Monday, October 24, 2005


Okay, the unthinkable has happened - my blog has been spammed! For the past 2 days I've received email stating that someone has posted a comment on my blog. Eager to check out what's been said, I ran to log in, only to find spam mail! I mean, really! I realize a blog is public space but getting spammed with ads? I'm not sure how that happened but am curious to know if anyone else on Blogger is getting these - I deleted the first but have left the last 3 (two about working at home and one about the windows service pack 2 - which is not that at all)...I'm really not sure what to do about it. So if anyone's gotten spammed on their blogs, please let me know if you've done anything about it.


(and I do draw the line at spam being seen as anything social in computing...*g*)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Truth is Revealed...

Is this a riot or what??!!

Extending Class Discussion...Online conversation

Drafted Sept 27/05 10:00 p.m. - finally!

Well, I knew it would be a dynamic class, just from the topic alone - which is one with which I identify with, rather strongly. I have had an "online life" (I so hate the distinction) for years. And it began when my now-12-year-old was 3. It began by way of the art that I began to take up - the art of rubber stamping. Really fun, showed me that I DO have a graphics side (which has since grown ONLY due to my being so active online!) and my self-confidence in this area began to increase. I found a group of stampers across the globe, a group which helped me to discover new techniques and ideas, and I then joined swaps - where we were given themes, we had to create 5 identical items (cards, magnets, bookmarks etc) according to that theme, send our items off to the host or hostess of the swap who then sent back 5 different items to every participant. I even hosted several swaps - one of which was actually where I was the hostess receiving cards acknowledging Scottie Hamilton's newly discovered cancer, and wishing him well - we got over 75 cards which I sent off to Scottie (to an email addy I found online for his fans).

When my second son was born, my husband was in a job which took him out of the house pretty much 7 days a week, sometimes 18 hours a day. Our older son was facing challenges (we didn't know what he was facing, and so-called experts wanted to [mis]diagnose him as autistic), I had a nursing infant, and was alone with all of this. It was overwhelming. My art was my therapy, but so were my friends across the world. Opening up the computer was a saving grace to me. Suddenly I was out in the world, socializing in the baby's naptime while my 3.5-year-old was playing, and I found myself opening up to these people. I had met some of them at artists' conventions the year before and 2 years before, but they were my online support group and my "escape"...and many of them are people I still chat with, on and off, to this day.

From there, I branched out - finding different groups and learning digital graphics as well. Began to learn HTML on my own, and attended online classes with a rubber stamp artist whose job is web design. Again, the "online world" was teaching me more than I could have imagined.

Won't go into the evolution of my escapades online (sounds so mysterious doesn't it *g*) but I can honestly say that the few people with whom I am close online (and when I say "close" I mean that if they showed up at my doorstep it would be as easy to invite them in as it would be had we met for coffee or lunch the day before) are people I trust with *me*. In fact, there are a very few people "online" who know me better than even my own family. I have questioned, often, why that is, why that happens. I have studied those online relationships I have witnessed (which I'll get into when we discuss that aspect of it, in class) and have tried to understand the phenomenon. I know it has a LOT more to do with it than convenience, anonymity, "safety"'s more than that. But I have my theories and will keep them for Online Friendships/Relationships.

Have I experienced "fallings-out" online? You bet! Have I had them often? That usually happened with the same people - many of whom I have let go their own ways. I found there were a lot of shallow people I "met" online and those were the people I never trusted with my real "self"...not my innermost thoughts, feelings, ideas. There is still an acquaintance I have, someone who is difficult to talk to at times - does NOT like to hear things about herself and has bristled when I have broached the truth with her. I redefined the boundaries of our friendship and now, it is an acquaintance but I don't have the same friendship I have with others I have "met". With those...I can truly say there are special connections, sometimes to the point of being psychic. One who can tell, just from the way I open conversation, what my mood is (usually with, "Okay, what's wrong?" when I type my first greeting...). These people - and I can count them on one hand - are the people with whom I have phone conversations, online conversations, emails, and send snail mail. The limitations that prevent face-to-face meeting vary, but if it were possible, it would happen - and I am not so certain it never will...

So ...miscommunications. It was mentioned, in class, tone of voice, eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, and the like are all elements of conversation which cannot be replicated in online conversation. I agree. I'll never forget the 3 elements my teacher looked for, in a high school communication-arts class: eye contact, saying the other person's name from time to time, and touching a forearm here and there. So yes, they are important.

BUT...I have found that with skills and sensitivities, those things can be CONVEYED...maybe it's my writer's side, but I have learned how to "paint the word pictures"...and I have always tried to soften a potentially ambiguous remark with smiles, or emoticons (depending on the venue) or gentle humor. Example...I might say something and then put, in brackets, "she says with a wry smile" - it softens any misinterpretation.

Of course, there are those who will ALWAYS look for the negative...but I cannot be occupied with fragile egos and huffy attitudes. I've encountered WAY more of those than I'd care to document - in my online AND my offline! Those people who will complain about something and then eschew my advice (asked-for advice) on the topic are those who have gone away from my circle because I have either blocked them (more about that in a minute) or changed my chat name/address. I am not harsh - I err on the side of being TOO nice...but I also have my fill of those people who try to take advantage of my good nature.

