Tag Archives: Social Networks

Social networking : Humans build communities

1 Jun

I’m a great fan of science-fiction series (and movies) : Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Star Trek, you name it. Recently, due to a bit of spare time, I’ve gone back to watching an old classic : Babylon 5. In one (of many) unforgettable episode(s), the character Delenn (Minbari Ambassador) says : “Humans share one unique quality; They build communities”*.  To this day, I believe it’s one of the most powerful quote I’ve heard in tv shows and it got me thinking about the communities we are starting to build in the digital world : social networks.

However, social networks are not for everyone and, specifically, not every social network is good for us and the usage we make of it. So the question is today  : Which social network is best for my use ? (or yours for that matter).

As ever, there is no definite answer to this question, so I will try in the next few lines to outline my analysis and perception of social networks and how I use them in the hope that it may become clearer for others.

Source: Crunchbase

The first of many is, of course if you read my last post it will be evident, the most popular : Facebook. I won’t go in stats,  numbers and figures about the “Monstre sacré” (aka the Big Kahuna) but mainly how I perceive it (and how I use it).

  • Facebook is my primary directory of phone numbers and a important means of contact for staying in touch with my close friends and family.
  • Facebook is my one stop for recent and fresh updates about events in my community of friends.
  • I’ve left Canada more than a decade ago and traveled abroad in many places, I can find and keep track of my important friends with a one-stop visit.

My personal rules when using Facebook

  • I add only people I know, friends, old classmates and past colleagues ; I never add employers, it’s my “private” space.
  • I take care of what I upload (photos, updates, links), I don’t want (nor like) to offend or shock but I do like to provoke online conversations, and reactions, about topics that interest me. Funny and random (read serenpidity) content is also the norm as often as possible.
  • I restrain most of the time of posting on other people’s public walls, there is an inbox for personal messages. Likewise, I don’t tag people in photos and videos without their previous approval.
  • I don’t like spam (apparently some do) so I am careful of any applications I use to make sure that I don’t send unwanted messages to my list of friends.

The bottom line:

I add people I know, respect other’s privacy and stay in touch with my close friends and family.

You don’t like it?

There are alternatives, specifically linked to the recent controversies about Facebook privacy settings : you could always try Diaspora* Alpha, Google Profiles or Alternion.

Source: Crunchbase

The second in my list is another big fish (just the mere name sends my dad into fits of laugther and incomprehension) : Twitter. Again, this is not about numbers, growth or statistics but how I see it and why I use it.

  • Twitter is a community of people sharing short links (or text) that may be of interest to like-minded followers
  • Twitter is getting bigger with the addition of businesses (legit or not) branding their names and products to likely followers. It serves as an important social media strategy tools for corporations and organizations.
  • Twitter is also a great communication tool for emergency situations : kidnapping alerts,  the nuclear disaster in Fukushima (amongst other natural disasters), resistance and civil movements in the Middle-East and North Africa.

My personal rules when using Twitter

  • I specifically post content relevant to my field of work (apart from a few exceptions) : I’m a information specialist so I try to build awareness on issues that are important to my professional community. I don’t post personal or funny updates.
  • As often as I can, I use the @Mention to refer to the original author of the post or to reply in a conversation.
  • I try to use hashtags (#) to classify my content and make it searchable (I’m also aware of the many tweets, legit or not, drowned in a sea of hashtags)

The bottom line:

Twitter is a tool for building awareness and response about specific content. As an individual, I keep it specific, relevant and impersonal.

You don’t like it?

There are other microblogging tools out there namely Jaiku, Yammer for work colleagues or Plurk.

You still don’t like it?

Try WordPress or Blogger when you need more than 140 characters.

Source: Crunchbase

The last of my list is starting to swim with the big fishes mentionned previously. When I started using Linkedin more than a year ago, I was startled by its almost anonymity in Europe but I decided to give it a try anyway.

  • Linkedin is a social networking tool for professional profiles. You advertise yourself by filling in your online resume, linking to past colleagues and groups of professional interest.
  • Linkedin is also used by big top-notch companies as a recruiting tool for experienced professionals.
  • The great strength of Linkedin is professional recommandations from your existing connections, as such it is a important self-promotion tool when job-hunting.

My personal rules when using Linkedin

  • I keep my professional profile updated as often as I can ; since I feature it here on my blog and in my job applications, it’s important that the information found there is accurate and fresh.
  • I link other feed from applications I use such as Slideshare for presentations, my Twitter updates and of course my blog. (it can of course be your personal website as well).
  • I ask recommandations from people I know and recommend their work as well.

The bottom line

Linkedin is the equivalent of my online resume. As such, I keep it clean, relevant and updated as often as I can.

You don’t like it?

It started as a north-american company so it could be irrelevant to join and keep track of your resume if your work environmment is not in America. Although I find that more and more of my past colleagues and university teachers in Switzerland are using it, you may want to  try other expanding regional networks like Viadeo or Xing.

The final answer

If you already joined most of the social networks above, think on how you can either muster up new followers or specific updates, consider the impact you may have in your online community and how you can make it better. As an individual, also keep track of what information you send across about yourself, self-management of your online reputation is a must-have quality in a ever more connected world.

If you haven’t joined the networks I mentionned in this post but are thinking about joining, do yourself a favour and do a little bit more research on their functionalities and key features, it may avoid you common mistakes. Also, ask around your circle of friends and colleagues about who’s using what, to what purpose and how they can help you manage it. It’s all about (again) the right information at the right moment.

*For all the geeks and nerds out there, the quote from Delenn is from the episode “And Now For a Word” – Season 2 of Babylon 5

Social networks, spam, security = a 101 introduction

18 May

It’s been a while since I have updated my blog with interesting content and it takes on a new twist as I have now more time to devote to publish fresh ideas and thoughts on subjects that … if not interest me, irritate me.

