In Good Company

While it may not matter much whether I’m doing my Internettery via the big social media sites, I was delighted to read that The Oatmeal (a fantastic comic which you should become familiar with if you aren’t already) has also decided to try to get back to using the web to connect with readers. I’ll let them explain why (with an excellent overview of some of the problems) rather than mumbling about it myself with less clarity and humor.

In any case, it makes me feel good and a little hopeful that I’m seeing smart folks also think maybe this whole FB-controlling-most-online-ideas-exchange isn’t a great deal for anybody but FB itself.

I Want To Pay For Stuff

I can’t think where to begin this blog, so I’m going to grab a related point from the current About page, regarding leaving Facebook, and trying to figure out how to do social media better. The genie of connectivity is out of the bottle, and the promise of the Internet is still in the air, no matter who’s claiming they’re the only way you can have it.

Two minutes ago, I was standing in the kitchen and thinking about how to get to where I want to pick up lunch. It’s kind of across town, and Portland’s North/South thoroughfares aren’t awesome, but there are a couple of likely paths. Deciding between them is traffic-dependent, now more than ever.

So… Google Maps it is. I don’t love using Google’s services more than I need to (where “need” is down to stuff that I don’t want to put the effort into avoiding), but it’s the best map application by miles, pun gratefully stumbled into.

I don’t care all that much that Google is finding out that I’m going over to PSU and then coming home again on this particular occasion. It’s more a matter of that as traffic gets worse, I kind of tell them everywhere I go. Which helps build a picture of a fair bit about me. Which makes the info they can sell about me more valuable to advertisers. Who will use this to try to sell me things, or avoid spending money advertising to me if I clearly won’t buy their product (or contribute to their PAC, or whatever).

What I would like is to be able to pay a reasonable market value to Google for the service, and not have my trip data stored away and associated with my digital existence.

Again, I don’t feel any great evil is going to come of any particular chunk of data from these trips. It’s having that aggregated data about many, many people, how it can be combed through, sorted, and used to group, filter, influence, and sell (ideas or products) to with an efficiency that Madison Avenue at its peak couldn’t have dreamed of.

It sounds like paranoia, but it seems to me that we’re seeing the effects of this influence in the “sides” that society is apparently more divided into than ever. And here I’m going to pull back from the full rabbit hole, because while there are fingers cocked, loaded, and ready to point about how different entities are using this data, the point I want to focus on is that we hand it over for a pittance, and the things we get in return, though handy, are mostly replaceable for very modest sums.

“But I’m already stretched too thin!” you say, and fair enough. One of the great powers of social media (and politicians) is playing a shell game with real costs. But that’s another post. I’ve got to go pick up lunch.