bursty patterns are not tied to modern technology and e-mail clients: Darwin and Einstein prioritized their replies to letters in the same way that people rate their e-mails today.

Considering a normal (typically crazy) working day you may have wondered why you could model that without taking into account other things that need to be done in addition to responding to e-mail. And indeed Barabási stresses the role of different competing tasks:

Finally, heavy tails have been observed in the foraging patterns of birds as well, raising the intriguing possibility that animals also use some evolutionarily encoded priority-based queuing mechanisms to decide between competing tasks, such as caring for offspring, gathering food, or fighting off predators.

Thus we might even seem evolutionary hard-wired to process challenging tasks in this way.

I am asking myself: Is this the reason why I find automated posts on social media feel staged? Why I find very regular blogging / posting intervals artificial? Why I don’t like the advice (by social media professionals) that you need to prepare posts in advance for the time you will be on vacation? What happens next – program the automation to act in a bursty fashion?

______________________________
I planned to connect my Time-Out experience with Barabási’s Bursts for a long time. But now this burst of my writing it down may finally have been triggered by this conversation on an earlier post of mine.

I enjoyed Barabási’s popular-science book Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life on the dynamics of scale-free networks.

There is also a popular version related to his research on bursts: Bursts: The Hidden Patterns Behind Everything We Do, from Your E-mail to Bloody Crusades. Bursts is a fascinating book as well, and Barabási illustrates the underlying theories using very diverse examples. But you should better be interested in history in its own right and don’t read the book for the science/modelling part only. Reading Bursts for the first time, I came to similar conclusions as this reviewer. It is probably one of the books you should read more than once, re-calibrating your expectations.

Further reading: Website of Barabási’s research lab.

Barabasi Albert 1000nodes

So-called scale-free networks. The distribution of the number of connections per node also follows a power-law. Scale-free networks are characterized by ongoing growth and ‘winner-take-all’ behavior (Wikimedia, user Keiichiro Ono)

What Is Normal? (My Way of Announcing Blogging Time-Out)

In my single attempt of crafting Error Message Poems I have tried to remember the best Out-of-Office note I have ever received – musing on not being able to get back to me as quick as normally, and culminating in the philosophical question:

But – what is normal?

Probably this is one of the hidden, leading questions that have driven this blog ever since I started it in March 2012. Is it normal to blog regularly? Is it normal to have ideas on a regular basis? Is it normal to follow more and more virtual conversations – not only on WordPress but on other social networks as well?

Nassim Taleb’s books have reminded me reminded of antifragility being grounded in burst-like patterns. At least this is the way I would summarize it. A mundane example is the alleged positive effect of irregular physical training – such as long walks alternating with extreme workouts – both unscheduled.

I would like to continue ridiculing those home-story-style articles about famous persons (One day in the life of…) who manage their lives in such a swift way and who are able to add utmost regularity to the universe’s imponderables. Who get up at 4:00 to mediate in their Zen-like garden, taking the first important business decision at 5:00 – such as acquiring a hot tech start-up in passing – by firing off an e-mail on your smart phone, driving their kids to school at 7:00 while having a conf call with your VPs … etc.

Thus I would embark on an experiment I have pondered about for a long time – I owe to these two posts that finally make me pull the trigger.
(Pull the trigger… what a metaphor. NSA, did you hear that? And I go into hiding. A non-blogging sleeper cell.)

I will unplug myself from social media in the next 2 – 4 months. (This is an estimate in terms of order of magnitude – 100 months)

Don’t panic.

I won’t disappear, I will follow-up on your blogs – but most likely more randomly than I did in the last months, and I will respond to comments.

I will resort to something like a monthly update – as I can’t bear a number of zero posts per months in the blog’s archive. WordPress is still my favorite network.  Probably I will appear more radical as a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter user, as a monthly tweet is like not tweeting at all. I have been on these networks now for less than a year and after intense participation (intense in terms of the accumulated impacts of the sum of those networks). In contrast to other social media users with erratic posting habits I will rather leave an OOF message and clean-up.

Facebook users: I have deactivated posts to my timeline, and tightened the who-can-see-what settings despite or because my birthday is looming. I need to retain some level of integrity when ranting about liking and sharing confessional automata.