So the theme of the day is : How to avoid spam and illegitimate applications in your favourite social network hub. I’ll keep it brief and simple as the social network who is the guilty party….. is the one I use the most : Facebook. Let’s start with a simple “mise en situation” (en français dans le texte – see translation here).

Southwest Airlines scam on Facebook (Click on image for source)

This is an example from a Mashable post I posted weeks ago, maybe this specific situation has never occured to you but it certainly did for the potential users who clicked on the link expecting free airline tickets. So first tip : Be wary of shortened links on your wall, or your comments, that a): content is irrelevant to your discussion or b): that seem to good to be true.

In this specific situation, either delete the suspicious link AND (this is important) alert the author that he/she maybe unwillingly sending scam links to their friend lists.

Second case :

Facebook "dislike button" scam (Click on image for source)

If you are a daily user of Facebook, you have probably seen this one go around in the last few weeks. My recommandation for this type of spam is to : avoid clicking on links accompanied by expletives like “!” or “OMG!”, this is clearly not the tone that any brand would use to promote the use of a new feature.  And, as mentionned before, delete the post and warn the author of it that they may be spreading links to false content.

If  you have not been shipped to a neighbouring planet in the last month, you probably know what happened to the dearly (erm) beloved favourite terrorist of the entire world, namely Bin Laden and his death at the hands of U.S. Navy Seals. Without trying the fuel the controversy even more, you have probably seen this post crowding your friend’s wall or maybe even your own feed :

Bin Laden video scam (Click on image for source)

Without even commenting on the desire from people to watch a gruesome video about somebody getting killed… People, think with your heads and not with your primary impulses. Again a): posts or videos accompanied by expletives are a no-no. B): do a little bit of research (yes, even in Google it works) to see if the content you are provided with is legitimate or not.

Now we get to the juicy part of this post: Facebook applications. Typically, there exists probably thousands of developped apps for the social network, some are legit, some are copies and some are just there to make your life miserable. Think for a second of the (virtual) embarassement of waking up one morning, grabbing your coffee and hoping to Facebook to see news of your world… only to find out that you polluted your friend’s pages with links to an app you didn’t authorize or recognize. Here a a few simple steps to resolve this situation :

a): Report the page or offensive comment by clicking on “Report this link” (or the little “x” on the right of posts)

Report Link on Facebook

b): Check your privacy settings and click, at the bottom, on “Apps and Websites”. This will give you a list of the applications you authorized. From there you can delete any offensive app or review their settings. Beware that most apps will ask you for permission to write on your wall. This is HOW the infamous links and scams get across to your friend’s page. So you might want to review what applications are installed, delete unused ones and customise the content you want sent accross.

Finally, on your quest to get rid of scam, be careful not to go overboard and endorse seemingly legitimate applications, bookmarklets, browser extensions, that claim to get rid of all that clutter. For example, I came across this tool today when researching links for this post : FBPurity (you can click, it’s safe). FBPurity claims to be an “browser extension / script that removes the stupid quiz messages & other silly application spam from your facebook homepage”Now that sounds just purty to me, even with the CNET and Washington Post recommandations but I’d still be careful of “homemade” scripts allowed to interfere with a dedicated website, you might just filter out content that you still want to see (hey, everybody has the right to like those facebook quizzes anyway).

Let’s review all this before closing the subject :

  1. Review your privacy settings and installed apps in your Facebook accounts;
  2. Research any links to external websites with the keywords used;
  3. Warn people if they are sending scam or fake links (they probably don’t even know they did it);
  4. If you are the culprit, still WARN your contacts, spread the word, kill it before it goes around more;
  5. If you’re into more geeky tips, check out the bottom of this post for more useful sources for security in social networks.

Further information :

Mashable – Category “Facebook”

The Naked Security  blog from Sophos

The Facebook Help Centre

How about an open source social network?

27 May

I don’t know about you dear fellow readers and followers but the first thing I do when I arrive to work is opening my Google Reader account and check on the latest updates from my favourite sites.

There is one feed that I sometimes skip due to the length and thoroughness of the articles : it’s the Technology feed of The Guardian, british newspaper. So I came in to the front desk about thirty minutes ago, the first hour is always very much comings and goings in the library so I do have the time to skim over the articles. In little over than fifty articles there were about a dozen about online privacy, online identity and of course the meanie-of-the-day Mark Zuckenberg, founder of the popular social network Facebook.

Facebook and Privacy

Taken from Mashable - Click for original post

For those who have been following the debate about Facebook privacy settings, it has been a grueling two weeks for Zuckenberg as he battled intense criticism from non-profit organizations, governments and users who where appalled at finding how Facebook is distilling their private information and content across the website. If you remember in  the beginning of this year 2010, Facebook began rolling out supposed new (and better) privacy settings when in fact users where unwillingly sharing more than ever before! and in a much more complicated way! In the last few days and in a frenzy, Facebook recently unveiled a simpler and more user-friendly privacy control panel. Nevertheless, privacy groups are calling it a smoke screen today in the Guardian and insist on focusing the debate on what user ARE sharing (without their consent or knowledge) instead of a few interface tweeks.

I am not going to reinvent the wheel going back over the last few months of millions of pixels exchanged over this but merely to illustrate what is happening right now in the heads of four students from New York University… they are calling it “a privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network”. The goal of the project is to enable users to reclaim their personal data and secure their connections thus facilitating online communication and privacy. The name is Diaspora. Check out their kickstarter page here and the project blog here.


Diaspora Handout Flyers - Click on image for source and full-size

So what do you think? Would you leave Facebook for better, more secure and user-oriented social network?

* Nota bene : For those interested there is also a Guardian rss feed for Libraries*

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