Monthly Archives: August 2009

Reconciling Senator Ted Kennedy’s Legacy

This morning, after hearing about the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, I sent my sentiments into the ether that is the internet.

Senator Ted Kennedy Tweet

A pretty benign and standard statement that reflected what many others felt and thought this morning, I’m sure. Imagine my surprise when I received the following e-mail just minutes after the above tweet went live:

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Hello,

You don’t know me…I read your twitter comment about Ted Kennedy’s passing and how proud you are of him.

I was a young woman when Mary Jo Kopechne was killed at Chappaquiddick.

I was so sad for her and her family at her senseless death.

If only Senator Kennedy called the police right away and not leave her to die, she most likely would of survived the car crash.

His actions on that fateful night clearly told me about his character and I have never forgotten how he got away with it all because of who he was and his money.

You being ‘twenty something’ probably think of this as ancient history, but it’s not.

He got away with murder.

Kind regards,

Elizabeth

(Links added by Julie.)

———–

The sender is of course entitled to her opinion although I’m still a bit unsure why it was me she singled out to send this message to.  Even hours later, “Ted Kennedy” continues to be a trending topic on Twitter.

But her e-mail has left me trying to reconcile a number of points:

1. I’m a big proponent of accessibility and even wrote a post last year on why it’s important for bloggers to have their contact information displayed on their sites. But, I have to be honest, it was unnerving to get e-mail of that sort in a place (my inbox) which is usually one filled with friendly “faces”. What happened if someone decided to send me truly malicious e-mails? Have I set myself up for disaster? At the moment, I’ve decided to keep my e-mail accessible on this site and hopefully I won’t regret it.

2. It’s an interesting feeling growing up in a country where you were not born. Most days, you feel like a local but little things will remind you that in some ways, you’ll always be a transplant and an outsider. Defining what I consider to be my history is a bit tricky: I feel ownership over USSR events that took place up to 1991 (the year I immigrated to America) and over American events that have taken place since then, but not vice versa. I feel the same disconnection with America’s struggle with slavery as I do with a democratic Russia…

As such, Elizabeth is right in assuming that being young does affect my view of Senator Kennedy but I would argue that others of my generation may have a different perspective. I simply lacked an environment where that story would have been passed down and where I would have been exposed to opinions on the subject that would have helped define Senator Kennedy’s persona for me.

3. In trying to mull over how to combine these two images of Senator Kennedy – seen by some as a murderer and by others as a champion of human rights, here’s what I think I’ve come to stand on the issue:

Unfortunately, during one chapter of Senator Ted Kennedy’s life, he panicked, made a mistake, didn’t handle a situation as he should have.  As my good friend David points out, “[What happened is] a chapter that can’t be left out. And for some, it’s the only chapter”. When looking at Senator Ted Kennedy’s life it’s important to view it as a whole and not get stuck on one chapter. As a whole, Senator Kennedy was a great man who worked to better the world and his memory should be shown the respect it deserves.

Reclaiming the Rolodex

Facebook is the new RolodexI’d like to talk about the statement to the left, made by Brian Devine via Twitter yesterday morning. (I should mention that it caught my attention when it was forwarded by Jonathan Rick, who, in case you’re wondering, I met in person first and then connected with online.)

I completely agree with Brain: I do believe that Facebook and other online networks – loosely defined – such as LinkedIn and Google have become the contact management systems du jour.

The problem, and what worries me, is that we, as individuals, had full control of the data in our Rolodexes of yesteryear. We chose when to add, when to remove, when to edit contacts. And that Rolodex was ours to keep, save any unfortunate circumstances (I’m thinking natural disasters here), for as long as we wanted no matter where we went.

Now, we are at the mercy of these companies. For example, I use Google Contacts to stay in touch – by e-mail and phone – to friends, family, colleagues, and former classmates around the world. But let’s say that Google decided one day without warning to stop supporting that feature? I would be left with no numbers or emails addresses for any of my closest contacts. And, at least with Google Contacts, I am able to export all the data I’ve inputed into the system and take it to another provider or save it on my comptuer (or another location) for safekeeping.

Neither Facebook (nor LinkedIn nor MySpace) allow anything of the sort. (It should be noted that Facebook, in its infancy, did have this feature enabled. With its epic growth, however, I think Facebook thought that for privacy reasons, enabling users to exports the contact information of other users they connected to through the site could be dangerous.)

Where does that leave us? What happens if our account were to get hacked or accidentally deleted? I’m sure many of you shudder at the thought of losing all those connections (and pictures and videos and messages and everything else that’s now contained within the site).

When I said this all to Jonathan (in less than 140 characters!), he replied: “Since we all use Facebook voluntarily, if we disagree with the Terms Of Service, then we should stop“. He has a good point. BUT – because that’s where the majority of our contacts are active, we miss out by not participating in the service. So, we’re stuck in between a rock and a hard place since there’s not much we can do, is there?

I can’t offer a solution (other than to reiterate how important backing up and creating copies of such information truly is) but I do continue to hope that in this era of collaboration, Facebook as well as other services can find a balance between user privacy, a competitive advantage and allowing users to own and manipulate their data in a suitable manner.