Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Partial Power Corrupts Partially

“All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” -- Lord Acton

Schwarzenegger, Weiner, Wu; just a few of this year's poster boys for taking advantage of position to misbehave. When news breaks about a scandal involving a politician, the first thought most people have is, "What was he thinking?" (I am not being sexist here; yes, there are women who take advantage of position as well, but it seems that are not nearly as many, so I am going to stick with "he" in this thought-dump.)

The question we should ask, however, is "Was he thinking at all?" What is it with people? What part of "Think first, act later" don't they understand?

In 2011, it's all about instant gratification. "I want this and I want it now, never mind the consequences" is the mantra. I can't think of any major scandal that didn't have that at its root. Even the financial crisis is all about that.

The old adage "Give him an inch and he'll take a mile" is also apt. (Ah, those pre-metric days! Somehow, "Give him a millimeter and he'll take a meter" doesn't have the same je ne sais quoi.) We make allowances for misbehavior, and we don't think about the consequences we'll suffer. So much time and media space is taken up with all this nonsense; when are people going to get real, and serious, and deal with the big problems we have?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Standards: Where Would We Be Without Them?

"And really, I think what we're talking about is standards, basically; very, very specific, rigid, you could say, but in this world where would we be without them, I think. And notice where we are." -- Best in Show

I'm not sure that I can improve on this quote from one of my favorite films. Why doesn't anyone care about anything any more? People appear to be willing to settle for mediocre service, and customer service is no longer about customers or service. This is not my view alone; plenty of other people have commented on this, blogged on this, ranted about this.

And it's not just customer service. Schools all across the United States are lowering standards so that students appear to be doing better than they are. The recent scandal in Atlanta shows how this can be taken to extremes. WHAT were the teachers and administrators thinking? Did they really imagine that just because a student got a high grade on a test that it didn't matter that they didn't actually know the subject matter? The mind boggles.

I remember a saying (paraphrased) from my youth: Let's make this accessible to the lowest common denominator. The entire world seems to have taken this to heart. Don't make people work to understand things; dumb it down, and in the process get it wrong, but, hey, who cares? We'l just move on to something else.

But it all DOES matter. If everyone really began to care about standards, and really aimed for the stars rather than settling for "just getting through it," just think about how much better the world would be.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around . . . And Around . . . And Around

It's early days for Google+, and so we can all expect some teething problems. And because there is so much that is so good about it, any little irritation can seem bigger than it really is.

I've noticed a few posts in the past couple of days about filtering specific posts by keyword. This would be a great idea. We all are seeing the same thing shared over and over . . . and over, mainly because people are so thrilled with Google+ that they want to establish their presence and show that they are already well connected. But it can be annoying to see the same gif again and again, or the same comic strip, or Twitter-like posts about the latest celebrity news.

The problem here is that it's not the person sharing that I would want to block; 99% of their posts and shares are great, informative, and I want to see them. But it's that 1% that pops up over and over that I would love to block. I could just put the keyword into the filter, and those repeat-offender Shares would be gone, but my Circlers would still be seen posting and sharing other things. Mystery solved.

Google CMs have been incredibly responsive so far. I've suggested this via Feedback, and I'm sure that if you do, too, something will be done. Google+ is great; let's make it even better!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Google+ Is Restoring My Faith In Social Media

It's still early days for Google+, but one thing that is standing out for me is the level of discussion / posts / sharing. Everything seems much more . . . grown up, intellectual, thoughtful. Okay, I know there are still a lot of those gifs with Facebook and other social media sites getting beat up, but just have a look at one of the really great ideas that swam through my Stream in the past couple of hours:

And there were lots more, about setting up support circles and helpful circles.

No offense to celebrities, but there aren't even any of the "I'm famous and so you'd love to know about the sandwich that I just made" type post. The few celebrities that I have seen post have something really worthwhile to say.

I have learned more about coding, add-on software, blogging, interactive media, and similar things in the past three weeks on Google+ than in years of daily surfing and following posts on FB, Twitter, etc.

And Hangouts. Well, what can I say? They are the best thing since sliced bread. Or Star Trek.

In a Hangout earlier today, we were discussing how to attract more people to Google+. I just hope that the influx of more and more people will not serve to lower the overall tone. These last three weeks have been the highlight of social media for me, and I am looking forward to Google+ getting better and better.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Calling Classical Musicians!

I have been posting the following on Google+ for the past couple of days:

"I would like to find other classical musicians who would be interested in playing chamber music in a Hangout! We can arrange the time beforehand, and figure out the instruments that way. We can find the music on IMSLP (http://imslp.org/wiki/).

People who are not musicians could then join the Hangout to listen. We could even do this more than once/as a regularly scheduled event/whatever.

If you are a classical musician, let me know in your answer. I am a flutist. We could have lots of different chamber group combinations."

Several musicians have indicated that they would be interested in playing, and lots of people want to listen! So there definitely is interest in this!

I want to find even more musicians, so I hope that if you see this you will want to get involved! If you are not yet on Google+, let me know, and I will send you an invite!

For those of you who aren't familiar with Google+ Hangouts, up to 10 people can be connected at a time. No software is needed; all you have to do is have a Google+ presence, and you can join or initiate a Hangout.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Google+ Does Not Need Games

What a breath of fresh air Google+ has been! Sure, there have been some infantile posts, easily muted, but for the most part there has been intelligent, interesting sharing of ideas and links posted to helpful sites. All of this has been accomplished without the noise and irritation of "adopt my piglet" posts and "please send me six million golden nuggets" requests.

Now, I am not against online social games. I have even played some myself (gasp!) and can see the fun in them.

But we don't have to have games on every social networking site. Why clutter up Google+ with games? Surely plenty of people can go over to Facebook or wherever to get their fix, and then come back to the sanity and quiet of Google+.

Even if I could isolate people into a "Gamers" Circle, why make me have to do that? I already had to mess around with that on Facebook, and that's one of the reasons why I was so happy to jump ship right away. There must be a lot of other people just like me.

The great potential in Google+ Hangouts

I contacted the Editorial Board of my journal after I joined Google+, as I thought many of them would be interested in joining as well. I told them about Hangouts, as I thought that it could be a great way for the Board to meet, as we are never in the same place at the same time.

One of the Board Members wrote back and said that he wondered if I could invite a colleague of his. She was looking for an easy way to video conference with academics all over the world. I immediately invited her, and in no time at all she was posting and getting her friends and colleagues to sign up.

And the hook for her and for many people is the ease with which they can video conference. No one needs to download bloated software that will crash. No one has to worry about compatibility with a platform. No one has to worry if they don't have a webcam, as they can join in the Hangout anyway!

We are still waiting for Google+ to open up to businesses, but I can see real potential in these Hangouts for meetings and quick get-togethers. No sending out invitations and codes and grabbing hold of each other's desktops here, there, and everywhere (although I do recognize that there are times when demonstrating something that way would be helpful). But most Web meetings that I have attended would have been much easier and straightforward in a Hangout.

I have been in Hangouts both on my Cr-48 using the built-in Webcam and also on my Windows 7 desktop using a USB Logitech Webcam. I have not had any problems with sound or picture quality. I have found it incredibly easy to get in and also to leave, and to rejoin!

Google+ will get better as the weeks go by, and I am sure that there will be improvements made to Hangouts. I am incredibly impressed with them already, and will be trying to use them more and more for different situations.