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April 2008

Political Song and Dance - and Humor - with The Capitol Steps

Capitolstepslogo

Amy and I enjoyed a hilarious political revue by The Capitol Steps comedy song and dance troupe ("We put the 'mock' in Democracy'") at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle last night with our friends Dave and Lisa. Among the entertaining songs - and insightful (and inciteful) prologues - included in last night's show were:

  • Ebony and Ivory [Ebony and Ivory (Stevie Wonder & Paul McCartney)], envisioning a Democratic "dream team" of Senators and U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton
  • Superdelegates [Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Mary Poppins)], a satirical look at the Democratic superdelegates (and the party's more ordinary delegates)
  • Leader like Barack [Leader of the Pack (The Shangri-Las)], a glowing affirmation - one even might say "devotional" - sung by an [impersonated] Obama fan ... not entirely unlike my own affirmation of inspiration from Obama's speech on transracialism
  • When I'm 84 [sung to the tune of When I'm 64 (The Beatles)], a riff on Senator and presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain's age
  • Relying on 9/11 [Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)], a retrospective revue - accompanied by a "generic rock star" - of the single issue platform of former mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani
  • Huckabee [Let it Be (The Beatles)], a religiously righteous tongue-in-cheek proposal for the Republican vice presidential nomination of former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee
  • Tap Three Times [Knock Three Times (Tony Orlando and Dawn)], about Senator Larry Craig's indiscretion in the men's room at the Minneapolis - St. Paul International airport (BTW, Keith Olbermann - one of my heroes - revealed a humorous streak I had not seen before in a Dragnet-style re-enactment of Senator Craig's bathroom scene)
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea? [How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? (Sound of Music)], a funny look of some of the not-so-funny issues revolving around Korean President Kim Il-Sung and his country's recent emergence as a nuclear power
  • Keep Us Alive [Stayin' Alive (Bee Gees)], a humorous reminder of the ages of the four remaining liberal members of the U.S. Supreme Court (Stephens, 88, Souter, 68, Ginsberg, 75, and Breyer, 69) ... and of an important, though rarely discussed, issue at stake in the current presidential election

There is a Capitol Steps YouTube channel where videos of some of their performances can be watched as well as listened to. They even have a MySpace page with some additional songs. And, of course, one can buy Capitol Steps CDs.

One of the actors did a fabulous parody of U.S. President George W. Bush; my favorite quote was the president's purported motto: "uncertain times call for uncertain leadership". I laughed the hardest and longest during the "Lirty Dies":

Lirty Dies are what you get when you mix your basic national scandal with word-initialization-rejuxtaposition closely following the underlying precepts of harmony, alliteration and innuendo.

Lirty Dies follows a great political tradition: We're not quite sure what we're saying; you're not quite sure what you're hearing.

Some might say they are merely spoonerisms taken to ludicrous heights.

We think this is sad. Something comes over people when they learn

Whip their Flurds..or.. Spew up their Screech....

These are people who can:

Flo with the Go...with Mealthy Hinds and Lappy Hives...

People who....umm....

Follow their Hearts
(We'll let you do that one)

The lirty dies targets in last night's show included Haris Pilton, Gush vs. Bore and Cloger Remens.

Another segment I enjoyed was during Juan Nation, a satirical piece on U.S.-Mexico immigration and border issues that initially made me uncomfortable. An actor impersonating Mexican President Felipe Calderon spoke of how he would do as U.S. president, "As you know, I would do twice the work for half the pay; the downside is that I'd have 19 of my cousins living in the Oval Office, but on the upside, the rose garden would look immaculate". My discomfort yielded to loud laughter when another actor, playing a redneck, came out on stage with one of my favorite lines: "I'm with the insane border patrol group better known as The Minutemen, and my dirt-poor ancestors did not flee Europe so we could let in a bunch of immigrants!"

