Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy New Year! Let the learning begin

To my faithful readers I just want to say: Happy New Year! And if you're a first time reader: Welcome, and Happy New Year to you too, and to your friends and family, and to the whole wide world. Let's make this the year we crank it up to 11, all across the board.

But Stephen, it's February already! Yes, I know, and there's a reason for that: I've been busy. And if you have ever worked for a software startup, like Google when it was in a garage, or The Facebook when it was in a dorm room, you'll know how it goes. There are days, even weeks, when it's all-hands-on-deck and the work is closer to 7x24 than 9-5. Well, January was a bit like that at Monetate, the rapidly expanding SaaS marketing company for which I am Evangelist and possibly Senior Writer (some might say senior writer, just because I do a lot of the writing and I'm the oldest person in the company--although that doesn't stop me tweeting and Facebooking my blog posts into major traffic drivers for the company website).

Anyway back to the happy part of the New Year thing. I actually think 2011 has a lot of potential to be a better year than 2010, although some of that sentiment arises from the fact there was a lot not to like about 2010, from the earthquake in Haiti to the BP oil spill, and many other natural and man-made disasters in between. On the other hand, we humans learned a lot of new things in 2010 that could help us understand the world a little better in 2011. Like how to rescue people from a mile below the ground. And the fact that homo sapiens has more genetic cousins than we previously thought (welcome Denisovans).

Speaking of genetics, and me, I embarked on a voyage of self-discovery in 2010 that should reveal some interesting facts in 2011. As I described in my December 20th post last year, I have submitted a DNA sample to 23andMe, the company that is pioneering direct-to-consumer genetic tests. Any day now I should be getting the results, which include medical and genealogical data.

I plan to share some of that information, and the experience of getting that information, here on the blog. (If it turns out I am a carrier for hemochromatosis I will be writing about that over on Celtic Curse.) So call it an experiment in transparency, or an exploration of the boundaries of personal privacy, I think it's a useful way to help others think about this aspect of themselves and their society.

Stephen Cobb's Privacy MeterAs some of you know, I have written a lot about privacy in the past, including a book and a bunch of articles, lectures, and so on. I recognized a long time ago that some people, myself included, are comfortable sharing quite a lot of information about themselves, but others are not. So one's own feeling about privacy cannot be the basis for privacy policies; a fundamental principle of privacy must be respect for the privacy concerns of people less comfortable with sharing information than oneself.

By sharing my gene test results I am not saying we should all hang out our genes in public. My decision to share parts of my genetic profile is a personal one, but hopefully one that will prove helpful to others.

2011 could be a very interesting year!

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