My love affair with hashtags (#itscomplicated)

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I love hashtags. How did I ever live without them? They have become part of my internet language, a totally essential part of the way I communicate with people on social media. But strangely, on the platform where the hashtag … Continue reading

Your Blog, Plus One: Connect and Share on Google+

This looks good!

one less reason for people to use Blogger rather than WordPress :)

The WordPress.com Blog

We’re excited to announce new features that integrate your WordPress.com site with some of the services Google has to offer. New features include:

Connect to your Google+ Profile

Google+ Profile

Linking to your Google+ Profile creates an official connection between your WordPress.com content and your Google+ account. The benefit? It adds a layer of verification, confirming you are the author of your posts, and helps Google understand who created certain pages, which helps to increase the accuracy of search results.

In some cases, Google may also use this information to make your posts stand out more in search results by including your Google+ Profile information next to your listing.

Connection highlights

  • The display name that appears on your posts will use your Google+ Real…

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Multiply and Google Plus – each has its pros and cons

Having been over at Google+ since July (and been very active there), I feel that whilst Multiply is a little better for maintaining closer friendships, G+ is so much better for actually meeting new people and making those initial connections which can result in a close friendship.
Google+ is very much what you make of it, it’s up to each person to choose the way that works best for them – you can choose to follow all sorts of tech gurus or writing gurus or cookery gurus or whatever, you can choose to follow pages that provide news on specific subjects you’re interested in, you can choose to follow people who just seem interesting/fun/friendly, you can choose to engage with others or to just quietly read stuff, you can choose how many people you want to try and engage with (we each have different levels that suit us), you can choose what sort of stuff you’re going to post there and what level of privacy you set each post to (just like here)… but unlike here, you have amazing opportunities to (a) get exposure for your own posts if you want that and if you post publicly (b) find interesting people to engage with – and by “interesting” I mean whatever kind of person you personally find interesting. I have consistently ignored the “what’s hot” section, because I’m really not interested in whatever the masses are clicking on, I’m interested in finding people who are interesting to me, and I have – and have been building relationships with some of them. Yes, it’s perfectly possible and yes, I get plenty of deep conversations there – otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed. For me, frivolity is important but depth is essential, without deep conversations I just kind of shrivel…
Yes, there are some things on Multiply that make deep conversations easier, in terms of the technology. The ability to quote a comment, for example, so you can easily show who you are responding to. (And threaded comment view, for those who like that – I don’t.) But G+ is still new and being worked on, and from a recent conversation there I get the feeling they’re going to work on some kind of threaded comments feature, they’ve seen how it gets in long discussions.
The thing is, here I can come over and post something just to my friends and we can end up having a good chat – but other times I can come over and post something and get no response from anyone. And getting to know new people here is not easy – it’s either through groups, so if there’s a subject you’re interested in you can join one and hope to meet people who are also into whatever-it-is; or you can meet people through mutual friends. I think most of the people on my contact list here are people I met in groups – but joining a group is a very purposeful, focused kind of way. On G+ I don’t have to go through that, I just post stuff and it’s immediately available to a huge audience, so the chances are that someone somewhere will be interested (and now they have an internal search box and even hashtags, it’s really easy to find posts of interest to you); I read posts that interest me and comment and discover people who are on a similar wavelength. And doing that sort of thing here is just so much more complicated – it’s not what Multiply is geared for.
One of the people who is now on my contacts list here is someone I had met in groups here but only started to really connect with over on Google Plus! Because here, you have to invite someone to be your contact, and in doing that you are inviting them into your personal space, and also asking them to let you into their personal space, it’s a lot more of an issue – whereas when we found we were both on G+, there was no risk or cost to adding one another there, all it meant was that she was going to see my posts in her stream and I was going to see her posts in mine. (Because of the way the Circles there work, you can easily keep private info private even from some of the people you add.) And so we found ourselves getting to know each other, and at some point decided to become contacts here. It’s like G+ is a sort of massive club where you can hang out and meet people, and then the ones you get closer to, you can invite them home to Multiply. but they might not like Multiply – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s not really necessary in order to maintain a friendship. All the necessary privacy options are available on G+, you can make a post private just for two people or just for ten or just for 300 or whatever.
One of the features that makes it really easy to build connections there is the ability to tag someone in a post or a comment – it’s a way of inviting them into the conversation. So for example there’s someone I recently met there who seemed to be struggling a bit with the feeling of being new there and not knowing many people yet, and I noticed a post of hers about a subject that I know Meg is interested in, so I just commented saying something like: my friend Meg is into this – but using the tagging feature meant that Meg’s name became a live link so this girl could check Meg’s profile out if she wanted to, and it also meant that Meg got notified and could come over to that post and reply, and they could get to know each other. (Obviously she was under no obligation to do so, but I kind of thought Meg would.)
Another thing that makes it easy to get to know more people there is the reshare feature – under each post there’s a Share button and you can really easily pass it on within Google Plus (subject to the post’s privacy settings, of course), so you can introduce interesting people to other people. If someone you follow reshares a post by Joe Bloggs and you find that post particularly insightful, or well-written, or whatever, you can click on Joe Bloggs’s name and go check out his profile. I’ve discovered lots people that way. Or I see someone making a really good comment on someone else’s post, so I go check them out. The whole atmosphere is very conducive to interacting with people you don’t know yet (which is really what a stranger is) and so you can get to know new people – but at the same time, there are good privacy settings so that if you want to have a more private conversation, you can.
And, you know, when I post stuff there, I get reactions. That’s why I keep posting stuff there – because I actually have an audience, whereas here it can sometimes feel kind of echoey. Multiply is nice (very nice) for the times when all I want is a quiet chat with some friends over tea and biscuits – if those friends turn up. On G+ I’m getting to know more people with whom I feel like having tea and biscuits. I’d love to be able to drag them all here… but, you see, it takes time to get to that level where you’re ready to let someone into your private space, and on Multiply there’s not much of that in-between space. On G+ it’s much more grainy/granulated/what’s the word I’m looking for – you add someone as a one-way thing and it’s not even an “I want to get to know you”, it’s just an “I want to read your public posts” or “I want to share some private posts with you” (or “I want to spam you” – that also happens, but there is a block feature). And if that person adds you back and you communicate with each other over time and start building a personal connection, you don’t have to make it official in any way, the other person doesn’t know which circle you’ve put them in, so they don’t know if you’ve advanced them from “strangers that seem interesting” to “people I click with”. Which makes it a lot less awkward.
so, yes, I think G+ is pretty brilliant.
questions?
p.s. I haven’t been posting much publicly here but I’m making this post public, as a kind of public service announcement. But then, how many people are likely to see it even then? How much exposure is there here for posts by people you don’t already know? See what I mean?