I think I was uncomfortable because when I looked around the theater just before the show started, I saw only one African-American - and no Mexican-Americans - in the audience of several hundred. I was reminded of the discomfort I felt when I noticed that all but one family of 3 among the 700 people attending a Christopher Paolini talk on his Eragon book tour on Mercer Island in September 2005 were white (though the age demographics was very different than the audience at The Capitol Steps' performance). All but one of the 39 members of The Capitol Steps - and all of the 5 members (3 men, 2 women) who performed in Seattle last night - are white. Although they did seem to focus more of their satire on Hilary Clinton than Barack Obama, they were willing to raise the race issue in the lyrics for Leader like Barack (sung to the tune of the Shangri-Las' Leader of the Pack), with a lead singer and two background singers (whose lyrics are in italics below).

I'm glad I've found someone to embrace (brace, brace)
My friends say he cannot win the race (I can't believe your friends would talk about his race)
Is Barack black? Not very. He's not like Whoopi Goldberg, more like Halle Berry.
I hope some day, it's President Barack.

In any case, I suppose it should not come as a surprise that there is a racial divide in media (books, music, comedy). I know that the few times I've channel surfed to television stations geared towards people of other races (e.g., Black Entertainment Television), I don't find it very entertaining. But, of course, I don't find the vast majority of mass media - especially on television - very entertaining or engaging.

I did, however, find The Capitol Steps very entertaining - I don't think I've laughed so hard since the last time I saw them, 8 years ago, at The Northshore Center for the Performing Arts (in Skokie, Illinois), with our friends Andy and Rebecca. That was during another U.S. presidential election - one in which the outcome proved to be disastrous - so it was nice to inject some much-needed humor into the process ... and I hope I won't need quite so much comedy salve to compensate for the outcome of the current election. Recent stories about a misguided "gas tax holiday" proposal (and its reflection of a "global warming holiday" for erstwhile environmentalists) and an older story from 1995 about Senator McCain claiming that cable networks are less biased than PBS and "superior in some cases" (!) have heightened my concerns that the ongoing and increasingly bitter fight between the two Democratic presidential candidates will lead to a situation in which much humor will be required during the next four years.


Rebranding Strands (formerly MyStrands (formerly MusicStrands))

Strandslogo

Strands is the new brand - and name - for the company I work for, which was formerly known as MyStrands (which was formerly known as MusicStrands), and has offerings that include partyStrands and openStrands.

The change signals both a simplification - unifying the theme that runs through all of our offerings and activities - as well as a diversification - reflecing the broadening number and types of strands (digital representations of our interests, activities and tastes in a variety of media) that we are tapping into in order to help people discover new people, places and things they didn't know they'd love.

Merriam Webster offers a number of definitions for "strand"; the one that aligns most closely with Strands, Inc., is "one of the elements interwoven in a complex whole <one strand of the novel's plot>". The evolution of a company can be seen as a novel, and thus new strands of the plot of this novel will be revealed in the near future (and beyond). As usual, more about this new development can be found on the Strands blog.


Recommender Systems in Retail Stores: Bridging the Gaps between eCommerce and Physical Shopping

Advertising Age posted an article yesterday on Olay Translates Killer Online App to Retail Aisles, describing some recent trial deployments of special kiosks in physical stores that give shoppers access to online recommender systems. These systems have access to online representations of offline inventories - or, at least, product lines typically carried - in the stores, and help bring some of the advantages of electronic commerce (e.g., more detailed information and personalized recommendations on products) to bricks and mortar stores.

Shoppers - online and offline - often suffer from the paradox of choice: a range of options so vast that it can feel overwhelming (e.g., the "250 varieties of cookies, 75 iced teas, 230 soups, 175 salad dressings, 275 cereals and 40 toothpastes" that Barry Schwartz mentions in his TED presentation on the topic) and result in low customer satisfaction, regardless of which option is selected. Recommender systems help people navigate broad ranges of options in the digital world, but without the assistance of a salesperson, there has been little help for shoppers in physical stores ... until recently.

For the growing number of consumers who prefer the online experience to traditional shopping, the ease of finding products and getting recommendations clearly is a draw, said Carter Cast. Mr. Cast, a former CEO of Walmart.com and head of strategy for Wal-Mart Stores in the U.S., became CEO of fledgling specialty online retailer Netshops late last year.

Because of expectations created by web shopping, consumers increasingly expect offline stores to have the goods they want and make them easy to find, Mr. Cast said. "So the ante is raised in the physical world."

