Can We Live In Public?

At the start of this decade, Josh Harris (always ahead of his time) created a experimental web video project called We Live In Public.

This Wired magazine piece from 2001 explains the whole story. Josh outfitted his entire apartment with video cameras and it led to the breakup of his relationship and eventually his departure from the interactive technology scene in NYC, first to the Catskills, then Spain, and now LA. As Josh’s girlfriend at the time Tanya explained:

"Life under surveillance was making me jumpy," she wrote. "I started
looking for hidden cameras in public places and friends’€™ apartments. I
bought Mace and stopped answering the door. I began spending a lot of
time outside the house, focusing on yoga and friends while maintaining
the press schedule Josh had set up."

Fast forward to 2008 and Emily Gould’s story in this weekend’s NY Times Magazine tells an eerily similar story, but this time it was her boyfriend Henry who wasn’t digging the public life that Emily was leading as a blogger who "overshared".

The only difference between 2000 and 2008 is that when Josh was living in public he was basically alone in his extroversion. Today, Emily’s story could have been written by many people, including me.

Between this blog, my tumblog, my twitter stream, my flickr stream, my friend feed, and a host of other social media sites, it’s easy to be a stalker if you were so inclined.

You’d know, for example, that we are out in Long Island this weekend, that we are listening to Bob Dylan records (old school vinyl) this morning, that I went to see two plays this week, Good Boys And True with my wife, and August: Osage County with my daughter. You’d know that we had lunch at 2nd Ave Deli yesterday.

You’d should know (but don’t) that we went to see Indiana Jones last night and I didn’t like it. You should know (but don’t) that I played golf on thursday morning with two VCs and an entrepreneur and that I ate both lunch and dinner at the Spotted Pig that day (and both meals were excellent).

My point is that although I do choose to live in public at times, I also turn it off quite a bit. It’s something I’ve learned to do the hard way. I once posted a picture of myself on vacation living the good life and got a ton of hate email/comments. I once posted a picture of my girls on the beach and was aghast to see that picture had been favorited by a bunch of guys on flickr who collected pictures of girls in bikinis in their flickr account (i deleted that photo from flickr and never did that again). There have been many more instances of bad judgment on my part.

This blog is read by somewhere around 8-10,000 people a day between the web and my feed. I’ve cut out most of my personal stuff from this blog and moved it elsewhere. It’s still public but in places that less people frequent. I don’t think you can expose yourself to 10,000 people a day and not get hurt on a regular basis.

The other thing I’ve learned to do is not take the comments personally. Jessica Coen advised Emily Gould not to read the comments when she started working at Gawker. Emily ignored that advice and got caught up in the thrill of the social interaction with people she did not know. I get off on that thrill too. It’s fun to see over 100 people commenting on a post, something that happens on this blog at least once a week.

But there will be mean things said in the comments. It’s easy to say mean things to a computer. Harder to someone’s face. I’ve learned to take the hit and move on. I never delete the comments unless they are spam or porn or hate speech (and I don’t mean hating me). I figure by leaving them there, I am airing their hateful views for everyone to see. And I love it when Jackson or someone else who knows me well gives them a piece of mind.

The worst is when my wife, the Gotham Gal, gets annoyed at something I do online. It happens for sure. She blogs too so she knows the rules and she calls me out every once in a while. And that’s a good thing. Having a strong wife is the best thing in life. You have to have some balance.

So, back to the title of this post. Can we live in public? I think so. But it’s not for everyone. And you have to learn how to do it. Josh Harris learned. Emily Gould learned. And a lot other people are learning. My kids are learning as teenagers, with their Facebook profiles and all of the social interaction that happens there. We’ll all make mistakes and I hope they’ll be little ones we can recover from. Sadly, some will make bigger mistakes that will be harder to recover from.

But why live in public? It is necessary? No it is not. But humans are social beings. We were social in caves. We are social in cyberspace. And those who are extroverts will be extroverts online. And there is a lot to be gained from living publicly online. As long as you know where to draw the line.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Thomas Hawk

    Well written piece Fred.

