Thursday, March 31, 2011

Can't grok Gmail HAL - Privacy Trends unfolding

Blame the Daleks: I've never got over the childhood scarring from knowing our sofa was just no match for their death rays! I consider myself fairly well-read, certainly with a vocabulary bigger than England's soccer manager Fabio Capello claims. But thanks to the Daleks I've never read much science fiction so, until today, I'd never heard the word 'grok.'

 kim cameron  

People didn't "get over it". [] DOES NOT COMPUTE yet - "creepy" GMAIL HAL too far out to GROK. Just wait.
Check out his www.IdentityBlog.com


It seems that 'grok' means "to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man."

@Kim_Cameron is reacting to Tech Crunch's news about the new Gmail advertising: the company's deploying their ability to mine the contents of the individual emails in your Inbox and serve up ads that are targeted to be relevant to your current interests, based on your profile of whether you've actually read emails with that sort of content before, how close the sender is to you in social network friendship terms, and more...

@Kim_Cameron's reacting that people haven't happily accepted the data mining by Google (and Facebook and most of the 'free' ad-supported Web 2.0 services). They don't 'grok,' merge their identity in group experience.

It's unfair to pick at views restricted to less than 140 characters in a Tweet, but surely it's only some people who don't 'grok!' Facebook absolute user numbers continue to increase; individual engagement with the site each month is hardly falling noticeably; and millions of people continue to enjoy the convenience of Gmail and similar 'free' hosted email services.

However, as we've noted before, expect the 'non-grokiness' (did I just coin a word?) to cause some people to look for more private ways of engaging in the cyber world. @Kim_Cameron's space-constrained dire "just wait" warning probably won't come to pass soon enough to be measurably linked to Gmail's latest innovation, but there's some grain of truth to his prophecy!
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4 comments:

  1. :)

    No doubt that, "Facebook absolute user numbers continue to increase; individual engagement with the site each month is hardly falling noticeably; and millions of people continue to enjoy the convenience of Gmail and similar 'free' hosted email services." But I don't think more than a handful of users have thought very deeply about the implications of having sophisticated robots "reasoning over" and making assumptions about what they think we are thinking... and then selling those conclusions to others who shape our experiences through them.

    In fact it's just "too muchie". That's what I mean by "don't grok". But over time these phenomena will become part of social consciousness.

    But eventually

    Kim Cameron

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  2. Kim, I appreciate your thoughtful comment as well as your original tweet that prompted today's post. I agree with your conclusions as you've expressed them here completely. I think you're right that people will cotton on to this need, eventually.

    I'd like to stay in touch with you.

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  3. P.S. Although Stranger in a Strange Land was one of the most important books I read as a kid, I have adopted the "Jargon File" usage given later in the wikipedia article you cite:

    When you claim to 'grok' some knowledge or technique, you are asserting that you have not merely learned it in a detached instrumental way but that it has become part of you, part of your identity. For example, to say that you "know" Lisp is simply to assert that you can code in it if necessary — but to say you "grok" LISP is to claim that you have deeply entered the world-view and spirit of the language, with the implication that it has transformed your view of programming. Contrast zen, which is a similar supernatural understanding experienced as a single brief flash.

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  4. Sounds like I'm going to have to read that book!

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