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Kim Samsin

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This is a long read, but I think it's wonderful. Lee Smith is such a fave of mine and this personal essay feels a lot like her fiction, warm and sly and observant. Also, I'm willing to bet that most of you have never poked your noses into Garden and Gun Magazine, and there's no time like the present.

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The Eye Of The Monkey
A Short Story of Sorts

Dear Google,

We do know what you are doing with our data. And we are here despite & because of that knowledge. You are the Big Shmoo and we are volunteering as Little Shmoon. It's scary, yes, but all of us are playful, delicious creatures.

To make it short, we are volunteering as data for your big data.

I'll trade a story.

There was a social scientist named Wolfgang Kohler who, in his own time, named Gestalt a school of behavioral observation, know as Psychology by the masses. He kept several apes in the Canary Islands, for the sake of progress of the humankind. He studied their behavior.

Isolated in their rooms, which were high tech cages, the apes were studied in their every movement. There was an A male among them, and he had his own private room. Privilege, you may say. You'd be wrong. Provided with a tool (a long stick meant to get him his food) the A male was expected to do things that would be observed. Wolfgang Kohler was fond of his A male and he had dismissed staff from the chore of observation. He was going to do it, only using
his wits.

It was the early afternoon in an island that hasn't changed in 20 million years. There was silence. Nothing relevant was going on inside the A male room. Wolfgang Kohler got anxious and peered through the hole of observation, only to see another eye, an ape's eye, looking at him quietly.

We are your data, dear Google, and we are also the eye of the monkey.

Let's meet at the keyhole.

Signed: We
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I love, love, love Billy Bragg. And he is so damn smart.

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From the So Bad it's Good Cover Department: Kitty! Lisa Marie Presley, Hoyt Fortenberry, and my dearly departed Cochese.

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Just in case you're still wondering what the heck to do with your circles. It's long, but really gets at the flexibility they offer.
Dear world: Google+'s Circles are not mandatory

I've been fascinated by the responses to G+ so far, and in particular to the Circles concept. It's a seemingly simple idea that becomes more and more complicated the more you think about it.* But what stands out in the collective response is the number of people who seem to almost resent what they feel is a requirement to sort their contacts into groups and then share things accordingly. Circles is the most distinctive aspect of the service so far, conceptually and visually, so it's natural that it's gotten a ton of attention. But it's surprising how many people who've taken the time to write about it have totally missed these compelling fundamentals:

A) You can put people in Circles who aren't even on Google+.

B) You can share with people selectively without using Circles to do it.

For the past several years, I've been staunchly Team Twitter. On Twitter, what I post is public. Look at what I post if you like; I'll look at what you post if I like. Facebook, on the other hand, is a walled garden -- one where everyone must mutually agree that they are "friends," and then have access to each other accordingly. That was the original deal-breaker for me. (There've been countless others in the meantime.) What G+ has done in this regard is pretty genius. First off, Public is an option for any post you make. Don't care who sees what you're sharing? Great! Make every post public. It's like Twitter with inline images and no character cap.

But the beauty of Circles -- flawed though it may currently be -- is that it's infinitely flexible. G+ is the first service (that I know of) where I can post something and share it with the public and/or the people I'm following and/or people who aren't even here -- it's up to me, on a post-by-post basis. Few of my closest friends are here yet, for example, but I can still put them in my Friends circle as email addresses. If I post a photo and share it to my Friends circle, those people simply get it in their email. I only need to perform one act for everyone to receive it. (And maybe those G+-branded emails will result in their eventually joining.)

Likewise, Circles aren't the only option when setting sharing on a post. Maybe you're a person who mostly posts publicly but also has a Family circle for personal stuff. Then along comes something you specifically want to share with just a handful of contacts. You don't need to create another Circle for them, as some have suggested. You can enter a list of individuals in the share field and that's who'll see that post. I've found myself re-sharing many G+ posts to just one or two people I knew would be interested.

So here are some ideas for using Circles:

1) We'll call this the Twitter technique: Put anyone you want to follow in the Following circle, then make all of your own posts public. Done.

2) The Facebook technique: Put everyone in your Friends circle and share everything with them; no public posts or Circle management necessary.

3) Do either of the above, but keep an additional Circle or two -- maybe an "Inner Circle" for private family/friends stuff and a "Coworkers I Like" for office gossip -- for those rarer times when you do want to limit access to a recurring subset of people.

4) Be as OCD as you want, and create a Circle for every group, subject or mood.

5) Do any of the above, but also limit occasional posts as warranted by sharing with targeted individuals, regardless of your Circles setup.

It would, of course, be nice if Google let you set a default for sharing that you could then adjust only when needed, rather than having to specify who gets access with every single post. But I trust they're working on that! (Or maybe it exists and I've missed it. If so, please tell me in comments.)


* This will be the first of two posts from me on the implications and usage of Circles. Part two to come ...

Moving furniture, as we do every time FIL announces a visit. Maybe I should look forward to these visitations because otherwise status quo would reign. I even bought a plant. Homeownerly.

I don't understand why my circles don't seem to be showing up. Dominique, I swear, you're in them... Sigh. "Send feedback," I guess? Is it happening to anyone else?

Surely it wasn't Google+ that crashed my browser. Thrice. (Surely.)
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