My first social media policy


Despite seriously considering deleting my Facebook profile in the past, I haven’t managed it, yet. The downsides are still just about outweighed by the way I use Facebook, i.e. very little. That’s my choice though and after a conversation in the canteen recently, I started wondering whether it was right to effectively start building up a social media profile for someone before they’ve even been born!

Despite Google’s unhelpful profile name policy, Eric Schmidt apparently commented that young people may need to disassociate themselves from a trail of embarrassment online by changing their names. I can see his point, but wouldn’t it be worse if your dad had created a Facebook profile for you?! You’d need to change your name at least twice!

So, given it’s not possible to control information on Facebook, we’ve decided to try and avoid putting anything there on behalf of the bump. Not that we’re picking on Facebook- we’ll be avoiding posting anything on the other social networking sites too. This is a bit of an experiment at the moment, along with the whole (very wide) parental minefield, so the bump’s social media policy may evolve over time. For a start it needs a better codename!

We do still want to annoy at least a few people with news and photos when bump’s big day finally arrives though, so we’ll be sending out announcements via ‘old fashioned’ electronic mail and Short Message Service. (And there will definitely not be any live blogging!)

Facebookicide


I’ve been considering closing my Facebook account for a while now, and after chatting to a few people about antisocial software at the weekend I’ve started to wonder whether to actually do it. Ironically I was talking about leaving Facebook at a party organised on Facebook, and I think the event organising bit is the feature I would miss the most.

So, how do you leave Facebook? Aside from the technicalities of finding a delete option that is, and confirming a few times that yes I really do want to delete. I still value the connections I’ve made, or rediscovered, through Facebook, so to start with there’ll be some exercise in pulling out all the good eggs and keeping track of them some other way.

Photo © themonnie cc by-sa 2.0

Finding alternatives is partly what’s pushing me to make the jump. 2011 is my year of paper, so that’s one option, but not an especially interesting one. Another is to continue to add business contacts to LinkedIn; I already started to counter work related Facebook requests with a LinkedIn invite. That is just moving from one walled garden to another though and, while the new garden may have less annoying farm animals in, it would be nice to leave the silos behind. I wonder if the semantic web can come to the rescue.

Then there’s a choice of which exit to use. A few alternatives I can think of:

  • Don’t look directly at it – stop logging in but leave everything there. Perhaps a bit to tempting too pop back in now and then, which isn’t that different to my current use of Facebook.
  • Just jump and hope the parachute opens – delete my account (if that’s possible!) without any warning. It doesn’t seem quite right to cut and run that suddenly, and there’s a chance I could lose touch with a few people.
  • Invite people to a ‘goodbye’ event – could even make it a real event in a pub, which would be a bonus!
  • Delete everything on the profile but leave it there – just in case…
  • Create a page/group instead – i.e. leave some place holder behind, with a signpost to this blog etc

What are the disadvantages of leaving Facebook though? I don’t want to be too hasty. It is good to hear how people are doing, but I do wonder whether I’ve been worse at keeping in touch with friends properly as a result of being able to take a quick look online instead. I have an idea that at least some of the pull for staying is just the thought that you might be missing out in some way. (In most respects I think that’s just an illusion.) Having said that, Facebook events are quite a nice way to organise get togethers…

Decisions, decisions. Should I stay, or should I go?

Update: ten more good reasons to leave, but the chances are I’ll still be using Facebook this time next year! (28 December 2012)

Poken in the wild


Just back home* from the second Tuesday tweetup (excellent event once again) with a grand total of zero high-fours (the Poken term for exchanging contact information).

Everyone at the Information on Demand conference (@IOD2009) was given a Poken, so if I’d been in Berlin recently, there would have been a massive captive audience of Poken users to high-four with. A conference seems like the natural environment for a Poken: lots of people with a common purpose all wanting to network, and multiple brands looking for a new piece of plastic to give away with their logo on.

iod-poken

Photo from “IBM Information On Demand 2009 Berlin with customized Poken” set by Ayman van Bregt (some rights reserved).

Unfortunately, as Andy has already mentioned in his Poken review, there just aren’t that many around. One glaringly obvious question is why it’s not possible to use mobile phones to do the same job, which is something almost everyone has already. Poken themselves saw that question coming and have a plausible answer about compatibility and usability but I think the shear number of Poken required before they are even half useful means a phone based solution must still be a strong contender. Using bluetooth couldeasily get round the problem of working out who even has a Poken, and there are ways to use it just as easily as a Poken. For example, the cityware digital co-presence project was pretty similar in lots of ways, using bluetooth device IDs combined with a Facebook application to manage contacts later, rather than beaming bluetooth contact information directly, and all without any awkward high-fouring. Obviously it also had its downsides, one of which was needing cityware nodes to log when devices were in the same place.

To earn a permanent place in my pocket, the Poken would have to deliver more, even if I never see another Poken. For a start, I’m just astounded that the Poken I have doesn’t even provide some simple USB drive storage. Or, to focus a bit more on the core purpose of a Poken, why not build it in to a business card holder? (Or a Moo card holder if you’re Andy!) Or even go the cityware route and log bluetooth device ids as well as other Poken contacts.

