Sunday, April 27, 2008

Twitter: Example of a failing race

First of all I want to say that this post is nothing negative towards Twitter as a service, company, or concept. I love Twitter and I still continue to embrace it (even if it is sometimes unreliable). What this post is about is how the human race continues to self-destruct because of a growing "logic" that is counter to what we are designed for.

When I first started using Twitter it was only because I thought it would be a way of updating my clients to let them know which building I was in and whether I was able to take on extra projects that day. As for the concept of Twitter, I thought it was absolutely retarded. I had the reaction that pretty much everyone that hasn't tried Twitter has: "Why do I care that someone is eating a cheese sandwhich?" It wasn't until I set up my Twitter account that I realized the community was a breeding ground for very strong relationships because what everyone's tweets were was simply daily life. It was them in a very unfiltered way. Because of this you start to understand a lot more about people and you find ways to connect with them that you never would have in any other fashion. Sure there are blogs but the majority of blogs are passed through our internal editor (aka, IMO, the frontal lobe) and is dulled down and made to be exciting or made to hide true emotions. It wasn't until what happened with the Frozen Pea Fund that I fully realized the potential of what the community inside of Twitter held. A couple years ago everyone would have said it was crazy to want to tell the world that you are holding a bag of frozen peas against your breasts.... but now we see where the "stupid" little things make a huge difference when a single tweet, stating just that, launched a movement that has raised many of thousands of dollars for breast cancer research.

But what happened? One of my tweets last night said "Starting to feel like I'm tweeting to the wall".... and I started thinking about that. Twitter used to be a place where I had a lot of encouragement when I was down. If I said something was bugging me, there were people that responded with advice or even just a simple "I'm thinking of you" but now I notice less and less replies to anything that I am saying. Interestingly enough, I start feeling this way around the same time that "Follow Spam" is becoming a heated topic. On top of that, it seems like the people that embraced Twitter for the community that it was are now more concerned about their "numbers" than about what is actually going on in people's lives. The concept of more followers is interpreted as cash value to so many people now and it's gone so far as someone selling their Twitter account on eBay.

So now it appears that Twitter has progressed into a medium to make money while losing the concept of community and compassion that was what brought people to Twitter in the first place. I think its great that there are people who have Twitter accounts to broadcast news and I think its great when a person shares a story that really jumps out at them because these are all part of the community but where the community is starting to self-destruct is when the focus becomes getting more followers rather than recognizing the followers that you do have. More and more tweets are being consumed by "I'm almost at 500 followers and need 8 more" while 492 people now don't matter because they already are a follower. Of course once you have someone following you it's rude not to follow them and now it's also a sure sign of many spammers so you, in turn, have to follow the 500 people that are following you and, in doing so, you eliminate the ability to genuinely care about the people you follow simply because you are overloaded and don't have the time to care about the person that is eating the cheese sandwhich and we revert back to life before Twitter except that now we drive ourselves to post tweets and now it's another "task" that we have to do rather than something we want to do.

The whole timeline of Twitter has displayed exactly why we, as humans, simply can't seem to be happy anymore. We focus on everything in ways that it can be turned into money, add stress to our lives, and lose any kind of compassion that we have on anyone else. Interestingly enough I think the reason why Twitter and just about any other social network gains such a following in the beginning is because our human emotions are so starved for interaction in this face paced world. Social networking allows us to interact with real humans while being "on the go" but the problem is that the world teaches us that the most important thing is to make money so we end up self-destructing any process that gives us that interaction by trying to monetize the most important thing to the human race: emotional stimulation. Once emotional stimulation is monetized it becomes a job rather than an enjoyment.

In 1997 after Steve Jobs rejoined Apple Computer, he made an annoucement at his keynote that Apple Computer was joining forces with Microsoft. Steve, who has an almost cult-like following, was literally booed. Steve's response was "we have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose". Steve went on to say if someone wants to help them then that's great because they need all they help they can get. The reality of the human race is just that. We all truly do need all the help we can get. I don't care how much money you make or what you have -- you still need other people's help and they need yours. When those 492 people don't matter because you are trying to get a mere 8 more and you focus on those 8 people you are trading 492 people that could potentially be those that will help you in exchange for only 8. It's so true that everyone's focus is on acquiring more that they lose any consideration to what they do have and it creates a perpetual greed cycle which, sadly, is becomming just as true with regards to emotions and compassion than it is with money.

