sharing is caring

OK, I’m going to go ahead and throw my hat into the ring of the millions of people discussing Google+. I think I may see it a bit differently than others.

I get the sense that a larger percentage of people look at G+ as the new Facebook. Maybe they’re sick of Facebook, maybe they’re mad about some of the ways Facebook does things, or maybe they just want to tinker with a new toy. Either way, I think this is a short sighted view of things.

Much in the way Google Buzz was treated, I think a lot of people say “So this is just like Facebook, right?” and then treat it that way. And, much to my chagrin, despite having made a different animal, Google goes along with it, in hopes to get more users. Buzz, while having some obvious personal info flaws in the beginning, was a pretty neat idea. I won’t go into why, since it’s pretty much dead anyways, but it’s important to my point.

In the same way, I think Google is making a new kind of social network. One that’s not based of conquering the internet, but much more on amplifying real life socialization. It’s not about broadcasting to the world (thought they allow that), it’s more about sharing and communicating with the people you already know.

A couple years ago Facebook turned it’s Status Update from a location notice, to a twitter clone. What was originally designed to be a way for people to find their friends, turned into a place to spout of random thoughts, spread religious or political propaganda, or just show pictures of your food. What it did was create an environment where people would cast their thoughts out to the masses, and then hope some people bit with a comment or a like. I myself would share videos of bands that I knew most of my friends wouldn’t actually like, but I knew some would. I would share things under the idea that SOME people would probably like it. And in turn, you’d get shared links and ideas from your “friends.” Some you’d like and agree with. Some you’d argue with, some you’d just hide.

I think Google+ takes a step back from the public internet and encourages you to not share with everyone and hope some will like, but share with those you know will like. It’s a small detail, but I think it makes big difference in what could come of the service. I imagine the most “successful” G+ circles being less than 10 people. You may have a lot of them, but instead of including your mom in your link to Mega64, you only send it to those that might actually enjoy it.

Now you may be thinking, “but who knows, my mom might enjoy Mega64″ and that could be true. But I think the ultimate success of this would come from people sharing for niche things. Instead of only posting the funny pictures of cats you know everyone will like, you may have a buddy or two who loves amazing space photography, and you two may trade things back and forth on a much deeper, finer-toothed-comb level than you would have through Facebook. Perhaps I’m being a little too utopian.

I’ll try and end this rambling…

My plans are these: I may give up Facebook altogether. My hesitation to this lies solely in the fact that I would lose a large “audience” that I enjoy pretending loves all my status updates and links to the same comic over and over again. However, I have a venue for that. This very blog. Granted, my blog doesn’t get the same amount of daily views my status updates probably do, but that may be a sacrifice I have to make. It may be something I should do just to help my own sanity.

Second, I DO have a public venue for all my stupid little thoughts. It’s Twitter. I just heard half of you scoff through the internet. I find it funny that so many people look down on Twitter, when 80% of what they do on Facebook is look at other people’s short blurbs about what they ate that night. Like I said earlier, Facebook stole Twitter a while ago. I still think Twitter is fatally flawed when it comes to conversations, but honestly, I rarely had a conversation on Facebook spurred from one of my status updates.

And then third, is using Google+ of course. My blog is for my public sharing. Twitter is for my public ranting. Google+ is for sharing with my friends. I look at Google+ kinda like “Would I email this to these people?” Just thinking that REALLY cuts down on the amount of fluff you’d put up. I find myself keep thinking, “Well, I don’t want to SEND this to these people, but I wouldn’t mind them happening upon it. In that case, it’s perfect for my blog. But for things that I know are focused, that would appeal to specific people…G+ is perfect.

All this could backfire completely though. Simple fact is, I don’t get to decide what Google+ becomes. It’s up to how the masses use it. I already have people I never met following me on G+. They’ll be pretty disappointed when I never post anything publicly. But oh well.

If nothing else, it’ll be a new toy to play with.

the internet makes the seemingly impossible, possible

OK, just a little praise for a moment for the internet.

For those of you who know me, I’ve become increasingly more jaded about the US Government as time passes. The election season has only made it worse, and the candidates selected nearly strike complete hopelessness into my very heart. It’s nearly enough for me to just give up and ignore it all. But that’s hard to do when they’re making my money worth less every year.

