This past weekend I went on a hiking trip in the White Mountains. We did the Tripyramid Slides Loop, which according to the AMC White Mountain Guide is “one of the most challenging and scenic trips in the Whites.” The most challenging part was the “North Slide” on which we climbed 1,200 ft. in 0.5 mi. I basically felt like I was rock climbing as I used my hands quite a bit. After about halfway, the views were spectacular. It didn’t hurt that the foliage was in peak condition. (See the entire gallery here)
Many of us read and can relate to the webcomic xkcd. But, I guess I am not devoted enough to have noticed the comic from last spring in which coordinates and a date were mentioned. Well, as the author of the comic wrote in his blog, “The date was in the future, the coordinates were a park in Cambridge.” That date happened to be about a week and a half ago. In a perfect example of the influence that a webcomic can have on the public, close to a thousand people faithfully arrived at the park on that date. As geeky as it sounds, I probably would have considered attending this event had I been aware of it. Hey, its not like I would have had to travel far. I find it particularly entertaining that almost 1500 photos have been posted to a special flickr group photo pool set up for the event.
I really enjoy taking pictures. I also enjoy sharing my photography. I’ve been busy the last few weeks and my internet access has been somewhat tenuous, but I have finally posted photos from the trip that ACP and I took to Tahoe in August. I like the interface of Google’s photo sharing application Picasa. The integration with Google maps appeals to my compulsion to tag and categorize. When I have more time, I want to post about tagging information on the web and why I think its important. But, after reading a couple scary articles yesterday, I am feeling more reluctant to share anything on the web, let alone tag and categorize what I share.
Scoble sent out a link on his twitter feed to an article by Judi Sohn who was criticizing one of his posts. Reading these articles made me aware of a controversial situation involving a company named Rapleaf (the company posted a somewhat apologetic letter about the situation). As I read more, I felt somewhat sick to the stomach (the situation is even more awkward for me because I know at least one person who works for Rapleaf from undergrad). I started to feel my excitement about the possibilities for using social networking applications to understand human behavior and for other scientific endeavors fade away. I have been meaning to read and write more about the way that social media improves our ability to utilize the vast amounts of data that exist on the web. But now, companies like Rapleaf are already acting on this and abusing the opportunities presented to us by social media. I guess it was inevitable, and I’m sure companies like Google, Yahoo, etc. have been storing up information about individuals on the web for a long time now. Its just disconcerting when you receive an email stating that you have been searched and find out that some random website is displaying all sorts of information about you. Its true that this information is freely available on the web, but it seems wrong to me for a company to compile and display information about a person if that person has not requested or even agreed for that to be done. For example, I want people to read my blog, thats why I write it. But I don’t want what I write in my blog to be scraped and displayed elsewhere. Nor do I want the content of my blog to be analyzed so that I can be categorized by marketing firms. I’m not an expert on this subject, so I’m hesitant to throw around the following terms. But, this seems like a critical moment in the transition from a “social web” to a “semantic web”.