Posts Tagged ‘ choice ’

Me and E.B.

Me and E.B.


oui! be the change!

While I’m not absolutely certain “rules” are the answer to the world’s tough problems, be those rules gun control, or mandatory mental illness screening of high school students (as I heard Dave Cullen, author of the book Columbine suggest on NPR’s live coverage yesterday), or this interesting one —  enforcing politeness — which predated the tragedy in CT.   I *do*, however, find the latter’s poll finding that “60 percent of French list bad manners as their #1 cause of stress” very humbling.  That and the words attributed to Mahatma Gandhi are getting me through today.

We must be the change we wish to see in the world


Google Lite

I spent the ENTIRE day reworking my online presence at the heels of Google’s new  privacy policy implementation happening March 1st.  Thank God it’s a Leap Year!  I justify this procrastination by considering myself fairly savvy in these realms, or at least savvy in my connections with more savvy helpers like Sense and Reference and EFF.

Now,  I know I have not secured my everlasting privacy.  The internet is both permanently public in one sense (data is forever and no longer my own) , and publicly private in another (there is so much out there, my contributions are likely to go unnoticed anyway).  But my hope was to begin sorting out my online lives a little more clearly into basic camps of what I want to share and what I want to store.   I am also not giving up Google entirely.  I am keeping my Gmail account and the services for which I’ve used that email to register.  But in order to disassociate it from my daily searching and reading (that I prefer to keep somewhat private), I had to figure out a new browser, search engine, and reader.  So, here’s the end results and what I learned  in the process.

Google Bookmarks –> Evernote

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the public aspect (sharing) of bookmarks – which is why I never took full advantage of delicious.  But I had been hanging on to Google Bookmarks and justified Google knowing those bookmarks — well, Google knew my (and your) search history too– because until the recent privacy policy changes, Google kept that information separate and somewhat anonymized from its other personalized Google account features.  So, I hung on to Bookmarks even after losing its seemless functionality when Firefox force-upgraded some months back.  I had also (with the Firefox change) decided to try out Chrome, thinking it would integrate the Bookmarks more seamlessly. It did not, and I’ve just been living not exactly pleased the Chrome browser and Bookmarks since.   I decided to tackle finding a new bookmark service before dealing with search and my other Google accounts.

I had tried Evernote as a personal notetaking, to-do list keeper, and potential research ideas storage/organizer.  So, I decided to add my bookmarking there. Because I wanted to clean them up in the process,   I  manually reviewed, moved and tag-categorized over 150 sites.  I’m not totally jazzed with the default display, but I’m still learning and feel like there is plenty of flexibility.

Google Reader –> Netvibes

I took Sense and Reference’s suggestion for Netvibes as a reader alternative to Google Reader.  Along with a good take on what the Google privacy changes mean, you can see his full Google alternative recommendations here.  I like Netvibes both visually and organizationally.  And it seems, like Evernote, to have much more to explore.

Firefox and Chrome (Google Lite)

To take EFF’s recommendation to separate my search from my service, I had to really think through how I work in the day.  Ultimately, I went back to Firefox as my default browser and giving it my home page for work, my bookmarks, and my reader.  I kept Google Chrome, opening it to my Gmail, Twitter, and this blog (which I might reconsider — I’m blogging right now intentionally not yet signed into my Google accounts.).  Luckily, I have two screens so I can visually keep these browser universes separate.  Although, I’ll probably have to put a big post it note on the Chrome screen that reminds me DO NOT SEARCH IN GOOGLE CHROME!

Sidebar on dual monitors (in Ferris Bueller voice): “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking [another] one up.”

Google Search –> Duck Duck Go

I also took recommendation for a new search engine, trying out Duck Duck Go. It is very clean visually and also has a nifty Firfox plugin.  So far I also like the functionality and speed of the results.  Best of all,  it is not tracking my stuff.  See what I mean in a nutshell or in their  full privacy policy .

Google+ –> Facebook (for now)

Finally, I cancelled my Google+ account which wasn’t much of anything anyway. When it asked why I was deciding to leave, I should have said:  “Your algorithm can probably figure that one out.”

I’m sure I’ve got still got some blind spots in this whole thing.  So, please feel free to educate me, especially since next up is Facebook timeline .

More on the paradox of choice

Discovered this presentation by Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice via STEPHEN J. DUBNER‘s Freakanomics article that proposes its probably really more about complexity than choice that causes us problems.  Haven’t read yet Tim Hartford’s piece in the Financial Times that persuaded Dubner.  But, more on this later.

Journal 09-24-03

Reading more from the Utne articles about choices, I found other interesting connections that I have discussed separately in my journal in and in class.  Karen Olson admits the cause of out anxiety may be cultural or it may be fear.  Phillip Moffitt of the Yoga Journal coined the post-September 11 societal climate as an Age of Fear.

