Joho the Blog » 2011 » July

July 31, 2011

The mystery of Public and Incoming at Google Circles: An Explainer (unless I’m getting it wrong)

I thought I understood Google Circles until I tried explaining it to someone. So, let me see if I have this straight.And if I do, then I have a suggestion for Google Plus: Instead of saying that we post to “Public,” tell us we’re posting “To Followers.” And instead of letting us look at our “Incoming” stream, tell us we’re looking at “From Followers.”

Let’s say I have two circles: Friends and Coworkers. Into Friends I put Fred, Fanny, and Felicia. Into Coworkers I put Carol, Carl, and Cathy.

I now post something to Friends. Assume all members of my Friends circle have put me in one of their own circles. My Friends now see my posts whenever they check the stream from the circle they’ve put me into.

Now, it turns out that my coworker Carol hates my guts and hates hearing from me, so she hasn’t put me in any of her circles. Does she see my posts to my Coworkers circle anyway? If not, then either (a) I have the illusory sense that I’m posting to her when I post to my Coworkers circle, or (b) Carol is seeing my posts even though she does not want me in any of her circles.

Google Plus solves this dilemma through the Incoming stream and the Public circle. By putting Carol into one of my circles, two things happen:

(1) When I check my Coworker stream, I now see what Carol posts to Public. Since Carol doesn’t have me in any of her circles, she doesn’t want me to see what she posts exclusively to those circles. But, if Carol posts to Public, it is visible to anyone who has encircled her…even people like me whom she hates. If Carol didn’t want me to see it, she shouldn’t have posted it to Public. (Think of posting to Public as posting “To Followers.”) [Note about an hour later: Thanks to useful discussion of this post over at G+, I realize I should have added that posting to Public means also that your post has a publicly accessible URL.]

(2) My posts now show up in Carol’s Incoming stream. That stream shows all posts from people who have encircled Carol. If she doesn’t want to see my posts in her Incoming stream, she can mute me. (Think of Incoming as “From Followers.”)

The asymmetry of Circles is their genius, but, just as with Twitter, they lead our mortal brains astray. We think that because we’re posting to a circle, everyone in that circle will receive our post. Not exactly. If they have encircled me, it will show up within that circle’s stream. If they have not encircled me, it will be visible to them in their Incoming stream.

So, if you are an Internet Celebrity who has been encircled by 100,000 people, but who has encircled only ten close friends, your posts to your circle of ten will be visible only to those ten. (If they haven’t encircled you, your posts will show up in their Incoming stream.) If you post to Public, all 100,000 people will see your post within whatever circle they’ve placed you in.

I understand this as I write it. But, wait a second…yeah, it’s gone. :(


July 30, 2011

News unboxed

I just read the NY Times. In print. Cover to cover, so to speak, although I skipped the parts that didn’t interest me, which were most of the parts at least beyond the second paragraph. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience. I then put my coffee cup in the sink, declared that unit of the day over, and opened my laptop to begin the next.

In a hyperlinked world, boxing off content is unlikely to be a winning strategy. “Here is your morning box of world news, sir. By reading every item in this box, you will be Well Informed, No, sir, for that distinction you need read nothing outside of this box.” Nah.

But, even though my usual morning news reading does not come in a box, it does occur within a stretch of time: Over breakfast on most days I read through feeds I’ve aggregated via, straying as far out onto the Web as my interests lead me. I stop not when I reach the end of the news, but when I reach the end of coffee.

Obviously, I continue poking around the news (i.e., what is happening in the world) all day long. Nevertheless, I do have a morning news box, defined by time, not by the edges of content.

I suspect that’s because I grew up with morning newspapers and the evening news. I assume that The Kids These Days generally don’t have any sort of box for news. Amiwrong?


July 29, 2011

Berkman Buzz

This week’s Berkman Buzz

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July 28, 2011

Gig U

The plan to provide ultra high speed Internet connectivity to universities (mainly in the heartland) is exciting. And it’s got some serious people behind it, including Lev Gonick and Blair Levin.

The NY Times article, seeking to find something negative to say about it, finds someone who doubts that providing significantly higher speeds will lead to innovative uses of those greased-lightning pipes. Does history count for nothing?

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July 26, 2011

Microsoft Word does regex!

After literally decades of using Microsoft Word I just found out that it does regex!

I discovered this because I needed to delete comments inserted throughout my book manuscript, in the form . Hundreds of them. I was contemplating exporting to HTML so I could use a text editor that can handle this type of search and replace, but came across an article on how to use regular expressions in Word. Regexes let you use magical incantations that no one understands but that cause text to dance in little circles and transform themselves in puffs of smoke.

For example, to get rid of the pesky markup in my manuscript, I just had to tell the Replace dialogue to use wildcards, and then had it search for \<AU:?\>. The backslashes are necessary so that the angle brackets are not read as regex instructions. The question mark tells Word to find everything between <AU: and >. Simple! And it accepts far more complex regular expressions that. (Here’s a site that lets you test your regular expressions.)

Take a well deserved bow, Microsoft Word! (And then fix auto-numbers.)

