My Christmas: Information as gifts…

One of the detractions around social media, social networking and blogging etc is that there are plenty of people in the ‘real world’ who don’t give a monkeys about the internet.

Which may well be true, but in addition to the somewhat reasonable 140 million+ active users on Facebook, this holiday season emphasised how the world is changing on a personal level – namely the relationship between an online geek (me), and his almost technophobe parents.

It started pre-Christmas, when my folks replaced their aging desktop with a shiny new laptop and signed up for broadband. (For reference, the desktop must be about 10 years old, and they were still on dial-up!)

Then they started asking me to find albums by relatively niche Irish folk artists on Amazon. And my mother decided to borrow Tribes - which is promising as she completed a degree in sociology in her spare time a few years ago with marks I’ll always be proud and envious of!

But Christmas really was The Tipping Point.

For starters, their gift to me was a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Outliers: The Story of Success.

My gift in return was a webcam, and a quick lesson in using Windows Live Messenger, Gmail, and Flickr. (We tried Twitter but that’s probably a step too far!)

The reasons were simple:

1. They already have a hotmail email account, and although there might be better IM clients, not only is Windows Live Messenger pretty simple and easy to use, but enough people use it that I wouldn’t be sole technical support.

The main reason is that it means they can see their grandson on webcam whenever we’re online.

2. Gmail is intended to be a starting point for them to hopefully move to Google Calendar,  Google Docs etc.

The main reason is that it means I can share my calendar so we can all schedule our lives and events without playing telephone tennis for days and weeks beforehand. Facebook might also be useful, but that’s for Phase 2!

3. Flickr is a nice way to start seeing the value of sharing images, tagging, etc.

But the main thing is that my dad has always had an artistic side which is always underexploited, and has always be into photography. Plus they can see ‘family only’ images of the family.

We’ve already had a couple of webcam enabled chats over IM, and I’m hoping it’ll encourage them to explore and try other new ways to share and communicate with friends and family.  I’m certainly past the age of worrying that connecting with my parents might make me seem less cool, or that they’d see an inappropriate picture or comment – at my age, the chances to behave inappropriately are frustratingly rare!

Information overload…

Stress is one of the big factors in working and living in the 21st century.

So why have we started using the internet to increase our stress, rather than using it to make life easier?

I took a day off from the internet last week. It was a conscious decision to take a break and rest, and I ended the day feeling reinvigorated, and with some interesting ideas and topics to discuss here.

So why has it taken five days since then to post on the blog?

Net Stress.

Obviously before I could do anything I needed to check Facebook and my email for new messages. Then I needed to update Twitter. And catch up on the popular blogs via RSS. And then I remembered I’d started a Shelfari profile and hadn’t filled it in. And then there were more Facebook messages. And some people IM’d me on MSN. And then there were more emails.

And just the same as taking a holiday from the day job, spending 24 hours away from the next has left me more stressed than before I took a rest. And it’s all self-inflicted.

Should I be worried about internet addiction?

Is it location, location, location for Web 2.0?

NB: The following post assumes that you don’t mind anyone with a web browser being able to track your every move…

Now that social networking has reached everyone, there are plenty of people banking on the next way to improve on online networks

And it seems the next step is to further integrate your online persona with your real-life location. It’s fine hooking up with a new friend on the other side of the planet due to your shared love of Japanese animation or vintage cars, but it’s also handy to find someone with the same interest that lives in the next street and comes round for an evening of DVD watching, or can help you change your rear axle.

There’s a whole range of location services springing up. But some have better value than others.

For instance, I’ve been playing with radiusIM today. It’s a social Instant Messaging service, which combines an MSN Messenger like function (And interacts with AOL, MSN, Yahoo and GTalk messaging), with a map displaying the whereabouts of your friends, and the nearest people to you on the service.

The problem with radiusIM is that is deson’t really have a clear function. There’s not enough detail to initiate flirting with strangers of the opposite sex, there’s no way to build groups around a local area, and the one other function, the ability to track where your friends are currently located, falls down due to the fact the locations have to be defined manually by a user. So for my friends to spot me walking to the pub, I’ve got to log in and move my location every few minutes…

A fat better idea is the mobile application Oops I’m Late! I’ve yet to test it thoroughly, but it’s got a winning idea. Set an appointment in your mobile calendar, and if you’re running late, it automatically notifies the contacts you’ve selected, and gives an estimated time of arrival etc… So you can let your colleagues know to delay their meeting, and save your family from wondering if you’ve forgotten the shopping etc, without having to remember to text every single one of them. Perfect for people who travel a lot and can’t use a mobile while they drive or ride their motorcycle…Or to put it another way “Revolutionary, disruptive technology that is designed to keep your common courtesy quota up”

As with anything it’s those ideas which can be explained in a single sentence which work. And with location tracking, it’s those services which don’t involve manual input, and can utilise mobile phones which will show the great benefits.

Is it location, location, location for Web 2.0?

NB: The following post assumes that you don’t mind anyone with a web browser being able to track your every move…

Now that social networking has reached everyone, there are plenty of people banking on the next way to improve on online networks

And it seems the next step is to further integrate your online persona with your real-life location. It’s fine hooking up with a new friend on the other side of the planet due to your shared love of Japanese animation or vintage cars, but it’s also handy to find someone with the same interest that lives in the next street and comes round for an evening of DVD watching, or can help you change your rear axle.

There’s a whole range of location services springing up. But some have better value than others.

For instance, I’ve been playing with radiusIM today. It’s a social Instant Messaging service, which combines an MSN Messenger like function (And interacts with AOL, MSN, Yahoo and GTalk messaging), with a map displaying the whereabouts of your friends, and the nearest people to you on the service.

The problem with radiusIM is that is doesn’t really have a clear function. There’s not enough detail to initiate flirting with strangers of the opposite sex, there’s no way to build groups around a local area, and the one other function, the ability to track where your friends are currently located, falls down due to the fact the locations have to be defined manually by a user. So for my friends to spot me walking to the pub, I’ve got to log in and move my location every few minutes…

A fat better idea is the mobile application Oops I’m Late! I’ve yet to test it thoroughly, but it’s got a winning idea. Set an appointment in your mobile calendar, and if you’re running late, it automatically notifies the contacts you’ve selected, and gives an estimated time of arrival etc… So you can let your colleagues know to delay their meeting, and save your family from wondering if you’ve forgotten the shopping etc, without having to remember to text every single one of them. Perfect for people who travel a lot and can’t use a mobile while they drive or ride their motorcycle…Or to put it another way “Revolutionary, disruptive technology that is designed to keep your common courtesy quota up”

As with anything it’s those ideas which can be explained in a single sentence which work. And with location tracking, it’s those services which don’t involve manual input, and can utilise mobile phones which will show the great benefits.