Social norms...mores...etiquette...blocking people, ignoring them, "going invisible" to them...this takes the technology and brings conversation and relationships to different levels. Am I guilty of it, of course I am! But - to quote a well-known character - not that there's anything WRONG with it...sometimes it is merely in self-preservation that I must block out the "noise".

Is it rude? Probably. But I won't block people indiscriminately nor will I do it at some times and not at others. When I block people, it is usually permanently (if I cannot change everything over from my chatware) or temporarily till I finish what I'm doing or can deal with them again.

More mishaps that I have encountered - though am not guilty of propagating...there is one person I chat with online - she has, often, c&p'd huge chunks of conversation she has with others - mostly the man in her life (an online relationship that has gone the next step but only on occasion - long, sordid story I won't go into here) - and asked my opinion. I have no desire to see intimate conversation between two individuals...and they wouldn't invite me to their tête-à-tête conversations, nor into their bedroom so why would it be okay for me to "see" what is being said? This is something I struggle with; it is something that seems to happen often in the online world but something I struggle with because I no more wish to become that c&p than I wish to be recipient of it...

This is where the dangers come into online communication. Where people just reproduce entire portions of their lives - private or not - for the sake of being ABLE to do so! And breaks all kinds of social etiquette - online AND offline!!

This same person asked me to become a part of her graphics site - a site that mainly designs avatars for chatrooms. They call themselves "freelancers" and there is nothing involved in terms of remuneration, only artistic gratification. I was asked to join (though I've absolutely NO free time to do this work for them) and she made sure to tell me that the recommendation to join their group came from 2 others in the group. I asked her who, and she told me - these are people I do NOT know (the proverbial weak ties, I suppose, in her social network). I asked why they'd ask me to join and she said they like the way I stretch my artistic abilities. Again I asked, specifically, how they would KNOW such a thing. She said - almost flippantly - "Oh, because they've seen some of the work you've done." You guessed it - she's SENT my work to them...she says "oh, I was discriminating, I didn't send ALL of it," but it still affected me to the point of knowing I would refuse even for that reason alone.

Given the question from class (how has it changed my behavior when a communication mishap occurs), I can rightfully say that my behavior has already changed because of her revelation - no longer will I share graphics I wouldn't put on my own website. I don't do anything that I am not proud to share but there are things I have done that I don't feel belong in the general public. Will it change her behavior? No. Has her behavior changed since the day I asked her to refrain from telling me the nitty-gritty details of her conversations? No. She still tells me things but she paraphrases instead of sending me transcripts. Same thing - different cloak...

My behavior toward people like that changes in terms of my conversation style. Usually I will not run to open chat windows with this type - and if they begin conversation with me, I am armed with wariness that comes from the experience of history. Is it great to converse that way - of course not. But she is, despite incredibly frustrating, rather harmless. She sent my graphics to others? Okay...not tragic. But a red flag. She gives me her personal version of Desperate Housewives? Not horrendous - I can usually find something to do to either get offline, or change the topic subtly or point blank say, "This really isn't appropriate to be sharing with me," but it doesn't have me running for the hills. Why do I keep her as a contact? Because except for the not-so-fatal flaws, she is someone I talk to about graphics (though lately, she tells me I've been teaching her more than she ever taught me) and she's someone to chat with on most other topics too. Close friend? No. But no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Now, the one who gossiped to me about a mutual friend, then turned around and did the same with that person about me? GONZO!! *g*

(Stalled long enough on editing this draft! But I think the topic requires close examination and will probably revisit it in future postings)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Theory into Practice...

(George is on the bank, Gracie in the water - in the background is a guinea fowl - one of the most delightful birds to watch)

Well, I experienced what has to be the epitome of this course's title...

Back to the Pond, and my little love-geese, the Egyptian geese who sit at the water's edge every night. George and Gracie - so named by moi-même (*g*) and the names stuck to the point of being used by National Geographic personnel!

Friday night, I read a post the the geese had been stalked by a hyena - and after some "horrible goose noises", neither had been seen. Yes, I need a life, yes, I'm way too attached to a couple of birds halfway around the world who are destined to become hyena food or a lioness snack someday anyway. But I got worried. (yes I am grinning sheepishly but hey, I wasn't alone!) I posted to the list that I would really like to see the geese, it would put my mind at ease. Several people said they'd THOUGHT they had caught a glimpse of the birds but then they weren't so sure. I was concerned...

Went into the yahoo chat room - this is a room that is created whenever a yahoo group is established. Every yahoo group has file upload capabilities, messages and posts and chat features directly on its home page. A few of us were trying the chat room this week. That evening, I went in, and no one had seen George and Gracie. I knew this was insanely overdoing it but I just could not help it..!