There is no particular earth-shattering reason for that – or this is exactly a reason in its own right: I want to challenge myself by unplugging, by reducing input. In a weird sense I am reconnecting with my very first post about my social media denial.

I will even reduce my frequency of devouring books – sorry for that, Amazon.com (or probably I don’t want the NSA follow-up on my Kindle collections).

I am moderately busy, I have some other deadlines, but nothing that couldn’t be handled, and I could of course come up with some posts in the way the social media experts recommend: Recycling content, old posts – and I should have kept some articles in my stores of things to be posted when I have run out of ideas. But I even haven’t run out of ideas.

Since this might be the front post of this blog for some weeks, I would like to add self-serving links to related posts that I do not recycle now.

After a break I am rather sure I will continue to write about:

My most recent posts have told me something weird and I need to think about that:

Probably I over-emphasize aspects and arguments for the sake of those arguments. I am not at all that concerned with the Evil or Corporate or the Devastating Effect of Gamification, for example. Actually, in the moment I could not care less about these in the real live. It is rather my blogging avatar who has seized opportunities. This avatar is adding a filter that enhances contrast, for the sake of entertainment, or for the sake of making an argument a real argument. Any hyperbole and sarcasm comes in handy.

Nevertheless, it does not feel like dishonesty though.

And this is not at all meant self-critical – I like these posts more than my balanced ones.

I just need to think about that, and by thinking I mean the thing that goes on in your unplugged brain when you are not talking or writing. Probably exactly when you force yourself not to talk or write.

You get ideas from writing and interacting with others, but in the other hand there is a chance of getting trapped in a social media bubble of like-minded people. Finally it is a matter of available time – I admit I would not read blogs I strongly disagree with.

I feel the last sentence in this post should be sticky and remarkable – and exactly because of that I will not add a final statement at all.

snail-and-slug

I have stumbled upon these in the garden recently. I am convinced the universe wanted to tell me something, and I will decode it.

On Social Media and Networking (Should Have Been a Serious Post, Turned out Otherwise)

It has been nearly a month since my satirical post on LinkedIn and bot-like HR professionals has stirred interesting discussions and unexpected reblogs. I have promised to come up with related posts regularly.

To all my new followers who were probably attracted by the Liebster-award-related nonsense: Compared to those posts this one is unfortunately a rather serious one. Compared to default social media expertise show-off it is nonsense, though.

Every opinion piece is based on the author’s secret assumptions about what makes this universe move in spacetime. For full disclosure I lay mine before you upfront:

Thinking about the blurred area where the corporate world and a subversive online universe meet I am reminded of The Cluetrain Manifesto, so this is my personal

Networking Manifesto.

Regular readers might have guessed at the following axioms:

  1. Sense of humor is the definitive  criterion that determines how well you will get along with other human beings. This also holds for future coworkers or employers.
  2. The harder corporations try to morph into social beings as per their PR stories, the weirder they appear when viewed from the inside. Corporate culture is very subtle.
  3. The tension between 1 and 2 catalyzes sparkling works in art (mainly comics and satire) as well as peculiar networking opportunities.

I did zero research for this post and I will not add outbound links – other than my own – this is ‘vanity linking’. If you are really interested in if and how I am following my own advice about social media you can stalk me on the pages and profiles listed at my Gravatar profile or my personal website.

In addition, I have no idea about a plot or structure for this post so I call this

The Top 10 +/- 5 Things I Learned from Networking on Social Media

1) Titles and taglines do matter:

If I would be a real social media expert I would have made the header of this post similar to your typical

Top Ten Self-Evident Things Anybody In His Right Mind Who Knows How to Use Google Can Come up with him/Herself Immediately

are shared like crazy on Twitter.

As a serious aside, I feel that titles of posts are important as many of my search terms are based on titles. Since I need those for Search Term Poetry, I cannot help but pick strange ones.

The same goes for your professional tagline, but it is walking a tightrope: If you want to make a change in your career you could add your aspirations to the title. E.g. if I am a historian for building intergalaxy cargo ships but I want to switch to doing strategy consulting for the cargo companies at Alpha Centauri, you might change your tagline to historian and consultant in intergalaxy shipping.

2) The mere existence of profiles does matter.

I believe we (the earth’ population) are changing our average attitude from

The internet – what a strange virtual place… and you really have a page about yourself?

to

Why in hell don’t you have an XY profile? You also have a telephone!