The New Deal (or: What Do You Expect)

a rambling on social networking and what humans expect of each other

I was going to write something about shopping and then I found myself wondering about whether there’d be people feeling I was oversharing a bit, and then I found myself thinking about some of the discussions that have been going on on Google Plus about how much some people feel is ok to share. I’ve seen there that different people have very different ideas about what is or isn’t reasonable, with people like me saying stuff it, I’ll share what I want to share and you’re welcome to ignore the posts you find boring, and if you really hate it so much then just drop me – this is me, what you’re seeing is what I’m choosing to present to the world and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep reading it. Just don’t tell me that I’m doing it wrong, I’m doing it my way and each person is going to do it his own way and we’re each of us free to choose whose posts we want to read, so can we stop judging one another and trying to prescribe rules about what is or isn’t acceptable.
But here on Multiply it’s a bit different, isn’t it? Because on G+ we can add total strangers just because we choose to subscribe to their posts, the whole dynamics there are different, much more about interacting with strangers and a lot less about friendships – though friendships can and do develop there, and it’s great, but the stress is less on that side of things, and if you add someone it doesn’t automatically translate into any kind of relationship, you don’t even have to like them, you might add someone because they post informative techie stuff or they know a lot about, I don’t know, bee keeping. Multiply was set up originally for the purpose of keeping in touch with people you already know, it has gradually changed over time but the mutual relationship structure still reflects that – when you add someone here you invite them to confirm a certain type of relationship, and even the relationship type they added later for people you don’t know from your offline life is called “online buddy”, with the word “buddy” indicating some kind of friendly connection. (I’ve heard different people interpret the word “buddy” very differently, some seeing it as even closer than “friend” and some as less close, etc. I even heard someone once say she thought it was a strictly male term. For me it’s a specifically Multiply term – the word “buddy” isn’t normally used in England, and I can’t imagine calling anyone a “buddy” in normal conversation. /end digression) Of course there may be people here who use Multiply differently – the ones who go around inviting everyone they see – but people I’ve mixed with here have generally tended to be a bit more selective, and the general feeling I get is that here we add people when we do, on some level, like them as people and want to interact with them. We might not think of each of these people as a friend (depends on our personal definition of that term) or buddy, but we’re doing more than just subscribing to their posts and allowing them access to ours. It’s a social thing.
And also, here, we have viewing history, with its blessings and its curses. On G+ there’s no equivalent, so the only time you ever know that someone has read your post is if they’ve reacted to it in some way. The downside is that there can be tons of stuff you post and people probably read but you’ve no way of knowing, so you could get despondent, thinking no one is reading your posts – I know I read lots of posts on G+ without reacting. But the flip side is that people feel more free to read your posts, knowing that they aren’t leaving footprints. This is why here on Multiply I’ve sometimes logged out to visit someone’s site, because I’ve had all sorts of reactions from strangers whose sites I visited, you can get people taking your one-off footprint as a declaration of friendship and they come over to your guestbook with gushing responses, or you get those who are suspicious of anyone who has dared step on their [public] territory, or those who tell you off because they think it’s rude to visit someone’s site and not leave a message… *shrug* humans are weird creatures…
But I wasn’t thinking so much about strangers as about friends – and I’m using the word “friends” here in the general sense of people you’re to some extent connected with socially, people you’ve added as contacts here and there’s some level of expectation that you… what? This is where it gets tricky. We each come into these situations with different expectations. We don’t sign a contract, just as in normal life we don’t sign a contract when we become someone’s friend, it just happens, but different people have different expectations and I’ve had some interesting rows with friends over the years as a result, with people accusing me of not being a good enough friend because [fill in the blank] or vice versa – not living up to each other’s expectations of friendship.