In an effort to meet these expectations, Procter & Gamble has developed and deployed a version of their popular Olay For You online recommender system (tag line: "a little about Olay, a lot about you") that bridges the gap between the wealth of online personalized information and the experience of customers in offline WalMart stores. In either case - visiting the web site or at a WalMart kiosk - users characterize their general wants and needs, selecting from among options such as

  • I want to see a visible improvement in my skin
  • I'm happy with my skin but want to help it be the best it can be
  • I want to look good for a special occasion
  • I want to keep up with the latest skin care products

and then progressively reveal more specifics about themselves (e.g., their age, their skin type and color, whether they are experiencing hormonal changes, and other lifestyle issues such as "not enough 'me' time"), until the system recommends a skin care product that is deemed likely to be right for them. Screenshots of my profile and recommended Olay products can be seen below.

Olayforyouscreenshotprofile

Olayforyouscreenshotrecommendations

The strictly online version offers the capability of optionally remembering the user's profile (associated with their email address); it's not clear from the article whether or how the kiosk version, designed by Talk Me Into It ("GPS for the overwhelmed buyer") allows this, nor whether it allows offline shoppers to access their previously created online profiles at the kiosks, nor even whether the system has real-time access to the store's inventory. And, of course, it remains to be seen how willing customers will be to reveal some of the personal details the online recommender system asks when they are interacting with the system in a public setting like a retail store aisle.

Another system mentioned in the article is the Search Engine in the StoreTM developed by Evincii. The description of the system on Evincii's web site articulates a rather comprehensive value roposition:

Evincii's in-store search engine recommends precise and relevant products to consumers in brick-and-mortar and online stores. Our network delivers an interactive, targeted, search-based platform at the point of decision with proven, category-wide and brand-specific sales lift. Shoppers receive personalized advice in seconds. Retailers get happy customers, improved sales efficiency, and increased margins. Product manufacturers get the opportunity to present their products to individual shoppers just before the point of purchase.

EvinciipharmassistadageAccording to the article, one Evincii kiosk system, which I believe is [cleverly] named "PharmAssist", has been deployed in Longs Drugs stores in California (Evincii is headquartered in Mountain View) since 2006, and includes targeted advertising as part of their search capability:

Johnson & Johnson is an initial advertiser on the system, which allows advertisers to place ads similar to online display ads, including video, around search results.

But like Google or other search engines, Evincii looks to return "organic" results only based on the criteria shoppers input, such as their symptoms, said Charles Koo, CEO of the private-equity-backed venture. Then, once they've selected a product, the kiosk helps them locate it on the shelf.

I don't know anything about the full range of advertising available for inclusion with "organic" search results, but I find myself musing about how Longs' customers might respond to video advertisements for  "sensitive" products such as Trojan condoms or Ex-lax ... especially if the advertisements include an audio component. The AdAge article also expresses some skepticism.

Mr. Koo, however, said Evincii's research at Longs indicates that 15% to 18% of visitors to OTC-drug departments use the kiosks, numbers similar to those that ComScore found last year of consumers who use online search to research package goods. Stores using the kiosks, he said, had category sales lifts of 3% to 6%.

My observations and judgments are markedly different from those shared by Evincii. Although I don't recall visiting a Longs Drugs store in California during the last two years, I'm reminded of how annoying I found a kiosk deployed at another drug store - I think it was a Walgreens - on El Camino Real in Palo Alto. Whenever anyone got near, the kiosk would loudly offer "Can I help you find something?". While I was there waiting for a prescription to be filled, about a year ago, I informally observed the kiosk for about 15 minutes - from a safe distance - and while I heard the audio offer of assistance at least a dozen times, no one stopped to take advantage of the offer and interact with the kiosk ... and I wondered how many other customers, like me, avoided that section of the aisle like the plague.

Despite having some reservations about some of the examples reported in the AdAge article, I do think that bridging the gaps between online [commerce] and offline [shopping] holds great promise in general. The art - and science - is to design the bridges in a way that offers compelling value to all stakeholders, and to situate them in the kinds of spaces where that value can best be realized.