This is not a post on why and if this is something to be worried about, so I skip my postmodern commentary on culture. But I catch myself on being bewildered why I can’t find people on popular networks.

I don’t expect them to be active, have a lot of friends / followers (see 3) or providing a lof of details, but I wonder what’s the obstacle that would keep somebody from adding basic CV data on LinkedIn. I don’t claim my expectancy is rational.

What matters most to me as a reader is the temporal completeness as we time-travel experts say, that is
For all items it holds that [Year of finishing this = Year of starting something else]

3) There is no agreement on the importance of different networks, which ones to pick, and what it means to be a friend, contact, follower or connection.

There is a slight contradiction with 2) and I know it. But we cannot sort that out. I have received tons of invites to obscure networks I never heard of before. Other may feel the same about Google+.

I had endless discussions with people who wanted to add me on the first professional network I was a member of, actually the first network I ever signed up to in 2004 – XING, the German LinkedIn, so to say.

I have gone to great lengths in explaining that I will only accept contact requests from people I know in person or with whom I had substantial conversations online before. Others do consider these networks an option to find new contacts. I have over 600 contacts on XING despite my rigorous policies, simply for the fact I had added contacts over the years, in parallel to archiving business cards. But this large number of contacts make me appear as one of those contact collectors.

On the other hand, I entered Facebook by the end of 2012, and still I look like a networking loser with my less than 200 friends. Facebook will even block your account if you add too many friends in a short time. This is done by software in a Kafkaesque way, so there is no point complaining. This is another reason to follow my advice 2) and start out populating your list of contacts via organic growth early.

There will never be agreement with most of your contacts and friends on what a contact actually is. I believe this is the reason for the asymmetric relationships Twitter and Google+ had introduced: You can follow back, but you do not need to confirm a contact. Facebook has adopted this thinking by adding the subscriber option – now called followers, too.

I have given up and I do not take all that befriending and contacting too serious – so please go ahead and add me on all my networks if you like.

4) The internet is a public place.

This is stating the obvious. From day 1 of my existence as a web avatar – publishing my first embarrassing FrontPage generated site in 1997 – I have written every single post with a public audience in mind – even in so-called closed groups. Today I publish all my Facebook and Google+ stuff to ‘Public’.

I do not see the point of closed groups: not so much because of the risk of changing security settings in the future, triggered by a new group owner, new privacy policies, new security bugs, or careless friends publishing your friends-only stuff to the public. But I do not want waste a second on considering confidentiality issues when writing and aligning my style of writing with a specific audience. After all this should be fun, creative and weird (see 5).

I noticed – to my own surprise – that I started dreading any sort of private messages. If you want to tell me how great my postings are – please for heaven’s sake don’t send me a private Facebook message or an e-mail, but comment on them. I don’t even want to be tempted to add something ‘confidential’ in the reply and I don’t want to miss a chance to make my clever, witty reply available to the public. Zuckerberg said something about the end of privacy, and this is my interpretation of that.

As a consequence I have written about so-called personal stuff in open discussion groups and on my websites a few years ago. I have written about my lingering on the edge of burnout and have been applauded for my honesty. Today I feel my posts are not that personal even though I did not change my style. I am not into photography, so I hardly add any photos depicting something related to my private sphere. I don’t upload a photo of myself (a selfie) in a funny setting every day to Facebook. But just as my definition of ‘friend’ has changed, this might change as well.

5) The internet is a weird place, fortunately!

I was tempted to add the following to my networking manifesto:

Human beings connect with human beings, not with ‘businesses’. Members of the collective want you to remove their Borg implants.

I hope you get the picture without requiring me to go into a scholarly dissection of that great metaphor.

I mentioned the burnout confessions deliberately in 4) as they confirmed a secret theory of mine: If you present yourself as a human being, even within a so-called competitive environment, you motivate others to do the same. You lower the bar – it has the opposite effect of writing business-related e-mails at 2:00 AM that makes everybody else reply Do you ever sleep?

You might say this is off-topic and not strictly rooted in anything online – as most of these confessions happened offline actually.

