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10 posts from August 2011

Why The "Nym Wars" Matter - Preserving Pseudonymity On An Open Internet

Identity (Clone trooper Tales #44)

There's an identity war going on out on the Internet right now... there are multiple aspects to it... but the key is that:

it is a battle for control of YOUR identity!

Think of any website you've visited lately that has offered you the ability to "Login with Facebook" or "Sign in with Twitter".

It's simple. Easy. Convenient.

And dangerous.

Because in embracing the convenience of such services (and I am certainly guilty of this myself), we surrender control of our identity to the identity provider.

But that is a broader topic for a much longer piece I want to write...

Right now I want to touch on the point:

What if the "identity provider" won't let you use what you consider your "real" identity?

What if the identity provider requires you to use your "birth name" (or "real name") instead of the name that everyone knows you as?

Welcome to the world of pseudonyms... persistent identities used by people instead of the names they were given at birth.

Pseudonyms have been with us for eons... as noted above, authors and entertainers have long used them. In fact, a pseudonym was involved with the founding of the United States.

And this pseudonymity is exactly what is at stake in what is being tagged as the "#nymwars" on Twitter.

This latest battle in the much larger war really began back on July 22nd, when Kirrily Robert, a developer (and former co-worker of mine) who has gone by the pseudonym "Skud" for many years, was suspended from Google+ for not using her real name and took to her blog to publicize this fact. There have been literally hundreds (and maybe thousands) of articles on the topic posted between then and now... with the most recent wave being about Google CEO Eric Schmidt's comments that Google wants you to use your real name because they want to be an identity provider... and do things with that "real identity" of yours.

This battle isn't just about Google+, though. Facebook would also like you to only use your "real name" and to have you assert only your "real" identity.

I could go on at great length about why this is a bad idea, but would instead point you to this excellent but lengthy piece:

Read it... and then go back and read it again. A powerful piece laying out so many of the reasons why pseudonymity is important.

And a key point is:

Pseudonymity is NOT anonymity.

There is an entirely separate discussion to be had around true anonymity... and the value therein - or not.

But that is entirely different from the idea of a persistent identity that one uses as a replacement for one's "real name".

Should we not have the right to use the name that people know us by on these services?

The response, of course, is that using these services is optional and you can, of course, choose NOT to participate in Google+... or Facebook... or whatever other service requires you to use your "real name".

And obviously that is an option.

But what if many of the conversations I want to participate in have moved to one of those services? What if all my friends are sharing photos using some new service... and I can't because I'm forced to use a different identity than what I want to use?

What if I am an author or entertainer and want to engage on that service with my fans through the persona I use?

What if that service is the only way to communicate out of my country or region and using my real name may get me killed?

Pseudonymity matters.

Control over our identity matters.

The ability to control the identity we choose to use on services on the Internet matters.

The war for our identity will continue to rage... will the victor be the organizations who control the services we want to use? or will we retain the right to control our identity?

Your choice...

Other good articles worth reading:

Image credit: koisny on Flickr

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Can You Help With Data Collection For Hurricane Irene Crisis Response?

CrisiscommonsWith Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast of the US and expected to make landfall within the next 24-48 hours, many volunteer efforts are underway to be in position to help the regions that may be effected... including efforts by "technology volunteers" to collect data and assist crisis response organizations that are there on the ground.


The CrisisCommons group now has a page up at:

with information about how you can get more involved - see the "Open Data" block on the right side for current volunteer projects.

One such effort is a map of shelters and incidents that will evolve as shelters are set up - volunteers are needed to help put existing maps of shelters onto the map.

Another effort is media monitoring being done by Humanity Road.

The CrisisWiki is also gathering resources about Hurricane Irene.

If you aren't in one of the affected areas (where you may have much more direct things to worry about), all of these are great ways that you can help out from afar!

If you have some time to spare today or over the weekend, please check out the CrisisCommons page to learn how you can help!

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Thank you, Steve Jobs.

Techmeme stevejobsRight now, at the moment I write this post, Techmeme stands as a monument to the end of the Steve Jobs era.

Go on, check it out... scroll down the Techmeme page... I've not honestly seen another day quite like this.

A zillion posts lionizing the man who, love him or hate him, has so disrupted multiple industries through his leadership of Apple. As Walt Mossberg wrote, Steve Jobs is very much still alive, but his resignation as CEO of Apple does indeed mark the end of an era. Tim Cook may have effectively been the CEO of Apple since January... and he may indeed be an excellent CEO to lead the company forward...

But he's not Steve Jobs.

No one truly can be.

I've been impressed by the many personal stories being written this morning. Among them:

I'm sure many more will be written today and in the days ahead. Including this post, of course.

