Rohit's Realm

// / archive / 2008 / 07 / 11 / if-you-cant-beat-em---

July 11, 2008

If You Can't Beat 'Em . . .

HFK recently pointed out that it was rather surprising that my shared items were regularly appearing in his reader given that I had excoriated the feature only months before with characteristic vitriol and bitterness. Admittedly, this is quite an about-face. To whom or what do we attribute this nontrivial change of heart?

Fundamentally, two things changed my mind. First, I was consumed to an extent by an if you can't beat 'em, join 'em mentality. At some level, at least, I realized that I was finding the social media aspect to be beneficial, and I have to (begrudingly) admit that I have had my horizons expanded from items shared by friends, real or otherwise. Of course, this limited admission should not be taken as a sign that I am stepping away from my trademark elitism, only that I may in some circumstances be willing to read items shared by friends that do not necessarily represent my primary interests.

Second, I have come to terms with the fact that I do not have to read every item that appears in my feed reader. Dumping the uninteresting stories—and not feeling guilty doing so—has relieved much of my irritation with having unsolicited stories showing up in my reader, while simultaneously allowing me to track more deeds, some of which I only read maybe twenty percent of the time.

I still vehemently oppose the antichoice way in which the feature was introduced, however. For new features (or bugs, as the case may be) in software, opt-in should be the name of the game, not opt-out. Both Google and especially Facebook have been guilty of these sorts of shenanigans in recent months, and I am frankly not at all happy that at any given time some half-baked, ill-planned feature might be introduced that exposes my personal data against my wishes. Remember how long it took people to dump Friendster after it introduced the who has viewed your profile again? Perhaps a better question is: Friendster?


I completely agree with the whole opt-in aspect. I also really dislike how when the feature was introduced, anything I had previously marked as shared was now shared with everyone, without my consent!

The thing that really bugs me now with Google Reader, is that if I want to share something, I've no idea who sees it. My contacts? Anybody who has me as a contact? Things like this should be part of the basic privacy controls. I know that Google has a Contacts API that supports reading of Groups. So why not make use of their own API and allow one to share an article with a specific group (like Facebook's friend lists). Plus, make it very clear who you are sharing the article with. I know that I would do a lot more sharing if I knew who was on the other end.

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