I know that the end of Google Reader is almost upon us. I’ve been a little too busy to spend much time experimenting with various tools that might become my new RSS reader. I’ve briefly looked at a few, but there have definitely been a few things that I’ve liked, some others that I didn’t. As I looked around, I really didn’t see anything that offered me what I have had for years in Google Reader.
Until today. I stumbled upon The Old Reader. The Old Reader is trying to replicate not just the current Google Reader experience, but also the sharing features that Google removed from Reader long ago. I instantly uploaded a copy of my Google Reader subscriptions and had the same folder structure and all my feeds in Old Reader about 15 minutes later.
So far, so good. Obviously, I will need a few more days of using Old Reader exclusively in place of Google Reader before I make any final decision, but I think there’s a strong chance that this is where I’m moving my RSS reading to.
What have you moved to since Google announced the shuttering of Reader?
Let me first say, that this is really just my opinion, and I do not speak for all introverts, or for all trainers, or for all bloggers.
Last week, I was in Vegas for our annual User’s Conference at the Aria Resort and Hotel. As with most conferences, when you work for the company putting on the conference, and are tasked with presenting various sessions during the conference, there is very little of what you might call down time. In fact, I arrived at the hotel on Saturday, and never even really had a chance to go outside until Weds. evening. And go, I did. Because as much as I enjoy training, meeting with customers, and talking eDiscovery with a variety of people, as an introvert there is only so long that I can be “on” before I just get exhausted.
So when some free time opened up on Weds. I left the hotel in search of somewhere I could have dinner without anyone recognizing me, wanting to talk about our products, or the conference sessions. I craved the opportunity to simply be anonymous for a couple of hours, and left alone. Again, this is not because I don’t enjoy those interactions, but introverts have to work hard in any social situation, even ones that we enjoy, and eventually all that work just catches up with us. We spend far more time thinking about what we say and how we come across than extroverts, and require time to recharge our mental energy, away from other people. Vegas is a great place to be an introvert generally, because everyone is doing their own thing and really paying no attention to you, allowing you to be out, and yet still recharge your social interaction energy levels. Such was the case that evening.
The introduction of wearable tech, especially with facial recognition, is going to change that. Every time I step outside there will be the chance that someone will spot me, decide to do a little facial recognition, look me up on LinkedIn, or find the blog, and suddenly I’m no longer just another nameless person who happens to be eating dinner, I’m Mike McBride, ediscovery software trainer, blogger, amateur photographer, traveler, etc. and let’s face it, if you share an interest, or want to talk about one of the things I do, you’ll come and talk to me about it. That’s the point of wearing the tech and looking people up in the first place, isn’t it?
Not that I think there is a very high risk of someone bothering to look me up, but the risk is still there and as this kind of technology becomes more widespread, I will be forced to adapt my expectations of “down time”. I will have to expect that I am no longer anonymous, but that anyone could know who I am and be tying my online life to my actions as I eat a meal, or walk down a street. Am I dumb enough to be doing anything out in public that would be embarrassing professionally or personally? Of course not, but we all know that people behave, and feel, differently when they know they are being watched. Introverts feel that need to be “on” when being watched, and instead of recharging our social energy, we wind up depleting it just by virtue of being in a public place.
Of course, for me, the risk is probably fairly small, but I will still be aware of it and it will absolutely affect me and the things I do to recharge my social energy levels. What about people who are more recognizable who are introverts? What about attractive women who are introverts? Do you really think they won’t have folks “Googling” them as a way to find an excuse to talk to them?
Unfortunately, for all the cool, “wow”, things wearable tech and facial recognition could do, they also will absolutely result in the following things as well:
- Socially awkward guys using information gleaned from online profiles to stalk, harass, hit on, or do worse to, attractive females they happen to run across in public. Or vice versa.
- Small actions seen in public taken out of context, and used to embarrass people on social networks, or potentially as blackmail.