So what’s a jaded young(ish) American to do? It would seem the executive branch is long since out of my effective range, so maybe I should look locally and start picking out potential presidents now. I mean, can I blame America for picking two awful candidates when the selection was so abysmal to begin within (except for that one guy who predicted this whole financial mess we’re in now 2 years ago)? I suppose not. So maybe I should start making sure the lower guys are worth my tax dollars, so eventually I can actually be proud of more than one presidential nominee. (Wouldn’t that be crazy? Imagine saying, “I don’t know who I want to be the presidential nominee, they’re all so effective!”)

But how does little old me figure out real, unbiased facts about his local government, and how his Representatives and Senators are working in Congress? I could watch the news, but I’d have to wade through hours of “pretty white girl kidnapped” stories only to hear two people not involved in Congress, talking about how one half of Congress is always wrong. That seems really effective.

Newspapers use to be known for carrying information, but now you never know who’s propaganda you’re reading. Which multinational corporation owns this newspaper? I can never keep track.

In comes the internet, bastion of honest, straight forward, succinct information. I’m sure you detect my sarcasm. But while the internet is chock full of idiotic rambling (present party excluded of course) the other thing it’s chock full of is data. And all those geeky developers love to figure out ways to wrangle it all in and dish it up as something usable. In comes three sites that I find nearly essential if you want to really get to knwo what’s going on around you.

First, is votesmart.org . This is a wonderful that compiles all sorts of information about current officials and those running for office. Voting records, biographies, positions on issues, ratings by Special Interest Groups, all sorts of stuff. it’s a really great way to get to know what a candidate stands for quickly and easily, and best of all, it’s uniform across most candidates (obviously, newcomers have less info).

A great companion site is ontheissues.org. It’s very similar to VoteSmart, but one feature it has that is very well executed is their issues list. They separate out key issues like abortion, civil rights, budgeting and economy, and they list out bullet points of actions and statements that paint the picture of where the candidate stands on the issue. I know what you’re thinking, bullet points can be useless without context. That’s why above the bullet points they link to a page of expanded information, giving context to each and every quote or vote, and when it comes to legislation votes, they explain the bill, and point out pro and con arguments about the bill. It’s an incredibly fast and easy way to get an idea of what the candidate has actually done, and it does it fairly, and with a balanced viewpoint.

Finally, a site Teresa pointed me to today, govtrack.us. This one steps away from potential candidate territory and focuses on who’s in office, and what they’re doing. The best part about it is that you can setup daily emails to let you know everything that will happen in Congress that day, everything that has happened, etc. It’s essentially taking the thousands of bills introduced each session and making it manageable for someone who doesn’t get paid to know this stuff.

So this post is a lot longer than I wanted, but I hear way to often groups telling people to “get informed” but never telling people how. I can only hope that others may stumble across this info and finally be able to manage a normal daily life while still feeling like they know what their tax dollars are going towards.

EDIT: This is what happens when I get too excited and post too early. I just noticed on govtrack.us that for each bill that’s posted, they include the cost to individuals. So you look up the act and it says “Cost: $3 per American over the 2009-2013 period.” That’s just plain awesome.

addiciton subdued…for now

I’ve mentioned a few times by outright lust for Guitar Hero. Well, it was only made worse when my buddy Juan got GH2 for the Xbox 360. We’ve since spent at least 8 hours together making our way through the songs, getting perfects in every song on medium difficulty. By the way, Hard, is hard.

But then I come home, lay in bed awake, in a cold sweat. My fingers itch, my right hand twitches back a forth in a strumming motion. When I do finally fall asleep, I dream of buttons coming at me steadily like an army of musical bliss.

But then, from out of the darkness comes hope. An answer to those of us without expensive consoles and disposable income. Enter, Frets On Fire.

Frets On Fire

Frets on Fire is an open source Guitar Hero, well, clone really. You play it by holding your keyboard like a guitar. You use F1 through F5 as the fret buttons, and you tap the Enter key to strum. The graphics are much more basic, and the song selection is limited to what the community provides (which is actually quite a lot) but as far as relieving the jonesing…yeah, it works.

You can find Frets on Fire here. It’s only 30Megs, and comes with three songs so you can see what it’s like before having to search out more song material. It’s awesome for a completely free game.

Now I just have to figure out haw to get a strap on my keyboard.