[Update, 2008-06-05]

I received an email from a reader with more information about the OlayForYou system and the kiosks deployed in stores. The reader would prefer not to be identified, but is willing to permit me to share the information from the email:

  • The OlayForYou system does not track behavior over time, a key feature of many recommender systems.
  • The system was designed around the concept of "buy soon" - rather than "buy now" -  a shopping list you could cross off one item at a time as your budget allowed.
  • The kiosks used Rivet Digital Touch Screens and were deployed in WalMart stores. The reader was not sure where, how many or whether they are still in use. The kiosks do not have network connectivity, and so have no access to personal profiles or real-time inventory.
  • The kiosk questions are simpler than those on the web site, due to time and privacy constraints of in-store use.

Many thanks to the reader who offered the additional information!


The Dalai Lama and the Reflectance and Resonance of Greatness, Understanding and Humility

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, is in Seattle this week. I don't know if I'll get a chance to see him, personally - I've just returned from Florence, Italy (CHI 2008), with a really bad cold - but I just read a report by Ward Serrill in The Seattle Times on connecting Eye-to-Eye with the Dalai Lama when he first arrived in town that resonated deeply with me:

We don't speak a word. As he moves in front of me, my hands involuntarily reach out to grasp his. As our hands meet he looks up into my eyes and my world stops spinning. His eyes reveal a deep gravity. I see the serious work behind his childlike humor and spontaneity. The man has suffered much and discipline has made him into a spiritual warrior. This is serious work, these eyes tell me, this inner work to discover peace and being.

His attention is riveted. In this moment he is not a busy spiritual leader but simply a human looking gravely into the eyes of another. In this moment I see his greatness. It is this:

Humility is not a discipline; it is not a practice with him. Humility is simply what he is. I see in this moment of eyes meeting that he is incapable of placing himself above or below me. I am stunned by the reality of our equality.

And then he is gone, swept out of the room by his handlers. For the next three hours I am nearly incapable of speaking, stunned as I was with the presence of this understanding.

Ward's experience reminded me of the altered states and magnetic attraction of awakened people I experienced at Pop!Tech 2007, which had, in turn, reminded me of some earlier reports of this kind of high-resonance experience:

I was also reminded of Oriah Mountain Dreamer's observations in her audiotape, Your Heart's Prayer - which I'd earlier projected onto the practice of unfolding through blogging - about people who come into contact with spiritually enlightened individuals, such as Mahatma Ghandi the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, likening the experience to what happens when two tuning forks coming into proximity of each other: the strong vibration of the spiritually enlightened person transmits energy to any other person that comes near.

[Having just listened again to the passage, I've amended a memory / transcription error in the original post above ... all the more apt because Oriah had actually referred to the Dalai Lama not Ghandi.]

As I have continued to reflect on how highly enlightened people have such a great impact on us, I am reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz' insights into the ways that people act as mirrors for us - enabling us to better see who we really are ... and/or what we could be. As he notes in the introduction to The Four Agreements, where he relates the enlightenment of a Toltec man:

He had discovered that he was a mirror for the rest of the people, a mirror in which he could see himself. "Everyone is a mirror", he said. He saw himself in everyone, but nobody saw him as themself. And he realized that everyone was dreaming, but without awareness, without knowing what they really are. They couldn't see him as themselves because there was a wall of fog or smoke between the mirrors. And that wall of fog was made by the interpretations of light - the Dream of humans.

I would expand this to claim that highly enlightened people act as highly reflective mirrors for us. When we encounter highly enlightened individuals, there is less fog in the local atmosphere, and so we are thus better able to see the light in ourselves being reflected back more clearly.

Ward had made earlier comments in the Seattle Times on developing his film, The Heart of the Game, that further resonate with all of this:

"I am in awe of the journey right now," said Serrill. "It really is a labor of love that's gotten bigger than me. It's really opening its own doors right now."

Although I have not yet seen the film, Ward's comments suggest that he is not a stranger to greatness, understanding and humility, himself, and I would not be surprised if his film acts as an agent of reflection and resonance for others.

