Graturday (Extended Get Up and Go Mix)

I didn’t post a Graturday post this Saturday because I was busy having an absolutely smashing weekend. I have a lot to be thankful for, so I’m going to weave it into this tale of my adventure in…WICHITA, KS!

But first, let’s go back a few years. Through my online friend Bonnie Burton, I found out that Jane Wiedlin, guitarist, back-up singer and songwriter for the Go-Go’s, was on Twitter and was a massive science fiction nerd. I immediately started following her. Jane tweeted about Jon Stewart being her “#imaginaryboyfriend” and said she wanted to get that hashtag really going on Twitter. I tweeted at her, “Would you be my #imaginarygirlfriend?”, and much to my amazement, she replied with, “Yes! I’d be honored!” This began an exchange on Twitter in which she would often refer to me as her “imaginary boyfriend” (or “IBF”). Meanwhile, back in 1983, 13-year-old Josh was utterly astonished at how this could be happening.

Jane was a guest at the 2010 Planet Comicon in Kansas City, promoting her (sadly short-lived) comic, Lady Robotika. The first day of the con, I nervously walked up to her booth, fully expecting that she wouldn’t remember who I was at first. (Surely she gets a lot of people tweeting at her, so why would she remember li’l ol’ me?) I stood in front of her and said, “Hey, it’s my imaginary girlfriend!” She smiled and said, “Josh!”, then came out from behind the table, gave me a hug, and posed for a photo with me. She insisted Berkie and I stay and chat with her for a bit and asked us to come to her panel the next day. Which we did. In the middle of the panel, she saw me sitting in the middle of the second row, stopped what she was saying, waved to me and said, “Hi. Josh!” She then informed the entire room that I was her Twitter friend. I blushed. Berkie tweeted about me being a rockstar.

Since then, Jane and I have continued to tweet to each other, usually about nerdy stuff like Star Wars or Star Trek, sometimes about more serious stuff. I have been very grateful for Twitter for giving me the chance to interact with someone who I consider a major star, but on a level where we’re both equals, just goofy nerds becoming friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out the Go-Go’s would be starting their new tour with a show on the last night of the Wichita River Festival. What with it being so close, I absolutely had to go. I never gotten to see the band perform when I was younger, and their recent tours haven’t taken them anywhere particularly close and affordable. I sent Jane a direct message on Twitter to let her know I was going, and she said, “I’ll get you some after-show backstage passes so I can say hi!” Not “so you can meet the band and bask in our glory” but “so I can say hi.” I asked 13-year-old Josh how he felt about that, and he said, “ASKJMFTHPFRTLN!!”

On Saturday morning, my daughter and I lazed around the house for a bit before getting in the car and driving down to Wichita. (Sadly, Berkie couldn’t go, due to work and other commitments.) I’m very grateful I had Morgan with me, because although she’s a 16-year-old, she’s very calm and easy-going. When we got lost in Wichita trying to find our motel (thank you, Google Maps!), Morgan merely shrugged and said we’d find our way eventually. It helped that she was using her smartphone to navigate. She makes an excellent co-pilot. I’m also very grateful for pharmaceuticals, because when we left for Wichita, I was rocking a powerful, stabbing headache and was feeling anxious about that night’s plans. I loaded up on decongestants, ibuprofen, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds and was feeling much better by the time we reached Wichita.

When we finally found our motel and got checked in, I pulled out my laptop, got online, and found a message from Jane that the plans had changed. “Meet us at our hotel, in the lobby or bar, after the show.” Ummmm, OK? Like…this is my life? Meeting the guitarist from one of the biggest bands in the ’80s at her hotel after a show? It seemed so unreal.

Morgan and I got to the River Festival as Me Like Bees were finishing their set as part of the “Go-Go’s Beach Party.” (I’d never heard of Me Like Bees before, but they were quite good.) It was starting to lightly rain, but I didn’t think much of it until a woman came on stage and announced that a thunderstorm was heading in from the west and should be hitting the area in around 15 minutes. They didn’t consider the weather safe for performing or spectating, so they were asking everyone to head inside the convention center to wait out the storm. Despite this setback, the show did go on, albeit about an hour and a half later than scheduled, with rain still coming down at the beginning of the show.