I see the same dynamics here on Multiply.
An example that I particularly remember, from a long time ago: someone I knew from a group context invited me to be her Online Buddy. I would see her posts in my inbox and I’d read her posts and now and again I would comment. But I found that she never responded to any of my comments. and no, I’m totally not saying you should always respond to everyone’s comments – that’s just impossible. but never responding to my comments – to me that says: not interested in dialogue. Combine that with the fact that she never commented on any of my posts, and I never saw her in my viewing history, and, well, my general impression was that she wasn’t really interested in friendship with me. Then there came a day when I was going through difficult stuff emotionally and I posted something about it and got some supportive comments from friends here and it really helped and then later on I posted a thank you, saying how much I valued being able to get support from friends online, and she commented saying something along the lines of you’re welcome and I was staggered! she was so not one of the people I was thanking, she had totally not been there for me, not ever, not in the smallest tiniest way, and how dare she… so I removed her from my contacts list. I then got a private message from her saying: I’m sorry to see I have lost you as a friend. I’d love to know what her definition of “friend” is, but no, I didn’t ask, I just left it.
So, does that mean that if you are on my contacts list you must be ready to be supportive when I’m going through difficult stuff emotionally? No. Absolutely not. Just because I have a need, it doesn’t mean that you personally have to supply it. Each of the people I’ve chosen to be friends with is a unique human being with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some of you may be better at empathy than others – that’s okay! Some of you may have more time on your hands than others. Some of you may be more articulate than others. Some of you may be able to understand what I’m going through and some may not. I hereby explicitly state in our virtual contract that you are not bound to offer the right kind of emotional support as and when I need it. I’m pretty sure I won’t always be able to come up with the sort of support you will need whenever you need it. That’s just the way it is.
But leaving aside the issue of emotional support – that’s not always relevant, not everyone goes through bouts of depression and not everyone shares their deep emotional stuff here – there’s the issue of actually reading and responding to people’s posts: how often do people read? how often do they comment? that sort of thing.
I know I’ve done this sometimes: stomped my feet and ranted because people were not living up to my expectations. I think I’m learning. Maybe I’m growing up a little. Maybe I’m beginning to accept that I’m not the centre of the universe… or that, hey, guess what, people have other things to do, work or family or other friends or whatever…
Some will feel you’re not being a good enough friend if you’re not showing up in their viewing history often enough. Others will say: I saw you in my viewing history but you didn’t bother to comment! (By the way, here’s an interesting angle on this: if someone gets email alerts and if they have their email set to not automatically open images, they can read your posts and not show up in your viewing history.)
We humans sometimes place huge expectations on others (and sometimes on ourselves too). My natural inclination is to try and be there for people, to try and be a good friend, to show empathy and caring – but my experience of life has taught me that I can’t always be the perfect friend and I can’t always be there for people and I can’t always come up with a helpful response. I’m only human. I will sometimes let people down – especially if their expectations of me are unrealistic, and sadly I find humans tend quite often to have unrealistic expectations of others. Like everyone else, I have a limited amount of time and of energy. I might see a post in my inbox and think: I can’t deal with this right now, I’m too tired/rushed/hungry/emotionally drained/whatever. (And I might show in your viewing history because what I saw in my inbox wasn’t enough to alert me to what kind of deep post it is. The inbox doesn’t come with a depth filter…)
So, what’s my bottom line? I’m going to try and be more grown-up and realistic about my own expectations of other people. I’m also here to state clearly: whatever your expectations are of me, please remember that I’m only human, and I definitely will not live up to them all the time – not unless your expectations are very minimal, maybe something like I expect her to sometimes read my stuff and sometimes comment and sometimes say something that’s helpful but sometimes not and probably sometimes to respond in a totally unhelpful way because she’s human, just like me.
 