  2. simondodson

    ive recently just contacted a commenter from my site .. an its turned into something, i wish it hadnt and was not prepared for .. its easy to be nameless and faceless .. where the subject knows all about you an you know nothing of them … you really cant do much , i found asking these 3 questions helped settle things ..1. are you a serial killer ?2. have you spent time in mental health facilites?3. any current restraining orders ?ha, this appeared to have settled things.. but its hard .. im actually going to start pulling back a few services from the frontend – flickr, facebook, etc … it sucks, but if you give people enough information on a platter, agendas arise, i believe anyways …fred ive also just done a new podcast , 60 70s swing with hip hop an rock an pop an kinda just party stuff. if your interested you can drop it from here http://simondodson.tumblr.c

    1. fredwilson

      Sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a holiday weekend outside. I will grab it and put it on!ThanksFred

      1. simondodson

        great ! thanks, appreciate it Fred…

  3. Bob Ngu

    Fred,While it wasn’t the intention of your post, you articulated real life use cases of why user privacy esp wrt data portability is so elusive and hard to define. For example when you posted your vacation pics having a good life and your girls on the beach, your initial thought was hey cool, I am sharing some of my life with my family, friends and the world, no privacy concern there. With the negative and creepy reaction you got, you then changed your mind about your privacy needs. You subsequently adjusted your privacy settings and published them on a less frequented blog. Another example is say a celebrity being photographed in the public. If she is all dressed up for the red carpet, by all means, snap away but if she is disheveled, then she doesn’t want her pics taken. In both cases, the action is the same, having her pic taken but her privacy needs changed depending on the context.Which leads me to my point, user privacy is very much context specific and can’t be relegated to simple controls like “share my information/pic/video with my friends or site x” because that can come back to bite you. I wrote a post about it here highlighting a similar example between Scoble and Arrington from a recent Gillmor gang conference call.http://ungeekdapo.wordpress…Just my $0.02

    1. simondodson

      “snap away but if she is disheveled, having her pic taken but her privacy needs changed depending on the context.” – try reason this to the papparazzi

  4. Rick Burnes

    “Can we live in public? I think so. But it’s not for everyone. And you have to learn how to do it.” Exactly.

  5. Bruce Barber

    Fred,It takes guts to “live in public”, and I just wanted to say thanks for doing it– I really enjoy what you do!Have a great weekend,Bruce

  6. SimonOlson

    Fred, releasing your personal medical information is another one of those seemingly noble, harmless things that you may come to regret, just like posting beach photos of the kids. What you need to realize is that it is not “your” medical information, it is your children’s and your grand children’s as well. Take a look at Craig Venter’s My Life, My Genome for a discussion of some of the issues involved. Health insurance is only one of the concerns.

  7. chartreuse

    I think the better and more pertinent question would be “Can we NOT live in public?”. The situations you mentioned in your post are very real and scary but are easily handled (as you demonstrated).What’s not as easily solved is the stigma for the kids without a MySpace or Facebook page.The stigma of having a business and not having open and authentic communication with your audience.The difficulty for an average guy to live an average life without giving up his medical records or his alleged drug use to strangers.Living in public is something the modern man is getting used to.Not living in public is a 45.

    1. fredwilson

      Well said ChartreuseBut you can go overboard

      1. chartreuse

        Going overboard is another bad habit we modern folks have. :)Great post by the way. It got me thinking.

        1. leigh

          I had put up a post talking about one of those services that compared your picture to people famous. I had gotten a rather motley crew and then I did my very beautiful daughter (who was 10 going on 30 at the time) who was compared to the likes of Gieselle and other super models. Next thing I know, in mybloglog, there were some very strange searches looking for more on my daughter (luckily we don’t have the same last name). I of course immediately deleted all references to her on my blog and created an alias for her when i reference her.But that’s what a mom does. And now, I have the exact issue Chartreuse is referencing. I can alias her all i want, but she now has her own digital identity that is closely aligned with the reality of who she is. Including tumblr page, facebook page, Gaia etc. etc. Having a friend whose daughter Alison Parrot was murdered at the age of 13, I know (or should know) by now that I can’t protect her by hiding her. What I have to do is educated her and consistently remind her of both the advantages and the dangers. Kids easily forget what it is to “know” someone. Living in public is a reality that we as parents are going to have to face for ourselves and our families and hopefully how we handle that can keep up with the technology.