The Original Hacker Machine

I can credit Steve Jobs for my start in computers. In 1977, my friend Dave's father bought one of the first Apple II computers. There we were... two 10-year-old boys playing with this amazing machine. People may not remember that the first Apple II was a true "hacker" machine. In a box somewhere, I still have the original Apple II manual, because it was truly a thing of beauty... you could find out everything about every single memory location and everything else you wanted to know about the computer. It was a wonderful way to learn.

In retrospect I suspect that that first manual was probably much more of the Steve Wozniak influence, as the next version of the computer, the Apple IIe, had the much simplified manuals that came to be part and parcel of "the Steve Jobs view" of the simplified user experience.

But that first Apple II set me on a path of learning about these things known as personal computers.

Teaching Teachers

Entering high school in 1981, the school had just received its first Apple II computer. I can remember it sitting there on a lone desk in a room that had all the other components of a DEC PDP-8 and other devices in it. The teacher responsible for the computer lab, Dan Ryan, let a group of us "play" with that one computer... and as the lab grew to include more Apple computers, our "computer club" learned more and more. They were amazing times.

In fact, my first job with computers was helping out two summers at the high school - as a high school student - helping teachers learn about these computers. I remember some who were very enthusiastic ... and one in particular who was so frightened of the machine (although I've long since forgotten that teacher's name.)

NOT Going To Antarctica

Apple also is responsible for a career choice that really led to where I am today. In the summer of 1990, I was working as field technician at a remote research station on top of the Greenland ice sheet. It was a six-week gig that I had literally stumbled into by walking into an office at UNH while unemployed and having a friend say "hey, the guys upstairs are looking for people to go to Greenland". And there I was.

While there, though, I had met this whole corp of people who spent their summers supporting field experiments in Greenland and our "winters" supporting field experiments in Antarctica (where it's summer). Competition to get into this group was fierce, but there was someone there who was willing to help me get connected... and as a single early-20-something, there was a great amount of appeal!

And then I received word that Apple had funded a grant proposal I'd submitted a few months back to start up a non-profit in New Hampshire that would help other nonprofit organizations learn how to use computer technology. Apple was donating several computers, printers and other devices to help me start this organization up.

So I put aside that Antarctic idea, returned to New Hampshire, started up the nonprofit... which ultimately led to other positions that brought me 20 years later to where I am today.

Fast Forward To Today

In fact, I write this post this morning on a MacBook Pro, the corporate laptop Voxeo distributes to all its employees. While my household had a mixture of Windows, Linux and Macs, it's evolved to where it's all just Macs... and a Linux server. My iPad2 is right next to me with my list of things I planned to do today. My iPhone is in its holster on my belt... having just moved from my armband where an app helped track my 4.5 mile run this morning.

Yes, I've helped fund Steve Jobs success. :-)

Systems That "Just Work"

But there's a reason for that... and it goes back to that vaunted perfectionism of Steve Jobs. For the most part, Apple's devices "just work".

When I moved from a Dell laptop to a MacBook Pro back in 2007, I had a very simple demonstration I would do for my Windows friends:

I closed the laptop. I opened it back up. In moments, I started typing.

I closed the laptop again. I opened it back up - and started typing.

I repeated this several times.

Certainly at the time this was not something that worked well on most Windows-based laptops. (May still not work well... don't know.) It was a little thing, but a HUGE timesaver!

Sure, there are reasons for things that "just work"... a closed system with proprietary hardware that is more expensive than other options. A fanatical obsession with CONTROL over every aspect of the system.

But in the end... it just works. Not all the time... and not every device... but for the most part.

One of Steve Jobs' greatest gifts to the industry was showing that:

user experience matters!

And the industry as a whole has seen the demonstration by Apple of what can be accomplished when you focus on the user experience.

Thank you, Steve!

I could go on... about how the iPod and the rise of podcasting has enriched my life... I could talk of the excellence of Jobs as a presenter (I loved Om's reference to him as a thespian)...

... but I will close by simply saying:

Thank you, Steve.

You've led Apple through an era of disrupting several industries... helped many of us in so many ways with your products... and taught us so much.

Thank you... and best wishes for what is next.

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Facebook Now Reminds Us Of What We Posted One Year Ago?

When did Facebook start showing you "On This Day in 2010"? Is this new? Or something I've just not noticed?

While in Facebook today, I noticed this box appear on the right side above the sponsored ads:

Facebook oneyearago

Now, I've subsequently not seen that box anywhere when I've been in Facebook, and I can't for the life of me remember precisely what page I was on when I saw that box.

It's curious that Facebook would do this... just randomly show me one of the status updates I posted a year ago. I say "curious" only in that it's not clear how I would really interact with that post. I mean... would I be so overwhelmed by nostalgia that I would click on the comments or likes to see what comments were left on that post? Maybe... but that seems a bit of a stretch.