- Photos taken in public places by complete strangers being tied to social network profiles. (Imagine if People of Walmart could actually identify the people in the photos, for example.)
- An overall change in public behavior. If everything could be recorded, how we interact socially will have to change. The free exchange of ideas that generally only happens in private now, for fear of public repercussions, will cease to exist.
- More and more people, and groups, becoming socially outcast as their actions are recorded, shared, linked to their identity, and ridiculed.
- Introverts will revert to spending more time alone, and withdrawing from society bit by bit, as they lose the ability to recharge outside of their own home.
That last point is an important one. The reality is that soon, you will have to make a choice between having an online presence, which is so important for your career as a knowledge worker, and adjusting your behavior to minimize the impact of wearable tech on your privacy, or simply dropping out of the online world altogether. (If you don’t have any online profiles, people using Glass can’t find out who you are.). Neither of these are good choices for an introvert. They are both very limiting, and force you to withdraw from the life you may lead now. We are being forced to this choice by the extroverted and tech crowds who are suspicious of people who don’t want to be “out there” all the time. The technology exists so you’re just going to have to get used to everyone using it all the time.
To them I can only say, that having something to hide, and wanting to be left alone, are not one and the same.
I noticed something interesting yesterday. Like any other day, I had clicked over to an article, and after reading the article, I saw some of the comments being made about it. Mind you, the comments sections of many major news sites are generally the kind of place I would think about wondering into only when I felt like I had too much optimism about the human race and needed to quell that a bit. But something in there caught my eye, and made me wonder about something. I decided I needed to take a sample.
So I went back to the “headlines” area and looked for obvious political or cultural stories. The kind that usually attract the real trolls. Sure enough, they were there. There were posts spouting political positions of all kinds, personal attacks against other commenters, folks who felt no qualms about spouting hateful opinions about overweight people and on and on.
The only difference on this site, was that the articles being commented on were in the “influencers” section of LinkedIn, and all of the commenters were identified using their LinkedIn profile and the company they work for was listed right there, with their comments.
Talk about a way to really give your company a bad name. Talk about a way to run afoul of your company’s social media policies. Talk about an easy way to find yourself fired, or find your company being boycotted, or talk about a way for your company to face a PR nightmare. This isn’t some random website where you appear as some anonymous person and it would require a ton of work to track you down. This is freaking LinkedIn!
I avoid making just about any political or social comments here because a lot of people do know where I work, and it’s easy to find out if you don’t. Plus I really don’t think it’s possible to have intelligence conversations about either online, but I surely would never say anything close to controversial when my title and company are attached to it! Obviously, not everyone has really thought this through.
That’s the news from the Googlesphere, that Blogger users will now be able to bring in Google Plus conversations into the comments of their blogs.
On one hand, this makes sense, and might be quite useful for Blogger users who are also active on Google+. I hope they enjoy being able to extend their blog conversations into Plus and vice versa.
On the other hand, this just goes to show how much of Google is a completely closed system. Sure, you can bring in comments from Google owned Plus into Google owned Blogger. But what if you want to bring in comments to Blogger from Facebook, Twitter, etc.? What if, as a WordPress user, you want to bring in comments from Plus?
Look, this is a nice feature for Blogger users, but let’s not kid ourselves. This is also part of Google’s larger strategy to be your one stop “everything” shop, and to share data about you and your actions online across all of their products. Think about it, what better way for Google to target advertising to you (And let’s not forget that at the very base level, Google is an advertising company), than to know what blogs you comment on, and what you have to say, who you’re connected to, what kinds of things are in your email messages, who those are from, what you search for online, what events are coming up on your calendar, and on and on and on? They are creating a profile of you, using the combination of your activities on all of their products, and they are keeping you behind their walled garden when you use those products. Your own site, your Twitter handle, your Facebook or LinkedIn profile? Those don’t belong to Google, and Google can’t take the identity you’ve created on Google’s products to track you in those environments. In a nutshell, allowing interoperability isn’t really in Google’s interest, so I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it.