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July 23, 2011

Berkman Buzz

The weekly Berkman Buzz:

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July 22, 2011

Racism is dead? Not hardly

From the latest American Journal of Political Science 55, 463 (2011):

Not All Equal to Politicians

Barbara R. Jasny

In considering how much progress the United States has made toward racial equality, one aspect that has been hard to study has been the political system itself. Do legislators give preferential treatment to certain constituents? To answer this question, Butler and Broockman conducted a field experiment. They sent 4859 U.S. state legislators an e-mail asking about how to register to vote. The e-mail letter was signed by one of two aliases: Jake Mueller or DeShawn Jackson. Previous studies had indicated that these aliases were strongly associated with individuals identifying themselves as white or black, respectively. Alternate forms of the letter indicated no party affiliation or Democrat or Republican, resulting in six experimental situations. The DeShawn alias received significantly fewer responses than the Jake alias when a Republican affiliation or no party affiliation was given. Legislators (or at least their offices) from both political parties were more responsive when they thought the letter writer was from their own party. Minority legislators replied more frequently to the DeShawn alias than to the Jake alias. The authors conclude that racial discrimination is still present in U.S. politics.

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July 21, 2011

Why I’ve been quiet

There’s been just so much to do. I’ve been on double deadlines (which, btw, is the direct opposite of double rainbows), while the Library Innovation Lab project for the DPLA beta sprint has been roaring forward. But, as of two minutes ago, I have reached a moment when I can breathe…for a minute.

I turned in the final copy-edited version of Too Big to Know a few minutes ago. The copy editor, Christine Arden, was a dream, finding errors and infelicities at every level of the book. Plus, she occasionally put in a note about something she liked; that matters a lot to me. Anyway, it was due in today and I hit the send button at 5:10.

So, sure, yay and congratulations. But from here on in, the book only gets worse. Let me put it like this: It sure isn’t gonna get any better. It’s a relief to be done, of course, but it is anxiety-making to watch the world change as the book stays the same.

I also was on deadline to submit a Scientific American article, which I did on Monday. I’m excited to have something considered by them. (They can always say no, even though it was their idea, and I’ve been working with a really good editor there.)

As for the Library Innovation Lab, we are doing this amazing project for DPLA that is coming together. There are some gigantic, chewy issues we’ve had to work through, which we have been working with some fantastic people on. If we get this even close to right — and I’m confident we will — it will make some very hard problems look so easy that they’re invisible. It’s going to be cool. I am learning so much watching my colleagues work through these issues at a level I can barely hang on to. And then there are all the fascinating problems of building an app that makes people think it’s easy to navigate through tens of millions of works.

It’s been a busy summer. And despite sending off the two large writing projects that have occupied for me a while, I don’t anticipate it getting any less busy.


July 17, 2011

Edelman and Murdoch

Jay Rosen has an amazing Storify thread in which he engages in a public enquiry about Edelman PR’s taking NewsCorp on as a client. Jay is breaking ground in how journalism works.

DISCLOSURE: I count Richard Edelman as a friend. I like and respect him. I have also been paid during a couple of stretches as a consultant to Edelman on PR in the networked age. The last time was maybe a year ago. I have not spoken with Richard or Edelman employees since then.

In my last engagement, I tried in my small way to get Edelman (the company) to adopt a view that recognizes that the Web is quite literally built out alignments of interests: People put in links and affiliate with one another because they share interests. Marketing traditionally has been premised all too often on a misalignment of interests: The business wants one thing and the market wants another. PR should, imo, recognize and respect the Net’s aligned nature. PR should genuinely enhance the interests expressed in the market, and otherwise shut up. Something like that.

I have also advised Edelman that when a business’s interests and the market’s interests are not aligned over matters of fact or philosophy, the business should consider adopting a tactic of “advocacy marketing” in which the business states its case frankly, truthfully, transparently, honestly, and respectfully. So, if the company think it’s getting a bad rap, it should (for example) put up a site that acknowledges what’s being said about it, make its case, address the contrary claims, engage with those who disagree, and always link to its sources.

If I were Edelman PR, I would probably agree to take on NewsCorp, but only if I were satisfied to a reasonable degree (yes, them’s fudge words) that NewsCorp was ready to tell the truth. (Clients do lie to their PR companies. The first time Edelman catches NewsCorp lying to them, Edelman should quite publicly drop them.)

If I were Edelman, I would not suggest advocacy marketing. NewsCorp does not have a side of the story worth telling. The only way forward for NewsCorp is to go many extra miles in transparency. Come clean not only about the phone tapping and the bribery, but about the culture of soft influence, the partisan reporting that fruitlessly claims it’s non-partisan, the degradation of once worthy newspapers.

Edelman should not, in my opinion, be helping Murdoch tell his side of the story. Edelman should be helping Murdoch to confront the truth, to follow the truth all the way through, and to tell the truth over and over and over again.

Taking on NewsCorp will test the ability of PR itself to continue to exist as a representative only of the client that pays the bill. I do not believe PR can survive if it does not see itself and its client first and foremost within the web of shared interests.


Lyrical arguments

“Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want”

Bob Dylan, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

“You can’t always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need”

Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want


Sometimes you get debutantes

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