Posts tagged: Social Networking

Aug 07 2010

Who Will You Be Online When You Die? BlogHer Day Two

I’m in the Geek Lab this afternoon, in a session on “Taking an inventory of your digital life” by Rosemary Jean-Louis and Kristen Kuhns. Sort of similar to my own panel yesterday, but different – more about understanding the impact one thing can have on your digital presence.

They make a very good point, that you’re not going to end up in the history books unless you’re Steve Jobs or something. You are making your own history with your online presence across social networks, blogs, email – it’s not JUST your blog. You’re leaving footprints everywhere you are online.

In fact, it’s entirely possible the worst stuff about you online is not on your blog. For example, that damn Quake box picture that I will never live down is on GameSpy.com, not here.

A recommended list of places to check to determine your “digital inventory”:

  • Ping sites
  • Location sharing sites
  • Your websites
  • Websites that have quoted you
  • Websites/blogs you have commented on
  • Websites you’ve joined

They recommend using Google Alerts for your own name to catch new mentions of your name. I do this, but it’s become pretty funny for me, since there is a reporter with my name. Every time she writes a new article (which is a couple of times a week), I get alerts. But hey, at least I’m up to date on the news in Boston?

Interesting point about how your digital presence is more than just the now, but about your legacy. I admit, I pretty much never think about that, and it’s a fantastic point. Your children, your great-grandchildren will read about you online someday. Imagine if you could read your grandmother’s blog? How cool would that be.

And some recommendations on how to leave a digital legacy to be proud of:

  • Centralize your identity – consider using Open ID or Facebook Connect (or other) to be the same you everywhere.
  • Be familiar with privacy settings on sites you belong to and their policies on what happens when you die.
  • Consider adding your username and password info to your will so your family has access to your blogs, email, social media sites.
  • Consider an online vault site, or digital will (Entrustet is one company – never even knew this existed).

Ok, I admit, I NEVER EVER think about that. I’ve dealt with it from a work perspective, mostly back when I was with the LiveJournal Abuse Team, but it is worth thinking about. If I die, do I want this blog to stay here, with the last entry as whatever it was?

Facebook apparently allows family members to access a deceased user’s profile, but Twitter has no such policy. Most companies don’t, apparently.

Hotmail allows a family to order a CD copy of their loved one’s emails. Now that’s creepy to me. I really don’t want anyone getting my email history after I’m dead, I wonder if I can opt out?

Online retailers are in a whole other category for digital legacies. What happens if orders keep coming in and you’re dead? How does anyone contact customers, etc.

It’s also important to remember that technology changes. This is the first generation who will be online from birth ’till death – I’ve definitely seen that with my niece, where my brother bought the domain name for her website before she was born (even before he’d tell ME what her name was!). You’ll note- now that Alice is two, that website isn’t being updated anymore. Pics are private on Flickr. But what if Flickr goes away? Caption your pictures, make sure you know who’s in them, because you won’t know forever. That’s a great point for someone to make to me, the lazy girl who just uploaded pictures to Flickr that I took over New Year’s in Ireland! I’m terrible about archiving and recording things for posterity.

Check out Rosemary’s site at The Geek Treatment or @thesexygeek, and Kristen at Story of My Life.

Fabulous session, ladies, very very glad I attended.

Feb 20 2009

Facebook Changed Their TOS. So What.

Two weeks ago, Facebook updated their terms of service. This past weekend someone wrote a blog entry pointing out the changes, and that people should maybe worry.

And people flipped the frack out….about something they didn’t understand. At all.

Sheesh. Before freaking out, let’s talk about a bit of the basic information behind this first. This issue involves user data and a site’s Terms of Service.

1) Terms of Use/Service and Privacy Policies

Every single site out there could benefit from a Terms of Service/Use & Privacy Policy, and any commercial site launching without one is asking for trouble. The documents generally cover what a user can and cannot do with the site, what the site is responsible for in the event of illegal activity or police involvement, what the site will or won’t do with a user’s information, and the typical indemnification “it’s not our fault if your computer breaks.” ToS aren’t unique to websites or tech, but sites are bringing these things to the attention of mainstream folks a bit more.

These docs are important for the legal protection of the company, but also to make as clear as possible to a user what will be done with any information they may provide. I don’t have one for this blog, because, well, I don’t much care, this isn’t a business, it’s my blabbering and your comments here are your own. But folks who take their blogs a bit more seriously will include something.