And I can't help but reflect on my last post - Do YouJustGetMe? Do I Even Get Myself? - and wonder how well highly enlightened individuals might score on guessing or being guessed in a personality test. [And, reflecting on humility, I wonder if the subtitle to that post should have been "Can I Even Get Over Myself?"] Somehow, though, these ideas regarding reflectance and resonance suggests that there may be a deeper level - perhaps deeper than western science can effectively probe - than guessing or being guessed. That the ultimate goal is simply to understand and accept ourselves, exactly as we are ... and to mirror that understanding and acceptance to others.

Amy, who cut out the article for me while I was away, just pointed out her favorite passage, which resonates with all of this, and aligns closely with our own view(s) of religion ... and humanity:

When asked about his [Dalai Lama's] religion of kindness, he replies, "... all these things: compassion, charity, patience, forgiveness, joy; these do not belong to religion. One does not need religion to understand or practice them. They are simply the expressions of what it is to be human."

[Update: having mistakenly attributed Oriah's remarks as referring to Ghandi rather than the Dalai Lama, I decided to go back for a more attentive listening of the passage in Your Heart's Prayer (Side 2b, about 18 minutes in), during which I saw the further connection that involved another filmmaker. I transcribe the passage as attentively and faithfully as I can, below:

I had a dream a number of years ago, this was after I'd heard a couple of stories about people being deeply affected by being in proximity to the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. One was the story of a man who was a friend of a friend, and he happened to be somewhere where the Dalai Lama was, and he wasn't particularly interested in hearing him speak, but for some reason, encountered him coming out of the lobby of the hotel. And the two of them spoke to each other and the two of them had this moment, and this man just felt this sense of incredible love and well-being in himself.

And another dear friend of mine who's made a film about Mother Teresa, talks about one of the first times she tried to talk to Mother Teresa about making the movie, and my friend, who is Ann Petrie, was on a bus with Mother Teresa, knelt down and had her sunglasses on, and mother Teresa flipped her sunglasses up, and Anne was ready to launch into the business of when can I film you, and Mother Teresa said to her "You're so tired, why don't you just stop for a minute?" And Anne had this experience of this sort of bolt of light going through the center of her body, not from Mother Teresa, but what she felt was really from God. And she had been in her own words a lapsed Catholic for many years.

So I had been hearing these stories, and I had a dream one night, where the grandmothers, who I mentioned earlier, said here is how it works: I saw an image of a glass cylinder filled with coarse salt, and then somebody poured a pink fluid, like colored water, into the container and it started to come up from the bottom up through the salt. And they said, this is what a person is like. The fluid being poured in is like their level of consciousness of who they really are, that what they are is a participant in this sacred life force, and the higher their level of awareness, two things happen: the more the salt dissolves, so the more there is a dissolving of all the structure of the identity that they think they are; and the other thing that happens is that everything becomes colored with this awareness. And when they are in proximity to someone else, because we're all made of the same stuff, it sets up a similar knowing in the other person.

So what people have a flash of when they are near someone who is very conscious of that Chui-ta-ka-ma, that life force energy that they are, is they experience the same thing in themselves. It's a little like bringing a tuning fork next to another tuning fork. So it's not so much they get an awareness of the other person being that divine life force but themselves.

The good news for me about this is that the task, then, is to just try to be with that awareness to the best of my ability, and that will create a ripple effect in ways that I can't even anticipate, because of the nature of our interbeingness. And it means we can have an enormous effect on the world by simply paying attention.]


Do YouJustGetMe? Do I Even Get Myself?

David Evans presented a paper at the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM 2008) this week on the science of interpersonal perception, or more specifically: how well people are able to understand (or "get") others based on others' online profiles, and what elements of those profiles are most important to that understanding.

Yjgm The results presented in the paper, "What Elements of an Online Social Networking Profile Predict Target-Rater Agreement in Personality Impressions?", are based on data collected through an online site, YouJustGetMe, that invites users to answer a set of 40 questions designed to enable assessment of their personality - based on the "big five" personality traits, which, according to Wikipedia, include the following:

  • Extraversion - energy, positive emotions, surgency, and the tendency to seek stimulation and the company of others.

The research questions that David and his co-authors, Sam Gosling and Anthony Carroll, posed were:

Are people getting to know each other via social media? Are they at least seeing others as the others see themselves? Under what conditions?

