Monday, November 30, 2009

Digital Footprints, Legacies, Portfolios, Identities, and Dossiers

There has been some Tweeting recently about digital legacies, digital footprints and whether we are robbing kids of their legacies by not letting them download, save, or post work online. It got me thinking about the difference between legacies, footprints, and digital portfolios that we have been talking about for a long time, as compared with digital dossiers and digital identities as defined by Palfrey and Gasser in Born Digital.

In some ways, it’s a bit like the early days of multimedia. The terms mean different things to different people. Some of the artifacts that go into the creation of each are intentional, others unintentional, and others are out of our control.

We contribute to all of them, but so do others. If I do a vanity search for “Art Wolinsky”, I get a collection of things I have posted over the years and things others have posted about me. If I invest a few dollars do a search of public records, I get a lot of other information.

So how DO we define these different terms? I’m hardly an expert, but I like the Palfrey and Gasser terms. Our digital identities, which probably relate, rather than equate to digital footprints, are made up of those things we post to define who we are.

In my younger days, long before computers, that identity changed frequently as styles changed and I matured. Who I was yesterday was quickly forgotten, because it had little lasting documentation. Changing my hair, my clothes, and my mannerisms changed my identity.

Today, that is not anywhere as easy. Once I establish an online identity, it can be difficult to change, because who I was yesterday, is still alive and well online. Indeed, I may have intentional multiple identities, because I am one person in Facebook and another in SecondLife and so on.

Our digital dossier is out of our control. It made up of things that are stored digitally online, such as Social Security information, medical records, credit reports, etc. While they don’t outwardly contribute to my identity, they are none-the-less something we have to be aware of for privacy and security reasons.

The term digital legacy is used in many contexts, but it tends to be used more in education and relates more to portfolios, but I don’t think there is any clear line between footprints and legacy, because where we go and what we do contribute to our legacy and our identity.

I can’t help but wonder whether we are asking the wrong question. I don’t think we should be as concerned about whether we are robbing kids of their digital legacy if we don’t let them download digital media they create. I think we need to be more concerned about teaching kids about how to protect their digital identities so that the legacy they leave is one of which they are proud. Without that, what they post with or without our permission may create a legacy that will not serve them will in the future.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Moving Saga

I wrote this a week ago while sitting in the Manchester, NH airport where they have free wi-fi, on my way to a workshop in DE, but I'm posting it on Thanksgiving, because I am soooo thankful that this part of our lives is behind us.

Our daughter lives in MA, about 25 miles from our new home in NH. My wife always said that the day she told us she was pregnant, the house would be going on the market and that’s exactly what we did back in April of 2007. The process of selling our house in a down market was painful. It took two and a half years from the time we put it on the market.

Actually, we sold it within ten days, but it was contingent on removing and underground oil tank. Unfortunately, when we removed it, they found a pin hole leak. The EPA allows up to 10,000 ppm before you have to remediate. Our reading was 11,300 ppm. In the end it cost over $10,000 and we lost the buyers, because they wanted their kids in school before Sept. If you know anything about dealing with the EPA and the state, you know there was no way to make that happen, as attested to by a three in high stack of paperwork. The process can actually take over a year or two.

Fortunately, I was semi-retired and could stay on top of the process. I was on the phone constantly in an effort to expedite things, but I wasn’t a pest, and if there was a Nobel Prize for ass-kissing, I would have won it. My tactic paid off. I had established a good reporte with the remediation company and they agreed to slip me in between big jobs. The remediation process was actually completed in August, but there was still the state to deal with, and that took until October. By this time, the market had tanked.

Over the next two years we added upgrades, kept the house spotless, and reduced the price in conjunction with the changing market. I won’t detail the process except to say that we lost two more buyers, because they couldn’t secure financing, and turned down two offers that in retrospect were not as bad as they seemed at the time.

Finally we sold the house in August, during a 10 day period where we had three offers. One was way too low and the other two were lower than we wanted, but workable. The first was a cash deal that was $8,000 lower than the second, which was an FHA loan. The people were prequalified. We opted for the FHA, because they wanted to close within 30 days. In retrospect, that was a mistake. There was more than $8,000 in aggravation.

We had two and a half years to watch the market where we wanted to move and figured we would have to take a small mortgage in order to keep from feeling a financial pinch, so the race was on. We had to head up to NH, make and offer on a house and secure a mortgage. With the help of Beth Redmond, an absolutely top notch real estate agent, we were able to get everything done.

While we were in the process of getting the mortgage and making all of the arrangement for the move we were hearing nothing from our buyers, their agent or their lawyer. Calls from our lawyer, my agents, and even our title company to their lawyer were getting nowhere fast.

