Nymwars 2.0: New Cost of Anonymity Is Irrelevance

Avatars worried about getting kicked out of Facebook and Google+ for anonymity now have a bigger concern: irrelevance.

That’s what Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt says. The Avatar Roundup that has haunted avatars since the 2011 Nymwars might be superceded in Google-land. Now Schmidt has the bright idea that it’s a lot easier just to make the anonymous irrelevant.

It’s has to do with a controversial projected Google practice called “Author Rank” – placing posts by verified authors at the top of search results. People argue about whether Google is currently doing it or not, but hardly anyone doubts that they will.

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.”

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The Facebook dungeon of unrecognized devices

Here I am on the road with my new Macbook Air – sleek, shiny, and tiny, running SL in Ultra – with shadows! It still has that new computer smell. I’m snuggled into my jammies in my hotel room, window open to a sweet night breeze, early starlight, and a chorus of singing crickets. I’m all settled down for a long summer’s night of surfing, blogging, and facebooking. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but this horrible message from the noble defenders of my Facebook account:

“There was a suspicious login to your account. Your account was recently accessed from a device we’re not familiar with. For your protection, we’ve temporarily locked your account until you can review this activity and make sure no one is using your account without your permission.”

Eek! My Facebook account … locked.  My new computer does not consider this a very welcoming gesture. Just because he’s a newbie, Zuckerberg & Co. have locked him out! Too late I find out that this is a result of Facebook’s upgrade to its security system in May, 2011. Had I been one of the 6,677,333 people who like the “Facebook Security” page, which you can find here, I would have known that. Sigh.

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“Timeline” keeping it real – sshhhhh!

Facebook’s new Timeline, like fb itself, is still keepin’ it real. The next chapter of social media history, embodied by Facebook’s new Timeline and Ticker, was announced earlier this week at the f8 (as in “fate” ) developers conference in San Fran — see the Zuck’s keynote here. Though negatively received at first (what isn’t?), changes will be coming to a Facebook page near you soon, in the next few weeks, with a target date of September 30 to begin rollout.

But what will it mean for those of us who are …  [sshhhhhh!] … on the pseudonymous side of reality? Will we use it at our peril? I think so. For pseudonymous avatars, the  Timeline presents an intriguing question: What exactly is our “life”? And how will we present it in the Timeline?

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Blogger come home

Hello, this is your blog speaking. Remember me? I’m the home where you used to live. I’ve forlornly watched you jet-setting around to fashionable spots all over the world, like Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, Second Life, LinkedIn, and the current hot getaway, Google+. I’ve left the porch light on every night, but you never come home anymore.

Sure, those clubs are fun for a night out now and then, but they aren’t your home. They don’t have a living room like I do, where you can kick off your shoes, put up your feet, and say “Ahhhhhh,” like I do.

Blogger come home! Please don’t mistake those night clubs for your home. They are dangerous and restrictive. If  you don’t like their rules, about all you can do is complain or “appeal,” and who is ever listening? And there’s always the threat that your account will be deleted, along with all the precious content you’ve created with your life’s blood running through it. Plus they break things. All the time. They’re not careful and sensitive the way I am. Things disappear from inventories. Messages get garbled or lost. Dreams are often trampled on without warning or apology.

Olly, Olly, oxen free! Imagine it’s a warm summer night, just about dusk when the fireflies twinkle and the moths flutter against the light on the porch. Your mother/father/sister/brother/friend is standing in the doorway calling you in from your play. It’s time. Build yourself an online home and treasure it. Live in it. Maintain it. Secure it. Protect your magnificent creations inside. Spruce it up now and then. Throw wild parties and invite people in.

Don’t give away all your brilliance to Google+ or some other third party. They’ll never appreciate you for who you are the way I do. They’ll never care about the magnificence of what you create the way I do. And they’ll never, ever listen to you the way your readers do.

To social media sites, you are an unpaid content creator, and an expendable one at that. You are wasting your wonderful, beautiful, incredible, irreplaceable energy building a home for someone who doesn’t even appreciate it. To them, you are a number, a source of revenue, the very product they are selling. And you will be tolerated for only as long as you fit in their package. Get too noisy, ungainly, or troublesome, and they will not hesitate to expel you. And they won’t even kick your suitcase out after you. You’ll leave with nothing, buck naked, not even a shirt on your back.

This is your blog calling you. I am your home:  your very own blog on your very own site. Sure you can have WordPress or Blogger or Tumblir host it for you. But that’s like inviting a stranger to live with you. They don’t love you like I do. They don’t wait up for you at night, shelter you through storms, have floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on dreamy vistas and distant horizons. Besides, they can quickly turn into the roommate from hell, and you know what that’s like.

Buy the domain. Host the site. Build me from the ground up.  No one is going to tell you how to design me or what widgets or plug-ins to use. Use your imagination. I’ll never monitor what you say, what you put in your profile, or what your content cloud looks like. You make the rules, or none at all. I won’t toss you out on the street because of your name. I will never tell you you’re too young, too strange-sounding, a square peg in a round circle.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally happy for you to hang out with your friends at social hot spots like Facebook and Twitter. But please, remember they’re just night clubs with glitzy lights and K-hole dance beats. Go out, have a great time, maybe even have a fling or two . . . but come back home to me. Your heart is waiting up for you.

Your dreams live here, and your  poems and stories and pet projects, too. My living room is big, comfy, welcoming . . .  always just the way you like it. Leave coffee cups and soda cans lying around on top of old pizza boxes. Or keep it squeaky clean. I don’t care which. This is your home. I love you just the way you are.

Asmaa Mahfouz friended me on Facebook!

I’m so honored to have Asmaa Mahfouz of Cairo as a friend on Facebook. She’s the one who helped sparked the Egyptian revolution with her January 18 video on Facebook which I featured in my “Tahrir Voices” video. Her vlog inspired thousands of Egyptians to abandon their fear and join her in Tahrir Square to protest the repressive regime. Her vlog also drove the Egyptian government to block Facebook, Twitter, and the AlJazeera website, and contributed to the regime’s later shutdown of the Internet altogether in Egypt.

The video was later translated and  posted to youtube on February 1 by AyahElBagdhadi, where it quickly went viral (currently 188,000 views) and became a contributing force to the downfall of Hosni Mubarak ten days later on February 11.

Asmaa continues to be a vocal advocate of Egyptian freedom, and I am glad to be able to hear her important voice via Facebook. Asmaa has 4,666 other friends on Facebook, so this is not personal, but instead is a use of Facebook as a public face. This is such an important function of Facebook. I also “like” the pages of Wael Ghonim (283,938 likes), the Google exec who authored the “We Are All Khaled” Facebook page in Arabic, another contributing force in the Egyptian revolution, which I also “like” in the English version (119,443 likes). Of course, most of this is Arabic, which is a challenge, but well worth it to be able to hear the authentic voices of Egypt’s future.

First they came . . . and Facebook followed

[cue sounds of heavy boots pounding on your doorstep and the front door crashing in . . . if you have time before they storm in, read the news in the Second Life Forum here about Facebook deleting Second Life avatar accounts. And before you have to grab your data and run, read a cautionary tale.

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