It was their first show of their tour, the weather was pretty miserable, but the Go-Go’s put on a hell of a show. Yes, they played all of their big hits–“Get Up and Go,” “Vacation,” “Head Over Heels,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “We Got the Beat,” which they mashed up with Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite”–as well as classic songs from their early albums, Belinda’s “Mad About You” (my favorite of her solo songs), the song Jane sang with Sparks, “Cool Places” (with Belinda singing Russell Mael’s part), and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” Jane wore a classic Star Trek dress (blue, which maybe makes her Nurse Christine Chapel?), further endearing her to me. Belinda commanded the stage effortlessly; she just radiates this sort of zen confidence. It was also a lot of fun to see the way Belinda and Jane interacted with each other on stage. There seems to be a lot of love and respect there. Meanwhile, Charlotte, Gina, and their new bassist (whose name I don’t know) solidly rocked out for the entire show. (If you’ve never seen her on drums, Gina Schock is a fucking powerhouse. Seriously.) By the end of the show, I was all pumped up on rock and roll, bouncing down the streets of Wichita.

Morgan and I walked to the hotel where the band was staying and found Jane hanging out with members of her boyfriend’s extended family who live in the area. She jumped up and greeted me with a hug and a “How are ya, buddy?” She was very nice to Morgan and introduced us to her other guests (saying proudly, “Josh and I met on the internet!). We chatted about the show, then Jane posed for picture with everyone. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Josh was screaming, “THERE IS NO WAY THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!” But Jane is so sweet and funny and modest, it all felt completely natural to be hanging out with her. Thank you, internet, for making this experience possible!

The next morning, Morgan and I hit The Donut Whole to get some breakfast (and tasty treats to bring back to Berkie). The Donut Whole is ZOMFG AMAZING! I would spend so much time there, drinking coffee and eating donuts, if I lived in Wichita. It’s probably best for my wallet and waistline that I don’t. But damn, their donuts are tasty! Thank you, Donut Whole!

I’m so grateful to everything and everyone who contributed to this fantastic weekend I had! What a wacky, wonderful, nerdy world I live in!


Facing Up to Facebook

Four months ago, I deleted my Facebook account. Yesterday, I went back to Facebook.

My issues with Facebook haven’t changed. But I have to admit, there are friends and family I have limited contact with outside of Facebook, and I don’t want to lose touch with them. So I went back, but this time with a more focused perspective on the site.

I won’t be friends with just anyone. I have no intention of using Facebook for professional networking, so if you and I both happen to work in libraries, there’s no point in friending me unless we’re already friends in real life and have something besides libraries to talk about. If that’s not the case, we’re not friends, we’re just two people who share a profession. If we work together but don’t socialize outside of work, I’m not going to friend you. We’re coworkers, not friends. I don’t need to know what’s going on in your life, and you don’t need to know what’s going on in mine. If we’re already friends in real life and see each other in person fairly often or interact on other social networking sites, there’s a good chance I won’t friend you (unless I really like you a lot).

I don’t plan on posting a lot to Facebook or uploading much content. I don’t want to use Facebook as a one-stop-shop for all things Josh. It’s simply a tool for me to keep in touch with friends and family I care about.

Leaving Facebook was good for me. Now I have a better idea of what I want to do with the site. And what I don’t want to do with the site.

You Can’t Just Walk Away

Gareth-Michael Skarka tweeted this morning:

Deleting Facebook accounts over privacy concerns is the new slacktivist hotness. If you’re concerned about less-savvy users — TEACH THEM.

And he’s absolutely right.

Colleen Harris blogged last week:

It’s not the nerds, social networking experts, librarians, Alex Scobles or other techgeeks Facebooks awful privacy settings take advantage of, though we’re teh ones bitching to high heaven for or against them.

It’s the casual user. It’s your mother, your Aunt Louise, and your next door neighbor. Perhaps it’s you.

And she’s absolutely right.

As a librarian, part of my job is to teach patrons and staff about new technology. As something of a tech geek, I do this in my off-work time, too. I’m always more than happy to teach friends, family, coworkers and complete strangers about the web and social sites, as well as issues surrounding privacy, copyright and general computer use. Walking away from Facebook isn’t just a personal thing, it’s a teaching moment, an opportunity to educate others on privacy and the social web.

If you’re thinking of deleting your Facebook account, or you’re just generally concerned about privacy on the web, or you simply have knowledge about computers and the internet, you need to share with others. Teach people how to protect themselves and to better use this new technology. It ain’t going away any time soon.

Facing Down Facebook

I just deleted my Facebook account. Why?

