I’m not normal?
For some people the web is a place to go out into cyberspace and return with treasures of information. You live and breathe Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Wikipedia. Others of us use the web primarily as a place of commerce. Goods and services flow into your home on the Amazon river. Early adopters are doing their computing in the cloud. A few of us are content creators, posting words in blogs, pictures in albums, and videos on channels. Many venture into cyberspace for the social scene. I have really come late to that scene.
I view the social web as falling into two categories, ‘Facebook’ and ‘Other.’ Despite my distrust of the underlying business model and corporate philosophy of Facebook, they do offer a seamless and simple service for sharing words, photos, and videos with friends. For some, it just makes sense to connect socially in Facebook and never venture beyond her borders. But if you’re really into writing or photography or videography you may have other favorite sites for presenting your media. Tinkerers, control-freaks, and fanatics will not be satisfied with the one-size-fits-all (or you’re the wrong size) Facebook approach. Some of us try to fix this using Facebook Connect on other services and piping what we do there back into Facebook but isn’t that really a vicious cycle in which who we are is squeezed back into the Facebook mold? Facebook is slick and simple and will satisfy the needs of the majority of people. If you’re one of them, join up and take the time to get your privacy settings the way you want them. Or you could just accept their recommended settings. (Don’t forget to walk into your boss’s office in your underwear in order to be consistently open should you choose that level of sharing.)
Okay. Normal readers have now signed up for Facebook and set up their privacy settings.
Tinkerers, control-freaks, and fanatics – follow me. Step one. Be yourself. If you want your pictures on Yahoo’s Flickr and your videos on Google’s YouTube and your blog on WordPress and your music on Slacker Radio, then go ahead with your bad self. But what if you are also social and would like to share with your friends and family? How are they going to find all those sites custom-tailored to your varied interests and creations?
I think the best answer for today is a Google Profile. When you set up your profile, you have the opportunity to set up links to all your other profiles – Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, last.fm, et al. There is no limit to what services you can use to express yourself. Send your family and friends to one location and they have “found” you everywhere you are in cyberspace. They see your pictures, read your words, watch your videos in exactly the way you have chosen to share them.
Click this Google Profile link and set up your profile. You need a profile to post to Google Buzz anyway. Now, just scroll down and start adding links to all the places you’re present on the web. Pass your profile link out to your friends and family and they’ll see your stuff just the way you posted it.
Want to make things even easier for them? In Gmail, go to Buzz. Above the post window, you’ll see a link called ‘connected sites’. Click on that and you control which of your sites can automatically post to Buzz and to whom those posts will be visible on a source-by-source basis. Buzz lets you limit posts to a contact group or make them public. If you choose private, there is a menu of all your contact groups and you just check the groups you want to see the post. If you connected Twitter, for example, when you Tweet something, everyone in the group you picked for Twitter on Buzz will see a new Buzz in their Gmail. It took a little effort to set up, but that is what the tinkerers-control-freaks-fanatics do. Our normal friends and family only need to follow us in Buzz (similar to the Facebook News Feed) or check out our Profile (similar to our Facebook Wall).
If you are normal, but you have a freak amongst your friends and family, please do us the courtesy of following us in Buzz and letting us be our uniquely freaky selves. If you’re some kind of freak, please do the normals in your life a favor and set up a Google Profile, add links, then connect those links in Buzz. That way the normals get a jingle in their Buzz when you’ve created your latest masterpiece and they know where to look for you when they haven’t heard anything through normal channels. You want to be different? You gotta pay the piper.
P.S. Freaks should still join Facebook. If normals are going to take the time to know us, we should make the effort to observe what’s up with them, too. You don’t have to express yourself there. Just let folks know you’re paying attention to them. Isn’t that the right thing to do?