Friday, November 18, 2011

Work approves of what I do in my free time.

Photo: Suzanne Frayser/Subaru Telescope, NAOJ
I mentioned the annual Volunteer Dinner in a post last month.  For the last several months, I've had the good fortune to have my friend and fellow volunteer Josh as a co-worker, and to get to help train him. 

We've each volunteered over 1,500 hours since 2004, and have both been recognized for "Long-Standing Contributions."  Josh was named "Volunteer of the Year" as a student, and I've been in the running for it the last few years.

Since we volunteer in a field related to our work, and our workplace's press officer attended the dinner and insisted on taking our photo, we kind of knew that sooner or later, work would have something to say about what we do with our personal time.

I'm really looking forward, though, to next year's dinner, because as of late summer, we have two newer co-workers - our old friend Jennie and our new friend Rita - who are also both volunteers.  So next year, there should be at least four people, or two-thirds of our entire department, in the photo!

Monday, November 7, 2011

An unintended use for Google+ pages?

Today, Google+ rolled out its new Pages feature. On the surface, Google+ pages are pretty similar to Facebook pages - a way to create a presence for a business, movie, cause, or whatever.  They're not exactly the same, though.

On Facebook, users can like a page.  A page can post on its own wall, as can users if the page allows it.  A page can add other pages to its favorites, and page administrators can easily switch between doing things as themselves and doing things as any of the pages they administer.  Google+ pages pretty much match all these features.

On Google+, though, pages share more capabilities of normal accounts.  They have circles, and can post things for members of specific circles. If a user or page circles a page, the page can reciprocate, and can then comment on posts shared with it.  In fact, the only obvious thing I've found that a page can't do is circle an individual user who hasn't circled it first.

So what's this mean?

Well, let's say you want to follow everyone in the excellent news-outlets circle created by "Breaking News" on Google+.  But you don't want 90% of your stream to be posts from news outlets - you want them to be there for you to look at when you feel like it, just like news usually is.

Easy: Create a page, and circle them all from that page.  You can even comment on their stories, same as always.

You can do the same if a few people posting about a given topic dominate your stream.  Or, you can create multiple pages for people from different aspects of your life to circle (and then circle them back) - kind of like normal circles, but providing stronger segregation and keeping your personal stream cleaner.

Of course, this doesn't appear to be how Google expects us to use pages.  I'm just saying that it's an unintended effect of the feature, which some may find useful.  Whether they'll let us do so on an ongoing basis remains to be seen, but I hope they will.

Why I'm leaving Twitter.

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