I didn't dislike having that box appear in my sidebar. It was actually more interesting than seeing the ads that I usually ignore (and obviously interesting enough to write a blog post about ;-). It was just strange... since I'd never seen this before.

Have others of you noticed this kind of box appearing inside of Facebook?

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PodCamp NH Begins Tomorrow (Sat, Aug 13) in New Hampton, NH

PodcampnhIf you live in New Hampshire (as I do) and are interested in all things related to social media: blogging, podcasting, digital marketing, Twitter, Facebook, and so much more, PodCamp NH is happening tomorrow, Saturday, August 13, 2011, from 8:30am to 5:00pm in New Hampton, NH.

The schedule of sessions so far has been posted (tip: note that the schedule box has both vertical and horizontal scroll bars - there are simultaneous session tracks), and I've seen from Twitter that a number of great folks are already planning to head up that way.

The latest PCNH blog post has some more info - including that over 70 people have already registered! It sounds like a great event... and so if you are here in the Granite State or one of the surrounding states, please do head on over and check it out - and join in, too, because PodCamps are by design a place for people to collaborate and be involved.

P.S. Alas, I am not one of those 70 people going as I have other family plans tomorrow... but I'm looking forward to getting to one of the PCNH events one of these years...

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Friday's Humorous Video: 10 Reasons Why We Hate Facebook

Admit it... at least one of these (and perhaps many) will make you laugh...

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Voxeo's Hiring a VP of Marketing - Come Be My Boss!

Voxeo logoHere at Voxeo, we're looking to hire a VP of Marketing! We've got a great team of people in our marketing group who are doing an amazing amount of work... and we're looking for someone to lead that team and help lay out a strategy to take us even farther!

Yes, I'm part of that team - I'm looking for my new boss!

Opportunities like this don't come along all that often... are you up for seizing the chance?

A word of caution... if your idea of a "VP of Marketing" job is someone who sits down in week-long strategy sessions, has long alcohol-fueled lunches, spends half the time at fancy conferences "networking"... and takes a few weeks to create fancy PowerPoint slides before handing the work off to staff or agencies to create glossy direct mail pieces before heading out to the golf course... well... please don't waste our time by applying!

Voxeo is a %#[email protected]$ rocketship that is taking on the traditional players in the industry and winning pretty much every major deal out there. You have to be able to grasp on to that rocket and if you can't... you're going to be burned to a crisp. (And, oh, by the way, you're supposed to be helping steer that rocket!)

It's an incredible place to work with an amazing team of people and an incredibly open culture. Coming up on 4 years here at Voxeo, I can say definitively that this company is going places... and this is an incredible opportunity to join the company and help shape that growth.

It will probably be one of the most rewarding jobs you'll ever do - and one of the most fun - and, well, a heck of a lot of work!

As the job description says:

The Vice President of Marketing will run Voxeo’s Marketing organization from Voxeo’s Orlando, FL Headquarters. Executives at Voxeo are expected to create strategy and high-level goals, and then jump in with their team and help get the job done. We are all “doers” at Voxeo. We work hard. We play hard. We’re in this to win it. Pure thinkers who don’t like to get their hands dirty won’t work well here.

Voxeo has the best products in the industry, a rapidly growing customer and partner base, an insanely high 62% Net Promoter Score, and recognized by analysts at Gartner and Ovum as one of the top vendors in our industry.

What we need now is a phenomenal Vice President of Marketing who will strategize, implement, analyze and improve marketing with a focus on lead generation.

We have an existing team of top-notch experts in SEO/SEM, social media, event marketing, and analyst relations. We need to improve our messaging, press relations, and again… lead generation.

And here's a key point:

At best 1 in 20 buyers in our market know who we are. When they know who we are we win almost every time. You need to get us into the minds of the other 19 buyers.

Ready for the challenge?

The job description has more of the responsibilities and requirements of the position. This position is based in our Orlando office as many of the marketing team members are remote and you need to be interacting with the other executives and staff. And if all you know of "Orlando" is Disney... forget what you know... downtown Orlando is a completely different world from the empire of the Mouse.

To learn more about what we do, visit our website ... but then look at our many blogs, our presence on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and the many (20+) other web sites and services that make up Voxeo's offerings.

I'd give you the links... but if you can't find them you don't deserve a chance at an interview, let alone the job! :-)

Come join us... it's going to be fun!

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MarsEdit Offline Blog Editor For Mac OS X Has a New (Minor) Version Out

Yesterday Daniel Jalkut released a minor update to MarsEdit, my favorite offline blogging tool, and while the 3.3.2 release itself was really just about bug fixes, I thought I'd mention the tool again here on this blog for those who may have recently moved to Mac OS X and are looking for an offline blog editor. I've written about MarsEdit a number of times before and continue to find it probably the program I use the most on my Mac outside of email and web browsers.