I still have my Poken with me but I don’t see them taking off in the wild for a long time, if at all. On the other hand, they are ideal for specific events and defined groups of people, such as employees for example, where I think there’s a lot of potential. A high-four is certainly far more natural than messing around trying to find some well hidden feature of your phone, especially if you know you aren’t going to be met with a blank look for suggesting high-fouring in the first place!

There’s more talk about Poken on Dogear Nation

* I didn’t actually get home this late, but half way through writing this post TalkTalk decided not to bother providing an internet connection for the second night in a row. It’s not going to take too much more of that before I disconnect from TalkTalk permanently.

Updated: …with a photo from IOD. (17 June 2009)

Update: More thoughts on Poken on Barry Leiba’s blog. (26 June 2009)

Update: Looks like a Poken might be trying to creep back in my pocket; the new Poken Pulse finally includes a 2GB USB drive! (2 October 2009)

Update: Interesting list of different ways to establish online connections from real world encounters, including the Poken. (8 July 2010)

Social radar


Some technologies change the way you do things. Before mobile phones you had to plan where and when to meet people in advance. Before PVRs it was easier to watch TV when the show you wanted to see was on, unless you found a tape which you were at least vaguely sure didn’t have anything on you wanted to watch again, not to mention the ten minutes needed to set the VCR to record… on the wrong channel yet again! Radio, antibiotics, electricity, cars, planes, the internet, the wheel; the list goes on.

Earlier this year Twitter gave me a glimpse of something with the potential to rival even the microwave oven. Twitter is almost pointless in its simplicity: just answer the question, “What are you doing?” In most cases you’ll probably be wondering, “Who cares?” If you need convincing, there’s a very good guide to Twitter on YouTube. The real revelation for me was the power of Twitter on the move. You can still send updates using SMS, but at its peek you could also receive them, either from direct messages, people you were following or (and this was the life changing one) any updates that contained words you wanted to track. I got in the habit of tracking places I was about to visit, giving me local knowledge of things to check out/avoid, traffic/travel problems, other people in the area- what ever people were saying.

Last week could have provided another great example: I tracked ‘Hursley’ which is where I work, so on Thursday I would have got an SMS telling me that the site was closed because of a burst water main. Sadly Twitter has been on a steady decline ever since I started using it, so it was only by chance I checked Twitter before leaving for work. Without tracking, without SMS notifications and without IM, twitter has gone from personal radar to little more than Facebook status updates.

I haven’t given up using it just yet though. In fact I’ve just been cutting down the number of people I follow so I can keep up more easily; 80 is about enough for me. I don’t have any set rules about who I follow like some people, otherwise Martin would have gone just for the amazing number of ‘#’s he gets through! A good way to stay in the list is to make me laugh, and it’ll be hard to beat, “Convinced people are practising yogic flying in the meeting room near me“! After much agonizing I even unfollowed Stephen Fry despite him being nice enough to follow me back- still a huge fan but somehow felt a bit too stalkerish. Having said that, Robert Llewellyn is too interesting to unfollow just yet.

You can do anything with stop motion animation


I’ve always been slightly envious of people with any musical talent but I do wonder whether you’d need more patience to learn to play drums/piano or to put this together!

It is great though! (Great… but the Wallace and Gromit train chase in the Wrong Trousers is still may favourite stop frame animation… genius.)

(Thanks to Gareth for posting the link on Facebook. Yep, still using Facebook- just ignoring all the strange applications!)

The global kitchen


I recently compared virtual worlds to a global shed so I thought I’d try another house related analogy…

After a few discussions with Andy recently I’m toying with the idea that social software is like a global kitchen. A kitchen is a good place for a nice cup of tea and a sit down when friends or neighbours pop round, and it’s where a large proportion of the guests are likely to be found at a party (and coincidentally where all the alcohol is). Like the kitchen, Weblogs, Dopplr, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and (insert your favourite here) all provide a sociable place you can connect to people through. Unlike the kitchen, the people can be from anywhere, and they can stop by at any time to leave a note on your fridge, even if you aren’t in.

I find it fascinating how people are connected; for example, Andy and I connected a contact he has made online with someone I know in person (and only recently discovered has a blog, through Facebook!) in one degree of blogroll. It seems to me that the people you meet in person and those you meet online are no different, and there’s quite an overlap anyway: people you meet in person move away, and you can meet people in person that began as virtual friendships (Dopplr perhaps makes that more likely). I often struggle to remember when, or how, I first met someone but the process seems to be similar whether in person or through social software. You can be introduced to a friend of a friend in person or on LinkedIn, and you can bump into someone randomly on the way to the fridge or stumble upon their weblog by chance.

One thing that I do find odd is that, despite their primary purpose, sites that record your network of contacts don’t seem to help making those contacts in the first place. At least in my experience, I have only ever added someone to my Facebook or LinkedIn network after meeting them elsewhere.

For slightly more coherent thoughts on the subject, with no mention of kitchens, here are the blog posts Andy pointed me at in the first place:

What the heck is a non-meta friend anyway?

Christine Rosen on Virtual Friendships And The New Narcissism