The moment you hit a website you’ve agreed to their Terms of Service, whether there’s a registration process or not (“your use of this site is governed by this agreement between you and whatevercompany, inc”). Ignoring a site’s terms is the same as signing up for a credit card without reading the fine print.  One month later, you get your bill:

“I didn’t see anything about 35% interest!?”
“Sure you did, you signed on the bottom of the form that you agreed to the fee.”
“I didn’t notice, so take the money back.”
*hysterical laughter* “Is this a crank call?”

Yeah, that doesn’t go over so well. There isn’t much difference between that and a site’s TOS. You agreed to it, you’re stuck with it.  And just like credit card agreements, it can be changed at anytime, with all changes taking place retroactively.

Personally? I read ‘em all, have found some fun doozies buried in various agreements, and have refused to sign up for sites or services because of them. Most recently, a line in a beta user agreement required that I “never say anything negative about the site or service.” Add to that the “this agreement exists in perpetuity,” and suddenly I’ve agreed to a gag order. I don’t think so! I was truly amazed people did sign up, but then again, I’m sure they didn’t read that.

2) User Data = You Online. Forever.

I talked about this a lot in one of my entries from she’s geeky, since it’s a big issue I don’t think people understand (and this Facebook mess just proves that).

ONCE YOU PUT SOMETHING ONLINE IT NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER GOES AWAY.

Ok? One more time.

ONCE YOU PUT SOMETHING ONLINE IT NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER GOES AWAY.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve locked your Facebook, if you’ve deleted it, whatever. It’s there. If not somewhere you can find it, then it’s in Google cache, or on the wayback machine, in your friend’s inbox, on flickr, somewhere. Don’t think that if you can’t find it it’s not online – the Wayback Machine, for example, only keeps a small fraction of their archive available online.

Now – this latest Facebook blowup.

The freak out was over the fact that Facebook added some language to their Terms saying they would keep a user’s content and licenses even after the person deleted the profile, and removed some other language about users being able to remove content to invalidate the license.

Hey, guess what people? This is nothing new – Facebook just put it in clear text. With the massively complicated architecture of today’s websites, there are caches and archives all over the place of things you’ve put online. If you delete something, it may no longer be delinked, but don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s gone. It’s probably not.

Should facebook have updated it’s TOS like that? Eh. They should have probably been a bit more subtle in their language, but the fact is, had a blog not pointed out what the changes meant, nobody would have noticed.

Want to read some spooky legalese? Check out Google’s Privacy Policy:

When you access Google services, our servers automatically record information that your browser sends whenever you visit a website. These server logs may include information such as your web request, Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser. Also, in order to protect you from fraud, phishing, and other misconduct, we may collect information about your interaction with our services. Any such information we collect will only be used to detect and prevent fraud or other misconduct.

Know what that means? They track you online, and save that data. The wording is nice and light, but that’s what it means.  That’s scarier to me than thinking that Facebook may keep a record of “25 things about me..” even after I delete my account.

The lesson here is twofold. Just as in real life, don’t sign anything you haven’t read. If you don’t like what you’re reading, don’t use the service. And don’t think your information can ever be taken offline once you’ve put it there. It’s there forever, and even if one website says they’ll protect your information, they can always change their terms of service to say otherwise.

Be smart, be careful, and stuff like this really won’t matter.

Update: Just wanted to add a link to this article, “What Facebook’s Stumble Can Teach Your Company.” I think the opinion expressed in the article is highly idealistic and probably extremely unrealistic, but it’s still a good read.

Feb 06 2009

25 Things to Complain About On Facebook

Yesterday both the New York Times and Time Magazine published articles about the new trend on Facebook of answering silly little quizzes like “25 things you didn’t know about me.”These quizzes have been known for years as “memes.” I’ve done two of the meme’s in here, and if you really want more to do, there has been a website called the Daily Meme for a while now. The New York Times article was a ‘real’ newspaper article, researched, with real information. The Time Magazine article was a whiny diatribe about how “stupid” these things are and how dare they show up on this reporter’s Facebook.

Oh please, grow up.

According to Wikipedia, meme’s in internet culture refer to humor spreading quickly over the internet. For example, the “tell me 25 things about you…” survey that’s been flying around facebook.

These things have been around forever. They were mainly spread by email, but you’d also see them on people’s blogs (LiveJournal, or Xanga, mainly), or .plan files. Sometimes they were fun, sometimes they were dumb, but they always had a serious distribution problem that resulted in most people despising them. They would very easily turn into spam. One person would fill out the quiz, send it to 20 friends. Then that person would reply to all, add another 20 people, and…you get the picture. Those were truly the days of “25 things I didn’t want to know about you.” I didn’t even know you!