I disagree as I believe that  the internet is a trigger and a catalyzer that has transformed our ways of thinking about public and private sphere. Today you often read you should take care of your online reputation and not publish your ‘drunk at a party pictures’ to Facebook. I don’t object to that, but I believe the solution is rather not to get drunk at parties.

20 years from now all people in charge of hiring others will belong to the generation whose lives have been documented online from day 1 – due to their baby-photo-Facebooking parents. Generation Y+ did not even have a chance to opt-out. I feel that they would rather consider somebody suspicious whose online utterances are all professional and sleek looking.

Since this is speculation, I add a link to a great article on Wired about the generation born 1993: “…She is casual about what some might consider the risks of oversharing. In the future, she says, it won’t matter if you did post a picture of yourself covered in chocolate, because “the people who care will all retire and the world will be run by my generation, which doesn’t give a shit…”

I owe the link and the pointer to this quote to my Google+ friends … which is the perfect bridge to a caveat that needs to be mentioned: Even if the internet is a weird place there is one important rule: Give fair credit! To other authors but also to other sharers and finders.

6) Finally I need to mention metrics.

I have a very special relationship with ‘meeting the numbers’ as readers of my articles about the corporate sphere do know. So I was delighted to have been invited to Klout. If you believe blog award nominations are like silly chain letters, consider this:

You earn scores based on your interactions and engagement on social media – that is: likes, followers, reshares, posts on your Facebook page … Unfortunately WordPress.com has not been factored in yet. Currently my score based on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and the Klout network itself is 57 which is of course above average.

This is called gamification. I won’t reiterate my usual lame jokes on AI software and failing the Turing test.

But there might be more it than providing a game for procrastinating office workers: This is the future of grading in education – and judging job applicants maybe:
Bizarre Trend: Journalism Professors Using Klout Scores As Part Of Students’ Grades

I had already run some experiments on how to increase the score by heavy tweeting – I am open to more experiments and I would appreciate if you add me as your influencer on Klout.

Klout’s mission is to empower every person by unlocking their influence.

For centuries, influence had been in the hands of a few. Social media has allowed anyone to drive action to those around them, democratizing influence.

— Quote from the Klout website: What is Klout?

Borg dockingstation

Borg Dockingstation (Wikimedia). Sorry, I know I am coasting on those clichés way too often.

So what are your thoughts – Generation Xers, Yers and Zers? (Borgs and other aliens may comment as well)

Edit – further reading: In a Twitter conversation related to this post this blog has been recommended to me – and I want to recommend it to all of you: thedigitalattitude.com. In contrast to my blog this one is really focussed on social media and how to present yourself and your skills online. 

 

Liebster Blog Award: This Time I Try to Respond in a More Normal Way

It happened again – I have been bestowed a blog award despite the way I handled my last nomination.

This time I will respond in a different way. I – the Subversive El(k)ement – will adhere to the rules!

Geeks, please bear with me though! I will still cling to my pet theory on blog awards just being a means to the end of starting ridiculous chain letter Ponzi schemes. But I found a loophole in my own theory I am going to exploit.

I am using the standard template although I abhor templates in general (in particular faulty, nearly corrupt MS Winword templates migrated from platform to platform since MS Office 2.0. But I digress <– remember this hook line. You will see it again).

Information to my nominees: The template text is formatted as bold.

What is it?
The Liebster Award is designed to bring recognition to smaller blogs–that is, blogs with 200 or fewer followers.

And this is related to the attack vector as we hackers say, or the loophole: I have discovered many blogs, followed them enthusiastically, and lost them again. Not because I did not follow them any more (I am an ingenious web 2.0 multi-tasker), but because they ran dry and faded away. People simply stop blogging. We need more new blogs with few followers to compensate for that.

Thus the rough estimate on exponential growth, done by myself and by Search Term Haiku Zen Master Mark Sackler (his relevant post is linked in my older article, but I don’t pingpack that for the 100oth time now in fear of suspension of my WP account for pingback Denial-of-Service. I digress.) …

… the estimate on exponential growth incomplete it was. <– This is Yoda speak, I am trying to geek-up this post, compensating for following the rules so strictly.

The reason: We did not factor in a medium blog-die-out rate. We would need to run a numerical computer model to simulate the behavior of the blogosphere in order to analyze how many blogs to nominate for an aware in order to compensate for the self-inflicted termination of others. Ignorance is bliss – therefore I simply nominate as many as required by the rules!

