Extreme social sharing and the rising cost of free

Does your Flashlight know what you're doing?

Given that my life is too dull to be of much interest to anyone, I generally go along with the ever-increasing demands from the digital tools that I use to reveal my location or connect with Facebook. I don’t like it, but I don’t care enough to take a stand. (Yes, I’m well aware that that’s the road to hell.)

But three recent experiences have me wondering. I’ll take them in increasing order of ridiculousness.

I’ll start with Spotify, the free music service (premium versions are also available) that requires you to log in using your Facebook account, after which all of your Facebook friends can see what you’re listening to.

I had been using Rdio at the recommendation of Josh Stearns and found it was a little less bewildering than Spotify. Even better, there was no Facebook connection. But after I used up my free-music quota for the month, I switched over to Spotify, and joined the stream. I suppose a 55-year-old shouldn’t worry about whether his musical choices strike others as sufficiently cool, but I do.

Now, I don’t think Spotify’s social-networking policy is particularly outrageous, because it is offering an expensive service for free. So I have no real complaints. But I’m not crazy about having to do my listening in public. And if I get a sudden urge to listen to Barry Manilow (I’m kidding! Really!), I’ll be sure to do it on Rdio.

Considerably farther down the food chain, yesterday I wanted to download a PDF of a legal decision from a site that uses Scribd. With PDFs, you can usually just click and download. But with a Scribd-ified PDF, I had to register, either by creating a new account (ugh) or logging in with Facebook. Hmmm … I did as I was told and got my download.

In paging back through my Facebook status updates, I see no evidence of anything saying “Dan downloaded a document from Scribd!” But still.

Finally — and the mind still reels at this — I recently received a notification that there was an update available for Flashlight, an app that turns your iPhone into, yes, a flashlight. What, I wondered, could be new and improved about Flashlight? A brighter light? A setting that shines a Batman logo on the sides of vacant buildings?

I installed the new app, started it up — and was asked whether I wanted to provide my location information. Seriously. Well, that was easy. No. But is someone sitting in a room somewhere with a giant Google map, checking to see who’s looking for their car keys?

My prediction: Social sharing is here to stay, but not at this level. Businesses are going to discover that there’s no social-media pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. And as I said, though I’m not particularly obsessed with protecting my privacy, I think all of us should be concerned about living increasingly large chunks of our life in public.

Boston Media Tweeters goes 1.0

Boston Media Tweeters today exits beta and is ready for prime time.

What is it? It’s a wiki that lists Greater Boston journalists, including independent bloggers engaged in some form of journalism. I’ve made it a permanent addition to the Media Nation navigation bar, and I hope it will grow into a useful directory.

Feel free to add yourself or someone else. And enjoy.

Are you a Boston media tweeter?

I’ve started a wiki called Boston Media Tweeters. I’ve seeded it with a few obvious choices so that you can tell how it should be formatted. Depending on how it goes, I may make it a permanent part of Media Nation. So, please, if you fit the criteria (you must be engaged in journalism of some sort, and I won’t allow institutional feeds), go ahead and add yourself to the list.

Audio of panel on journalism and social media

Thanks to four excellent panelists and an interested and engaged audience, we had a great time last night at a discussion titled “Are Blogs and Twitter Improving the Dissemination of Information and News?”

The panel was held at the historic Vilna Shul on Beacon Hill — a bit of a nostalgia trip for me, as I lived less than a block away in 1979-’80.

I’ve posted an MP3 of the discussion. There’s a lot of reverb, and it is difficult to hear members of the audience, who did not use the mic. My apologies. The panelists, in the order in which they spoke, were:

And thanks to Doug Levin, who put together the program.

Talking about journalism and new media

Next Wednesday, Sept. 16, I’ll be moderating an all-star panel on journalism, blogging and social media. Titled “Are Blogs and Twitter Improving the Dissemination of Information and News?,” the panel will feature:

With that many bright minds in the room, I may have to wear shades.

The program will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Vilna Shul, located on Beacon Hill at 18 Phillips St. Please join us.

All-important food-related update: Doug Levin, who’s organizing the event, asks that you send an e-mail to doug {at} vilnashul {dot} com if you’re planning on coming so that he can order enough food. If you’re not looking to eat, you could show up at about 6:45, when the program will begin.

Talking social media at the AEJMC conference

I’ll be spending a good part of this week at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which is being held this year in Boston.

Tomorrow I’ll be on a pre-conference panel called “Social Networking, Social Media: Facilitating the Pro-Am Approach to Journalism and Building Social Communities,” part of a program titled “Reinventing Journalism and Yourself: One Tweet, One Friend at a Time.” I wish I could invite everyone, but I’m told there’s no more seating left.

I’m not sure how much blogging I’ll be doing. I’m more likely to post Twitter updates; you can follow me here. This afternoon I succeeded at posting a photo to TwitPic with my new BlackBerry, so I’ll try to do a bit of that as well.

Social-networking that cornice collapse

The student-run Huntington News is taking the social-media route to covering the collapse of a cornice on a Northeastern University-owned residence hall on Huntington Avenue.

Editor Maggie Cassidy used her Twitter account to get out the word that the News had posted a story online. And the photos were posted to the paper’s Flickr account.

Breaking news, from a paper that only comes out every other week during the summer. Good job, although the Flickr link from Twitter doesn’t work [note: now fixed]; pick it up from the story (or from here) instead.

“Cluetrain,” 10 years on

Weinberger (left) and Searls

Last night I had a chance to see David Weinberger and Doc Searls, two of the co-authors of “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” speak at Harvard Law School. The conversation was moderated by law-school professor Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of the school’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

The sound was not great, so I missed a lot. VisiCalc founder Dan Bricklin, credited with the invention of the spreadsheet, finally became frustrated enough that he got out of his seat and ran around with a little handheld microphone. But I did get a chance to score a signed (by Searls) copy of “Cluetrain,” which has been reissued on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.

I read “Cluetrain” online a couple of years ago as research for this. I anticipate getting a lot more out of it this time around, now that I have a print edition. A computer screen is still no way to read a book.

The trouble with the new Facebook

Matt explains. I’m steaming because I just discovered that Facebook’s new, improved Links feature no longer lets you eliminate the photo or edit the text. Unless I’m missing something.