Our society certainly is self-destructing and we're doing it because we turn our advancements into things that only set us back because the prize is always what is ahead and never what is already there. We're in a vicious cycle that is only gaining more and more force with each advancement and, while we are solving one or two problems with advancements, we are creating 5 more. The end result is that we display an image of advancement but in each person's lives we realize that it really is just that: nothing more than an image.

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(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Followup: Spokeo Spam

Last night I made a post about Spokeo skimming your information and using it to spam you.

Today after Googling "spokeo spam" I am finding that the majority of the internet is with me in my feeling that this is an absolutely horrible way to start a company. Additionally I am finding one single guy spamming message boards apologizing for him being responsible for spamming a lot of his contacts. I don't understand what's going on here but I think any way you look at it, we need to seriously avoid using the Spokeo service.

I don't understand how a company thinks that spamming random users thinks its a good way to break into an area of the web that is a sector that is under constant attack for unwanted spam and information harvesting. Instead of working on a way to combat this problem, this new start up has embraced the process.

While I will admit that the company certainly is creating a buzz about themselves, is this the buzz that they want? The Facebook application invites was the start of this backlash and that was messages sent only within the facebook system but now this company is taking that annoyance and delivering it directly to your email addresses.

If anyone has an account with Spokeo, I urge you to cancel it now. Firstly because companies who resort to these practices should not be supported but secondly because you may find yourself apologizing to many of your friends for being the reason they received spam from this company.

See also:
This guy's girlfriend got spammed to her cell phone and it woke her up because her cell phone address was in his address book.

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(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved

Spokeo skimming your information

I just received this spam and it is definately upsetting. I don't care if it says its one time only or not - they still skimmed my contact information. I did not request this email nor have I done anything with this company.

Sure, there are options on some of my social network accounts to filter more information but that's not the point. I know this type of thing was bound to happen but its frustrating just the same. Social networks are trying to tell us that only your friends can see your information but at the same time they are pollinating your friends for them to carry your information with them.

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(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved

Saturday, August 11, 2007

So here is an interesting observation which really isn't that surprising. I have been playing around on Facebook (yes, I have an account there now -- and no I will not be going back to myspace) and I was searching for people that went to Greensburg-Salem High School. Obviously I started with the year I would have graduated (Class of 99) and then went a few years in each direction and I realized there was an explosion of people in the class of 2001. Check out the number of people that are on Facebook by their class year:

  • 1996 - 3
  • 1997 - 7
  • 1998 - 12
  • 1999 - 21
  • 2000 - 18
  • 2001 - 45
  • 2002 - 47
  • 2003 - 82
  • 2004 - 94
  • 2005 - 101
  • 2006 - 138

It's obvious that younger people are more involved in social networking but I don't think it's the issue of technology that most think it is. It was really the early 90's that interest in computers really started taking off. Granted, I was interested in the 80's but the 1990's brought computers into everyone's home. I was the last person in my group of friends to actually get a "real" computer and that happened in middle school. Is it possible that it has to do with emotional attachment and filling a void that was created by technology?

The reason I left myspace a few months ago was simply because it is no longer what it was intended to be. People say it's a site to connect with people that you haven't seen in a while. When I first got my myspace account, that happened frequently but as time went on, it was obvious that it was drifting away from being that. Facebook, on the other hand, has a lot of ways to interact more but, more importantly, has important "social blocks" that help prevent it from becomming what myspace is now. For instance, there are no such things as "top friends" which means you don't have to pick favorites (which you are forced to do on myspace). You also have a lot more searching power on facebook but you are limited to who's profile you can actually view. You have to be a member of a network to see people's profiles in that network (unless they add you). You are able to search for anyone using very specific criteria but it blocks the ability to just randomly search for people and add them as your friends. Essentially, on facebook you have to know what you are looking for, where on mypsace you don't.

