August 2010 Archives

What I Read This Summer


School started today, and I'm getting ready for a rush of productivity: new projects, new clients, and new writing projects. But first, let me recommend a few books I read this summer. It's not exactly "what I did on summer vacation," but they might just kick-start some ideas that aren't part of your typical day.

I read Jeffrey Carr's Inside Cyber Warfare back in the spring, so when Richard Clarke's Cyber War started getting mainstream coverage, I knew I needed to read it. Carr made the point that we need better computer security on systems that do important things, but Clarke really bangs the drum and demands attention. Plus, his background guarantees that he gets attention when he wants it.

Clarke emphasizes the nightmare scenarios—power outages, train wrecks, and refinery explosions—so it's not bedtime reading, but if you stick with it through the scary parts, he makes some good points. If you've never thought about how quickly the lights can go out, this might be a wake-up call.

Over dinner at a conference (what do you mean, cyber attacks aren't dinner conversation?), Clarke's book drew a laugh and the comment that I was reading science fiction after starting with the science (Carr). But the real science fiction scare came from Daniel Suarez's Daemon, recommended by my old friend Dave Thomas. Daemon is the story of an AI (articial intelligence) from the world of MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) that takes over the world. If you believe this is possible, you might change your mind about the Internet off switch. Or at least check your offline contingency plans.

And oh, look, there's a sequel. Who needs sleep?

Vinnie Mirchandani's The New Polymath celebrates innovation in, and especially at the intersections of, various technology specialties. It's loaded with examples, and if you're like me—interested in too many topics to pick just one—it provides affirmation that that's ok.

The only problem I had with this book is that Mirchandani makes a major point about And not Or thinking, and people might think I got that from his book. It's really just something that becomes obvious when you regularly share ideas that cross boundaries. The New Polymath is great for pointing out ideas from many fields and connecting them to meaningful outcomes; read it and you'll be challenged and inspired, whatever your usual niche.

The summer's been long and hot—and realistically, we have another month to go before fall weather arrives here—but these books started the gears moving. Now we'll see what happens as a result.

More summer reading lists: 2012, 2011

Is Blogging Courtesy Over?

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What happened to giving credit in blog posts? I was just working on another post, and as I inserted a link, it struck me that I'm not seeing "via" and "hat tip" links as much as I used to. It's a nice way to give credit to the sources who point you to useful links, and it's useful for readers, too. Has giving credit to blog sources gone out of style?

Courtesy is the best kind of self-promotion, in that is costs nothing and wins you everything.
—Jim Durbin

Maybe I'm not seeing them because I skim so much more than I read lately. But maybe it's not just me…

@gilliatt - think the time for crediting seems to have passed…I always credit where possible, keeps everyone sharing as per today in IMHO
Gray Dudek

Crediting sources in blog posts is a good practice. I'll keep linking to my sources; I hope you will, too.

When Geolocation is Too Good


What can you learn online? How about where someone is? Or where they live, where they work, where they hang out… One of the interesting ways to segment social media data is by the contributor's location, but it's a rare feature in social media analysis platforms because of the difficulty of doing it well. More than they realize, though, people are publishing their locations.

I've heard of two main methods to assign locations to social media sources. The easier method, which initially sounds more accurate, tracks down the IP network address of the associated computer. Every computer on the Internet has one, and in principle, the address corresponds somewhat to location. But the goal isn't to find a server, it's to segment online contributors by geography.

If addresses matched locations in some mythical past, they're useless for location now. Facebook is Facebook, wherever an individual user is. Blogs are hosted by a few big players; even with private domains, there's no guarantee that the web host is anywhere near the user. This blog, for example, is hosted on a machine in Pennsylvania—a long way from where I'm sitting. I have accounts on lots of social media sites, none of which are here.

So IP addresses might help you locate a computer server, but they're not a reliable indicator of where an individual user of that system may be.