        2. Sllecks

          Creating so much content, particularly useless information, could be a good defense. Who would want to spend so much time shifting threw your information to actually find the good stuff? Hide the important stuff among the useless, and the audience will never know the difference, unless you point them to it.

  8. Elizabeth Spiers

    One of the things that Emily’s piece glosses over is that everyone makes a personal decision about the extent to which they choose to have their personal lives made public (mostly because she believes that she couldn’t help herself, it’s part of who she is, etc.). But Emily was at one extreme of that public/private continuum well before Gawker gave her a bigger platform, which she illustrates well enough with the anecdotes about publishing a comic (offline) about her life in high school and blogging about her personal life pre-Gawker. The angst about it seems to have only materialized when there were enough people reading that the inevitable crazies and antagonists began to show up.I think it’s fairly easy to be social online without exposing yourself in that way. I don’t think Emily would be happy doing it, so I wouldn’t recommend it for her, but personally, I always liked blogging because it offered some level of productive anonymity. Even if you’re writing under your own name, you can publish your opinions and people are more likely to consider them or dismiss them on their own merits because they don’t really know who you are, and aren’t going to be prejudicial either way on that basis. You can engage people in an entirely different manner.It’s also a matter of choosing what to expose and what not to expose. While your favorite bands may tell me something about you, but it’s not quite the same thing as Emily detailing the ins and outs of her relationship with Henry. And I suspect Emily’s attitude isn’t really indicative of the generation embrace of Internet technology for confessional purposes anyway. I think she’s just read a lot of (offline, book-form) literature that’s first-person and highly confessional and that’s how she thinks of herself as a writer. Less Josh Harris than Elizabeth Wurtzel.Personally, I’d never put anything on the Internet that I would be embarrassed to see on a Times Square billboard. Because even if it doesn’t have that level of exposure now, it may in the future, as Emily found out the hard way.

    1. fredwilson

      Hi elizabethThanks for stopping by and joining the discussion. You have a valid andexperienced point of view on this so it’s helpful. And I liked the ending somuch that I reblogged it on fredwilson.vcFred

    2. gregory

      hey elizabeth, don’t you think that it is sort of old school, old economy thinking on the part of fortune to limit your writing for fast company? the open vs closed meme in action? i mean, who wants to read one-dimensional writers?

  9. SamJacobs

    Great post, Fred.My struggle is less about having a public life online per se but when that public life diverges or separates from the life I want to portray in another context. My online life is mostly about songwriting and music. But most of my day is spent at a company where I am looking to portray a somewhat different face to the people I manage and to my superiors. In fact, when I first published songs I tried to use a pseudonym but ultimately found the distinction overly complicated and largely unworkable. For awhile, I tried to not even tell people at work I was in a band or that I wrote songs.But, particularly over the past few months, that wall seems to be deteriorating. For people whose public personas mirror their private lives to a high degree (like professional bloggers) I think a public life is tricky but manageable.For people who are trying to essentially lead two existences it becomes decidedly more complicated. “Honesty” in songwriting or blogwriting or any form of personal expression can run quite counter to what is acceptable as a senior executive at an operating company.

    1. simondodson

      “or any form of personal expression can run quite counter to what is acceptable as a senior executive at an operating company.” – this is one of my greatest fears … ive always let it be known to senoir management that i have a blog an that some things on it may not gel with the company or its demographic, 10 years of blogging builds an aweful amount of archived content, thats a minefield of opinions waiting to be taken out of context … ugh!One thing that i do to seperate work from play, escpecially with freelance work over the past 7 years ,is not to tag your work with your name & link , in the footer, claiming its yours .. sure this may not be great for self promoting, but thats not the issue, its clients x’s customer becoming disgruntled , becuase that they have found something on my site, that is offensive etc , and you were none the wiser .. its saves the pain .. small price to pay i say …

      1. gregory

        we are still in neanderthal times as regards the categorization of people, only one thing is allowed … how can an artist be a writer,. a business person be a scientist, a vc be a sociologist ? …. make your own combination …one of the many results of the wide dispersal of the means of production via the internet is that people obviously can do many things … implying that our concept of what it means to be human in expanding …. thank god, i was getting tired of the producer/consumer meme(and another result is in this article title, recognizing that privacy does not mean anonymity)

        1. zachlandes

          Your comment intrigues me as a social scientist…but what do you mean by dispersal of the means of production?

