It's about teenagers using social networking sites… Speaking of social networks, I'm firstname.lastname@example.org on Mastodon. What? What was I talking about?
Right, the book It's Complicated. It's about teenagers using social networking sites. Parents are scared plenty of what might happen to their teenaged kids on social networks, scared by news reports. (New technologies keep coming along, but fear is always a great way to sell news content.) Teenagers want to spend more time on social networking sites since their scaredy-cat parents won't let them hang out anywhere besides home or school. (Well-meaning parents reading this book might think: I will fix this. I will let my kids hang out at the mall. Good for you, but the kids will still want to stick to social networking instead: none of their friends' parents will let them out of the house, so there's nobody to hang out with at the mall.) This book lets you know that modern teenagers have it pretty tough. There were things in this book that scared me. E.g., these "digital native" kids think that whatever they find via Google is true because Google is a good site. Google is a good site, but it's not good at finding the truth; it's good at finding pages that are relevant to the topic. If I search for "Luke Skywalker", the first result I find has a lot of information about Luke's story, no doubt lovingly gathered by fans… but if I didn't know Luke was a fictional character when I started reading, I might not figure it out from what's written there. And that's a topic where folks aren't lying on purpose.
To play, I needed to get kinda close to the Kanye head on the map and then tap it. Unfortunately, the game expects you to get pretty close to the head, and this was a "bouncy" neighborhood for phone location-finding. After some frustrating minutes walking up and down the same stretch of sidewalk, I eventually convinced my phone I was in the right place. When I clicked the map's Kanye West head, my phone switched to an augmented-reality-camera view where the giant head of K.West gave me a quest (get it?): to help feed his ki(tty). Kanye sent me off to find T.Swift, who had cat food.
Looking at the map again, there weren't any Taylor Swift heads in evidence. There was another Kanye head. As I walked closer to it, moving across the map, I spotted a Taylor Swift head. After taking a couple of minutes and then giving up on trying to convince my phone I was near the second Kanye, I made my way over to the Taylor Swift head. There, I got cat food.
I suspect that the eventual plan is for me to bring the cat food back to Kanye. In the game, my character has an Inventory, now with cat food. When I re-visited Kanye, he didn't realize I had cat food—he just re-asked me to go get some from T.Swift.
I liked that this game has a quest mechanic, one that has me walk around rather than stay in place fiddling with my phone. I didn't like that the game expected me to get so close to places of interest, closer than is easy in a "bouncy" area. And I suspect the game is still in beta; I suspect that's why my character still has that cat food. Anyhow, this game shows promise.
The more you learn about Eero Saarinen, the more you find out he was a jerk.
This book makes you think about opportunity cost. The Arch is pretty sweet. But what might have St Louis been like if a bustling neighborhood was there instead? What if that area hadn't spent decades as a parking lot, waiting to turn into a memorial? What if… This book left me sadder but wiser.
Plenty of organizations gather info about us. Some of this information is online stuff: who we call, who we know on social networks, and on and on. Some of this information is real-world stuff: where our cars' license plates have been spotted, where we've traveled, and on and on.
Who/what has access to this information? Some people/things that make sense. I'm glad Gmail knows who sent me that email* so it can show me the From: field. Some people/things that don't make sense. I'm sad the NSA knows who's sending me emails since they're not using it for anything useful and employ some creepy folks who like to peek at such things.
Even if you're glad that some organization has your info, you might not be so glad if you knew how poorly they keep it safe. Users of the Ashley Madison adultery-hookup site were presumably glad to give private info to the site. They were presumably sad when hackers got past the site's not-so-great security and published the users'
private no-longer-private info.
What can users do? Some things, but maybe not much. When you choose a service to work with, you might choose the one you trust to keep your data safe and/or to "forget" that data when it's no longer useful. But how do you know which services to trust? If you'd ask me to guess whether an adultery-hookup site would have good security, I'd have guessed it would (such private info)… and I would have been wrong. And sometimes all the choices are bad. And often, we don't choose. If I choose to move to another country, the NSA won't stop trying to snoop on my emails; it just won't be breaking US law when it does so. (So I guess I'd be helping to stop illegal spying? kinda?)
Policy-makers can do more. If in a secret police force, you might be a policy-maker; you can choose to snoop less. If you're in a company, you might be a policy-maker: you can choose to "forget" data if the risk of retaining it is > the benefit of keeping it around.
It's a thoughtful book.
*Yeah, email can be spoofed. Anyhow.