Deal?

My Google Plus Confession

I posted this yesterday on Google+ and am copying it onto here in case my G+ profile gets suspended, in which case my posts there will vanish into the ether.


 
oh, by the way, I am one of those – those awful pseudonymous people, the ones that some suggest simply don’t belong here, the ones that some have even told me shouldn’t be on the internet at all.

yes, I feel it’s time to say this out loud: my name is not Meirav Berale. There. Now you know. And if you hate me, you can go and report me and get my account suspended for the crime of using Berale instead of my real surname. I hope you won’t, because I really like it here, I’ve been enjoying this place – it’s a fabulous platform for interacting with strangers and for gradually building friendships, but you see, in order to interact with strangers and possibly build friendships I need to feel safe, and this is the basic boundary I need for my own safety: I need to be able to talk to you without disclosing my surname.

Which, come to think of it, is pretty much the way it goes in real life – unless I’m talking to the bank or something, I don’t normally introduce myself by my full name; and there are lots of people I know just by their first names – neighbours, friends of friends, people I know from church, etc etc. A surname is something I’ll ask for if I need to write you a letter or look you up in the phonebook, it’s a formality which has nothing to do with friendly interaction – at least not in life as I know it; of course there may be cultures with different levels of formality, I’m speaking from my own experience of life both back home in Israel and here in England.

So why do I feel I need to use Berale instead of my real surname? I’ll try and cut this very long story as short as I can…

My full name is unique. My first name – Meirav – is a very normal Israeli name; but I’ve married an Englishman, and his surname is not very common. So the combination is very very probably unique: out of the few people in the world with my husband’s surname, it’s extremely unlikely that another one will have married an Israeli at all, and it would be super duper unlikely that she would also be called Meirav.

Now, this would not be such a huge issue if I didn’t have reason to expect some people to actually want to track me down and harm me.

No, I’m not paranoid. I’m just a Messianic Jew, i.e. a Jewish person who has chosen to put her faith in Jesus. In Jewish culture, this choice is considered unacceptable (to put it mildly). There actually are people out there who make it their business to track down people like me and to make our lives as difficult as possible, by whatever means – including violence, including spreading malicious lies about us, anything will do.

I could, of course, simply keep quiet about this particular subject online.

I have chosen not to keep quiet about my faith. I am very passionate about this issue, and I have sometimes blogged about it. But in order to do that, I have chosen to keep to that boundary of not disclosing my surname online.

Cowardly? maybe. I’m not a very strong person and there is a limit to the type and level of risk I consider it reasonable to expose myself to unless it’s absolutely necessary. I find it hard enough emotionally to cope with some of the reactions I get to my blogs online – but at least when it’s just words on the screen, I can deal with them privately, I can sit down and cry if I need to and the people who posted them won’t see, and they won’t turn up on my doorstep to continue hollering their insults at me.

So I’ve been careful. I’ve been expressing myself online – my real self, as I am, including those things that some would rather I’d shut up about – but I’ve been withholding two items of personal info from strangers: my surname, and where I live.

I see no reason to change this policy.

So, if you don’t want to talk to people without knowing their real surname, feel free to ignore me. (Oh, it’s ok, I’ve already been ignored by someone once in real life. It was someone Jewish, when I mentioned my faith: she just looked through me as if I wasn’t there, and walked away. But there are others who have suffered far greater abuse, so I count myself fortunate. My family have not disowned me, and so far no one has spat at me or beat me up for my faith.)

There are so many people who need to exercise this kind of caution. There are those whose political views could get them or their families into serious trouble, including prison or torture or execution in some places. There are those whose sexual way of life could cost them their jobs or their personal safety – sadly we live in a world where some people feel it’s ok to be violent towards someone just because they’re, for example, living in a homosexual relationship. There are those who have suffered abuse from family/spouse/partner and need to be able to communicate with people without worrying about their abuser finding them. There are lots and lots of other examples, you can look it up here: Who is harmed by a Real Names policy – I’m just one of the people under one of these many categories. I thought it was time to share my own personal perspective.

So now you know.



I had some lovely comments there – well worth reading.

EDIT @ May 2013: I’m pleased to say that this is no longer an issue – Google did eventually change the names policy on Google+ to allow the use of pseudonyms. Yay!