          1. gregory

            means, you had to be a “big” capital(ized) entity and it was centralized, now, the same tools are in the hands of the many, dispersed …. we could narrow it for clarity and speak only of publishing, but what is really being dispersed is value creation.

          2. zachlandes

            yes, but human capital remains the biggest barrier to entry. One might argue that we are in a period similar to the age of invention in the 19th century (and before) where individuals had the ability to create despite limited resources of both labor and capital. Then technology developed to the point that it required a growing amount of these inputs to create and lead and there were few, if any, “Edisons” by mid-century. We may have restarted this cycle with the WWW, and it will be interesting to see if increasing complexity again eliminates the possibility for creative destruction by the “Edisons” of the internet age.

  10. jeremystein

    i wish there was a way to manage the first impression. my digital footprints are so spread out that im not sure/can’t control where someone will land first. thats the biggest problem.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. And its getting worse.Fred

      1. gregory

        that is one thing i like about young people, or asian cultures, they recognize that people are multi-faceted, first impression has no meaning, the need to categorize everything is seen as a disease … lol …. it is really nice to be around accepting people, isn’t it? (i wonder why america, founded on tolerance, can seem so narrowly judgemental … everything becomes its opposite, perhaps)

    2. Alexandros

      I wonder if there is a (vicious/virtuous) cycle forming. The more people open-up online, the more people open-up online. Sure there may be some limits to how much you can open up, but perhaps the problems do not arise from the openness itself but from the asymmetry in openning and the ignorance in how to deal with openness in general. As you said, we lwarn how to be open. And maybe we can gradually handle more and more openness.In Sam and Simon’s cases, It is obvious that we may have in the past thought or said things that run counter to our current job. Otherwise we’d be identical in beliefs to our companies, which is.. rare. But when they learn that this has happened through say, a blog, it becomes an issue. Why? Did they not know this could happen? I assume it is a matter of adjustment.In a world where everyone has a blog, nobody expects alla the companys’ employees’ blogs to be consistent with the company line and between themselves also. It would be irrational to expect it and not news when they are not.

      1. jeremystein

        It’s more than just blogs. I’m concerned about shared openness. If I throwsomething about myself into the open, I’m ok with that. But it changes ifthere is someone else involved. Someone can post a pic of me on facebook,but I have the option to de-tag it. That doesn’t do anything. I might notlike the picture, but it will be there forever, for everyone to see. I havefriends who have have the highest security settings on facebook walk intointerviews to see their profile and pictures sitting on the desk. It’s notimmune to the corporate world either.

        1. simondodson

          the internet doesn’t forget ….ps. that facebook photo issue is nasty, a real gripe….

        2. Alexandros

          Is this a new thing? Were not your bad photos always the property of your friends who took them? Did they not show them to their friends? If you became famous, wouldn’t these have found their way to the tabloids facebook or not? I think the illusion of controlling our image is one of the things we must let go of. We have never had the control anyway, but it’s getting harder and harder to hold on to the illusion.Celebrities have let go long ago, perhaps the lessons they have learned is something we should all be mining as these patterns become more and more relevant to our everyday online and increasingly exposed lives.

          1. simondodson

            so its a case of opening up online an closing down in real life …?

          2. alexandrosM

            Well I guess if you are really serious about closing down, you must close down at the source. But is this really feasible? Is it worth the effort?

      2. gregory

        a good yogi knows everything about you at a glance, same with a psychic, or anybody with a sufficiently subtle degree of consciousnessthe privacy we once thought we had was only the privacy of the ostrich with its head in the sand, and of course the limited flow of information, which is fast disappearing of coursewe have to, are being forced to, live in the full light of mutual interdependence with all that is … and we always did, just were not aware of it … getting used to a higher reality, is how i look at it

    3. howardlindzon

      thats a blog post. good one jeremy.

