The Invasive Valley of Personalization

Mar 8, 2014 by

About 9 months ago, I gave a presentation at the World Future Society Conference called The Promise and Perils of Personalization.

After thinking, reading, discussing, and musing about personalization for about a year, I realized that there is a fine line between useful personalization and creepy personalization. It reminded me of the “uncanny valley” in human robotics. So I plotted the same kind of curves on two axes: Access to Data as the horizontal axis, and Perceived Helpfulness on the vertical axis.  For technology to get vast access to data AND make it past the invasive valley, it would have to be perceived as very high on the perceived helpfulness scale.

I remember the first time I saw Google Now deployed on my phone. It told me that my commute to work would take 16 minutes if I left right now. I had never told Google Now where I worked, I had not told Google Now the route I drove to work, nor had not asked it to calculate my commute time.  While it was slightly creepy that it knew all this information by analyzing my daily patterns, it was also useful, and the trip over the invasive valley was short. Of course, since I now work remotely from home, Google Now thinks I work at the LDS church across the street from my house now. I’m surprised it hasn’t figured out my gym patterns and started reminding me when to leave for yoga.

I think Google Glass is getting a bad rap simply because it is stuck in the invasive valley. The general population really doesn’t see it as providing useful technology for everyday life. Sure, you can snap a picture from your glasses, but if that’s it then you’re just sneaking into the privacy of others. If, en masse, we viewed Google glass as an incredibly helpful tool, I think it would successfully navigate itself up the steep slope to redemption.

Facebook wanders in and out of the invasive valley depending on the news and the latest release cycle of their apps and privacy statements. When the latest Facebook app demanded access to all my texts, I questioned the helpfulness of the feature it claimed to need these things for – account verification for some users. The idea that Facebook would read all my texts simply to add this one feature for some users slid it back down into the invasive valley for me. This feature is not helpful enough to warrant access to all that data.

In describing the “Invasive Valley” of data access and personalization my husband looked at me and said “Forget Big Brother, wait till you meet Big Mother!” and I think that is where we’re headed. Personalization is going to become our new life nagging companion:

Maybe you should walk now? You’ve only got 2,100 steps so far today.

You have symphony tickets on Saturday night, have you made a dinner reservation yet?

I can see that you’ve eaten yogurt for 4 mornings now, should we should add yogurt to your grocery list?

You’ve only gotten an average of 6 hours of sleep a night for 5 nights, I think you should take an early bedtime tonight.

Clearly enough data is being collected about me that Google Now could do any of these (if it had access to my FitBit and Smith’s card). Don’t these all seem like things your mother would remind you of?

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My Social Media Story

Apr 10, 2013 by

Here’s the story about how I came to use social media and why. If you’ve had trouble understanding why on earth people use social media, this might be helpful. I used social media to track my dissertation progress and develop a network of interested colleagues. I used social media to learn how to become a digital game designer. I use social media to stay connected to and learn from a fascinating collection of futurists, math education colleagues, social media experts, and data visualization folks from around the world. This is something I put together for my Social Media MOOC.

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10 Things Our Kids WILL Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution

Dec 20, 2011 by

After reading this list of “10 Things our Kids will Never Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution” from Forbes, I was inspired to remind people that technology usually creates just as many problems as it solves.  So here’s my list of the new worries created by the Information Revolution.

1. [Will never have to worry about Taking a Typing Class] They will have to worry about … Mastering multiple input methods and keeping track of which ones autocorrect which words badly.  Now you have to master typing on a keyboard, typing on a tablet device, sliding over touch-keys on a Smartphone, using a numeric-only keyboard on a cellphone, using the voice-input from Apple, using the voice-input from Google, or using the voice-input from Microsoft. Each one of these uses different AutoCorrect features and has different oddities.  That’s plenty to worry about.  One bad autocorrect could lose you a job if you’re not careful.

2. [Will never have to worry about Paying Bills by Writing Countless Checks]  They will have to worry about … Losing control of finances because it’s too easy to make impulse purchases.   When all it takes to make an impulse buy is one click on your phone, tablet, or computer, it’s pretty easy to overspend your income.  And, while $0.99 or $4.99 is a pretty inexpensive purchase, those small impulse App purchases add up pretty quickly.

3. [Will never have to worry about Buying an Expensive Set of Encylopedias] They will have to worry about …  Evaluating the Source of their Information.  I’m sure you know an educator or parent who has “banned” Wikipedia.  Now information comes from Twitter, Facebook, Internet Search, online journals, firewalled “scholarly” research journals, Wikipedia, and more.  Is it good information or bad information?  Well, now you have to make that determination too.