While I think it’s cool that they are adding interoperability from Blogger and Plus, wake me when Google actually offers up a public API so the rest of the online world can interact with Plus. Until then, Plus remains just another site I have to login to in order to see what’s happening.
Recently, I read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, and there was a quote in it that I wrote down because I wanted to truly think about just what the quote said, and how it relates to careers, management, and life in general. The book is a thought provoking read all the way through, but this particular quote seemed to stick with me long after I read it:
There are no longer any great jobs where someone else tells you precisely what to do
As Seth goes on to explain, once upon a time a great job was one working at a factory or a mill, where you put in an honest days work for an honest days pay. It was stable, solid work for stable, solid people.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way anymore, even if we continue to try and treat the workplace as if it does. If your job entails doing exactly what someone else tells you to do, that means you are eminently replaceable. As a manager I can get almost ANYONE to simply do exactly what I tell them to do all day long. Therefore, as a worker, the only thing you have to compete on with other workers is price. Basically, it makes sense for me to hire the person who will do exactly what I say for the least amount of pay if all I really need is someone to do what I say all day long. There’s very little skill differential between candidates for this type of job, so it comes down to how much it will cost me to hire someone for it.
The problem, of course, is that society hasn’t yet caught up to this reality. Education is still focused on teaching students to follow instructions, corporations are still focused on procedures and reporting structures that encourage following instructions, and managers are still busy running around telling their directs what to do all day long. In a nutshell, society is doing everything it can to develop a workforce that can follow directions, when that skill set is an absolute dead-end.
Let’s see how this works out in real life. Let’s say you’re a programmer. Each day you go in to the office and your manager tells you exactly what you should be coding, how you should code it, etc. Basically, you are there to simply do precisely what they tell you to do, along with the other 5 programmers on your team. There’s no real difference between your jobs, there’s no chance to really stand out among your peers, and there’s really nothing about what you’re doing the deserves to be recognized above your peers. You’re nothing but a cog in the machine that keeps spitting out code. For your manager this is both good, and bad. In the short term, it’s great. You keep working and putting out code that makes them look good, and they don’t have to really worry about paying you more or needing to replace you, because they’ll just bring in someone else to do exactly what they say. Over the long term though, this means that the manager is never going to get any fresh ideas from his or her reports. When the people above want something new, the manager will look out upon the sea of programmer cubicles, and there won’t be anyone there to step up, because that’s not the job they’ve created and filled with these programmers.
Yet, we see this play out over and over again in the corporate world. Because having irreplaceable workers means having to work hard to keep them, it’s easier to create jobs that are easily filled. So we just continue along the path of pretending that telling our directs exactly what to do = a great job, because….. “the economy”!
Yes, yes, of course, the problem with the labor market is the economy, once that picks up things will go back to the way they were. Except as the economy has improved, the labor market has not. Could that be because the way we structure and hire labor is out of whack with the reality of life in 2013? Management keeps pretending that they can do pretty much whatever they want in terms of crafting existing jobs into meaningless and low-paying cogs because we should just be thankful to have a job, but those same companies are now at a point where there’s nowhere else to go. They can’t pay less to make a less expensive product, we’ve hit rock bottom there. They don’t have anyone with great original ideas on staff any more, those people left for more money and the chance to have the freedom to create something new, and a whole lot of people who truly believed they would be taken care of if they just followed directions and worked hard, are out of a job, or seriously underemployed.
The only way this changes if we change our approach to work, both from the management and labor sides. Management, quit looking for the cheapest cog. You can’t compete on price alone any more. Labor, quit settling for jobs where you never get a chance to stand out or create something new. You’re better than that, but you’ll never get better than that if you don’t take some chances.
Simply put, there’s no mill or factory that is going to provide for your family for the rest of your life. The new economy requires different skills, and it requires a whole different approach to work than we’ve been taught. One that does not include someone else telling you what to do.