The YouJustGetMe web site was designed to answer these questions. The site enables users to conduct a personality self-assessment (i.e., answer the 40 questions for themselves), create a profile of themselves based primarily on things they love or hate (33 pre-defined fields), and assess (guess) others' personalities - answering the 40 questions as they would apply to the "target" person - based on the target person's profile. The self-assessments are then compared to assessments by others to measure the impression agreement. They also created a YouJustGetMe Facebook application to enable the same kind of experiences within a specific, and popular, social networking website (which they acronymize as SNW). In both contexts - the YJGM and FB sites - users who created profiles could invite friends or family  to provide assessments of them, and/or they could enable other random users to provide assessments of them.

The findings, in a nutshell, are:

  • People get each other
    SNW profile owners are generally seen by others as they see themselves (i.e. impression agreement was substantial)
  • People on Facebook get each other
    Impression agreement was associated with context (agreement was stronger on the basis of Facebook profiles than on YouJustGetMe profiles)
  • Women are better guessers and easier to guess than men (random assignment)
    within the context in which raters were judging unknown targets (i.e., YouJustGetMe profiles), women were better raters than men and were rated with higher levels of agreement than men
  • Some profile elements provide better clues than others
    several specific elements of the profiles were associated with increased or diminished levels of impression agreement.

The first two results are not terribly surprising to me. The first finding is consistent with other studies that suggest dating profiles are pretty accurate, e.g., Nicole Elison's presentation on "Deceptive Self-Presentation in Online Dating Profiles" at the recent Communities and Technologies conference (C&T 2007). I don't mean to imply that Facebook is a dating site, but like online dating sites, I believe most Facebook users know, want to know, or might come into physical contact with (or at least proximity of), each other. The second is consistent with other papers presented at this conference (e.g., the two papers presented by Kristin Stecher and Scott Counts - which I hope to blog about, along with other presentations at the conference, sometime soon) and other conferences (e.g., papers presented by Cliff Lampe and Scott Golder at CHI 2007 ... for which I just realized I never finished / posted my blog summary) that provide evidence for the efficacy of Facebook features in conveying information.

The third result is interesting, as it brings to mind some of the ideas that Louann Brizendine writes about in her book, The Female Brain, regarding the evolutionary biological basis for women's keener perceptual abilities:

If you can read faces and voices, you can tell what an infant needs. You can predict what a bigger, more aggressive male is going to do. And since you're smaller, you probably need to band with other females to fend off attacks from a ticked off caveman - or cavemen.

She also writes about how and why women - and girls - are far more keenly aware of their own appearance than men (or boys), which I suspect would lead to higher agreement between the image they want to project and the image that is perceived by others. [Aside: the last time I wrote about The Female Brain - in the context of Content-Centered Conversations (regarding teen use of social media) - a comment directed me to some other material questioning some of Louann's claims; I remain open to further clarifications and corrections about my interpretations of this and other books.]

The fourth item was also interesting. The most useful profile elements that led to people "getting" other people (in decreasing order of utility) were:

  • A link to funny video
  • What makes me glad to be alive? 
  • Most embarrassing thing I ever did
  • Proudest thing I ever did
  • My spirituality
  • A great person
  • I believe this

The least useful profile elements in helping people get other people (in increasing order of utility) were:

  • Profile picture was a non-person
  • An awful website 
  • An awful person
  • A great book

I'm surprised that the link to a funny video is the most useful profile element, but the other elements make sense to me. Looking over the least useful elements, I'm glad to see that the things we love are better able to help us understand each other than the things we hate, however I'm surprised that a great book was among the least useful ... especially given the recent NYTimes essay by Rachel Donadio on books as markers for compatibility, It’s Not You, It’s Your Books:

Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility. These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.” To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”

Again, I don't mean to equate Facebook with [online] dating, but I do think there are strong similarities. Perhaps the key differentiator, here, is that getting someone is not the same as getting along with someone.

One of the [other] interesting findings that David revealed was that Facebook reveals more about agreeableness and neuroticism than face-to-face encounters. He showed an interesting graph in his slides (which I hope he'll post to SlideShare) that provided some insights into how different systems (online and offline) mediate revelation in each of the five categories.