Revealed demographics
The more interesting process, which I've heard from a handful of SMA companies, is to extract information revealed by the user, linking profiles across services to develop a profile of the person. If someone links a blog to accounts on services like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, then the combined profiles can build a better picture of the person. Location is one of the major components of that picture.

People have lots of opportunities to announce their location in social media, especially in all those member profiles we fill out. The location field in Twitter might be misleading (remember all the people who changed their location to Tehran in a show of support last year?), but if it agrees with Facebook, Linkedin, or the About Me page on the blog, you have a location.

That's without getting into location-based services like Foursquare. Everyone using those is building a personal tracking database on purpose.

Are you uncomfortable yet? At least this is all based on information that people shared intentionallyso far.

Oops, too much information
The New York Times has an article today, Web Photos That Reveal Secrets, Like Where You Live, which discusses the location metadata attached to digital photographs now. Sarah Perez wrote on the same topic a few weeks ago (Researchers Warn of Geotagging Dangers - Are You Concerned?). Cyberstalking, meet cybercasing: how to reveal your home address on Craigslist.

Both articles emphasize the privacy concerns, as they should. In aggregate, the data creates what Marshall Kirkpatrick calls your new superpower; applied to individuals, it's just creepy.

So, how much location information do you want? Where's the line between constructive location and demographics data and creepy/dangerous? Finally, whose ethics apply to analyzing this data?

Photo by Silver Smith.

Social Buzzword Bingo

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Just in time for the social holidays, Seersucker Social Media introduces social promotion, a powerful new social marketing tool for your social media toolbelt! Our advanced social intelligence and buzzword-compliant social functions will help you build social capital in your social networks—


I don't know about you, but I'm about done with prepending social to every word in the business vocabulary to "invent" a new, socially enhanced concept. A few years ago, Web 2.0 led a rush on 2.0 Jargon, and before long everybody was sick of it. All we need now is Social 2.0 to complete the cycle.

But that's just hype, and we can filter that. What's really bugging me is how the social buzzword generator is running roughshod over existing concepts—expropriating perfectly useful terms that had the temerity to get there first.

It all started with social marketing, meant as a more manageable contraction of social media marketing. The problem is that social marketing was an existing specialty, having nothing to do with social media. You could probably even make a case for social media social marketing, but I'll deny it if you tell anyone I said so.

I'm seeing more social takeovers lately, and to help you keep up, I'm collecting them here. Just to speed things along, I've taken the liberty of making up some that haven't shown up in the wild yet. See if you can tell them apart.

TermOriginal meaningSocial media buzzword
social (n.)see social function "I'm too hip to call it social media."

social capitalsomething about the strength of connections in social networks WPwhere Foursquare mayors go when they're promoted to governor

social functiona party with a dress codea business function with a social media makeover (or social media with a business makeover?)

social intelligence"the ability to understand and manage [people], to act wisely in human relations" WP"harnessing social media data to inform your business strategy" (Forrester)

social justice"the idea of creating an egalitarian society... based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognises the dignity of every human being" WP

when mean people lose Twitter followers
social marketingmarketing that supports desirable social outcomes, such as improving public health or education WP

social media marketing
social maturitylevel of social competence, self-help skills, and adaptive behavior (Vineland Social Maturity Scale )

progress toward implementing social [computing] technologies (Forrester)
social networka social structure made up of individuals or organizations WP

same thing, only on the web
social ordera set of social structures, institutions and practices which preserve 'normal' relations and behavior WP

a list of popular bloggers or tweeters
social promotionfailing a grade but advancing anyway WP

marketing promotion in social media
social unrestprotests, riotswhat happens when you spend all night on Facebook when you should be sleeping

social worka professional and academic discipline committed to the pursuit of social welfare and social change WP

reading RSS feeds and tweeting at work

Just remember, social x is not the same as social media x. We've been social a lot longer than we've had the Internet to mediate our connections.


Photo by greeblie.

Add to the list. You know you want to.

About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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