4. [Will never have to worry about Using a Pay Phone or Racking Up a Long Distance Bill]  They will have to worry about … Racking Up a Roaming Charge or Data Overage Bill.  The last time I roamed on my phone in Canada (for about 30 minutes), it cost me $27.  The current overage on a wifi hotspot on Sprint is $50 per GB (after you surpass 5 GB a month).   And, for the record, most phone plans DO come with a limitation on certain types of minutes, and the overages on those are NOT cheap.

5. [Will never have to worry about Having to Pay Somebody Else to Develop Photographs]  They will have worry about Managing the Storage and Rights on their Digital Photos and Videos.  Now they need to decide on their photo- and video-sharing strategy.  Where will they store their photos?  On a hard-drive only? (better have a backup system in case the computer is stolen or lost)  In the cloud? (Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, Vimeo, YouTube …)  What kind of access do you want to give to your photos?  Should they be private or public? Private to specific groups or all your friends?  Do you want to copyright the photos?  If so, which copyright should you use? Oh, and did you still want hard copies of some photos? Then you’ll have to purchase and maintain a printer that is capable of printing color photos (together with proper toner or ink + special photo paper).

6. [Will never have to worry about Driving to a Store to Rent a Movie]   They will have to worry about … Violating Copyright by Accident when they Make their own Videos.  The U.S. Copyright laws have become so complex and confusing that you can accidentally violate them when you make a home movie in your living room while some copyrighted song plays on the radio in the background.  One can imagine a future when being sued for copyright infringement is an almost daily occurrence for the average person.

7. [Will never have to worry about  Buying or storing music, movies, or games on physical media.]  They will have to worry about … Being Locked in to a Single Media Device (and Format) Forever.  Kindle books won’t work on Nooks, Nook books won’t work on Kindle, and iTunes songs won’t play on Android.  Once you make your choice of digital format for books, music, and note-taking, you are either locking yourself in forever, or facing a very expensive switch to a new provider at some point.  The choice of media network not only locks you in to a format, but might lock you out of a sharing network with some of your friends.

8. [Will never have to worry about Having to Endlessly Search to Find Unique Content.]  They will have to worry about … Managing the flow from the firehose of information. When I was a kid, you could write a research paper after consulting your school library and your set of Encylopedias.  With the information now available (and having recently written a dissertation) I can say that having too much access to information can make it incredibly difficult to know whether you’ve thoroughly researched your topic.  How much searching is “enough” to say you’re done?

9. [Will never have to worry about Sending Letters.] They will have to worry about … Responding to Communication on a Multitude of Platforms and Networks.  A professional will have to communicate with their colleagues through email, several social networks, texts, and synchronous communication systems.  Not only is this a lot to manage, but each medium requires different etiquette. If you screw up the etiquette of the medium (for example, you use text-speak in an email) you’ll look like an idiot to the receiver.

10. [Will never have to worry about Being without the Internet & instant, ubiquitous connectivity.]  They will have to worry about … Getting enough Sleep and Managing Stress.  In an always-on world, you have to be able to disconnect to stay sane.  Many youth go to sleep with their cell phone on their pillow, unable to disconnect from their social network for even one minute.  As these sleep-deprived teenagers become adults and parents, one can only imagine the damage to their psychological well-being if they are unable to learn to disconnect.

So, yes, there are some things that our kids will not have to worry about thanks to the Information Revolution.  However, I don’t think technology has exactly made it less worrisome to grow up in today’s world.

 

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Digital Organization: Create a clickable resume!

Feb 1, 2010 by

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In Michigan, unemployment is somewhere between 15 and 20%, depending on who’s collecting the data.  Consequently, there are a lot of stories in the news about job fairs, interviewing techniques, and resume advice.  After reading several of these articles this week, I thought clickable resumes would be a good topic for this week’s OYDS task. A clickable resume (CV or portfolio) is not only a great way to increase your visibility on the web, but it will also provide you an easy to access place to store all the little pieces of information that you need to keep with your professional history.

Ideally, you would start this project with an updated paper-version of your resume or vita, but chances are you don’t have one of those laying around just waiting to be used.  In that case, at least begin setting up the structure so that you can begin tracking your professional history online from this point on.  To “fix” the missing information, you can simply place a disclaimer on the bottom of these pages for now, and finish updating them at some point in the future.