So what is the big deal about whether you are able to search for someone based on random criteria? Well, in almost all cases those random searches are for the purpose of filling a void that isn't being met in real life. So many people are hiding behind their computers now and they are not experiencing what life is really about. Technology is an amazing tool that allows us to connect with and keep in touch with people around the globe but at the same time, it is taking the focus of what friendship and relationships are all about. Giving someone "a hug" online will never be able to take the place of giving someone a real-life hug. We try to push the experiences that technology can give us and we create "features" that pull us away from what life was meant to be. SMS messages, email, instant messages.... we are tied to this network 24 hours a day because it's now not only on our computers but it's on our phones and other mobile devices. We are now even ordering pizza online to avoid having to talk to someone on the phone... think about it.... we're using technology to pull us away from a technology that took us away from physical interaction. Yes, phones did that. Instead of having to go to your friend's house and have a conversation you could now talk to them even though they were across town. Now that technology is progressing, telephone calls are too personal for us. Maybe this has a lot to do with why the online pornography business is booming.... we don't want to have to deal with relationships anymore so we see millions and millions of people turning to pornography which attempts to give sexual satisfaction without the ties of a relationship -- or even a friendship.

I am as guilty as the next person with all of this but I have slowly been realizing a lot of what I was stuck inside. The irony of the situation is that I lived in 3 different apartment complexes during the time I lived in Northern VA and out of all of that I met only one neighbor at only one of those. That's more than 2 years of living next door to hundreds of people and I met one. Now I live in the mountains where there are only 2 other houses visible from my house and in only a few months I know them both. Think about it -- where is technology at? It's in the cities... the higher the population is, the more technology is available. Where I live, I consider it a blessing that I can get a cable modem but in NoVA, you have countless options for getting faster internet connections and a lot less to do outside of the apartment or house. I love going to Shenandoah National Park because it helps me realize how much more there is outside of cyberspace. I realized how much I had been missing by being 100% embedded in technology and going to the park cuts me away from technology all together. To me, it is a blessing to not have cell phone coverage while I'm in the park -- it forces me to realize more about what the world is.

What changed for the class of 2001? I think it's probably the generation that really started losing touch of the importance of spending time together and how important other people were to our lives. There is nothing wrong with the fact that more and more people are using social networks or using cell phones or any other kind of technology. I use technology all the time and it is a huge part of my life but I'm slowly realizing that it's not the use of technology, but the motive of using that technology, that is important.

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(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Myspace is no longer a place that I am participating in.
A while ago a friend and I were talking about both of us just deleting our myspace accounts but that person has decided not to.... over the last couple of days I have realized that my reason for not wanting to be part of it any more was not dependant on that person. Actually, I have found a lot more out about real life and I like it a lot better.

When you cancel your myspace account, they want you to fill in a box with comments on why you are deleting your account. Here is what I wrote:

There are two points to the reason for me canceling.
The first reason is because the site is a technical nightmare. It's overwhelming flash content will tax even the most advanced computers and the focus of myspace seems to be add new features to compete with possible competitors rather than making sure what they already have works. There is seemingly no spam protection inside of the site it's self. While it's true that you can disable email notifications I can't log in to the site without seeing spam comments or messages. Oh, and the "Unexpected error has occured" has become more than expected.

The second reason is the attitude of people on the site. I have seen entirely too many friendships and relationships destroyed because of jealousy. seems to be the greatest collection of petty and self-centered people..... or maybe it's just that everyone on myspace knows how to use the site so well but they can't understand how to use "real-life" and there is a reliance upon how many people are on your friend's list because they don't understand what it means to have real friends and it's the only way they can close the gap.

No matter what the reason, the idea of social networking (and especially myspace's paticular style) is harmful to society in the long run. While I believe that a lot of good can and has happened on the site, I don't believe that most people have the idea of making it that way so this is my decission not to be a part of this any longer.

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(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Its about time a company embraces the idea that the world is different. This is a really awesome thing that Starbucks did!

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(C)2003-2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved

(C)2008, Bob K Mertz - Some Rights Reserved
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