As I noted in the MyStrands Labs, Seattle "mini-manifesto", one of our goals is that "our technologies will be designed to help real world communities better enjoy the benefits of virtual communities, digital communications and electronic commerce." Perhaps we can create new technology-supported channels for people to better get each other's agreeableness and neuroticism in physical spaces; although this may not be welcomed by disagreeable or very neurotic people, I do think it would meet our goal of ultimately creating benefits for everyone.

On a more personal note, I've created a YouJustGetMe profile that has nothing more than a link to his blog. I've long been a fan of personality and social psychology, and have earlier taken a Myers-Briggs personality typology assessment (I'm an ENFP), the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment (my top 5 strengths are Woo (Win Others Over), Connectedness, Relator, Ideation and Adaptability), the "five things you don't know about me" self-disclosure blogospheric meme (I am/was a picky eater, I'm a recovering Catholic, my only "A" in high school was Personal Typing, my only non-A in grad school was Theory of Computation and I met my wife over a keg of beer) and a music and personality assessment ("reflective and complex").[Aside: The latter assessment was based on some of Sam Gosling's earlier work with Jason Rentfrow, and I enjoyed meeting Sam at the conference and talking about other dimensions of mutual interest, such as workspace personalization.]

YouJustGetMe.com

I would be very interested to learn whether / how other people "get me" based solely on the material posted here on this blog ... or perhaps even just this post, as I've included a number of snippets from earlier blog posts in the foregoing paragraph(s). I think that between the posts and sidebar links to photos, books, people and organizations I find inspiring, that most of the 33 elements in the YouJustGetMe profile are covered. If you are reading this, I invite you to contribute your assessment of me - or, more specifically, my profile (and if you have a blog, I invite you to create a profile based solely on your blog, and if you post a comment or send me email, I'll be happy to provide an assessment of you ... and, of course, I don't take anything personally ... and hope you won't either).

As the title of this post suggests, I was originally planning to go on to ruminating on whether I even get myself, but I've already reflected on self-reflection and self-expression ... and will save further rumination on this topic for another time.

I'll include - and conclude with - the YouJustGetMe analysis of my self-assessment in the post-continuation below (which you can view by clicking the link), hoping that not including it in the main body of this post will reduce the likelihood of irreparably biasing the outcome of this informal experiment.

[Note: if you do want to contribute an assessment via my profile on the YouJustGetMe web site, please do not read the rest of this blog post until you make your contribution. Thanks!]

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Yogi Patel joins MyStrands Labs, Seattle, as Innovationeer

Yogi I'm delighted to announce that Yogi Patel has joined MyStrands Labs, Seattle, as Innovationeer! Yogi's arrival doubles the size - and probably quadruples the productive capacity - of our new innovation team. He brings 5 years of development and program management experience, most recently in the area of wearable computing, contributing to the U.S. Army's Land Warrior system. As an example of walking the talk, Yogi was actually a land warrior himself - an infantryman (rifle and anti-tank leader) with the U.S. Army. In addition to his talents with non-traditional designs and deployments of technology, Yogi brings a passion for social media and using technology to help people connect in new ways. He has also inspired - or perhaps inadvertently instigated - two recent blog posts, on The Paradox of Choice and Dark Nights of the Soul.

I met Yogi during a guest lecture on proactive displays I gave at Ankur Teredesai's class on Social Networks at University of Washington, Tacoma, in February. I was immediately impressed with his curiosity and knowledge of both the social and technological issues involved in some of the proactive display applications I presented ... insights that would typically only arise through actually working on such systems. We continued the conversation after class, and I found myself thinking how great it would be for him to be actually working on such systems (with me) ... and I'm really happy we are now continuing the conversation into our planning for the next generation of proactive displays.

We discussed a number of prospective titles (as a self-titled principal instigator, I enjoy interesting titles). Yogi's official title is Innovation Engineer, but we both rather like the mashed up version of Innovationeer.

As I'd noted in my initial announcement of the new lab, I'm hoping to avoid writing job descriptions, but from our planning so far, it's clear that we will need one or more people with keen design skills who can help engineer ambient but engaging user interfaces for our new proactive display applications. We welcome opportunities to expand the conversation with other talented and passionate parties!