If these things are really coming back again (and it certainly seems like they are), Facebook is the perfect space for them, since they are so easy to ignore. Facebook is not like LiveJournal where a long quiz is making your Friends page huge, or like email where one quiz turns into 40 responses from people you don’t even know.  On facebook, by default, you will only see the subject line and one or two questions…if that. You’ll also only see those from your friends. There isn’t a gun being held to your head forcing you to read someone’s silly note.

Nobody has to be on Facebook. It’s a choice. If you are there, you have tools to control who and what you see. But at its core, Facebook is about sharing information among friends. Don’t want to share or see information? Don’t be there. And I’m talking to you, Time Magazine reporter. I don’t go to espn.com or foxsports.com and mock what they’re doing. You don’t have to go to facebook.com and spoil our fun.

(On a side note, someone’s gotta get this guy on MyYearbook. I think his head would explode.)

Personally, I am thrilled to see these things flying around Facebook. It means things be a changin, although I couldn’t tell you if it’s for the better or worse. Meme’s never really took over MySpace even though people do them all the time in bulletins. But, meme’s completely changed the culture of LiveJournal and Xanga. Many, many people wrote blogs that were full of nothing but meme’s. Not something I ever wanted to read, sure, but these were people who wouldn’t have been blogging without the memes. These dumb quizzes and surveys increased usage of all of these sites, and that’s ultimately a good thing.

Will Facebook users revolt, or will memes result in people spending even more time on Facebook, viewing even more pages? It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here.

Jan 30 2009

#ShesGeeky afternoon – Identity and Product Marketing

Woooeeee I’m tired. Being a blabbermouth is exhausting!!

This afternoon I attended two sessions, one on personal identity, and one I gave on “creating the right product for the right audience.”

The identity session was fascinating to me. We all walk a very fine line between revealing information about ourselves online, and keeping things private. It’s very hard to know where the line is on what should and should not be said, and the line is very different for everyone.

There’s no question that it’s changed for me. At one point in my life, I was completely honest about everything in my life online. I maintained my live journal, which was locked to friends-only, and oh my, the secrets about me that were in there. I was also Bobbi, of course….BamBam didn’t come along until later.

At some point along the way, I realized that “friends-only” really didn’t mean much. Not only could I easily make a mistake and leave something open to the world, but god forbid a friend decided to be mean or something, they could easily take screenshots or copy/paste.

The words “private” and “online” simply do not belong together. No matter how locked down you may think things are, there’s always a way for things to get out.

So, in my case, “StephanieBamBam” was created at AOL. My friend Susan nicknamed me “BamBam” for being a klutz, and it stuck. The name was unique enough (your nickname has to be unique!) that it worked well, and I kinda liked it. StephanieBamBam took over, and everything Bobbi that I could find was pulled offline. You won’t find archives of those live journal entries, they don’t exist in digital form anymore. I pretty much recreated my virtual identity, changing from a pseudoanonymous “bobbi,” to a slightly more personal name I was willing to associate with the real me. There are some pieces of Bobbi still lingering about in various places, but you’d need to dig a bit to find, and honestly…if you’re going to dig THAT much…have at it. I’m not embarassed by anything I’ve done.

Admittedly, I’m in a special position, where I work online in social media. The session discussed things like people who truly cannot reveal their identities online due to safety reasons – how do they even use social media? How do you get a domain without a credit card in your fake name, how do you attend conferences, etc.

My recommendation – for most people – is don’t put anything online you wouldn’t want associated with you everywhere. You can live under a nickname, but live in the assumption that your real name will ultimately be exposed. Employers, schools…the world has access to ANYTHING you do or say online. Be smart.

The other session this afternoon was mine, so of course I thought it was fabulous. We talked about how to create a product for your market – how to know who you’re making what for. Professionally, I’ve created products targeted at adults, teens, and developers. And believe me, something that works for one will probably not work for the other.

So how do you know what to do? Be a teenager! Be a developer! Be an adult. That’s oversimplifying, obviously, but I’ve seen every single high school musical, read Twilight, watch Hannah Montana, belong to MyYearbook…. etc. I’m often called a teenager, even. Which is fine. People have got to remember that they are not building a product for themselves. Just because “this makes sense to me” doesn’t mean it’ll make sense to someone without the CS degree. Make your product for your audience, market your product to the right audience, and if you have a good product, it’ll work out.

More from She’s Geeky tomorrow – I’m giving another panel in the afternoon “how to launch a product.”

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