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Perhaps you’re not convinced … you think you don’t need to keep track of your professional history online?  Consider the following list:

  • Conferences that you’ve attended (with web links to the conference pages)
  • Presentations that you’ve given (with web links to the presentations and/or event websites)
  • Publications (with web links to abstracts, or full-text versions, or a place to buy the publication)
  • Design Portfolio (with web links to sites or projects you’ve designed)
  • Contact information (Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc.)
  • Educational background (with web links to the departments where you graduated, links to thesis or dissertation information, links to capstone projects)
  • Teaching Experience (with links to course webpages or departments at colleges where you’ve taught)
  • Work Experience (with links to companies you’ve worked at and major projects you’ve been involved with)
  • Professional Activities (the stuff that doesn’t fit well elsewhere, courses you took, conferences you organized, etc.)
  • Community Service or Volunteer Experience (with links to the appropriate organizations and events)
  • Awards and Honors (with links to appropriate press releases, articles, or websites)
  • Featured (sometimes you get a mention in some video or article, in which case, wouldn’t you like to have that on your resume complete with link to the item?)
  • Endorsements (I often ask participants in workshops to write a short blurb to recommend the workshop or presentation to others, I collect them on this page)
  • Frequently Asked Questions (because you can only answer the question “Do you sleep?” so many times before you just want a web page that answers the question for you!)

Every item on the list above has a digital trail.  If you’re only keeping track of these things on paper, you’re missing a lot of information.   If you’re not carefully tracking all these links somewhere, you’re going to start losing them.  Incidentally, you can find examples of almost all of these types of pages under the ABOUT menu on my website/blog, TeachingCollegeMath.com.

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If you already have a clickable resume/vita/portfolio online, then you should consider this a gentle nudge to make sure (a) that it’s current and (b) that you’re not missing some of the details of your professional history that you could be tracking.

Even if you’re just a student with little work experience, you should start a clickable resume/portfolio.  As you create work you’re proud of, you can include it in your online portfolio.  You might find that the need to fill up your pages creates the urge to volunteer to help at events and activities that will beef up your “experience” section.

If you don’t already have a resume/vita online, you need to decide on a format.  The most commonly used platforms are websites or blogs (although I think a wiki would work well too).  If you’re nervous about creating your own webpage, I’ve found that Google Sites is extremely easy to use.  In one of my math classes last semester, every student had to create a clickable resume/portfolio as a final project – we used Google Sites (here’s an example) and it took about 5 minutes of lab time to get everyone using it.

So, get started on your clickable resume, CV, or portfolio.  Your site doesn’t have to be finished, it just has to be set up so that you can begin collecting new information from now on.  At first this is a task under Digital Organization, but after that, it moves into a Digital Maintenance task – something you should keep up with as you get new information.

You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments post each Monday.

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Digital Organizers: Set up Google Alerts!

Jan 25, 2010 by

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Have you ever wondered how some people seem to know instantly when you’ve mentioned them (or their website) in a blog post?

Every activity in the digital world leaves a digital footprint (like it or not).  There’s a great video called Digital Dossier that explains the kinds of actions that leave your mark on the web (and it’s mark on you).

If you haven’t ever googled yourself, try it.  Put your name (as you normally write it online) in quotes and search yourself.  [Example: “Maria H. Andersen“]  Ideally, you want to be happy with the first 10 search results (most people never click through to the second page of results).  If you’re not happy with what you see, then your only choice is to start working on a larger digital footprint that will eclipse what’s there (a website, a blog, a google profile, etc.).

In the meantime, it’s relatively simple to monitor what your name is doing on the web.  Set up a web alert that will notify you when a new occurrence of your name goes into the search engine.   The most common alert systems are Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts.  You can set it up alerts to come to you instantly, daily, or weekly.  To minimize the digital clutter, I’d go with weekly alerts (unless you find yourself in a media hot seat, in which case, switch temporarily to receive alerts more frequently).

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At the very least, I’d set up an alert for your name and for the place where you work.  I find that my weekly alerts about my college are informative.  Often, they’re just reports about which team won what event, but sometimes I discover what my colleagues are up to in the real world too.  I know information about my college faster than most people on campus.

google-alert-email

The other way to use Alerts is to start searching for keywords in your field of interest.  For example, I have a Google Alert set up for the words innovation and math whenever they occur together in a new web item.   Here are a few suggestions for alerts you may want to set up:

  • Your name
  • Your blog URL and blog name (Example: teachingcollegemath.com and “Teaching College Math”)
  • Your twitter account name (Example: busynessgirl)
  • Your place of employment (Example: “Muskegon Community College”)
  • Your professional fields of interest (Example: math innovation, future education, etc.)
  • Your personal fields of interest (for example, if you have a child with autism, you might set one up for research autism)
  • Your publications (the title of your book or a recent article to see who’s talking about it)
  • Your competitor (it’s always good to know what they’re up to … why stop at your place of employment?)

At first, it will take you a while to sort through all the alerts you receive each week.  They will all be new to you.  But after a few weeks, you’ll begin to recognize websites you’ve already visited and you’ll have some insights about which items are going to be worthy of clicking.  You may want to tweak your alerts in a month or so to make the wording more precise on general alerts you set up today.

Even if you already have alerts set up, when was the last time you updated them?  Maybe it’s time to eliminate some, tweak them, or create some new ones?

