Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

Background for those who are not class-A geeks: Google has an instant messenger service called Google Talk.  It isn’t a very popular chat service.  But Google just integrated it completely into its Gmail service so that a) you can chat and email from the same browser window, and b) it saves your entire chat history and makes it searchable.

Caterina thinks this is AWFUL and might even break a LAW.  I responded in her comments, but thought I could do better on my own blog.

1) How does this differ from everyone who records your chats with iChat and then backs them up to .Mac?  Or who copy and pastes from a chat window and then emails then to someone with Hotmail?  It’s hardly a new threat, and anyone who’s surprised that IM chats can be, and often are, saved? Well, that’s just a mistaken perception that this will help change.

2) Google does MORE than iChat, because you can go off the record with me in Google Talk, but in iChat, I can record the entire chat regardless of what you want.  So Google’s implementation offers, in some ways, more privacy, or at least more privacy options, or at least shows that it’s more privacy positive or something. Not less.

3) I can clearly remember my father not wanting to get a credit card so that the government couldn’t track his purchases. Now, of course, he has a credit card, and every Law and Order has the government looking at credit card records.  Convenience sometimes trumps privacy.

4) Google may be a scary place to store all sorts of personal information that the government can go grab.  But if you’re that concerned about privacy—don’t use IM!  Don’t use email!  Meet in person, use a land-line phone and talk in generalities.  To be concerned about IM privacy is to be concerned that no one in a crowded restaurant hear about your abortion or your plot to kidnap the pope.  Don’t speak privately via an easily intercepted medium!

5) Lastly, this feature is so cool, so amazingly cool, that I’m going to be trying to switch as many pals as possible over to Google Talk.  Frankly, the idea that all my chats can be stored forever, searchable, is so amazingly useful it blows my mind.  And the fact that there’s a browser-based chat integrated with my mail is also superb (Yes, AOL’s AIM has a Web client, but it’s not integrated with the email, and there’s so many times that a conversation needs to leap from IM to email and back again.  It’s a total natural.)

So if you want to Google Talk me, I’m standing by.



 
 

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Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

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“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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