  11. awilensky

    So, there is a semi famous digerati from Chicago who twitters every move and almost every location: I am here at the airport, at the food court, anyone want to meet up? I am leaving this party at 2:00am at this location, any twitterati out there?I emailed her and said, “be careful honey, it’s all not sweets and roses out there” – she replied that she had lived 29 years without my advice but thanks. I cant help but think that’s why some of these geo apps are not breaking through big time…privacy features aside….we need some autonomy and anonymity.

  12. Nathan Lanier

    The trouble is with young people who don’t yet understand the possible consequences of broadcasting their lives online. They’re naive to the fact that employers will google their name. They’re naive to the face that their boss might have a facebook account. And that is dangerous. Every day I read a story about information falsely or unintentionally revealed which wound up hurting someone.Young folk should be educated, at least briefly and passively, on these things.

    1. gregory

      or else you can buy into the concept of karma and realize that the onlhy things that will happen to you in this life are what is meant to happen, that everything that happens to you is “god’s will”, the good and the bad, and let go of all fear, or excuses for mother says “there is so much crime in the world” and i asked her, did you ever experience a crime in your life? she thought a long time and then remembered a missing rowboat once …. and so her experience of life is not based upon her personal experience, it is based on a mediated experience, tv, or whatever …. and that bears looking at

  13. JPersch

    If you just live a boring life like me no one will care and you can live in private.

  14. gregory

    an open or a closed life, who wants to go back?here in bangalore, “the power, progressive music for long island, 96.9, wehn” or whatever it was, just because i clicked a link in today’s post. love it. though i am soon gonna switch back to, the drone zone more fits my cerebral eccentricity this sunday morning

  15. gregory

    oh, john, we’re ready, because it is happening …. and the lesson is, there is no conflict … the individual and the community are One

  16. john pasmore

    I believe we are all (young people included) learning how to live in public. To some degree it’s become a necessity — to not be invisible to Google.The Internet is evolving and clearly it is a medium that wants to connect people, to share, and by our behavior we have collectively endorsed this brave new world. You, Fred, have been at the forefront and I know that I have learned via your efforts and on-line choices. Evolution is a process we don’t completely understand…but its fascinating to watch and to be able to participate in as an entrepreneur or even as a consumer.

  17. Stephanos Anton Ballmerfeld

    NO! We cannot live in public! The public is just a bunch of egg throwing voyuers and psychophants, heathens! All I want is their money, not their love.

    1. Gotham Gal

      welcome to AVC steve ;)stick around, you might learn something from this community

      1. fredwilson

        Btw – that last comment was me commenting from my wife’s laptop while she was logged in to disqus

  18. sssrinivasan

    There’s degrees of being public. One extreme is Times Square Billboard (ranked #1 in Google search), other extreme is your private Inbox. The issue today is that we are mixing up Social Media in Public Spaces, Networking in Shared Spaces, and Inbox Communications in Personal Spaces into a single bucket.Current blogs / socnets approach this demarcation of spaces by letting you hang everything out, and then giving you privacy controls to manage the spillover effect. The moment you require users to Administer their communications you have lost the masses. Even today the majority of users do not even fiddle with their Email settings, or their facebook settings.Just like XML was the separation of content from form, we need an analogous mechanism. The content piece is obvious – all messages, photos, polls, etc. IMHO, the “form” piece of this is Identity.Not just identity as an authentication mechanism, but acting as a scope container – being able to show different facets of me based on context. Just like today I am able to shoot off emails from my Inbox with different ID’s – depending on whether it is for work, family, friends – in similar vein all my conversations in various Spaces should be mediated by my faceted identity.Privacy is about what you want to reveal, not what you need to hide. In each and every conversation.

  19. howardlindzon

    you can take baby steps though using disqus

    1. Nathan Lanier

      Speaking of Disqus, I’ved noticed that very few people utilize the comment rating feature. I wonder why that is? Are the up and down arrows too obscure? Perhaps replace them with a thumbs up and thumbs down?I know digg has thumbs and so does YouTube, but hell, they’re effective. . .

