Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On lifedamming

I may - or may not - have coined a word. I seriously doubt that I coined a concept, but I'll take credit for coining the word.

I first used the word publicly on Monday in a comment on a Mona Nomura item in Facebook. This is what she said:

Hey people: your Instagram activity shows up in our FB newsfeeds. Some photos you people like are...very telling.

Here is my comment (among several that were offered):

A few years ago, the hot topic was lifestreaming. Now, with apologies to Mark Krynsky, I'm moving more and more toward lifedamming.

Who is Krynsky, you may ask? Krynsky is the author of the Lifestream Blog. Significantly, I met Krynsky at a FriendFeed meetup several years ago - FriendFeed, of course, was (and still is) a model of lifestreaming via content aggregation. Krynsky defines lifestreaming as follows:

What is a Lifestream?

In it’s simplest form it’s a chronological aggregated view of your life activities both online and offline. It is only limited by the content and sources that you use to define it.

Krynsky's last sentence is an important one. Ideally, you are the person who defines what is placed in your lifestream, and you can put as much - or as little - into your lifestream as you want. Two major controls over this are (a) privacy settings, and (b) sharing settings.

Privacy settings determine who can see a particular piece of online content. Take Nomura's Facebook item, for example. This particular item had a "Public" setting, but did Nomura intend for this comment to be public, where anyone could see it? Because of Nomura's technological sophistication, I have assumed that the public setting was intentional. But how many people post Facebook messages along the lines of "My boss is an idiot" or "I got so wasted last night," not realizing that everyone can see them? (And even if such messages are only shared to a limited crowd, any person in that limited crowd can capture a screen shot and share it publicly.)

Sharing settings determine how something shared on one service can be accessed via another service. Of course, that was (initially) FriendFeed's reason for being, and a number of other services capitalize on taking information from other services. In many cases, this sharing is mutually beneficial - when an article from McPaper is shared on ThisWeeksSocialService, then the McPaper people benefit from a larger audience, and ThisWeeksSocialService gets additional content. Everybody wins.

But not always. The aggregation of information about a particular person could yield information that the person doesn't want shared. Let's say that I'm sharing my tweets, my Foursquare checkins, and my likes to FriendFeed. What would you think if my FriendFeed contained the following items, all posted within a five-minute period?

(from Twitter) My head is spinning

(from "Red Solo Cup"

(from Foursquare) Check-in at my place of employment

And there are other potential problems with lifestreaming, which I won't get into here.

So what do you call it when you decide NOT to stream particular aspects of your life - either by not sharing them with other services, or by increasing privacy settings, or even by not putting the particular event online at all?

Well, I call it lifedamming.

At the lifedamming extreme, you keep your cellphone turned off at all times. (I could tell you stories about how leaving a cellphone on can get you into trouble - but I won't.) You pay with cash. You don't buy ANYTHING in England because there are too many cameras around.

In reality, all of us make choices between lifestreaming and lifedamming all the time. And at times we will tweak our lifestreaming/lifedamming balance. While we may know when the Louis Gray family rents a breast milk pump, I seriously doubt that we'll ever see a video of the moment of conception of the fourth Gray child. And I don't think that we'll see a Robert Scoble Foursquare checkin at his physical residence. (If I recall correctly, he checks in at a nearby public location, therefore not revealing his home address.)

How do you choose between lifestreaming and lifedamming? And have you recently changed your balance between the two?
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