There is a "pondie" on our list named Armel - a very pleasant, friendly man in Arkansas (originally from Orleans, France). He had mentioned a couple of times that he was chatting with "the famous Dr. Z" - Dr. Zox is a gentleman in Maryland - not sure how he is affiliated but he is (self-named) the remote camera guru. Once when the camera was down, he was on the phone to Real Networks in Seattle, and online with Mara, the camera operator in Botswana. Armel had some insider info for us, and had told us right from Dr. Z's lips, what was happening with the camera.

The dawn broke in Africa (11:30 p.m. our time), the night after the birds went missing, and I posted to the list that this was not a good thing but I was rather concerned. Others joined me in the same emotion, and a person posted that she HAD seen them before sunrise. I thanked her but mentioned I'd be happy to see them for myself. Armel wrote to the list, "Lissa, would you be happy with a close-up?" and thinking he had a screenshot, I said "That would be awesome!"

In the chatroom, we can continue to watch RealPlayer (I'm even doing so now as I write this - the player can stay "on top" even while other tasks are being performed). Bunch of us were chatting, and suddenly there was a zoomed-in shot of two VERY noisy Egyptian geese - George and Gracie! Someone in the room said, "Lissa, there's your closeup!" I was thrilled (as you might imagine) and rather relieved. (and before anyone goes and makes the "crazy woman" sign in front of my blog, I was NOT the only one *g*)

After a few minutes of taking continuous screenshots, I went back to the chatroom. As we were talking, Armel entered. He said, "Lissa, did you get your close-up?" I smiled and said yes, and then it dawned on me. I said, "Wait, Armel...did you do that??" He said yes.

He had - either on IM or in email - asked Dr. Z (in Maryland) to ask Mara (in Botswana) to zoom in on those geese...because this list member in Montreal was worried about their well-being!!! So for at least 15 minutes, George and Gracie were front and center for anyone (everyone) around the globe who was watching...just to reassure me...! Now...if that isn't Social Computing - what is???

In fact - 12:42 a.m. right now and a list member named Rhonda just posted to the list:

For Lissa - George and Gracie are fine. George is mouthing off, as usual.


I feel extremely lucky to be a part of such a caring group. I have always loved animals, always cared about their welfare...and to connect with people who obviously share that to the degree that I do, and to do it in such a magical place (the Wildcam) is what it's all about.

Our latest cause célèbre is Weeble - this is a young elephant who does not seem to be well. For 2 days, he has been at the Pond non-stop. He is a solitary elephant who plays with, rather than drinks, the water, and who submerges himself for long periods of time. He seems to be weak, too skinny, and at times just stands at the embankment, not able - it seems - to raise his leg to exit the Pond, and rests his trunk upon the water's edge. It was disconcerting from the start but is now even more disturbing, as we wondered - over this past evening - every time his trunk submerged, if it would resurface for another breath. He was at the Pond all night - mostly in the water. At one point, another elephant joined him - almost standing guard as he performed this ritual. It was shivers-inducing.

On the Blog at the Nat'l Geo site, many many other "viewers" are worried about Weeble. They are pleading with Pete - the gentleman who carved out this little oasis - to intervene on the elephant's behalf. Not sure how this will play out - but it is definitely (in the words of one of the list members) "the ultimate reality show".

And it has brought together people from all across the globe, on the site's Blog, on the email list, and in a chatroom where we talk about everything from kids to families to our careers or academic pursuits.

There will be another entry shortly after this one - I brought up the topic of our course, and a few of us engaged in discourse about those who "get it" and those who don't. It was then that I wrote the list, asking if there is anyone who minds my quoting or paraphrasing some of the wonderful statements, thoughts, philosophies which emerge from the posts, those which are relevant to social computing. Thus far, no one seems to object.

The Pond has brought together many people in all walks of life. Today, we acknowledged - with graphics, posts, and emails - the birthday of our list founder. Suddenly, we are not strangers sharing screenshots (grrrrrrrrreat alliteration!) - but we are friends finding friendship (MORE alliteration!) - and all because we have the common interest of a technological window on the world...

This world might be complicated - but it's the slices of fresh air and sunshine that make it a little more palatable and a lot more interesting!

(Off to watch Weeble - he's submerged again...*sighs*)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

In the interim...

With a holiday dinner to prepare (9 people in total and many hours of cooking and cleaning - single-handedly [who, me, complain?]), blogging is not - okay - SHOULD not be a priority. But it is for so many reasons - last night, on the Pond site, so many things arose that spoke of Social Computing, demonstrated it, and melded two worlds into one. I will do so when the soup is on, but for right now, just have to post this - cracked me up, and not for the right reasons (what are the right reasons? Oh, basically looking at it and saying, "Ha Ha, those silly computer junkies!") - instead, I sheepishly identify...

Enjoy - have a great lovely Saturday (gorgeous weather I cannot take advantage of *sobs*) and watch this space - I hope y'all will see how the computer becomes more than just a thing to open up and type upon, when my new blog entry goes up later...

And I STILL have a draft of a post-class post, to be put up after editing. I am not all-type/no-action, really I'm not! (it's the soup! The cooking! the cleaning! *g*)