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Google's Privacy Policy


You may have heard a little hubbub recently about Google's planned change to its Privacy Policies.

Beginning March 1, Google will replace 60+ existing product-specific privacy documents with a single, recently rewritten privacy policy. What's different about this new privacy policy? Google can treat you as a single user across all of their products.

What's the issue?
Google says this change will improve the user experience. Critics say the change will make it harder for users to limit what Google can do with their information.

What does Google say about people's concerns?
Google has several blog posts that address concerns that have been raised, as well as a post addressing some of the "myths" circulating about the upcoming change.

Google also has some tools to help you control your information: 

If you haven't already checked out the Google Dashboard, it's a great place to start. Concerned about your Google search information being available to other services? You might want to start by disabling Web History and opting out of Search Personalization.

What are your options?
The options are pretty simple. Disagree with the policy? Opt out and use non-Google services. Want to keep using Google services? Accept the policy and do what you can to address your concerns.

This post from Jon Mitchell at ReadWriteWeb, in addition to pooh-pooh-ing some of the concerns about the policy change, has this common sense advice:

"If you don't like Search plus Your World, you can opt right out. You can opt out of sharing browser history by using incognito mode. You can also opt out of targeted ads. You can't opt out of Google's new privacy policy, because that's how Google's business is going to work from here on out. The data you create anywhere on Google are available to the rest of Google. Google is one big service for better or for worse."  

Want to get a little less cozy with Google?  Check out Wired's "Hide from Google" post.

YouTube Video Editor gets better

I recently updated my cell phone and found that the built-in camera takes some great video!

This is a lot of fun, but like many home movies, my videos could use a little editing.  There are many products out there that offer video editing, but I'm not really interested in learning the ins and outs a full-featured product like Premier.  Luckily, the YouTube Video Editor (http://www.youtube.com/editor) keeps offering new features, making simple video production very easy.

Video clips can be easily uploaded to your YouTube account from a smart phone or from videos located on your PC.  Once there, clips can be cropped:

and arranged in any order.  Then,fun transitions can be added between each clip:

After your video is combined, you can add Text throughout:


Finally, YouTube provides numerous audio tracks to really sweeten your production!

Best of all, it's free to use and can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection; no software install needed!

Brain Dump

Have you ever tried to quantify what it is that you know about some specialized topic? How about what you and other people as a group collectively know about that topic? It's not always easy.

When I'm writing documentation for complex systems, I want to be sure I get everything in my head out into the reference document. To help make sure I've considered all of the important components and all of the things that need to be said about those components, I like to brain dump using tools designed for "concept mapping".

BraindumpAs shown here, a concept map is represented as a bunch of noun phrases like "the brain" or "knowledge", drawn as ellipses or bubbles. The noun bubbles then have links drawn between them, labeled with phrases that express the nature of the relationship.

This doesn't appeal to everyone, but I find it helpful for grouping and sorting things out, especially for complex systems. When I'm done with a mapping, I find that putting that knowledge into regular prose form just flows quite naturally. Even better, it tends to result in cramming the most useful information into the fewest words. That's powerful stuff.

If all I have to work with is web access, I'll turn to a cloud application at http://bubbl.us/. It has the basic features needed, and I like the way they've done keyboard shortcuts to speed work flow. However, it has some behaviors I don't quite like just because it's too different from my favorite mapping tool.

If I can, I'll use a PC that has my faithful old CmapTools on it. CmapTools is a program available from the impressively titled Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (yes, this is exactly where SkyNet really will be born). You need to register to download CmapTools but it's free. If the idea of dumping your brain content sounds useful and/or fun (it's both), you can learn more at http://cmap.ihmc.us/.