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The Rules
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog

Thanks a lot Kristen for the nomination – I am really enjoying this! To my readers: Please go visit her blog 🙂 If my authoritative endorsement (remember, I reviewed the world’s first spam poetry book) does not convince you, this is how Kristen describes her blog in her acceptance speech:

“… often I feel my blog is sometimes a teenage-esque angsty diatribe bordering on diary that is only looked at by myself and other angsty people (statistics show that I’m on the first page of google results when you search ‘letter to an ex-boyfriend’) and people from all over the world who google search ’cool photoshopped pictures.’ That one’s fun because I’m apparently linked on some Russian Website for my edited picture of ‘Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.’ Go figure.”

So Im honored that the author of these sentences picked my blog. And of course I quoted them because I hope for terrific Search Term Poetry.

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2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions asked of you, and create 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate.

I add both my responses as well as the new questions for my nominees below, after the section 5.

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3. Nominate 11 blogs you think deserve to be noticed, and leave comments for them letting them know they’ve been chosen.

I have picked 11 blogs that I have followed for a while and that have less than 200 followers (as this blog. More precisely, you had less than 200 when I started compiling the list a few days ago. If your number of followers has inflated since then I expect you to repent in public and return the award).

These are my nominees, in no particular order. Blogs marked with (*) had already been featured on my recent Bloggiversary. Just in case I ran out of original comments and superlatives – check out the previous laudations.

postmoderndonkey – The carnival of instability in language, thought and audience. (*)
Poetry, stories, and other postmodern stuff entangled with a down-to-earth Zenvironmental journey.

From the Broom Closet – Broom closet: a narrow space to store lengthy items. I’ll try and keep my posts to a reasonable size though.
The broom closed is stuffed to the ceiling with sophisticated philosophy and honest, opinionated posts.

Duck? Starfish? but…23 – one rock at a time (*)
The authoritative blog on distant learning before MOOCs have become a hype – and the most beautiful images of Newfoundland.

nebusresearch – Joseph Nebus’s work in progress.
Fine mathematics and history of science. Checkout out Joseph’s Humor blog, too.

carnotcycle – the classical blog on thermodynamics (*)
Original historical papers on thermodynamics expounded in a comprehensible and entertaining way.

I really Just Pretend to Know Stuff – I digress
As weird as it sounds. I am considering to write a Weird Manifesto on Why the World Should Worship Wonderfully Weird Writing – this is my showcase!

Play – Stories and Photos from the Southern Saskachewan Prairie (*)
and basically: The Life, the Universe and Everything, analyzed from 1000 angles: Geeky, literary, philosophical.

weeklybraindump – A quasi-weekly braindump with no particular thematic unity
Education, philosophy, ethics, and again Life, the Universe and Everything. And another denier of chain-letter style blog award propagation 🙂

Many Worlds Theory  – In one universe, this blog is about quantum mechanics. In another universe, it is not. (*)
In the universe the wave function is collapsing onto right now this is a first-class blog on physics. And Matt Damon. Sometimes.
(I plagiarized myself here, sorry.)

The Unemployed Philosopher’s Blog – Just because you’re unemployed, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of work (*)
The geekiest blog on philosophy. Both very entertaining and useful for graduates in the humanities.
(Is this tag-backing? Dan has once nominated me for the Reader Appreciation Award. Is is tagging others bloggers “back in the award chain that bind these bloggers to your blog”?)

Science Mentor – Step-by-step Guide to “Self-Mentoring” for the Science Professional
I wish a blog like this would have been available when I graduated. You should follow her on Twitter as well!

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4. Display the Liebster Award logo.

OK – here you go! I am linking to Kristen’s image in order to avoid mutation. It looks a bit washed out already, doesn’t it?

An image search for Liebster Award brings up a lot of images that do not really resemble this one.

Liebster Award

The linguistically inclined among you might be interested in the fact that liebster in German means dearest. Or was this the whole point of the name and you all knew this, and I am looking like a fool now? Googling for “liebster dearest award” seems to corroborate that hypothesis. Did it spread from Germany to the whole world?

Or was Ms. Liebster a Victorian poet perhaps and the award started out by circulating steampunk-style silver-and-brass-plates?