Granted, I write across a lot of blogs... but that's the point! MarsEdit gives me a consistent editing interface across all the blogs, no matter what platform they are running on. I also never have to login to any sites because I'm doing all the editing on my local Mac. For the same reason, it's very fast to get in and start editing... and I can easily drop in graphics... and everything else I want to do to write posts.

If you are on a Mac and write blogs posts, do check out MarsEdit. Yes, it's NOT free software... but I've found it well worth the price.


P.S. I have no financial relationship with Red Sweater Software other than being a happy customer, i.e. I am not getting any compensation or anything else if you buy the software.

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Facebook Acquires eBook Maker Push Pop Press - See The TED Video To Understand

PushpoppressIs Facebook going to get into eBook publishing? That was the first question I had when I saw the news that Facebook has acquired Push Pop Press, developers of a very cool eBook technology that was used mainly by Al Gore for his latest "Our Choice" book. The announcement on Push Pop Press' site said this:
Now we're taking our publishing technology and everything we've learned and are setting off to help design the world's largest book, Facebook.

Although Facebook isn't planning to start publishing digital books, the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories. With millions of people publishing to Facebook each day, we think it's going to be a great home for Push Pop Press.

Which was similarly confirmed in a statement from Facebook that was published on All Things D (and other sites):

Facebook isn’t planning to get into the digital book business, but some of the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook

I'd not seen their book myself prior to this news, but to understand how cool Push Pop Press' "publishing technology" is, check out the video of co-founder Mike Matas' demoing the technology at TED:

It will be fascinating to see how Facebook adds Push Pop Press' technology into the Facebook user experience... could be fun!

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Walled Garden Deja Vu: Facebook Provides "" Email Addresses

Over the weekend, I had a severe case of deja vu... and found myself humming that song from Styx that includes the line "Haven't we been here before...".


Because Facebook followed through on its earlier statement around letting people receive email to a "" email address:

Facebook email

So yes, indeed, because clearly I need more email addresses, you can now send me email to:

[email protected]

[On a side note, I will be very curious to see what kind of anti-spam measures Facebook puts in place as these addresses get out there. Consider this my little test... putting that email address out here on a public blog site where it can be easily scraped.]

The deja vu part is that ... we've been here before. Remember AOL? CompuServer? Prodigy? Delphi? MCI Mail? GENIE?

Remember all those "walled gardens" of the original "computer information services"?

And remember those glorious days when you could FINALLY get an email address so that you could send and receive to people outside the walls of whatever service you used? (Even if those addresses were sometimes hard to write or remember? ex. CompuServe's numerical addresses.)

While I realize that some % of readers of this post in 2011 were probably not born in the heydey of those services, for those of us who were around those were big days when we finally got those email addresses.

Soon everyone had an open Internet email address... the walls came down... and communication happened across all services.

Over time, though, the walls started coming back up. I wrote about this four years ago in a May 2007 post, "Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the Return of the Walled Gardens of E-Mail" and drew my view of the evolution of email:


[Another side note: Notice how things change in 4 years and some of the services I mentioned on the right that are no longer around or relevant...]

And so now we Facebook giving us a way to receive email messages. We've had the ability to send email messages out of Facebook for some time now, but it was sent from cryptic, ugly addresses that changed. Now we have a "regular" email address... and indeed an outbound message from Facebook to my "[email protected]" address looks fine in my regular email client:


Note, of course, that since Facebook does not let you set a "Subject" line on an outbound message you create, the subject is simply "Conversation with Dan York".

When a message is initially received from the outside, the subject line of that email is preserved, as you can see here:


The "Hidden Text" in this case was my normal Voxeo email signature.

All in all it works quite well. I'm not naive enough to think that this is some great idea by Facebook to open up to the outside world... the simple fact is that they want to keep you inside of Facebook where you interact with people on Facebook... and, oh, yes, view all the advertising.

If Facebook can convince you to use the site as your email portal, instead of, oh, GMail, then Facebook and their advertisers win against Google and its advertisers.

Of course, Facebook still has its incredibly onerous Terms of Service that basically says all your email - and any other content - belong to Facebook... so I don't see me personally using my "[email protected]" email account all that often outside of the regular FB messaging I'll be doing there.

Still, all cynicism and deja vu aside, as an advocate for the open Internet I am pleased to see this move by Facebook. Some people have made Facebook their portal of choice... and this now lets people choose other sites as their portals of choice, yet still communicate with Facebook users.

In the end, this openness - and ability for us to control our choice of communication - is exactly what we need.

Have you "claimed" your Facebook email address yet? Will you use it?

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