My mom is a psychologist who is completing her doctoral thesis on post-traumatic stress disorder.  Her take on this goes beyond the definitions I (and perhaps others) assume that it is a post war disorder, discovered or studies primarily in veteran soldiers.  She takes it further account for victims of child abuse (physical, sexual, and emotional), car accident survivors, those who have experienced the death of a loved one, divorce or any other significantly traumatic event.  Friends and I were discussing this and the tie to September 11th, that the entire country is likely suffering from the traumatic event of that day, from the atrocity our government’s response, from the fact that the worldwide protests against the war in Iraq were dismissed, and we can be described as suffering from this in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder.  If you have never read about post-traumatic stress disorder cases (I’m thinking of my own experience just from watching a war movie once), imagine a victim incapable of normal daily communication function, suffering from outburst of emotion, flashbacks, nightmares, etc., living in fear of their memories and experience.  This seems to be where many of us are today.  Helpless. Helplessly hoping that some vague movement of truth will prevail that will give us a new president in the next election (at least this is what my group of friends were discussing).  But the vague feeling exists I think on a larger scale.  People are traumatized to the point where they cannot find solutions.  The ultimate suffering might be that we hope, but we have lost the ability to know how achieve results.

That seems to match the state the Karen Olson describes, that our multiplicity of choice has caused so much anxiety, that not making a decision gives the impression of weakness.  It is in a sense a weakness.  But to view that weakness as a negative trait is characteristic of and compounds the problem itself.

Journal 09-23-03

I talked to a friend of mine tonight about my school and got on the topic of what a massive undertaking our product is and can become.  I have found myself quite overwhelmed at times, especially reading Kurzweil, wondering how I will get my head around the entirety of information science.  So many aspects, thoughts, ideologies, issues, concerns, answers!  And how, when/if I do get my head around it, will I be able to help others with it all?

I went back to the article from the Utne Reader and found another interesting aspect of this whirlwind of information. Karen Olsen, the author of the first article Are We Overwhelmed by Too Many Choices? reflects on the fact that abundance of choice is a defining feature of our country and generation, which is linked tightly to our individual self-image as well. She writes:

Our choices seem especially fraught with anxiety now as [our selections] are more than ever declarations of who we are…with each decision you are constructing an identity for all the world to see and judge you by.

**and this was pre-social networking!**

Then she goes on to make the point that the anxiety come from the lack of time to make that decision.  This is similar to what we talked about in class about the need for reflection time.  The dread rate of change has got us so wrapped up in that it nearly doesn’t allow for a moments wait.  Think about searching the internet. We are constantly searching for a faster response.  It is clear that when we don’t have an outlet or learn to incorporate reflection into a major part of our lives, we will translate that impatience with a machine response times on to people, our interactions with patrons, our personal relationships, to new ideas, and to new technologies.

It is also similar to the modern (or maybe its mostly Western) movement in social (per this article) and religious thought that everything begins to be OK, whatever feels right to you is best.  Such freedom of choice, it might be said, begins to corrupt the moral fiber when considering very sensitive social issues (e.g. abortion, pornography). Maybe that’s a sweeping statement and might reflect some bias.  But, I wonder if this isn’t a message in what the author is also saying, that we can’t be afraid of making these statements  that reflect one of our many sides or ways of seeing things. I guess I’m not afraid of these statements because I expect to reflect of them further, refine them, and edit them if needed.

Journal 09-07-03

Another article in this “choices” section of the Utne (2003, May/June) was Life is a Smorgasbord which describes the differences between our culture and Sweden in regard to freedom of choice and access. The author writes that for an American, Sweden can be a type of prison because the choices are limited to the most quality items.  He describes as an example, that in American we have a liquor store on every corner but can’t get a decent bottle of wine.  In Sweden, “the System” as it is called is the world’s single largest wine buyer and its wine selection is literally (according to the author) second to none.  This is probably not as telling an example as the fact that Sweden only sells two kinds of cars. There, again, quality is the determinant.

Anyway, all of this reminds me of the FCC issues I was reading about last week from a book called Media diversity : economics, ownership, and the FCC by Maria Einstein.  She is arguing that conglomeration of power isn’t necessarily the defining force (or at least not the only one) behind lack of diversity in programming.  Posing the social theory side against the economic theory side, she shows that both are equally capable of stifling diversity.  The America/Sweden distinction describes the socialist/economic debate Einstein presents.  Proposing most Americans think about economic power at play (whether they are for or against), what she made me see was that the social theory side is not possible without regulation of content.  This is the key issue in the freedom of access to information and a perfect example of the predicament we find ourselves in surfing the net or the channels of our television, at the grocery store cereal aisle, in the job market, and even when facing presidential elections and decisions of international importance.



Utne, L. (2003, May/June). Life is a smorgasbord. Utne (117), 64-65. Retrieved November 1, 2009 from Proquest Research Library (Document ID: 333748581).

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