The latest episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report is called Automation or Control: Why Attorneys Must Choose (I didn’t choose the title) – in it, we discuss the fact that technology services are increasingly connecting to each other, automating things that we used to have to do ourselves. For example, my Fitbit now talks to my scale, my fitness app, and the app I use to track the food I eat.  It’s a great convenience that all of these services talk to each other – I don’t have to worry about entering information into each service. It just all works. Is that a good or a bad thing? For me, anyway, in most cases it’s a good thing; technology should be about making your life easier, not harder – and if you can find ways to automate the things you do now, then why not give it a try?

That is, however, until the technology decides it knows what you want better than you know what you want. An example of that happened to me this morning.  I routinely use both Spotify and Songza to listen to music, when I’m working out or just plain working. Being apps in this age of social media, both services allow me to tweet or post to Facebook the songs that I’m listening to at any given moment. My sharing philosophy is not that granular; most people don’t really care about my taste in music – besides, why give people an extra reason to make fun of me?  When I installed both of these apps, I specifically instructed them that I did not want them to post my music-listening habits to Facebook. That worked well, for awhile. Then I changed computers and reinstalled Spotify on the new computer. The default setting in Spotify is to “share everything,” so my Facebook friends were instantly treated to hours worth of my music listening. When an aggravated friend pointed out that “I love you, but I really don’t care about what music you listen to,” I finally became aware of the problem and (mortified) immediately corrected it by changing my settings in the Spotify desktop app.  Problem solved…..right?

Not so fast.  Spotify updated itself on the iPhone just this morning. Either the settings for the iPhone app are separate from the desktop app, or it just decided to ignore my earlier instructions.  Anyway, Facebook friends were once again subjected to a steady stream of workout hits and country music. The net result is that I have disabled both Spotify and Songza within Facebook, so neither of those services can post to my Facebook page ever again.

I could have done this from the beginning – after all, I am under no obligation to connect any app I use to a particular social media service. But I always like to have the option of sharing something, whether it’s a song, my location, or a book I’m reading. But we are now in an age where “Share Everything” is the default setting – which can be very hard to monitor if you’re not the “share everything” kind of person. Tools could help us with this – they could remember our preferences on an account level, so that those settings could be applied no matter whether we change computers or get an updated version of the app. But not many apps do this – which puts the burden on us to keep track of all the relevant settings. I now understand why so many people choose not to share with most social services – it’s just too big a hassle to keep up with it.

I would seriously consider investing in a company that came up with the “social media dashboard” concept – one place where we could store all of our preferences on what/how we want to share information on the Internet.  Each app we use would be required to connect to that dashboard to gather our preferences, then communicate them to whatever social media site we want to use.  I doubt this kind of standardization is coming along anytime soon – but it’s nice to dream about it.

What are your thoughts? Is automation getting out of hand?