So, set up a few alerts and start living on the tip of the cutting edge of the Internet.  You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments post each Monday.

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Digital Decluttering: Clean up those profiles!

Jan 3, 2010 by

This is the first installment of what will likely be a 52-week series.  The series is based on a conference/webinar presentation I’ve been doing for a while now called Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS).

Perhaps you’ve experienced the “decluttering bug” before – the sudden and unexplainable urge to just get rid of all the junk that’s cluttering up your life.  You find yourself installing new closet organizers, filing the stacks of paper on the dining room table, and vowing to do a better job keeping up in the future.

Well, we’re all encountering the same issues in our digital life, only we aren’t as good at acknowledging what the problem is.  Just like you might declutter your home once a year, we need to do the same with our digital lives. In the same way we need new closet organizers, we periodically need to add new digital methods of organization (and we need to rid ourselves of the ones that aren’t working).  Finally, we need to have strategies that help us maintain our digital selves in a state of organization instead of chaos.  Are you ready to Organize Your Digital Self ?  Let’s go!

Digital Decluttering: Clean up those profiles!

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The task for this week?  Find and clean up all those digital profiles that arelurking out there on the Internet.  Chances are, you haven’t ever really given it much thought, but you might have as many as twenty profiles collecting cobwebs in cyberspace.  When someone finds you, do you want them to see outdated photos, website information, marital status, or job status?  Heck no!  Not only would that be unprofessional, but it might lead to some pretty awkward conversations.

Before you begin, you might want to find the most recent bio that you’ve written and copy it to a new document.  Update it and write a few different versions.  For example, you might have a lengthy version for a professional site, a more personal version for your own site, and then a short and quick to read version for sites like Twitter.  Please be careful not to reveal too much information about yourself (only you can decide how much is too much).  Personally, I avoid putting my phone number and address out there in public forums as much as possible.

maria_in_sariYou should also choose a couple photos or images (no more than 3) to represent yourself in your profiles.  Since we tend to associate our memories about relationships with images we remember, I wouldn’t change your profile images very often (Facebook is the exception to that rule, since you know those people pretty well already).  Consider this: If you don’t know somebody well, then the only visual “anchor” they have for their memories of interactions with you is that profile picture you choose.  Don’t underestimate the power of this association.

Before our 2009 Math & Technology Workshop, all the participants got to know each other on our Moodle site.   One of their first tasks was to upload a photo or image for their profile.  For two weeks, we exchanged pleasantries and ideas online.  Then they all came to Muskegon in person.  After hanging out with all of the participants for a week in the flesh, there were only four that I didn’t know by name.  These were the participants who either did not post profile pictures on the Moodle site, or the ones who did not use their own photo (e.g. a car or a picture of a son or daughter).

spmariaI used to use one pic for professional sites (a photo of myself from a professional studio), a cartoon avatar (for chat windows), and a more casual picture for other sites (like twitter).  I think this is okay, but recently I’ve settled on just one professional/casual image for everything, and I like that consistency it brings to my digital profile.  No matter where you see my digital presence, it’s the same me.

Without further ado, let’s begin to tackle that list of profiles.  Let me start by giving you a list of of places that you might start looking for those stagnant profiles:

  • Blogger or WordPress
  • OpenID
  • LinkedIn
  • Ning
  • Google chat / Google talk
  • Google groups or Yahoo groups
  • Google profile (show up in Google searches)
  • Yahoo, Microsoft, or Apple profile
  • Wikipedia (or other Wiki sites you belong to)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook or Myspace
  • Blackboard, Moodle, D2L, etc.
  • Academic or work chat clients (like Wimba)
  • Company blog or website
  • Professional blog or website
  • Personal blog or website
  • Picasa, Flickr, Snapfish, or other photo sites
  • YouTube channel (or TeacherTube, Google Video, etc.)
  • Shelfari (or other book-sharing sites)
  • Delicious, Diigo, etc.
  • Digg, Technorati, etc.
  • Profiles on gaming websites
  • Profiles on websites with discussion boards (like TED)

Chances are that if you’ve read this far, you’re already starting to feel overwhelmed!  How on earth did we all end up with so many profiles?!?  You may already be deciding to jettison some of these old accounts.  Just like we throw out some of the junk in our home, feel free to throw out some of the junk in your digital world.  Where you can, delete those old and unused accounts.  That will be one less profile to declutter next year!

So, print the list (or take a screenshot), and give yourself 15 minutes every day to do nothing but declutter those profiles.   If you come up with any additional places to declutter profiles, please comment them in!

You have a week to get this task done before we move on to the next Organize Your Digital Self (OYDS) task.  New assignments will post each Monday.  This is just the tip of the digital decluttering iceberg.

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