      1. howardlindzon

        good point nathan.I dont think either matter and thats why. your comments are good or not good. you are linkbaiating or adding to the conversation so what do I need that feature for. If you are good, you will get recognized and thats what makes disqus awesome. you can buikld an online reputaion from commenting and participating. thats the web speeding things up as usual.

      2. jedc

        I’ve been puzzled about this, too. I tend to read the first few comments more thoroughly than later comments, and on many blogs one vote will move a comment to the top. It seems that a small number of people can influence (though obviously not control) the conversation.I do think changing it to thumbs up/down would likely make the feature more used…

  20. cyanbane

    This post can be summed up in one of your sentences: “But it’s not for everyone.” Availability is there, but luckily we have a choice. We should all do everything we can to fight to make sure we ALWAYS have the ability to choose that.:)Good post.

  21. Ada

    Thanks for the post. I think it adds to the notion of personal transparency, which I am gaining a lot of interest in. I think its also good because it forces you to not take other people’s comments personally. I think its really easy to let things get to you if you let them, and by continuing to post you show people that you will not let their comments get to you and that the rewards of being public outweigh the negatives. Very inspirational to others!

  22. Ada

    By the way, on the topic of personal transparency there appears to be a very cool wikipedia entry. My biggest takeaway from that is that it appears that if you post something about yourself in a public place that information cannot be used against you. So, say you post that you sell cocaine, the authorities are not able to use that information to prosecute you. I am not too clear how this works, but it is a compelling reason to be very open about life activities.

    1. Ada

      Oh and in contrast to others sentiments, with that rationale I think it is totally for everyone!

  23. srini kumar

    Fred, you are going to love this…. it’s a PRIVATE TWITTER, basically a journal for yourself. we are betting that even heavy twitters know they would take 100 times more PRIVATE notes; most ppl are simply not that extroverted. -> i still have some work to do, but it is a NEW KIND OF WORD PROCESSOR. try it, you’ll be hooked – especially when you connect your smartphone (no more syncing! tag everything! w00t!)i think you’ll be thrilled with our first product, which dovetails nicely into the METANOTES platform. john and i have been working under wraps for months; emery and matt are starting to kick into the mix too. June is going to be an amazing month for METANOTES INC :)-srini

    1. fredwilson

      I’ll give it a try but I’ve never posted privately to delicious or flickr and I am not sure private posting services are for me

  24. Gotham Gal

    Elizabeth is right on. There is something about blogging that offers a level of productivity through social networking and sharing of information. Yet, there is a fine line between your thoughts on line about politics, to business advice, to recipes, to reviewing of the arts, to steam of conscious which is engaging vs. all private information hanging out there in the wind. If people relish following you day to day, so be it, but that doesn’t mean that they need to know every aspect of your life.Getting carried away with the people who comment and commenting yourself is also a fine line. Getting caught up in the open world at large can take you away from the reality of your day to day. You can find yourself pushing the envelope in public with information that is best kept to yourself. It is easy to do on a computer. You are not staring at the 10,000 eye balls who are listening/reading to what you have just said/written.Wise advice of elders of the past, think before you speak.

  25. slowblogger

    Agreed. Now, a question (maybe interesting but not practical) is ‘can we live 100% in public? Or, ask it this way… At what price would someone do it?

  26. stetoscope

    Thanks for this interesting post.I think we could find a theorem on public life, that could be the more you are exposed or implicated in public affairs the more you need a personnal brand to protect your privacy (and personnal failures). But, I am very interested to see how young teens learn how to manage those degrees easily. The 13 year old daughter of a friend of mine has three blogs, with three differnet identities and sometimes she speaks to her mother that she is wondering one or another of her public personnality. I wonder what she will become when she will be professionnal.

  27. markslater

    Fred – you are the ring master of a barnum troupe in the digital guilded age, trotting out your 3 headed tecno gizmo’s – braver than most!Seriously though, you and i have never met in the 4 years we have occasionally conversed, i must be one of thousands. I mentioned in another post how important i find it to put a face to a name. Digital relationships have a limited scope – they are inherently asynchronous.I mean how many of these people would dare to say some of these offensive comments to my face? Its not a bravado thing, its a human nature thing. When confronted with having to use the full range of interaction (see, hear, touch) we then act in a truly synchronous way. seesmic (or seesmic like services) are the next iteration in this march to onliine sychronisity. The big question is, what generates take up?Have a great weekend in the hamptons playing golf and listening to dylan. I’m half way up everest, but then again……how would you know 😉

    1. fredwilson

      If you are half way up everest, then I am blown away by the wireless internet coverage!