In part it’s because of my concerns over Facebook’s frequent changing of the goalposts when it comes to privacy. But even more, it’s Facebook’s growth as an all-purpose internet site. To my mind, Facebook is trying to be AOL 2.0–a site that provides you with email, IM, image hosting, blogging, games, etc. I don’t want the internet centralized. I don’t want a one-stop-shop for all things internet. I don’t want One Site to Rule Them All. And I really don’t want the internet simplifed and dumbed down for people. I want people to smart-up for the internet. I want people to learn to use email and instant messaging through the numerous apps and tools available. I want people to learn to use a blogging platform. I want people to learn to use RSS. None of these things are really all that difficult, and outside of Facebook, you can control your privacy a lot more.

If you want to follow my exploits and read my rambling thoughts, read this blog and follow me on Twitter or FriendFeed. If you want to see my photos, check me out on Flickr. If you want to talk to me, email or IM me. But don’t look for me on Facebook, because I won’t be there anymore.

This is How It’s Done

My friend Royce Kitts is the director of the Tonganoxie Public Library in nearby Tonganoxie, KS. The library has redone its website, and it looks fantastic! Check it out!

The site has a definite look to it, but it’s not overdone. It’s comfortable and appealing. It’s easy to find things. I love the picture of the old card catalog at the catalog search box. I absolutely adore the “world’s nicest library” tagline. And the first post at the top of the page? A listing of library rules and guidelines for staff. Sheer brilliance! I think it sets a new standard in transparency.

I’m floored at how simple and wonderful this site it. Well done, Royce!

Harshing My Buzz

Just now, I tweeted: “Dear Google: Opt-in social networks are good. Opt-out social networks are bad. Please remember this.” I was speaking in regards to Google Buzz, the company’s latest social networking release. Buzz is a social aggregator, like FriendFeed, pulling your content from different sites into one stream, where your friends can comment on your content, as well as pulling your friends’ content into the same stream.

I was excited about Buzz and gave it a try as soon as Google bestowed it upon me. It didn’t take long for me to grow frustrated and annoyed with it, though, and I gave up on it after less than a day’s use. Reflecting on it more, I’ve come to see Buzz as a massive screw-up in terms of social networking. Because Buzz is opt-out social networking, not opt-in.

If you sign up for MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed or a host of other social websites, you have to seek out friends. You can sometimes use your email contact list to find other people on those sites, or you have to find people one by one to friend. You also have to go to that site (or a desktop or mobile phone app) for access (and socializing).

Buzz, on the other hand, sits right there in your Gmail. By default, you get any and all updates to Buzz both in your Buzz inbox and in your Gmail inbox. (You can filter the emails out of your Gmail, but it’s not something you can really turn off.) Your Gmail contacts are automatically your Buzz contacts. Following contacts in Buzz automatically adds them to the people you follow in Google Reader (which increased my unread posts in Reader A LOT), even if you disconnect Reader from Buzz (and Reader is pulled into your Buzz stream by default, unless you choose to disconnect it). When you post straight to Buzz, you can choose to make a post private rather than public, but unless you disconnect everything from Buzz, your stream will continue to flow, allowing your friends to see posts and comment on them, even if you turn Buzz off (which you can only do by clicking on a tiny link at the bottom of your Gmail page).

In short, Google Buzz is opt-out social networking, not opt-in. If you don’t want to participate, you have to go through steps to turn it off, rather than going through steps to turn it on if you want to participate. Google has deployed Buzz to everyone with Gmail, causing a number of my friends to wonder what the hell it was and how to turn it off.

Opt-out social networking is a moronic and intrusive idea. Just because you use email doesn’t mean you want more social networking. Just because you emailed someone once or twice doesn’t mean you want to see everything they post to the internet (and it doesn’t mean you want them seeing everything you post to the internet). You might like fish and you might like salty food, but that doesn’t mean people should assume you want anchovies on your pizza, and you definitely shouldn’t have to ask to have to anchovies removed if you don’t want them.

Google Wave and Buzz are making me think Google Labs is some socially-isolated workshop where no usability studies are being done. It’s stunningly bad design. I’m going to be very wary of whatever Google releases next.

Making Waves

Most of the time, I think my optimism and enthusiasm is justified, because life regularly turns out to be at least as amazing as I expect and imagine it will be. But sometimes…not so much.

I was really, really excited about Google Wave when I first learned about it. I snagged an invite to start playing with it as soon as I could. And after two months of experimenting with Google Wave, I have to say…meh.

I’ve tried using it for conversation, but it doesn’t facilitate conversation any better than email, IM, Twitter or FriendFeed. I’ve tried using it for collaboration, but it doesn’t do that better than Google Docs. I appreciate that it’s in beta, and I’m prepared to believe that in a year or two or three, Google Wave will be where it’s at. But right now, it’s a lot like Second Life to me: flashy and interesting, but ultimately kind of boring and of little real use to me.