While our agent, Beth Redmond, was on top of everything and an absolute joy to work with, their attorney, Jeffrey Roth for Lakewood, NJ was one of those layers who is the reason for lawyer jokes. He gave absolutely no information about where they were in the process at any point in the process. The closing date came and went four times. My attorney, here secretary, both of my agents, and the title company said that they never experienced anything like his lack of consideration and response.

Part of the problem was the buyer who was doing everything himself and wasn’t able to complete things in a timely fashion. Between his refusal to let his agent do want agents are supposed to do and the lawyer’s lack of communication, it he cost them considerable money. There was four hundred dollars in penalties and a few thousand dollars in furniture that we were going to leave for them, but donated to charity, because we couldn’t establish what they wanted or if they wanted anything.

If you are living in Ocean County NJ and are thinking of selling or buying a home, stay far, far away from Jeffrey Roth, of Roth and Roth, in Lakewood. On the other hand, if you are thinking of selling a home, Debby Ficke of Diane Turton did everything I could have asked for to sell our home in a down market, and Beth Redmond is who you want to contact if you are buying a home in southern NH.

Now here’s the kicker. When we moved, as we were unpacking, I came across my Bar Mitzvah album. The first thing I came across was a stack of telegraphs. The first three were from relatives I didn’t know, but they all had the last name of Roth! It is possible that I am related to Jeffrey Roth, but I have no desire to find out, because if we are related, I would disown him, because I would not want to have anyone as inconsiderate as he in my family tree.

I'm doubly thankful that our first weeks in NH have been in stark contract to the weeks leading up to the move.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why I Like NH Better than NJ - Reason 2

Skilled artisans and technicians can be found in NJ if you look hard enough, but mediocrity is pervasive and don't try to get component level trouble shooting for your TV.

While in NJ, we had a 9 year old large screen projection TV that once turned off, would not turn on again for 4-6 hours. I did some research and found that it was most likely a bad capacitor on one of the boards. I began calling around, but no one would come out to my house and no one would trouble shoot at the component level. The best they could do was have me haul it in and they would replace the entire circuit board for about $450.

When we arrived in NH, I asked around and was told that Tony's TV Repair in Portsmouth would come out and would trouble shoot. I called them and Mark, their tech spent about 15 minutes with me on the phone doing as much trouble shooting as he could that way. He then did his research, ordered a set of 8 capacitors and set up an appointment. He was clear that if they didn't do the job, it would then be a needle in a haystack search that would require bench work at the shop and probably not worth doing.

When he arrived we duplicated the problem, he pressed two keys on the front panel and an LCD flashed out an error code suggesting the capacitors on the signal board were the most likely problem. He replaced them and we gave it a try. While it didn't solve the problem, it did improve things considerably.

He said he could replace the capacitors on the other board, but if they were the problem we would have gotten a different error code. He felt that the problem could also be a transistor, in which case it would have to go to the shop for serious bench work. I decided to leave things as they were.

Watching him work was a pleasure. I'm trained in computer repair and even if I knew which capacitors to replace, it would have taken me at least two to three times as long to do what he did. He traveled 25 miles in each direction and spent well more than an hour here, but since he couldn't fix it, he just charged me the travel charge, the minimum labor charge and the cost of the four capacitors. It cost $156, which considering everything, was a bargain. The set is working better and I am perfectly happy with the results.

Thanks, Mark!

I've had a similar experiences with my house, my car, and even my hair, but more about them in a future posts.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why I Like NH Better than NJ - Reason 1

I spent the first 65 years of my life in NJ. Three weeks ago we moved to NH and after less than one month here, I'm sorry it too me so long get here. I'm going to begin writing a series of short posts on why I like NH better than NJ.

Reason 1 - Traffic... Actually different aspects of traffic will make up a number of reasons. First, but not foremost, is that drivers are courteous and drive at or near the speed limit. Of course being from NJ, and traveling mostly on the Parkway and Turnpike, I'm used to traveling with the flow of traffic at 10-15 miles above the speed limit(40-50 mph below the speed limit).

This brings me to the main reason I like NH. There is far less trafic and people actually use the passing lane to pass and move from the left lane if you come up behind them. In NJ, there are more people traveling in the passing lanes than in the right lanes, and they nest there like birds sitting on eggs. In one month, I have only had to pass ONE person on the right.

Of course the Live Free or Die motto is also carried out on the road, because seat belts are optional for those over 18, there is no helmet law for motorcycles, and anyone 15 and a 1/2 can drive with an adult over 25 without even a learner's permit.