  28. ph0rque

    > Between this blog, my tumblog, my twitter stream, my flickr stream, my friend feed, and a host of other social media sites, it’s easy to be a stalker if you were so inclined.Sorry if this is offtopic, but it would be nice if there was a service that lets you aggregate all such services into one website (a distributed social app, if you will) to let both you (the author) and your audience have a central url to keep up to date with you.

    1. fredwilson

      Many exist. The most popular are friendfeed and socialthingFred

  29. Chuck Fishman

    Related thought : One of the biggest frustrations for me when it comes to online social sharing / conversations is that I can’t really talk about work efforts. And I try to avoid being some sort of analyst commenting on digital media services – which means I leave myself out of the conversation here a lot of time.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s how I feel about all the talk about twitter these daysFred

  30. hardaway

    I’m comfortable living online. I live by myself, so I don’t implicate many others in my predilection. I have learned to mention my children seldom, if at all. And I rarely mention my business partner, either, because I know he wants to live a more private life. I think if you are a natural extrovert and you don’t care what others think of you (I am and I don’t), online life is fun. If you are more introverted and you do care (that’s most of the world), you ought not to try it. It can be pretty bruising.

    1. zachlandes

      Honestly, I think many of the people who have been the early adopters of lifestreaming have been the introverted – those people who don’t feel safe or comfortable expressing themselves in person. As the internet becomes more integrated into our daily lives, these people are in for a big surprise – what they say online is increasingly tied to real world consequences.

  31. Katherine

    I thought you might find this blog post on the “post-privacy age” amusing and interesting:”For many young people, privacy is an old fashion concept. But for many of us who were raised in an era where privacy meant something, this electronic age of endlessly archived personal information represents an almost existential threat. Here are a few possible survival strategies.1) A total (and arguably, near-psychotic) detachment from your consumer purchases and electronic interactions. I don’t care if they know i bought a big black dildo. That wasn’t really me. For all they know i was buying it for a theater show. Or as a gift. Or for an art project. Besides: I am not what I buy. I am more than the sum of my purchases. That big black dildo in no way reflects my essential, underlying, ineffable self. My being en soi. That letter threatening to kill my girl friend–right before she mysteriously died??? An exercise in hyperbole. Or research for a fictional character I was trying to develop for the writing class I never got around to signing up for. I refuse to submit to the tyranny of presumed knowability.2) A radical rejection of consumerism. In the post modern age of endlessly archived, infinitely accessible consumer information, the refusal to buy is arguably the most radical act– the last redoubt of true rebellion. Stay off the electronic radar. Marginalize yourself within the matrix. He who does not buy (or, for that matter use the internet) is invisible. Or at least irrelevant. But he enjoys a freedom unimaginable to the kings of consumption and the masters of materialism. Or at least that’s what the practitioners of this subversive praxis feel cozy believing.3) Jam the codes. Buy and interact under many aliases. Or under the same name but in a strategically inconsistent manner. For every purchase of an uzi, make a contribution to UNICEF. Expensive, inefficient but presumably effective, this is the privacy preservation strategy for those with lots of disposable money…and time.4) Perhaps the most simple and radical strategy of them all. Be a good person. Act in an egosyntonic fashion. Outsource your superego. Use the absence of privacy in this virtual panopticon to motivate ethical behavior. Simply don’t do anything you are ashamed of—and thank the matrix for helping you do so.5) Mix and match from among the above…or come up with your own fun strategies! “Found at:

  32. Steven Kane

    i think all the self publishing and community building tools are awesome and i certainly enjoy participating but only to a pointbut i can’t help but wonder if “living in public” is soon going to be like getting a tattoo — a seemingly ubiquitous seemingly harmless form of self expression and community mostly by/for young people … but who, when they get older, lose interest and are even a little embarrassed and worried and so try — in vain — to remove all traces…also, i wonder if privacy — already a luxury (rich people and celebrities go to great lengths to be hard to find and even harder to investigate) — will soon be an ultra-super-luxury, available only to those with real affluence and power, or with the foresight to start carefully managing their public selves from a very young age (the way some super successful people start managing their lives and careers from a very young age).i can pretty easily imagine a future where the average person thinks its worthwhile or cool to be in the public mix and so (essentially) waives their right to privacy, while those with the wherewithal or foresight carefully artfully retreat out of reach of prying eyes and searches and quietly and efficiently consolidate and extend their authority.i mean, heck, historically-speaking, thats what the ruling classes have always done.and i cant imagine a future where smart people don’t leverage their ability to be private. today as always the best investors and hedge fund managers and inventors and business people all relish secrecy; that will likely always be the case IMHO but soon that may be a privilege of only a very very select few plain folksi dont say this is inevitable; just one possibility

  33. greenskeptic

    Great post, Fred.I always try to remember that we have two ears and one mouth, and we should use them in proportion. I enjoy “listening” to the commentaries that surround my blog, and comments on other blogs that I read. And I enjoy the dialogs offered by Twitter (when it works) among and between my twitter followers and those I follow.I agree with Elizabeth Spiers that we should think about what we write or say as if it will be displayed on a Times Square billboard — but a billboard that will have even more reach than several Manhattan blocks. It’s not always easy to remember, especially when the tools of social networks make it easy to just say what’s on your mind when it’s on your mind. But that’s when it’s handy to have a spouse who brings us back to reality.Thanks, as always, for stimulating dialog.

  34. Kathy Sierra

    “…there is a lot to be gained from living publicly online. As long as you know where to draw the line.”The big problem is not where WE draw the line–but rather that others can draw those lines for us, wherever they choose. I have no problem with how much people choose to expose *of themselves* (well, except for my daughters), but I think it’s unconscionable to expose ANYTHING about another person, even indirectly, without their explicit permission.And that’s just the people who are “oversharing” about someone they care about (or did at one time). The biggest problem of all is that our private details can be publicized by anyone, anonymously, then replicated across the ‘net in ways that Google will never forget.Privacy and identity are huge, scary issues right now. It’s a myth to believe we are in control of the line. I’m glad you’re writing about it, though.

  35. colinizer

    Actually Erik Vidal was ahead of that with – several 24/7 high quality windows media streams from an Oberlin-college (Ohio) student house of room mates.

  36. Robert John Ed

    Potentially irrelevant: Blood on Tracks is my favorite record of all time. Wonderful. Dylan’s ability to compose songs with overarching themes (many tracks on Desire showcase this art form) is remarkable…and although BOT is similar throughout, the melancholy, the cognition of loss is simply unbelievable. Good choice.

    1. fredwilson

      It is totally relevant!

  37. mattsingley

    10K people a day read this? Wow. Well, with me now you have 10,001. This is a great post, I will not only share it with my electronic friends, but with my friends IRL including my wife. Thanks for writing this, it brings a lot of clarity to our new public lives.

  38. Alex R

    Thanks, Fred. I am considering a move to Latin America, where it will be nearly impossible to stay in close contact with all of my friends and family in the States. So, I’ve been thinking about blogging my day-to-day experiences/activities/thoughts/feelings, and sending the link to everyone with whom I’d like to keep in contact.Obviously, I don’t have your following, but I’ll make sure to take everything you said into account as I decide how I want to keep people up-to-date on my life.

  39. monsur

    I’ve thought about this issue from a different direction: what place does a person who does not want to live publicly (such as myself) have in a medium that is all about social interaction? I think the saving grace here is that living online is no longer just about blogs. It used to be that having an online presence meant having a blog. Well, unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the desire to blog. And for years I had this guilt: I should blog about this, I should blog more, etc.Well recently we’ve experienced an explosion of non-blog forms of content: mobile-posting to Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, all of which can be aggregated and presented with sites like FriendFeed and Tumblr. Heck, if I want to create my own form of communication, I can do so and expose an RSS feed for all the world to consume.So I’ll leave the strong online presence to all those extroverts; I’m content finding a way to carve just a small niche online.