5. No tag-backs.

Looking even more like a fool –  I was not able to find out exactly what tag-backs are. No, really!!

2.a 11 Things About Me

1. I don’t know what tag-backs are.

2. Nevertheless, I pretend to be geeky.

3. I have an old-school BlackBerry-style (even worse: Windows Mobile BlackBerry style smartphone) as I don’t like touch screens.

4. Still I pretend to be geeky. (I said that already, right? Is this cheating? So I better add:) I like to make and bend the rules as a go – whatever rules are concerned.

5. I am probably applying or using tag-backs without being aware of it.

6. I don’t kill or repel rodents (on purpose). This was my utmost trauma.

7. So I plugged off the microwave for some days after that has happened. After several days I did not care any more about rodents.

8. I am not mowing the lawn. I am scything it. And it is not a lawn.

9. I have written a single serious poem in my life. In German. It is published on one of my weird websites. I don’t add a link – my attempts to bait followers should not be that obvious.

10. Thinking once more, I’d like to state: I have published a single so-called serious poem to one of my German websites, but it might actually just be one of my geeky self-ironic attempts to imitate so-called poetry.

11.When asked to provide some facts about myself I do this in a very special way.

2.b My responses to Kristen’s Questions for the Nominees:

1. Why did you start blogging?
In order to answer question 2.b.1.

2. What’s something you could write about, in your opinion, better than many other people?
Spam Poetry and Search Term Poetry of course. Being a poet and a historian / philosopher of SaST poetry I need to bow to my masters in both disciplines – the Search Term Zen Master quoted above and Monty Python of Spam Poetry. I better write *about* SaST poetry. (SAST is South African Standand Time – a nice coincidence.)

3. What’s been your hardest challenge thus far?
Reducing my consumption in coffee. Now it’s my turn to repent as I announced it publicly. But I need to write a master thesis and I have to blog a lot. Simply not possible without psychotropic drugs.

4. What is your dream job?
Scientific consultant for Hollywood science fiction movies. But I learned from Sean Carroll’s book The Particle at the End of the Universe that he did exactly that – so I am most likely not qualified.

5. What was a big decision you had to make, and would you choose something else knowing what you know now?
Succumbing to the dark side of the force. No, I would not change a thing – the dark force rules!

6. Who is your greatest inspiration?
Douglas Adams. Seriously – I mean it.

7. Who is your favorite writer or artist?
Douglas Adams. Seriously – I mean it.

8. What is your favorite song (or favorite song lyrics)?
It’s Slinky, It’s Slinky! For fun it’s the best of the toys

9. If you could intern anywhere or with anyone in the world, who would it be with?
The NSA.

10. What’s one of your favorite memories?
It’s in the – very near – future (Time travel is OK, isn’t it?): Tomorrow, Labour Day, 08:00 AM when I will be waked up by the local brass music band.

11. If there was one thing about politics you wish everyone would agree upon, what would it be and why?
Don’t panic.” Applies in particular to financial crises, bank runs – and the like. Issues that would not happen if nobody panicked.

2.c My Questions to the My Nominees:

Please correct my typos and other grammars without making me aware of them. If possible, hack my WP blog and correct them here as well.

1. (How) would you try to circumvent the rules set forth by the unknown founder of a blog award with an awkward pseudo-German name?

2. If you could re-design the rules for this award, what would you do?

3. What were the criteria for your choice of your WordPress blogging theme?

4. What is your favorite quote about science? (You can interpret science in a broad sense.)

5. If you need to compile lists of funny questions and answers, and you run out of quirky ideas – what would you do?

6. What is your favorite movie or story on time-travelling?

7. Have you ever been called a nerd or geek or have you called others nerds or geeks? Do you believe ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’ is a compliment or rather the opposite?

8. Have you ever written a book or do you plan to write one? If yes, what would it be about? In case, this is too personal: What would your book NOT be about?

9. Do you know what a tag-back is (without asking anybody and without using that advanced type of googling Elkement incapable of).

10. Did you really read this post word by word down to this line? (You may lie.)

11. A very personal question you do not need to answer: How much coffee / tea do you drink per day and does blogging or other writing has any impact on it?

Chinese Wall

This was The Great Wall of Text, wasn’t it? (Chinese Wall, Wikimedia)